Please bear with me as I’m new at this race report business…
I have many a time thought of writing a little something post race but just never got the time to do so afterwards.
I feel as though I need to give you all some context before the race itself so that you can truly get the whole picture.
As Coach Mike eluded to in the overall race report, I am probably the most unconventional Ironman you have ever met!
I work between 65-80 hours a week running a monster of a restaurant , I am married (she’s amazingly patient!) have two kids under the age of 5 and a dog for good measure.
I took on the challenge of becoming a Triathlete a mere 7 years ago after many years of high level soccer, junior hockey and plenty of other sports.
It was the usual route of Sprint, “I will never do an Ironman, that’s crazy!” to Olympic “I can’t swim that far!” to Half Iron to the full meal deal at IM Canada (Whistler) 2017. I was actually naive enough to attempt to sign up for another full distance at Challenge Roth (Germany) before I ever finished IM Canada! My name was pulled off the wait list for Roth in December after my first full distance and last summer I was privileged and honoured to race the global spectacle that is Roth; for those that haven’t and are on the fence, buy a tour spot or put your name in the lottery every year as you won’t be disappointed!! My luck didn’t end there as my name also got pulled to run the New York Marathon last November too! So needless to say I had a big couple of years and the life/race experiences were of the highest levels.
Enter the predicament, how does one top this? how does one engage themselves to push through the training and all that goes with it?
My previous Coach took a step back from the sport all at the same time and my work took over in the latter part of winter. This combination made for a huge mental and physical challenge.
Having met with Coach Mike and learning of the group dynamic with HPR as well as singular coaching I felt that with my very difficult work/family/training balance I could pull off a race this year. I just couldn’t let a season go by and not race!
For those that know me, I’m an all in kid of guy. I set my sights on something and off I go. In this instance, I wanted to race something and somewhere different, I also needed a race in August due to work commitments etc. IM70.3 Calgary fit the bill. I have some family there, it wasn’t too far to get to and by all accounts the course was a fast one! Who doesn’t like fast?!
HPR teammates Mike and Jenn Campbell were going too so it was a perfect fit, now all I had to do was train to get there!?! With less than a dozen swims, stuffing in as much bike as I could and feeling confident in my running as this was the only thing I haven’t stopped doing since las summer, I threw all I had at the race is this is what I managed to pull off:
Looked out the hotel window and it was the rains of hell pouring down! I took in my pre planned food and drink items, did all ground work stretching in the dry hotel room and made my way down to the lobby. Original plan was to listen to my music and walk the 10-15mins to T1 but there happened to be a cab out front. Best $5 ride ever!
Prepped bike with premixed hydration bottles with Skratch Labs, stuffed the bike with gels and blocks accordingly. Pumped up the tires (I have never been to a race that there wasn’t a pump to use FYI) and made sure the Bike was good to go and in the lowest gear for the start.
I went and wished both Mike and Jenn Campbell the best and then got a quick body mark, which avoided the nasty line up when I first arrived.
I then lined up for a potty stop and whilst waiting continued my stretching routine to be efficient and keep warm.
I then went to do final preparations of my transition spot as I wanted to avoid the rain as best as possible. Can you say Plastic bags?! I was diligent in preparing all items for both swim to bike and bike to run with plastic, dry and fast in mind.
I chose to skip a swim warm up and use the long run down as a good heart rate upper and preferred to not be any wetter than I already was and be dead cold to start.
I took one gel 30mins prior to race start along with small sips of water.
I can’t speak highly enough of pre race recon. Having gone the day before to the man made lake for our 20/20/20 with Mike and Jenn, learning of the fact that the first 50 yards is in knee high water allowed us to properly figure out how to execute 2 entries and 2 exits as it is a double loop swim course. In addition to this, I highly recommend anyone pre determines good sighting points on course outside (or above) the bouys out in the water. We arrived for the swim start to heavy rains and now a thick fog that you couldn’t see the bouys out there if you tried! Luckily we had worked off of this one house way down at the other end of the lake that happened to have an all white face which luckily stood out through the fog. In addition the was a grouping of 3 tall trees between two homes after the 1st turn and then the inflatable archway on the beach for after turn 2. Now normally I am an anxious swimmer but I have to say I raced this with previous experience in mind. Some new HPR teammates (I’m sorry I don’t remember your names) warned me of a busy, aggressive swim. As anyone knows the key to swimming is efficiency and getting into ones rhythm. I was predicting a 50-55min Swim since I really hadn’t been in the water much (my first swim since July 1st of last year was late June of this year!) but I avoided large clumps of people, drafted where I could and sighted well to finish with a 45:10
I never expected the rains to be as bad as they were so buying the clearance cycling rain jacket at MEC for $45 the day before was a good idea! I must say though that this is the first time I have ever tried something new on race day, but in this instance I think I did well!
