I DID IT! Victoria IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria Race Report

Settle in kids, this is gonna take a while. I shall regale you with tales of stupidity, sweat and shuffling. There will be highs, lows, and a lack of dragons. But, that doesn't mean this won't be fun to read anyway! Per usual, if you simply want the TL;DR here it is:

I forgot my timing chip by the lake (SO DUMB), so these times are non-official and based on my Garmin and the finishing time on the race clock as documented by FinisherPix:

Swim: 34:02 (actually swam 2,012m because who wants to swim straight?) 1:42/100m. Would have put me 20/55 in my AG (dang these girls were fast!).

Bike: 3:04:06 (28.7km/h, 88km course). Would have put me 27/55 in my AG.

Run: 2:16:49 (Would have put me 37/55 in my AG)

I screwed up the transition timing, but based on the above times, my transitions were around 4:30 each. T1 was probably much slower as I panicked and looked around for a timing chip, but wasn't able to find one. The officials were actually super unhelpful about it, and totally lied when they said I would get an overall time. I didn't. It says DNS next to my name and I'm super bummed about it :(.

UPDATE: Never mind! Sportstats did give me a time. 6:03:24.  My watch time is off, probably because I forgot to stop and start the timer a lot, but it was pretty close!

That's the short form of the story...The long version follows!


Candi in her zone! Not a Cervelo but still sexy
Sam and I left Vancouver on the 2pm ferry for Swartz Bay on the Friday afternoon.  I felt this was a good idea because less people would be trying to check in their bikes at once, and I would have more than 1 night to settle in. I love ferry rides! So beautiful this time of year. My only complaint is that it costs and arm and a leg these days if you are boarding the vessel in a car. We drove the 25 mins or so to Elk Lake, to take advantage of the smaller crowds and parking availability. We lucked out and got a spot right by the check-in tent, and there was no line to get my wrist band! Awesome. Everything went by super smoothly in the Athlete Registration process. No complaints there.  Saw some obnoxious IM branded gear, such as shirts that said "IronMate", and "Future Ironman" for the kids. If there is one thing I really hated about this event, it was the number of pretentious people walking around. People wearing their gear from 'their other Ironman races', so that EVERYONE knows you're hot shit. People were ACTUALLY wearing their tri suits on the ferry. On the FRIDAY. Give me a break. No one cares. Triathletes can be the worst sometimes. That's not to say I haven't met some of the nicest and most supportive people through triathlon, but I think the IRONMAN (TM) branded events bring out some of the major douchebags that make triathletes look bad. Needless to say, I didn't linger very long because being around all those super type A, competitive people made me too anxious.

After heading back to our very cozy, quaint and most of all, QUIET B & B in Saanich for the evening, we ate some delicious Korean food at a restaurant nearby (I had Dolsot Bibimbap - if you haven't had this before, try it. It'll change your life!) and went to bed pretty early.

On Saturday, I went back to the race site to attend a 'mandatory' race briefing, but there was no one actually taking note of who attended so I really didn't have to go. I did a quick practice swim in the afternoon, just to get a feel for the lake. The water felt really, really warm and for a moment I panicked about it not being a wetsuit legal race. I didn't need to worry after all, as on race morning, the water temp was a couple degrees under the cutoff...phew! I really wanted to wear my wetsuit, as I have swam maybe a grand total of 6 times before this race, and wanted any speed boost I could get.  Saturday night was the same as Friday, headed back to the Korean restaurant, but this time I got Oyako don (chicken, egg and chive on a bed of rice with delicious sauce). Apparently this should always be my night before the race meal! Back to the B&B and off to bed at 9:00pm (poor Sam...always having to deal with the insane schedule of triathlon. I'll have to make it up to him one day!).


