Early Bird Triathlon Review

A few weeks ago I participated in my first triathlon, the Early Bird Triathlon organized by Somersault Events, a local company whose events “are organized primarily for the recreational enjoyment of participants of all ages and stages.”  This sentence from their mission statement perfectly describes me and my focus as an athlete.  I enter races not for prize money, but for the enjoyment.

img_1647

2016 Early Bird Tri & Du Race shirt

In terms of a simple goal for the day, score one for the Early Bird Sprint Tri.  I had a great day, as I usually do at Somersault events.  In an earlier post, “I am a Triathlete!”,  I described my somewhat spotty/sketchy/non-existent training plan for the day.

strava calendar 2016

Not much training done for a late May event. Oops!

With such a weak lead up to the day, I wasn’t really sure how things were going to turn out.  I needn’t have worried.

The night before race day, I organized all of my gear, making sure I had my bag packed with bike shoes, helmet, towels, food, water, and race bib. I made sure the tires had air, and that the bike computer worked. And it was good that I checked both of those things, because they both needed work. The air int he tires wasn’t a big deal, but imagine my surprise at 11 pm to discover my bike computer had stopped working. Fortunately my workbench has a drawer full of mysteries. Imagine Mr. Dressup’s Tickle Trunk and you have a good idea of the remarkable things I have hidden away “just in case”. That’s right, I had the exact right battery. So I got that sorted out and headed off to bed.

Flat SeeHaleRun Tri version

Flat SeeHaleRun

On the day of the race, I was up before the alarm clock, earlier than I usually get up for work. I even woke up before the coffee machine started. Seriously, who gets up on a Saturday before the alarm clock? Okay, maybe I was a little anxious. One of the great things about Somersault events is the number of people you run into there. The events draw all sorts of people to them, from recreational athletes (me!) to elite athletes, and everybody in between. As I was loading my bike into the van my neighbours came out and started loading their car. Of course they were also headed to the race to cheer on family members (including the 72 year old mother) who were going to compete in the Try-a-Tri and the Sprint Tri distances. After the event another neighbour stopped by to say she had seen me finish as her kids were competing in the Kids race. Ottawa is a small town, but we’re pretty active.

Once I arrived at the race, which was centered around the Carleton University campus, I found a parking spot not too far from the setup area. One of the benefits of using Carleton is the abundance of parking, and a good path system for people to travel between the swim area and bike/run transition zone. Because the race is in late May, there is no open water swim; instead the swim is held in the Carleton 50m pool. Of course the downside is that it is 500+ meters between the pool and the transition zone so you have to accept the time loss (if you choose to walk rather than run back to the T-zone).  Once I found a good spot for my bike and gear that provided good landmarks so I would remember where to go, and gave me a good path to the bike and run routes, I went to get marked up. Fortunately, there was space beside my bike for my brother-in-law so when he arrived a few minutes later he was able to set up quickly.

While I had taken part in the pre-race orientation session the evening before during packet pick-up, I was not really prepared for the mass that is the self-seeding wave start. The pool area was very well organized, but there were a lot of people waiting to get into the water. Thankfully my brother-in-law settled me down and explained that there will be a wait before we needed to worry about our place in line. Each swimmer is sent out at 15 second intervals so the line did take a while to get to us.  He also encouraged me to join the 12 minute line for the swim instead of the 15 minute group. As I mentioned, I hadn’t really prepared for the race, and had not done any real swimming so I was going to take it easy and take a slower pace.  Am I ever glad I didn’t do that! As it was, I could have passed my brother-in-law; we finished the 500m together under 12 minutes. Once out of the pool, we headed back outside to our shoes and started to walk/run back to the T-zone for the 21 km bike ride.

Unlike last year’s duathlon, my bike did not have any mechanical issues during the tri.  I’m sure that has a lot to do with the tune-up it received from Mobivelo as an early Father’s Day gift.  The gears worked great this time. I wasn’t trying to kill myself as I had not been on the bike at all. In fact the first time I rode it this year was race day — not a recommended strategy — and I’m pretty happy with my 46 minute time. Sure I’m not winning any prizes with that time, but it was good and my legs were strong the entire ride. The route itself went north from Carleton U along the Rideau Canal and then back to Hog’s Back Falls and back to to Carleton; the Sprint Distance did this loop twice. The segment to Hog’s Back is slightly uphill so it was a good challenge for my untested legs.

https://www.strava.com/activities/583161907/embed/c7025ef98e7b1bffe66fedc22a32b82fecfbcb4d

The return to the T-zone was slower than I planned. I still have to work on switching from my bike shoes to my running shoes.  Even though I have speed laces, I still find the move to running gear is my slowest. Oh well, if it was easy it wouldn’t be worth doing again and again. Regardless, the run was also okay except that it was along the uneven edge of the road. Because I was worried about injuring myself, I ran on the road until the path evened out a bit.  I had practiced this out-and-back loop route the week before so i wasn’t totally unfamiliar with it and I was ready for the hill in the middle.  It was great to see my neighbours along the route as they cheered me on, especially on the way back.  As I often do, I fell in with a runner whose pace I liked and stuck with her.  She was finishing the Long Tri and she looked like she could run forever.  I kept up with her, though, and finished strong (I think). Even with a slow transition, I managed to come in just under 30 minutes. When I crossed the line I raised my hands triumphantly, knowing that I am a triathlete.

img_1655

Brothers & Triathletes in arms!

