Monday, September 06, 2010

Canadian Half Ironman Race Report

Canadian Half Ironman Race Report
September 4th 2010

So this was my last triathlon race of the season, it was also the longest race of the year, a half ironman race. This involves a 2km swim, a 90km bike ride, followed by a 21.1km run(half marathon). This would be the 4th time I would be doing this distance and I was coming in with some very specific goals (more on those later). The race, The Canadian is put on by Sommersault and is the crowning race in their summer long race series.
Before the Race:
The days leading up to the race were incredibily hot in (as in 42degrees with the humidex!!!) So there was lots of water to drink and lots of Air Conditioning working overtime. I was also all alone for most of the week because Jen had taken the kids up to the cottage with her mom(who was on vacation). Add all this to a taper week ( a taper is a reduction in training volume so that your body can absorb all the training and fitness you have built up) and it was a very quiet week!

The day before the race:
I got all my stuff ready, now you may ask yourselves what does one bring to a triathlon? Well here you have it:
BTW you can tell that I was the only one it the house, as normally I wouldn’t have all my stuff spread out on the table like that :-)
And I certainly would dream of bringing my bike in the kitchen!
Not to worry as it all packs away  neat and tidy into one backpack that I use to get everything into the race.
The other important thing you do before a race is take pictures of your bike! Here they are, don’t worry it might seem weird that a grown man is taking pictures of his bike but trust me it is just a cyclist thing!



Side note: these pics were taken at the Watson’s Mill in Manotick  it is the old flour mill in Manotick, that was built as part of the Rideau Canal

The day before the race is also the day to get your nutrition ready for the race. Here is my nutrition all set out, and before you go asking the giant bag of white powder is not what you think it is... It my supply of maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is a sugar that is commonly used is brewing beer, but is also the main ingredient in "sports drinks". I use it to make my own highly concentrated sports drink (about 800cals that will last the whole race) it is perfect because it has no taste, so you can flavour it with whatever you want. I use those small round tubes called Nuun which provide flavour and a little electrolytes. 

The goals for the race were as follows:
1. Beat last years time of 4hr 47min 6secs
2. Break 4hr 40min if everything goes right
3. Top Ten

Race Day:
Actually I should start this part with "Race morning @ 3am" which is when I woke up. Well I was _woken_ up by thunder/lighting/rain. For those of you wondering... no those aren’t ideal conditions for racing! I tried to get back to sleep but mostly  was semi-conscious from then until I actually got out of bed. This storm was the weather changing from the crazy heat earlier in the week to a much cooler day. By the time I got up it had stopped raining  but they were calling for the wind to pick up and possible showers in the afternoon. Ate my breakfast and drank my coffee, then pump my tires up and was ready to get going to the race. This race is close enough that I can bike in about 30mins, this is a great way to get warm up.
Pre Race:
The bike ride in was good, although I was a little over dressed and got a good sweat going. However I did leave a little late leaving so I was also a little late getting to the race venue that meant that most of the good spots in the transition area( the spot were you set up your transition spot, were you transition from one sport to the other swim>bike and bike>run), eventually I found a decent spot and was able to get my warm up run in. After that it was time to set the transition area up (get my bike ready, with the nutrition on and ready, as well as get the running stuff ready for after the bike). I got dressed in my wetsuit and headed down to the beach, it was at this point I realized how windy it actually was and that we would be swimming out _into_ a headwind, which means waves! I got into the water and did a 5min warm up swim. After that it was time to stand around for a couple more minutes and wait for the start. It is funny the thoughts that go through your head before, they are actually very silly, some doubting, and non-positive thoughts. I tried to put them out of my head and focus on my plan. 5,4,3,2,1,....GO!

With that we were off, me and 150 of my closest friends for a nice swim. My plan was to swim to the left of the crowd (which also was  the straightest line to the turn buoy) . If you remember my last race  I had some concentration problems in the swim. So the plan was to focus on counting my strokes and set targets (each of the buoys that marked the course would be my targets) I would focus on the first target and on counting strokes and only worry making it to the target. Once at the target I would set the new target and repeat.
The swim was good, it was hard swimming into the wind and waves but it went pretty well. I think I executed my swim plan very well and I never lost focus like the last race. The weeds were really bad coming back into the shore, but that was the only "problem".

Transition Swim to Bike (or if you are a triathlete T1):
It is a pretty long run up from the beach, but nothing to taxing. I had problems getting my watch strap on (AGAIN!) but everything else went well. Looking at the results I was about 30secs slower than the top guys, I will improve on these next year!

