Triathlon, more often than reasonable events such as biking or running, can be affected by wrong choices you make before the race ever starts: forgotten or lost equipment, too much or too little clothing for the elements, wrong bike cassette for the terrain, boa constrictor of a wetsuit. Even the way you lay out your stuff in the transition area can be a game changer. There’s nothing as comically pathetic as the sight of some poor sod in T1 crawling around underneath his bike on all fours like a blind beggar, groping for a missing sock. Sometimes though, you make some wrong choices that turn out OK.
It’s been a while since I participated in an Olympic distance triathlon. The first ones I ever did, back in the nineties, were Olympic: 1500 metre swim, 40k bike and 10k run. This was the time when the Olympic (or International) distance was all there was, unless you were doing an Ironman. Later, sprint triathlons took over most of the races and became immediately popular, probably because of the accessibility of a shorter race to more folks. Now the Olympic distance is making a comeback thanks to a new race series called 5150 (the figure represents the total distance travelled in kilometres: 51.50. If you are American you can think of the total distance as 31.93 miles, a number I imagine the organizers thought would not be as marketable).
The inaugural Muskoka 5150 Triathlon was held in Huntsville last weekend around the venue of the old Subaru Long Course races that were very popular for many years. The race routes this year were similar, but shorter. The swim followed a path out into the lake and back up the river; the bike was a terrific rollercoaster up and down cottage roads. The run was an odd little double loop, which I’ll discuss in a minute.
I had entered the 5150 event in a fit of guilt about how little actual race experience I was getting this summer in advance of the Muskoka 70.3 in September. Although I’ve done lots of biking and running, I have been in the water exactly three times since Ironman Canada last August, none of those times in a race.
For some reason this year I had despaired of shoehorning myself into my usual Blue Seventy wetsuit, so I decided to wear a floppy old Ironman Stealth that hung off me like a choir gown and collected water like a trawler. Thus when the starting gun went off I was under no illusions that I was going to Phelps the swim. I was right. In fact it was one of the slowest ever for me; a more lugubrious pace than any of my Ironman swims, which are more than twice the distance. But I did manage to stay more or less afloat on the surface of the lake, exited the water happily in the morning sun and trotted over to my P2C, which I have not ridden in a year.
|Remembering how to ride my P2C|
The bike course featured a lot of short steep ups and downs, with not much opportunity to settle into the aero bars for a little nap, as we do in Ironman. All the same, it was a challenging and fun course to ride, and it felt like it ended too soon at only 40k. The road surface was a pleasant surprise; I had been expecting much worse as these Muskoka roads suffer greatly from winter frost and are hard to keep wrinkle-free.
Then it was time for the run. The race organizers had chosen to route the course around a couple of high school tracks (one of which was all gravel) and then, incredibly, down a steep, rocky path. There were probably a lot of people cursing that part of the run course. Not I though, and here’s why: I had realized as I was getting ready for the race that morning that I had forgotten a vital component to triathlon success: my running shoes. All I had with me to wear was a pair of trail shoes. I wasn’t too fussed as I have worn these shoes to run to work many times, and aside from being somewhat clunky, they work. They would not, however, have been my first choice for the 10k run in a triathlon.
|Never underestimate a good trail shoe|
I suspect the run course will garner some criticism from those who like to criticize, or who like to run fast. It is not built for speed, that’s for sure. As a result we might not see the steep downward gravel path through the forest again in the Muskoka 5150. But if we do, I’ll be ready with my trail shoes.