Posted by: pursuingsub17 | November 18, 2014

Ironman Calgary 70.3 Race Report – Long Overdue!


I wrote this some time ago – but life has been topsy-turvy for me. I’ll save all my life’s events for a different blog. In the meantime, I wanted to get this blog posted. Calgary 70.3 2014 was by far the best race I’ve had since I started the sport. There were many hurdles I finally managed to crawl over; I finally got over the perpetual plateau and am climbing up higher. They say every race is about learning something. It took me 4 attempts but I finally had many “aha” moments. In February of 2014, I felt it was time to take a year off…this race changed things. Ready? Here it is…a lengthy one but I had lots to say! It’s in point form so hopefully easier to read :).

  1. Something learned from past races – I will always show up at least 2 days before a race of this caliber if it’s out-of-town. I’m more relaxed and not rushed. The plan was also to take a week off in Kimberley as my recovery time out in the mountains. I thought – if I didn’t do well in the race, who cares? I was looking forward to having time off and not being on a training schedule. I honestly didn’t think I trained much but going over my recorded workouts after, I guess I did. Always trust your training kids.
  2. After checking in to our hotel and a late dinner, we slept like the dead. The next day, I picked up my race kit late morning and headed to Auburn Bay for bike check and a swim. Testing the water for a good 15 minutes completely calmed my nerves. The water was a perfect temperature, clean, and I glided through the water like a hot knife in butter!
  3. Dinner was bbq chicken and mashed potatoes and we ate early – I also drank 2 pints of soda water. Back at the room, we relaxed at the hot tub and went to bed around 9:30pm.
  4. I had a bit of a restless sleep with a grand total of 6 hours but that’s still better than prior years.
  5. By the time I got my Betty Designs tri suit on, slapped on the sunscreen and packed, I was a bit wound up. We also took a bit too long to pack up everything, check out and get over to Auburn Bay. Lesson #1 – get up earlier.
  6. Battle of the Breakfast – the plan was to eat my mom’s puffed wheat cake, drink my CarboPro/SkratchLabs drink mix and eat the banana I pilfered from the free hotel breakfast the day before. Big mistake – I hate bananas – but I try eating them because like everyone else, I heard they are good for an athlete with its potassium benefits and all that. But this particular banana was badly bruised. The first few bites were okay. Then I saw a brown spot the size of a toonie. I shut my eyes and bit into it and immediately gagged and convulsed so badly I just about hit my forehead on the dashboard. Marc was smirking but kept his eyes on the road. I said, “oh no – not again” (see Challenge Penticton Race Report) and burst out laughing. Marc later described it as me looking like Willem Dafoe getting shot in the back in Platoon with my arms flung up in the air and violently jerking my whole body forward in the car – banana in hand and squished all over my clenched fist. Well, that broke the ice – and I decided just to munch on my mom’s puff wheat cake instead. That went down fine with the sports drink mix. Lesson #2 – don’t eat something you don’t like for breakfast on race morning!
  7. Communal Tire Pump – Got to Auburn Bay an hour before the race start. Located my bike, pumped my back tire, and immediately had triathletes beg for my tire pump. I spent about 20 minutes chasing down my pump from two fellow athletes who promised to bring it back but didn’t. Hmmph.
  8. Marc shouted at me from the fence. I brought the rest of my gear over to him and he scolded me, “never – ever let someone borrow your pump again. Fill up your tires, pack it in your bag and get the hell out of transition before anyone asks”. Easier said then done.
  9. Now I had 30 mins after I tossed everything to Marc and headed for the porta potties. I knew I could get my wetsuit on in about 5 minutes so I figured I had time but the bathroom line up was terrible. Calgary 70.3 never has enough porta potties. Then they announced that transition was going to close at 6:45. Stupid me – I should have accounted for that. So I now only had 15 minutes! After an eternity it was my turn. After doing my business, I snuck through the opening in the fence, technically out of transition. I managed to get my wetsuit over my hips but then having developed a broad swimmer’s chest and back this year, I was struggling with the zipper. Lo and behold a nice police officer offered to help. Perfect.  I wish I got his name. He saved me from another fit of anxiety. Lesson 3 – show up more than 1 hour before race start for a half Ironman.
