Posted by: pursuingsub17 | July 23, 2012

Sylvan Lake Half Iron race report – got my pr!

Thought I best get this done while my memory is fresh. I didn’t even write one last year – I was so exhausted or possibly disappointed.

This year was a success – even if I didn’t get the exact time I wanted. But 45 minutes faster than my last two attempts is a success in my eyes!

So here’s the story:

I went into this with a more positive attitude. I was ready. I put the training in that I could and more open water swims so I wasn’t nervous. I was calm with a teeny twinge of anxiety to stay focused – even on race morning. Only one thing nagged at me – I hadn’t had a sports massage in 6 months and my calves and hips were tight.

We drove to Sylvan Lake the day before. We ate a light dinner at 4:30 pm after picking up our race kits and checking into the hotel. Back at the hotel, Marc and I put our decals on our bike and helmets, and made our CarboPro/Gatorade concoctions for the bike rather than scramble in the morning to do it. After a dip in the hotel pool, we went back to our room to relax and got to bed at 10:30pm.

First lessons learned from the past two years: Eat dinner early so it digests; get your race-day nutrition ready the day before and get to bed early to get plenty of sleep.

We woke up at 5:15 am and I immediately put on my suntan lotion BEFORE my tri-suit to prevent the lobster look I had last year. I also put on my body glide around my neck, wrists and ankles so the wetsuit could be removed quickly. We then ate a couple Eggo waffles (brought a toaster) with our pre-race drinks and a cup of coffee and headed down to transition.

Check-in and body marking was a typical routine but this year, I was there in plenty of time to set up transition, pre-race bathroom break, hang out and then put my wetsuit on so that it fit properly. I like going early to relax, stretch and deal with issues in advance.

The swim was two loops. I positioned myself to the side and up the pack a bit and managed to control my heart rate in the first 300 meters and didn’t panic at all. I got a little ticked when I found myself in the middle of a pack that appeared to be swimming with their eyes closed so I pulled away using breaststroke (not usually the swim style of choice but my breaststroke is unusually fast and strong). Finding myself open, I set my sights on the second pack ahead and swam front crawl, utilizing my trunk rotations and smooth, strong strokes. I caught up to them but they were just as bad. At this point, I just dealt with it, despite getting clocked in the head by a woman not aware of her surroundings. I wound up with the same time as always – 45 minutes. But I wasn’t tired at all this time or out of breath. I was 23/56 in the women’s group on the swim.

Going with the wetsuit strippers was a mistake. They were disorganized and inexperienced. But hey – they’re volunteers and I’m happy they were there. It just wasted some of my time and I should have taken the wetsuit off myself. My T1 time was 4:28 and put me at 40/56.

I headed out on the bike like a bat out of hell and kept a steady pace of 28-30km per hour for 40km. This, my friends, was my first mistake of the day. The first 40k is flat to rolling hills. The last 50 are nothing but continuous climbs with short little plateaus. By the time I hit the last massive climb before town, quite a few passed me. At one point, I noticed I was only doing 7.45 km/hour up the hill. But the one difference is that I wasn’t ready to sob. I knew this was coming. I had my salt pills every hour and my gels every half hour. I was hydrated. I squeezed water into the holes of my helmet to cool off. To get up the hills, I used mind tricks that I used to use when I did hill work on my runs. Each hill I picked a category and listed off items alphabetically – race terms, summer objects, food. AT one point, I started singing “C is for cookie – that’s good enough for me.” Then, I heard “on your left” and as the guy passed me, he was chuckling. Good thing the sag wagon wasn’t around. I’m sure they would have thought I had gone insane.

My point is – a little distraction when you are suffering gets your mind off the fact you are suffering.

Again, it was that last big climb was what I dreaded the most. Single lane highway, narrow shoulders full of cracks and potholes, and a series of campervans, semi-trucks, Harley bikers, Chachis driving pimped up Dodge Rams, passed us with little respect. Last year this made me cry. This year…I got angry – and I used this anger to stand up on the pedals and shout “I want off this damn road! GRRRRRRR” and I kicked it into high gear. I climbed that *bleeping* hill like I was in the lead at the Tour de France. Suddenly, that climb seemed to go quickly and I hit the crest. All downhill from here!

