Blog de Phil

The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report

To be honest, I’m pissed off and embarrassed. And then immediately, I’m embarrassed and pissed off that I’m pissed off and embarrassed. The day didn’t go as expected at all. It was spectacularly awesome until it was spectacularly disastrous.  “Way to go”, “Awesome job”, “You nailed it” – I sincerely appreciate all the feedback from friends on Facebook. It’s exactly what I would say to anyone else. My final time was 11:54:33. it is a good ironman time.

The swim was magnificent, it was my fastest swim on the least amount of effort. The trouble probably started on the bike. And fittingly, being a big data geek, my Garmin file was corrupt and did not download, so I can’t even analyze the power… but I know I went too fast.

I started the run at 6:53 clock time. It was going great for the first 4K. I had started out a little fast but was able to reign it in. I was going to break 11 hours. Even with the inevitable “fade” I would surely meet my 11:29 A-Goal… but all of a sudden, my left hamstring seized. I could not move. For the entire first lap I was alternating walking, shuffling and jogging with seizing muscles. I spent a lot of time motionless, crippled with cramps. Left and right hamstrings, left and right quads, left and right calves. It was only by the 25K mark, as we were heading back onto the Petit Train path that I was able to keep a consistent jog. I willed myself to keep jogging and not walk. With 5K to go, I flipped my watch to race time, and I figured if I could do the last 5K in 45 minutes, I would break 12 hours. So that became plan B.

The finish was great. The last 200 meters was electrifying and unforgettable, it took away the sting of a painful marathon.

Even though I did not keep my power in check, I really enjoyed the bike ride.

Feeling pretty good here. The last 200 meters was energizing.

Finish clock is based on race start for pros. Actual finish time was 11:54:33.
Still high on the finish line adrenaline. I could only manage 2 sips of the beer :) 

The Dirty Truth
Ironman was different than the Esprit, the Canadian 226, Challenge Cedar Point and Michigan Titanium. It wasn't better, it was different. I wanted to do this race partly because I wanted to gauge my performance relative to 2000+ other people; partly because it's close and intriguing in that way; but, also to finally find out if there was anything lacking from my past iron-distance efforts. There isn't. MDot is only a brand. 140.6 is the achievement.

The Stats

Guylaine's Race
Wow, what a trooper. She suffered a major mechanical issue on the bike. Under the high load of ascending Duplessis, her rear wheel shifted in the horizontal drop-outs and began rubbing against the frame. This eventually lead to a high-speed blow out on the fastest downhill part of the course. She pulled over and replaced her tube, but the tire was actually ruptured from the rubbing friction. Fortunately, a mechanic happened to pass by when she noticed her new tube poking out through the hole. Unfortunately, having a 650c wheels, he did not have a spare wheel or replacement on his scooter. Fortunately, he had one back at the shop as was able to radio someone to get it to him. He "booted" her damaged tire with a piece of cardboard, and told her to meet him further on down the course. A short wait later, a new tire appeared and she was able to carry on. Notwithstanding the loss of momentum and the mental toll it took on her, she still powered through the bike, and threw down a remarkable 4:14 marathon for still an Ironman PB. Had she not lost over 30 minutes with the tire change, she would have dominated the race.

Bonus Photos

All ready to leave, bright an early on Friday morning. Rolled into Tremblant around 10:30 AM

Got our race kits and a quick photo

Another photo at the Big M-Dot.

The expo was pretty good. These Ventum bikes are not as fugly in real life.

Guylaine rocking a pair of $300 Roka shades

In the actual Ironman merch tent

We're there

Professional press conference on Friday (unfortunately, it was raining)

At the pre-event dinner on Friday night. Over 2500 people in a big tent. Pretty loud. 

Friday night entertainment, the band was really good.


Fireworks on Friday night

Killing time on Saturday

Found Wallowitz. He was also in Grand Rapids last year for Michigan Titanium.

Our big purchase at the official MDOT merch tent. LOL. 

All race bags packed and ready to go.

Guylaine's bike dropped off on Saturday afternoon.

My bike dropped off on Saturday afternoon.

Dropping off all the drop off bags.

Our hotel from the chair lift than ran right over our hotel.

From the chairlift

2200 bikes racked and ready to roll. Lots of $$$ here
The best laid plans

Off to set up at 5:15, lots of people already hanging around, the town was bustling.

1000s of people waiting to get body marked. Went by really fast. 
Heading towards the 4 corners after finishing Duplessis.
Thanks Rob and Val, it was great to see you and receive your support.

Starting the run, looking not too bad

Still in good spirits at this point
Hey that's me.

My rear tire had zero air in it when I picked it up from transition after the race. Hmmm?
Obviously not as bad as Guylaine though.

