Well That Was Fun! Bala Falls Race Report

Another summer weekend, GONE.  Although given the weather we had this past weekend, I'd hesitate to classify it as summery.  The weekdays seem to be lovely, sunshine, warm temps and then as soon as Saturday rolls around, the clouds roll in and the rain shows up.  This weekend was no exception.  Makes for less than desirable training and racing conditions.  But, we made the best of it, even if it was like pulling teeth.  I had a pretty solid week of training leading into this weekend and hoped to take it kind of easy on my Saturday ride but that didn't happen.  Oh well, it was still a fun day.   My week of training looked like this:

Monday: 2200m swim
Tuesday:  Strength workout, followed by an 8.5km sweltering tempo-ish run
Wednesday:  2500m swim in the a.m. and then a tough 20km bike in the wind in the p.m.
Thursday:  Strength training in the a.m.,  P.M: Busted out an old #Mingsanity workout on the trainer (23km total ride) followed by a short and fast 3km run.
Friday:  Took the day off and slept in (YES!)
Saturday:  1330m open water swim, 30km bike
Sunday:  RACE DAY:  750m swim, 30 bike & 7.5km run. 

Totals for the week:  

Swim:  6780m
Bike:  103.6km
Run:  19.30 km

That was almost 9.5 hours of training / racing.  Wheee!

Now, on to the "fun" part of the weekend...

G and I raced Bala Falls yesterday.  Bala is a small town in cottage country, about a 2 hour drive from Toronto.  This meant we were up early.  Like 4:30 am early so we could hit the road at 5:30.  We loaded up the car and were off just after 5:30.  A stop and Timmie's for coffee and we were good to go.  Of course, as soon as we got on the highway, I started to doze off.  I drifted in and out of sleep for a bit until we hit Barrie.  We had a pit stop here and when I got out of the car I was shocked at how cool it was.  It had been overcast the entire drive and the forecast wasn't great but I had hoped that the weather folks were wrong.

They weren't.

As we made our way towards Bala, a light drizzle started and the temperature dropped to about 18 degrees.  It's July people, it shouldn't be this darn cool.  The weather put me in a foul mood.  I really didn't want to do the race.  I want sunshine and blue skies.  Not grey and rainy.  Meh.   We drove along highway 169 and didn't see a single vehicle with a bike on it, which was weird considering last year we saw several.  We finally caught an SUV that had a bike on it and followed him towards the race site.  No surprise the lot at Jaspen Park was full so we opted to go park by the Kee.  We saw my friend David on the way over and he said there were lots of spots.

We pulled into the lot, and got ourselves sorted.  As soon as we stepped out of the car we were swarmed with bugs.  Awesome.  At least they didn't seem to be biting.  The drizzle was light but still kind of annoying.  We walked over to the race site and I went straight to transition to rack my bike.  I remembered my race number from the pre-race email so I knew where to rack my bike.  On my way into transition I ran into Irina who was cheering her hubby Zindine, on.  Right after I saw her, I ran into my friend Deanne.  I had no idea she was racing.  She was followed by her hubby Mike who was also racing.  This was turning out to be quite the party.  I spent some time chit chatting with all of them and then went off to rack my bike.  I found an open spot on the rack, hooked Scotty up and dropped my bags to go and get my bib number.  As usual it was a swampy mess in transition.  I always forget this.  I should have brought an extra bag or something to put my stuff on other than my towel, but I forgot. 

I found G in line to get his bib so I jumped in with him.  Mike came over and chatted with us for a while and then we ran into David who gave me some pointers on who I should see for body marking.  Apparently one of the volunteers didn't really know what they were doing and some people were ending up with their race bib number on their leg and their age on their arms.  Whoops.  G and I got our bibs & swim caps and body marking done and then I walked back to transition to get set up.  G came in a few minutes later and told me I had forgotten to get my timing chip.  Whoops.  I'm going to need that.  So off I went.

