Welland Half Iron Tri Race Report – Part 3

We started with the swim and left off with the bike. On to the final leg…

As relieved as I was to be off my bike, I was less than thrilled at the thought of running a half marathon. It was mid-day, warm and sunny (though thankfully the temperature only got up to around 24C/75F) and I was tired. But, there was only one thing to do: run!

There had been some changes to the course due to construction, which meant they had to add a short out and back at the very beginning; I was glad they decided to have us do this first and not at the end!

First things first, I had to pee! I ducked into the first port-o-potty I saw, which was just past the 1K mark.

We were running primarily on paved park paths along the canal and the route was a double out-and-back, which was great for people-watching and also helped break up the run nicely. There was also shade for the majority of the route and a light breeze in one direction, which helped keep the mid-day run more comfortable.

I chatted with people occasionally when passing and being passed. I was excited when I caught up to Geo (who had crushed the bike!) although I came up beside him and mumbled “Too tired for talking.” Apparently his presence gave me a second wind, because I proceeded to chat his ear off for a couple of minutes. So much for too tired! I eventually wished him well and had to get on my way, but looked forward to seeing him again at the turn-around. It’s amazing what a boost I get from seeing a familiar, smiling face.

My pace slowed in the second half of the run, but I was pretty sure I was still within my goal range. I had not allowed myself to pay any attention to overall time (nor had I been doing the math in my head) because I wanted to focus on one thing at a time. With 5K to go, I decided to scroll to the next screen on my Garmin for a peak. It read 4:44 and I was shocked. I couldn’t believe I was on track for a sub-5:15. It was a struggle to keep moving at this point (and I had started sneaking in a short walk break here and there), but keeping this number in the back of my mind helped me find some mojo to hold on.

With 3 or 4K to go I ended up running with a guy whom I’d been leap-frogging for most of my second loop (he was on his first). He recognized my foot steps coming up behind him and asked, “Is that Pink Tank Top again?” We ran side by side for a while and started chatting. This kept me going through a tough stretch, and prevented me from walking. I made a deal with myself that I could walk once he made the turn-around to head off for the second loop (which was around 19K for me). He slowed down for the water table shortly before so we wished each other well and I carried on… and slowed for a brief walk. Then from behind me I heard: “You’re almost there! Get going, girl!” Ha! I was busted, but it was just what I needed. No more walking – on to the finish line!

I could hear the crowds before I could see the finish, but I knew I was so close. A few hundred metres later, I spotted (and heard!) Erin and Hailey cheering like crazy and I was actually in disbelief that I was done, and that I was seeing 5:13:XX on the clock ahead. I hollered “That was so hard!” as I ran by.

21.1 KM (13.1 mi) – 1:54:16 – 5:25/KM (8:43/mi)
8/15 F30-34, 155/403 overall

Official Stats:

6/15 F30-34
24/135 females
132/403 overall

Post-race reflections to follow…

Welland Half Iron Tri Race Report – Part 2

Here’s where we left off with the swim.

Bike – 90K (56 mi) 

It was fun to get on the bike, although slightly overwhelming to think of the distance that lay ahead. During the swim, all I was able to think about was the swim. Now it was easier for my thoughts to get carried away knowing I had so far to ride (and then run). I pep-talked myself into staying in the moment, to focus on what I was doing right now and that’s it.

First things first, I made sure to take in a good amount of fluid since I had not had any since before the start. Then I had to settle into the ride, finding my position and (hopefully) some open road. Right away I could tell that it was not going to be a comfortable ride. Rather than resting my elbows on the aero pads in the usual position, I had to pull back by several inches in order to keep pressure off my bad spot. It was immediately uncomfortable for my back and I also found that my knees were then touching my elbows with every stroke. Sitting slightly farther back on the seat seemed to help with that, but it was not exactly the best way to go into such a long ride. I willed myself not to dwell on it, and instead focused on what I could control – monitoring my speed/exertion and taking in nutrition/hydration on schedule.

I should mention that this was my first time taking in nutrition or reaching down for a water bottle on the bike while riding. On training rides, I have always done so only when stopped since I am too nervous to take a hand off the bike. I was counting on the race environment taking care of my nerves, and it seemed to work. I didn’t have too much of an issue, but definitely need to start practicing this on all rides so it becomes easier.

As usual, I had a lot of people to pass from the get-go. It was pretty crowded and people were riding in clusters or lines all over the place (drafting illegally!). It was driving me crazy and made it very difficult to pass. Unfortunately this continued for the duration of the race. I leap-frogged with a few groups in particular several times and I was constantly paranoid about getting dinged for drafting even though I was trying to keep out of it. So frustrating! (I found out later that over 70 drafting penalties were given – good to know that everyone was not getting away with it.)

