August 14th to 15th, 2021
Tennis Canada Aviva Centre and Welland Canal
This past weekend felt more like the 'good old days' (e.g., pre-pandemic times) than probably any weekend since early March of 2020. I got to watch and witness athletic greatness in person, did a small 'staycation' of sorts in the Golden Horseshoe and capped it off with a solid performance at my first in-person, non-virtual swimming competition of the year.
I got a double-dose of athletic greatness while attending the semi-finals (Saturday) and finals (Sunday) of the men's ATP tour event, the National Bank Open at the Aviva Tennis Centre on the York University campus:
Not only did I get to see studs like Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev and John Isner, but also watched a young American, Reilly Opelka, power and finesse his way to his first ATP 1000 tour final. The only thing that could have been better would have been if we were sitting in the section on Sunday where Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist Damian Warner was! I honestly think the Standing Ovation he got was bigger than any of the winners of any of the tennis matches this weekend.
After a late Saturday night semi-final, I wasn't expecting to perform very well at Sunday morning's Canaqua Sports Welland Canal 5K, but was excited to just get out and race. My wife and I popped into a hotel in Hamilton after the tennis Saturday night so that I could be closer to the swim location, and she could have breakfast with our daughter while I raced.
The race setting was absolutely perfect, if even a bit warm for my taste:
The combination of the sun, the trees providing some shade, almost no water chop and the big bright buoys made for an absolutely perfect course for sighting. The 1KM loop was setup as a double-diamond, with a single buoy at each end and two buoys at the mid-point, allowing me to swim a perfect ellipse.
I had an intention when I started the race to try to descend the 500s, or, at a minimum, start smoother and try to generally get faster. With no actual approximation of the stud men from the Tokyo Olympics 10K, I tried to visualize and mimic the perfect stroke of gold medalist Florian Wellbrock through the first half of the race ... and then devolved over the rest of the race so that, by the end, I probably looked like my 12 year old the first time I swam a 1500 meter long course race ;)
I actually felt great and controlled through the first two laps and then got a jolt of energy when I saw that I was catching one swimmer who had gone out faster than me. In hindsight, I then pushed the fifth 500 too hard, aiming to get far enough beyond that swimmer so that she couldn't draft from me!
I also made an error, I believe, by not slipping a sports gel in my suit as I started to feel a 'bonk' coming on during my 4th lap. My splits definitely showed that and I noticed that same swimmer catching back up as I rounded the close of the 4KM mark. I managed to push through the 4000-4500 mark to stay sufficiently far ahead that there was no 'sprint to the finish,' but I was clearly wasted as I limped and loped to the finish line, second overall (to an 18 year old man), exhausted but endorphin-rich and high on life.
All-in-all, a fantastic weekend.