Monday, June 25, 2012

Welland Half Iron Race Report

June 24, 2012
Welland Half Iron Distance
My 6th triathlon
My first Half Iron

Exactly one year ago I ran my first triathlon: The Multisport Canada Welland Give-it-a-Tri. This is me crossing the finish line at the Welland Half Iron Distance triathlon on Sunday, June 24, 2012, exactly one year later.  Official time 5:31:25 - which if you read my last post on my goals - I blew my A goal of 6 hours out of the water!  How did that happen?  Very favourable weather conditions and a very fast course!  So, let me start from the beginning.

The night before the race, Barry and I were joined by Shannon and Colleen (both also racing the Half) for a nice dinner at Macaroni Grill in Niagara Falls.  It was a nice relaxing dinner of delicious pesto spaghetti and a beer (Stella of course).  We were back at the hotel by 8.  I had all my gear already packed up in my gear box so there was little to do.  We settled down for the night around 9:30 but of course it was a pretty restless night though I did get some sleep.

We were up just before 6 and it was a great, relaxing morning.  I had picked up my race kit on Saturday so there was no hurry.  It was very sunny and bright outside but the clouds were starting to build (thank goodness).  The morning flowed amazing well and we headed to the race site around 7, grabbed rock star parking right across from transition and began the race day.

Setting up transition was easy and smooth.  I walked down to the swim to check out the course which always puts me in to a nervous state.  2,000m looks a long way.
relaxed setting up in transition

Swim Course
 Before I knew it I was back in transition,  listening to the race briefing and putting on my wetsuit and heading back to the water.
Shannon, Colleen and me waiting to get in the water
The water was quite clean and warm but I had an issue with my googles.... something got on the lenses and they were cloudy....

darn googles

I finally realized it wasn't going to get any better so I sucked it up.   Luckily the swim was in a canal so I could site on the shore and as it turned out - with 500 swimmers in a mass start - you are never on your own so sighting was pretty easy.
Nothing like a little 2km swim with 500 friends!
Besides having a lack of vision, I settled into the swim pretty quickly.  It was CROWDED the entire swim and I took a couple hard knocks to the head and many pushes on my legs but I managed to keep my goggles on and my breathing under control.  Since I do not breath bilaterally (alternating sides, every 3rd stroke) I decided to try the 2-2-4 count ... stroke, stroke, breath,  stroke, stroke, breath, stroke, stroke,stroke, stroke, breath, repeat.  I counted in my head, 1...2... 1....2.... 1.... 2.... 3.... 4......, and it was wonderful.  Before I knew it I was at the swim exit and Barry's telling me "40 minutes baby, 40 minutes".  I think my response was "I don't believe it".  Official time 39:41!  My fastest swim EVER!

Out of the swim there is a run up to T1 which I made quick work of it in 1:50. 

T1 was uneventful.  I was quite surprised how many bikes were still there.  I'm usually one of the last out of the water and find the racks quite empty.  I had no problem striping my wet suit but had some annoying gravel bits on my feet that I had to wipe clean before getting my cycling shoes on.  I also took the time to put ear drops in even though I was wearing ear plugs for this swim.  I didn't want to chance having water stuck in my right ear for my 90k ride.  My T1 time was 1:55 though I felt like I did it quicker.
Ready to ride!

The bike course at Welland is flat, flat, and flat with lots of long straight road with one silly 2.5km out and back.  Luckily the wind was light because apparently it can get pretty brutal out there in the wind and since there were many wind turbines around I believe it.  The course is almost a lolly pop shape with a long out and back with a loop on the end.

On the way out the course was very crowded.  There were no hills to put any distance between racers and everyone was trying to race their race without drafting but that is darn near impossible when riders are passing 3 - 4 wide.  Being passed while passing, having to drop back after being passed but with riders right on your tail ....  about 20 k into the ride the officials on the motorcycle came by and yelled something to me ... drafting ... violation ....  CRAP.... they continued up the line yelling at others and writing .... needless to say I was not happy and I had 2 hours to pound out the bike thinking about how unfair that was while simultaneously telling myself to let it go ....  luckily I was only given a warning but I didn't know that until I finished the race and checked the violation sheet.  It looked like about 75 riders were given  2 minute penalties and there were a few multiple offenders out there too!

On the second turn on the loop, a lady in front of me went down hard on the turn and throughout the whole course I passed 3 men with flats.  I was thankful my ride was going so well and I drank my nutrition on schedule.  I kept telling myself to ride what I should and not what I could (yes Clinton I do listen to you and EN) because I had a half marathon to run.  I definitely could have ridden harder and faster but happy with my performance.  I went in hoping to maintain a average speed of 30km/h and came out with a bike split of 2:52:50 averaging 31.2 km/h.
There were definitely parts of me that wanted off that bike!

I came into T2 completely pumped and very happy to get off the bike.  Nearly 3 hours in the saddle can be quite irritating.  I knew I had killed the swim and over achieved on the bike giving myself pleanty of time on the run to make my 6 hour goal. I made quick work of getting off my cycling shoes, socks on, helment off, visor on, and out I went.  Unfortunately my timing chip did not register leaving T2 but by time stamps on Barry`s photos it was approximately 1 minute in T2.
Leaving T2 pumped and ready to run a half marathon, I knew I had my goal beat!

