Melmerby Olympic Triathlon: Race Recap

This is long and late but so much happened and I wanted to get it right because it was a big, big deal for me!

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So this is going to be a long one because well a lot happened. Lots of good things and some not so great things. The night before we left for the race I was tucking honey in and laying there thinking I don’t have anything next. What’s my next goal and truthfully it made me feel a little lost. The best I could come up with was to start doing kids events with my new niece since she’ll be three and people seem to think she takes after me, poor kid! I had a lot of issues on the bike but at least one guy had a lot more (rant forthcoming on that subject) and the weather was true to Nova Scotia and crazy. But at the end of it I already knew I want to give this another shot, definitely not this year and maybe not even next year but I have more to give to this one. So this next bit is all specific to me and swiped from wikipedia. As I was researching the park which I was, and it looked super cool on the maps, was made a provincial park on my birthday, pre-me in 1977 and the triathlon started the same year I was born. I’d like to think as a celebration of the park anniversary on the exact day I was born but that was a Tuesday so I doubt it. Any way here’s how the race went after training (sort of) for 5 months!

A bit about the race: The Melmerby triathlon happens over a Saturday and a Sunday and has been going on for 35 years! I found out at the race today that it’s not a triathlon Nova Scotia sanctioned event so if you’re trying to get to Kona this one won’t help you get there. That said the environment was way more chill than average. I even heard someone say as long as you’re not going to place 1st, second or third if you’re miserable just come in and finish early. Now this is here-say and I would totally recommend this race for a first timer. This next part isn’t about throwing shade but… A lot of the other NS triathlons seem to be having some logistical issues. Last year my attempt was cut short when Shubie Dooby was moved forward several weeks due to road construction and in searching for another race few were scheduled or even announced 5 moths in advance. Epic canceled their olympic and Port Hood is in the highlands (see mountains) and not at all beginner friendly. I picked this one because it was announced long in advance and looking back at previous years results the date seemed really stable and the course seemed beginner friendly. The registration was open early on race roster but the website was always a bit sketchy for me.

The race is a Johnny Miles running event, the only triathlon among a bunch of running races so the website can be hard to find for the triathlon, once you do bookmark it! Also it can be really slow to load to the point of not working sometimes so check details long in advance just in case or print it out. Johnny Miles was an accomplished local runner from the outskirts of Nova Scotia. that went on to win the Boston Marathon twice in the 1920’s. In a local boy makes good sort of storey his neighbours raised a few hundred dollars to send him to Boston in 26 for his first marathon and didn’t he win it! Since 1975 seven running events are held throughout the province in his honour and this is one of them!

I picked it mostly because of the stable date and the course but New Glasgow is an affordable place to visit even in the hight of the tourist season. All of the sunday races were $60 or less insurance included. Oh and you get a medal which we all know motivates me more than it should! The kids go on Saturday and the grown ups can choose from an olympic, sprint, super sprint or try-a-tri on Sunday. I’ve also heard rumblings that one family is mostly instrumental in putting it on. Finally Pictou county cycle is also instrumental in the process.

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Time to transform into a conehead

Parking and Weather: When ever I do a big race it rains, I guess I upset mother nature in a past life. Can some one tell her I’m a vegetarian for climate reasons in this one please. Which is to say it poured rain but it was also calm and sunny with out a cloud in the sky, it was also sinking hot, really windy, very humid and also drizzle and fog. So all the bases were covered. Swim, sunny and calm, bike rain, strong side winds, sun and cloudy, run sinking hot, chew it humidity and also drizzle so that was fun. There is a ton of parking right across the curb from the transition area and the organizers cut off participants not when every parking spot was gone but when all the good ones filled up around 275 people. So that’s pretty great!

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transition set up, notice the zippies for rain, I invented that!

Course: Even though the organizers turned out to be cool with watches and timing support but I didn’t know that plus I like following the rules anyway so I don’t have course maps for this one but they are on the website along with elevation maps. The swim really is very close to shore and watching honey’s videos there are so many people on boards in the water so it’s about as nice as it can be if you’re nervous about the swim. The transition area is right in the parking lot at the very edge of the beach and I even opted to leave my glasses in the transition area it’s so close. But that meant I walked to it not ran!

The bike course for the olympic was a double loop of a 10 k out and back along the road to the beach which had a few good hills and was overall more hilly but in better shape for biking than it appeared driving over it. You do have to do a sharp turn around at the end but it lines up with a gravel road so you have a bit more than the width of the road to make the turn. PS the volunteers there were a great husband and wife team. She was all, “go around my husband he’s been hit before, it’s ok!” The turn at the beach is very wide and easy to accomplish and there is one tight turn on the road, on a hill right before the beach where there was actually an accident more on that later. But there are pylons and people there screaming to warn you.

Finally the run is along the trail in the park and there are almost no hills but I wouldn’t call it shaded at that time of day. There were two water stops on the 5k course so I encountered each twice on the 10k double loop. Do be careful for ankle rolling ruts though they were few and far between.

