Thursday, October 2, 2014

Niagara Falls in a

Hard to believe it's only been 9 days since I finished the Barrelman (aka the Niagara Falls Half Iron). In some ways it feels like so very long ago. But that seems to be the way with races and all other good things. Once they are over, the time seems to pass by so quickly.
I figure that's to make sure you can focus on your next most-excellent adventure. Because there should always be one, right? Life would be boring otherwise!

Now, before you read any farther, you might want to get a coffee, or a tea or something. I can't expect this report is going to be particularly short - given how long the race was.

Don't worry. I'll wait for you.

Got it? Great. Then let me tell you a tale...

Signing up

I can't remember the exact day I signed up for Barrelman. I think it was in October last year. I do know that I made the decision to do the race after my friend Nicole offered to drive. Nothing like the idea of an epic road trip to make you want to do something utterly ridiculous. Or maybe just slightly insane. You be the judge.

Around the same time, I signed up for the Mississauga Marathon because I wanted to see what I could really do at that distance. I'd run my first marathon slower than my slowest training pace as a result of a stomach bug - so figured there was a lot of room for improvement.

So I decided that those two races would be my big goals for 2014: Mississauga in May and Barrelman in September. One race in the spring and one race in the fall - with plenty of time in between. I figured it should be doable without being too much. After all, I want to be doing this stuff for life, so have no desire to get hurt by trying to do everything all at once.

Getting coaching

Since starting this crazy journey, I've read a lot of books on running and triathlon. I have a bizarrely addictive personality in that regard...when I decide I like something, I need to read everything I can get my hands on about the topic. But reading about training and knowing how to apply it are two very different things. And with two somewhat competing big goals, I wanted to make sure whatever I did made sense.

So I decided to hire a coach. Now, most of you know about my experience with the LPC Florida Triathlon Camp. In 2013, I went to camp in Florida pretty much an utter newbie. I hadn't even used clips yet on my bike - so I spent my first 3 days at camp falling over quite regularly.

I figured that since the awesome folks at Loaring Personal Coaching had managed to guide me through my first steps as a wannabe triathlete, they'd be good to approach for training help (and also because I wanted to go to camp again in Spring 2014...which I did). You can read this post about how I decided to work with Coach Mark Linseman.

This past year has been awesome working with Coach Mark to get better at swimming, biking and running. I don't think I'd have come close to being ready for Barrelman without Coach Mark's training guidance, support and ability to deal with my numerous questions.

So, thanks up front for all the help Coach Mark!

The training

I spent much of the summer doing everything I could to get ready for the race, including following Coach Mark's workouts as best I could (not perfectly by any stretch, mind you), doing a bunch of prep races to get more practiced at doing triathlon (and get more practice going faster on the bike which I find hard to do outside of actual races), and also finding creative ways to get long bike rides in. Some interesting highlights from my training year include:


Swimming has turned into the triathlon event I am best at (at least by age group placing in races). Who knew? But swimming mostly 3 days a week last year really let me make some huge strides in terms of confidence in the water and speed. More races also let me get more experience in various water conditions (i.e., bigger start waves, cold water, rough water). I even did my first 3.8km open water swim race - which proved I could swim twice as far as I needed to in Niagara at a decent pace. So going into Niagara I wasn't at all concerned about the swim. Which seems crazy I know, since that's what many people fear most.


My arch nemesis - I spent more time on my bike over the summer than I would ever have thought possible. But the truth is, I knew going into Barrelman that biking was going to be my big weakness.

The first best thing I did to prepare for the race was get a road bike during the off-season - a used 2008 Cervelo Soloist from a friend who was upgrading. My goodness, the difference was incredible. I could actually shift gears without thinking!

The second best thing I did was sign up for the Toronto Bicycling Network so I could ride without being dependent on someone else driving to Angus Glen. The TBN hosts casual rides on Saturdays and Sundays...and while they don't go fast, the routes are generally in the city (or go through the city to get to the country) and involve 20-25 people at a time. I did rides with them up to 80km - which was perfect for getting my distance in, while also helping me to get more confident in terms of my bike handling ability and ability to ride on roads with cars (although I still hate it). Also, with such big groups, I had to learn to maneuver around people, stop quickly, and just ride more observantly. This was huge for me.

