Saturday, August 29, 2015

Race Reports: Challenge Penticton Festival Events

So hey, about that Ironman… Yeah, I did it. And there will be a race report. But not today. As I write this, I’m up in Penticton, on the eve of Challenge Penticton. Yeah, like the very same race that was my first iron distance race last year. Only I’m not racing it this year. The Hub is. It’s his first real triathlon and he’s doing the Half distance. I’ve been winging it as his coach and this weekend I’m faking it as a deferential, supportive type instead of my usual high maintenance diva self. I’m very good at the latter. The other? Well…

Anyway. So I’m not racing the Challenge this year. I’ve actually taken August “off” – which was supposed to mean taking a break from structured training and just doing what I wanted. That’s not quite how it’s worked out …but more on that in another post. Since the month has been low key, and I’m feeling left out not being able to race with the rest of the free world my triathlete friends, I decided to make the most of having to sit out, and take advantage of some of the Festival events that I wouldn’t ordinarily get to do. Like a 5K fun run and the Ogopogo Swim Race. I know. Swimming.

Thursday, we rolled into smoky Penticton a couple of hours before the Feed the Valley 5K Fun Run. Time to unload the van, change, and then stroll down to The Peach. We watched the kiddies 1K fun run, while trying to figure out who’s-who among the pros handing out medals.

Even though it was a “fun run”, no bibs, no timing chips, and I wasn’t looking for anything particular from this race… it was +30 degrees, smoky, I’d been sitting in a car for 5 hours, and this was my month off… I was still nervously sizing up the “competition” and worrying with this small field, it was not out of the realm of possibility that I would be last. The route was a two loop out & back along Lakeshore, running right past our hotel 4 times. I told my family that if I was last, I was ducking into our hotel on the way back from the second loop. Screw the finish line.

And then we were off. As I approached the first turnaround, Jeff Symonds was making his way back, leading a pack of speedy peeps, all of them looking comfortable. There weren’t a ton of people ahead of me, and once I made the turn and was on my way back, I saw that there were plenty behind me. Good. I’d gone out a little too fast, and my pace was slowing a bit, it was hot and I felt the smoky air stinging the back of my throat. At the turn to start the second loop, I stopped to grab water – something I wouldn’t ordinarily do in a 5K - walking a few seconds to gulp it down, and then off for loop number 2.
This time, well before I reached the turnaround on the 2nd loop, Jeff Symonds was running by. All by himself now, and running effortlessly with none of his trademark Ugly, he offered some words of encouragement as he ran by.

My 5K PB is 25:11. Set January of this year at the Athletes in Kind New Year’s Day Generation Run. I didn’t expect to beat it, and told my family as much as we were walking to the start. My daughter asked how long it would take me… My PB is 25:11. I won’t beat that but it’ll be something under 30 minutes. She was surprised – and impressed – that I could run 5K in under 30 minutes. Yeah, that used to impress me too. So I ran in to the finish at 24:54. My daughter ran over and said “Mom, you PB’d!” I knew I wasn’t running PB-pace – I’d been checking pace from time to time and watching it creep slowly up. I glanced down at my Garmin when she said that, seeing a 4.76, and dismissed her congrats… “Yeah, but the course was short.”

“Don’t DO that!” she replied.

Oh, in the days before Garmin, we would have been none the wiser, taking that PB at face value and celebrating it. But I don’t know… is a PB still a PB, even when the course is short?

We waited a while at the finish, then started walking back to the hotel since we had family waiting on us for dinner. The final two runners were still making their way back and as we neared them on course, I would stop, put my shoes down, clap and cheer. Feeling inspired and impressed by these women. I’m not sure why the idea of being last feels embarrassing or shameful when it’s me, but a mark of determination, spirit, and triumph when it’s someone else. When the final runner passed by, a bike volunteer who’d ridden out to check on her told her she had some friends coming out to run her in. I turned to see pros Jeff Symonds and Nathan Killam jogging out to finish with her. Like the final finisher in an Ironman, there’s a lot of support for the last one in. No, last was not a bad place to be.

My big brave move had been wearing a top that exposed a bit of midriff. A counter to some self-esteem bashing “picked for you” pins that Pinterest had been taunting me with. All bones, flat stomachs, and thigh gaps. I was trying to embrace strong, fit, and powerful and be a better role model for my girly. But mostly it just made me hate all the race pictures. And then the next morning, when I went for a short swim, I ended up in a conversation with a teeny-tiny super-fit and lovely woman, also heading in for a swim. She’d won her age group at IMC in a previous year. She’d been to Kona. And she described it as terrible because the Island shuts down and is overrun by triathletes… all these teeny-tiny super-fit women. Hmmm. Are any of us comfortable in our skin?

Today was the Ogopogo swim race. Three distances to choose from: 500m, 1K or 2K. 500m hardly seemed like struggling in to the wet suit, and 2K seemed like work, so I’d signed up for the 1K and was actually looking forward to it. I’ve done very little swimming since IMC… this will be fun I thought.
Walking to the Peach, I watched the lake churning in the wind, listened to the waves crashing on shore. Gross. I texted my friend Jenn who was swimming the 2K: I’m not sure I’m going to swim. I told her the water was rough, and this was supposed to be fun. So drop down to the 1K she said. Ha.

After some expert bodymarking, I wriggled into my wetsuit (in its last season I’m afraid), and waited for the start. Two 500m loops, swimming mostly across the waves… darn it. At the start, I struggled to get my breathing right. And I don’t think it was the slightly choppy lake as much as it was the absence of time spent in any lake this last month, but it was a rough start. I was aware that pretty much everyone was swimming away from me, leaving me thrashing about pretty much on my own. I had a “yeah, what else is new” feeling, but other than that, didn’t really care. I knew that with a bunch of people doing the 2K, it’s not like I’d be emerging 20 minutes after everyone was done. So I just settled in and swam, taking a moment at one point to acknowledge that it was fortunate that I was a bilateral breather and could choose which side to breathe on given the rough water. 

I finished in 26:11, with a 2:19/100m pace. Not fast by any standard but 1 second faster than any of my previous open water swim race paces. Go figure. 

I’m glad I didn’t bail.