Thursday, September 13, 2012

Subaru Banff Tri - struggle a little harder

After the debaucle race in Kelowna, my plan was to sign up for Banff as I didn't want to end my season on that note.  However, my motivation levels took a serious nose-dive, and I kept procrastinating and ended up signing up only one week prior to the race.  I was really not feeling in the mood to race at all.  The weekend before was especially tough and emotional, as Geoff left for Saskatoon on the Sunday and it was hard to see him go.  The week leading up to the race, I barely did anything, and was kicking myself for having registered.  I was considering not even going at all.

But Friday rolled around and I snapped out of it, and hit the road around 2pm.  I took my own car but drove together with Ian and Joanne from STARRT.  We made it to the race site around 6:30, and by the time we got our packages, dropped our bikes in transition 1 up at the lake, and got to our condo, it was already past 8:30. Time for dinner!  Perhaps a little late when you're racing the next morning, but no worries, it all worked out just fine and we had a lovely home cooked pasta dinner and salad.

 can't beat the views in Banff - taken from my balcony
another balcony shot

The race wasn't starting until 10:30 (I love these late start times!) so I had plenty of time in the morning to enjoy my bagel with almond butter + a cup (okay 2 cups) of coffee, and check out the scenery from our balcony.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day - sunny and a little chilly in the morning, but with a high of 22C.  Way different than the inaugural race 2 years ago!  And I was in a good mood and finally feeling excited and ready to race!  

borrowed shot - taken from Lisa M's blog

 Swim start 
Look at that gorgeous water - yeah, gorgeous but freaking chilly!

Let's do this thing! 

With about 15 minutes to go before the race started, I ventured into the water to try and acclimate.  It was frickin' cold! About 14C, enough to cause my feet and hands to throb in pain, then they became numb.  By the time the race started, it was a bit better but still uncomfortable.

Swim - 20:56 (1.5km)
I started out hard and fast, and had clear water immediately, with Lisa Mensink (2008 Olympian) right beside me.  We swam together the first 400m or so, then I got on her feet and tried to stay with her. I was having some trouble breathing though, as my face and mouth were numb and I couldn't feel my mouth at all.  So I had to back it off a bit.  The rest of the 2-loop swim was fine, I just swam as hard as I could and ended up neck and neck with another girl on the home stretch.  I was able to stand up quickly and run out of the water in 2nd place.  Funny story - the top 2 swim times in the whole race (including men) were Lisa and I. Boom!

T1 - 2:30
My feet were completely frozen running up the big hill to transition, and they felt really bouncy and weird for some reason.  I made it up to my bike and had a hell of a time getting my wetsuit into the plastic bag.  After wasting too much time on that task, I finally headed out onto the bike course.  

Bike - 1:05.53 (38km)
This is the most scenic and breathtaking bike course ever, and this time around I was actually able to enjoy the background and scenery (in 2010 I was way too cold and miserable on the bike to take it in).  I actually felt pretty crappy the first loop and a half (out of 2.5 loops), as my legs felt totally fatigued and heavy, and my stomach was being a little questionable - gurgling and rumbling, yikes!  I just did the best I could and pushed hard on the downhills and the uphills.  There is one steep climb on the back half of the course, some smaller uphills, and some huge downhills on the front half of the course.

My legs sort of came around during the last loop of the bike.  I didn't see any girls the whole bike portion, other than those I was passing who may have been in the sprint or behind by a loop.  A few guys went by me, other than that I was all on my own and racing my own race.  I decided not to take the gel that I had taped to the bike, and instead just drank the one bottle I had, which included a Nuun with some carbo-pro.  I find I do better with the 'less is more' approach, when it comes to nutrition.

T2 - :52
I was in and out pretty quick, but at first ran right by my spot on the rack and had to backtrack.  Oops! The view from T2 was not too shabby:
 most scenic T2 I've ever seen, how about you?

Run - 44:20 (10km) *PB off bike
Right off the bat, my legs felt great!  I was quite suprised, after how $h!tty they were feeling during the bike.  So I started out really hard and fast and hoped I could somehow maintain that pace for 10km.  The run is 2 loops, with a lot of twists and turns and going up and down over a bridge, through some trails, and some stairs.  I love this run course! The course was actually changed from 2010 so a few things were different.  The first 5km I think I may have been close to a PB and was able to really push hard. 

After about 7km, things started to fall apart a little bit and I got those horrible, sharp stabbing cramps in my left upper trapezius, neck and ribs.  This lasted a couple of km.  My pace definitely slowed, but I kept telling myself to "struggle a little harder" [I tried a couple of Bikram yoga classes before the race and this is what the instructor said - and it really stuck with me.]; and I also kept telling myself "yes it hurts now, but it is going to hurt a whole lot more if you slow down and lose 2nd place and have a slower run time".  This helped get me through the last half of the run.  I was also running scared as I had no idea where 3rd place woman was and I kept thinking she was going to catch me.  But I maintained my 2nd place and was so happy to run through that finish line!

Finish - 2:14 (2nd overall, 2nd Elite)
I decided to race in the Elite category, and finished 2nd out of 3 there, and 2nd OA female - the winner of the race (Lisa Mensink) was quite a way's ahead but she's also a 2008 Olympian, so I don't mind coming second to her :)  Overall, this was a really solid race for me and I would say my best one of the year!  Compared to 2010, my bike was about 2 mins faster and my run was nearly a minute faster.  Can't compare the swim as it was shortened in 2010 due to the cold.  Even with the 2km shorter bike, this overall time is a PB by far for me in Olympic distance!

This was one of the most well-organized races I've ever done and everything was completely seamless.  The volunteers were amazing, and there were no hiccups or difficulties despite having 2 different transitions.  It still amazes me that they are able to host a race in a national park.  Banff is now at the top of my favorites list - if you haven't done it, put it on your schedule for next year, it's incredible!  I plan to be back next year.

There are some actual race pics but they're on Joanne's camera and I don't have them yet - will post those when I get my hands on them!

Now I'm enjoying my usual post-season break with no swim-bike-run for a week, so far this week I've only done 2 hot yoga classes.  I might do a run tomorrow as tomorrow my week off will be done!  Then, who knows what's next - I have nothing planned yet. 

We'll see...