Woke up at 3:45. UGH. Ugh ugh ugh. Who gets up at 3:45? That's not even a morning wake up, that's a late night party. I rolled out of bed and schellacked my body in waterproof sunscreen, and downed a boost shake.  Drank a little bit of water, but not too much as I didn't want to pee super badly before the race, and I knew I had been hydrating well for a long time before the race. Back to the race site we went, to get body marked and to set up transition. Getting marked always feels a bit like being part of a herd of cattle being led to slaughter. Everyone looks so anxious and it just feels weird to have someone write your age down. Prime AAA beef! Age 26! The bikes were packed in so tightly, there wasn't much room to get set up. I had little baggies for nutrition for the bike and run, which was smart (for once).  I put my 'emergency' gel in Candi's goodie box, as well as a bunch of Endurolytes. I prepped my bottle of Perpetuem and put it in the down tube water cage, along with a Gatorade bottle full of water in on the seat tube cage.  MEC had a tent set up to pump your tires up so  I took the chance to top up to about 115psi. 1 hour to my wave start I took a dose of endurolytes, a 'pre-emptive strike' on electrolyte loading prior to the swim. I then struggled into my wetsuit and applied the fancy silicone based 'personal lubricant' purchased the day before to keep my neck from chafing. Turns out all the body glide in Victoria was sold out, so I settled for the next best thing I could find in the family planning section. It worked great! This is where I started to get the pre-race jitters, and COMPLETELY FORGOT TO PUT ON MY TIMING CHIP. Gahh. If only I could go back in time to put that bad boy back on my ankle...No point in dwelling on it now. Thanks to my trusty Garmin, I had close enough times for each stage.  Before I had time to even think about the humongous task ahead of me, it was time to hit the water.  I waded in with my fellow fluorescent yellow caps and started immersing my face in the water and ensuring my wetsuit was already filled with water.  I swear by this technique, regardless of water temperature, as I find it helps me calm down. The starting announcer said "1 minute to start...Women 25-29 get ready to go".  Initiate full on race nerves. "30 seconds..." Holy s^&* this is happening. "10 seconds..." F$%# MY LIFE. *HOOONNNKKKK*

And away we went...


Mandatory pre-race wetsuit photo
Man, this was the craziest swim to date. It was a beach start, so we all took off running. I get swimming as soon as possible, because I am approximately 200% more comfortable swimming than attempting to hop skip and jump through the waves. However, this meant the gauntlet of hands slapping my butt, grabbing my feet, smacking my face all started early. I felt like I could hardly catch a breath, which is a new thing for me. I started heads up swimming to get my bearings and bore down to find a nice little spot to myself.  I was in a good place for about 300m or so, until my goggles started leaking and fell off. I started breast stroking/replacing my goggles at the same time and took off once more. Murky water meant not seeing any feet until the last minute, so as much as I got slapped on the butt, I also slapped many other butts. But on I chugged. I had a good rhythm and was sighting pretty well until we had to turn the corner. Around the second buoy that brings you facing shore again, the sun was directly in my eye and I swear I couldn't see anything. I had to stop a few times to remove my goggles to see where I was going. This pissed me off because I just wanted to get the swim done. More collisions, more butt smacking. Then I found a wonderful trail of bubbles to follow for about 300 meters, which unfortunately veered off course, so I had to be back on my own once more. When I could finally see the swim out arch with my seared eyeballs I was happy. I didn't have a horrible swim, but it was more disjointed than I'm used to and I was eager to get on the bike.  I swam hard until my fingers dragged in the sand and then stood up.  It was at this point I realized I didn't have my timing chip and I was mad. I ran up the transition chute, and quickly yelled to Sam, 'TIMING CHIP!? Where's the timing chip!?".  Sadly, he didn't have it so I was going to be chip-less. I asked several volunteers about where to get another one but no one was able to direct me to the right area. After wasting about 2 minutes doing this, I gave up and got ready to bike. I finished the swim in about 34 minutes. I say 'about' because in the chip panic I forgot to press 'lap' on my watch. Since the swim was listed as 34:50, I think it's safe to say I wasted at least a solid minute before remembering to press 'lap'.

SWIM TIME: ~34:00, ~1:42/100


After the chip fiasco I removed my wetsuit with no issues, and popped on my helmet and sunglasses. I also took a moment to eat another gel (90 cals) before putting on my cycling shoes and socks. Once geared up, I double checked my nutrition box and headed out to the bike course.  No drama at the mount line, I took my time and got rolling.

T1 TIME: Don't know...4:30?