I also got out on several country rides with other Toronto Triathlon Club folks doing Barrelman - and did two bike tours - the 100k Ride for Heart in June and the 110k PwC Epic Tour two weeks out from the race (which was very hilly).

Another big win this summer was finally finding a workable solution to nutrition/hydration while on the bike. Specifically, on Coach Mark's suggestion, I ended up buying and learning to use a Camelbak. The reservoir holds 2L of water/drink, which made it perfect for a half iron distance race. It took a lot of practice (and several rides where I wore the Camelbak but couldn't drink from it), but I eventually found a way to position everything so I could drink without thinking - making it so I wouldn't dig myself into a big nutritional hole on the bike. What a miracle!

The run

Given that I moved from training for a marathon in the spring into training for a half ironman, my running actually went down a lot over the summer. As a result, most of my run training was relatively straightforward for Barrelman - weekly tempo reps, runs off the bike and recovery runs. All good, but mostly I think the focus was on maintenance than anything else. I had more important things to work on (specifically - the bike!).

Mind you, all the racing I did helped a lot with respect to triathlon-specific running (aka running off the bike). While it took a few tries, I finally had a fantastic run off the bike at the Toronto Island Triathlon - and a great 15k race after a 90k hilly training ride. So much of good triathlon running is just doing it!

A note on strength work

About 8 weeks out from Barrelman, I stopped my weekly group sessions with Trainer Chris because I found I needed more recovery time between big training sessions (not to mention I was racing every few weeks). Instead, Coach Mark had me do 20 minutes of core/agility work a few times a week - which I felt worked well for maintenance. I'll be back to the longer weekly sessions with Chris during the winter though.

Goal Setting

A few days before the race, Coach Mark and I had a great call to discuss goal setting. Now, for me, I had two sets of goals. The first set were the most important - the big picture goals. These included:
  • Don't crash on the bike.
  • Finish smiling.
Simple in principle, but not guaranteed. Along with those, Coach Mark and I came up with more specific time goals for each event based on his view of my training leading up the race. These included:
  • Swim: Under 40 minutes (45 min including transitions).
  • Bike: 3 hours 30 minutes (26km/h).
  • Run: Under 2 hours (faster than 5:45 per km).
  • Total time: 6:15.
To be honest, I saw these goals more as guidelines. Given it was my first half iron race, I really had no idea what I was going to be able to do. I remembered how slow my first marathon was, so I didn't want to get my hopes up too high. And then I found out the bike course was going to be 92.5km, so I figured I might be slower no matter what.

But I wasn't too worried because I had my big picture goals - and those were the most important ones.

Approaching Race Day

The day before the race, I had to get in a 20 minute bike ride, drop my bike off in Welland and make it to the mandatory Athletes' Briefing in Niagara Falls. So my friend and epic road-trip organizer Nicole and I met up just after lunch for the trip to Welland.

In Welland, we quickly got our bikes set up and went for a quick spin. This is where I realized a big was INSANELY WINDY (capital letters intentional). For the entire ride, all I could think of was how dead I was going to be if we had that kind of wind in addition to the forecast rain on race day.

But, we survived our bike ride and got our bikes checked. Watching another bike tumble off the rack in the wind didn't really help my nerves - but at the same time I knew there wasn't anything I could do about it, so I just picked up my kit, set my bike up and met back up with Nicole for the drive to Niagara.

Nicole had found a motel right near the finish line (the Niagara Parkway Court  Motel) that turned into the unofficial race hotel. Seriously, a whole bunch of folks from the TTC were staying there, plus other triathletes from out of town. Prior to getting to the race, I admit I was a bit worried about the iffy reviews of the place, but it turned out to be just fine. Phew.

Met up with a few other TTC folks and headed over to Transition 2 for the athletes' briefing. Thanks to my friends Hector and Kim, there's even photo evidence!

Here we are at the expo...Hector, Barry, Linda-Kay, Erin, Kim, Nicole and I.

