Genuine Health Ironman 70.3 Team: Race Report
Well. Just like that, it is over. We have crossed that finish line, collected our medals and are left scratching our heads with what to do with all that time that we are no longer training.
Well, that last part is a bit of an untruth. We have a 200 KM group cycle planned this weekend so we are very much still training and making some exciting plans for this fall! I will be announcing our next team event in August but for now, let’s take a look at how our team experienced the big day.
Ever since seeing Simon Whitfield win the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics, I have told myself I was going to do a triathlon. At 70.3 Muskoka, I finally checked that off my bucket list! It turned out to be all I had imagined and much more. Given my limited swim training leading up to the event, I admit I had some moments where I questioned my abilities. Once the cannon went off for our wave and chaos of the flailing legs and arms of my fellow competitors continued to jostle me around, I actually felt a strange calmness come over me. Maybe it is my years of being hit playing competitive hockey, but I legitimately found the swim to be a blast. That calmness allowed me to find a nice rhythm and average 1:50/100m for the swim. With the exception of my wetsuit chafing the back of my neck, the swim went perfectly.
After the long uphill to transition (where I took my sweet time to ensure I had everything I needed). I hopped on the bike and headed out onto the course. I found myself passing lots of people early (especially on the climbs) on the bike and was delighted to see Todd and Clare out there on course as well. I put in a good effort and was happy to come away averaging about 32km/h on the bike and finishing this section in 3 hours, just as I had planned for.
I made a quick transition to the run and was so excited to get out there on my strongest discipline. My excitement may have got the best of me as I went out for the first 7ish Kms at about 4:10 pace. I felt as if I was holding back a bit but I paid the price in the last 10km as I had to dial back the pace and really try to keep my body temperature down with ice and water. I saw a few guys in my AG as I was approaching the last hill so I found some last minute jets to pick them off and roll down to the finish line. I loved that they let you break the tape at the finish line no matter what place you come, makes for a really cool feeling and some sweet photos. Overall my first triathlon experience was AMAZING! The post race buffet, kawartha ice cream and a Webers stop capped off a memorable day.
And just like that its over…………… 2016 Goal √
The race started with tears, which turned into a huge smile and finished with a jump for joy over the finish line!
Race week turned out to be stressful, I was working on a new deal in work and I managed to get some sort of a cold/ virus thing. Considering this was my first illness in well over 10 years I did not manage the situation well! My first reaction was to ignore it completely and just continue on training as normal but when I woke up on Sunday morning (the week before the race) with a low grade temperature, I could no longer ignore it and workouts stopped. The fever eventually lifted but the rest of the week I battled headaches and a pain in my chest when I breathed (a long course triathlon doesn’t require lung function right?). The day before the race all I could do was pray that adrenaline and excitement would get me through- and spoiler alert = it did!
As I mentioned above, the race started with tears. Walking down to the lake with Todd, Kim and Jeanna (aka swim buddies) the nerves hit me and I was truly worried that I wouldn’t be able to do the swim as a result of not being well but the guys were great and calmed me down. We were the first wave out and right before the gun went off Todd and I spotted Jess and Marky at the waters edge preparing to get in (they were 2 waves behind us) and it kind of settled my nerves even more. The gun went off and after about 5 or so minutes I managed to calm down and get into some sort of a rhythm and I didn’t have another Welland type “reassessing my life choices” moment. Although, I still haven’t managed to swim in a straight line. Twice the kayak guides had to redirect me back on course but I exited a swim 8 minutes faster than I expected and I think I celebrated harder than I ever had before. From that moment on my smile did not leave my face!
The long LONG STEEP climb back to transition did nothing to dampen my mood and when I ran in and saw Kim and Jeanna at our bikes (we racked next to each other) I started singing “I survived” at the top of my lungs and danced my way to my bike. Out on the bike course, I loved every minute of it and thanked every police officer and volunteer I saw out on course. I wished every other athlete who passed me or I passed the best of luck and the majority of my race photos on the bike I am giving a thumbs up (obviously I could have worked harder on the bike but hell I was having way too much fun!) On top of that, I somehow managed to do it 40 minutes faster than the training ride a month ago! Honestly I didn’t want the bike to end as I never did get my run grove back and I knew it was going to be a tough run.
