It wasn’t the the pre-race pep talk I was expecting before my debut Half Iron distance triathlon at MultiSport Canada Welland. Taken out of context, it sounds downright diabolical, but I knew exactly what friend and mentor Richard Pady meant; I’ve never truly found my limits in a race. And if ever there was a day to explore those limits, this was it. Besides my inexperience with long course racing, 30-degree plus heat and humidity, gusting winds and a field stacked with veterans and up-and-comers promised to make for a challenging day.
T-minus 4 hours: whole wheat buttermilk/blueberry/walnut pancakes, cottage cheese, yogurt, banana, peanut butter, tea
T-minus 2 hours: homemade energy bar, dates
T-minus 30 minutes: gel, caffeine!
Swim 2000 m (26:43, 1:20/100 m)
After the usual swim start scrum and a futile attempt to latch onto Wolfgang Guembel, I soon found the fast feet of Angela Quick. She guided me through an uneventful swim and we exited the water in second and third position about 1:40 down on Wolfgang.
|The pro/elite start in the beautiful Welland Canal.|
Bike 90 km (2:11:24, 41.1 km/h)
There was lots of minor drama on the bike: a nasty headwind, two ejected bottles, a fluke bee sting, an erratic driver (promptly stopped by the police and marshals) and a mysterious and alarming noise coming from my bike (thankfully not a flat tire). All this kept me more than entertained on the pancake flat bike course.
As expected, überbiker Nigel Gray overtook me around 30 km at the first bottle exchange. My attempt to keep pace lasted all of 5 seconds. Shortly after, Richard Pady caught up with some welcome encouragement as I battled the headwinds. Less welcome was his hollered critique of my cornering technique (ever the coach…). We traded leads for a little while.
At the turnaround near the halfway point, I saw that the rest of the field was minutes back and I could see Wolfgang ahead. At that point I knew that I could win. I couldn’t help an involuntary fist pump. But there was still work to do. I rode my way into second place around 65 km.
Bike nutrition: 1 bottle homebrew sports drink, 2 bottles on-course sports drink, 2 gels
Run 21.1 km (1:17:46, 3:41/km)
I have never raced an open half-marathon, let alone after swimming and biking for nearly three hours. Some observations:
- Drinking while running is controlled drowning.
- The well-stocked aid stations every mile felt like distant desert oases.
- Yelling WATER!GEL!ICE!SPONGE!DRINK! tends to startle and confuse the kindly aid station volunteers. It’s best to pick two of the above.
- Ice down your shorts is thrilling and invigorating… and an effective cooling strategy.
- Strangely, the final few kilometers of the run course were routed through quicksand.
I was over 4 minutes down on Nigel Gray coming into transition. I went out hard. A few kilometers into the run, someone yelled, “Don’t forget you have a long way to go!” That’s exactly what I was trying to do!
I caught Nigel around kilometer 8. I wish I could say that I didn’t look back, but after my last race, I did a few shoulder checks for good measure. I was in the clear. Yes it was hot, yes I hurt, but I felt in control in spite of my aggressive pacing. So I kept pushing.
One thing I love about racing is that no matter how much people are suffering, many still manage a breathless word of encouragement, a pat on the back, a thumbs up or a nod as you pass each other. This spirit of camaraderie among competitors was epitomized by Wolfgang Guembel when he let me know that I had a shot at the course record. It wasn’t until I broke the record by a scant 23 seconds that I discovered that it had been his. I savoured these details of the experience as I made my way to the finish.
Run nutrition: 3 gels, sips of water or sports drink at every aid station
Thank you to MultiSport Canada, Healthy Results Training, Recharge with Milk, and the awesome race volunteers (sorry for yelling at you). Every time I race with MSC I gain a greater appreciation of the lengths they go to ensure a safe, fun and competitive event for all. Impeccable, as always.