And here I am at the athlete's briefing....I know people sometimes refer to triathlon as a cult. Photos like this don't do anything to disprove that claim!

After the briefing, we (everyone in the first picture above), went out for a nice meal at an Italian restaurant named Antica in Niagara Falls. It was perfect for a pre-race meal - I had plenty of bread, along with gnocchi in a tomato sauce. Yes, I had a drink too.

After dinner and a short walk around, we all headed back to the motel, where I managed to make quick work of sorting out my various race bags:

1. Dry clothes bag for after the race (In other words, an empty bag for putting in the stuff I was going to wear to the race since I figured I'd just wear the same things after).
2. Wetsuit bag (for after the swim - but I used it to make sure I had all my swim/bike gear).
3. T2 bag (for my run gear since T2 was in a different spot).

The bags actually were really useful. Kudos to the race organizers for making it so easy!

After laying out my gear, I got to bed nice and early (before 10pm, that's for sure).

Race Day

I know what you're thinking. "Wow, it's taken this long to read this far and you're just getting to race day now?"

Yes. I did warn you this wasn't going to be short, remember?

Woke up around 6am on race day - which is practically civilized when you come to think about it.

  • Best thing to wake up to on race morning: A guy outside saying, "It's not raining!"
  • Worst thing to hear - a few minutes later: Same guy saying: "I think it's starting to rain."
I'd brought my toaster, so toasted a bagel and ate it with some peanut butter before packing up to head to the shuttle buses. Fortunately, there was a Tim Hortons opened 24 hours on the way. Very strategic location, right? So I got my coffee. Hurrah!

The Tim Hortons go-ers (Kim, Hector, Nicole and I) - even got a ride with Linda-Kay and Barry as they came driving past and noticed us walking in the rain (yes, it had started to rain a bit by that point). From there it was a short drive to the lot where the shuttle buses were.

Very impressed with the organization of the shuttle buses. We made it to Welland with lots of time to spare. Of course, about this time, it started to pour.

But, the upside is that T1 was located right next to the Welland Arena - which was open. So I just went inside and used that as my base for half an hour. It was perfect since I got to use the washrooms inside (no porto-pottie needed) about a dozen times. I also got to put on my wetsuit out of the rain.

The Arena also turned out to be the place to see people - including my friend Helen who is also a member of teamLPC. While my picture with Helen turned out blurry ::sad face:: this one with my friends Erin, Barry, and Linda-Kay was great! Don't we all look ready to take on the world?

In a show of impeccable timing, the rain stopped about 20 minutes before the start of the race. I couldn't have been more appreciative of this if I tried. At the time, I had no idea it had stopped for good - but I definitely felt like the rain stopping was a good omen.

So I checked my bike one last time and then headed down to the canal for a quick warm up. I readily admit the water was amazing. It was warmer than Lake Ontario has been all summer, but not so warm to be too hot. I enjoyed my 10 minutes of paddling around immensely. It was very relaxing and I felt terrific.

I know, another good sign!

The Swim

My wave started at 9:01 - 1 minute after the elites. The announcer was in the middle of his pre-race talk when the gun went off - which made for a bit of an unexpected start - but I didn't let that phase me.

In terms of start position - from my experience at other races this year, I figured I'd likely finish in the top 10% of my wave, so I started second row, a bit right of the centre. This was my first time starting with younger men (it was women under 39 and men under 35 in the wave I believe) - and it was quite a large wave - so I had no idea just how frantic the start was going to be. Fortunately, the fast swimmers got out really fast and I ended up in what felt like a pretty decent sized group of faster than average - but not competitive swimmer fast - folks for the first stretch of the race. I was bashed around a lot, but it wasn't intentional and I had no one actually clobber me. Mostly it was just jockeying for position among people who were probably going to be far more competitive overall in the race than I knew I'd be! But speed wise, I'd chosen the right place to start.

The swim was a rectangle within a canal - which made it pretty close to impossible to swim badly. I started off strong and found myself at the first turn pretty quickly. There was a bit of ruckus there, but I quickly found myself on the long stretch back down the canal. Lost all the people who went out too fast around this point - so it was a bit smaller of a clump swimming together on this long straightaway. I kept a good sight line and felt like I actually was picking up speed on this stretch - although I'll never know for sure.