The finish line is pretty cool. I will say that.
We went back and watched for a bit, but we didn't go to watch the last finishers.
We didn't want to see the heartbreak of someone come in after the cut off.


Iron History + IMMT Prediction + Keys to success

Montreal Esprit20121:13:303:145:16:475:194:18:3810:57:28Super fit, started run too fast
Montreal Esprit20131:12:453:095:17:085:184:17:2710:55:47Less fit, still started run too fast
The Canadian20141:10:575:125:47:033:294:39:5811:45:58Long swim+bike, hot run, started run way  too fast
Challenge Cedar Point20151:08:317:565:35:112:234:10:0211:04:05Perfect race, faded on run. Long T1.
Michigan Titanium20171:08:561:415:43:56--06:54:34Aquabike only. Would not have been able to run IM marathon at this bike pace though
Ironman Mont Tremblant20181:08:003:006:00:003:004:15:0011:29:00"A" race scenario.

Training has been pretty similar year over year. The 20 weeks prior to 2-week taper for the past few events has been:

YearSwim TotalBike TotalRun Total

The biking this year has included better tempo, and more 140k+ rides. The running has also included more 20k+ runs than usual.

Keys to victory:

Taper --> don't go full glutton. easy on the drinking and snacking. respect the taper schedule.
Swim --> slot in with the 1:05ish group, find some feet and take as much free ride as possible.
T1 --> lube up ankles and wrists well for easy wetsuit strip, don't dilly-dally.
Bike --> respect the power, race your own race, don't get caught up leapfrogging, don't draft.
T2 --> keep calm, full change into running gear
Run --> easy on the first hills, stay conservative, 5:40 pace, don't walk the aid stations, don't give up, stay close to positive energy people.

Sea Lions Masters Mini Meet Results (2017 vs 2018)

50 BreastPhil0:45.310:44.62
100 FreePhil1:16.281:14.52
50 BackPhil0:43.910:43.50
100 IMPhil1:34.221:36.31
200 FreePhil2:54.473:03.84
50 FreePhil0:35.910:36.53
50 FlyPhil0:42.75
50 KickPhil1:14.91

Not a big warm up, not too much time between events. Good competition in the heats to keep me motivated. Lost goggles on dive for 50 breast; paused for some reason on the dive for 100 free; 200 free felt good - probably went out too fast. Overall pretty happy with results. (except 50 kick, I can't kick ::blushing emoji::)

I feel so dirty...

Frozen Sole 1718-01

"The agony"
The Frozen Sole is a local running race series. The third Sunday of every month from October to March. It's a 5 mile rectangular loop (8K). It's low-key. People run for all different reasons. I've used it for a an easy group run, and I've used for a full-out speed test. My best time was 35:32 on March 20, 2016.

I've slowly been getting back into running, after nearly a one year injury-forced hiatus. I was looking forward to this Sunday's Frozen Sole with bitter-sweet anticipation. It would signal a return to "FAST", but with that comes DISCOMFORT. 8K is short enough that it still hurts to go hard.

I wasn't sure how "fast" fast would be, but I have come to the realization that I do need at least 10 minutes to warm up properly. Having dilly-dallied in the morning, arriving 5 minutes before start time meant that the warm-up would be the first 10 minutes of the race.

We set off at 9:03. The first K was fairly easy at 5:26; then I upped it a bit to 4:57. We made the first corner to Highway 2, and I upped the pace to "uncomfortable". Which turned out to be 4:26. I held it more or less for another km, but then on the next turn up Paragon Road, I was dropping off to 4:46 and 4:48. I made the 3rd turn, and I was just running on fumes. I wanted it to be over with so badly. I channeled my inner Lionel, and pushed hard up the hill for Km 7 at 4:40; and then held it as long as I could on the last downhill km. Final "official" time was 38:10. Far from a PB. But tied for "personal worst" on a full-out race effort from January 2014.

STILL, happy to be running again, and happy to be experiencing that self-imposed discomfort running hard brings.

CMC Fall Du

Meh. Not great. Probably shouldn't have run 3:40 for the first km, but I couldn't find any power on the bike. The last run felt okay, but apparently wasn't stellar.

Run 1: 7:48 T1: 0:29 Bike: 25:34 T2: 0:43 Run 2: 19:55; Total: 54:29

vs.. previous attempts.

Canadian 113 Race Report 2017

Doing my best Lionel Sanders impression

The stats and splits:
Swim (1900m) out of the water - 33:30  (1:44 / 100m)
Swim Time plus run up to T1 - 35:04
Transition 1 - 3:36
Bike (93.3 K) - 2:45:20 (33.9 km/hr)
Transition 2 - 3:14
Run (21.1K) - 1:52:14 (5:19 /km)
Final Time - 5:19:27.1 (5th OA, 4th Male, 1st M45-49)

Absolutely mind-blown that my power was so consistent.
I was 99% aero for the entire ride between the 180 degree turnarounds.

