Race Report: The Shadow Lake Triathlon, Stouffville Ontario
May 30th, 1998
Swim 800m - Bike 28k - Run 8k
My first triathlon! I finished, I had a great time, and I think I did
a pretty good job, too.
The race was a good one: small, well organised, fun, and friendly.
1:47:00 66th/120?.15/17 Male 35-39 (tough category!).
Swim 18:04.31 (111th A really bad swim)
T1: 4:53.15 (not fast, not slow)
Bike: 49:42.69 (60th ? A good ride).
T2: 2:19.57 (pretty fast)
Run: 31:59.43 (46th an AWESOME run)
I am now officially a triathlete! Hurray!!
After a long year training, I finally got to race my first triathlon.
Ok, I've been cycling for 1 1/2 years, running since August, and
swimming since October. Still, it was a long winter of LSD with my eye
firmly on the goal: race. It's not that I train to race... I race to
train. It's just that, without specific goals, my training tends to
I picked The Shadow Lake Triathlon, in Stoufville, Ontario, as my
first race for four reasons:
1. It is the first triathlon of the year in Southern Ontario.
2. The other candidate (The Toronto Triathlon in King City) conflicts
with The Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour that I'm riding in June 6th-7th.
3. The race is part of the same series as my first, The Mississauga
When I raced the Mississauga Du, I was pretty impressed by the
organisation. I really enjoyed that race, so they got to have me back
for my first triathlon.
4. They have Gatorade. I didn't actually drink any of their Gatorade
last time (nor this) because I did all my drinking on my (already
loaded) bike. However, just in case....
Coming into the race, I was concerned about three things:
1. Overtraining - I have a tendency to taper less than I should prior
to races - to make up for a perceived lack of preparation.
Fortunately, my homework intervened this week and I was only able to
train 2 days (Sun-Wed). I'll grant that Sunday was a pretty intense
BRICK but Wed was a really easy effort.
2. Water Temperature: I have no wetsuit and certainly cannot afford
one this year. I have actually spent several months wondering if I
would be the only guy crazy enough to race in just a swimsuit and if I
would die of Hypothermia. Fortunately, on Thursday, I checked the race
web-site and found this note: Things are heating up! The water at
Shadow Lake is 70F, we were swimming with no wetsuits! This is going
to be a great opener for this triathlon season. Register by calling
416-410-8094, or use our on-line form by clicking here (May 28,98).
This made me much less nervous.
3. Transportation: The race was 60K from home and I never found a
ride. Riding 120K on race day is not necessarily sane but I was ready
to do it if I had to. On Monday, I e-mailed the race director, James
Climenhaga, and asked him if he knew anyone that could give me a ride.
He mailed back that he would try but, by Friday evening, I had not
heard from him. Then a miracle happened! I was reading
rec.sport.triathlon and came across a posting that said: I am doing
the DU on May 30 -- 2/28/8. Anyone else going? I am driving from
Thornhill. E-mail me if you need a ride. Jerry. Pretty cool, huh?
Anyway, we e-mailed and phoned until we had arranged to meet at the
subway station at the civilised time of 7:15
The alarm is set for 5:00am. I woke up at 6:30. Oh no! Panic City!
I've missed my ride! I can never ride to the race before it begins!
Omygod I'm going DNS my first triathlon! The race report is going to
be a reasonable size!! Ack!!!
My wife says "Don't worry, you'll get there in time." So off I go in a
tearing hurry but I don't: a) get my morning coffee b) pump up the
tires on my bike[somebody lent me his pump in the transition area
later]. I arrived at 7:16. Phew! Jerry is waiting, we load my bicycle
in his van, and off we go. Traffic is bad but Jerry's a really nice
guy and we chat. Arrive at 7:50 feeling relaxed. Check-In is supposed
NOT discuss was bribing the gods of good luck. Me, I always like for
opportunities to do nice things at my races I superstitiously believe
it will bring me good luck. I suspect that Jerry does the same thing
but it would be bad luck to ask.
The registration area is as chaotic as you might expect. There is,
however, someone walking around telling everybody where to go. "This
table for OAT bands, this table for T-shirts" I'm impressed.
I got my swim cap, and set up my stuff. At this race, the racks are
organised by age. All the 35-39 AG's are together. So I look over all
the bikes and... well there's a couple of expensive ones there but
most of them are nothing I'd write home about. Kinda reassuring.
In the week before the race, I'd received a great deal of advice.
