My First Triathlon

As stated in my yearly goals, I set out to complete a triathlon this year.  My interest in triathlon began back during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when fellow Canadian, Simon Whitfield, won the inaugural Olympic Triathlon.  I recall saying to one of my roommates after watching the event, that I should do one.  Sixteen years later, seemed like as good a time as any.

In addition, I’ve always been fascinated when I come across the Ironman World Championships show every year, which is just a fantastically produced piece of television.  It always leaves me inspired.

With these two sources of inspiration, coupled with the fact that I wanted to work in some more cross-training, to give the running muscles some relief, I signed up for the Guelph Lake I Triathlon.  More specifically, the Olympic Distance, or 5150.  1.5 km of swimming, 40 km of biking, and 10 km of running.

I ran throughout the winter and spring and participated in a few running events along the way (MEC Race 1 15 k, MEC Race 2 10 k, Forest City Road Races Half-Marathon, MEC Race 3 Half-Marathon).  I also got in some swims (not many) and some time on the bike as the big day in June approached.

I had purchased a bike the previous summer, so that piece of needed equipment was in place.  I had settled on a Diadora Modena Hybird, which while not ideal for triathlons, was deemed by me to be good enough for the first one.

My (somewhat) trusty ride.

An added bonus of my bike training was that it helped me in my pursuit of some yearly goals.  I was able to put in a number of kilometres in pursuit of 2000 km for the year.

In addition, I got involved with the Great Cycle Challenge.  This is a great challenge to cycle through the month of June, to raise money in the fight against childhood Cancer.  Please take a moment to click on the link above and make a donation for a great cause!

The bulk of my non-training preparations were spent on researching and purchasing a wetsuit.  I looked into rentals as well, but if I were to buy one, and do 3 or 4 events, the purchase would be worthwhile.

Eventually, I settled on the Aquasphere Pursuit, which I ordered online from England as, even with the shipping charges, it was less than what I could buy it for at home in Canada.  Unfortunately, I ended up having to pay duty on it when it arrived, which made it more expensive than if I had just purchased it here.  Lesson learned.

I have no other wetsuit experience for comparison, but I was really happy with it on raceday.  I saw a number of other competitors in the same one on race morning, so I think it is a popular choice for an entry level suit.

Over the course of my training I read a lot of information about how people tend to find the second transition, going from the bike to the run, to be the most difficult.  I tried out some “brick” workouts (going from one event right into another) and found that I actually felt pretty good running off of the bike.  That gave me a nice boost of confidence as I approached race day.

I had done all of my swimming in the pool in the lead up to the race. However, on the weekend prior to the race, my family and I headed out to Lake Sunova for an open water swim/wetsuit test (I had never been swimming in a wetsuit before).  I puttered around for about 30 minutes and felt pretty good.  As I approached the shore and stood up, I got the impression that the first transition (from swim to bike) might be more problematic than my research would indicate.  My legs felt really heavy coming out of the water.

I took all of my gear along with me to work on the day prior to the race so that I could get on the highway quickly afterward and make my way to Guelph (about an hour and a half drive).

I was spending the night with some old friends, so that was a nice environment to be able to get a good night’s rest.  I had some Subway for dinner, and ended up getting to sleep sometime around 11.  I was happy with the sleep I got, and woke up feeling relaxed and excited for the opportunity to finally be able to call myself a triathlete.

I made the short drive from my friends’ place to the Guelph Lake Conservation Area.  The parking area is located really close to the transition area.  Since I arrived a little early, around 6:15, for the 8 a.m. start time, I was able to get a prime parking spot which allowed me to go back and forth between the car as necessary.

I got my transition area organized, and went down to check out the lake.  The transition area was located a short distance uphill from the water’s edge, which meant a nice little uphill jog after the swim.

I went through the registration process quickly and easily (I was already registered, but had to fill in the waiver, pick up my timing chip, etc.) From trying on my wetsuit at home prior to the race, I knew that hanging around in it would be too hot.  I decided to put it on up to my waist about 20 minutes before the race, and head down to the water.

I spent some time talking to another athlete, with much more experience than myself, which was nice.  I zipped up another competitor’s wetsuit, and had somebody else do the same for me a short time later, and headed into the water to get comfortable and make sure my goggles did not have a leaky fit.  A few weeks prior to the race I had dropped my goggles on the floor of the public pool shower.  Much like Jerry Seinfeld, when his shoe lace became loose in the men’s room, it was time to get rid of those goggles.  I spent a little bit more money (around $20 bucks) and picked up a pair of better Speedo ones which fit perfectly.

Guelph Lakes Triathlon swim course
Looking out over the swim course after registering.

A short time later, the race began with a booming noise which startled a few.  I was in the second wave at 8:03, so I got myself set up near the back of my wave and to the left of the buoys.  The gun went off again, and my first triathlon was under way.

I had read many tips about starting out wide to have your own space which I decided was a good idea, even though it may have been a less direct line.  The water temperature was 73 degrees Fahrenheit and I found it to be really comfortable.  I really enjoyed the swim portion of the race.

During my training, I had found the process of swim training to be the least enjoyable aspect.  It was not actually the training itself, once in the pool that I did not like, that was fine.   More so, just the process of driving to the pool, getting changed, having to deal with other people in the lanes etc.  In contrast to my bike rides, and runs, it is just more work than heading out the door and doing my own thing.

