Two years ago I embarked on the Half Iron(wo)man in Stony Plain because it was recommended to me by my training partner and friend, Maybel. We did the race and I had a blast. It was my first long-distance triathlon and was by far the hardest triathlon I had ever done. It was at this race that the idea of a full Iron(wo)man popped into my head. Maybel had done Ironman Canada and she is one of those people that liked to push me a little bit towards these crazy goals. Luckily, I am very receptive as a goal-oriented person. So when I did this race 2 years ago, I finished with a time of 6:41. I knew that I would beat this time, but I had no idea by how much. I was hoping to be around the 6 hour mark, but I am quite happy with the 6:32 that I finished with.
But back to the beginning…
The day before the race, my partner had left to go to a concert with the promise that he would be here when I awoke at 5am the next day. So I spent the afternoon reading my new yoga magazine, stretching, mentally preparing, packing my race bag (twice), eating, and hydrating. I went to bed at the ripe time of 8:00 pm. I easily awoke at 5 with Luke just rolling in from the concert. I made and ate the oatmeal that we concocted that is rich with almonds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and soy milk. It is seriously so good! We eat it almost everyday and it felt good to be full. I wasn’t very nervous, thanks to all the mental preparation I had done the day before, so it was easy to eat.
We went down to set up my transition from the swim to bike. My bike was already set up from the night before, so it was pretty easy to do. I noted the mud that was right by my bike and tried to count the number of racks to mine, but the whole transition area was an unorganized mess. The organizers had gotten new racks this year so they didn’t have enough and I personally hate the A-frame racks. My bike never touches the ground making it difficult to unrack and rack.
I did a quick warm-up in the lake after I ate a Gu gel at around 7:35am, with the race to start at 8:00. With 700 people in the water at one time, I knew that the beginning was going to be pretty crazy and I was right. The gun went off and my most unfavorite part of any triathlon began. I am generally a middle-of-the-pack swimmer and I put myself in that position when lining up for the mass start. However, I think that some people who position themselves don’t believe they should be there. That is the only reason that I can understand for people hitting, kicking, and swimming over other people near them. I learned after the race that there were problems with the buoys moving with the swimmers, so maybe people were sighting and not going straight because of that. It still doesn’t explain the hitting, kicking, and pulling me under. It was very ridiculous and I wasn’t happy with it at all. While I tolerate the swim and I love training for the swim, I dislike the swim portion of the triathlon because of the splashing, crowding, and hitting. It just doesn’t seem necessary for age-groupers to do. A friend of mine said that I should start near the front because the fast people will just go around me and because they actually know how to swim, they won’t hit me. I may consider this for future races. I came out of the water at 43:49, which is about a minute faster than last time. I was pretty happy about this. I was quickly stripped of my wetsuit thanks to some awesome volunteers and I was off to my transition area.
When I did this race two years ago, I was shell-shocked at the chaos of the huge transition area and of the rest of the race. So this time I was well-prepared thanks to all the time I had to myself the night before and my transition was fairly quick. So I was on the bike before I knew it!
The bike is always home for me in a triathlon and this one was no exception. I was hoping for an average speed of 25 km/hr, but I had an especially good bike ride and ended up with a 27.6 km/hr speed. I don’t think I’ve ever held that speed for so long before. However, the wind was minimal (even though I did hear people complain about it, but I’m from Saskatoon where the wind blows hard) and the conditions were exceptional: not too hot, not too crowded, and my legs were feeling good. There was a bit of drafting going on, which I wasn’t keen on (I play by the rules because I like the rules). There was also a sketchy part of the ride where Hearbreak Hill is situated by the river. There was a big pothole at the bottom of the hill and there was a crash of two people there, one of whom I know from Saskatchewan (a race organizer for the Frank Dunn Triathlon, Mark Nagy), and they were pretty scraped up. I don’t think they were hurt more than some bad road rash. Hopefully they fix that part for next year! There was quite a bit of traffic on that part of the course, which none of us were excited about. Some big trucks were on the roads and with almost 700 cyclists on the road, it becomes difficult to share the road. Nonetheless, I finished the bike in 3:15:39, which is an 11-minute improvement from last time. I was definitely satisfied with my bike ride!