I had my shoes etc in a plastic bag and then all of this in another large plastic bag to keep dry why I tried not to drown, I’m happy to report it worked! It took an extra few seconds for the jacket and gloves (which I don’t normally wear to race in) but I’m glad I decided to and I clocked a transition 1 time of 5:37
As teammate Mike had predicted it was a head wind the whole way out. The rain had begun to taper off but I was wet and for whatever reason my upper legs could get warm?! It was that stinging cold pain feeling for basically 45km along the Cowboy Highway out in the Calgary countryside. It was a shame to have such dark low lying clouds as there wasn’t much to see, so I just kept my head down, pushed in aero to get to the turn around. The course features long portions of a downward grade on the way out which helped in the fight with the head wind.
My family that managed to come out for the race were out at the turn junction and as any of you who have raced before it’s always a boost to see people you know cheering for you. Having the chance to see them twice was a bonus! I hit the halfway and as the wind was now at our backs I pushed hard to make it up the downward grades. I knew that to have a good run I had to be diligent on my hydration and nutrition.
I like to race self sufficient so as to avoid any GI issues from previous experience. Volunteers make these races go around but you never know how much powder is in the drink mix, you may have never used the gels on course let alone like the flavours so why take that chance?! I knew that with the reduced temperatures many racers would forget to hydrate properly and I knew that I could prob stand to take on a bit less which in turn would hopefully lead to a better tummy for the run.
I consumed 3 gels, 6 blocks, water and 1.75 bottles of hydration mix. There are no major climbs on this course so to break up the muscle groups and avoid the constant strain of the aero position I stood up and did some intervals/pushes to keep up the average speed.
I finished with a 2:40 which was just shy of a 34km per hour avg.
Like before plastic bags were my friend! In addition to the dry gear, hands down the best decision I made all day was a pair of fresh socks ready to go in my runners!! For the extra seconds it took to do this it more than made up for the dry, pain free feet on the half marathon.
Transition 2 time: 4:18
I have been consistently running all year round so I felt good heading into the 21.1kms. The weather at this point couldn’t have been better for running; cool temperatures and no more rain!
I set out from transition and really tried to stay on point with my heart rate, work through the course and not forget about the nasty hill climb on the way back.
My feet felt like blocks in the beginning but I was so happy to be wearing dry socks. I settled into a rhythm and did my best to not get caught up with other faster or slower runners out on course but rather run my race.
Like the bike I came with my own nutrition/hydration for the run and wore a water belt for its duration. I weaved my way past plenty of runners and one quick stop in a porta potty in advance of the nasty hill. At aprox the 16.5km mark you have to run uphill with a coupe of switchbacks for good measure; they call it the Cranston Crawl.
I was determined and told myself I would not walk the hill for any portion of it and I didn’t!
Once past the hill of hell there is just under a km of more incline as you get away from the cliff edge which over looks the Bow River and trail network. It was a beautiful run course with a mix of open scenery and forest trails. After you cross over the highway in a dedicated lane running past all of the locals stuck in traffic because of you it’s the last push through the community of Auburn Bay to the finish. I raised my speed along this last stretch and tried to pick off as many runners ahead of me as possible, with an all out sprint to the finish.
I’m pumped to report I ran a 1:50:01 which may just be my fastest half marathon yet!
I consumed an additional 2 gels and 4 blocks along with water at aid stations and my own hydration mix.
All in all I’m happy with the day and to have managed to get to the start relatively injury free, survive the swim and cross that finish line with a 5:25:20. This is by far my best half Ironman result by upwards of 30 minutes.
It was a privilege to be able to train and race with Jenn and Mike Campbell and be a small part of their journeys too. Jenn killed it for a 1st place finished which sends her to Taupo NZ for worlds and Mike crushed a 5th place finish, they are inspiring!
Thanks to Coach Mike, all you new teammates at HPR, my friends and family who allow me to push my limits and race in this truly unique sport!
I look forward to a full season next year and new challenges.