The Race From Hell

This weekend the MultiSport Canada Triathlon / Duathlon Series was in Gravenhurst Ontario. This was the second stop in Ontario for the series and one of my favourite race venues.

Saturday was the International Duathlon and Olympic Triathlon a challenging run and bike course both with lots of hills. This race course will challenge even the most experienced racer pushing your fitness. Arriving Saturday morning the air was fresh as it blew in from Lake Muskoka. Clear skies and fairly calm water only a small breeze you could tell it was going to be a fun race day.

As I racked my bike I could already see a few familiar faces and lots of top duathletes trickled in. The likes of Matt Strattman, Andew McLeod, Garvin Moses, Charles Bedley (known for his blistering run splits) Tim Doris and Larry Bradley all top names in duathlon racing. Also, to note the Schindler brothers were in town. Chris is a top Time Trial rider from the Grey County circuit and both he and Peter can hold their own out on the run. Looking around transition it was eerily familiar to last years race weekend which was a world qualifier, double du challenge and provincials all wrapped up together.

I am glad there was no added pressure to the weekend this year, racing just one day and volunteering the other it was looking good. I went through my usual warm up after the pre-race meeting and found fellow Balance Point Triathlon member Erin Rosebrugh cruising around also. She was racing the longer distance duathlon for the first time on Saturday. We exchanged words of encouragement and she asked the top question I get all the time.

“How much do you hold back on the first run?”

This question pops up from triathletes if a swim has been canceled and the event turns to a duathlon and from people like Erin who have never competed at the distance before. My answer is always the same no matter if you are new to the distance or an Olympic distance triathlete now doing a duathlon. “Hold back just a little, less than you might expect. Once you get out there you just need to find your rhythm.” Always encouraging people to trust their training reminding them that you have done the hard work just enjoy racing. It is the fun part when you get to put all that commitment and energy into a race and just have a good time.

Congratulations to Erin she finished 1st overall for the women and had a great race day! Kudos Erin a well-deserved win and proof that you can conquer the longer distance!

Run 1 – 10km

The familiar voice of Steve Fleck could be heard over the loud-speaker providing everyone ques and commentary throughout both days. It was race time and everyone headed over to the finish chute where we lined up under the arch and awaited the count down. I felt good at this point, ready and determined that this was going to be a great race. Coming off the high of my long course bike run in Welland just weeks before I was ready to let it all hang out.

With the 30….20…..10….5…GO! We were off like every duathlon I have raced it was a hot pace from the start. Adrenaline surged and quite quickly it was clear that Charles was going to lead everyone on the run. Weaving our way through some walking paths for about 200m we then headed out on the road and that all to familiar first hill was a reminder that there was more to come. A steady 1 km climb runners quickly strung out and way out front was Charles followed quickly by Matt Strattman then myself. I settled into a pace that I knew would keep the pressure on everyone behind me I did my best to stay constant despite the hills. If you have raced this course then you know it is hilly. Not just one or two either it is constant ups and downs, with a few flat spots where you can catch your breath. Around 3-4km Larry Bradley was hot on my tail, he took his all too familiar spot in front of me and we ran together for the next few km. I did my best to keep the pressure on him and we pushed on hill after hill. At the 5km turn it was back the same way and I glanced at my watch 19:00 flat. That put me right on pace but Larry had started to pull away. Time ticked on and I knowing I was on pace for a great day I thought ahead to the bike course.

The course had been changed just 36hrs before the race, construction / policing meant that we were headed out the opposite way from the previous year. The same course that was used in 2015 up the highway. An out and back course with long sweeping turns and climb it was a far less technical course than what was originally planned.

At the 7km something started to irk me. I wasn’t sure it what “it” was but my pace slowed and I started to feel off. The last few km of that first run are actually a blur all I can remember is I fell off the pace and slowly people caught and passed me as we headed back to T1.

Crossing the timing mat and heading to my bike I quickly put on my helmet and then it hit me, shortness of breath and slightly disoriented. It couldn’t be heat stroke or dehydration so I managed to un rack my bike and run it out to the mount line. I felt a little boxed in and ended up running my bike maybe 10-20 meters past the mount line before I jumped on.

Bike – 40km

I did settle into my aero position and my focused returned. I still at this point didn’t know what had happened in T1 but pressed on. Weaving our way out once the main highway I could see that the road was indeed long rollers and sweeping corners. I had never ridden this course before and

was pleasantly surprised. 5km down things were good, I had settled into a rhythm and hoped to catch up with the other racers that had passed by me on the first run. All of a sudden at 7km I had a shooting pain in my left calf a “twinge”. I stopped pedaling for a moment and it went away, strange I thought and pedaled on. Just a few km later around the 10km mark it happened again so I glanced at my Garmin and did the usual checks. Heart rate is good, power on point and cadence was nice and high. This occurrence started to become more frequent every few kilometers I would stop pedaling briefly and try to massage out the calf and every time it loosened and I kept going. 29:00 and less than half way into the bike my calf finally Charlie horsed. Like a knife in the calf it locked up and my toe was stuck pointing down towards the ground. I managed to get unclipped and for the next minutes rode one-legged just hoping that my leg would relax. Having a muscle spasm was not what I needed and slowed me substantially. Finally, it released and I was able to clip back in and keep riding but boy was it tender. I did my best to keep my heel down every pedal stroke but it hurt. Power had dropped noticeably at this point and both legs started to feel heavy at the turn around.

