May 22, 2015

The Why

After racing twice last week (10 km run on Sunday, Sprint triathlon the following Saturday), I did what anyone would do the day afterward. I got up early, and met my uncle for a 70 km hill ride in the Gatineau Park. Wait -- what? Oh, there's more. I managed to forget my cycling shoes and gloves after packing my bike into the car. So I did the entire ride in my running shoes. Balanced gingerly atop my Keo clip pedals. Wearing my uncle's way-too-big gloves, to avoid a repeat of the "I can't feel my hands" scenario of the previous day. Because nothing says "safety first" like a fast descent where 4 out of 5 contact points to your bike are... suboptimal.

Why go? Why not just pack it in and save it for another day. Because it's today... it's right now. Maybe I'll be fine with my running shoes on the clip pedals. There's only one way to find out. Today, the sun shines and the road is closed to traffic. I've got great company and a bottle of Skratch Labs. This day is the only one we have the power to grasp, now. 

Seriously... why?

The following day, I decided to hit le Nordik, our local nordic spa. The strain evaporated slowly from my muscles as I soaked, rested, and sat through an aufguss steam-and-aromatherapy session. And I thought, why? Why race and push to the point where your muscles are set alight in fiery protest? To keep going when it would be easier to stop? Like the nordic spa (wait -- am I about to compare teeth-gritting racing to a day at the spa?) there is something purifying in it. Some have said it's in the pain. I think though, the cathartic epicenter is at the edge. The thin edge of what we think we're capable of -- which, inevitably, is different from what we are actually capable of. There is ritual in it too. In the morning runs, the noon swims, the weekly spin and strength class. Even in its challenges, the rhythm of it is reassuring. Finally, the Why is in the connection. In the community of friends, the kind support of strangers, in the mixing of people of all ages and abilities on the same course to pursue their goals. It's in your body streaming through cold water under your own power. In the wind rushing by on the bike. In the percussive metronome of your feet on the pavement, connecting you to what is real and making you feel alive.

I've come to know many who use this sport to help others -- more often than not while fighting demons of their own. That last part is pretty quiet in the grand chorus, but it makes the fight less hopeless to know you're not alone.

The next time someone sees you limping around post-race with a big grin on your face and asks "Why the hell would you ever do that?" -- may your Why come easily. And may it fulfill you.

Geordie McConnell, founder of OTC

Come on, the gear is cool too -- in a geeky sort of way

May 16, 2015

Race report - Early Bird Triathlon (Sprint)

May 16, 2015
Swim 500m, bike 23.6 km, run 5 km
3/18 AG, 16/124 OA

Goal time - as close to 10:00 as I could get
Actual time - 12:44 including exiting the pool building (last year: 12:42)

Goal - avg. 30 km/h
Actual - avg. 29.34 km/h (last year: 28.something)

Goal - break 25 minutes
Actual - 24:57

Swim. Lightheaded, warmed up in the pool to relieve the feeling of wooziness. Good swim, main goal was to go out steady enough that I didn't spike my heart rate. Passed about as many people who passed me, so seeding was ok. Wished the gals in front of me on the stairs out of the building had hustled a little more, but what are you going to do. Threw on my running shoes, grabbed my bib and headed for transition. Pushed this part harder than last year, and took a minute off my T1 time -- I knew I'd need every advantage, and couldn't waste any time if I wanted to finish strong in this large field of 250 athletes (124 women).

Bike. Had my road bike at this race, having blown a tire on my TT bike earlier in the week and not had time to address it -- including the possibility of needing new tires, new tube on the front, etc. (these doubts start to creep in when you flat on your first ride of the season). Felt a little slow, but pushed hard on the bike. The benefit of an event with a staggered start pool swim is that the bike course is really well spread out. In the final event I did last season, the fastest women were stuck needing to pass the slowest men early in the bike course as our swim start was only 5 minutes behind theirs. Unfortunately, I found my hands starting to go numb around 6 km into the 24 km bike. No problem... I don't need those last 2 fingers anyway. Then the numbness started to spread, until I was only working off my thumb and my palm -- which I thought would be adequate, until I reached for the brake lever at the turnaround point and had to look down to see if my fingers were in the right place. Hmm. I'm planning to use this bike for the hilly Tremblant Olympic course, so I made a mental note to take the 6 second hit in transition to don gloves next time.

Run. I'll be honest -- this is not my favourite run course. The first couple of km are on a slight, insidious uphill grade, on a narrow strip of uneven grass. Following this is a steep downhill to the river (which of course becomes a steep uphill on the return trip). The pleasant section on the winding path by the river is narrow, which makes passing challenging particularly when someone's coming the other way. I tried not to waste any time in transition, which was included in the run time. I felt like my legs weren't working well on that first uphill, but I just pushed as hard as I could and didn't stop until I was across the finish line. I'm so happy to have finally broken 25 minutes... this was a goal I didn't manage to quite reach last year, so this was a great way to open the 2015 tri season.