Oh, the bike. It really should have been my best event of the day, and I suppose it wasn't a bad bike, but I know (I KNOW) I can do better.  It was a hilly course, with about 1000m of climbing. There were no monster climbs, but a lot of shorter ones, and a couple moderate hills. I think where I let myself down was the climbing. I need to do one, or both of the following: Lose some weight, train on more hills. I think a bit of both. Not that I'm fat, but I could stand to lose 5-10 to be faster on the bike and run.  I was pretty happy with how I handled the flat and downhill sections.  The course was a 2-loop course of around 44km (not a true 90km), and I can confirm that after completing one loop I wasn't super pumped about doing it again. It wasn't a fitness thing, but more of a serious discomfort in the saddle thing. This is not Candi's fault...perhaps this is TMI, but I had a pretty massive cyst/ingrown right where my crotch meets my thigh, and it was SO PAINFUL after about 1.5 hours. I had to keep shifting my weight around and standing out of the saddle to relieve the pain.  My average pace for the first loop was just about 29km/h, and the second loop was about the same, 28-29km/h for an average of 28.74km/h.  The course was good, aside from some speed bumps in the residential areas and some sketchy corners. OH! And this annoying guy who blatantly littered in the residential zone.  I called him out on it as I passed him (I go faster when annoyed), saying "you really shouldn't litter! It's a time penalty!" and he just laughed at me. What a dick.  I decided to worry more about my nutrition than pure speed for a lot of the bike, and enforced a strict schedule of sipping Perpetuem every 10 minutes, followed by some water, as well as a dose (3 pills) of Endurolytes every hour.  I even successfully performed my very first bottle exchange in the second lap (around 55km in)! I think if I added it all up I drank about 1 liter of plain water, and my 1 bottle of Perpetuem (300 calories). By about 70 km, I was REALLY ready to be off the bike. I was in a lot of pain despite my legs feeling pretty fresh, so I knew I just needed to get out of the saddle. There was a nasty hill right before the turn off to the road that leads you into T2, and another couple of nasty short hills right before T2, just to make sure you are awake before getting off the bike. There was no drama at the dismount, just slowing to a stop and jogging into transition (my legs felt not like jelly! Win!).


Gettin' suncreened
T2 was relatively smooth. I really took my time, walked to my spot and focused on the task at hand. *Rack bike, remove helmet, remove bike shoes. Put on running shoes, attach race belt, put visor on, remove sunglasses. Take a second to stretch, and eat another gel (90 cals) and one more dose of Endurolytes. Shove nutrition in my shorts pockets (had Perpetuem solids, Endurolytes and 2 Hammer gels), and away we go!* Sam yelled some words of encouragement and I think I had some stupid reply like, "time to run a half marathon, because why not?".  There were these awesome volunteers right before the run out arch who had latex gloves on and were ready to slap on sunscreen all over your body. I took the opportunity to get the rub down because it was getting hot. Two people slathered copious amounts of sunblock on my arms and legs and neck, and I was very grateful. Time to start...running...