Having now completed a tri, even a Sprint distance, I know I will do another. I may even challenge myself to a longer distance, just not yet. For those looking to give multi-sport a try, consider one of the Somersault Events. They’re fun, but challenging, and they have distances to fit most abilities from beginner to elite.

Fall Colours 10k Recap

Sunday morning was most likely my last race of the season. After hemming an hawing for a few weeks, the week before the race I threw my hat in to the ring and signed up for the Somersault Events Fall Colours 10k, one of the many races they held that day. As a first time participant of the event, I was really impressed by the organization of the day and the great family atmosphere. The race distances ranged from the kids’ Turkey Trott through to the marathon.

Like all Somersault events, this day was very well planned. There was the pre-race emails from organizer Terry McKinty reminding participants about the start-times, facilities and amenities, and parking costs. They even setup a Facebook page for ride sharing. There was updates to the marathon route maps, and explanation about the colour coded markers for distances and directions. The water stations were manned by members of a local basketball club who were also beneficiaries of fundraising efforts form the day. The route was very well marked, and made its way from the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum and into a the community. Residents come out a cheer on the runners. All in all, it was a wonderful day. It helped that the weather was great; a bit of sun and not too warm. I chose a long sleeve technical shirt, but would have been fine in a t-shirt. Of course all of this was with a backdrop of trees that were nearly at the peak of colours change — hence the event name Fall Colours.

Backdrop for Fall Colours 10K 2015

Backdrop for Fall Colours 10K 2015

My training for this event was somewhat sporadic. I had been running a fair bit this year as I trained for the duathlon in August. Also, I have been experiencing some real gains (losses?) in my struggle to reach my weight goals. Fortunately, iRun magazine partnered with SportChek and presented a series of 10 week training plans geared for October events — mybestrunningrace.com — and I was able to focus my training. Although I started out following the half-marathon plan, I soon realized that with the return to school and accepted that 10k was going to be a more manageable distance. As my training went on, my 5k times were getting pretty quick, and the one night I ran 10k, I was under 60 minutes for the first time ever. All that to say I was feeling pretty good about race day.

The Fall Colours itself was a great run and experience. Learning from other races, I did not head to the back of the pack. Instead I went to the front of the pack to start the race. I knew I wasn’t going to be the fastest, but I also knew I wasn’t going to be the slowest. When the horn sounded, I headed out faster than knew I should running the first km in 5:10. Knowing that I couldn’t sustain that, and because I planned to finish around 60 minutes, I deliberately slowed down so that by the end of the third km I was hovering at the 6 minute/km mark. This was fine for me as I was trying to stick to my plan. What I hadn’t understood, though, was how hilly the course is — in both directions. I managed to hold my pace, however, to the end of the 5km mark, and then I slowly started to pick up my pace, eventually getting back to 5:24/km, and running a negative split. Like I do in most races I pick another runner who seems to be about my pace and try to stick with him or her. This worked well again, and I managed to keep tabs on a few runners. However, because I was picking up the pace in the second half, I was slowly overtaking them. Nothing aggressive, but steady moves past various runners. As we headed into the final kick, I did overtake a few runners quite quickly. At the finishing chute, I picked up the pace even more — the last split time had me back at 5:10/km. My finishing time was 61 minutes, exactly 4 minutes faster than than my previous 10k race. I’m super happy with the race PB! But that’s not the entire story.

Interestingly, throughout the race I noticed that the km indicators and my Strava app were not in sync. I wrote about this earlier, and my thoughts/concerns have since been validated. As he usually does following races, Terry sent out a post-race email in which he addressed various aspects of the event. Chief among them, was their awareness that the race was in fact longer than 10k:

The 10K – actually, the 10.7K. With a new member to the race crew this year (it’s not his fault), our ‘course coner) was given the actual 5K turn point, without being given the .7K grounds measurement so it’s our fault – not his! Sportstats will amend the results to reflect 10.7K

You really have to admire and respect event organizers who recognize a mistake was made. More so, they own it; they didn’t blame the new guy.

So what does this mean for my race and my PB? Well it means I got two PB’s that day. In addition to getting an official race time PB, even for a slightly longer distance, my actual 10k time was also a PB for me — 56:41! That is way faster (almost 9 minutes!) than than my previous 10k race PB, and it is faster than any other 10k I’ve run in training. For a race on Thanksgiving Weekend, I couldn’t really ask for more.

Obligatory post-race selfie. These are rarely good!

Obligatory post-race selfie. These are rarely good!

Which distance is correct?

  On the weekend I ran the Somersault Events Fall Colours 10k race. The route takes you from the Cumberland Heritage Museum through the local community. As the name suggested, the route has many trees that are in full fall colours. It’s also a hillier route than I was expecting; nothing outrageous but certainly more hills than flats. What I found most interesting is the discrepancy between my running app and the official distance of the race. I’ve been using Strava since May when I switched from the Nike+ app because it kept crashing and draining my battery by 2kms. 

On race day, I noticed at each km marker that Strava was hitting that distance a few meters earlier. Nothing major, but it clearly added up. By the end of the race, the app was reading 10.8 km; I checked a few other people and we all had the same extra distance. So whose distances are correct? The runners’ or the race event organizers’? At the end of the day I had a solid run and a PB. I cut 4 minutes off my race time finish at 61 mins, but if I use the app distance/time then I cut 9 mins and I came in under an hour (56 mins). Hey it’s pretty hard to complain about two PB’s in the same event. Like I said I’m happy with the results, and one day I will actually finish a 10k race under the 1 hr marker. 

Is it common for running apps to be so different than race distances?

What’s more important to you: training/recreational PB or race day PB?