Jul 22, 2016

Challenge St Andrews Race Report

The swim course the day before the race
Since last fall, when a large group of Cape Bretoners decided to register for Challenge St. Andrews, April 10th has been circled on my calendar. Having doing this race in 2014, I knew it was a very well organized event on a challenging (but fair) course. Other than a few minor injuries, training had progressed quite well since Ironman 70.3 Florida (April 10th). Thirteen Cape Bretoners were all set to complete the half distance, 2 in the aqua bike (include my wife Lisa), and 1 in the 5k road race.

I traveled to St. Andrews feeling well rested and confident the recent flare up with my left hamstring wouldn't adversely effect my race. The forecast was calling for cool temperatures (14-16 degrees) with a high percentage of showers, which was cause for concern for most athletes, but it didn't bother me too much because I race better in cool weather.

Swim: 29:32 (1900m)

The swim is a counter clockwise loop that is very easy to navigate. Males and females went off in separate waves which meant that overcrowding wouldn't be too much of an issue. The water temperature was close to 20 degrees meaning it would be a wet suit legal swim. When the gun went off I quickly found a good rhythm. During the swim (unlike the bike and run) you really have no gauge of how well you are doing other than where other swimmers are in relation to you. That said, I felt as if I was swimming well, and at each turn buoy fellow Cape Bretoner Chris Milburn (who is typically faster than me in open water) was just a few meters ahead of me - which reassured me that I was swimming efficiently and sighting well.  I exited the water in 20th place overall -  12 seconds faster than in 2014, which I was very happy with.

T1: 4:27

Of all the triathlons I've completed, St Andrews has, without a doubt, the longest and most challenging T1. It involves a run up a steep hill of approximately 600 meters. I navigated my way up and out onto the bike course as efficiently as possible in a time that was 15 seconds quicker than in 2014. I had the 10th fastest time in T1, and moved up from 20th to 16th place by the beginning of the bike leg.

Bike: 2:30:21 (90k)

There are so many variables that can effect bike times in triathlon. Of the three disciplines, bikes times vary (from one triathlon to the next) more than swim and run times - because of the terrain, wind, temperature, smoothness of the road, etc. I was confident I was in better shape than I was at the half in Florida in April, but I knew beating my bike time of 2:22:52 was not realistic because this was a much more challenging course. In 2014 I biked 2:33:12, so I figured something around 2:27:XX was a realistic goal. That said, when you train and race with power, you learn not to focus too much on time. My plan was to be as quick as possible while normalizing at least 250 watts. The wind picked up more than anticipated and it started to rain - both of which made the bike leg more challenging. I was happy to keep my power very close to 250, and ending up normalizing 255, which I was very pleased with! And the best part was, I approached T2 feeling surprisingly fresh. By that point I had climbed my way up into 9th place overall.

T2: 0:47

By looking at my T2 time in comparison to everyone else (4th overall), most would think that my T2 was efficient and uneventful. It was very efficient, but unfortunately it was eventful - almost disastrous. As I was approaching the dismount line I did as I always do and undid the straps on my bike shoes and peddled the last 100m or so with my feet on top of my shoes. Unfortunately, on my last peddle stroke my left shoe started to drag on the ground, which caused my bike to tip to the right. Somehow I was able to get both feet to the ground just in time before falling over. I'm not saying this would have ended my day, but had I fallen it definitely would have adversely effected my run. I parked my bike in T2 feeling as if I had "dodged a bullet."

Run: 1:26:23 (21.1k)

My plan leading up to race day was to attempt to maintain a 4:10/km pace for the run. If I was able to achieve this, it would be 6 seconds faster/km than I had ever run at the half distance. When I reached the first turnaround point of the double out and back course I was right on target and I learned that I was now in 7th place overall. It was a that moment that I figured if I could maintain my current pace that I could crack the top 5 - which was another goal of mine going into the race. As you'll see in the picture below, my pace stayed very closer to my goal pace, and I was actually able to pick it up a bit over the last few kms. With 2km to go, I moved into 5th place, and in the last 200m I was able to out-sprint the guy in 4th, which was an added bonus!

Overall time: 4:31:28

I crossed the finish line feeling incredible. Not only was it a personal best for me at the half distance, I honestly don't think it could have gone any better - which is not something I can say very often! And to top things off, my good friend and training partner Corey Deveaux (who had crossed the line in 2nd place about 10 minutes earlier) was at the finish line cheering me on. Shortly after, two other friends/training partners, Chris Milburn and Andreas Burger crossed the line, followed by the remaining Cape Bretoners in the race. It was fantastic to be able to celebrate with such a great group - including Lisa who, despite having a work schedule all winter that was not conducive for consistent training, completed the aqua-bike (1900m swim/90k bike). I couldn't have been more proud!

Top 5 accepting our Club Championship Award!
 At the awards banquet that evening Corey received an award for finishing second overall, and the Cape Breton Barbarians won the Club Championship for being the triathlon club with the fastest 5 to reach the finish line. Leading up to the race we figured we'd have a realistic shot at winning, and when our top 4 (Corey - 2nd; myself - 4th; Chris - 10th; Andreas 11th) were all in the top 11, we figured that we would be tough for any other club to beat. We just had to wait to see where our next athlete would finish. Stephanie Myles was our next athlete across the line in a very speedy 5:30:53 - good enough for 15th female overall. The prize to the fastest club was a $500 - which hopefully the entire club will get to enjoy once triathlon season is over.

If you've never done Challenge St. Andrews, I highly recommend it! Other than a lengthy T1, it's a fantastic course. In addition, it is very well organized and accommodations are quite reasonable. For more on the race, including all of the Cape Breton results, click here.

Cape Breton Barbarians post race!