I'm gonna split this post into two, the first will be this RACE REPORT!! OMG HOW EXCITING I DID A RACE! The second will be linked here (when it's ready) and will be the overall weekend experience. Why?
Because the weekend was hilarious but the RACE deserves all of its own attention. So without further adieu, here it is: RACE REPORT!
You know how people tell you to turn frowns upside-down? Well I'm going to try that, but it might be hard for this swim. So here's the upside-down first:
- I was a fair bit faster than I anticipated when you look at my 100m times. Yay!
- I didn't drown. Yay!
Now the frown:
From the start to the finish, this swim was probably my worst open water swim experience yet. And that includes my first one where I got caught in a buoy and cut my hands open. Yep, that bad!
HAHA, okay that's melodramatic. But it wasn't great.
To kick things off, the starting setup was a mess. For some reason, the swim start was like really really far away from T1, through narrow twisty paths, with rocks, and branches, and probably bears. Me and Brandon walking in bare feet (stupid) had a really fun time having our feet poked by sharp things as we waded our way to the start with what felt like 10,000 other neoprene encased triathletes. What we thought would be a walk "leaving us plenty of time to warm up" turned out to take so long because of the cattle herding that, just like last year, there was zero time for us to do any warm up.
When we arrived they were asking everyone to get out of the water so the pros could start. I dipped in the water anyways BECAUSE I DO WHAT I WANT but only to get the wetsuit wet. So for the second year in a row I got to start totally cold.
Ironman didn't seem to realize how many swimmers there were, or where they would come from, or provide any direction as to how to "self seed" for the race start. Many of us (including Brandon and me) actually ended up entering the starting corrals through the start line (i.e., we came up from the water, like sea monsters). It made no sense, and created a huge smash of people right around the timing mat. Which is awesome because that mat is important to you know...time your entire event. All Ironman could do was say "please move back" a million times. But with no where to go, there wasn't much moving back.
Brandon and me moved back as best we could, but then just stopped in a space where we could breathe. I'm sure we were "self seeded" in the sub-30 minutes swim group. I am not a sub-30 anything in triathlon.
The swim route itself was a mental challenge. The out portion was an awkward half moon where you were required to stay to the outside of the buoys. It was supposed to go around a little island, take a sharp turn, and then you were required to stay to the inside of the buoys on the return. Here's the diagram:
Now you note that the little island looks pretty tight. Accordingly to Google Maps, it's about 20m wide at one point. 1500 swimmers, 20m wide....great.
Fortunately, we didn't have to swim that part. Why? Because the water was full of sharp prickly weeds that floated both on and below the surface. Ask me how much fun it was to swim into underwater bushes over and over and over again? Sometimes they would wrap around your neck. Sometimes they would just scrape your face without even buying you dinner first. As a result, they shortened the swim to avoid the island all together.
Fun fun fun.
The swim exit was something else. Found on the opposite side of the lake from the start line, the exit wasn't an exit really at all, because there was no beach on that side. Instead, they had installed a metal loading ramp (like the kind you would use in a warehouse to load trucks) that soaking wet and exhausted triathletes were supposed to hoist themselves on to to get out of the water. This led to eager competitive triathletes literally climbing on top of each other trying to get out of the weed water. And with the water being so deep you couldn't even touch, there was a fair bit of random head dunking going on.
I spent so much effort trying to get myself out while not pulling my volunteer (who had grabbed me and said pull but then did no pulling) into the water than my calf cramped, bad, and I hobbled up the ramp.
But you know what!? The swim was over! I set a great time, and if it wasn't for the breastsroking I did to 1. Figure out where the heck I was going with this outside buoys inside buoys; and 2. To avoid giant weed death traps, I actually had fun. I even had some really nice butt caresses from other swimmers as we were all bunched together around the turns.
On a side note, my wetsuit sucks. It took 1000m of the 1600m swim to get anything close to comfortable in it. My fault for buying it out of some strange dude's garage in Pitt Meadows or wherever. It's a good wetsuit otherwise, anyone want to buy it? Because I can't be waiting to get comfortable when Arizona comes up in t-23 weeks.
Okay, so up the metal ramp of death, catch myself a bit (I'm always dizzy when I get out of the water) and then start the jog to T1. It's here that I catch my first glimpse of the absolutely amazing Team Unicorn Sparkle Adventure cheer squad! Mel, Alex, Krissy and my Mommy seriously knocked cheering out of the park. Thank you guys, thank you so much. You made my race.
Back to serious triathlon stuff.
