Sunday, 18 August 2013

Ottawa ITU AG Duathlon World Champs - PB's race by the numbers...

Garima is currently too lazy to write her version, so here's mine:

The course mainly takes place on the roads adjacent to the Ottawa River heading West from downtown. I know these roads. This is where I first learnt to enjoy cycling in my days as a co-op student commuting to work on my bike. Good times.

Shot of the transition set up
There were a few hiccups with the transition setup one day before race day, and it was generally frustrating, but the organizers did everything to make sure everything got set up properly on the morning of the race, and the race itself was flawlessly organized and executed. 
Anyway, the bike course is flat except for a bit of a hill/flyover heading out in the first km. Like a bit of false flats here and there, but no change in elevation to speak of. This course was all geared up to be faaast and set a Personal Record (PR) for everyone.
Chilly before the storm...
 The men over 35 started 10 mins ahead of us, and I was in the last wave to start. Garima was almost done with her first 20k loop of the bike by this time. Men 18-39 lined up at 8:45 am for the start and exchanged words of encouragement. Then the air horn blared the start of the race...

Run 1

I stayed calm and was not surprised by the usual flurry of athletes starting off way too fast. I told myself to let them go and they’d come back to me in a mile or so.
1 km done in 3:45, slightly too fast, I thought. Then, the 2-4 people I was running with sped a few seconds away from me. Suddenly, out of the 100 people under 35 that started with me, I was alone. A simple thought entered my head: .”..OK, I know a lot of people passed me in this first km, but I’m still going at ~16 km/hr, surely, I can’t be the last one. Can I?” I was genuinely afraid to look back, but I did and only saw a handful of athletes behind me. I just shook my head in surprise at how fast everyone else was going at this point.

The first curveball came after the turnaround ....I noticed there weren’t any km markers. We were told they’d be present. Nope, not a sight of them. I had to borrow a watch from a co-worker this week since my GPS watch died a few days ago, so I was unfamiliar with its functions and generally just went by feel.

I spotted a couple of familiar faces: Erik Box, Florian Ong, Adam Foley and one or two more guys who I compete against in local events. Erik is a monster on the bike but I generally beat him in the runs, Florian is faster than me at running (and cycling!) by roughly 2 mins and Adam is slower than me by the same amount. So I just told myself to trust my judgement and land myself somewhere between Florian and Erik.

After the first of two loops, I was heading back out into the headwind when I was hit by a nasty gust and my cap flew away. I just carried on and settled into a rhythm and passed about 5-10 people on the way into T1.

My goal was to do the run under 40 mins and I saw a 39:XX as I crossed into transition and felt pleased.
After the first loop of the run...(Thanks to our Team Manager/Physio David Frake)

(After the race, everyone agreed that the course was not in fact shorter than 10k (9.9 km was promised), but it was actually close to 10.4 km. Well, that explains my high HR!)

Distance: 10.39 km
Time: 39:52
Pace: 3:49 min/km (15.66 km/hr)

This means I did the 10.0 kms in 38:21!! Whoa! You know what that means for the bike ride..


Remember I mentioned that this is a flat and fast course? In everyone’s opinion: “This is a PR course”. Well, I was wrong...and so was everyone else. On the day of the race, the roads/course didn’t change, but what did change was the wind. Anyone who’s biked with some effort on a windy day knows that wind is the main enemy of speed. And damn, its frustrating.

1 km in: Erik zooms by me at > 42 km/hr like I'm a toddler on a bike with training wheels.

The wind itself wasn’t that strong, maybe 20-30 km/hr or so, and we knew it was going to be a headwind on the way out. We do 2 loops  of a 20km course, so we get two sections of headwind (on the way out) and 2 sections of tailwind (on the way back). Right? Wrong again. As soon as I reached the turnaround after averaging 33 km/hr in the headwind, I thought “OK! Time to relax a bit in the tailwind”, fully expecting to do >40-42 km/hr on the way back, there was tailwind for maybe 5 mins on the way back and cross-wind/headwind that just sapped up all my effort. The way back ended up only at 36.5 km/hr and after the first loop, I began shaking my head as my hopes of having a competitive time (1:05) for the 40k turned to dust!

Then, a familiar thing happened. My disc cover sticker fell apart on one side. I remembered this happened in the Peterborough race. At first, its just annoying as the paper flaps about and hits the frame, so i thought “OK, its going to tear up and fly away in a bit, don’t worry”. But it didn’t, it proceded to knock my speed sensor out of the way and I was left with no speed readings. Still, no big deal...then it completely fell apart and rolled itself at the hub rubbing against the wheel. Did it provide additional resistance? Did it slow me down? For sure...but how much? Who knows. 

Before the sticker fell apart and things went pear shaped...

After 25 kms, I noticed my bike computer had paused on its own. Ah crap..the perils of relying on technology.  I had the “Auto Pause” on..which means my computer stops automatically if it doesn’t sense any speed from the wheel...and there was no way to adjust it unless i reset the workout. More mental frustration. It kept turning on and off spontaneously every time it sensed any sort of speed from my out-of-whack speed sensor.
Coupled with the headwind both ways, I lost touch with my legs between 25-35 kms.


 Lesson learnt: No more fancy wheel cover stickers for me. Unless they’re professionally done!

Mentally, i was a bit ticked off, but it didn’t bother me much, actually. What did bother me was that my power goal was 220W, and I was struggling to maintain 205W. My legs didn’t feel good in general, and I began to think whether I screwed up the first run and went too hard. Something which I never do. Still, during the bike ride, i didn’t know that the first run was actually 10.4 km, so i didn’t think much of it and got my mind ready for the run.
(In reality, I hadn’t come under my 40min goal on the run by just 8 seconds, it  was 8 seconds + the time it took to cover the extra 0.4 km = 100 seconds!!)

My actual riding time was 1:09:20, in headwind, an average of 34.6 km/hr, which is pretty pathetic considering I put out 205W (i.e. power is independant of wind). For reference, I went at 35.2 km/hr in a similar Welland 90km flat course on just 191W. In a “short” race like this, seconds matter and losing ~2-3 mins on just the bike leg is huge!

Distance: 39.5 kms
Time: 1:10:25 official time (1:09:13 moving time including mount/dismount run)
Moving Speed: 34.6 km/hr

My biking sucks! :(

Run 2

Racked my bike, changed my shoes and shot out of transition eager to make up some time. My legs felt ready to put down some hurt. Finally.
Onto the familiar first 1k uphill in headwind, I told myself to keep it in control and drop the hammer after 2.5 km. HR in check, I passed about 3-4 people here, and generally I looked in good shape compared to everyone around me. 

Just like Peterborough where I dropped my water bottle on the bike and picked it up on the run, I started looking at the side of the road for any indications of my cap that blew away in the first run. Yep, found it at the 1 km mark. Funny how this works!

Then I saw some random girl in black glasses cheering for me....took me a double-take to recognise it was Steph! “HI STEPH!”. Stephanie is my only connection to my high school life in Paris, and the only other person that made the trip to Carleton University from the cobbled streets of Paris. We’ve come a long way! Thanks, Steph!

Anyway, back to the race, at the little turnaround, the wind in my back and the slight downhill propelled me forward and I picked off 2 more people. After the aid station on the way back, I gulped some water –the-wrong-way and nearly choked on myself. I gave a low-five to spur on Adam Foley (a partner-in-crime) and set my sights on a particularly stocky and long-strided athlete from USA. It was tough but I caught him just before the last uphill with about 1 mile to go. On the uphill though, he managed to hold on to me and we picked off at least 5 more people here. Suddenly I was aware of a lot of huffing and puffing behind me. I snuck a look back to see me leading all these 6 people (mostly US athletes, and 1 from GB) trying their best to hang tight and reel me in.
Downhill time. This is where I win. I opened the taps and covered the next 1 km in 3:35 mins. And thoroughly crushed all ~4-6 people behind me. The crowds were deafening as I heard cheers from supporting Canadians:  “CATCH THEM, BAGGA!”. I saw 2 more Americans up ahead. One more surge. Success.

By now I was 150m from the finish and about to dry heave and coast home, then I hear this roaring cheer from 3-4 Team Canada girls (who had already finished their race), one of them being Garima! She recruited a cheering squad!! I surged one last time just not to disappoint them and crossed the mat with my hands in the air.

This last mile was the best part of the race, seriously. The reason I love this sport. To dig deep and come out of a dark place after nearly redlining for 2 hours is awesome. Even though none of the people I passed in that last mile were in my AG, we’re competing nonetheless.

We were warned that the last run loop was a bit longer than the first run loop due to the added length of the finishing chute, so it worked out to be 5.25 km. No big deal.

Distance: 5.25 kms
Time: 20:37 mins
Pace: 3:55 min/km (15.3 km/hr)

Overall Time:
Overall Place: 157 of 496
AG Place: 17 of 22 in (M25-29).

This was a crazy fast category. My 3:49 min/km pace in the first 10.4 km run only netted me 18/22 in my AG by the time I got on the bike. The wind hurt everyone, and I redeemed a couple of places in the last run . Humbing experience, for sure. Seriously...can’t you freakishly fast guys just turn pro and leave us “slow-pokes” alone so we can win SOMETHING?


Met up with Adam, Susie (his wife), Garima, and Garima’s cheering squad friend: Gill...and we shared our disappointment with the bike ride and exchanged our tales like war-time stories!

Then we took our bikes, went home to get refreshed and headed out to meet Steph and Kayla for a yummy Italian lunch (PIZZA, what else can you expect from me?! :D)

No matter how the race turned out, how well we placed in ranking, how fast or slow we did the race, this was an epic experience. Now hopefully I can convince Garima to write something up about her race...!

Keep pedaling.


  1. Great job man....Chak de Phatte!!!!
    And yeah, the cover sticker added my personal touch to the bike. I'm pissed that you didn't give me any credit for that.

  2. Oh no! That's totally true. Thank you Riddhi Takyar for your hard work and sweat in preparing me for this race! :D