Some people have ugly cry face, I have ugly sprint face
As I've mentioned before, running is not my strongest suit. So needless to say, the idea of running a half marathon was daunting. A bit of history: I sustained a stress fracture in my ankle, about 2 months before the race. I wasn't able to do any run training, until about 3 weeks away from the race, when I gradually worked my way up to running for an hour without pain. But that was it. 1 hour. That left 1+ hours of running with a big old "?" beside it. So I knew this run was going to be difficult, but I just had to get it done. The run was a two loop course of a 10km lakeside trail, with a little nasty uphill out and back at around the 8km/17km part of the loop to make it a full 21.1km. The vast majority of the run was flat, and shaded which was lovely. It was also on a packed trail, which meant less pounding on the knees and ankles! Win! When I first head out onto the run course, everything felt awful. I had done some brick workouts that felt similar leading up to the race, but it was different this time because I was looking down the barrel of a half marathon. The first 3 kilometers were by far the worst of the whole run. I my legs were dead, my heart rate was rising higher than I wanted and every step felt like a battle. I told myself to keep running no matter what until the first aid station, about 3.5km in.  I was running very slowly to get my heart rate under control, about 6:30 min/km. When I hit the first aid station I was elated. I started to walk, took in some water and Gatorade and took a gel.  The short break was all I needed to get back on the trail feeling fresher. I set out with the goal of running non-stop to the next aid station at about the 6km mark, and I did! I took another chance to take a quick walk break, drink some water and take another dose of Endurolytes. My pace in this segment was closer to 6:05-6:10. The third aid station I tried to eat some Perpetuem solids, but by the time I had chewed on the recommended 3 tablets, I had wasted 2-3 minutes of my time. The solids were chalky, bulky and too hard to break down and swallow. Not really worth it, but you live and learn I guess.  I continued in this fashion - aiming to run non-stop from aid station to aid-station, and before long the kilometers were disappearing and I had finished the first lap. I wasn't in too much pain and was feeling strong. In fact, knowing I just had one loop to go was encouraging! I felt like the worst was over (those first few kilometers) and if I stuck to my current plan, I would be okay.  It was a little jealous running past the finish line and seeing competitors turn off into the finish chute instead of doing another lap, but I knew it was time to earn that finish. Sam yelled some words of encouragement and hearing the crowd and the announcer made me eager to finish the damn thing. So off I went, with the same plan as before. I intended on being a bit quicker this time, and possibly skipping the last aid station. My pace did improve to closer to 6:00min/km for the second lap. Each aid station seemed closer together and the run was starting to get easier, which I think was 90% mental. I did walk the nasty uphill segment until near the top, when I gunned it. This was about 18km into the race and the volunteer at the top was telling people, "You got this! Stay strong!", and then I hustled up to the turnaround and she told me, "You look REALLY strong!".  She might have been lying, but that was the push I needed to finish the race. I kept pushing just a little bit harder every 4-5 minutes until I could see the finish just around the corner about .5 km away. I knew I had this in the bag...I started getting a bit choked up because the whole race I tried not to think about the finish, just about the task at hand. And all of a sudden, when the finish line became a reality, I felt a bit overwhelmed by what it took to get to this point.  When it came time to turn off the finish chute, my rower brain kicked in and I SPRINTED as hard as I could to the finish.  The fact I had this in me says I could have tried harder for the rest of the run, but I was playing it safe to save my ankle and because I didn't know how I would feel. I tried to empty the tank, but honestly, I know I have more to give. I finished strong, and I was happy to be done. I FINISHED!
Finishing strong, looking silly


I got the medal and hat and wandered around trying to find Sam. We finally met up and saw a couple other friends, one of which had just raced and placed 3rd in his AG with a crazy time of 4:27. He looked fresh as a daisy! I honestly didn't feel too bad aside from some soreness and stiffness in my legs and back. I drank some water, parted ways with our friends and managed to get all of my stuff in the car to head back to the ferry. It was pretty surreal how this long term goal ended in what seemed like a flash.  I loved this race and will absolutely do another 70.3. I think for a conservatively paced race, and a first 70.3, 6:03 is a decent time. I have a lot to improve upon, mainly in the run. Since I ran a 2:16 half, I know I can whittle at least 10 minutes off that time with proper training. I plan on entering more running races to get more mileage in and to keep me focused on running more often. The swim? I don't necessarily think training more would yield enough benefits in terms of time to be worth focusing more on. Should I have swam more than a handful of times leading up to the race? Yes! But I don't think I need to worry too much. I'm happy with 34 minutes. Biking? I can definitely improve there. I would love to see a 30km/h average pace or higher next time. I'm hoping to get used to my tri bike so I can eke out some of the aero benefits, as well as the leg saving benefits. My transitions could also be snappier, so thats easily 1-2 mins right there. I am SO happy with how my nutrition went. No GI issues to speak of, which if you know me, is a huge deal. I never felt that bad, and I never felt drained. I followed the recommendations outlined on Hammer Nutrition's website for this race, and I think I always will!

I think my next time goal will be somewhere around 5:50.  I think it is doable if I stay injury-free and up my training volume from where it was. I know I didn't do enough training, my Garmin proves it! But I figure a 6:03 on not great training is a good result and having the first race done, there is less mystery as to what to expect. I've already started seeing a personal trainer to work on my imbalances and posterior chain, as I think ignoring my butt and core is not the way to go. Improving these things will help me stay away from injuries, and I'm excited to see what kind of strength gains I can make. Victoria 70.3 2016, I'm coming for ya!  Next race is the Subaru Vancouver Sprint Triathlon on the 5th. I'm so excited to be doing a sprint race again! I haven't been training enough in the last 3 weeks, but I think I'll be okay. This is going to be my 'fun' race! I'm also going to race on Pepperoni, my Cannondale Slice, for the first time. Exciting!

Until then, I hope this essay was informative enough for whoever stumbles upon it. If you have any questions about the course, I may be able to answer them!


Thanks Sam!


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