Having said that, like I said, on raceday, the swim was awesome.  I had the odd jostle along the way, but that was to be expected.  As my hand hit the sand near the shore, I stood up and was relieved to find that my legs actually felt pretty good.  I got the top of my wetsuit off and made the short run up the hill and into transition.  As I ran up the beach, I took a glance at my watch and saw that my time was 32 minutes and change for the swim.  I was really happy with that time, as it was faster than I anticipated I would do the swim.  Officially, my swim time was 33:11, as the timing mat was a little further up the way from the water.

I took my time in transition, the wetsuit was off, the shirt and helmet were on, I packed some gels, and took my bike off of the rack.  I was on my way out of transition and to the mount line.  My first transition time was pretty slow, but I wanted to make sure I was ready to go.  I clocked in at 4:50 for the transition.  Definitely an area I can shave off some time.

I got going on the bike, and as we had been informed in the pre-race literature, kept an eye out for a few speed-bumps on the way out of the conservation area.  We were warned that the first 5 km were on a rough road, and Watson Road lived up to this billing.  The rest of the course was pretty nice, although, if you don’t like vehicular traffic, be forewarned, the roads are open.

The course had some pretty decent hills to keep you honest, but of course, this meant some good downhill sections as well.

Although I did not set any speed records on the bike, I think I may have set a record for hearing the phrase “on your left.”  I was passed frequently on the bike.  There were times that I thought I heard a car approaching from behind only to see that it was in fact the sound of the bike passing me.  Some incredible machines on display for sure!

I only saw one or two people riding bikes like mine.  Everyone else was on a pure road bike or a triathlon bike.  I plan on saving up some money and investing in one of those for next summer.  One of my fellow competitors commented cheerily on his way by me that “you are making things a lot harder on yourself with that bike.”  Always good to make things harder on yourself!

The bike course was an out and back, so you had to navigate the rough patch again and be careful of the speed-bumps on the way back in.  The speed-bumps actually have a little ramp on them, so they are pretty easy provided you manage your speed.

I dropped somewhere in the neighbourhood of 110 spots on the bike (I did pass two people though!).  Ouch!  However, I was actually pretty pleased with my time, all things considered.  I came in off the bike in 1:36:39.  With a new set of wheels, I think I can improve considerably upon this.

My second transition was quick, as I already had on my running shoes for the bike.  I got out for the run in 1:36.

I felt really good off of the bike.  Moving along well and passing quite a few people.  2 km in however, I was greeted by the first signs of heat exhaustion.  Given that the temperature was well into the 30s Celsius by this point, this was to be expected.

I still managed to pass quite a few people, and I was running at a really good pace.  However, the heat proved to be too much, and I had to slow considerably, coming to a walk to ensure I got in a lot of fluids and was able to manage my health.  The course had some rolling hills as well.  I ended up with a really slow 10 k time by my  standards of 1:05:22 (about 15 minutes slower than my pb), but I was happy that I managed to pass about 40 people on the run.

Despite the heat, this ended up being a fantastic experience for my first triathlon.  I loved the swim, enjoyed the bike, and got through the run.

Going into this event, I wasn’t really gunning for a particular time.  I enjoyed this more relaxed approach, as in running events, I almost always have a particular time I am shooting for.  Going in, I figured that if everything went well, I could finish in around 3 hours and 45 minutes.  So, I was pleased with my time of 3:21:36.3.  With a cooler day, and a better bike, I can definitely cut this time down pretty dramatically I think.  I’ll be shooting for sub 3 hours next year.

One of the aspects of my first triathlon event which I really enjoyed was the camaraderie between athletes.  This is also evident at running events, but I thought it was even greater at this event.  I think it may have something to do with the transition area.  You are in close proximity to your fellow athletes as you set up your gear.  The camaraderie was really evident on the course as well.  Lots of encouragement between athletes on the way.

The amenities and organization at this event were first class.  We were given an Erdinger alcohol free beer post-race and a number of food items: bananas, granola bars, and a 6 inch sub from Subway, along with water, Pepsi, etc.

I was also really pleased with the fact that they had race clothing and other items for sale post race.  I have been really disappointed with this aspect at the running races I have gone to, as quite frankly, the items for sale, usually kind of suck.

I ended up getting a t-shirt and a hoodie for the reasonable price of $90 combined.  There were also plenty of other items available such as beer glasses, visors, license plate covers, etc.

guelph clothes
The hoodie.


There were also a number of vendors on site selling a variety of items.

In addition, you also received a technical shirt and a finishers medal.

Guelph Lake Triathlon shirt and bib.
The shirt and bib.


Guelph Lakes Triathlon 1 was a great experience.  If you like what you’ve heard, check out the other Subaru Triathlon Series events, including another race in Guelph this year.

Guelph Lake Triathlon finisher's medal
Finisher’s medal.


After the race, my wife and I had to make the 2 hour drive north to Collingwood for a wedding.  The most impressive transition of the day was my wife going from the car, to the hotel and getting ready, to the shuttle bus, all within 30 minutes.  An unbelievable achievement.

My focus now will shift to marathon training for my event in early November.  However, I definitely plan on continuing on the bike a little throughout the summer.

I had been investigating the possibility of trying an Ironman 70.3 next summer, however, I think I’m going to invest in a better bike, and give some shorter distances a try next summer.  Maybe the 70.3 will happen the following summer.

I think 2 or 3 triathlons will be on the schedule for next summer.

Erdinger cat. Ragdoll.
Recovery with my buddy.

Personal Best Streak: 1

Next Race:  MEC London Race 4, 15 km, September 10

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