Great White North: The Baldwin Report

This past weekend, we had a number of our athletes compete at the Great White North, western Canada’s triathlon. One of those athletes was Lesley Baldwin, who put in a fantastic race to finish 7th in her age group, and nearly breaking the top 100 overall (out of 698 racers!!!!). Here is how the race went, according to Lesley:

Swim:
I lined up early on the very left side of the beach in hopes of minimizing my involvement in the carnage I was sure would ensue – there were to be nearly 1000 people in this mass start! I swam hard off the gun and got lucky for the first 200m – masses of people on either side, no one in front to kick me in the face. Lucky! The rest of the first lap was a pretty bumpy ride. When I got onto the beach I could see there was a big mass of people about 15m in front of me so I tried to swim hard and catch the draft pack. I didn’t really make it, but I did get my heart rate up and as a result did a terrible job of sighting to the first buoy. All good to the second buoy, but the final stretch was again plagued by bad sighting. I was aiming for the yellow arches on the beach and kept wondering why everyone was swimming diagonally across my path. There was no need for so much contact at this point! Alas, I realized my mistake: the exit was not through the arches. I was aiming for the wrong spot and it was *I* who was swimming diagonally across their paths! I didn’t really enjoy this swim and hope the organizers will consider splitting the field in coming years.
Time: 31:03 (+11 second off last years time…not bad in light of my foibles)

T1:
I used a wetsuit stripper for the first time. She was great! Suit was off in no time. Everything was wet, wet, wet! Sunglasses on, sunglasses fogged. Sunglasses off, everything else on, sunglasses back on. Go!

Bike:
For the first 15-20km, I fought the urge to quit. This is stupid! It’s too wet, too cold, I don’t feel like doing this today! What do I have to prove? Maybe I’ll get so cold I’ll get hypothermia and I’ll have to quit! Luckily my legs warmed up and so did my body and these bad feelings were chased away. Having misplaced my cycle computer right before the race, I didn’t have my usual speed data to help gauge my effort. In retrospect, this may have been a good thing. It was a windier day than usual so I might have been disappointed had those numbers staring me in the face for nearly 3 hours. I’ve been using a HR monitor for ~ 1 month now and I don’t really know my zones yet, but this was all I had to go on and chose 140 bpm as a goal. This felt totally manageable so I kept pushing a little harder. Shortly after the turn around, I did a quick bit of math and figured I might still be able to make my sub-5 hour goal of several months back (one I’d given up on after the Oliver race). The eastward stretch back to Stoney Plain offered up a bit of a tail wind and I was having a great time playing all kinds of number games in my head. My legs felt strong and I picked off quite a few people near the end. If anything, I should have kicked it up a notch a little earlier! People were sitting up as we rolled into town, but I was desperately trying to get there before 10 past 11 – this would give me 1:50 to complete the run which I figured was likely do-able. (Never mind that this would mean 0 minutes for transition and a pee break!) I think I hammered into transition at about 11:10:30 so I was close…. I had no problems eating and easily managed my rough plan of one snack per 30 km (one clif bar, 1.5 packages of clif blocks, half a banana and lots of water).
Time: 2:41:08 (1:47 faster than last year….not bad for a windy day and I felt like I had a super bike so I was really happy going into the run). Average HR = 141.

T2:
Thank God I had a dry set of socks. Off went the sopping wet ones and on went the dry ones. I managed to get both socks on and both feet into my shoes without ever tipping over and touching a toe to the wet ground! Should have biked even harder, I guess!

Like a drowned rat after the torrential rains, Lesley brings it home! (Photo credit to Lenka Plavcova)

Run:
The dreaded run. Except I felt great! My legs were ready to roll and I kept turning out kilometer after kilometer right around 5:00/km. At this rate I’d definitely make sub-5 hours! I felt strong all the way to the turnaround and enjoyed seeing all the familiar faces running in the opposite direction and cheering from the sidelines. The way home was windier and despite still feeling pretty good, my pace seemed to be dropping off. I ate a few honey stingers and kept going. Still, I couldn’t go any faster and my pace was really dropping…close to 5:30 now. Oh dear! But I *have* to get to the finish line before 1pm! Despite being pretty sure I wouldn’t make it in less than 5 hours, I felt like I was having a great run (and a great race) so I wasn’t too discouraged. As usual, blisters hampered the second half of the run and my feet were numb and tingly for most of the 21km. I squished my toes up every time they were off the ground to try and keep the numbness from getting worse. It worked and the foot situation was a lot better than in Oliver. Aside from 2 or 3 honey stingers, I didn’t eat on the run, but I stopped and walked through every water station. This might have been over kill on such a cool rainy day, but it’s a plan I’ve never deviated from. Maybe I’ll shake things up next time. Nearing home, I managed to pick up the pace a bit, but it was but only in the last kilometer. I could see the clock at 5:02:__ and my new goal was to get there in time for 5:02:59. I was pretty much sprinting and crossed the line at 5:03:03.
Time: 1:50:53 (3:24 faster than last year), average HR = 155.

Overall time: 5:03:03 (4:59 faster than last year and ~5-10 seconds faster than 2010).

Summary:
This felt like the raciest race in a long time and I was really happy with my effort. My legs felt strong and aside from the swim and about 15km of the bike, I had great positive thoughts the whole time. Perhaps a little more food during the run would have helped the last 10km of the race? Or a better attitude towards running in the last month (I was so discouraged after my run in Oliver and I really let it get to me!) The key difference between this race and Oliver was a solid week of sleep and good food leading up to race day. I’m pretty sure it made all the difference in how I felt and how hard I was able to push. Thanks to everyone who came out to cheer, to Paul who drove us out and simplified the logistics, and to Ben and Linsday for their great hospitality (and wonderful hot showers!) both before and after the race. In summary, I’m writing this one up as a success! Will I be back next year? Never say never….

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