I got back to transition to find that I had racked my bike beside Irina's husband, Zindine.  Small freaking world.  It was odd that the women were mixed in with the men.  That would make it difficult to figure out where you were at in your AG after the swim.  Oh well.  I chatted with Zin and Irina while I got myself set up.  I was all over the place.  My head was totally not in the game.  I didn't even know what time my wave started.  So once I was set up, I ran back up to the pavilion to check.  8:42 am.  I had no clue what time it was.  I ran back down to transition and saw G getting into his wetsuit.  I pulled mine out of the bag and started getting myself sorted.  Everyone had filed down to the beach so I figured it was going to be go time soon.  I needed to get into the water to do a warm up.  G came over and I helped him with his wetsuit and he helped me with mine.  We made our way down to the beach with Deanne.  I quickly into the water and started swimming.  I normally really like this swim but I noticed that it seemed quite weedy this year.  I hate weeds. 

I did about a 3 minute swim before we started getting herded back to shore.  Totally not enough time.  I had a hard time getting into a rhythm on the way out and I kept taking in water.  My breathing was ragged.  I stopped when I got smacked in the face by a small wave.  I turned around and started making my way back but I took in more water and started coughing up a lung.  One of the lifeguards asked me if I was ok.  I nodded and said that the water had gone down the wrong pipe.  I did a quick swim out again and then turned around.  I saw G so I swam over to him on the opposite side of the beach.   We were being rushed out of the water so I started to head for shore and I ran into David.  I hung out with him for a while and then we were joined by G.  We watched the first wave go off and then it was time for them to make their way to the start.  I was in the wave after them.

G gave me a good luck kiss goodbye and he and David waded into the water.  I hung out with Deanne and her friend who were both in my wave.  I waded in to the deeper water and sunk in to get used to the cooler temps.   Everyone started jockeying for position so I started moving to the back.  My friend Joe also ended up being in my wave and he found me and gave me a big hug.  We chatted for a bit and he told me to move up.  I said I was perfectly fine where I was.  There seemed to be a lot more people in my wave this year vs. last year.  Maybe because there were 3 age groups lumped together.

The countdown started and the horn went off.  I hit my watch and stood there for a few seconds to let the throng go ahead.  I pushed off and slowly started swimming, focusing on my breathing.  I quickly caught the crowd and proceeded to get jostled around.  I looked for some clearer water and found it but my breathing had been disrupted and I couldn't seem to calm myself down.  I ended up back in another crowd of people and got panicky, ironically roughly in the same spot as last year.  I swam back out of the crowd and tried to calm myself down but I couldn't so I stopped and started breast stroking.  I looked back and saw a wave of yellow caps coming at me.  Included in this wave was my friend Joe, who fully admits to not being a great swimmer.   That seemed to light a fire in me.  I thought "Ok there's no way I can let Joe beat me out of the water.  Put your damn face in there and start swimming".  And swim I did.  As soon as I got around that first buoy, I started hauling.  I found my rhythm and my breathing and started passing people.  And I managed to swim in a fairly straight line!  Amazing!  I hit the second buoy very quickly and started heading into shore.  The way out and way back are longer than the way across but I was moving a pretty good clip.  At least that's what it felt like.  I caught a couple of folks from the wave in front of me.  I then found a pair of feet to draft off.  Sweet.  I hung on to them for a bit and then lost them.  I sighted and realized that I didn't have too much farther to go so I kept my eyes focused on the bottom, watching for sand.  But not before swimming through a large patch of weeds.  GROSS.  I started to see the sand and it got closer and closer.  I glanced up again.  Too early to stand.  Put my face back and swam some more.  My hand hit the bottom.  Time to get up.  I got up and started running and trying to pull my wetsuit off.  I was having a bit of a time with that.  So much so that I forgot to even look at my watch when I got into transition.  And I forgot to hit lap.  I realized this once I got out of my wetsuit and was grabbing my bike to exit T1.

Swim:  13:34.  1 second faster than last year, ha ha.

pic courtesy of Mike Cheliak - My Sports Shooter
 T1:  Not too bad considering it was raining and muddy.  Got my wetsuit off my legs relatively easily.  Yanked my shoes on and ran out.   Time:  1:30  4 seconds slower than last year.  Whatevs.