So, T1. If you don't know, that's where your bike is. Bike comes after swimming. So you run to your bike in your wetsuit, strip it off, and get your bike and go.
All was going pretty good, wetsuit came off without issue, I got my helmet on, got my shoes one. Decided to ride without socks this year (which was an amazing decision) and then I had to unrack my bike...
...unrack my bike...
...unrack my bike...
Sounds pretty easy right? Yeah easy if your bike isn't made for "a giant" (as Brandon describes me). But when your bike is taller than the rack itself it gets really hard to just slide it out (that's what she said?).
The day before it wasn't an issue because there wasn't a time constraint. And this year I had just assumed that the guys around me, riding Cervelos and Argons and all manner of fancy other bikes, would have beat me out of the water.
But they didn't beat me out! And so here I am trying to wiggle my damn praying mantis of a bike out from under this rack loaded with everyone else's crap. Eventually I just used the man approach and pulled and knocked everything over. Well not everything, just a few things. I mean I guess the lesson for the other guys is be faster out of the water than the tall lanky dude with the giant road bike.
Out the exit shoot, onto the road, more Team Unicorn Sparkle Adventure cheers! And we were off!
I was excited for the bike, and it did not disappoint. The route was spectacular, I was much stronger than last year, the traffic control was ideal. What I was looking forward most to though (and actually thought about it during the swim) was this secret nutrition concoction I had mixed up the night before that was going to give me endless joy and energy (it was basically iced tea with Nuuns in it). As I loaded on my bike I couldn't wait to take my first satisfying swig (if nothing else then to clear the seaweed out of my mouth). I reached down, raised the bottle, opened my mouth....
...and dropped the bottle.
I actually let out an audible "awwwww" as I watched it roll by my back tire and into the woods. I can see it in my mind, like a slow motion video recorded on an iPhone 6 -- all grainy and crappy. So sad....
So I settled for this Gatorade powder I had on the bike and just powered on.
Like I said, I felt strong on this ride, and my time shows it. I used the aid stations for hydration, ate beef jerky from my bento box, and got a tonne of hilarious comments because of our Team Unicorn Sparkle Adventure kit. I also took great pride in crushing several tri-bike-aero-helmet wearing bros who couldn't keep up in any way. Small victories for Egor and his Giant Road Bike. Suck it bros.
The ride was over fast, back into transition. T2 was so uneventful I won't even leave it as a section, except I couldn't get my bike back under the rack. That and I was racking when the winners were finishing (like they were done and I still had a half marathon to run), which is a bit sad. I'm slow at this. Haha.
Last year I was most looking forward to the run, because I had run in training, a lot. This year, I wasn't so sure. The longest I had run in the 6 months prior was 11km, done just two weeks before this race. And here I had to turn in 21.1km. So this was more of a "let's see what happens" approach.
I set off at a reasonable pace. My goal was to be around 6:15/km, a pace that is an "all day" pace for me usually and not that stressful. I think I did like a 6:10, so I was where I needed to be for the first km.
And then my left leg began the slow cramp, that got worse and worse and worse...
And then my right leg began the slow cramp, that got worse and worse and worse....
And I knew I was in trouble.
I have only ever cramped once before, in those same muscles, in a tough mudder, where I was severely dehydrated. I knew if I didn't fix this issue soon, I would be game over. I had a Gatorade with me so I
started chugging. I had neglected to bring my nuuns which I had planned to (left them on the bike because I didn't feel like I needed them)(stupid). I had neglected to bring packaged mustard (which stops cramps)(stupid). And clearly I had missed my nutrition mark on the bike (which is partially attributable to me being the most embarrassing personification in the world -- a dropper...)(stupid).
But I was in it now, wasn't I? And so strategy had to adapt on the fly.
I couldn't walk, I knew that. If I walked I would cramp tight and never get through the remaining 20km. So I kept my pace, backing off only slightly, but actively focusing on relaxing everything that I could. My neck, my arms, my hands, my hips, calves and feet, and even the "back door". Everything had to be relaxed. Sorry fellow runners..
I hammered down the Gatorade I had, then at the next aid station took on as much water and Gatorade as I thought I could bear. I was counting on them having electrolytes, but they didn't, so I grabbed a Gu on my way out too.
That pattern basically continued for the next 20km. Except as I realized my cramps weren't getting better around km 5, I switched to Pepsi. I needed the salt and the caffeine I figured. But I remembered my buddy Brett's words "once you're on the Pepsi, you can't get back off it". Like yoda in the fog. So that was what I did. Pepsi and water, every chance I got.
