Monday, July 29, 2013

Point Grey Triathlon Race Report 2013

Race: Point Grey Triathlon at UBC (July 28, 2013)

Time: 1:40:17 (Placing: 187/247, 77/118 F, 6/8 F45-49)
Swim: 700m (in 50m pool), 24:14 (includes most of T1 in change tent and 250m run to bike)
Bike: 20K, 47:13 (includes time in T1 and T2, about 3 min total)
Run: 5K, 28:51

Summary:   This was my second time doing the sprint distance just two months after the North Shore Triathlon in May and about four-and-a-half months after my very first super-sprint in March. I was about the same pace in the swim and slightly faster in the bike and run as in the tri in May. It was a gorgeous day and a lot of fun. :) Clearly I have left a lot of room for improvement in the sport of triathlon.

Race report
I arrived at the race site at about 6:15 am, or a little over an hour before my 7:25 am scheduled heat. Because I'm a slower swimmer, I was in the second of seven swim heats. I checked in my bike, organized my stuff in transition (spending about 10 minutes deciding whether to leave my bike shoes there or leave them in my pool bag, eventually deciding on the latter option). I then went to the pool to change and got to the pool deck at about 7:10 to get my body marking and timing chip. The race started about a half-hour late, so after a lot of waiting around I was more than ready to start. I seeded myself pretty far back in the heat; I had predicted 19 minutes for 700m, but started with the 20-minute people because I know most people seed themselves too slowly. We swam in the beautiful 50m outdoor pool, going up and back across the seven lanes. I was going at a slow but steady pace, and got passed by one person around the second lap. I seemed to have more space after that, but still it was hard to relax completely. After about 500m, I got stuck behind a huge traffic jam of people. It seemed one person slowed down in front of about five others, and I caught up to them; at one point I was swimming breast stroke so slowly I had to stop and walk. At the end of the lane we were able to get past the one slow person, but similar back-up happened again in one of the last laps. This was the kind of traffic jam I managed to avoid in my last triathlon. I thought to myself “What can you do?” and I figured I'd save some energy for the bike leg. It seems many inexperienced swimmers don't pace themselves well in the pool, starting fast and then slowing down. I tend to swim pretty steady-paced. I did try to power through the last length after I passed one person. This pool congestion probably cost me about a minute or so in the swim, and my time in the water was just over 20 minutes. I exited the pool feeling good.

My friend Rob took some video of me during the swim: (I am in the first lane with the yellow cap.)

I tried to have a quick transition, but it was hard to get my shorts and tank over my wet suit. I slipped on some sandals for the transition run, grabbed some Powerade and was off to bike transition (about a 250m run on narrow sidewalk before the transition timing mat). The whole process of putting on new clothes and running to the entrance of transition took me about 4 minutes.

I slipped on my bike shoes, clipped on my helmet, gulped down some Gatorade, and started running with my bike out of transition. The bike was fun and fast on the gradual downhill, but slow on the gradual uphill. I don’t bike a lot, and this is about as long I’d want to do in a race. They added a bit of a technical section with curves and narrow parts, and I slowed more than I probably had to there. But overall the bike was good; about the same pace I did in my last sprint, and I finished feeling a bit better for the run.

Bike to run transition was also a bit slow. My bike time is listed as 47:13, but my Garmin shows just under 44 minutes for the actual ride, so about 3.5 minutes total in T1 and T2 (not including the other part of the swim-to-bike transition before the timing mat). My friend Tim got a picture, and it looks like I need to learn some HTFU. :) (he also got some pictures on the bike, but they aren't very good)

The beginning of the run was a bit of a confusing maze of fences as we exited from transition, until a few hundred metres in when we were on some residential roads. We worked our way to some of the Pacific Spirit Park trails, and then around to Marine Drive. I was running as fast as 5:30/km but I could not maintain that pace on the trails and some slight inclines. It was a gorgeous run and I was wishing it was a longer part of the triathlon, since by the end I felt I had warmed up more into my pace (last kilometre was the fastest, even with a slight incline). I did manage a slightly faster average pace for the run than my last triathlon. I crossed the finish line at just over 1:40, and was overall really happy with the race. Triathlon is so much fun, but the experience is so different than road races. My friend Tim took a picture of me coming toward the finish:

Post race thoughts

I am still learning a lot in triathlon and I really enjoy the varied training. The race was fun, and I did race well and strong for my current fitness. I do realize that gains in this sport will take me a LOT more dedicated training, especially on the bike. As a newbie I have enjoyed getting into the sport of triathlon with no real time pressure or expectations. I am not sure how much I will continue to enjoy it without setting improvement goals for myself and training towards them. Truthfully, I'm just not used to being at the bottom of the pack, and it is quite humbling.

Now that this triathlon is done, I am looking forward to getting back to mostly running and working toward getting back my run fitness. I have realized lately that as much as I am enjoying the varied triathlon training, I'm missing being able to do more run mileage. I know my return-to-run fitness has been slowed somewhat but the time spent in the other activities. We will be travelling for much of August, but i will definitely have time to do a lot of running. I have a half-marathon planned for October and maybe another in November. After that I will think about spring goals. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon, June 23, 2013

On June 23 I ran the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-marathon, my first half marathon in over a year because of the injury.  I was relatively undertrained, having only done a few long runs within my triathlon training.  But I got it done, and I had fun.  I never posted a full report for this race.  Instead I will now post a copy of what I wrote in my Runningmania journal  (

My plan was to start easier, about 6:00/km. But I good at the beginning and just got into a groove at closer to 5:30/km. The course starts with a gradual downhill for the first 3K which helped the pace. The course also has a very nice 2K downhill coast from about 8-10K. So it's not too surprising that my first 10K was in just over 55 minutes. I thought I might be able to hang on to that pace, but the course is more difficult in the second half and I was paying a bit for my lack of run mileage. I slowed down on a few of the hilly parts, and then had to take an emergency potty break at around 17K. I was also getting some calf cramping from about 15K on which forced me to slow down a bit, but I was able to relax into it and not let the cramping buckle me as it did in my last two halfs. So I'm happy about that. The last 5-6K really became mostly about keeping strong and steady.

I finished in 2:02:19, which is better than I expected but not as fast as I had hoped (if that makes sense ;) ). I'm mostly just happy that I was able to be out there racing and finish with no injury issues. Never take racing and health for granted. 8)

Here's a link to my Garmin Connect file for the race:

You can clearly see how I slowed in the second half on a few of the hills and lost more than a minute in kilometer 17. And the elevation profile gives a bit of an idea of the course.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Race. Breathe. Live.

Race report:  Sandcastle City Classic 10K (White Rock, BC)

June 9, 2013
Time: 52:59

I decided to enter this race only last week. But even after I registered, I started to have my doubts. I told a friend, “I’m racing a 10K on Sunday, if you can call it ‘racing’. I’m so out of shape.” He said, “No, you’re not out of shape. You’re in the shape you’re in.” I whined, “But I’ve lost so much conditioning!” He said, “Who cares? Race. Breathe. Live.” He was so right. I decided from that moment forward I would no longer compare myself to my former self or complain about lost fitness. Racing was fun, and I missed it.

White Rock is well-known for its hilly terrain. The race organizers of Sandcastle have made it more appealing by designing a point-to-point course, starting at about 100m elevation and ending at sea level. This makes for a fun but challenging course. The first five kilometres are rolling and net downhill. The next four are gradually uphill; just when you are beginning that last third of the race and thinking, “10K races are tough… dig deep… ,” you also have to fight against gravity. The reward is a steady but steep downhill in the last kilometre, finishing at the beach.