 

 

Cheer Squad: So ya’ll I brought the BEST spectators to this triathlon and I’m not talking I really love them, that’s true but like any outside observer would say they won the spectators award for first place. My mom, Richard and my stepdad came to cheer me on and keep me calm on my overnight adventure. They were standing there, in the rain again, every single time I came into or near the transition to take pictures and cheer appropriately and take some kick ass pictures of me but they also managed to be instrumental in that bike accident on the hairpin turn. As they warned me on the corner there was an accident with glass on the road and to use the other lane I instantly thought OMG I hope they know its not me! Ten seconds later I turned the corner and there was honey sweeping glass out of the road with a broom he got from a nearby cottage and my mom was running for my bike blanket to prevent the injured cyclist from going into shock. My stepdad was waiting to take my picture so I wouldn’t miss a single photo-op due to the chaos! I might not have been on it but I brought the A team to this one! More details on the accident later but everyone involved was okay by the end of the day! Needless to say I was super happy to have them there and they took almost all of these pictures. Plus they stood in the rain, AGAIN!

Logistics as Support: This race is so well run it’s not even funny! Plus it’s easy to get to, cheap to enter (as low as $60 insurance included), in an affordable town and if anything they have too many people helping out! Not really though, no one is ever in your way. Lots of paddlers in the water, volunteers on all the turns and it overall runs like clockwork after 35 years. There are two water/ gatorade stops on the 5 k. For the olympic it is three double loops of the sprint course, twice around the buoys, out and back twice on the run and the bike. Really nothing could be improved.

I got to the race a bit after 7 since the transition area closed at 7:45 officially, they’re pretty lenient and I don’t thing this is the crew that would not let you race should you show up a 7:50 or even later. I picked up my kit at Pictou County Cycle the day before so it was just my chip in the morning. Informal athlete’s meeting at 8 am, then the sprint started soon after at 8:30 then the olympic at 8:45 then the super sprint. As I mentioned there are 2 (or 4 if you’re doing it twice) water stops on the run. BTW the photos for this one are free and the photographer Bob Mechachren rocked he was even in the water with you. You can stalk him but eventually they are posted on the Johnny Miles facbook page. I picked the stalking option because I’m like really good at the internet.

Race goals: I mentioned in my last training update that I really didn’t know how this would go and more than ever I have to be okay with whatever happens and boy did that turn out to be true! I figured on a goal of about 3:30 was pretty dang good. I figured that would be 40 minutes for the swim, 10 for both traditions, an hour and a half on the bike and about 70 minutes for the run since I’d be tiered. Well that didn’t exactly happen but… it sort of did at the same time. If the weather isn’t your friend then you have to adjust down and the weather cooperated perfectly then turned on me while I was out there. Also my bike freaked out and there were some complicating factors. That said I was only 13 minutes off my goal so all and all I’m counting it for a win.

Swag: Kind of the perfect amount and generous considering the $60 fee. I choose this one in no small part because you get a medal and this one was pretty sweet. Heavy nice ribbon and I’m pretty happy with it. I wore it at lunch, on the drive home, showed it off to our next door neighbours, changed it over to my dress and drank champs, then my PJ’s and only took it off when the ribbon started chaffing my neck. I might wear it tomorrow again for my birthday (update I did and those neighbours KNOW I’m weird now since they brought me flowers)! Also we got a nice tech shirt that seems pretty good for running in and 20 aerobics first bucks, whatever they do. Medal and a shirt nice enough to wear and say “oh yeah I did the olympic” I’m pretty happy with that!

Results: Even though I didn’t reach my goal this race taught me I’ll have the best experience not matter what goes wrong if I just keep my chin up and enjoy it!

Time: 3:43:56

Swim: 39:13

T1: 4:47

Bike: 1:48:43

T2: 0:59

Run: 1:10:17

Overall: 57/ 59

Category (F 30 -39): 7/ 7

Shoes: Asics Gel Cumulus 19

Bike: 2007 Trek Bontrager, Discovery Channel

Swim: This went as expected I did start about 30 seconds in and do breaststroke the entire time. For speed I do a modified breast stroke with an added dolphin kick usually. As expected the cold water and start of race nerves meant that for about 300 m I really couldn’t slow my breathing down enough to get a full stroke in. I did settle into it well though but didn’t manage that dolphin kick I’d practiced so much even 20% of the time. That said my spectators said I moved along with everyone at the same pace and I did pass four swimmers. I had a tough time sighting the buoys as there were many small ones in a line and one large one at each of the four corners. I had a hard time knowing if each was a turn or a straight buoy until I was right on it. For the last three turns (700 m) I had to stay behind a swimmer I could have passed so that I could see what they did. I’m happy with my unorthodox stroke choice though because for over 75% of  each of the four long stretches I couldn’t see to the end. Also I had a hard time getting out of my wetsuit which I knew but it was no big deal as I had to walk slowly up to the transition area with no glasses.

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1 of 3 done! Notice the legit leg muscle in this one in later pictures it’s all chain grease!

