Monday, 10 September 2012

Montreal Esprit Triathlon

Montreal Esprit Triathlon (2012)

The Lead-up to the race

Well, Here goes, my whole experience, as promised.  The week before the race I was watching the weather very carefully dreading what it was saying.  Hoping that every day it would change, and I guess it kind of did.  A week before the race, the forecast was for 22 C and rainy (20-30mm), later in the week that changed a bit to add in thunderstorms on that day (up until the day prior to the race actually).  Humidity was supposed to make it feel like about 28 C.  I wasn’t happy with rain, not having the greatest balance in the world I was worried about my bike tires slipping since they are old, and I really didn’t want to wipe out on the course, and worse, I didn’t want to take out anyone with me.  Friday was the registration and pre race pickup, but since I had the kids I couldn’t make it to that pick-up and the open water swim practice that they allowed.  I wasn’t too worried about that though, since we could also pick up our stuff the day of the race, 2 hours before.


Triathlon seminar for beginners

They offer a beginners seminar run by Anastasia Polito for first timers free of charge, which I signed up for early (I think in May) because it was a first come first serve basis thing.  This was held on the island Thursday afternoon.  Having seen Anastasia Polito in the Ford Ironman World Championship videos, it was pretty cool I thought that they were offering a seminar lead by such an inspiring person.  Thursday was a heck of a day.  Not living in Montreal, I had to bring my bike and my racing stuff with me into town, but to make everything that much more interesting it also coincided with my first day of classes.  My classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Concordia and I wasn’t going to miss my first classes, so I packed the bike and my stuff into the car at 6:30 am and dumped the responsibility of dropping the kids off at daycare on the hubby.  I then experienced the reason that I would be taking the train into town for the rest of the semester.  I pulled away from the house at 7:00 am after running around for about 20 minutes remembering stuff that I had forgotten, like my helmet, my class schedule and where the heck was my bike pump!  My first class started at 8:45 and I arrived at the university and parked at 8:35, made it into class 2 minutes before it started (whew).  I had classes run from 8:45-14:30 and I had forgotten one of the more important things (a lunch).  I was ravenous by the time my classes were over (I only had 15 minutes to go between classes, no time to run out). 

Classes ended and I rushed out to subway to grab a lunch/dinner sub and ate it at the student parent’s center while checking e-mail.  Headed off to the triathlon seminar and got there just in time (yay).  Took my bike out of the car, started pumping up my tires with my now broken bike pump (ya, I need a new one very badly, it keeps falling apart), clipped on my helmet and headed down to the bike racks they were setting up.  I found the seminar quite helpful with info I never would have though of (like counting the paces between the transition zone entry to where my bike was racked, because when there are hundreds of bikes it’s hard to find yours – more on that later), how to set up the gear for the transition (more on that later) and other helpful tips, along with a familiarization with the course and transition zone (very helpful).  At the close of the seminar I thanked Anastasia, asked her a few questions related to triathlon teams and the like and then headed back to the car with my gear.  The nerves subsided a bit, but not enough to cure me of the horrible indigestion that had been plaguing me for a few days – just glad it wasn’t the cold that all 3 kids and the hubby had though.  Let’s just say Immodium was my friend.  Home I went.  I was exhausted at that point haven woken up at 5:30 that morning and been go go go since then.  I got home just before 9:00 pm and went straight to bed when I got in.


Race day

As stated previously I had prepped all my gear on Friday night, but still felt the need to go over everything I had packed like 3-4 times anyways in the morning.  I was up before the kids and the hubby came to see me off at the door after my (what I thought sufficient) breakfast.  No longer plagued by indigestion (thanks Imodium), I got down to the island at 8:10.  My start time was 10:50 and I knew I needed to be there at 8:50 at the latest to pick up my race kit.  I probably looked like the biggest newbie there, I didn’t know where to go to pick up what and had general  non-itchy hives on my legs and arms because of nerves (ya, I kind of looked diseased) but at least they weren’t itching (thanks to a last minute Reactine taken that AM).  I got my race kit/t-shirt and swag bag and timing chip and got marked (thanks for writing my age on my right leg of course, so I can’t really hide it..).  I went to rack my bike and set up my spot as was shown in the seminar, made sure my tire pressure was right and generally sat there nervously.  45 minutes before my start I went down to the wetsuit rental tent and picked up my glorious wetsuit that was supposed to save the day for beginners.  It looked huge but I proved otherwise as I tried to put it on and proceeded to curse and struggle with it for about 10 minutes, much to the amusement of a few people around me.  All in good fun, I was starting to doubt my decision to rent a wetsuit.  I didn’t like the cold, I get hives in cold water and I was told it would help make me more buoyant during the swim portion, which is why I rented it.  After putting it on and having help doing it up in the back, I grabbed my fancy pants orange bathing cap and goggles, remembered the hint to put the goggles on before the cap just in case they came off they wouldn’t get lost.  Before I knew it they were briefing the women and we were given the go ahead to get into the water for a quick warm up before the starter buzzer.  HA!  Buoyant all right, I swam out in crawl a bit then turned back and attempted breaststroke, but couldn’t make my butt sink enough for that to work – way to go!  I’ve called myself bubble butt but that just took it a bit too far.  I was hoping for some photos of me exiting the water but that didn’t happen and nobody gets to witness the “XL sausage stuffed into a M sized casing” look of this wetsuit.  At this point I guess I should mention that weather, it was temperate about 25 degrees it felt like and pretty humid, NOT raining, greyish skies and VERY windy..  The weather reports said gusts up to 20 km/hr which is a lot but according to the guy running the briefing on the island they were gusting to the 50 km/hr range.  The rowing basin we were dong our swim in had white caps – waves – NOT cool.  All the women lined up at the start and before I knew it they were calling out 30 seconds to start, I wished a few women around me good luck (a lot of us were first/second timers) and then the buzzer went.