My goal was simply to run hard and consistent. I knew that my Achilles would behave as long as I didn’t do anything crazy and kept relaxed on the downhills. I was expecting a pace of around 5:30/km, but I knew if it felt good I could be a bit faster. I did not do much of a warm-up before the race, so I used the first kilometre to ease into my pace. The rolling terrain and slight downhill allowed me to speed up, splitting the first 5K at just over 26 minutes (5:23 for the first kilometre, about 5:10/km for the next four). I was pretty happy with this. The tough kilometres began after that, and I was actually glad I hadn’t closely looked at the elevation profile before the race. I lost just a bit of time on kilometres 6-8 (about 5:30 average), but hung on anxiously awaiting the fun downhill. In the last kilometre I felt like I was flying, and I came over the finish line at just under 53 minutes.

I am so happy that I can now get out there and enjoy racing again. Racing doesn’t always have to be about PBs and age-group placings, as fun as those things are. Racing can be about doing your best on any given day, and experiencing the joy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

North Shore Triathlon, May 20, 2013: Race Report

On May 20 I did my second triathlon and my first attempt at the sprint distance. I really enjoyed this race and I'm still loving triathlon so far :-). The race was the North Shore Triathlon in North Vancouver, stating at the Ron Andrews Rec Centre.

My time:   1:33:36

Placing: 218/285 overall, 91/135 Female, 13/17 in F45-49

Swim:  20:20
Bike 46:20 (includes most of T1 and all of T2, actual bike time:  40:50, speed 25.9 km/hr  8) )
Run:  26:57 (actual run distance 4.62k, 5:50/km pace)

Sportstats link here.


Format:  740m pool swim: 20 lengths of a 37m pool, 2 sets of 5 laps switching under the rope in the shallow end

I was in the second wave of swimmers. The waves went slowest to fastest and only a small group was ahead of us (those expecting 25 minutes or more). By my bib number I ended up randomly in the front of the approximately thirty people expecting 20 minutes.  This was a bit of a mistake- as I suspected, most people who put down 20 minutes were faster than that.  I tried to move back saying I was a "slow 20" but no one wanted to go ahead of me.  So I ended up starting third (!) in our wave and got hunted down by the pack after the first lap. I let about 5 people go ahead of me after lap 1, and then felt more comfortable. I felt pretty good through most of the swim, better even than at the UBC tri.  For the first 370m we had to go up and down the 37m pool five times, going under the rope four times in the shallow end.  I tried to go under the rope after turning at the wall as I have practiced.  However, this  proved pretty difficult in the waist-deep water, so I just ducked under.  [Flip turns were allowed—really?  I am not sure how that would be possible.]  I messed up the start of the swim on my watch so I was just using the time clock; I noticed I was just about 10 minutes after my first 370m. I got out of the pool and walked back to the other side to start the second half.  The second 370m felt a bit smoother and I had more space in the lanes, and before I knew it I was at the stairs ready to come out again. My arms were tired and my legs could already feel the work, but I felt good overall.   I finished the swim at just over 20 minutes (2:42/100m).   My official split was 20:20 (the timing mat was outside the pool).

First transition was slow. I felt nervous that I was forgetting something- I know this will get better with experience.  In my first triathlon we left a wet bag at the pool and changed in a change tent, but yesterday was more standard in that we had to leave everything in bike transition.  I pulled on my pants and shirt over my swim suit, tried to fix my hair and broke my hair tie (with no spare), and sucked down some water and half of a gel. I made my way out of the transition maze and mounted my bike and was off.  Total T1 time, estimated from watch and bike split:  about 5 minutes.  That is definitely something to work on for next time.

Format:  17.6K including 4 laps back and forth on Mount Seymour Parkway

Thanks to the Dollings for warning me about setting my bike in low gear to be ready for the steep climb out of the parking lot.  Once we were on the Parkway  the ride was really nice. The uphill wasn't too bad but I could definitely feel it more with each lap.  The downhills were really nice. Although the seven hairpin turns were very slow, I loved the 4-lap format because we could keep track of people on either side, plus it was great for the spectators.  Hula girl was cheering with Foster and Andrea near the bike lap turn, and Rob was across the street from them. I also saw  Thing2 on her run course three four times and shouted out to her each time (I used her real name ;) ). She was running by the end so I hope I helped. :)

Half-way through the bike I was only at about 20 minutes so I knew I was good for my target time of about 45 minutes.  I don’t have individual lap splits, but by memory I was going about the same pace for each lap.  You can easily see the seven turns on the bike graph from my Garmin and they are all about equally spaced (the seven low points in the speed graph).  My total bike time on my Garmin was about 40:50, for a 25.9 km/hr pace. :)  Official bike split of 46:20 includes most of T1 and all of T2.

