Houston, We Have A Problem…

Muskoka Chase 2006 Race Report

This past Sunday, June 18th, I raced the Muskoka Chase Long Course Triathlon (2km-s/55km-b/15km-r) in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada. I flew out from Victoria on Thursday with Colin Jenkins on an early flight, and we met up with Simon and Jasper, who’d left later, at the Toronto airport. We got great, great accomodations at this cabin on Deer Lake in Huntsville. Jasper, Simon, Pip Taylor and her husband Justin, and I were staying together. The weather in Huntsville was a big change from Victoria, with what felt like ten times the humidity. It was also much hotter during the afternoon than it has been in Vic. Both of these things would be major factors in the race.

Race morning came at the rather civilized hour of 5 AM, since we started at 8:00. The Muskoka Chase is a rather interesting format race, with the women getting a headstart on the men, and then the men proceed to “chase” them down, hence the name. The time gap was 18:00 minutes this year, down from 19:30 last year. After getting my transition area ready, I headed down for a nice 1km swim to warm-up on the way to the start. The women were already on the course when I arrived at the start, having just left at 7:42. The water temperature was really great, and I was really happy to be racing in my new wetsuit, which has been awesome.

I came out of the water in 12th place among the men’s field. I felt that I had a pretty good swim, but I think I could have held onto the draft pack for a little bit longer. I got out of my wetsuit quickly and headed off onto the bike course. The bike course is a really up and down course, with climbs long enough that I don’t really consider it to be a “rolling” course. The course is pretty simple, heading up one road about 10km, then going right onto an out-and-back section for about 10km, and then going right back onto the road you started for 15km more before turning around. So really simple, basically a sideways “T” with almost no turning. My legs felt okay at the start, but I was confident that I’d warm-up and settle into a good rhythm. Just as I started to roll on the power and pass the guy who’d come in 11th on the swim, I hit a bumpy patch of road and heard a “chunk-chunk” on the road behind. I knew what that sound was – the sound of my water bottles hitting the pavement. I reached back to my bottle cages and felt just empty space. So no water. There was a bottle pickup at the second turnaround, but that was close to 20 miles into the bike. In retrospect, I probably would have been much better served to have stopped and picked up at least one bottle, but I’d never had it happen where I lost both bottles in a race. I thought I could get to the turnaround, pick up two bottles, and hopefully recover. I worked hard to keep a steady rhythm on the very tough up-and-down course, focusing on riding.

I continued to ride well and pass people, and finally made it to the turnaround and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade. Unfortunately, I was only able to grab one bottle. Again, the best thing to do would have been to stop and grab two, but again, I was focused, and in this case TOO focused, on racing. I drank about half the bottle right away and immediately felt much better. My power picked up, which was probably largely due to the psychological boost of having fluids. I pulled away from the guys I had just passed and got down into my aerobars for the mostly downhill ride back to T2. Heading into T2, I passed Wolfgang Gumbel, who I’d raced at Florida 70.3, and Colin Jenkins, putting me into 4th place among the men. Wolfgang and Colin both had faster transitions, and I headed out on the run right behind them in 6th.

Heading out onto the run, I knew I was in a big hole from racing so long without any nutrition or fluids. Wolfgang and Colin pulled away on the very first hill, and I could feel myself starting to fade. I planned to take in as much Gatorade at the aid stations as I could, but with the mercury starting to climb, and the humidity so high, I knew it was probably a losing battle. Jasper and Kyle Jones, both part of the Victoria training crew, passed me about 3km into the run, and I tried to pick up the pace to run with them, but my legs were just dead.

I resolved to just finish the run, hoping that I might get a second wind and that the heat might claim some other victims. Focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, I somehow made it through the 15km run, posting the slowest 15km run of my life. I got passed by a whole lot of people, but I was happy to cross the line. I had stopped sweating about 10km into the run, and I was really overheating as I came into town. As I crossed the line, I felt really awful, and they took me to the medical tent (my first ever trip post-race) to ice me down. The gave me about six bottles of Gatorade and an IV, and about 30 minutes I felt much, much better.

In the end, the race was one of my worst finishes ever, placing 45th overall, and my first finish out of the top-10 overall since I was 11th in similar conditions at the Spirit of Racine half-ironman last July. But I learned a lot, especially about managing “worst case scenarios” and also about things to test out before I race next. I was also really proud just to finish in the face of adversity, and to post some good splits (20th overall fastest swim, 2nd overall fastest bike) within a very competitive field. I’m looking forward to building on the experience next time I get to race.

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