It has been awhile since I tried a new kind of race, the last being a half marathon last September. Since then, I’ve done quite a few of my old usual races at the same distances. This year, being my 4th season of running, I figured that it was time to add a triathlon into the mix. So in January I signed up for the National Capital Try a Tri organized by Somersault Events. Since this is a new experience, the race is number 22 of 52 New Things for 2013.
Thing 22 – Race a Triathlon
The National Capital event has many different events to choose from: Triathlons of various distances, duathlons, triathlons involving canoes and kayaks, a 10K and a 5K race. There is something for everyone! The triathlons offered are of varying distances ranging from the try a tri to Olympic tri. Somersault runs a large number of events in Ottawa, including the Mother’s Day Run and Emilie’s Run. Somersault almost always has a try-a-tri offered – but the distances vary. The National Capital features the longest “try” with a 200m swim, 20K bike and 2K run. The National Capital is held at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility at Mooney’s Bay (aka my track home)
This event was one of a small number of races where I have not picked up my kit prior to race day. Honestly, I did not feel like going all the way to the track on Friday and because I was planning on going super early to the event, I opted out. I talked to my friend the night before and arranged to car-pool to the event since parking was going to be a pain. As lovely as Mooney’s Bay is, parking is a nightmare, especially for large events. I know far too well from track that in order to get parking, you have to go early. We avoided the whole area and parked across the street instead. We saw many people walking, so we were not the only ones. In years prior, they have issued parking passes for the lots.
We got to the transition area and set up our gear. we were close to the bike transition zone. The transition area was a rectangle in the fenced in area just beside the track, which for me means the Javelin throwing area. In all honestly, it didn’t matter where I put my stuff. I would have to run from one side to the other no matter what. The bike transition was on one side, while the swim/run was on the other. I put my stuff on a towel and put my bike on the rack with my helmet, garmin and sunglasses. We then proceeded to get bodymarked and pick up the timing chips. I also bought a race bib holder thing, which made the flipping of bibs in between the bike and run much faster. I also ate a Clif bar and drank lots of water.
I wasn’t really nervous about the race at all. I knew I was very capable of all three distances and did not care about placing. At our orientation meeting (held by the Ottawa triathlon club), the guide mentioned that some of us will be just taking in the scenery, and that was my plan, to enjoy the race. He also noted that in the water you “will get touched, so get over it!” and then made us all reach out our arms and touch our neighbours, ha!
After the meeting it was becoming close to the start time of the super sprint (which my friend was in) and the try a tri start. The Super Sprint and Try a Tri started all within a few minutes of each other, with both events running a 200m swim. We headed to the beach, with me having to run back to my T-zone spot twice to first drop off my shoes and second to drop off my sunglasses, newbie! I saw my friend off, put my swim cap and googles on and headed in the water. Here we go!
Mooney’s Bay is not a deep water area at all. At the start buoy you could just touch the bottom. The water temp was perfect! However, the red flag was up because of bacteria levels, but we kind of just ignored the flags. My game plan for the swim was to just take it easy. With a minute warning, we swam towards the start. I stayed close to the back as I really didn’t want to get kicked around too much. The horn went off, and we started swimming. After the initial start, we all broke apart and there was relatively no contact. I swam and swam, being careful to not go too fast and to be mindful of my breathing. I looked back and saw quite a few people behind me so I was happy about that. I kept swimming and about halfway through, I gave myself a bit of a break. The last 100m was relatively easy. There was another girl right beside me and I made sure to keep up with her. We kind of squeezed close to the buoy, including me getting wrapped in the buoy for a second (opps), then ran up to the beach. It was really cool having a huge group of people cheer you on as you got out of the water.
Time: 11:26 (note: I am unsure if this includes my transition time as I really don’t remember seeing mats anywhere but the bike transition and finish).
As noted above, transition times were not given and since I do not have a Garmin suitable for water, I have zero idea how long I took in transition. One of the downfalls of the timing for sure! I don’t remember there being any mats at the swim area, so I’m pretty certain there was only mats at the bike start.
The run up to the transition is up a grassy hill about 400m. I slowly jogged up the hill and made my way to my bike. I got to the bike and put on my shoes and socks. Luckily it rained the night before and the grass provided a perfect amount of water to get almost all sand off my feet prior to transition. I also ate a gel, and drank lots of my sports drink. I put on my helmet, turned on the garmin and I was off. The bike exit is about 100m long before you can mount the bike and go.
The bike route was a 10KM loop that had to be completed twice. It was all on Colonel By Drive, a fairly flat piece of road that overlooks the Rideau Canal, Carleton University and lots of pretty homes. I’ve run on the route several times on the last 2.5 end of the loop. The road was closed for us, so there was plenty of room.
So – mountain bikes are heavy bikes with big, fat tires. Not idea for going fast. The bike portion of the triathlon was no doubt my worst section. I was getting passed all the time. I’m pretty sure some people passed by me numerous times. I tried as hard as I could – and was pedalling just as much as the others, but the bike just doesn’t go as fast as a road bike. I was maintaining a speed of about 21 Km/hr (about 13 miles/hr) for most of the course, sometimes more, sometimes less. In all honesty, this was the fastest I’ve ever gone on the bike for a consistent amount of time – my average before being 18-19 km/hr. I was going a bit faster than normal because I had put on “slicks” tires on the mountain bike, but still. I’ve also always a tad bit slower when it comes to biking anyways. With more experience I am sure I can get a bit faster.