T2:  Bike-run transition was pretty easy because I wore my running shoes on the bike.  T2 still took about 30 seconds to rack my bike and make my way back through transition to the run exit.

Format:  5K on the neighborhood roads and some trails off of the Parkway.

I never runs these roads, but had been warned about the hilly route.  My legs definitely felt pretty tight when I first started running, but loosened up pretty quickly.  I started pretty slow, close to 6:30/km, but ended up speeding up as the run progressed.  By 2.5K I was just over 15 minutes (6.00/km average for the first half); and at the finish (4.62K on my Garmin) I was just under 27 minutes, for an average of 5:50/km overall.  I am very happy with this run.  I have lost a lot of run fitness since my injury last year, so I have a lot of room for improvement.  And more work on the bike will help too.

I could hear them announcing my name as I crossed the line, and I felt like a star.  I didn’t know my total time at this point, but I figured I must be pretty close to my goal.    I was thrilled to see my final time on Sportstats later (1:33:36, see full stats above).   I came in a bit faster than my goal time:  I was right on target with my swim and run, and a bit faster on the bike.

I am now officially hooked on triathlon and I am planning one more pool triathlon this year. Open water can wait till next year.  I thought I would want to focus on run training now, but I am enjoying the multisport training more than I expected. I would like to ride this wave until the end of July, after which  we will be travelling and I will likely be mostly running.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 11, 2013

UBC Triathlon Race Report

Race: UBC triathlon, short distance, March 10, 2013

[I apologize in advance for the ridiculously long report on this short event. Being my first triathlon I wanted to remember every detail.  :) ]

Yesterday I did my first triathlon: UBC Triathlon, short distance (400m swim, 11K bike, 5K run). I had a blast, and I definitely want to do this again. This event is well-organized and executed.; thank you very much to UBC Rec for putting on a great event. Finish time was about 1:20, but no times are listed in this report (see explanation below).

I only decided to enter this race on Friday. I had thought about it for a while, but for various reasons I had decided against it for this year. But on Friday I started to regret not entering, and realized I could still enter on site. UBC is really the only local triathlon that offers the “short” distance, and I thought it would be a good introduction to triathlon for me. I had been making excuses for too long, and just wanted to give this a try. To quote a friend: "Don't wait till you're ready; just do it." My swimming was going pretty well, and my Achilles has been behaving well even with some short tempo runs. I haven't been on a bike since the summer, and haven’t even been using the spin bikes at the gym for a while, but how hard can 11K be? Slight problem: I don’t actually have my own bike. I decided I would borrow my son’s mountain bike. It needed some adjustments, but I decided it would do. Saturday’s “workout” was a short test ride and then a very short run off the bike. My legs felt like the proverbial bricks; this would be an interesting race. My race plan: Relax and enjoy the swim, survive the bike, autopilot the run.

Race day:
I got on the bus to UBC with my bike, arriving at just before 10:00 to register and get my bike inspected. My swim heat was set to start at 12:50, so I still had lots of time before I had to be there. I was able to watch some of the earlier racers in transition, and chatted with my swim coach for a while. He gave me a few last minute bits of advice about the swim and the bike. At about 11 I checked my bike into transition, but did not leave anything with it except my helmet.

At about noon I went to the pool to change and get ready. We could check a wetbag which we would get when exiting the pool; in the bag I put my towel and all the clothes I would wear for the bike and run, including my running shoes. Everything else went into a locker in the aquatic centre. We were lucky that the temperatures were pretty mild and there was no rain, despite a soggy forecast.

