My first half-iron distance triathlon
This one had all the ingredients for an interesting experience. After Wasaga Beach, although I was signed up and looking forward to Barrelman, I had contemplated ending my season there because the race didn't go well and I had no idea why, I had felt burnt out and on top of that I was getting REALLY busy with trying to finish my Master's degree. So Mark and I decided that for the next 3 weeks leading up to Barrelman I would take some time off to focus on my thesis and just do what training I could and give Barrelman a go anyway. Over those weeks I had essentially become a narp. Although, a lack of training leading up to a big race is both an excuse for performing poorly and a reason for performing well. I think in this case I really needed the rest and it benefited me quite a bit to take the time off. Although I wasn't as sharp as I would have been with a proper taper I was very well rested and I think it paid off... for the most part.
Emma and I setting up transition before the race
The set-up of this race is unique in that there are 2 transition zones (you swim in Welland and essentially bike to Niagara Falls and run around the falls). I was worried that this would make things confusing but the system put in place by Multisport Canada to get gear from one transition zone to the other was easy to follow and worked well.
I am a big advocate of proper nutrition and smart pacing in longer distance races, I think they make all the difference. If you don't pay homage to the pacing or fueling gods in a half-iron distance race you are invoking their wrath and they are pleased to deliver. That's why I engineered a state of the art, long-course fueling enhancement system onto my bike as seen on the left; I taped a ziplock bag to the front of the frame and put jujubes in it. And although it may have made my bike look like the village idiot of the pro rack, it did the trick.
I was able to get into the open water twice in the 3 weeks after Wasaga Beach leading up to Barrelman and this gave me the opportunity to work on what went wrong during the swim at Wasaga. Spitting in my googles worked like a charm to fix my vision problem and I was able to practice light kicking. The primary goal for the swim at Barrelman was therefore to swim with a very light kick and of course, be able to see out of my goggles. Both of these things went very well during the race and I left the water after the 2k swim feeling great, swimming in 33:33 which is similar to what I swam at the K-town tri earlier in the season.
You get a little glimpse of the Welland canal behind me that we swam in which was really cool.
My goal for the bike was a fairly ambitious 36kph average over the 89km course. I knew this was possible because the course was flat, however there was a net headwind heading to Niagara Falls which may make this quite difficult. This is where training in Kingston pays off because the wind didn't feel that bad and I ended up averaging 37kph over the course and felt great doing it. I started hurting at about km 60 and almost bonked at about km 80, but considering it was my first half-iron race I think I paced it very well. This was probably my most successful bike ride from any race I've done to date. Here is a video from midway through the course.
However this is where things got a little rough. As soon as I dismounted my bike and started running it to transition I started to feel some pain in my right knee, similar to my injury from earlier in the season. Not a big deal though, sometimes my knee hurts a little after a hard bike ride and goes away quickly once I start running, and I knew I was in a good spot in the race so could afford a couple slow kms to ease into it a bit. But it just ended up feeling worse and worse. I had to walk-jog most of the run. I had serious thoughts about dropping out at about km 4 but dropping out of races isn't something I've ever done and wasn't something I planned on starting today so I hobbled around the falls twice with lots of walking breaks and finished the race almost an hour slower than I had hoped for.
I've been getting a lot of 'sorry to hear that' or 'you must be so disappointed's but I actually think my experience with this race was a positive one. Being my first half-iron distance race it was essentially a 'see how it goes' kind of race and I am happy with how I performed on the swim and the bike, and the problems on the run are something Mark and I have all winter to figure out. Overall I am very happy with where I am right now and am looking forward to still improving a lot and having an even stronger season next year.