How To Make New Friends Racing…

Kelowna Apple ITU Pan-American Cup
8.19.2007 – Kelowna, BC, Canada

So, with training going really well, it seemed like a good idea to put that fitness to good use and to test out the legs. It’s one thing to have good workouts. It’s another thing altogether to put it together in a race. I also thought it was a good idea to put another good race under my belt after the disappointment of my last go around. The closest race around was the Kelowna Apple. The Apple is a long-running race, having been started the same year as Ironman Canada (both are having their 25th Anniversaries). I had the choice of doing either the regular Olympic distance race as an age-group athlete or doing the ITU race. The ITU (International Triathlon Union) is the international governing body for the sport of triathlon. They set the race format that is used in the World Cup series that leads up to the Olympics. The big difference between an ITU race and the normal races that I do is that you are allowed to draft other athletes on the bike. This means the bike portion of the race is more like the cycling you’d see in the Tour de France – packs of athletes working together on the bike. In all of my regular races, the bike portion is done time-trial style – no drafting allowed. A quick photo primer:


Time Trialling

The difference a pack makes in terms of aerodynamics is huge. Only the lead rider has to break the wind, with the riders behind him using 60% or less of his energy. A well organized group can maintain speeds that a solo rider, even with the best time trialling equipment, would struggle to match. The racing also necessitates a different bike. ITU triathletes race on road bikes, the only difference being that they are allowed to use short (~6in) aerobars. These allow athletes to ride in a more aerodynamic position than would be possible on a road bike with just the standard bars. This is important for athletes who either choose to solo off the front, usually after a stellar swim (google Craig Walton for the best athlete at doing this) or to try and bridge back up to the front (or as close to the front as possible) following a not-so-stellar swim. This latter case would be what I was hoping to do.

The swim course was a nice counter-clockwise rectangle of 750m. In between the two laps we’d complete to make up the 1500m swim (0.91miles), we would exit the water briefly and dive back in. I hoped to give up less than two minutes to the swim leaders. The first two athletes out of the water were, predictably, Andrew McCartney and Dano Wells. I train with both these guys, so I knew from training that keeping within two minutes would be a very good swim. Unfortunately, I gave up closer to two and half minutes. I was somewhat happy in that I felt that I swam well in a non-wetsuit swim, though I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to make it into a group of swimmers and had to solo the vast majority of the swim. But I’ll keep at it. One of these days, I’ll make it into that group that seems to be eluding me. So I came out in 20:04, which was a pretty good time for me without a wetsuit.

It was a long run to transition, where I hoped on my borrowed bike (thanks Simon) – a very nice Litespeed Sienna. I also had some borrowed race wheels, since you cannot use a disc in ITU racing. So thank you to Colin for his Zipp 808s. I also came equipped with an aero helmet, something not normally used in ITU racing, but I knew I was going to be riding solo most of the way, so I figured I’d try and cheat the wind as much as I could. The bike course was a very nice fast course. It was a four-loop course, so that was very nice for me since it was easy to remember all the turns. The course was also the best marked course I’ve ever been on, so not even a hint of a wrong turn, which was great. The pavement was very nice, but unfortunately, we were racing in the rain, so I had to be a bit cautious on some of the corners, since I needed to make sure that I kept my wheels right side down. I had a fantastic ride, going into the wind the whole way, and picking my way up through two packs of riders. Each time, I made some new friends as people hopped on my wheel and I pulled them up the course. I felt really great riding, and I wish the course had been dry, so I could have carried some more speed. My goal was to catch the front group, but they were just too strong. I ended up losing only 20″ to a group of 11 riders, which is pretty good, considering that some of them are very strong riders in their own right. I finished up with a 58:42 on a wet course that also had a big hill that we had to ride up four times, so that was pretty good. I was very consistent with my lap times, and I think this was one of my best rides all season.

Of course, riding this hard at the front is not exactly the smartest thing when you will be running against guys who have been drafting behind you. Of course, these guys are also lightning fast in transition, since ITU races are often won by only a handful of seconds, so I didn’t actually get to run against too many people, since they were out of transition about 10 seconds faster than I was. Out onto the four loop run course (2.5km per loop), I was paying the price for riding hard. The first lap was a struggle, but then my legs started to loosen up and I felt much better. I managed a good steady negative split, going 9:12/9:00/8:53/8:37, to go 35:42 for the 10k. I feel like I have more run fitness in me, and I think a sub-35 minute run was doable, but I think I need some more work on that bike to run transition, since I need to make sure I get out of transition quickly. On the bright side, I felt the pace was something I could have held for more than 10k. I had just ridden the top-end speed out of my legs.

I crossed the line in 20th place in 1:56:35, which I was really happy with. The course was a very well marked and measured course, so I was really happy with this time. I also had a lot of fun throwing caution to the wind on the bike, and just seeing what I could do in terms of riding, and then seeing how well I’d run afterwards. I don’t know when I’ll get to do another ITU race, but I’m already looking forward to it!

One thought on “How To Make New Friends Racing…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s