The swim:
When I went to check in at the pool, they did not have the timing chip to match my bib number. They told me not to worry, that many chips were missing. I was given a different chip and was told that they would work this out in the results. I still got “branded” with my original registration and bib number. All of us in the 12:50 heat assembled in the area outside the outdoor pool, in rough order of expected swim times.

They sent us off in time-trial format. I started off pretty slowly, and was passed in the second lane by a girl who started behind me. I kept right with her the rest of the time, wanting to pass but knowing that I probably could not swim faster. We caught some other people and ended up swimming in a bit of a pack—the guys would stop at each end and I was not sure if I should wait for them to go sometimes. It was a bit crazy, but I guess easier than an open water swim. Overall it went well; I think I was swimming faster than I expected, but would get slowed down and held up in the traffic. I was surprised that they had us going under the rope after each 50m instead of each 100m, and I was not able to do this with any efficiency because of the congestion. But I just relaxed and figured it was a good chance to save some energy.

In the change tent I took off my swim suit, put on my shirt and long tights, and shoes. This was not nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be, although I was not fast. We then had to run about 400m to the transition zone, where I quickly clipped on my helmet and ran with my bike to the bike exit.

The bike:
First problem on the bike- my chain had fallen off the front derailleur, probably when I was lifting it onto the rack in transition. I had had this problem when practicing on Saturday, but I thought we had adjusted it properly. It was pretty easy to get back on (thanks to one of the officials for help), and only took few seconds. Less than a kilometre down the road I heard a rubbing sound on the back tire, which turned out to be a loose fender (which I should have taken off before the race!). It probably had gotten loose when the bus driver was helping me put my bike on the bus bike rack; now I decided to just take it off and leave it with the bike marshal. He did bring it to lost and found later on.

Thankfully, I had no other issues on the bike. I was going faster on the slight downhill grade on the way out on Marine Drive, and then slower on the way back. There were cyclists from all of the distances out at the same time; the duathletes and sprint triathletes were doing two laps and the Olympic distance did four, so I was passed many times by faster cyclists. I can’t wait to do this again when I have trained on the bike and with a better road bike.

T2 and the run:
I saw Rob filming me as I as was coming into transition. Racked my bike, took off the helmet, and I was off on the run. My legs felt like piles of lead. I was definitely tired out from the bike and slowed down by my poor bike conditioning, but the run felt fine. I just could not move very fast. My legs sort of felt like they do at the end of a marathon, but my body was not as tired. The route was an out-and-back loop, and I was enjoying watching for people I knew and the other participants. I was holding about 6:00/km according to my watch and the kilometer markers, and I could not have gone any faster.

Rob got some video of me finishing as well I was ecstatic to have finished, and knew this would not be the first.

I wish I had a proper official time to report; I am listed in the results as finishing at 1:39 (at least I'm listed!). I am not usually one to complain about chip times, but the results have me listed as finishing several minutes after two people I know I passed. And all my times look too slow. I am assuming that the substitute chip was not matched properly to my name, and perhaps someone else actually had my missing chip. I was wearing my Timex, but stopped it by mistake somewhere after the swim and restarted it a few minutes into the bike. I know for sure my run time was about 30 minutes. Rob’s videos have time stamps and he was also watching the time so he could follow me; from those we were able to figure out that my swim time was about 17 minutes (including changing and the 400m run to bike transition), and bike and run were both about 30 minutes for a total of about 1:20. That’s good enough for me. [Update:  I think I figured out the chip time mystery. There was another girl listed with a bib number that matches the chip number that they gave me. It seems they didn't make the correction. I hope they do. If I am right, my official times would be: 15:55 (swim + change + run to T1) 0:37 (rest of T1) 33:55 (bike) 29:12 (run) 1:19:35.94 (total). That makes much more sense.]

Thanks for reading and thanks for all your endless support.

Here is a link to the videos: