Once a year, we get invited to a friend's cottage north of a small town called Havelock (well known for its massive country jamboree). Its about a two hour drive from Toronto. In the past, I've gotten Tammy to drop me off just outside of Peterborough and I ride about 75 km to the cottage. The last 2.5 km is on a fire route road through the forest which is basically a unpaved road with crushed gravel and hard packed sand. I hate riding on it because its twisty and windy with lots of blind curves. Other cottagers generally drive very fast and I'm always worried I'll get hit. The other reason is the black flies and mosquitoes are brutal. I can't ride fast and get swarmed. I ride up and down the hills with one hand steering and the other hand swatting the bugs away aka the Aussie Salute (if you've ever been to the Australian Outback, you'll know what I mean). This year I skipped that ride as I ran 18 km before we left but would ride the next day.
Over the years, I've noticed my wetsuit get smaller and smaller. When I bought it used, I weighed about 168 pounds and now I'm about 10 pounds heavier with no chance of losing it by race day. Also its old and has small tears in it and...........I wanted a new one. So I ordered a new one online from Xterra. A search on Slowtwitch showed that this was a pretty good value for the buck and there was a thread with various discounts using different codes. I opted for the second level wetsuit rather than the entry level. Using their "interactive sizing chart" I ordered a medium. The website said there was a delay in shipping as they were backlogged which I was fine with as they had a 30 day return policy. Given the crappy spring, it might be awhile before I get to try it out in open water. Later I was telling Mike A about the wetsuit and he ordered one last year. He said they were smaller than what the sizing chart indicated. He had lots of problems but since he already cut the sleeves and legs, he could not return it. I sent an email to Xterra to upgrade my size to a medium-large. That was good for those who were up to 193 pounds. Perfect, I'm 180 pounds and with luck, I'll be five pounds lighter come race day.
Several weeks later, I received my package. I went to pick it up but left it for a couple of more weeks. With the Canada Day holiday coming up, I figured I'd better try it on. So one night I tried to put it on and it was unbelievably tight. I could barely get my legs in. Sweat was pouring down my face as I struggled to put it on for over 45 minutes. Rebecca said I looked........P-H-A-T. I shipped it back and ordered a large (for those up to 209 pounds). A week and a half later, I received another package and this time I didn't wait around and tried it on the next day. It was still a struggle but I got it on. I called Xterra's help desk and they said it should fit. It would expand about half a size once I got in the water.
We got up to the cottage Saturday around 12 pm and I toyed with the idea of going for a swim but decided I better not due to, ahem, family logistics, and opted for a swim the next morning followed by a three hour bike into town and back. An open water swim/bike brick is a lot harder to do than the traditional bike/run brick simply due to logistics. One problem with an open water swim is that I don't feel comfortable swimming by myself. When I'm up at Scott's cottage, he usually paddles in the canoe beside me to avoid getting run over by the jet skis and power boats on the lake. Scott's cottage is on the water and on the other side is an island which is one mile long. Perfect. So swimming around the island would be about 3.5 km (turned out to be 4.2 km). I've swam several times in this lake but never around the island.
The next morning we set out around 8:30 am (later than I would have liked) as the sun was up and it was getting warm. The thermometer said the water temperature was 80 degrees F and I was more than comfortable in the wetsuit. Now I know why there is a temperature cutoff for wetsuits in races. The wetsuit felt great as it did expand giving me a little more room and it was very buoyant. I swam down the side of the island and I my sighting was pretty good (therefore swimming straight). It felt like a fast swim probably because of the current. Making a sharp short turn, I began swimming up the other side of the island. About half way up, I began to notice the back of my neck was getting sore. I forgot to bring Body Glide and the suit was rubbing my neck raw. Also it felt like the water temperature was warmer. I began to tire and stopped several times to gain my bearings. It was harder to see the next turn from water level. By the time I made the second turn I was getting really tired. My swim workouts have only been 3,000 meters and this was a lot longer. I finally finished in 1:24 (2:00/100 m) and my neck was raw.
A slow transition on to the bike and I started riding down the fire route all the while trying to ride with one hand up and down the hills and swatting away the bikes. Going down one bumpy hill, my water bottle popped out and I had to turn around and retrieve it. Instantaneously, I was attacked by black flies, deer flies and mosquitoes. Finally after what seemed like 30 minutes of riding 2.5 km, I made it to the highway and turned towards town (30 km away) right into a hot, stiff headwind. Well at least the bugs were gone. I've done this ride several times and was pretty uneventful with holiday traffic not all that busy. I rode by lots of dead animals that were half eaten and had lots of flies on it. Most people gave a wide berth when passing me as there was almost no shoulder. I was almost at the town when this one guy backing out of his driveway almost hit me and then roared by very close. I gave him the finger and he stopped in the middle of the road and got out of the car yelling at me. I yelled back as I rode around him "you should drive closer to me" and he did when he drove by again. I probably could have touched his car as drove by even closer. I almost lost my balance and rode into the gravel shoulder which would have been a nasty spill. The ride home was uneventful other than it was uphill and I got swarmed by the bugs when I was climbing but at least I had a tailwind. I hit the fire route for the last 2.5 km and got swarmed again. This time I didn't lose any water bottles. Hot and sweaty, I jumped into the cool lake water only to have my neck burn when I hit the water. I forgot about rug burn from the wetsuit. Later I put some cream on my neck and it burned even more. Lesson learned...don't forget Body Glide
The next day I was still tired and only managed about 1,800 meters for 34 minutes. I was in no mood for another swim around the island. I used cooking oil to protect my neck. It helped a bit.
Hard to believe there's only 44 days to go.
There's a rumor floating around that on August 30, 2015 there will be Ironman Muskoka. Word has it the bike course will be two loops of the existing Half Ironman bike course which make it one of the most difficult bike courses in all of North America. The temptation to sign up for another Ironman is very powerful.