Before I knew it, it was back around the other end of the rectangle and time to head to the finish. The path out of the water was short, but steep/rocky, so I was glad there were volunteers to help!

Here I am just out of the swim. Sorry for not smiling, I think I was too focused on what I needed to do next. Thankfully, that was the only time I wasn't smiling!

Swim time: 35:56 (pace 1:48/100) - 5/30 in my Age Group


As I ran into T1, I noticed my watch wasn't working.  This was the 3rd time this year I've managed to screw it up - although this time it wasn't my fault. My watch was on, it just wasn't giving me data. Thankfully one of the other girls near me was getting on her bike and told me her swim time, so I realized I was a bit ahead of my plan.

I made quick work of getting my bike gear on, but then spent several minutes (yes, minutes) trying to get my watch to work. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was wrong. Finally, I just stuck it in bike mode and hoped for the best. It was giving me current pace and cadence so I figured I could work out distance at the km markers.

Got my bike to the mount line and headed out!

Aside: Someone told me later that my watch issues probably happened because I turned my watch on indoors. Although that doesn't really explain why  the file was corrupted when I tried uploading it later since it was giving me total time if not distance - and my current pace, speed and cadence. Really - it was bizarre.

In total, I spent a way-to-leisurely 5:06 in transition 1...but c'est la vie.

The Bike

Oh, the bike. I don't even know how to explain how this went. To put it kindly, this beautifully flat course was full of hills...mental ones that is.

Aside: The challenge was the wind (which seems to be my 2014 race nemesis given my experience at the Mississauga Marathon). Similar to when I ran the marathon back in May, the winds were insane, with gusts above 50km/h. The problem is that on a bike - those winds feel oh so much worse.

So, a couple of minutes into the bike course I turn onto the longest straight stretch of the race...into the fiercest headwind (and partial crosswind) I've ever experienced in my life.  And facing that crazy wind, I spent the first hour barely squeaking out 20km/h. In fact, my bike wobbled so much I had to ride much closer to the centre of the road than I would normally do because I needed the extra space so when the wind buffeted me sideways I wouldn't actually go off the road (and yes, this happened).

I think my hands went numb 20 minutes into the ride from gripping my brakes so hard. It was nuts.

In fact, the only "watch" time I remember from the race was when I had been riding for an hour and realizing I had only made it 21.something km. But I couldn't worry about it because there wasn't any room left in my head to do so. The wind was enough. All I wanted to do was get through it.

And you know something? I did. Yes, yes I did.

Partly out of sheer will-power. These was no way I was going to let the wind keep me from finishing.

Partly because I could sip regularly from my Camelbak. Which, given I'd only just perfected the technique two weeks previous, I found amusing to do while riding in a ridiculous headwind.No, I wasn't thirsty yet. But drinking (the good, sporty kind that is) was a far better distraction than thinking about crashing.

And partly because I remembered how my friend Karina had sung a silly song when we rappelled down Toronto City Hall (28 storeys) a few years ago because she was nervous. So for most of that over-an-hour terrifying stretch I was singing to myself:

This is the wind that never just goes on and on my friend...some people started riding it not knowing what it was...and they'll continue riding it forever just because this is the wind that never...

Okay, so my revised lyrics didn't really make any sense. But that's what you get on a windy bike course about a third of the way through a half ironman.

And then - the course turned. At 27km  or so of the bike, the worst was over (not that I knew it at the time). Honestly, I have never been so happy to make a turn in my entire life. It was such a relief. I went from 20km/h to 30. in about 10 seconds. In fact, it was hard to keep my effort in check I was so darned excited to be out of the wind.

It wasn't perfect. I still got some scary crosswinds - but mostly, I felt protected and free to go at a decent pace.

We cruised around a stretch of the lake and looped around and up, to a street where we eventually turned back onto that crazy, hellacious stretch of road...which had turned into the BEST ROAD EVER (capitals intended).