Perhaps the best piece was "get in the water and warm up." The problem
was, I'm a cold-weather-wimp. I hate getting cold. Just prior to the
start, I was wandering around in my Speedo and I was, well, a little
cold. I thought "I better get in the water and warm up." I couldn't
bring myself to do it! Just the thought of getting back out of the
water and standing around in the breeze... was too cold for me. so I
It's time to line up for the start. I can only see one other athlete
who is ***ic enough to be doing this in a bathing suit. Things
that make you go hmmm.... I wanted to line up at the back in about
knee-deep water but the back of the pack is on shore! Knee-deep water
is halfway and that is where I stood.
BLAST! (they seem to have ditched the hi-tech gizmo for this simple
It's a slow start but we all got going. I'm was more or less expecting
a lot of banging and kicking but it never happened. I started swimming
and everything seemed pretty good... for about 50 metres. Suddenly, I
was in trouble. The first thing I noticed was... My chest is very
tight and I'm having trouble breathing. Then, my body starts saying
"Hey, stop putting your face in that water... you're going to drown!"
I immediately knew what these symptoms were: I call it "fear of the
water." I sometimes (very rarely) get these little "attacks" in the
pool. Even though I know it's perfectly safe, some part of me is
reluctant to swim. To wit: I start having difficulty putting my face
in the water - it feels like I'm deliberately drowning myself.
Furthermore, I've read a number of first-triathlon race reports and it
seems fairly common for first-time triathletes to have some sort of
"panic-attack." Of course, this is the sort of thing that would never
happen to me but I have read about it.
In the pool I usually force myself to finish the current set (and the
attack is gone by then anyway). Today, however, the attack is
especially severe. What I did today was... salvage the race. I started
swimming *** stroke. I swam ***stroke to the first buoy. As I
turned the corner, I saw that I was "off the back" of the pack. On
another day, this would have made me really angry but today it just
takes the pressure off. I don't have to do this fast, I only have to
I ended up mixing ***-stroke and front crawl to the 2nd buoy. By
that time, I'm starting to get comfortable in the water so I swim the
3rd and 4th laps all front crawl... but a slow front crawl because
that pack is gone and I really just want to finish.
Swim: 18:04.31 Ouch! 111th/120.
Lesson 1: It's not enough to listen to good advice when it's offered -
I also have to act on it!
Lesson 2: I need more swimming - especially open-water swimming.
T1: I get to the rack and it looks like I'm last in my AG. There's a
couple of guys there but they're leaving. I take my time, dry off (so
I can get my clothes on), and get dressed. As I'm putting my shirt on,
I manage to rip 3 of the 4 pins from my race number. I'm still calm
from the swim so I just re-pin it (and well... they all stayed on the
rest of the race). The walk to the road (where I can mount the bike)
is long (250 metres?) so I set off. The one thing I didn't put on at
the rack is the gloves so as I'm trotting along with the bike, I'm
trying to get my gloves on... I think it cost me twice as much time to
do it this way.
Lesson 3: Put EVERYTHING on before touching the bike.
T1: 4:53.15. Not fast, but not slow.
By the time I reached the road, I'd lost that woozy feeling from the
swim. Taking care to not get run over, I crossed the road and mounted
my bike. I spun for a bit so I could get my gloves on and then rip a
PowerGel from my aerobars. SPROING!! I've broken the elastic that
holds my JetStream to the bars. I ate some of the gel and went to wash
it down and... my JetStream was empty! I filled it up in the
transition area... but it pulled a disappearing act! I was still
spinning easy so I pulled a water-bottle off the frame of my bike,
took off the top, and poured it into my JetStream. It was the
sloppiest fill-up in history and I now had Gatorade all over my
aerobar pads and PowerGel all over my cycling gloves. I***ed of the
gel, took a drink of Gatorade... and I settled into the standing pools
Lesson 4: Don't duct-tape my PowerGel to the elastic of my JetStream!
Lesson 5: I wish I knew what it was! If I knew what happened to my
Gatorade, then I'd know how to avoid losing it next time.
Lesson 6: Maybe I should eat my gel in T1. Maybe I should get one of
those gel-flasks. I definitely have to find an easier way to get
nutrition into my mouth while riding because I'll never last through a
1/2 IM without food!
The whole PowerGel/Gatorade thing was complicated but only took 1 1/2
minutes. When I hit the aerobars, I was ready to ride so I just put
the hammer down. I immediately started passing people. The first ~4K
was an out and back along the run-route. It consisted of a number of
small hills. I was feeling fine so I was hammering down the hills and
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