The Bala bike course is one of the hillier courses on the circuit.  It also had some pretty crappy roads.  They rectified that this year.  Everything is newly paved.  What a dream to ride on.  The minute you get out of T1 and get on to the bike, you're climbing.  So I had Scotty ready in my easiest gear so I could spin my legs up that first climb.  As soon as I got over that climb, it was big chain ring time.  It was really wet on the course and I'm pretty sure it was raining at one point.  I was in a small group with 2 other women in my AG and a couple of guys.  One of the women was the one that was tied with me for points.  My goal was to not let her out of my sight...or, even better, pass her and keep her behind me.  The group of us yo-yoed back and forth, passing people.   I thought things would spread out fairly quickly but the two guys riding with us stuck to us like glue.  I started to get really annoyed and dropped back.  I didn't want to get busted for drafting, although I didn't see a single marshal on the course.  Either way, I was starting to get frustrated with these guys sucking my wheel.  We were barreling down a hill and I could see the guy behind me sitting off to my left.  I turned and yelled at him to go by me so he did.  I slowed up and let him go.  I figured I'd catch him again at some point.   There were several cyclists that would just sit in the middle of the lane, which in the rainy conditions, with a road that was open to local traffic, was more annoying than usual.  I was yelling "on your left" a lot.  I caught an passed the one woman in my AG just before the turnaround (that I was tied with) but the other one had pulled away and was long gone.  I hoped she wasn't a fast runner.   We hit the turnaround and I pulled ahead of the wheel sucker dude.  There were some decent stretches of flat where I was hitting speeds of 40-42 kph.  I was definitely rocking the bike.  My quads were screaming at me but I didn't care.  I kept pushing.  I took a Roctane at 20km and that seemed to help a bit.  Those last 10km were pretty tough though.  There's a tough climb just before you drop down to transition and I kept thinking that the hill I was on was that particular hill.  It wasn't.  The second last hill I had to switch to my little chain ring and give my legs a break.  So I hamster wheeled it up that climb and flipped back into my big chain ring.  I was yo-yoing back and forth with a guy named Tom from the 50-54 year old AG.  I'd pass him on the flats and he'd pass me on the climbs.  I really need more gears on my bike.  Or a new bike.... ANYWAY...Tom left me in his dust.

I started heading up the last climb and I see a guy infront of me that looks like G.  I get closer and lo and behold it IS G.  I roll up beside and politely ask WTF?  He explains that he stopped to help a guy with a flat tire.  He's such a sweetheart.  We roll down the hill into transition and dismount.  I ran like a crazy woman into T2.  This time remembering to hit lap on my watch.

Bike:  53:09 -  2.5 minutes faster than last year.  That is all thanks to Ming.

Pic courtesy of Mike Cheliak - My Sports Shooter

T2:  This was a gong show because it was so wet.  I couldn't for life of me get my Zoots on easily so I had to stop and dry my feet.  Ugh.  So I may have beat G into transition, but he beat me out by a long shot.  Time:  1:25.  Last year I was 55 seconds, ha ha.

The run course follows much of the bike course except for the two little off road out and backs they make you do.  So, it's uphill right away as soon as you exit the park.  My legs were feeling like jello so that hill just about killed me.  But I passed people.  I knew there was at least one woman in front of me in my AG so I set about trying to reel her in.  I figured there might be a few others out there, who knew.  I had seen my friend David heading out for the run when I was coming in on the bike so I hoped that maybe I'd catch him.  He's a pretty strong runner so I figured I'd have to push it and I wasn't sure I'd be capable of that on this hilly course but I was sure as hell going to try.  I caught the woman that I had lost on the bike on the first climb.  My legs were slowly coming around.  There was a short flat stretch before the next climb where I pushed the pace.  Ahead on the next climb, I could see G and his bright green shoes.  And his distinctive run gait.  I can always pick him out of a crowd.  I started reeling him in.  He turned down the side road and I lost sight of him.  I turned down the dirt road about a minute later.  I could see him heading towards the turnaround.  I caught him just before the turn around and smacked him on the butt as I passed him.  I booked it back out to the main road and started climbing again.   As I got to the top of the hill, I came up on an older guy and as I passed him he asked if I had been with him on the bike and I turned and saw it was Tom so I said yes, I yo-yoed back and forth with you!  He said I helped push him.  I said that I was glad I could help.  He was running behind me and said he was going to draft off of me for as long as possible.  I said no problem, hang on it's going to be a fun ride.  We barreled downhill and started climbing again.  We were heading to the next turn off where there was a nasty little climb.  I had lost Tom when we started climbing the previous hill.  I made the turn off and started the descent.  It was a bit tricky because the road is a combo of pavement and dirt and it's super steep.  As I got to the bottom of the descent and started to run the corner, I saw my friend David.  He said something to me but I couldn't quite hear him.  I smiled and kept running.  I hit the turnaround and could see Tom so I yelled "Come on Tom".  Then I saw G and I yelled Go G!  He mumbled something in return.  The next thing I knew, I was back on the climb.  I shortened my stride and took baby steps up the hill in the hopes of not spiking my heart rate too much.  It seemed to work as I didn't feel like barfing when I got to the top of the hill.

