A Great Day in Sydenham!

The weather was perfect and everything went according to plan at Sydenham! We’ve had some great feedback from the race including this race report written by local triathlete and coach Alan Dempsey.. 

I’ve done a number of Somersault’s event in the past few years but never got around to checking out Sydenham until this year. I’d never actually been to that area before. I’ve been to Kingston and driven along that stretch of the 401 dozens of times over the years but I’ve never actually been through any of the towns in that area. It’s beautiful there! If you take the backroads from Ottawa, you’ll be blown away by how incredible it is –I think I want to move to Westport. 

I think what I liked most about Sydenham was how low-key it is. It’s not a small race by any stretch but because of where it is and how it’s setup, it’s very low-key. It’s impossible to be stressed out or feel nervous before Sydenham. Between the scenic drive to Sydenham, the friendly volunteers, seeing the sun come up over the lake next to transition.. it’s impossible to be stressed or nervous before this race. It’s such a relaxed atmosphere. 

The swim isn’t what I expected. I was skeptical about a 3-loop course (for the Olympic) but I think I actually preferred it. It’s such a psychological drain when you’re in a 1500m swim that takes you way out there and back. You make that last turn back toward shore and it feels like you’re miles away. Sydenham is nice because the loop is short, so it feels fast, but when you come around the last buoy on your final loop, the exit is right there! And because the loop is right off the point, you can hear people cheering and actually see them the entire time you’re swimming, that was a new experience. 

Anyway, as for my race, I was hoping to be in the front pack of swimmers at Sydenham but it wasn’t in the cards. One thing I don’t have is a good hard push in the water. When the faster swimmers put in that huge effort at the start, I can never keep pace. They put in a 30m gap or so on me in the first 500m and I was stuck in limbo chasing them down. I came out of the water in 8th place. At Sydenham it’s a bit of a jog into transition, but I actually prefer that. I find the longer the run into transition the more time I have to take a few breathes and get my heart rate down and find my balance. 

The bike course at Sydenham is a bit of a beast. I’d done a virtual recon of the course using Google Street View, and it looked pancake flat. It’s not. Not at the start. You have to punch up a couple of big hills right out of transition. Once you’re out on the main road, it becomes a little easier to fall into a nice rhythm over the rollers. It’s by no means the hilliest or toughest course I’ve ever done, but it’s not flat like the Nat Cap or Canadian. 

What I do really like is out-and-backs, especially when there are multiple loops. It’s easy to gauge your time gap to the people in front of you. I’m used to having the fastest bike splits as Somersault Events but Sydenham apparently attracts some tough competition. I managed to catch all but two people on the bike. 

I would have probably really loved the run course if it weren’t for some blister issues I had going into the race. I wasted a good few minutes sitting on the grass outside transition trying to adjust my shoes for the least pain. That being said, the run course is beautiful. And it’s simple enough to follow. Just run straight for a long time and turn around. There were a few sections where there were no pylons or marshals –they weren’t really needed because there’s nowhere else to go. This gave the race a really unique feel. You’re out there with other people all wearing race bibs, but you’re just running along a scenic path. It’s probably one of the quietest runs I’ve ever done. All you can hear is the sound of breathing and dirt and gravel crushing under feet. 

Now remember when I said the course was simple? Myself and one other competitor have the distinction of being the only people to get lost at Sydenham. Despite a row of pylons clearly directing us, we were in a groove trading pulls and we just ran right by them. So my 10K run became 11K. When we realized what we had done we turned around. I had all but given up any hope of catching the leaders, but my running partner (Maia?) didn’t flinch. She looked at her watch and declared, “I can still win this” and she was gone. I think she came second overall in the end. 

I had to get passed by a few people before my ego finally forced me to get my butt moving and take back some of the placing I’d gained on the bike and lost during my detour. I LOVE the track finish at Sydenham. It’s like the Paris-Roubaix of triathlon. The trail run is like the cobbles and then you get to race the final few hundred meters along the track. Maybe they can add a couple laps of the track before finishing for some added excitement? Overall I had good race and I had ton of fun. And that’s what Somersault is all about anyway; fun. And lot’s of it. 

I will definitely be back again next year for Sydenham. So far it’s been my favourite Somersault Event. Though I haven’t had the pleasure of running through the Brockville Railway Tunnel at the Thousand Islands event…. 

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