My transition to the run was smooth. I was very nutritionally ready thanks to the practice I had at Spin Off Spadina (the Saskatoon race two weeks previous). I have been practicing with gels and Clif bars and Gatorade and it seems to work well for me. I didn’t have the urge to pee on the bike at all, which can be worrisome, but I know my body and know that I could have went, but wanted to wait until the transition area. I took some time after T2, which was at a different spot than T1, to go to the porta potty, which ended up being my only bathroom break the whole race. Sometimes I really think that my body and mind listen well to each other. I think it is because of the yoga that I do and the awareness that I have of both, and at times I think I can control my body through my mind.
The run was fairly uneventful. I knew what I had to do: slow and steady, walk through the water stations, drink Gatorade at every water station & soak my head with water, and don’t push it too much. I prefer to finish a race strong, which is why I don’t push it on the run. I lost about 3 minutes on the run with a 2:32 half marathon time. If I was just doing a half marathon, I would be content with this time. So to have this time with minimal running (ie. nothing more than 5-8km since last summer) was amazing to me. It just goes to show what is necessary and what isn’t. Sure, my time would have been better with a little more running. However, I know that if I run too much or too often or too hard that I easily get injured. My number one goal of training is to not get injured, which means that the running is last on the priority list and biking is the highest. I met some cool people along the way: Nola from Calgary chatted with me on the bike going up one side of Heartbreak Hill and then we ran together for the first few kilometres until she cramped up, but she passed me later on; Kelly is the mother of two wonderful girls and has done Ironman, who also would love to finish the Half in 6 hours, and she finished a few minutes behind me when she cramped up near the end; then there was #456, a bald guy in a red jersey that leap-frogged me on the bike and the whole way through the run as he ran-walked, but he cramped up near the end and I finished on top. I felt like the tortoise, as I just pushed on slow and steady.
The whole run felt pretty good and I smiled and cheered people on the whole way. I thanked every volunteer for coming out to make the race possible. I gave every Saskatoonian that I knew a high-five and they were all impressed with how chipper I seemed. There is something about races that I just love. The energy of it all and every person there pushing themselves to the limit. There is no other way to know one’s bodily limit until they reach it, whether it be a stomach cramp making you fall to your knees with only 4km left to go or whether it be an injury before the race and you having to WALK the entire 21.1km. It is an amazing feeling to know one’s limits.
When I was 1km left to go, I felt so great. My stomach was not upset, my quads were a little sore and my Achilles heels were tight, but I got to finish the last kilometre strong. I came around the corner, heard the announcer say my name and announce that I was doing Ironman this year, and I shouted out a big “WOOOOHOOOO!” as I crossed the Finish Line and smiled for the picture. I finished the race with a final time of 6:32, 524th overall out of 622 and 28/33 in my age group. Wade Churchill, the race director, shook my hand and put the finisher’s medal over my head. I thanked him and said, “See? Vegans can do it too!” (See here for the details on the food at this race). He laughed and gave me a big hug. Then I saw my partner with the camera taking pictures and he gave me a big hug. I was all emotional, as I always get after a race, and so happy to be done. I have graduated to a whole new level: an experienced triathlete. This one was my 10th triathlon, my second Half IM, and my first full tri this year. So exciting!
I am so glad to have done this race as it is great preparation for IM and it really boosted my confidence in myself at being able to complete my first IM. Not to mention, it is just a great, well-organized race.
I’m read to go!
My camera-man and partner, Luke
Some nervous 700+ swimmers before the gun went off:
Off we go!
A sea of arms and neon swim caps – it must be a triathlon!
This is just the beginning…
Second lap (I’m waving at Luke in this photo)
I just dove in to start the second 1000m lap:
Coming out of the run at 43 minutes:
Transition 1: Utter chaos!
At home on the bike for the next 3 hours:
The end of the run: a half marathon of 2:32
A finishing time of 6:32
Happy to be done!