Monday, August 18, 2008

Kelowna Apple - Race Report

There is a trip recap to follow, with more pictures and other stuff....  but for now, while it is fresh in my mind, here is my race report from this year's National Triathlon Championships.....

The Apple is my favourite race...  Not only is the venue spectacular, but the organizers go out of their way to look after every detail.

This year the Apple hosted the Canadian National Championships - a chance to qualify for World's in Australia in 2009, and to become "National Champion".  It was especially nice for me not to have to fly to Nationals and spend a lot of money, and to be able to race on a course I know well.

As usual everything was organized perfectly and within minutes of arriving at the venue on Saturday I had met up with Tabitha.  Tabitha looks after the AWAD (Athletes with a Disabilty) and always has things dialed in perfectly. 

I checked in, picked up the race package, rode the course once with Darren and Scott (more on them later).  The bike course was changed from 4 to 3 laps this year, with an out and back section added to make up the distance.  

Most folks were happy about that change (because they only had to climb "the mountain" 3 times), but I had hoped to shave 5 minutes off my bike split mostly by improved climbing of Knox Mtn. 4 times.  I didn't think I'd be able to make up as much time on that out and back as I had planned to on Knox.  Whatever...

After spending much of the day in 36 C heat at the race venue we headed out to the Pheasant and Quail to watch the Olympics and eat dinner.  It was tough trying to be as slow as possible to drag out our viewing....  1. because we had nothing to do at the campsite and 2. because great event after great event kept coming on.

Eventually we had to leave....  we settled in at the campsite.  I slept in the "upstairs" of the Westfalia, while Deb enjoyed the air-conditioned comfort of Darren's RV....  I considered going for the RV as well (because it was pretty hot in the van) but I always sleep well in my van, and I decided to go with what I know.

My luxury suite at the Hiawatha RV park

I did end up sleeping well, the Hiawatha RV Park was great as everyone shut-up on the stroke of 10pm.

In the morning I took down a bowl of oatmeal, a banana, three Endurolyte tablets (electrolytes), and a bottle of water.  Would have enjoyed a coffee but it wasn't in the cards.

Darren and I setting up in transition

Off to the race - set up in transition - hang out.  Chat with people. Stretch.  Warm-up a little.  The day was a bit overcast - very lucky for all of us as it was smoking hot the day before.

SWIM -  RANK: 1    TIME:  26:06   PACE/100m:  1:45   (LAST YEAR: 27:09)

Darren and I just before the swim...

At the National Championship we AWADs get our very own wave start - all 4 of us!  It makes for a pretty relaxed swim without the usual fisticuffs.  The officials explained the course to us, put us in the hands of the starter, and off we went.  I went out the hardest but Scott Patterson was right on my feet...  he tickled my toes a few times then came around and opened up a bit of a gap.  I wanted to get onto his feet (he pointed out later that he doesn't have any), but he went too wide for it to be worth it to go over.  As we approached the beach to end the first lap I saw Scott go the wrong way....  he was not going around the buoy.  I momentarily wondered if I had misunderstood the course, but decided to do it the same way I have done it the last two years.

Darren Smith was a few body lengths behind me as we went around the buoy just off the beach, meanwhile a kayak was instructing Scott to turn around and go back.  As we started lap two they sent off about a hundred 40+ Men right behind us.  The fastest ones were coming by and I was trying to find some suitable feet to draft off....  the first few were way too fast but I eventually found a few pairs that worked for a while.

All in all this was a decent swim - I have gone faster in practice and would like to one day perform that well in a race...

T1 - RANK: 1   TIME: 2:37  (LAST YEAR:  4:02)

I was the first out of the water with Darren and Scott not far behind.  Transition was super smooth - Deb was right where I needed her with my leg and everything went perfectly.  Shaving more than a minute off of last year's transition is great.  2:37 is not "fast" for able-bodied triathletes, but for those of us that have to attach body parts it is pretty much lightning, and I am very proud of it.

BIKE - RANK: 1   TIME: 1:14:20  PACE: 32.3 km/h (LAST YEAR:  1:15:35,  31.8 km/h)

Coming past transition for another lap

I was out onto the bike course with nobody else in sight....  just me and some birds chirping.  I love this....  being the hunted.  Last year nobody caught me from the other waves until 5km into the bike course.  This year I got more than 1 lap finished, 14km or so, before the first guy from the 40+ wave caught me.

I had a great ride - I had planned to really empty the tank on the ride - leave nothing in reserve.  Why?  Just to see if I could still pull out a decent run after and reap some benefits of the faster ride.  I definitely didn't shave off 5 minutes (in retrospect that was probably a bit of a fantasy), I think if the course was the same as last year I would have shaved off more though.

T2 - RANK: 1   TIME: 58 seconds  (LAST YEAR: 2:33) 

T2 was super-awesome.  Less than a minute!  WOW.  Again Deb was in the perfect spot with everything I needed.  That is my best transition ever (by a mile.)  I have a few new techniques with my leg prosthesis, and I am making better use of my assistant - it is working SO well.  Not mentioning details here as they are my secret weapon right now.

RUN - RANK: 2 (Scott is much faster in racing chair.)  TIME:  53:00  PACE: 5:18/km  (LAST YEAR:  51:05)

5km into the run...  not looking too happy.

The run was tough.  Possibly because of the increased effort on the bike.  Though, for some reason I always find the Apple run hard.  It is completely flat so I am not sure why....  I have run faster on many tougher courses.  Maybe it's the heat in Kelowna?  I don't know.  I was not impressed with my pace and I think this is where I will focus my concentration.  I will keep working hard on the cycling (to be fresher for the run) and work on the bricks more and more.  I need to be a lot closer to my 10km best.  I think I can 'easily' drop 5 minutes or more here....  ('easily' being a relative term.)

FINISH - RANK: 1  TIME:  2:36:59  (LAST YEAR:  2:40:22)

Looking happier here!

About 3km from the finish line an official on a bike met me and escorted me to the line....  it was sweet!  Just like the pros get!  The announcer was calling out my name and saying 'National Champion' as I sprinted down the finishing chute - it was a great feeling.  

This may be the National Championship - and I did win... but, in effect, I was the only athlete in my category.  I wish it were different and I am working in about 6 different ways to try to increase participation.  You won't catch me bragging about being National Champion until there is at least a full podium!

I am pleased with the time...  It suggests to me that experience and attention to detail is where I have made most of my gains this year.  Look at it this way:

Time saved swimming, biking and running:  23 seconds.

Time saved in transition:  3 minutes

On the other hand....  I think this suggests that I will plateau next season without some changes to my training.  I am going to analyze what I have done well and what needs work, to develop a new plan to drop the performance numbers (S, B, R) over the coming year.

A big thanks goes out to Debbie for being my assistant at this race, Innovative Fitness for sponsoring me and preparing me for the race, as well as the Bike Gallery for setting me up with great equipment and knowledge.  As always though, I have to save the biggest "thanks" for Sacha and my kids - it means the world to me that I am able to chase these goals with your support!

Hanging out after the race...  waiting for the awards ceremony

Bracing myself....

Innovative Fitness - If you haven't tried it yet let me know...  I can hook you up!

Post-Race nutrition....

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