I had expected it to be hard, it being open water and then with the added challenge of white caps, but what I wasn’t expecting was the fact that the swim became a FULL contact sport.  No holds barred on that one, also being used to doing my swims in a pool with lane markers and a nice line on the bottom to follow I was disconcerted by the murky water where you couldn’t see a foot until it kicked you in the face and the icky lake weed all over (I guess I knew in principle that it would be there, but I still think it’s gross).  It must have been trimmed though, because it was out of reach for the most part except for one or two longer sprouts.  I was kicked in the face 3 times, kicked elsewhere too many times to count and pushed and scraped.  I couldn’t sight the buoys because of the wave sin the water so I was forced to follow blindly and hope the person in front of me was going the right way.  The few times I tried to sight I got a mouth full of water and ended up coughing a sputtering.  I found that as much as the wetsuit helped keep me nice and warm and helped me float it restricted my shoulder movement and found it harder to get my arm out of the water so I was using much more energy.  We turned at the first buoy and one of things that was mentioned in the seminar finally crystallized in my mind – they said NEVER use the turn to do breaststroke and that’s exactly what the person in front of me decided to do.  Because everyone crams together to take the corner tight, you piss off everybody behind you.  I finally got around her, after being kicked in the face once (because of course breaststroke means you open your legs even wider to kick that many more people in the face).  Swam across the basin and turned around the other buoy to head back to shore.  This is where of course the field has thinned out a bit, so there was really nobody to follow, and I slowed my pace a bit to catch my breath from the few times I got a mouthful of water trying to sight the buoys.   Now the waves were coming from behind us, so it SHOULD have been easier to swim and sight the buoys expect that because of the tightness of the wetsuit, I couldn’t get my head up enough in the waves to do this.  I ended up what I consider WAY off course, because at one point I stopped to sight (which I had to do in breaststroke to get my head high enough up) and I saw a dock in front of me, not the shore.  I wasn’t that far off the line, maybe about 50 m away from where I was supposed to be, but had to swim back before continuing in to the shore line, afraid of being DQ ed..  That was a waste of time of course, and a waste of energy.  I took to heart the suggestion that when you get to the end of the swim to stand up slowly (mentioned in the seminar) because your HR increases about 25 bpm in that moment and you can get pretty lightheaded if you stand up and dash out of the water right away.  I stood up, paused for maybe 5-7 seconds and started walking quickly towards the stairs, feeling a bit weak, not used to that transition.

Transition (swim to bike)

Having found my legs, I dragged my wet self out of the water and up and over the stairs towards the zone.  Not being used to not wearing glasses and my heart rate increasing, I was a bit unsure of depth and I was very careful on the stairs (they aren’t all even either, just to piss us off).  Even though I had counted the light jog paces from the entry of the transition zone to my bike rack, I was all off, my legs weren’t cooperating so I wasn’t taking strides like I was supposed to I guess and ended up standing 2 racks away from my bike saying to myself (crap – where’s my bike).  Luckily the woman beside me called me over, she happened to be there at that time prepping (thank goodness).  Got to my bike to find someone had moved my stuff over, causing everything I had carefully prepped to be lying everywhere.  Under the wetsuit I was wearing my sports bra and my running shorts, so I started to strip off the wetsuit beyond just the down to the waist I had gotten it off while running.  Dumped my cap and goggles on my towel and tried to take off the wetsuit as we were shown.  Got the arm off – great..  Got it past the center of my calves and then did what were shown, step on one leg of the suit and pull up with your leg.  BAD move.  I ended up with that pre-cramp Charlie horse twinge in my calf and swore like crazy, dropped down on the ground and started to stretch it out, ended up struggling with taking it off the slow way while massaging my calf and cursing like a sailor yet again (nice to not have the kids around for that of course).  My socks had fallen out of the shoes when the towel was moved and I couldn’t find one.  I took s a swig of Gatorade, dried my feet, put on my socks and shoes and headed off slowly to the bike portion of the run with my cycling gloves, helmet on and clipped (I remembered!) and my sunglasses on (wasn’t very sunny but I was worried the sun would breakthrough just to annoy me if I didn’t put them on) and rallied my legs to start moving.  Ran to the end of my row and over to the bike start line.  SLOWLY got on my bike (didn’t want to look like an idiot falling all over myself) and headed off (in the lowest gear of course – I remembered that too). 