With all that said – I did not have any problem biking. The course was great, my time was about what I thought it would be, and I did not hurt at all. Maybe I could have pushed a bit more? I did have a couple of laughs with a few fellow mountain bikers and hybrid bikers. We all did say “next time – road bike!”. In all of the passing past me, I did manage to pass two people (YAY ME!), and I saw a couple of other people in the second loop that were on hybrids that I refused to let pass me. I only coasted a few times and tried to keep a consistent cadence and keep above 20 km/hr. I made sure to take sips of my sports drink and eat a sports gummy every 10 minutes.
The camera dude happened to be at the end of the loop and since you could see him coming, you had the opportunity for a nice photo! I thought I was the only one who made sure to give the best “photogenic” smile – but nope, several other people were smiling at him as well!
Towards the end of the bike, my lady bits had enough. Normally, when I bike, I have regular bike shorts on with lots of padding. My Tri shorts had some padding, but not lots. By the end of the route, I just wanted off the bike seat. But, I have not gone on many bike rides yet this season, so eventually I will get a bit more comfortable.
Time: 1:00:26 including the run to transition. I finished the 20K in about 56 minutes
Ok – so the need for brick training was made perfectly clear as I hopped off the big. Holy Noodle Legs Batman! After biking solidly for an hour, my legs were all wooblely. I made my way back to transition where I noticed the other two athletes next to me had parked their bikes a bit too close to my area. I tried to put my bike on the rack as safely as I could then grabbed a quick drink and off I went. I made it about 10 metres down the transition before I realized I had my helmet on. Hello Newbie! I ran back, took the helmet off, grabbed my headband and off I went. The run start was at the top of the hill where we ran up after the swim.
The run was only 2KM long and knowing that I can maintain a sub-5:00 pace for 2KM during training runs meant that I was going to book it. The 2KM trail goes through the Mooney’s Bay park area and on to Riverside Drive. The route in the park is full of little hills, but because I have run the route so many times, I know where the little hills are and quite used to them. My legs did feel a bit off, so at first I was thinking I was slower than normal, but when I saw 5:46 pop up on my watch, I knew I was going fairly fast. So unlike the bike where I was getting passed left, right and centre, on the run, I was the one doing the passing. I’m not sure of the actual amount of people I passed, but it had to be over 10 runners. As I made it to the 1KM marking, I saw my friend (who was running 5Km), and said that I knew she would catch up to me at the run (she biked a 43 minute 20KM). She told me to keep going, so I did. I passed a few more people, got passed my some guys, and made my way to the finish.
The finish was back up that small grassy hill – what a finish to a triathlon! I ran up the hill (passed the guy you see just behind me in the picture above), saw P and Max, and proceeded to finish. Unlike other races, although I was out of breath for the initial 30 seconds after the finish, I wasn’t “in the zone” at the finish nor was I overly tired. Although I was running quickly, I was able to talk to my friend, P and Max without being out of breath. It was a different feeling run, but a good one!
Run Time: 12:33
Which definitely included the transition time as I looked at my garmin stats after and it said something closer to 11:00 which makes much more sense, especially given the first KM (which included transition) was at 5:46.
Total Time: 1:24: 16
The National Capital Triathlon was tons of fun. Although running is still “my thing”, I will probably do this race again next year. The competitive side of me wants to improve my times for sure! Yes – I am aware that I need a road bike to improve the bike section, but unless one of you wants to donate a bike to the cause, I will not be buying a new bike anytime soon. I really do like my blue Trek Mountain Bike and a new bike is not in the budget right now. Somersault, as always, put on a great event. I’ve run over ten races with them in the past four years and barely have a complaint about any of them. If you are from Ottawa, like smaller to medium sized races, and want to have a good time – check out somersault.ca!
I do wish that the times including transition times as I am certain that my run and swim sections were faster than what is recorded. I’m not necessarily complaining about running a 12:33 2K (which is 6:16 Km, still good for the end of a tri), but I’m sure I booked it a bit faster than that. I also am curious about how fast I did run through transition. I guess I could have pressed the lap button or something, but my mind was more on “don’t forget water silly!” during transition.
I placed 30th out of 52 overall, 22nd in terms of females. The bike set me back for sure! For the swim, I was in the middle of the pack. The bike, I was placed towards the end. The run – placed 11th overall! The run will definitely be my strong point in future triathlons for sure! Next time, I would like to try a bit more harder as I was saving room in the tank for all three events.
Many of you have commented that you would like to try a triathlon one of these days – I would encourage you to definitely try! I hear many “I’m not a biker, swimmer, runner”, but in all honestly, I am NOT a swimmer and I wouldn’t even call myself a biker. I have never taken a swimming lesson in my life, nor have I even raced in a swim event – and I did just fine! Many of the Somersault Try a Tri’s are even shorter distances than the one I competed in. If you want to compete in next year’s National Capital and I’m competing – email me, and I can be your tri buddy 🙂
So that is my recap of the National Capital Try a Tri Triathlon!