Gravenhurst Triathlon – 2023 Olympic Race Report

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Last Updated on August 23, 2023 by Cory Kawa

It’s been a great summer filled with lots of training, racing, and family adventures. With that, I’ve gathered tons of great content, and the blog has nothing to show for it.

The days are getting shorter, and it’s time to turn back the clock and look back on 2023 so far.

Let’s start by going back eleven weeks to my first triathlon of the season, the MultiSport Canada Gravenhurst Triathlon, 2023 Olympic edition, and my first attempt at Challenging for the Podium in 2023.

Gravenhust Olympic Overview

A comically oversized muskoka chair at the Saw Dust City Brewing in Gravenhurst.

With this being my fourth timing racing the Gravenhurst Triathlon, I’ve officially raced it more than any other Olympic race.

Why do I keep coming back? I love this race for a few simple reasons:

🚢 – The swim starts by riding out on then jumping off of a historic steamship. That’s it. That’s the reason right there.

🌄 – MultiSport Canada puts on a great race, and the bike and run course both feature a variety of gentle rollers, enough to keep it interesting but nothing too technical to spoil the day.

🍺 – Sawdust City Brewing, located in downtown Gravenhurst, has some great sour beers, an excellent way to sit back and enjoy a successful race.

If you haven’t done Gravenhurst before, you should add it to your bucket list, but watch out because this one has been known to sell out early.

Past Performances at Gravenhurst

Having raced Gravenhurst three times prior, I had some data points to leverage when setting my goals:

  • 2022 – 2:43:33 – Age Group 7/20 – Swim 37:03, T1 2:12, Bike 1:14:32, T2 2:04, Run 47:42
  • 2021 – 2:45:13 – Age Group 23/32 – Swim 36:42, T1 2:40, Bike 1:17:06, T2 1:10, Run 47:33
  • 2017 – 3:10:43 – Age Group 24/25 – Swim 33:48, T1 18:45, Bike 1:23:07, T2 2:14, Run 52:49

Looking into the results, there are a few anomalies to point out. My swim last year was three minutes long as I had to stop for a washroom break before hitting transition, and in 2017, my tire blew while out on the swim, leading to my all-time worst T1.

Goal for the 2023 Gravenhurst Triathlon

My goal for the season is simple: To make it to the podium at least once in 2023.

My goal for this race is to get my bearings, make the top 5, and see a good progression across the various disciplines by:

  • 🏊🏻‍♂️ – Swimming 32 minutes or better.
  • 🚵🏻‍♂️ – Biking 1:10.
  • 🏃🏻‍♂️ – Running sub 45 minutes.
  • 🧩 – Keeping my total time in transition below 5 minutes.
  • 🏁 – Finishing in 2:32 or better.

Steamboat Swim – 9/23 – 33:48

Swimmers approaching the dock at the 2023 Gravenhurst triathlon.
Still Waiting for a Picture of Me Swimming at an MSC Event

My swim goal is admittedly a little ambitious. Although my training has been going well overall, my swimming has not. With an average of 3km of swimming a month over the last seven months, I don’t even really deserve to call myself a triathlete.

Despite all that, I had a perfectly acceptable swim. I stayed on course and sighted well, only extending the course by 27 meters, on my way to a watch time finish of 30:48 before the run back to transition and pre-transition washroom break.

It only makes me wonder how much better I could be with even a modest amount of swim training.

Top Male 45-49 Swim Times: Steve Good – 25:17, Will Newell – 27:45, Michael Telpner – 28:24, Corby Purdy – 29:38, Philip Pelletier – 29:38.

Bike – 10/23 – 1:11:29

Riding in aero along the Gardiner Expressway.
With No Pics From the Bike, I Present my Stock Bike Photo for 2023

Since completing my first triathlon in 2017, I’ve been riding a road bike set up with Redshift Sports Aerobars and the Redshift Sports Dual Position Seatpost. This setup hasn’t been the most comfortable, but it has worked well for me.

After hiring my coach, Roger Hospedales, of PR Endurance Training last year and setting the lofty goal of making the podium this year, I decided to treat myself to a brand new Argon 18 e117 setup with a set of carbon race wheels.

My training has been going well, and my expectations were high.

Last year, I biked 1:14:32, averaging 32.5km/h, at 177 watts, or 186 normalized.

