The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Challenge St. Andrews Race Report

Well, that was interesting.

In a nutshell: Poor weather (cold and raining), Great swim (1.9K @ 30:13), long T1 (5:51) hilly bike (90K @ 2:50:05), safe T2 (2:11) smart run (21K @ 1:45:18). Final Time: 5:13:36. 49/267 OA, 12/40 M40-44

The Algonquin Resort. The Race Venue. (Picture from Trip Adviser, obviously not taken on race day).

T minus 2 days.
We arrived in St. Andrews on the Friday afternoon before the race. With just enough time to narrowly miss the closing of packet pick-up (forgot about the 1 hour time-zone change). Fortunately, they were nice enough to sort us out, and we got our packets and bibs, but more pressing - our Pasta dinner tickets.

The pasta dinner was nice, and we sat with some folks from Nova Scotia.There was a local comedian/triathlete guy who was keeping us all entertained. The food was good and plentiful. The head referee talked over the rules and such, and everyone awed at the size of the draft zone - as demonstrated with two bikes which had been set up.

T minus 1 day.
We got suited up in our wetsuits at the hotel room, and took a leisurely morning hike down to the swim area for a practice swim. The buoys were all set up and the course looked pretty straight forward. The water was cool, and got cooler in patches along the back-side, but it was dead calm. But even better than that, it was salt water, and it was fast. I did a practice loop in just over 30 minutes.. this was going to good!

We spent the rest of the day hovering around the expo and taking in Kingsbrae Gardens. We spent far too much time laughing at a horny Alpaca called, Philby.  Later in the day, we took a test spin on the bikes, and did the first 5K out -- uh, oh, it was pretty hilly. We decided not to fry our legs, and cut the bike ride to 10K. It was very cold on the bike, and it looked like we might be wearing jackets on race day.

Transition minus 1 (Night before transition setup)
We had to rack our bikes the night before. I don't like doing this. The racks were very high off the ground. Basically, my bike was hanging in the air. The disk wheel was like a sail and the bike would swing and sway with the wind. I didn't like this one bit. Knowing that this would drive me insane throughout the night, I tried almost every racking spot available, no luck. Where my bike was an inch off the ground, Guylaine's was probably 4 inches.

Transition 0 (Morning of, visit to transition)
We woke and headed down to transition. Our hotel room being in the building literally next to transition, it was an easy 2 minute walk. We checked on the bikes - and to my pleasant surprise, they were not strewn all over the place nor all tangled up. We pumped up the tires, laid out our stuff, and then went back to the hotel room to chill before heading down to the water. We could easily have chilled outside instead. It was 10 degrees, and misty... rain was forecast... great.

Transition 0.5 (Donning of the wetsuits)
Perhaps the weirdest thing about this race, was since the hotel was so close to transition, we were able put our wetsuits on in the comfort of our room, and not have to do any strange hopping or dancing in order to wiggle into them. With about 30 minutes to go, we set off on the 10 minute hike down to the water.

The Start
We were treading water, listening to last minute instructions. I think I heard the announcer say, the start would be in 2 minutes...

...I guess 2 minutes after that there was a slightly audible comment from a boat nearby, and what sounded like a whistle. People were looking around, and then all of a sudden  a group started swimming. "That must be it" I thought, and at the very least, there's enough people already swimming, they're not going to call us all back, so with about as little fanfare and circumstance as you could imagine, the race was underway.

The Swim - 1900 meters
The first 50 meters were a bit chaotic, but it settled down quickly, and and as luck would have it, I seemed to settle into a pack that were going the speed I wanted to go at....

...1900 meters later, the pack seemed mostly intact, and one-by-one we were done the swim portion. There was a clock set up on the beach, and I could see it roll over 30 minutes as I stood up. I was disheartened for a second. As I was hoping to go under 30 for the swim, but then I remembered I had planned on 33 minutes, so 30:XX was pretty good.

Transition 1
I exited the swim, and stripped the wetsuit (with a bit of difficulty) shortly after the beach. I then hurried on to the transition shoe area where we had minutes before dropped off a pair to soften the blow of the 650m +/- rocky trip up to transition.With my shoes on and wetsuit over my arm, I pushed on up the hill. And was happy to be greeted by Laura along the way... "you're doing really well, you're one of the first ones out!" The hill up to transition was tougher than I thought, and I had to stop and walk to catch my breath half-way up. Finally, I made it into the compound, picked up my bike, and got ready to ride. (oh, and by now, it was drizzling pretty steady). I decided to tough out the weather with bare arms.