With the out and backs done, I knew I only had about 3.5km left to go with about 2.5km of it mostly down hill.  I tried to see if I could spy David but he was far enough ahead that my failing eyesight couldn't pick him out of the crowd.  My legs were actually starting to feel good.  Yes, they hurt but they had returned to "normal" running legs.  I continued to push the pace.  I caught a woman on one of the climbs and she said Go Phaedra as I passed her.  I said thanks and then thought, Ok who was that?!  I didn't know anyone else racing and then I thought maybe my bib was at my side.  Nope.  Interesting.  I always think that only people I know read my ramblings but I know there are many other people out there reading that I will probably never meet and then there are those that I DO get to meet.  More on that later...

I was making my way to the final turnaround when I spotted David.  He was roughly 500-750m in front of me.  I had 2.5 km left to go.  Would I be able to make that up?  I wasn't sure.  I hit the turn around and let my legs fly on the down hill.  I was seeing 3:30's along here, it was awesome.  Of course the minute I started climbing, the chute went out.  But my pace never slowed below 5 min km on the way back.  I ran up the last climb and caught one of the Master's Elite women and a dude.  I let my legs fly on the downhill and was spurred on by the cheers of the crowd.  I drew a blank as to where I was supposed to turn until a volunteer pointed the way.  I booked it towards the finishing chute and saw David yelling GO PHAE as I ran towards the line.  For once there was no one else in the finishing chute so Steve Fleck announced my name as crossed the line and gave a shout out to Real Deal racing.

look at that awesome arm crossover! 
 I found David right away as well as Irina and Zindine.  We stood there chatting for a bit and then Connie, one of the Real Deal computrainer instructors came over and introduced herself.  I gave her a big hug and said it was lovely to meet her.  Irina took a shot of us together, which I'll have to post.  G crossed the line shortly thereafter and Irina got a great group shot of us.

Pic Courtesy of Irina Souiki
David and I went in search of food and we ran into Colin Campbell, fellow Real Deal athlete & computrainer instructor.  He runs a little pop up coffee stand at the MSC races so I always go get a post race coffee from him.   I was hungry so I wandered over to the table where the food was, juggling a coffee and a chocolate milk and a plate.  There was a woman beside me who turned to me and said Hi Phaedra, I read your blog.  That made my day.  Her name was Dana and she was the woman that I had passed on the run that said Go Phaedra.  We yammered away for a long time and eventually Irina joined us.  Dana said she also reads Irina's blog so it was a bit of a blogger geek out.  It's always so nice to get to meet the folks that take the time to read my ramblings and hopefully learn something from them.  Dana said that she is doing Muskoka 70.3 so I really think I need to make the trip out to Huntsville that weekend to cheer people on, I'm going to know so many people racing.

I eventually made my way over to the results posting and saw that I was first in my AG.  YEAH.  I was more curious about my final time:  1:42:26.  Over two minutes faster than last year.  If my transitions weren't so crappy, I probably would have made it on to the overall podium in 5th place.  As it stood, I was 6th place woman over all.  For a race I wasn't totally into, I ended up having a really good day.  And, more importantly, a whole lot of fun.