A couple of people at the start of the run were telling me to concentrate on my breathing (they could hear my breathing a mile away) and to calm down. I got into a bit of a groove and once I gave myself full permission to walk the water stations I felt better and started to enjoy it. To say I was excited to see Mark, Todd and Kim out on course might be an understatement! I scared the life out of Mark when I saw him with all my shouting and arm waving. I meet so many great people out on course and the volunteers were AMAZING!
And then it was over, I was turning into Deerhurst and doing the final run down the chute to break the tape (note: I did not win, they hold out the tape for everyone!)
The whole experience was amazing, I love the long training hours, the random trainer parties we had as a team, the training camp weekend, the amazing new friends I made!
I am thankful for the support we got from Performance Project and Genuine Health that helped us get to the line in the best form possible! But most of all I have to say the biggest thanks to my biggest supporter for always being there, for not getting too annoyed at being woken up before 5am 5 mornings a week and for tolerating my crazy!
For those who don’t want to read on, here are a few general observations:
• Firstly, it should be called the Ironman Muskoka 72.7. The bike portion of the course is an extra 4km or 2.4 miles. This means the cycle takes about 10 minutes longer than you’d think. Plus, recognizing the true distance would make for some cool and unique swag.
• Triathletes are filthy, vile people. I only learned LITERALLY THE EVENING BEFORE the race that it’s both acceptable and recommended to go pee as you need to, and directly into your race suit. In fact, all of my teammates were planning on doing just that and they recommended you stand up during bike descents and let it go. I was appalled, and am happy to report that I took an extra 15 seconds in the portapotty in the Transition Zone in order to maintain the status of a civilized human.
• Huntsville is a wonderful place, and I’d absolutely recommend this event to anyone thinking about it for 2017. Just practice swimming in a wetsuit, please…
Time has a funny way of dulling hardships. During the run portion of the half ironman, I remember thinking to myself: “I want to wilt and die right here on the spot.” “Holy crap this is painful.” “You’re ok….just put one foot in front of the other.” “I still can’t believe I survived that swim.” “Where are the PRETZELS!?!”, “Well, I’m still passing a lot of people…” and “this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Who in their right mind would ever attempt a FULL ironman!?!”
Two weeks later, I’m still in awe of what we all accomplished, but the struggle isn’t as vivid, and I find myself using language like: “Well when I train for a full…”, “I can’t wait to get a wetsuit for Christmas”, and “It was fun! You should try it!” While I’ve recovered reasonably well I think I was just unfamiliar with what was just such a strange muscular sensation and overall level of fatigue. Oh, and it’s important to mention that I really did have a smile on my face the entire time (as promised) and that the dialogue above was mostly internal. But let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?
Me, February 22nd 2016:
“Budgeting 45 minutes for the swim, 190 for the bike, and 105 for the run adds up to 5 hours and 40 minutes. Factor in 10 minutes for transitions, and I’ll be more than pleased if I can bust 6 hours on race day.” Did I do it? Well, I’ll recap each leg of the race by comparing it to my original prediction in February of how I was hoping to do, and you’ll see just how prescient those words were.
Ok, back to the facts. We arrived in Hunstville equal parts excited, giddy, terrified, and confident. The day before the race we did a warm-up swim and I donned my wetsuit for the first time.
The constricting sensation was just so unfamiliar to me, and I couldn’t get used to it. I calmed down a little bit to practice for about 20 minutes and got used to how the next day was going to feel. My biggest takeaway for anyone considering a tri in the future is to not underestimate the uneasiness of the wetsuit factor. Seriously…don’t.
After a big team dinner with Latte’s family and Peter, we prepped our kits and were all set to go. Editors note: I am Latte.