Damage check 20km down 20km to go + a 5km run…..hmm maybe today wasn’t shaping up to be that amazing race day I had hoped it would be. I wish I had more commentary from the ride but to be honest after the turn around things again slipped away and I fell into a fog just trying to keep riding. As time ticked on my calf wasn’t bothering me as much but something else was terribly off but what!

My power numbers didn’t lie speed was down also. I may have averaged under 200w for the last 20km but it felt like 300+…. With a slight tail wind, it was everything I could do to keep going and I tried not to glance at my Garmin even if it was only for distance. 15, 10, 5 kilometers to go and I was suffering. By now I had broken my aero position countless times, coasted down nearly every hill without pedaling my body was yelling at me to stop. I did my best to catch my breath and try and relax but as I entered the town and headed down the chute to T2 something was terribly wrong. Dismounting my bike, I ran into transition and it was then I noticed another symptom. I could hear a sloshing sound in my gut. Racking my bike, I took off my helmet and then proceeded to fumble with my shoes. I spent double the normal time trying to get ready and out on the last run.

Run 2 – 5km

Exiting T2 it was back out on the run course and as soon as I was out of sight of the crowd I had to stop. I walked on slowly trying to start-up again but it never got any better. I had completely forgotten about my calf because my stomach was in such pain. The rest of this last run can be summed up into just a few words, awful, horrible, miserable… I had no choice but to run…walk…run…walk. I felt nauseous, sore, tired, feverish and the list goes on.

I can’t say enough about the sportsmanship and encouragement from every athlete on the course that day. “Keep going Spencer, “Don’t Stop”, “Keep Moving” It was very clear by now that I was suffering something awful and visibly looked ill. It is safe to say that in all the years I have been running I have never had a run like that. If it were not for the encouragement of everyone out there I surly would have called it quits.

Truly thank you to everyone, athletes, volunteers and by standers it was all of you that got me to that finish line on Saturday.

The last 1km down to the finish line I started to breathe erratically and with most of the competition now already done I had one goal. Don’t not finish (DNF)…. Whatever it takes cross that line.

Finish – 11th OA, 4th AG  (2:14:06)

Crossing under the finish arch shaking John Salt’s hand it was over. Waiting in the chute were all the top finishers of the day and everyone asked me if I was alright, thanks but the answer was “no”. I headed into the Medical tent and asked to have my vitals checked. For those of you who don’t know I have a rare genetic heart condition called Long QT Syndrome. My heart does not pump blood in the same way as you due to and electrical issue. I remain asymptomatic to this day but you can never be too safe. After about 10:00 my vitals all checked out it was clear that it was not a serious medical issue. With my bp and heart rate returning to normal I was cleared to leave the medical tent and told to return should I start to feel symptoms of being light headed, disorientation etc. Big thanks to the medical team, everyone hopes to never see that side of racing but you never know what can happen.

I spent the next half an hour laying in the grass in the shade but the longer I laid there the worse I felt, the pain in my stomach had returned but I started to feel feverish and nauseous. I packed up my bike as soon as transition was open and headed back to my hotel…. I must say sorry to my fellow racers and everyone because I am not one to take off after a race is done but I needed to go. Fumbling about I finally got my bike into the car and started the 5:00 drive to my hotel. This drive felt like an eternity.

I will spare you any details but I spent hours trying to get comfortable post-race and can say that food poisoning was most likely the culprit. That is something that can linger up to 24 hours post ingestion so I am yet to pinpoint the exact cause. I did manage to get some rest despite breaking into a sweat over and over again for hours post race.

Looking back at all the data I am glad I finished but not glad that I learned a new kind of suffering that day.

There are two points of take away from all this.

1 – You never know what will happen on a race day but trust your training and remember it’s about having fun not just where you place.

2 – Never under estimate the power of encouragement. I said it above but will say it again. If it weren’t for all of the people encouraging me to keep going and the comradery of my fellow athletes I would not have completed my race.

K-Town (Kingston) is the next stop for the MultiSport Canada Triathlon / Duathlon Race Series in just a few weeks. I will be there with the family and hope to be in better shape than I was on Saturday. If you have not registered yet head to the MSC website linked here and register today.

Make sure to check out the F2C Nutrition – Official Series Nutrition Partner with MultiSport Canada website for the latest and best nutrition products. With such a variety, you are sure to find product(s) you can use in your training, racing and recovery.

Drop by the F2C Nutrition tent that will be at every race venue this summer in the MSC Series, try samples and learn about the science that goes into everything they make.

#f2cnutrition #f2cpoweringchampions #athletefocusedsciencedriven #f2c #first2cross #f2cwillfuelthejourney #whatareyourunningon #whatfuelsyou

#MultiSportCan #MSCDu #MSCTri #RaceLocal #Duathlon #Triathlon #MartinsAppleChips #skechersperformancecanada

#SummerfieldCAN #TeamSummerfield #bptriathlon #3SIXTY5Cycling

For race data click on the icons below to check out the STRAVA data.

Huge thanks to all the support volunteers, Police, EMS, F2C Nutrition and the entire MultiSport Canada Team for yet another safe, fun and fantastic race.

#MultiSportCan #MSCDu #MSCTri #Racelocal #Duathlon #Triathlon #MartinsAppleChips #SkechersPerformanceCanada

#3SIXTY5Cycling #3SIXTY5Cyclin #Fat88 #CarbonWheelsOntario #FastEnoughtoWinTouchEnoughtoRideYearRound

#SummerfieldCAN #TeamSummerfield #bptriathlon