The last few months sure flew by and my first 70.3 race was finally here! The course had changed considerably due to the flooding in Calgary causing the swim course to be moved from Ghost Lake to McKenzie Lake. That sure worked in my favor as it’s about 10 minutes from home and much warmer than Ghost Lake! I felt I was in decent shape thanks to Todd’s training plan and advice, the long Saturday group bike rides and my prior sprint and Olympic distance races since I started this triathlon addiction in 2011. I was of course nervous to see how I would actually do and if I could do it. I set my goal at 6 hours and eager to find out how close I could get.
Friday left work early and went downtown to pick up my race package at SpeedTheory and take in the Q&A with the pros there. It was great to see how well organized everything was and I can’t say enough about how great all the volunteers were. When I picked up my race bag, the volunteer went over any questions I had with the different transition bags, and anything else I needed or wanted to know. The pre-race meeting at the Globe was quick and efficient and felt I was pretty much good to go as far as to what to do and where and when.
Saturday morning I took my bike to SpeedTheory for a quick last look over and other than it being a bit dirty from the last training ride, apparently my chain is nearing the end of its life, but should be good to go for the race I was told (and will get it replaced after). I dropped the bike off at T1 and was assigned a decent spot close to the exit of T1! Easy rest of the day and made sure everything was good to go for race day and in the proper bags and/or ready to be put on the bike.
My alarm went off at 5 AM and after a quick breakfast and mixing the drinks for the race, it was off to McKenzie to start this thing! Arrived just after 6, unpacked ,set up T1, pumped up my tires and started putting on my wetsuit. Once done, it was time to drop off the red bag and head towards the lake for a quick warm up swim.
The water was nice and warm and the weather perfect! It was a nice and cool start to the day and the forecast was pretty good too! Since I was in the last (newbie) wave, I got to see all the others start before me and then before I knew it, it was 7 AM and I’m off! It was actually great to be in the last wave and be able to catch other people rather than have the very good swimmers from later waves swim right past and/or over you. I’m not the greatest swimmer, but felt good and got into a rhythm quick and stayed to the outside to get a clear swimming lane and limited contact with others. Soon I was passing other with different colored swim caps, which of course felt good . The tunnel at about 1.6K was a bit backed up and I actually had to slow down for a few seconds there to get through. But it was smooth sailing from there and actually got out of the water in 37 minutes, which was great for me! I was hoping for 40 minutes or so, which meant a great start to the day!
Put the bike shoes and helmet on and off I went. I was debating to wear a jacket and gloves due to the cool temperatures but figured I’d be OK so went off in my tri shorts and top. It sure was a bit chilly the first 20K or so, but I warmed up after and was fine. It was great to see my girlfriend and Coach Todd cheer me on both at the swim and the bike start and left feeling good!
I saw the first guy with a flat tire shortly after we turned onto 22X and was thinking that since I never ever have had a flat during any race or training run, that my luck was to continue this race too Saw a few more people with flats on 22X but it was a nice ride and was passing quite a few people on the uphill parts and kept reminding myself to pace myself and not go all out on the bike. I have used 22X a fair number of times as my training course, so was familiar with the hills and think it did help me. My Garmin watch went blank around Bragg Creek, so I had to remind myself regularly to drink and use the gels. Turning east onto Highway 8, I did not feel any tailwinds, so no super quick ride back to Calgary, but kept it steady. I did come across an accident where a number of triathletes had gone down and the ambulance was just arriving. It sure was a sobering sight to see some fellow competitors on the asphalt in obvious pain! I understand a group was illegally drafting in front of them, dislodged an orange traffic cone and the people following could not avoid it and crashed into each other. Sure hope they will be OK! After that I knew I was getting close to T2 when I started to hear some ticking, but figured I still have air in my tires so let’s ignore it and make it to T2. Then pfffff and a flat tire. Luckily I was on a level spot, pulled over and found out my front tire was flat. Somehow I did not panic at all and remembered the one session in Todd’s basement where we got to change our own front tire. Remember, I never had to practice this in a race or training run ever! I think I was more happy it was my front tire and not the back tire and didn’t have to deal with the chain etc. Took it off, took out the inner tube and found a rusty screw sticking right into my tire. Pulled it out, threw it away into the farm field, put the spare inner tube in, put the tire back on and inflated it and (a little to my own surprise) it stayed inflated, so put the tire back on the bike and hopped on and hoping it would hold up for the last 12 kilometers or so. Soon was on Glenmore and turned off onto 37th and knew I was going to make it to the run! A great volunteer in T2 led me to my spot, and started packing up my stuff while I was putting on my running shoes and gave me encouragement. Then off on the run course!
Shortly after I started my run, I saw Heather Wurtele heading towards the finish line and Steve King announcing her time, and with my Garmin out of commission I figured I was about 4 hours in (forgetting I started about 13 minutes after her). So the pros were finishing when I was just starting the run, but hey that’s why they are the pros and the rest of us have a day job that allows us to do this.
As I had ran the run course the weekend before I kind of knew when I needed to take my gels and made sure to drink at every aid station. It was a decent start to the run and great to see familiar faces along the way. I think I was trying to tell Coach Todd while running past him that the best piece of knowledge he had given me was how to change a flat tire. Not sure how much of that was actually audible to him while I ran past him, but it sure saved my race… Then down and up into the Weaselhead, and just counted down the kilometers. It was very nice to see some of the other No Limits crew on the course. Passing people of course also makes you feel good. I think the most inspiring part for me was to see Johan on the run course just before I was heading back up the hill as this meant he did make the swim cut-off and was going to finish this thing. Very inspiring!!
Once I was back up on the North Glenmore side and only four K to go I knew I could actually do this and finish! I have to say the last 4K were the toughest part of the race, partially since you know the finish line is right to the left of you and you still have to do a giant loop around to get there and partially since my legs were getting a bit tired… But everyone cheering me on really helped and seeing the finish line was an amazing moment.
I couldn’t believe the timing clock as it stated something like 5:53 so I would have done it in under 6 hours despite the flat tire! Only later I realized that my time would be 15 minutes faster than that as I was in the last wave. After some drinks and food time to meet my girlfriend and it was an emotional moment for me (and her too I think) as it was done and she was there for me all the way supporting me and putting up with all the training! Could not have done it without her support! It was great to see a lot of friends had come out to watch me too.
So my first 70.3 done and as I’m typing this a few days later, I am still riding the high and really want to do a few more of these and hopefully a full Ironman in the next few years. I have to say this was an amazing race, very well organized despite the flood challenges and the volunteers are the best! I personally hope the course will stay the same for 2014 and hope to do it again and get myself another belt buckle