Barrelman was, without a doubt, the highlight of my 2014 season. Treated as my “A” race, I planned on exploring my limits on the bike to determine how much I could suffer and for how long. This would be treated as a pure 90k TT on fresh legs. Being a Bike/Run event there was no initial run to deplete my resources. The run off the bike…well, I would deal with that when I got there.
The morning of the race had me a little nervous as I’m always leery of wet roads and the possibility of crashing. The winds, on the other hand, were nothing new to someone who trains in Windsor-Essex County. If anything, I believed that although my average speed would suffer in the first 30k, it should allow me the opportunity to position myself well for the last 60k where the wind should be my friend.
Awaiting the start of the race was a little unnerving, as I watched so many triathletes transition to the bike ahead of me. I am confident in my abilities to push the pace on the bike, but it’s not fun starting from the back of the pack and one of several reasons I don’t do triathlons. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and I was off, merging into the sea of triathletes. I was surprised that in the 1st couple kms, with a somewhat congested bike course, there was such an aggressive surge by a few of the competitors. I was certain the race wasn’t going to be won or lost at this point. It wasn’t long (I believe the first small climb) that I graciously advised them “PASSING ON YOUR LEFT!” The small things that amuse me….
The first 30k was a real battle with the wind, as my 150lb frame struggled to stay up right. I knew that if I could keep a conservative and consistent effort, I would be rewarded in the final stages of the bike. If Windsor-Essex County winds have taught me anything, it is to remain patient. I will say this though: I was a little bit surprised to see how rapidly I was moving through the pack under far from ideal conditions – a definite confidence builder for sure.
Approximately 35k in, I experienced my first glitch. Multi-tasking isn’t my strongest suit (unless this is a job interview), or maybe it was just the lack of oxygen to my brain, but I decided to take in some calories. I proceeded to open a gel pack and not wanting to litter on the course, put the tab from the gel away. Returning my attention to my right hand, I had inadvertently squeezed the package causing the Mocha flavor gel to erupt all over my hand. What a sticky mess! Let me say, there is nothing gracious about how someone consumes a gel when it’s all over your hand. I must have taken my foot off the gas for a moment when I heard those dreaded words: ”On Your Left”. Not on your life! Yes, I let him pass me – then I refocused, put the gel pack away, and (with my right hand solidly glued to the shifter) made a decisive pass.
At this point, the sun was out and I was tapping out the pedal strokes. A quick glance behind, no one in sight and no one on the horizon – keep pushing! If I had any question whether I was pushing my limits – confirmation was provided for me in the form of an unannounced emptying of my stomach – Mocha…like I didn’t already have enough on me. Feeling somewhat better, I soldiered on, only to reset my Cateye computer accidently around the 60k mark. Unfortunately, I do not have a powermeter and resort to a somewhat primitive form of measuring output – speed, cadence and effort. Not really scientific but it’s all my current budget can afford. No biggie…just keep pushing until the body says “I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain!”
The last 30k was somewhat uneventful. With my nose running (seasonal allergies), I started to notice that my body was beginning to wear down. The mental focus to hold a consistent effort became an uphill battle and I began to fear what was inevitable – a pain filled 21.1k run. I took my 2nd gel without issue and consumed my fluids in preparation for what was to come. I finished the bike in a time of 2:24:24 for the 92.5k distance, an average speed of 38.4k/hr and good enough for the 7th fastest bike split of the day (tri & run/bike). As expected, the first 35k averaged 34.5k/hr with the remaining 57.5k at a strong 41.3k/hr.
I entered transition somewhat disoriented and really needing to blow my nose (funny sometimes how your mind works when it is being pushed past its comfort zone). Everything is kind of a blur but I was confident I was having a good race when I arrived to a nearly empty transition zone (maybe 10 bikes were racked). Now, my wife and über support crew Dianne had warned me about what would happen if I knotted my run bag before the race, and as is usually the case…she was right. I couldn’t get it open for the life of me, so I resorted to trying to rip the bag open – apparently I need a little more upper body strength. Needless to say my transition was far from smooth. I’m not certain if it was (a) the confidence that I had put together a solid bike or (b) the fear of what was to come, but I remained calm and headed out on the run.
I’ve run 100k ultra trail race before, and the pain and spasms I felt 1k into the run were comparable. This was going to be nothing more than a one-foot in front of the other ordeal. My watch for the run couldn’t locate a GPS signal and once again no data. No biggie…I’m certain the feedback would have been anything but positive and at this point I was in no shape to challenge the data. The course was much more challenging than first anticipated and I chose to speed walk the “mountain” at approximately 3k to consume a gel and conserve some energy for the remainder of the race.
Running/slogging/shuffling past the Falls twice was a memorable experience. I will admit that on the first lap, I was honestly trying to locate the “misting station” that had been set-up – I figured John Salt had thought of everything! It took me second though to realize that I was actually running by the base of the Falls. It was without a doubt the highlight of the run (that and the finish line) as the temperatures were starting to rise. I crossed the finish line in a time of 4:01:37 for a 1st place finish and, despite struggling on the run, the 10th fastest run time of the day in 1:34:51!
This race was all about the bike, an opportunity to compare myself against a competitive field. I truly believe that in order to achieve greatness one must push their limits. Sure, you may blow up…but you may be also amazed with the end result. When I told my 12 year old son Dakota that I vomited on the bike, his reply was, “but it was worth it!” Yes it was…yes it was!
I’d like to thank my wife Dianne for all her support, Cycle Culture and 3sixty5 Cycling for all my cycling needs, Nick Dwyer for teaching me how to suffer, Community Chiropractic Center (Dr. Todd Small & Dr. Sarah Dale) and Tecumseh Massage Therapy Clinic (Geoff Astles, RMT) for their on-going support in keeping me healthy. Thanks also to Multisport Canada for hosting this race and always listening to the needs of Duathletes. And last but not least my son Dakota Flacks, who inspires me to be the best I can be.
“Every race is a good race Dad – as long as you bike/run your fastest, try your hardest and never give up!” Dakota Flacks (age 5).