My goal this year was to average 200 watts and break 1:10, anticipating some additional gains from the new bike and carbon wheels.

I’m proud to say I hit my power target, averaging 204 watts.

I’m equally disappointed that although I comfortably stayed aero and with little wind to slow me down, I just didn’t get the result I was hoping for. Final bike split of 1:11:29 (33.6km/h) or 1:10:23 (34.1 km/h) watch time as measured from bike mount/dismount.

As I write this eleven weeks later, I’ll leave you with this. If you are new to triathlon, here’s my advice.

1️⃣ – Invest in a set of aero bars and a dual-position seat post, or at least set your seat up for aero. Getting aero on your existing setup will give you the biggest price-to-value gain by far. I never got a bike fit with this setup and never truly got comfortable, especially when doing a 70.3. A bike fit would probably be a great idea.

2️⃣ – Hire a coach. Let the experts do what they do best, so all you have to do is put your head down and train. In the 13 months of having a coach, I’ve gone from thinking my best days were behind me to setting PRs in the half-marathon, marathon, Olympic, and 70.3, possibly even qualifying for The Boston Marathon along the way.

3️⃣ – Only now that you’re aero and have the training locked down is it time to consider a triathlon bike, especially if you are targeting 70.3 or longer distances where comfort is king.

Top Male 45-49 Bike Times: Steve Good – 59:44, Michael Telpner – 1:04:54, Will Newell – 1:07:14, Lucas Nosworthy – 1:08:38, Aaron Nelson – 1:09:17.

Run – 3/23 – 46:44

Feeling the hurt while running the Gravenhurst Olympic triathlon.
Third Best Run Split for M 45-49 at Gravenhurst Olympic Triathlon

At ten and a half kilometres, it ran long.

Coming off a personal best half marathon at the Toronto Marathon a month prior, I felt running sub 45 with a pace of 4:30 or better should be easily achievable.

It wasn’t easy, but it was achievable, with a final pace of 4:27, finishing in 46:44.

I don’t recall much from it. I know I came out fast for the first km, then settled into a nice and steady pace before putting in a good kick for the last mile or so.

The best part of being a natural runner, and I know I probably shouldn’t be saying this, is that when everyone else is fading, I’m finding my groove, gaining extra motivation as I pass people along the way.

Top run times of the day: Steve Good – 43:19, Will Newell – 46:05, Cory Kawa – 46:44, Daniel Rethazy – 47:12, Michael Telpner – 48:55.

Transition – 5:32

A crowd of people listen to the pre-race briefing in transition.
Listening to the Pre-Race Briefing in Transition

With a total time of 5:32, it wasn’t awful.

At 3:18, I had a slow T1, where I most likely struggled to get out of my wetsuit, followed by a 2:14 in T2.

As I’ll detail more in my future posts, transitions have been another blind spot for me. I’ve had some terrible experiences this year, including not knowing where the run out was, discovering my shoes were tied tight and I couldn’t untie them, wasting time trying to calibrate my power meter, and struggling with my wetsuit.

Lesson learned but not followed: When every second counts, you must practice your transitions.

Final Result – 6/23 – 2:37:33

Holding my bike up in a victory pose after completing the 2023 Gravenhurst triathlon.
6/23 (M 45-49) at Gravenhurst Olympic Triathlon in 2023

I feel this was a bit of a mixed bag.

I set a new Gravenhurst PR and raced six minutes faster than last time. I had a great run, but my swim and bike splits are a work in progress.

I love the new bike. It’s way more comfortable, but the improvements in time all seemed to be driven by my increased FTP. Time will tell if it’s money well spent.

For reference: Fourth place finished in 2:32:33, a full eight minutes back of 3rd, who finished in 2:24:3.

Top times of the day: Steve Good – 2:10:32, Will Newell – 2:22:51, Michael Telpner – 2:24:38, Lucas Nosworthy – 2:32:33, Corby Purdy 2:33:57.

Gravenhurst Triathlon Final Thoughts

Goals are great, but we don’t race in a vacuum. Achieving my lofty goals will take perfecting my craft across all four disciplines.

Although a top 3 finish was well out of my reach today, with a few minor improvements, a top 4 was not.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again… with a swim start off of a steamboat, the Gravenhurst Triathlon is a race like no other.

Thanks for reading,

Cory

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