I`ve run 21.1 km many times. I know the distance, I like the distance but I have never run the distance after 90km on a bike, or after 2km swim.  My legs felt great, but I had to pee.  I figured I would hit the bushes or a port-o-potty out on the course.   Barry ran with me for a bit and I forgot to start my watch but I think I started it about 1.6k into the race.

The run course was quite nice.  We ran out to Merritt Island where we did two 8k loops.  Mentally I loved this as I could break it down into two 8km or four 4km runs.  It`s also great seeing runners coming the other way.  I knew Shannon was about 10 - 12 minutes ahead of me at the start of the run and seeing her on the loop gave me tons of drive to catch her (which I did at 17k). I saw 2 speedy guys with TTC (Toronto Triathlon Club) Gear, both lapped me.  I'm not sure who it was but I really appreciated the kind words from fellow TTCer as he passed me on his final lap as I was still a KM from starting my second loop.  I also saw Jayson from the TTC three times as we ran the loops.

The volunteers were amazing with aid stations every 2km providing sponges, water, HEED, Coke (really can`t believe how many folks take Coke on the run) and various gels and bananas and other snacks.  I took sponges every chance I could, dumped water on my head and drank HEED at every station.  I took one Accelgel at the beginning of the run and one about 16k in.  I never did find the lone port-o-potty empty so I ended up not needing to relieve myself after all!

My first 3 splits on my watch were 5:13, 5:15 and 5:16.  I knew that was faster than I had wanted so I made  a concerted effort to slow down.  I finally settled into a 5:25 pace around the 7km mark and held that steady for the rest of the run however it is nice to note my final 3 km clocked in at 5:19, 5:16 and 5:22.  My legs felt great and I loved every minute of the run.  I thought Barry, Carole and Vic would have come out to the island to see me at the loop but becuase of some unknown logistics they weren`t there.  I didn't let it get me down and just enjoyed the run.  I told a group of spectators I was expecting my fan club and they hooped and hollard for me. I'm sure I screamed "MORE COWBELL" at least 15 times over the day!

When I saw Barry with just about a KM to go I choked up and for the first time in the entire race I started a little hyperventilation.  I had to calm myself with a few big inhales and exhales and was overjoyed to have Barry join me for the last bit of the run.  I don't have an official run split but estimating 1 minute in T2, I completed the half marathon in 1:54.

about a KM to go

Cheering with about 400m to the finish
I had the biggest smile of my life as I ran along the canal to the finish.  I couldn`t believe I was finishing a Half Ironman, that I swam 2k (1.2 miles) , biked 90k (56 miles), and ran 21.1k (13.1 miles).  And when I was able to read the clock  it read 5:30 - With a huge smile and tears in my eyes I jumped as high as I could and screamed WOOHOO as loud as I could as I crossed the finish line.  I don't remember much right after the finish line.  I shook John Salt's hand and I think I wanted to talk to him but I was unable.  Someone removed my timing chip, gave me my medal, my hat and a cup of water. I found a spot to sit and let the emotions over come me.

Congratulations from Carole and Vic
I started my day with my typical bowl of Leaping Leamers cereal and a cup of coffee.  I had an e-Boost as my pre race morning drink at the race site.  About 15 minutes before the race began I had an Accelgel and about 8oz of water.  I had 3, 750ml bottles of Accelerade on the bike - 270 calories each - to be consummed each hour.  I finished my first in the first 35 minutes on the bike, the second about 1:40 and the third with 20 minutes to go.  I was planning on taking a salt tablet every 30 minutes but only took 3 on the bike, and 2 on the run.  I thought there was an aid station at the start of the run so I ran the first 2km thristing for water and wish I had brought my bottle of NUUN with me.  At each aid station (every 2km) I took a little water but mainly HEED.  I took an Accelgel at the first aid station and then again around 16km.  I dumped water on my head and took every sponge offered to me.  There were some really cute kids volunteering and doing such a great job.  

My stomach was fine throughout the bike and the run however towards the end of the run I could feel the makings of perhaps some GI issues.  After the race, let`s just say I had a couple GI issues and leave it at that.

Overall this race was just amazing.  John Salt and his group at Multisport Canada put on a fabulous race.  The volunteers were so amazing and wonderful and while spectators on the course were sparse, the 4 or 5 groups out on the bike course were amazing and the folks on the island during the run were too.  The spectators around the race site were wonderful.  Hands down a well supported race.

A HUGE shout out to my number 1 fan, Sherpa, and photographer Barry. 
Barry finishing his first triathlon

On Saturday he completed his first triathlon at the Give-it-a-tri and he now holds the family Give-it-a-tri record as he beat my time from last year by a minute finishing in 52:05!  I hope to see him race a sprint and Olympic distance this year!
Barry and me before my race

I have to say I loved this distance and I`m searching for another Half Iron in August as another training run for Ironman Florida.  I officially start my IMFL training plan the 3rd week in July.  Next race is the Toronto Trialthon Festival Olynmpic distance on July 22.

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