Bike: So this one killed me mentally but not so much physically. I dropped my chain 5 or 6 times once on the first loop and four or five more times on the second I actually lost count. But that wasn’t really the worst part. I’m not totally comfortable on the road bike although pretty dang close. As soon as I left the park I knew something was up, it was noisy and grindy and frictiony from the start so my power in wasn’t translating to power out. Then it poured rain three times and for about 4 km I had to slow down because of my glasses being so wet. But that wasn’t the hardest on the head either. Before the return to the park there was a hairpin turn on a hill that was well marked and volunteers were there to yell at us to slow down, which I totally did! But instead of yelling turn, the volunteer yelled, accident, glass in the road use the other lane traffic is stopped. I instantly thought OMG I hope thy know it’s not me and then OMG I hope everyone is okay thinking it would be a bike on bike accident. My mind was put at ease almost instantly as I turned the corner and there was honey sweeping the road with a broom he borrowed from cottagers. He says he did it because he knew I was coming through soon and I do appreciate that but I’m sure all the other participants did too! The biker was banged up but going to be okay and he had a life guard with him. Canadian lifeguards are the second best trained in the world and I was one ( many moons ago) so he was in capable hands. But then I saw what happened and it made me furious!

The day before I asked/ discussed with my spectators that while the road was open and technically they were allowed too but that I really didn’t want them to hop back into the car and follow me for any reason like pictures. They agreed that that was just stupid and I said I know that I and everyone else out there would likely appreciate one less car on the road. While that biker ended up going through the back window of a Ford Excursion (literally the biggest car ever made) that was doing just that. On the first loop they passed me twice or three times depending on how you look at it. They passed me, then I passed them stopped, they passed me again and I passed them and finally on the end of the way out they were headed back in the opposite direction. I’d bet my last dollar they were taking pictures of someone faster than me. The thing was even before I ever got close to that turn I remarked to myself they were behaving like an idiot. Parking of the other side of the road where bikers would be and were and taking off quickly. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

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Heading out for the second loop and yes that IS the truck!

Now my mom had no way of knowing that at the time but his actions seemed to make her mad too. This next part already has two versions of events and I’m sure she’d disagree with honey’s version. Both said the sound of the biker hitting the truck and the glass breaking was horrific and they went running. They both agree that the truck (pretty much the biggest vehicle ever made) was sitting there parked with both doors open right were the bikers were coming off that turn and both say my mom closed one of his doors for him. Now this next part is up for dispute but honey says she slammed it and told him to close his bleeping door! I wasn’t there but that kinda does sound like her especially when people get hurt and other people act stupid. Even more so when one of the people out there is her favourite oldest daughter! For my Canucks out there the truck did have plates from that great big province with that great big city where some residents seem to think the world revolves around them, just sayin’.

Anyway … that set of realizations and the fact that truck went back out there to follow their person on the second loop without a back window after injuring two cyclists (the other ditched in the bushes and got back up) messed with my head. Plus I met the fire truck and ambulance called to the scene as I was biking back out and it really took up more mental energy than I would have thought possible. Then I dropped my chain 4 more times at least. (The Pictou county cycle truck was right there to make sure I was okay and offer me a rag twice in the pouring rain). And finally I realized I was in last place when the RCMP driver told me they were picking up the cones and he was following me in. Sad face. That said my brick effect wasn’t that strong because I was off the bike so much.

Run: This went pretty much as expected and as I got off the bike I was sure I was further behind than it turned out I was and I was okay with that. Things happen it turns out, one person’s race was way more messed up than mine and I just decided to finish happy and as strong as I could. Even if I came last at least that meant no one else would have to! But I did pass two runners so I didn’t come last. It was really hot and muggy plus also drizzly. I ended up borrowing an ipod from my sister (also in a zippie in my running belt) when the pre-race email said we could have them and that helped out a lot to set my mind right. I also had KT tape in my pack if I needed it and you know what I didn’t put it on and my knee was fine after a 10 k run. When we race we aim to leave it all out there on the course and finish with an empty tank. Once the ride was over and I caught my stride again I realized as honey puts it I had a lot of jam leftover and more to give. Whatever happened that day my mind was pretty much set that I’d be giving it another shot in the future.

Transitions: I ended up messing these up a bit and I blame it on a combination of peer pressure and a bad bike ride. After the swim I decided at the last minute to ditch the hydration pack and take a bottle instead. It actually worked out since each time my chain dropped I took a drink but has that not happened I like wouldn’t have had any water. I also neglected to eat anything at T1 and forgot my pump, tube and patch kit were in the pack. Ooops, glad nothing happened on that end then. For T2 I forgot to take off my bike shorts but once i was underway I stashed them in my bra.

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finished strong yet very, very dirty!

Looking back: This time there were a few things I would do differently namely stick with my transition plan and get the bike a professional tune up before rather than see it as a learning opportunity to do it myself. My training plan was pretty much spot on and it was amazing to share it with my loved ones. When my stepdad showed me the picture of my time I was shocked to see it under 4 or even four and a half hours which is to say it felt a lot longer. Two nights before the race I was adrift with what to do next now I know, maybe not next season but I want another kick at this can. So my 35th birthday present to me was a screaming success and as always I learned a lot in the process, so stay tuned for that post!

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