Lesson learned? Anger is your friend. Recognize it. Harness it. Turn it into power.

I sailed into town in lying down on the bar and handles – low profile. I didn’t check how fast I was going. I didn’t dare sit up and look. I had done the same on the other hills earlier. So another accomplishment this year was getting over my fear of flying downhill on a bike. In fact, I liked it.

I finally checked my watch as I neared the bike dismount. 3:36. Sweet. However, I know that I have more to learn. I need more hill practice. I need to remember to stay out of the aero position on the uphill portions because my back and hips got extremely tight. I also need to treat racing on the bike like running. Quit going all out at the beginning and pace myself. I know that on the run. I need to learn that the bike is the same.

That being said, I headed out on the run feeling strong. It was hot by this point but my legs felt good. Last year, after 5 minutes, I realized I’d be walking the entire run course. This time I thought “four loops – easy.” Being four loops, too, I got to see Marc a few times. He was two laps ahead of me.

Unfortunately, there was only one aid station on the run but it was placed in the center so you passed it twice on each loop. Again, the residents were fantastic. The lady with the hose from last year was there again. Plus there were two water sprinklers set up down the road. Those saved me since I cannot handle the heat. On my way back to finish my second lap, I saw Marc and shouted to him I might walk the last half. I started experiencing dreaded gut cramps and could no longer stomach gels. I survived the rest of the run gulping down Gatorade and taking my salt pills, cooling down by wiping myself with a wet bandanna I had brought with me. I thought I should force myself to have a gel but the thought made me want to gag.

At this point, I’m not sure if I perhaps took on too much water in a panic that there was only one aid station – or I was just going hard in the heat. I was still running because my legs still felt strong – but I had lower abdominal cramps. Marc nodded his head when I said I might have to walk. Little did I know he was suffering at that point too.

I forced myself to keep running until I hit the second turn when I recognized a familiar name – a triathlete that both Marc and I knew and hadn’t seen for a few years. I shouted “Glen!” and he slowed up and ran with me. He was having trouble as well but only had one lap left after this one so I thought I would run with him to keep him going – it kept me going as well. On my last turn, with Glen being finished, I headed out alone. I saw Marc’s son. He gave me a high five and I said “I’ll be back! Tell your dad I’m craving Coke!!”

My last lap was the loneliest. There were just a few of us left. Thankfully I discovered they were handing out ice at the aid station so that cooled me down. I did walk for about 15 minutes – which cost me my preferred goal time I think – but I ran like heck the last 3km. I had to. I needed my pr. Jasper Blake told me to post how I did on Twitter and I wasn’t about to fail (talk about pressure by the way)! When I crossed the finish, the head nurse from the med tent was handing out the medal to me and talking but I didn’t understand a word she said. All I knew is that she was the nurse and I wasn’t about to start staggering or talking gibberish. All I wanted was my Coke and to jump in the lake. I smiled, nodded, and took the medal myself and put it on. She was trying to explain the inscription on the medal. I didn’t care. All I cared about is that my watch said 7:06.

I did it. I got my pr.

So the race was a success. I had my errors but the valuable lessons I learned from the first two were not forgotten. Looking back, I don’t think I could have swum or biked any harder. The swim will always be frustrating I think – but no longer fearful.  Maybe I could have been a little mentally stronger on the run and refused that 15 minute walk but that’s in the past now. In the fall, I’ll start focusing on strength training again and by January, I’ll start train my bike weaknesses – adding more hills and learn to be more efficient. I’ll try and remember not to over-do it on the first 40 and keep a steady pace. I also have to remember to get out of the aero position on the hill, according to Marc anyway, to save my back. As for nutrition, that will take some research and practice. Definitely going to get more massages while training as well.

Oh, and that wet bandanna I used to wipe myself down to keep cool? I wiped off all my suntan lotion. Today I’m redder than a tomato! LOL. Must remember that little lesson as well.


  1. Excellent joB!

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