  10. Swimming like Dolphins. After waving at Marc and giving him the thumbs up, I boldly marched into the crowd of athletes. On the beach, I finally decided to myself further ahead into the pack. Good choice. I struggled at first to get a good position as we started swimming like a horde of piranhas in a feeding frenzy but at 500 meters I found a great pack to swim with. We were like dolphins, all working together, rotating to draft off each other. Another first for me – no fighting panic and not once did I use the breast stroke. Victory #1: This was my “first” for any triathlon – I had finally conquered the swim. 0:39:00 – a 6 minute PR for the Hamster.
  11. I utilized the wetsuit strippers, found my bike and ran out of transition in about 5 minutes – slow, yes, but another first for me – Victory #2. Marc was right there taking pictures as I came out with my bike and a big smile on my face.
  12. I headed out on the bike with a pack of other women and onto highway 21 feeling great – not winded at all. My plan was to eat my 3 chocolate/peanut/coconut rice cakes (thanks to SkratchLabs’ Feed Zone cookbook for those) – planning on one every 40 minutes – and sip at my light drink mix from my aero bottle every 10 minutes with the intent to drink my Carbo Pro/SkratchLabs mix in the last half hour of the bike (to reduce bulk on the run but still have calories). I’ve become obsessed with the nutrition aspect of triathlon as of late so pardon my digression on nutrition.
  13. The other plan was to mentally repeat something I learned from fellow blogger, Treadmill Confessional (thanks my friend!)“Stay in your box”. People were passing me for the first 10km. I kept looking down at my speedometer and it said 27km per hour. I told myself NOT to go over that until the last half no matter how many people passed me – stay in my box.
  14. Bike course Beauty. I have to say the new route was just as pretty as 2010. The scenery took my breath away – making me forget I was in a race. Still not convinced I trained enough on the bike, I was just going to enjoy the ride and the amazing view of the mountains each time I crested a hill.
  15. Speaking of hills, they were tough – but I had done the same grade and distance a few times out in Sylvan Lake so I knew I could do it. I utilized Jens Voight’s mantra “shut up legs” as well as my mind tricks to distract myself from the effort. The last hill I started belting out the “Chicken fat” song – which made a guy behind me start laughing. But it worked.
  16. People passed me on the way up the hills but I stayed in my box – and because I had become so good at the descent this year (Victory #3), I smoked past them on the way down.
  17. For hydration, I was bang on with what I had packed on the bike. I only needed one bottle of water at an aid station – grabbed it like a pro and squished the contents into my aero bottle. I still had two bottles of sports drink in the back two cages and water to dump on my hot head in a bottle below. At 50 km I looked at my watch and realized my time was 2:15. Not good. Oh well – I was enjoying the ride and the race – and that’s what counts. I was surrounded by great people doing the same thing as me and all of us enjoying it for what it was – living in the moment and feeling alive.
  18. What was in that rice cake?? At approximately 55 km, there was a right turn and I knew the climbs were over back into Calgary. I munched on my last rice cake and felt like I was going faster. Looking down again at the speedometer, I was doing 30 to 35 km and I thought – well – I can leave the box now I think. I’ve done 30 km/hr on an Olympic distance bike portion and this was pretty much what I had left to finish. Piece of cake. My legs felt like I just started my ride rather than pedaling for a prior 50 km up and down hills. I took off like a bullet and never felt gassed. I started picking people off one by one who had passed me earlier and wondered why they were slowing down. I thought maybe there was a secret climb ahead.
