2017 MSC Gravenhurst International Duathlon
So this weekend we headed up to cottage country for the MSC Gravenhurst International Duathlon. Last year, this was the race where I qualified to compete in the 2017 World MultiSport Championships so this race will always be special to me. I had also planned on using this race as a “tune-up” for the World Championships this year just to see where I am at and what I still have to work on.
Leading up to the Race
I was planning on treating this race and the time leading up to the race as a mock preparation for the World Championships next month. So I would do all of the same workouts, eat the same food, use the same equipment, etc. In theory this sounded like a brilliant idea because this way I would be able to isolate things that weren’t working for me and use my race results as a gauge for what I needed to work on over the next 5 weeks. If only it were that easy.
Eight days before the race Geordana, my girlfriend, and I somehow got very sick and were pretty much bed ridden from Thursday until Sunday. To spare you the details, during this time we both were unable to keep food down and were constantly struggling to stay comfortable which led to very poor sleep patterns. Needless to say I did not hit all of the key workouts that I had planned on doing; this strategy was a write off.
I began to feel better on Monday, six days before the race. Having not worked out since Wednesday last week, I (perhaps naively) pushed the interval workouts that I had planned on doing last Thursday and Friday into this week. This was really cutting it close to race day as I wasn’t sure if I would be able to recover fully before the weekend. This is a risk I was able to take at there was no pressure on me for this race; it wasn’t a qualifying race nor was there any big prize that I knew of. When I got around to doing these workouts I just felt flat and drained – the speed nor the power was there. Not typically a good sign knowing that I’d have to push harder than this during the race now just 4 days away. My body just wasn’t absorbing the food that I was eating the way that it would if I was healthy. This is a common term know among cyclists as "blocked legs". There wasn’t anything I could do about this other than rest, take it easy in the last few days for the race and hopefully my body would shake this sickness on its own.
Race day came and I felt surprisingly good. I followed my same routine; eat breakfast ~3 hours pre-race, arrive at transition with plenty of time, do my warmups and stretches. While chatting with fellow athletes Andrew McLeod, Spencer Summerfield and Garvin Moses, I learned that the bike course was changed last minute onto smoother roads. This was a GREAT tidbit of info remembering how rough some sections of the original bike course were last year. If only they would switch around the run course to make it less hilly ;). This is a notoriously tough duathlon – there are very few (if any) flat parts on the run and the bike course is very similar with rolling roads and very few flat sections. John Salt, MultiSport Canada founder and race director, had announced after the race that this venue is probably one of the toughest International Distance Duathlon courses offered in Canada. This was very apparent soon after the starting gun went off.
Run #1 10km (37:11 – T1: 0:39)
After sizing up my competition in the starting chute, I saw Charles Bedley who I had remembered smashed this run last year in under 35 minutes. So I made it my goal to stay with him and at least keep him in my sights without him ripping my legs off. This had worked out brilliantly for the first 5 or so kilometers; I was hovering at around a 3:30 – 3:35 min/km average pace, Charles was 50 meters up the road, and my heart wasn’t trying to beat out of my chest just yet. This felt like a pace I could keep up for the duration of the 1st 10km run. We then hit this hill at the 4 km mark and this just gassed me, I wasn’t able to regain composure or find my rhythm. I was giving it everything I had to keep Charles in my sights, but he was slowly and painfully tearing my legs off. My heart rate for the last 5km hovered at around 190bpm maxing out at 196. My perceived effort was through the roof, something wasn’t right. I finished the 1st 10km run 55 seconds behind Charles who had successfully tore my legs off – kudos to Charles.
Bike 40km (1:00:52 – T2: 0:38)
This was my domain, I was ready to throw down big numbers like I did in Welland a couple of weeks ago. My aim here was to gap the field leaving myself an insurmountable lead for the final 5km run which I was sincerely dreading at this point. I had a speedy transition, mounted my bike, slipped into my shoes on the go and started hammering. I tried not to look at my Garmin head unit until I had caught Charles. I told myself that I’d burn a couple matches, catch Charles, and then I’d carefully measure my effort for the remainder of the bike. I made the catch at the 5km mark and now had 35km to put in as much time as possible into my competition. Once I began tracking my effort I quickly realized that I was unable to push the power that I was planning, my legs felt flat and drained – just like they had in the workouts I did in the week leading up to the race. Having discovered this, I ignored my Garmin and raced the remainder of the bike course based on how I felt. After the turnaround I then saw that my main competition was following more closely then I was anticipating – there was Larry Bradley, Andrew McLeod, and then Chris Schindler who were all around 1 – 2 minutes back. I finished the final 20km riding scared while at the same time trying to leave something in the tank for the final 5km run. I approached transition and dismounted my bike surprised to see Chris Schindler right beside me. He had destroyed this bike course in under 55 minutes going over 44km/hr. I have never seen those types of speeds in a MultiSport Canada race. Very impressive bike split! After analyzing my effort, I pushed just under 300W for the duration of the bike course. This is around 50W lower than my original expectations and 70W lower than what I was able to push over 56km two weeks ago in Welland. Just goes to show how much an untimely illness can take out of you. Looking on the bright side, this was still in the top 5 best bike splits of the day. Now on to this pesky 5km run that I’ve been dreading.
Run 5km (0:21:09)
I was out of transition 20 seconds faster than Chris so with the winding, hilly road we were running on I was able to get out of sight. Being able to see your opponent up the road is a huge motivator to push that much harder. So goal for this run was just to stay out of sight, other than at the turnaround, of course. The perceived effort on this run was just through the roof, my legs had nothing left. I was almost slowed to a walk going up most hills simply because I could not push any harder. Good news though – when looking behind me, I could not see Chris. I was counting down the kilometers, this race could not finish fast enough. Before I knew it, the hills were behind me and I re-entered the park and turned towards the finishing chute. The familiar voice of Steve Fleck announced my name as the winner of the International Distance Duathlon and my grimace turned to a smile. I broke the tape, crossing the finish line being personally greeted my John Salt, himself. Despite it not being the performance I was hoping for, I was elated.
This is the kind of experience I always seem to have at MultiSport Canada events all race results aside. The comradery among athletes really makes all of these races feel like a community. While I caught my breath I was able to converse with fellow athletes, family and friends who had all made it out to the event. I popped by the BLADE Carbon Wheels tent and drooled over the new 2nd Generation wheels that Rob had on display.
Before I knew it, we were called up for awards and to my surprise I was the proud new owner of a new pair of Skechers running shoes as the 1st OA Duathlete! Shortly after this we had left for a relaxing afternoon on the lake in cottage country. I have a week to recover before the Toronto Triathlon Festival where I’ll be competing in the Olympic distance Triathlon right in my “back yard”.
This weekend was a real eye opener to the importance of recovery – even though we may feel great, your body needs more time than you think to recover whether it be from illness or hard training, etc. This will definitely be something that I will be more conscious of in the future.
Listen to your body!
Till next time,