Other than that, I was enjoying the ride. It was a scenic route on quiet country roads. They were open to traffic but I encountered very few vehicles and all intersections were well controlled by police. It was also pancake flat, which was great for me especially since I could not easily reach my gears in my modified position. I was in “cruise control” mode for most of the race (aside from passing) and maintaining a steady effort. I switched my bike computer to show average speed only and it stayed between 34.2 and 34.7 (KPH) for the entire ride.

During the first half of the ride, I had a string if mishaps including:

  • disposable bottle got stuck in the cover of my aero bottle during a refill, pulling it off and sending it flying
  •  right shoe came undone and despite trying to fix it several times while riding, I could not get it right. (honestly, how do people put their shoes on and take them off while in motion on the bike??)
  • hit a bad pothole, which sent my taped-on gels flying and popped open my rear storage box, sending my repair stuff flying as well

I was still able to drink from the aero bottle; it just meant that I had no splash protection, but this was manageable. I could tolerate the loose shoe situation. I was riding with the lid of my rear storage box hanging down and knocking my wheel or shoe occasionally. More than one cyclist pointed it out and I thanked them, but I didn’t want to stop until the aid station. At this point, my biggest concern was having no more nutrition and being only half way through the ride. An aid station came up around 60K so I pulled over, quickly closed my box, grabbed a water refill and two gels then got on my way.

Thankfully, the rest of the ride was uneventful. I had a lot more space in the later miles and often rode quite a distance without seeing another cyclist, which was okay by me. I liked having the opportunity to zone out a little bit. That being said, I found the ride to be very mentally exhausting. It’s tough staying so focused and sharp for so long, which is essential for safety reasons. I found the ride to be much more demanding on my mind than my body and for that reason in particular, I was ready to get off the bike.

I had another clumsy moment after dismounting, running around a sharp corner into transition where I tripped and nearly dropped my bike. Whoops! There was a collective gasp from the crowd waiting in the area. I just wanted to give them some excitement. 😉

90K (56 mi) – 2:36:53 – 34.4 KPH (21.4 mph)
3/15 F30-34, 119/403 overall

Nutrition/hydration notes:

  • Calories consumed: 700 (2 pkg Shot Bloks, 3 Gu) + 100 in T1 (1/2 waffle)
  • Salt Stick caps (stats): 1 (planned 2 during ride but lost 1) + 1 in T1
  • h2o: ~80 oz

I ran to rack my bike and noticed that transition was still looking pretty bare, which was a good feeling. Racked the bike, helmet off, swap shoes, grab handheld and off I went!

T2 = 1:00

Meanwhile, Hubs and Miles were having an exhausting day themselves…

Next up: the run!

Welland Half Iron Tri Race Report – Part 1


We had a 4am wake-up for the 2-hour drive to Welland on Sunday morning. Miles had to sit up front with me again since my bike and gear were occupying the entire back seat. Thank you Kong for keeping him occupied until he eventually decided to go back to sleep.

We found parking and met up with Erin and Hailey before heading to transition to rack the bike and set up. I was really nervous but also excited as we went through the motions of kit pick-up, body-marking, etc.

We had some time to scope out the site a little bit. At least it wasn’t raining this time so we didn’t have to hide out in the car. We ran into Geo too and chatted about the race as time ticked by. It’s amazing how fast time passes before a tri (we arrived two hours before the start) – there is just so much to do to get ready!

I used a combination of New Skin spray and waterproof adhesive bandages to cover up my booboo (which hurt like **** with the lightest contact, ouch!) and hoped for the best.

Before long it was time for the pre-race meeting and a final pit stop before heading down to the canal to suit up and get in the water. (Water temp had dropped to low 70s after a storm and cold front – nearly everyone wore wetsuits.)

It was a deep-water start so we waited until there were a couple of minutes to go, then paddled into position to wait for the start. Erin gave me a quick pep talk that this was MY race and nobody else’s race was more important than mine. She told me to fight back and not take any crap. Got it! Thanks Erin!


Swim – 2000m

The swim was a large rectangular route in the canal, where we had a 70m wide “start line” tapering to a 10m “lane” along the shore. This was my first mass-start experience (almost 500 swimmers) and it was chaotic, to say the least. I was jostled and toppled and pummeled for almost the entire first half before I was able to get some space. It was nuts and I found that a lot of the men were very aggressive.

Video courtesy of Hailey:

The turns were an absolute nightmare with people all over each other and I could feel people pushing me down more than once. On top of that, I was paranoid about my elbow being bopped, so I was swimming very defensively and trying to protect it. I breathed only to my right side so I could see if anyone was getting too close on that said and move to protect my arm.

Things were a little better along the straight ~1000m stretch on the opposite side of the canal; I finally felt like I had some room and could swim without people all over me. I got into a bit of a groove, but all I could think was “This is so long!” I had never swam this distance in open water before, or even continuously in the pool, so it’s definitely something I’d like to work on over the summer.