  19. Peace out, Brother. Out of the woods and onto the wide open highway, about 10 Harley riders were approaching in the other direction when I got the biker wave/salute from the lead biker. I was so stunned that instead of returning the upside down peace sign, I gave him a nod with a big smile. I felt like a rock star! My legs were moving like crazy and I felt no pain or effort.  I could hear Phil Liggett’s voice in my head “And the Hamster is pulling away from the pack! She’s widening the gap!!” LOL. I was an invincible Viking!
  20. I played tag with two others along the open stretch and booked it into town. I recognized the entrance to the park and I was exhilarated. That truly was my best bike ever in a race. Another PR for the Hamster – 3:25 – and an amazing bike split – maybe there were a few extra chocolate chips in that last rice cake. Victory #4.
  21. Coming out of T2, there was Marc. He jogged alongside of me for a few meters, completely beside himself over my bike split times.
  22. Must remember to top up the tank. The run. For the first 17 km, I felt strong and kept a good pace – with the plan of doing 10 and 1s and eating a gel every half hour. I also had Coke and water at the aid stations. I grabbed the wet sponges and ice and stuffed them under my hat, in my tank top and shorts, chatting with other triathletes as I caught up to them and they to me. Then I hit that dreaded hill with 4 km left of the run. At the top, Marc said I was looking good but at that point I could feel I was overheating and I felt nauseous. I had one more gel left to eat at the last water station. Looking at my watch, I should finish the run in 2:25.
  23. This is your brain without glucose – I..I pickle…where am I? Is that a polka dot elephant? I saw the 18km flag – 3 km left – when I bonked. I wanted to barf. At the last aid station, all I wanted was water, spitting out the warm flat Coke. I then convinced myself I had run fast enough that I could still walk and finish the run in a decent time. I had forgotten my 2013 race when I vowed I wouldn’t allow myself to walk more than 10 minutes ever again. But, at that point, my friends, your brain is mush and you don’t remember anything anymore – including the gel you were supposed to have that might have actually saved you.
  24. I kept focusing on the back of a woman who was walking ahead of me when she broke out into a run. Oh no you don’t. She walked so I walked. Now she’s running. Now I have to run. The finish was just 500 meters ahead but I was delirious. Someone shouted the typical “almost there!” and I responded “I’m going to throw up!” Someone else shouted “nice shoes” and I said “whaaa?” Not sure what that was about unless I was hallucinating but I pushed (plodded) onward.
  25. There’s no walking (or crying) in Rock Star Alley. No. I was not going to be caught walking in the chute. I had wanted to high-five people and do a little dance but having squishy brain, I completely forgot. All I wanted was to grab that damn banner that said “Ironman Calgary 70.3 Finish” and hoist it over my head. Which I did. Then I got my medal and saw Marc. He asked what happened. I looked at my watch– it took me 35 minutes to finish 4km. I was about 10 minutes slow off my estimated time….exactly how long I took walking before the finish. I had done it again. Lesson #4 – no matter how fast I think I ran, this does not justify walking more than a minute.
  26. But – that was the only thing I felt I did wrong in the race. Everything else was perfect. I realized how important it is to stick to the plan, remember the plan – the plan I went over many times from placing myself better in the swim to “staying in my box” on the bike. Nutrition was great. Hydration was great. Wore sunscreen and the pre-race swim helped calm nerves. I had a steady pace on the run – it was only the last 4km where I hit the wall so that wasn’t bad. It was a great day and I had accomplished a lot. I did get another PR – 6:49.
  27. Next year I will aim for 6:30. Yes – I said next year. I finally cracked all my weaknesses. I conquered all the things that were holding me back before. I no longer will be a wallflower at the swim start. I finally get what works for me for nutrition on the bike, how to pace myself, and kicked my fear of the descent (no breaks mom!). Now I just need to improve my speed and power. So why on earth would I take a year off? That’s just silly.
  28. Oh, and during my downtime in Kimberley, I decided I finally earned that Ironman tattoo.
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