Because that horribly awful headwind was now perfectly at my back. I spent the next 30-40 minutes cruising in the opposite direction...with that fierce wind letting me fly at around 35km/h. Oh, how I wish I had my watch so I could see just how fast I went. I cranked into a high gear, kept spinning above 90rpm (figuring it couldn't be too bad for me if I could stay above 90)...and just went as fast as I could.

It was as fun as the first hour of the bike course was terrifying.

After that, the bike course continued to have its figurative ups and downs with respect to the wind...but in general, it got much better. In fact, by the time I reached the 60k point, I think I had a permanent smile on my face. The race photographer (who I didn't actually notice) even got proof!


Aside: While I don't have any stats thanks to my watch malfunction, the fact I had an almost identical pace for both the first 60k (which included both the head and tail wind sections) and the last 32.5k shows just how much I must have picked up speed in that tailwind.

Aside #2: Do you see the gorgeous blue sky behind me? It was doom and gloom in the morning and the weather reports called for rain all day. You know what I didn't do when I was getting rained on before the start? Put on sunscreen. More on this later (but nothing too bad!).

To get back to the story...outside of the wind...the highlight of the bike was the fact that because I am a decent swimmer (and was in the first wave) - most of my friends who were great bikers rolled by me looking awesome at some point on the course.

Barry (doing the Duathlon), Kim, Erin, Jacqueline and Linda-Kay - from what I remember, they all had a kind word as they went by (along with a few unrepeatable words about the wind).

Linda-Kay was especially awesome since she caught up to me much later in the course than I expected (although she started several waves after me, so that's not as exciting as you might think) and seemed so relieved to see me. She told me later how she knew I'd be hating that wind and was worried I might have had issues.

I admit, it was nice that so many of my friends worried about me while they were busy with their own races. It was also nice to learn that I wasn't the only one who hated that wind. Everyone did.

My last scary moment on the bike course came with about 10k to go - just as I was starting to relax knowing the ride was almost done. A bee or a wasp or something flew into my left eye and got trapped by my sunglasses. Akkk! I made the fastest emergency stop I've ever done, veered onto the grass at the side of the road (and didn't fall!), whipped off my glasses and yelled very loudly at whatever it was that got caught (which flew away).

The policeman at the intersection watched all this with some worry...and a few people asked me if I was okay as they passed by. But I was fine and didn't get stung (this was a blessing given my absolute phobia of bees and the fact I know a couple of people who were stung on the bike course).

After a few deep breaths, I laughed it off, got back on my bike and headed on my way again.

From there, the ride into Niagara Falls was quite nice (and thankfully anti-climactic). The Niagara Parkway is awesome.

As I was riding toward T2, I finished the last sip from my Camelbak, stretched my legs and started looking out for my parents as I got closer. Their plan had been to drive up to Niagara Falls that morning and arrive in time to see me in T2...

And then they were there. My dad even got a few nice pictures of me!

Here's one:

And here's another:

I pulled into T2 feeling absolutely amazing (mostly because I didn't die!). I was also 45 seconds earlier than my bike time goal, even though the bike course was 92.5km!

Aside: Yes, a half ironman distance bike is only 90km...but some unexpected construction forced them to add 2.5k to the route a day or two before the race. After all, what's a few extra km, right?

Bike time: 3:29:15 (pace: 26.5km/h) - 22/30 in my Age Group.

Transition 2

In T2, my biggest priority was to put on sunscreen (see my previous aside about the weather forecast). I was smart to imagine that if the sky cleared up, I'd be wanting some I had tucked a little bottle of sunscreen in my transition bag. Smartest move ever!

Here I am putting it on:

I ripped off the top of a Chocolate Peanut Butter GU (best flavour ever, by the way) - which I planned to eat as I headed out of transition. Of course, I managed to get it all over when I realized I still had my bike gloves on and turned around to take them off. Oops.

T2 Time: 4:56

Aside: Yes, it took me 10 minutes between my two transitions. I realize how ridiculous this is, given I didn't stop to take a nap.

