Friday, October 4, 2013

Muskoka 70.3 and Looking Towards 2014

It's now been four weeks since I headed off to 'Cabin Country,' as the Muskoka region of Ontario is called. My 1500 mile round-trip was a success in that I was able to get a 2014 70.3 WC slot. However, it was almost a 1500 mile drive that didn't even include a race!

I left for Ontario on a Friday evening, driving about five hours to Syracuse, NY. On Saturday morning I was up and on the road before 6 AM, and arrived in Huntsville, where the race is held, right around 1 PM. The race site is a bit unique in that parking for the event is on a small landing strip, and there are buses to shuttle to transition and registration. I got in a quick 25 min ride to test everything out, then got my stuff together and biked the 2 miles to transition.

After registering, I wanted to go for a swim, but apparently the swim course was closed and there was a possibility of a DQ for swimming. Not wanting that to happen, I grabbed a bus back to my car, drove the 30 minutes to my hotel. I found some supper and was in bed a little before 9 PM, setting my alarm for just before 5 the next morning.

Some time on Sunday morning I rolled over, checking the time on my phone, and uttered a few  choice 4-letter words. It was 5:50 AM, and apparently the AC unit in the room had muffled my alarm. I was out the door and on the road by 6:05, eating a bagel and having a race nutrition breakfast of gels, cliff blocks, and some Infinit - yum!!!

Luckily, it was an 8 AM start, so I had time once I parked and got the shuttle bus to transition. I was lucky to have woken up when I did - just think if I had driven all that way and slept through the race start! Next time I'll definitely do a wake-up call!

After quickly setting up transition, I headed down to the swim start, about a 10 min walk away. I contemplated leaving my shoes near the swim out, for the steep 1/4 mile run to transition, but decided against it, eventually putting them in my morning clothes bag. I was able to get in about a 10 min swim warmup before it was time for our wave to head out.

My swim is definitely my weakest sport, but it's improved a bit this year, as I've put in a lot of pool time. I'm pretty happy with this swim, as it's advertised as 2000m, not the traditional 1900m. I got 2,323 yards according to my Garmin 310 in my swim cap. I feel this was my best swim of the season, and put me right where I needed to be, out of the water in 32 min.

I opted for the wetsuit strippers, and they had a hard time getting the suit over my heels - rather than pulling harder they stared at each other instead of pulling. I told asked them to pull harder, which they did, eventually yanking it off. They weren't the best strippers! After that, there is around a 1/4 mile uphill run to transition. My Garmin 310 was in my hand, after taking it from my cap, and I glanced down seeing a HR of 185 - highest of the day.

I biked this quite conservatively, knowing I didn't need to push super hard, as the bike is my strongest event. I honestly expected to be a bit slower, based on times from previous years, so I was pretty happy with my bike ride. I rode at around 76% of my FTP, and 20 watts lower than the Tremblant 70.3 last summer. Only three weeks after IMMT, I know I wouldn't have the legs I'd be capable of it this were an A race.

From the get go, the hills began. It was almost constantly up and down, with very few flat sections, and the flat sections seemed to almost always have a headwind, especially the exposed areas near the lakes we went by. I got close to 5000 ft of climbing on my Garmin, but I'm not sure it was quite that much.

In the first 20 or so miles I was constantly passing folks - people from my AG and from the wave in front of us, which went off 6 min before. After the first hour or so the field began to thin out, and the passings decreased. After 2 hours I was averaging a bit over 23 mph, but knew that some of the steepest hills were in the last 20k, which proved true. My avg speed dropped by 1/2 a mph over this distance. I also passed a few of the female pros over this part of the course.

I came into T2 feeling fresh, but still a bit unsure where I stood in my AG. As the course wasn't an out and back I couldn't gauge where I stood, but I knew that near the end I was riding pretty much on my own. As it turned out, I saw three bikes racked in the 35-39 area when I got to T2. I was actually 5th, so I must have missed a bike. My bike time was 2:35, actually quicker than I thought I'd do at that power output (260 watts). 

Knowing there were 12+ WC slots, and knowing where I stood after the bike, I felt like I didn't need to kill myself on the run.

I made a decision to cruise along at a pretty comfortable pace until the turn-around, then see where I stood within the AG. Over the first half of the run I passed two guys from my AG and was passed by 1, so I thought I was in 4th place. After the turn-around I could see a few others from the AG a few minutes back, but not nearly enough to make me need to increase my pace that much.

There were three nasty hills in each direction of the course, and I contemplated walking a bit on them, as the pace wouldn't be drastically different that trying to run. However, I decided to keep running, and ended up not getting passed by anyone for the remainder of the run. If there had been fewer WC slots I definitely would have pushed more, but it wasn't needed. My goal in doing this race was to get a slot, and placing in the AG wasn't a real priority.

However, I was still pleased to take 5th in the AG. My run time was 1:32 and my finishing time was 4:45. This time would have won the AG by 8 minutes last year, so the extra WC slots brought out some faster fellows.

Although I wasn't planning on doing this race it was a fun experience. I would have much preferred qualifying for Kona, but that didn't happen. I was able to get a 70.3 WC slot on a challenging course. I've now got a year to be ready for that race! I was the second non-pro from the US to finish - definitely mostly Canadians doing the race - heck, I was born in Nova Scotia, so I could be Canadian if I wanted.

The support was good for this race and the post race food was excellent. I didn't stick around for the awards ceremony - I guess I would have received something for 5th - as I had 6+ hours of driving back to Syracuse. 


  Looking towards the future, I have two races lined up for next year. First up will be the Boston Marathon in April. I'll probably start up the marathon training some time in November. Then my focus will turn towards the 70.3 WC at Tremblant, where I hope to have a bit of redemption after my poor IM there in August.

Kona is now one week from tomorrow. Half of me wishes I was about to head off and race, but the other half is telling me it was probably a good thing that I didn't qualify. With school starting up again (already my 7th year of teaching), Katie going back to work, and Jackson starting daycare, there has been very little time for training. I've gotten in 6-7 hours a week over the past month, and that's with workouts either before the sun is up or after the sun has set. Kona training would have been meager at best and traveling to Hawaii with a 6 month old would have been far from ideal. While I'd love to be racing, it's probably best that I'll be following along on the computer, tracking friends and coach Steve. Maybe in a few more years I'll give Kona another shot.

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