On to the bike, I felt great immediatly passed a bunch of people on the run out at the bike mount. I was really flying on the first lap and had to force myself to slow down (it is a long bike ride/day and you don’t want to burn up to much energy early on). I settled into my pace and effort and continued to pass people. I also started in on my nutrition for the day. Re nutrition: I had one powerbar (300cals) and my bottle with nutrition mix (800cals) and a couple of emergency gels if needed. At the turn around of the first lap I got to see were I was in the race, I counted about 15 people ahead of me.
Once settled in  I focused on my plan, which was “strong and steady”. I was really biking well for the first three laps passing lots of people (there are several other race distances running at the same time). It is also inportant to not that by the time we got on the bike the wind was really blowing. The bike course is 6 * a 15km loop, which in the case of the wind means that you go the wind going “out” and then went into the wind on the “back” of each loop. Here is a screen shot of the weather from the day: see the wind 30km/h!!!
in case you doubted the wind, I found this picture showing the stands being blown over:

On the back part of the third lap I passed a group of (fast triathlete) meaning either i was having a very good ride or I was maybe pacing things a little fast. I didn’t feel like I was I going too hard as was still within my pre-set limits. I made a decision to back off the “back” laps (which was the head winds laps) at this point the wind really, _really_ started to pick up, so it turned out to be a good idea to back off a bit, it still proved hard work on the back leg the wind was very strong!
The last two laps went well, however the group of fast triathletes had re-passed me and  put a little more time into me.  I couldn’t/didn’t want to keep pace with them, I had to keep to with my plan. The last half of the last lap was all about getting mentally and physically ready for the run. Here is the physical data from the ride, you can really tell when I was going with the wind and when I was going into it:

Transition 2 (or t2 for the triathletes still reading):
This one was fairly un-eventful, I passed one guy on the run into the transition area. I tried to be smooth and efficient once I got to my transition spot. I didn’t have any problems with cramping (last year my legs cramped bad getting off the bike). The only problem I had was when I was turning my race belt/number around I ripped one corner. I had to fiddle around with it for 30secs or so to fix it. Grab my hat, fuel belt, and sun glasses and I was off on the run.

Sticking with the plan theme, the plan for the run was “run like a runner”. This came about from my last triathlon where I saw one athlete who was running so beautifully, I realized that triathletes run with short choppy strides (who can blame them after biking and swimming) and I wanted to run smoothly with a nice  long stride. The second part of the plan was to not go out a the start of the run to fast. Well so much for a good plan! I went out in the first KM way to fast (again) despite telling myself to go easy (was running a 3:45 pace out of the first 500m!) My watch shows me my running pace so it gives me the feedback that I was running to fast, so I tried to settle into my desired pace (4:15s) but from just after the first 1km my left hamstring felt “twingy”. I immediately went to the emergency stash of electrolyte pills, but couldn’t sallow them cause apparently I can’t sallow pills without liquids. I thought I would just wait till the next aid station but the leg wasn’t getting any better and I really wanted to get the pills down. I remembered that I had my fuelbelt with Red Bull ... a little sip from my fuelbelt bottle and them pills where swallowed . At the next aid station I swallowed the rest of my pills  (another 4), after that I tried to focus on running and the leg didn’t bother me the rest of the run. The run is three loops of just over 7km for a total of 21.1km. As with the bike the “out” sections went with the wind and the “back” was into a still very strong wind. The plan was to put a cap on my running effort (the cap was an Heart Rate of 165) for the first 14km and then see where I was for the last lap, normally this should put me right on my desired pace(4:15) and it seem to work on the out portions but the back portions was into a crazy head wind that reduced me to much slower pace at the same effort. None the less I was still passing lots of runners (from the other events) but I wasn’t passing anybody in front of  me in the race. Once on the last lap the plan was to throw the restrictions/caps out the window and run as hard as I could (after swimming 2km and biking 90km and running 14km) and that is what I did.
It wasn’t pretty but I ended up passing one guy in front of me. Here is the "Wasn't pretty" picture:
Here is the final physical data for the run:

I sprinted to the end, happy to be finished a very tough day!
Finish time:
I finished in 4hrs 40min and 58 seconds, with a break down of
swim: 31:23
t1: 3:23
Bike: 2:29:45
t2: 1:39
Run: 1:34:44

Post Race:
Hanging around post race and talking with the other competitors every was talking about how bad the wind was, and what a tough day it was. I enjoyed a burger and a sausage (via a BBQ for the athletes, nice touch!) and then biked home.... into a head wind all the way home!!!

Full Results: here
All Race Pics: here

That was a long report, but it was a long race :-)
Take care

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