The Run

Needless to say, my run started out a bit disorganized given I had to take my watch off because of the GU (it really was everywhere) - so was carrying that along with my water bottle, a pack of Cliff Shot Blocks, and the still as-yet-uneaten remainder of my sticky GU package. All I was missing was the kitchen sink.

My parents of course, caught this entertaining start on camera...

But hey, at least my starting-out run form wasn't too bad. And I was smiling.

Aside: Notice how in this picture, my shirt is riding up in the back? Well, that's one spot I didn't think to put sunscreen on. So, after the race, I had no sunburn (thank goodness) except for a brilliant thin red line across my lower back. Awesome. And by awesome, I mean, "Ouch!"

There was a water station right out of transition, so I managed to finish the GU, get the sticky GU off my hands and my watch back on pretty quickly.

On the bright side, all of the fumbling meant I took the first kilometer fairly easy - which gave my legs a chance to get comfortable with running after the long bike.

Now, I hadn't done a lot of long running off long bike rides, so I wasn't quite sure how I was going to feel.

Aside: The weekend before I'd done a 65km ride/8k run, but I had to break that up into 50/5 and 15/3 - so not quite the same thing. I'd also had the experience of running a 15k race after a 90k hilly ride during my birthday weekend extravaganza - but I had several hours in between the two to recover.

I apologize for what I'm going to say next - knowing that for many the run was the hardest part of the race.

But for me? The run was an utter joy. A pleasure. The best reward ever after that crazy bike ride.

The wind, so dreadful on the bike, was lovely given the afternoon heat. The view of the Falls was incredible - and we got to run by them (and through a lovely cool mist) twice.

Here I am about 5k into the first loop:

And again!

Not long after this, I turned onto the one real "hill" on the course: a sharp incline at a pretty steep grade (no clue how steep, I'm not good with that sort of thing). Everyone around me was walking up, but I didn't want to screw up my rythym, so I just shorted my stride and ran up. I was slow, but I was running while trying to keep my effort in check.

It didn't take longer than a minute or so to get to the top, so it wasn't nearly as bad I as I expected. Not like the hill toward the end of the Mississauga Marathon.

From there it was a somewhat straight shot across to the Fallsview Casino and then down a pretty steep hill toward the falls. This was a great part of the race because much to my surprise a group of spectators cheered "Go LPC!" really loudly as I went by. No idea who they were, but they certainly gave me a nice boost!

Then it was my first time past the falls - where the spray was just amazing. Best treat ever during a race - and I knew I'd be going by them one more time.

From there, the course circled back up to Kingsbridge Park and T2, where I saw my parents before heading off on my second loop. I still felt great.

On the second loop, I knew what to expect from the course, which was fantastic. It was on that loop that I also started catching up to a few people I knew who had sped by me on the bike. There was one out-and-back section where I passed several TTC folks going in the opposite direction. One of them even bet that I was going to catch up.

If that wasn't a great way to keep me focused, I'm not sure what else would have been. I ran up the "hill" again (much slower than the first time, I admit - but still running).

I got another round of awesome LPC cheers as I went down the hill toward the Falls, which made my day for the second time - especially knowing I was closing in on the finish.

On the parkway in front of the Falls, I caught sight of my friend Erin ahead of me who was using Barrelman as a training race for Ironman Florida in November. I pushed a bit harder than maybe I should've to catch up...and we enjoyed running together for a while. This was fun. It was also caught on camera!

Of course, my push to catch up to her meant I didn't have a lot left in the tank. I wasn't feeling badly, just tired! As we headed toward Kingsbridge Park, I couldn't quite keep up. But hey, I know I ran faster thanks to seeing her than I would've otherwise - and I admit it was a great way for a km or two to pass by at the end of a long race!

Heading into Kingsbridge, I am sure my face told the story about how excited I was, knowing I was going to finish.

Aside: I know I had a few tears in my eyes at that point. There's nothing like coming into the finish of a crazy race to make you realize just how far you've come - and not just in terms of the distance of the race. 3 years earlier I hadn't even started my journey on the road less travelled - and here I was finishing my first half iron distance race.