Now also around the 5km my "relax everything" technique reminded me of the great triathlon saying "you can't trust a fart after [distance/hours]" Whatever distance/hours it was, I was well passed it. And as my clenches because more and more routine, for fear of soiling the grand green suit I was wearing, I made an educated decision to peel off into a port-a-potty just to "check the webbing" so to speak.
Not to worry, no gory details, everything was a-okay. Actually once I was in there I just sat and hung our for I think a full 4 minutes. I needed it. And the setting was...well...fine enough.
Now a plug for work. This port-a-potty was not a superior Super Save toilet. And the buffoon who had installed it set it on a root or something because when you stood in it it rocked like a hippy van down by the river on a random tuesday night. And when you're gearing down to nothing because of your ultra-tight trisuit, it rocked even more! I was actually laughing imagining what the scene must have looked like from the outside. Just this lone port-a-potty smashing back and forth and back and forth for what must have seemed like a way too long time. But that suit is hard to get out of! And even harder to get back into! You're welcome volunteers who watched this transpire.
Anyway, I emerged victorious, grabbed another Pepsi, and set off on my way.
Kilometres 5 through about 11 were relatively uneventful. I wasn't moving fast. I was walking every rest stop and hydrating, and just sort of plodding along. Team Unicorn Sparkle Adventure cheer squad was wonderful at the end of the first loop.
Kilometres 11 - 21.1 though, now that was another story.
Those 10.1 hurt, and hurt bad.
By this stage, I had been in motion for about 5 hours. I had staved off cramps by triage measures that had left my insides a wreck. And for the first time, I experienced an aerobic endurance capacity that was exceeding my muscular endurance capacity.
What do I mean by that?
In most of my training, my aerobic capacity is not as good as my muscular endurance. In other words, my lungs and my heart tire before my legs. I know I'm well trained, however, when my legs start to tire before my lungs and heart. This had been the case in training in the three or so weeks leading up to this race.
But usually that's a cumulative fatigue thing that goes away in taper week. I'd never experienced it in a race before.
Here, I kept looking at my watch, and was registering a very low heart rate; I could push harder said science. But my legs were just not doing it. I couldn't increase my cadence, I couldn't increase my stride. So while my metrics said I had more, my body told me I didn't.
Add to that the fact that I was basically poisoning my body with cola and caffeine to try and keep it moving and that phrase "somebody gonna get a hurtin' real bad" was running through my brain and focused squarely on everything that was keeping me moving.
So what did I do? I tried my best to daydream. If you can daydream, and I mean really zonk out, you delay the pain. So as best as I could I did. And I kept going. And I didn't walk, because for me if I walk then I've given up. One leg in front of the other, over and over and over.
Running up that final victory shoot I had nothing left. No kick at the end like I usually do. Apparently I was quite pale, but I'm usually quite pale, so I'm not sure that was much different.
When I finished all I wanted to do was drink water and sit down. Which I did. And it took 5 minutes, and then I was sooooo proud. The cheers squad was there, Brandon was there (having crushed it), and all was right with the world again.
I suffered more for this one this year. It made the rewards at the end that much sweeter.
My official times were as follows (and 2015 times for reference):
|Ironman 70.3 Victoria (2016)||Ironman 70.3 Victoria (2015)|
The swim improvement really isn't that much of an improvement, it's just that the course was shorter. Although my 100m while doing front crawl was much faster than last year. If it wasn't for weed and breast stroking I was on pace for a 30 minute finish. I can live with that all day, and am happy with where my swim is (if not very satisfied with my gear). I think a non-wetsuit race may be in my future.
The bike was a significant improvement, I'm very proud of that. Now I stopped to pee on the bike last year, and didn't this year, but overall my bike was significantly stronger this year and it shows in the numbers, both time and average speed.
The run, well, that was hard, but if you take out the 4 minutes in the port-a-potty and all the walking at aid stations I'm actually surprisingly close to last year. The difference is last year I felt like a champ crossing the finish line, and kicked hard at the end, where this year I felt like I had to fight for every step, probably because I did.
Now for standings, it looks like I was officially 999. Breaking the top 1000 bitches! Ah yeah! Of the 1400 or so competitors that's hilariously low, of the age group, even worse. I'm a bottom 10 percenter, no doubt. But does that take anything away from it? Absolutely not.
Just like golf, the more time of the course, the more you get your money's worth. So watch out Ironman Arizona! I'm going to get the bargain of the century when I put you behind me in a few short months.