Gasping for air with a mouth full of Cliff bar in T1

Decided not to push my luck with the "shoes on the bike" trick, heading out of transition

The Bike - 90 km (although posted as 91, but I only had 89.5 on my Garmin, so I think it's probably closer to 90).
Right out of transition, I put on my glasses (yellow lenses for the poor light), only to have them fog up instantly. The road to the bike course out of transition goes straight down a hill and a takes a hard right: I was essentially blind.... somehow, I made it without killing myself, or the guy right behind me. With the glasses now safely stored in my back pocket, I continue along the way.

St. Andrews bike elevation comparison.

I knew the course was hilly. But It was weird hilly. There was literally no flat spot on the course, you're either going up or down. And the climbs seemed to sneak up on you, where you'd be going downhill really fast, and then all of a sudden, you think you're going flat, but your speed is way low, and you're actually going up, and low and behold, you're in the wrong gear.

Knowing the course was hilly, I decided that the best way to go fast, was to not go slow. There's no point in losing time going slow on the climbs, so I pushed it as much as possible. I had set my Garmin up on the bike with 2 fields - the top line was current speed, and the bottom line was average speed. I had auto-lap set for every km, so I would know how far along the course I was. It probably was not the wisest strategy, but I was trying to maintain an overall average speed above 32. I had previously guesstimated I would average 31.2 for the course, but I mis-remembered that during the race, and thought I needed to keep 32.1. As it turned out, I did average 32.1 (higher than estimated), I was pretty pleased with that.

The bike ride seemed to take longer than it needed to. I was passed a few times, but never seemed to really pass anyone in front of me. I reminded myself that I was only racing me, and not to worry about getting passed.

Maybe this is the only flat part of the bike course? Photo by Christian Gallant.
Transition 2
After dismounting, and finally finding my spot, I picked up my small transition towel, which was soaking wet, and wiped off all the snot, gu and puke from my face. I had actually thrown up while biking (a result of exertion and chunky Hammer drink which was provided on course). Next up was my pair of soaking wet shoes. Put the race belt on, reset the Garmin, and off we go. It was a conservative transition, it felt like I was taking forever, but the timing company have me down for 2 minutes and 11 seconds, so I'll take it.

Coming up the last hill approaching T2 in the wrong gear.

Poor spectators standing in the rain (oh, thanks Laura for standing in the rain and taking my picture, and cheering for me).

Although T2 was relatively sparse when I got back, it still took me forever to find my rack.
The Run
I have this habit of blowing long distance triathlons on the run. My goal was a 1:50 half marathon. That was potentially do-able. I would aim for a 1:45 and plan for a 5 minute fade. That meant pacing at 5 minute kilometers.

I was feeling pretty good heading out for the run, and could have run faster than 5:00 pace, but I forced myself to stick to 5 minutes. I had the Garmin set up on one field: Average Pace.

The run was two out-and-backs, with a detour each time through Kingsbrae Gardens (which wasn't terribly great because of the narrow pea-gravel pathway, but they are the title sponsor - so why not). The run was relatively flat EXCEPT for the run back up to Finish area (we hit the biggish hill twice, and it sapped energy and time both trips).

Leaving transition.
Again, on the run, I was passed constantly, and didn't seem to pass anyone, but I was determined to keep my 5 minute pace. And I was very happy each 1000 meters when the Garmin chriped out the split, usually in the 4:56 range - with the exception of the hills at the end of the route. Having planned for a fade at the end, I was very happy to see that it didn't really happen. I slowed down only a little bit, but still managed to keep a 5 minute average right to the bitter end.

Despite the cold and the rain, the run was fairly pleasant. The tide was out and you could see a massive area of tidal beach on the way into town. The downtown area of St-Andrews was busy with spectators and volunteers, and it seemed everyone was in a cheery mood. There was definitely a good vibe.

The Finish
The strange part about this race, was that I had low expectations going in, I didn't even know what my time was. When I saw the race clock, I was honestly surprised. I wasn't even sure that I had a PB. It turned out that I beat my previous best (Last year's Tupper Lake Tinman, with a probably short run) by 3 seconds. Pretty neat.

The final 100 meters
Almost there.

The Splits
Bike Splits per KM. Pretty constant overall average despite big variances in per km speed because of hills.

Run Splits per KM. I think I'm most proud of this. Finally after 13 years of Tri-ing, I've figured out how to pace a run!
Breakfast - 2 bowls of Honey Combs, Banana, 2 cups of Coffee.
T1 - half a cliff bar
Bike - 3 Gels, half a cliff bar, 1 bottle of water, 1.5 bottles of Hammer Heed (course hand ups)
T2 - nothing
Run - 2 Gels, 1 cup of Red Bull (didn't like it), 5 or 6 cups of water