Swim: I did a pre-race warmup and was finally feeling pretty comfortable in the wetsuit. But when the cannon blast went off I completely freaked out. My heart rate was through the roof and I just could not hold my breath long enough to take 3 strokes. As my panic deepened, I kept hearing air horns go off for the next wave and a rush of bodies would overtake me. It was like the freaking hunger games… However, by around 1600m I told myself: “You practiced all winter, this is no different than the pool. Just calm down – you’re fine.” And an amazing thing happened. I was ok. My pace got a lot faster and I finished the swim in one piece. The buoyancy effect of the wetsuit (no matter how uncomfortable) is a real difference-maker.
Me, February 22nd 2016: “I figure if I can come in at 45 minutes on the big day I’ll consider that a win.” Actual: 44:42. Win! Now, I was in 974th place out of 1200 out of the water, so it’s safe to say I can improve in this area…
Bike: This was definitely the most fun. I popped onto my bike and was feeling so freaking hyped from surviving the swim and took off hammering harder than I ever have in my life. Looking around made me feel very inadequate; I felt like an amateur with my “entry-level” bike and homemade Bento box (I duct-taped my nutrition to my top tube), but what was most interesting to see was how different types of bikes performed on the course.
Those with Tri bikes would hammer the flats, but then I’d blow by them on the hills. This meant that I found myself in a pack of a half-dozen people that played a game of leapfrog the entire time, which was actually kind of entertaining.
I kept my cadence pretty high and repeated the mantra to myself to “keep making circles”. The time flew by and I made sure to eat all of my food. I had gone harder than I planned and was starting to feel it (as Latte said, you only have so many matches to use up and I definitely burned more than I expected) and I couldn’t shake the fact that I was really craving salt, and knew that could come back to haunt me (and I usually have salt packets in my pockets during races as I have a long and illustrious history of bonking). Editors Note: You read that correctly. Not salt tabs…Todd takes fast food salt packets during a race.
I saw Clare, Marky and Latte on course so I was happy to see were all in good spirits and doing well. It was an incredibly lucky coincidence that Latte and I finished the bike at the same time and were able to set out onto the run together (after my forementioned portapotty stop).
Me, February 22nd 2016 :“I’d like to finish the bike portion in 3 hours and 10 minutes if I can.” Actual: 3:16:40. Accounting for the 4 extra km, I did better than expected. Another win! At this point I had moved up to 620th place, so was now squarely in the middle of the pack.
Run: Latte and I left Deerhurst in a flurry.
The first 7k flew by like nothing, and we were holding a ~4:30/km pace and passing people left and right. But then, it all came crashing down in another glorious bonk. I was feeling so thirsty, and stopped for a cup of water. After that, my legs just wouldn’t respond like I wanted and I knew it was going to be a long way home. I unabashedly shoved about 40 pretzels in my mouth at each aid station, which always made me feel better temporarily, and I knew then that I should have had something like a peanut butter sandwich or salt tablets instead of sugary Gatorade on the bike. No matter how bad I felt, I knew that if I could run around 5:00/km I’d be able to break 6 hours, so just kept that as my goal. I ended up walking up 4 hills to preserve what was left in my legs, shouted to my teammates, thanked the volunteers, and enjoyed the sights.
Me, February 22nd 2016: “I’m thinking 1:45 or faster would be a decent guess at what I can expect to cap off the race.” Actual: 1:47:33. Not terrible, considering how I felt. It seems that I was about 5 minutes faster on the bike than I expected, and 5 minutes slower on the run (ye old match theory holds up) so it all balances out, I guess.
So how’d I do overall? I crossed the line in 5:54, and had made it up to 391st place by the end. All in all, a very happy end to a long journey. Thank you to everyone for your encouragement and for following along; it’s meant a lot to all of us.
Well, that’s a wrap on this series, everyone. As Todd said, thank you so much for supporting us in this journey with your comments, kudos and attentions! The good news is that this is only the beginning. We have another team project up our sleeve which I will be announcing in August. Until then, bring the thunder in the comments for these three.