My mom was waiting for me at the turn into the finish chute to give me a last big boost (Thanks mom!). And she also yelled, "You're going to beat your goal!" - which was amazing since my silly watch wasn't giving me actual time - so I had no idea what my total race time was. I knew I was on track to beat my run goal, but had no idea where I was with respect to my overall time.

Run time: 1:58:01, 6/30 in my Age Group

The Finish

I got a last jolt of energy seeing my mom, and then turning to see the Barrelman archway and the finisher's chute, knowing that I'd done it. I was grinning all along that stretch, but I am sure I was beaming by that point.

The race photographer caught me right when I crossed the finish line.

But the truth is my dad captured the best picture of the day - and maybe my favourite race finish photo ever. I think it says it all in terms of how I felt about Barrelman.

My parents were just as thrilled as I was that I finished. We even took a selfie together.

Aside: I don't think I could've smiled any bigger.

My final time was 6:13:12 (almost two minutes faster than my goal - even with a longer bike and 2 ridiculously long transitions. That was good enough for 13/30 in my Age Group - a much higher final ranking than I was expecting, that's for sure.

I talked earlier about an epic road trip - well this was definitely an epic race. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do a half iron triathlon. Great organization, great volunteers and an incredible course.

Some added case you're actually still reading this.

Lessons from the race

Being my first half-iron distance race, I learned a ton. Here are a few highlights:
  • Doing a half ironman (at least when you're my speed) - isn't even close to as hard as running a marathon. The next day I was a bit sore, but not too bad. Two days later I just had a few aches. By Wednesday I was feeling normal. This was a huge surprise.
  • Recognizing the point above - that doesn't mean I didn't need some time to recover, especially since this was my last race of a pretty active triathlon season (I do love training by doing races). I listened to Coach Mark and took the first few days off after the race (mostly because I had a ton of work to do, let's be honest) - and even this week, most of my workouts are short and relatively easy. It's not until next week that I go back to doing some more intense training sessions.
  • If you have a GPS watch...don't turn it on indoors (before a race at least). That's apparently what caused all my watch issues this didn't get a proper signal, something got corrupted and in the end I lost all my data even if I could at least see the important things (i.e. pace, speed, cadence) in real time.
  • Wind on a bike sucks. A lot. Although if you're stuck with 50km/h least hope to get a tailwind - because it will feel like you're flying.
  • I've become a much better rider in the past few months. Not a good rider by any stretch, but better. At the beginning of the summer, I doubt I'd have been able to manage riding in that wind without either crashing or having a panic attack. Instead, I pushed through. I admit, surviving that wind will probably be the memory I go back to whenever I have other crazy bike issues in the future...I'll keep saying, "I got through that wind at Barrelman, I can get through this."
  • Coaching helps. Coach Mark helped me enormously in the lead up to this race (and all year, for that matter). I never could have done this by myself.
  • Next time? No napping in transition areas. Seriously...10 minutes. I can't get over that one (although still glad I stopped to put on sunscreen).
A few last thoughts

11 days removed from the race (yes, it took me over 2 days to get to the end of this post) and it's so strange to think that I did it. But then I look at my medal and my finersher's hat, and the awesome picture my dad took and I know I did.

There's something about racing...when it's over, it's hard to recapture your feelings while you were running the race and crossing the finish line. I certainly tried in this race report.

But maybe that's why I keep signing up for races - because the joy never really goes away. Every race is different. Every finish line is special. And, too, because I honestly love it (and all the training too). I can't imagine anyone can look at pictures of me racing and think I'm not enjoying myself immensely. Honestly, it's too bad they don't give awards for the person smiling the most on the race course. I suspect it would be me most every time. ::laugh::

I'm already looking forward to my next triathlon...even though it won't be for months. Thankfully, I love running races just as much (if not more) - so that will give me something awesome to do in the meantime.

Thank you!

Big thanks to my parents, Coach Mark, all of my friends in the race, all of my family and friends who followed online (kind of amazed at how many people were interested in my journey to the finish line), and to MultiSport Canada and all of the Barrelman volunteers who made the day one I won't ever forget.

You are all Awesome.

P.S. Yes, I'm done now. Really.