Yesterday, I competed in the Edmonton ITU Olympic distance triathlon in Hawrelak Park. This was my first Olympic triathlon since Lake Chaparral in August 2010 as the focus of the past years was set on Ironman distance racing. However, being a coach with the Edmonton Triathlon Academy (ETA) got me excited to try the shorter distances again and focus a bit more on speed.
This all sounds pretty awesome except that I am practically injured since April, which you can read about here and here. This groin/hip flexor injury prevented me from running at all and whenever I tried to run the following days did not feel good, but at least I was able to get a few bike rides in here and there. Swimming on the other hand went really well! I logged up to 6 km swims and also swam quite often with the elite athletes of the ETA, which is the main reason for my current fitness level.
Given all that, I went into the race with no expectations just hoping that I will be able to finish the run without inducing more damage to my groin.
The weather on race morning was very nice and it didn’t look like it would rain at all (although showers were forecasted). I set up my transition area and visualized myself a few times coming out of the water, heading into T1, doing a lap on the bike course, coming back into T2 and doing one run lap. I felt very positive and was actually looking forward to compete again.
The race started in different heats, so it was not a mass start and hence it was also quite difficult to see how you were doing in your age group. Sure, everyone got body-marked but the visibility of this black marker quickly fades after putting on your wetsuit, sweating in it for some time while waiting for the horn to go off, and eventually trying to pull your limbs out again. My heat was scheduled for 9:55am containing women and men 30-34 as well as 35-39.
I was actually really looking forward to swim (since I trained so much), the only thing was that I am still swimming in a used Nineteen Pipeline wetsuit which, once you did a few strokes in it, is comparable to a deltoid muscle workout in the gym. Since most of my races were in the ocean somewhere in the subtropics, I never bothered to get a new one. Now I finally ordered a new one (Nineteen Rogue), which unfortunately has not yet arrived.
At 9:55 the horn went off and the face-down thrash-fest began. The first couple of metres felt good, then I got a little bit short of breath, caught myself again and just kept on swimming for the remaining distance. During my second lap, my stroke rate went down as my deltoid muscles were signalling fatigue. I pushed through it and exited with a time of 21 minutes and 11 seconds, which wasn't too shabby but also not as quick as I have hoped. Transition 1 included quite some running over to the bike racks but everything went quite smoothly (T1: 2:32 min).
On the bike I had a blast. I don't know how and why but I had a lot of steam in my legs! With each lap I got faster: Lap 1: 14:41; Lap 2: 14:33; Lap 3: 14:18; For lap 4 I didn't get a split. My strategy was to pedal up Emily Murphy in my lowest gear without pushing it to hard. This was the best place to stretch out a bit and grab a drink. Also since I am pretty heavy these days (fluctuating between 84-85 kg) there was no point for me trying to make up time on this steep climb. I decided to put all my effort into the descents and the more gentle uphill on Groat Road. And this strategy seemed to work out fine resulting in a 59:00 min. I headed into Transition 2, where it took me a few seconds to find my place on the bike rack, then helmet off, shoes on and out. It felt very fast and I was wondering if I had forgotten something. While running out of T2, I had to touch my head to see whether perhaps the helmet was still on, but everything seemed fine. Fast transition I thought and indeed it was (T2: 55 sec).
On the run I could feel my quads cramping right away. This was not really surprising given the lack of run (and running off the bike) training this year. My actual injury however, did not affect my running, but I knew that the pain will come the next day at the latest, and actually it came on the same evening ... ouch! I was running at around 4:10- 4:15 min pace per kilometre which was the fastest my quads would allow me to do. During my last lap I tried to turn it up a notch, which partly worked, but did not result into any significant change of my overall time. After I crossed the finish line in 2:05:50 (full results here), I was super happy with what I had accomplished that day given the circumstances.
I guess the most important thing to improve, besides getting rid of the injury and being able to train again, is to get a better wetsuit. As I already mentioned I ordered the Nineteen Rogue, which comes with a lot of flexibility in the shoulder, and which hopefully will arrive before the Great White North Triathlon on July 7th. Also, spending more time open water swimming would be beneficial, although this is not easily achieved in Edmonton. That's why we will move to Australia next year ;)
I would also like to thank everyone out there who was cheering for me, including my parents who were visiting us for 4 weeks, Sanja and Sean for their amazing support, as well as the entire ETA crew and the volunteers on the course.