Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sylvan Lake Half Iron Man Race Report

For those who prefer not to read an in-depth race report, here is the Executive Summary.
Race: Sylvan Lake Half Iron Man, Sylvan Lake Alberta
Date: Saturday, July 26th, 2008 8:00 AM
# of Individual Participants : 272
Overall Placing: 54
Overall Male: 44 / 176
Age Group 45 - 49: 8 / 24
Swim (1.9 Kms) 42:38 159/272
Bike (90 Kms) 3:02:03 113/272
Run (21 Kms) 1:37:03 7/272
Total Time 5:21:42.5

Those are the hard cold facts of the race that I was not particularly looking forward to. After a couple of weeks of struggling with sore Achilles I was really not sure what would happen, but as you can see, they turned out to be a non-issue! Further evidence that this is not an over use injury.
I went down to Sylvan on Friday morning and after a non-eventful drive, arrived at the race headquarters around 2:30 PM. It was relatively quiet, so I was able to register and pick up my package in a matter of minutes. Downtown was just hopping as it was a beautiful day with temperatures in the 30 degree Celsius range. Sylvan Lake is a beach town and the population probably doubles in the summer time. After a quick walk around I decided to head over to Red Deer to check into the hotel. Since Sylvan Lake is so busy there were no rooms to be had so I had to stay in Red Deer which was about 20 minutes away.
The evening was pretty quiet and I just organized my stuff in preparation for the morning. For my pre-race meal I had some sushi and a salad. This has become my new pre-race favourite as it digests easily, is loaded with good stuff and leaves you feeling full, but not stuffed. After some stretching and a couple of bottles of water I turned in around 9:30 PM.
Race Day
I was up at 4:30 AM and quickly got packed and headed over to Sylvan. On route I chugged down a bottle of Gatorade and snarfed a cinnamon raisin bagel. Over all I was feeling pretty good and the massaging of the Achilles had left it feeling better than it had been. My big decision for the day was what shoes was I going to run in, the Newtons or Sauconys. I debated that for the whole drive and finally decided that it was a race so I should wear my racing shoes, so Newtons it was going to be.
Once at the race site I got myself set up in transition and did all the pre-race checks. From a weather perspective it was looking like it was going to be a perfect day. Temperatures were expected to be around 25 degrees Celsius with no precipitation. They were however expecting some wind which would impact the bike.
The swim starts off the end of the pier and is a deep water start. At exactly 8:00 AM the race begins and I have found myself in a great spot to swim. I am feeling really good and seem to be in a group of about four swimmers that are at just about perfect pace for drafting. Unfortunately as I was to find out at the end it was a slow group! However, right off the bat I settled in and was really feeling like I had a good swim going. With the swim, there is really no way to measure your effort other than by how you feel. You can't really wear a watch and it is difficult to see where you are in relation to the field. However at the first turn I felt like I had a good swim going. I was staying close to the marking buoys and wasn't having to make any major course corrections which is usually a problem for me. The last hundred yards or so is in weeds and is very shallow. The temptation is to stand and run but you have a long ways to go and it is not necessarily a good idea, so I kept swimming until I hit the bottom with my hand. As I staggered to my feet I was stunned to see the clock at 41:50. Damn it! I want a recount, I swam better than that!
Off to transition for the bike, still a little pissed at how my swim had went. Oh well on to the bike. The bike course had more hills than I recall from last year. And the first 40 kms is on really rough roads. I had to stop a couple of times to fasten things back on as the rumble strips and generally poor road conditions were shaking the crap out of my bike. However I was still riding relatively smoothly and seemed to be averaging around 35 - 37 Kms per hour. If only I can keep this up! At the 35 km mark the first of the many long climbs began, and to make matters worse this is where the head winds started! In spite of that my legs felt really good and I seemed to be settled in and holding my own. After this long hill there was a series of hills one after another and after about the third one I was starting to feel it. On top of that we were riding through some agriculture land that had just been freshly fertilized! It was enough to gag a maggot! This went on for at least 5 miles. The amazing thing to me was the number of people who were set up in these areas to watch the race. They had their lawn chairs and umbrellas plunked right in the stink zone. There was a reason these spots were not occupied!
At last I could see the lake and we were into the Town of Sylvan Lake. From here it was almost all down hill so it gave me a good chance to stretch out the legs and get prepared for the run. Surprisingly my lower back was not stiff and from what I could tell my legs seemed good. The last mile into transition is a no-pass zone and riders have to stay in single file. The lane we are on is between the main street and the beach and people are going back and forth all the time. The marshalls try and manage it but you have to be very aware. Knowing that all a 7 year old sees is a beach and some water, you have to be ready to jump on the binders at anytime. And I came within an inch of plowing into some little kid as he ran by the marshall and headed for the lake. I hit the brakes and just about ended up in a heap!
Once in transition I quickly got into my shoes and wrestled with a bottle of Ice Cold, I had to put on my Achilles. Of course I had bought it brand new and hadn't checked to see if I could open it, and I couldn't! So I just headed out onto the course. I was fully expecting to hobble for at least 500 metres but I felt great! No pain from the Achilles and my legs felt the best they ever have in making the bike/run transition. This was a pleasant surprise and before you know it I was up to cruising speed.
Now if there is an event to be good at, I think I will take the run every time. Passing scores of people is a very satisfying feeling at this point in the race and I really enjoyed it. The course is nice with lots of shelter along the way and few decent hills. It also has about a 2 Km trail section which is easy on the legs, but you really have to watch out for the roots protruding out of the ground. There was not a moment along the way that I felt uncomfortable at all. My legs felt strong from start to finish and I only had a little bit of burning in my left heel at the end.
So while it was not my fastest time I was still pleased with my results. As usual there was a lot of talk after the race that the swim course was longer than 1.9 Km and that the bike course was also off by about 2 Km, but I hear that at most races. I need to work harder on my biking as that is where my time is. The next training cycle I will try and put some greater emphasis on it.
Have a great weekend!


Tri to Be Funny said...

What a solid race!!! Most people would kill to have those results :-) So glad the achilles held up for you!

Jamie said...

Congrats! Solid race for sure! Awesome the achilles didn't act up. Great job man, enjoyed the report.

Love2Run said...

Way to go Garry! You really know how to make lemonade when you get lemons. Way to crush them on the run (7th overall)!

Grellan said...

Great race Garry and very impressive run especially given the potential achilles issue. I agree that it's great when the run is your best discipline as you come home very strong. Still causes me far more "pain" than the other disciplines though.

Becky H said...

Great race- glad the achilles decided to have a good day!! I laughed at your description of the rough road... all our roads are like that around here, and I always have to stop to reattach stuff too!! Maybe we'll see you in a month at Miquelon!