Today, I completed the Subaru Niagara Sprint Triathlon. It was my first road tri of the year and my second go at the race, last time I did it was 5 years ago and I am definitely not the same athlete as I was. Even if I have more experience, I am still learning from my mistakes and still trying to improve, which is probably why I stick with this sport. They call this race the “Niagara Sprint” but it actually takes place in Grimsby, which is closer to home and makes the travel quite painless. The weather was perfect: warm, barely any wind and not too humid. My goal for this race was to test how I was doing on the road 4 weeks away from Steelhead 70.3, get a top 10 overall and hopefully do well in my division.
The swim takes place in Ontario lake which was nicely cool this morning at 19.5 degrees and with some small waves. The course is rectangle and the longest part is parallel to the beach. The start is actually deep in the water so you kind of have to swim in place while you wait for your wave to start. On my part it was not as fast as I hoped and I got hit and then hit some other swimmers (not on purpose) but after a relatively fast start, I settled in my pace and got out of the chilly water without too much trouble. I finished this leg 6th in my age group.
The beach is covered with small rocks making you run faster to get off them, you jump over a big one and then you are on an uphill short path to transition. My transition went quite smoothly and I am convinced that I passed few people in that important moment.
The bike is easy for the first, let say, 3km, which you are rolling on a flat quiet road coming out of the park and the only thing you have to be careful about are few speed bumps but even those are quite smooth.
After a few turns, you end up on Park road, which is where you will meet the only hill of the 25km course. But! What a hill! Not too long but, except for few faux plat, it is quite steep making your easiest gear on your bike your favorite.
Once you finished climbing the hill, you get to enjoy mostly flat country road. Because today was not windy, you didn’t have to worry about cross or side winds bugging you. After the loop at the top of the hill, you get to go down the same hill with police making sure all the intersections are safe for you to just fly through!
The bike is where I catched the rest of my competition in my division and got the fastest time. Again, transition went very smoothly and I was out on the run course in a very short time.
The run course is an interesting one and like I said, I’m always learning new stuff. The course has a few rolling hills along its 7km but is mostly flat but with a cool feature of about 1km of trail in the middle of it. There are many aid stations on the way keeping everyone hydrated to finish strong. So this is where it got not so cool for me, I ran the first kilometer quite fast with nobody behind and nobody in front so I entered the trail section alone just after the marker. I was running and trying to keep track of the arrows and cones on the ground and…took a wrong turn. I only realized it when I crossed some other athletes going in the other direction which is not supposed to happen on that course, because it is a loop. Some strong words were yelled, I stopped, restarted running in the right direction this time and tried to catch as many people as I could. I estimate that I ran roughly an 500m to 750m extra and lost a bit more than 4 minutes in that small section.
Lessons of the day
What I learned today: they say that it is the athlete’s job to know the course – they are right. I should have done my homeworks and looked up the course. Especially being so close to home, I could have went and checked it out. Second lesson of the day: it might sound cliche, but don’t give up until you are done. I thought my race was done after losing so much time on the run but I kept running even if I did not want to. At the end, because of my bike effort, I was able to maintain my first place.
If you’re in the area next July and would like to try a friendly race with some cool features like the big Park Road hill or running in the trails as part of your run, this race is for you but be cautious of the few misleading turns. Next step: my first Half-Ironman in 4 weeks!