The Bike

Quickly got up to speed and headed towards the course, perhaps a tad overzealous and over-excited at having avoided the calf cramp.  Turned onto the course and experienced the most dreadful feeling.  The same wind that was crating the “waves” and white caps I the swimming basin now became a 50km/hr headwind.  I couldn’t get out of 2-3rd gear, and if my heart hadn’t dropped enough, it dropped even further when I realised getting to the western end of the course that there was a slight uphill (I hate hills – hills hate me) and it was relatively long, which in my mind is even worse.  Pushed up the hill with the 50 km/hr headwind and breathed a sigh of relief when we came to the downhill portion.  This being a 5 km loop, I had to do it four times.  At the eastern end there is a nice hairpin turn which is awesome because we’d gained the speed from the downhill and that’s where everybody sits and cheers.  I complete my first lap, the lap counter beeps once, I do my hairpin turn (feeling like crap) and keep going.  Not even 1 km later, I’m pulling over to the side of the track and stopping.  That swig of Gatorade is NOT doing what it’s supposed to and feels like it’s about to come out,  and I’m feeling slightly dizzy.  A volunteer came over to ma, asked if I was okay, “fine” I say “just need a minute”.  It should be mentioned also that because of my balance issues, drinking on the bike is much harder for me, so I had serious hydration issues on the bike.  The time I had to stop was longer than a minute, about 10 if I had to guess (I had no watch) for the lightheaded/nauseous feeling to pass.  As I got back on my bike my body went through its internal battle of “STOP” “Hell no!  Keep going!”  That lasted the next 15 km of the bike course, though on the last loop at least I could say to my body “Shut up, it’s the last one..”  After the uphill (I’m sure most people could have walked it faster than I biked up it) I let my legs coast on the way down ins6tead of gaining speed, went around the hairpin and cut across (I signalled) to my exit point.  Cycled to the line where I had to get off my bike and stopped and SLOWLY got off my bike (thanks to my balance issues, that is pretty slow) and set off back to my bike rack.


Transition (bike to run)

Running was yet again not easy, it probably looked like a slightly pained saunter.  Not much changing was required here, since I don’t have fancy bike shoes or anything, just my running shoes so I racked my bike, took off my helmet, bike gloves and grabbed my running cap.  At the start as a part of the swag bag they had given us one of those energy gels and at this point I figured I could use all the help I could get and ripped open the packet and sucked it in preparing for a gross taste (I’d heard rumors) but nOTHING like I experienced.. I guess you are supposed to “shake” it first or massage the package or something because the sugar was still kind of crystallized and I probably got about 2/3 of the packet in my mouth, swallowed, followed it with a swig of Gatorade and surprisingly managed to keep it down.  Quick inventory of my body told me that my short were still wet, so was my bra and so heat wasn’t an issue and I headed off to the “run” portion.


I got out of transition zone barely managing a light jog.  I knew I was done, I wasn’t expecting to have THAT hard of a time on the bike thanks to the stupid headwinds I had, and the cramp in my calf was periodically reminding me that it was still waiting to happen.  My tank was empty, I was hurting, I felt my sock chaffing against the back of my foot because I guess I hadn’t dried off as well as I should have.  I knew my race was “done”.  Knowing I was going into this as a newbie, I didn’t expect to place high or anything, but was let down from the get go at the beginning of the swim when it was so violent and my breathing was impacted by the waves.  I was thankful at this point I hadn’t had to break out my asthma inhaler at any point so far, and had it in my shirt pocket “just in case”.  My 5 km run was destined to be a walk/jog.  I missed my music a bit as motivation and was surprised at the amount of times that insidious “I’m sexy and I know it” song came into my head.  I kept saying “why the hell did I do this, this sucks..”  I never thought that this could be that hard – It didn’t sound it at the beginning.  I had experienced this a few times on the bike, but this is what rallied me and made my LOVE what I was doing.  The other racers, other age groupers like me (mostly the later male heats because I had been passed by most of the women at this point) and even a few of the Pros (you can tell by the Triathlon suits with CAN and their names posted on the back) shouting encouragement as they passed me on the track.  Periodic “Lachez-pas, t’est capable” (Don’t give up, you can do it) and “Go go go, t’est la meilleure!”(Go go go, you’re the best!)  warmed my heart.  One of the things I loved about the idea of triathlons is that everyone runs the same course, Pro or beginner and everyone is encouraging, there is no malicious intent (mostly) that I can tell.  I jogged less than half of that 5km, and it was barely what you’d call a jog (I can walk faster on a regular day), my quads were calling it quits and periodically sending the I’m about to cramp signal to my brain.  At one point on the home stretch I gave my legs a talking to and sped up a bit, but one of my quads sent the “what the hell are you doing” signal to my brain causing me to pull up on that leg, hop about two paces and limp for a few more.  The racer passing me turned around and yelled to me if I needed his to get me help.  Hell no, I was finishing this if it killed me.  Close to the finish line, there are LOTS of people waiting for their loved one/friend to come close, but the great thing is they cheer everybody on, and it pumped me a bit, got me moving a bit faster.  I saw the finish line in sight and a stupid grin plastered itself on my face (though in the photos it’s more like a wince) and I crossed, tried to slow down and my quad was like “what?” and almost sent me flying face first into the pavement.  Hopping yet again a bit, I stopped so they could take off my timing chip and headed off to find MY loved ones. 

The finish

I was sweaty, I had lake weed in my bra, my legs were barely listening to me, my face was beet red and I was hurting but I was so proud.  I spotted the hubby and 3 kids a way away from the finish (it was too crowded for him to get the stroller close to the finish line) and he greeted me with a huge smile and a “you did it” and all I could say was “I didn’t die!  I don’t think..”  Here is the funny thing.  Right about until the last 500m, I pretty much hated it, except for some really nice people that were encouraging and made me want to go faster.  If you had asked me at any point during the race except those last 500m I would have said there is NO way I’m doing that again, but after crossing the finish line, tired, hurting and sweating – I wanted to sign up for another one next week (well, I know it’s a bad idea, don’t plan on actually doing it).  The kids were happy to see me, but they have no idea what I just did, they don’t get it yet.  I came in last in my age category, but I don’t really care about that because I don’t feel like I measure up to other people in my category, after all, how many 25-29 year olds have 3 kids and are full time students are doing the race?  I guess none.  The baby wasn’t even 11 months old, I pushed my body really hard and got it to this point, now my quest is to improve on that.  I know what I need to work on now, I have a good idea of what it takes to do this, and respect anyone that does it.  Overall there were 4 people in all age groups that came in after me, but I’m still happy, because when I went into this all I wanted to do was finish..  It wasn’t pretty, but I did it, and plan on doing it again.


The day after

I went to bed the night of, exhausted.  I ate only a light dinner because I wasn’t hungry at all, was in bed before 9pm and slept until about 8 am (well, the baby was up every 2 hours, so that didn’t help) and woke up with only my calf hurting like hell.  I had issues straightening my leg, it took me a bit to get out of bed.  A hot bath was had before breakfast, so Advil was taken, and it felt better.  I figured I was pretty lucky to abuse my body that much and just end up with that as an ache forgetting it usually takes 24-30 hours for the pain to start.  Around midday, the muscles around my ribs and my lower abs were killing me, more advil was taken, a mid day nap was had with kids.  I’m SO tired now, I have a lot of energy to replenish from what I burned.  Overall no injuries, just aches and pains, the worst is the calf that takes me 30 seconds or so to straighten my leg when I stand up, but once I get going it’s fine.  I’m stretching it gently several times a day.  Laughing hurts thanks to the abs and muscles around my ribs.  I wore my event shirt all afternoon Saturday, Sunday and even this morning when I smelled it and tossed it in the wash.  I’ll probably be wearing it for a while.  I’m overall very happy with the experience, and will do it again, I’ll train for more next year, either more than 1 sprint or maybe an Olympic, but I WON’T underestimate how hard it is to just do the sprint.  After 3 kids, my body isn’t the same as it used to be, and not getting a full nights sleep doesn’t help, but it’s what I can do to encourage my kids to get up and be active WITH me, so I don’t have to sit by the sidelines eating a snickers bar.


Army run

Now this week I’m in recovery and next week I’m in prep for the Army Run in Ottawa, which should be fun.  It’s only a 5 km run, so I’m going to prove to my body that it CAN run that 5 km..  Even if it is slow, this season has been a good one, and only PBs have been set.

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