It became pretty clustered again around the next turns, but then it felt great to be on the way to the finish. I could hear cheering at the swim exit for several minutes, which was awesome.

Once I made it, there was a big step out of the canal; luckily they had volunteers there to help pull us out. I had a little stumble once I was upright, but caught myself. Phew!

2000m – 38:24 – 1:55/100m
6/15 F30-34, 166/403 overall

We had a long run (~350m) mostly on sidewalk into transition. I peeled down the top half of my wetsuit and removed my cap & goggles along the way. Once in transition, I yanked off the rest of my suit, tossed swim gear to the side, threw a tank top on, scarfed a Honey Stinger waffle + salt pill, helmet on, race belt, socks + shoes, grab bike and go!

Run Up: 1:37
T1: 1:52

Meanwhile, Miles was having a little snooze with his head resting on the curb…

Up next, the bike…

Well this wasn’t part of my race plan…

This morning I rode to work on my hybrid, taking it extra easy on purpose with my race coming up this weekend. I made it nearly 18 miles without incident, until I decided to pull into the gas station across from work to grab a chocolate milk. My wheel got stuck in a rut near the curb as I was turning, and I went down in an instant.

Fortunately I had slowed right down to turn so it really wasn’t a bad fall, except that I landed hard on my right elbow. It hurt like a &%^$# and for a second, I was worried I had done some serious damage. Once I was able to stand up, I realized it was just badly banged up (phew) but it was gouged up and very bloody.

I got myself and my bike up, picked up the busted front reflector and started pushing my bike towards work. (Meanwhile, more than one on-looker in the gas station continued to stare and not one person asked if I was okay or offered a hand. Thanks a lot, folks.)

I wiped some of the blood that was dripping down my arm onto my shirt, so I must have been quite a sight walking into the office. Two of my bosses were the first to see me and quickly sat me down because apparently I looked wobbly and pale. I seemed to have gotten myself worked up during my short walk after the accident and combined with adrenaline, it was making me woozy. I’m also pretty squeamish with blood and cuts, so I was afraid to even look at my elbow. (I’m an admitted wimp!)

They sat me down, dug out the first aid kit and got me all cleaned up. After sitting down for a few minutes and getting bandages on my arm, I started feeling “normal” again and was able to get changed and freshened up. I had to change the dressings several times because it kept bleeding through. It pretty much bled until the end of the work day. :/

It doesn’t feel too bad except for the sting, but I’m really worried about swimming and cycling (leaning on aero bars? ack!) on Sunday. Goals are most likely out the window – I still plan to do my best, but I have no idea how uncomfortable it is going to be and I don’t want any added pressure beyond finishing. At this point I am just hoping for the best – perhaps a healing miracle overnight?

And if not, maybe this myriad of products will help…

Ready or not…

It’s hard to believe I will be lining up to start my first half iron distance triathlon just a few days from now. At this point, I am equally terrified and excited.

2000m swim – 90K (56 mi) bike – 21.1K (13.1 mi) run

I didn’t get all the long rides, long runs, long open water swims or brick workouts in that I had planned on, but I did what I could. My accelerated 8-week training cycle post-Boston was not ideal so I wanted to make the most of the time that I had, but at the same time had to be very careful not to try to overdo it. A few hiccups along the way led to skipped workouts (getting sick, the demands of puppy parenting, occasional laziness), but I’m proud of what I was able to do. All things considered, I feel pretty confident; I’m ready to tackle this distance and see what I’m capable of. That being said…

I’m nervous about the mass swim start of 500+ people in a 10-metre wide canal.

I’m nervous that I’ll push too hard on the bike and suffer through the half marathon.

I’m nervous about starting a half marathon after 12 noon.

In other news, there’s a good chance that the swim will be wetsuit “illegal” (allowed but not eligible for awards). The chances of placing at this race are very slim, but I am not writing off the possibility. You just never know and I would hate to miss out on the podium because of wearing my wetsuit. The issue is, I have zero non-wetsuit open water swim experience. Well, until yesterday. I decided to give it a try last night just to see how it felt without my security blanket. With the temps & humidity, it would have been next to impossible to get that thing on anyway! The swim was okay – I definitely found it harder and I was slower, but it’s doable. If the swim turns out to be wetsuit “illegal”, it will be a game day decision for me.

Other than that, the bike is all shined and lubed up and ready to go fast. But not too fast… because, you know, I have to run pretty far after!

Just like new!

Although I hesitated to share these (because I have a hard time believing they are realistic…), below are my goals based on predictions by my “Goal Consultant”/friend Erin as per usual.

Swim: 40:00
Bike: 2:40 (A) – 2:45 (B)
Run 1:50 (A) – 1:55 (B)