Okay, well despite the obvious "Phil Barnes Classic Pace Fade", if you had
told me I could average 5:19 for a half-marathon, I would have laughed in your face.

Comparison of 2013 vs 2017 results and YTD training totals

Thoughts on this race 4 days after the fact...

Immediately after this race, I could not walk. It took a good 3 days for my legs to begin to recover. It was worse than an Ironman, and worse than a marathon in terms of recovery. Walking up and down stairs was a chore. Bending over or squatting was impossible. My two big toes are still swollen, blistered, bloody, incredibly sensitive and I will lose the toenails for sure.  That's what running a half-marathon will do after not much running in nearly a year with 128 total kms year to date, and only two 5 km runs the entire month preceding the event. Despite the soreness, I take great satisfaction in the accomplishment. The experience was rewarding. I hadn't had time to even think about expectations going in to this race. Whatever they might have been, they would have been exceeded. Certainly, no ragrets.

The long boring play-by-play

Guylaine and I have both been feeling fit since MiTi, so we decided to capitalize and do a half-ironman at the Somersault Canadian in Ottawa.

We set the alarm for 4 AM, to be on the road for 4:37, to arrive at 6 with plenty of time to check-in, set up and be at the water with plenty of time before 7 AM start.  That all worked out, except I spent too much time dilly-dallying and was sprinting down to the water at 6:53 and only finished getting my wetsuit on at 6:59. Oh, and the air temperature was 7 degrees.

The Swim (1900 meters)
Similar to Michigan, the water was warm, and hence a "picturesque" mist hovered over the water. It was not as thick as Michigan, but sighting was still difficult. Quickly the race spread out. It appeared the first swimmer was extremely fast, and soon enough, him and the lead kayak was out of sight. I was relying on Rob - the second swimmer to guide me with his splashes, but soon enough he was out of sight and I was just hoping the other kayaks would correct me if I went horribly off-course. The swim was a loop - left to right, the sun compounded navigation issues on the trip back to the beach, but I eventually made it. I swam hard, but didn't over do it. I was happy with the effort.

"33:30" said Christine as I exited the water. Not bad, I shrugged. Probably the course was a tad long.

I hate the transitions at this race. The start of T1 includes a 400 m across a beach, up a (gravel infested) bike path through the stadium to your rack. The second half includes a 350 m run across the stadium, through a dirt path over rocks and roots to the mount line. It's a pain, but we knew this going in. The middle of T1 is where the actual action happens. Normally I thrive in transitions. In and Out - no messing around. This time I had prepared myself to take it slowly and more methodically, as it was 7 degrees and I was soaking wet, a little extra prep time was needed before hitting the bike. 1) I put socks on (normally I ride sockless). 2) I put plastic baggies over my socks before putting on my shoes to block the wind (shoes were not on the bike for this race). 3) I put a sport-wool long-sleeve jersey over my tri-top to help keep some body heat. 4) I had brought full-finger bike gloves, but in the last second decided not to wear them.

The Bike (90K, 9 x 10K loops)

Marginal aero-penalty with the long-sleeve jersey, but I was never cold, and never too hot.

Oh boy, it was cold (at first). The top of my thighs felt like they were on fire. You know when you're freezing cold and take a hot shower - exactly that feeling. It went away after 2 laps.  This bike course use to have 15K loops - they shortened it to 10K loops a few years ago - you just end up doing more of them. I don't mind loops at all. There's the possibility the course could get congested, but with only 550 total athletes spread over the day, I did not find this to be the case. In fact, I was only really in close proximity to one other athlete all day, the eventual woman's winner. I started ahead of her, and somewhere along the second loop she passed me, and then I caught up and passed her on a hill... we would go back and forth maybe 4 or 5 times over the ride. Any other riders I encountered seemed to be going slow enough that the pass was made, and then that was it. Overall, I think I was passed by 2 other people in the 113 - but not sure if they were in the Tri, Du, Relay or Aquabike.

My power plan was to keep 190W... so much for that. My average was 204W (NP 211, and Max 20 min 211W). The good news - was the ride was almost perfectly paced. I split each lap and averaged 202, 205, 201, 206, 203, 201, 205, 205 and 210. My average speed was 34.1 kph for 93.3K. In my mind, I was worried that I was overcooking the bike (Again) at the expense of the run - I rationalized with myself that I could blame a bad run on the fact that I haven't done any running all year.

Again, this was uncharacteristically slow and methodical for me. I had intentionally left my shoes untied so that I could get a good fit around my ankles when I tied them up. And then the comedy starts.... where's the run out?? Although this was my 32nd triathlon, 4th time at the Canadian (2nd 113 here), but also my 6th time at the Terry Fox / Mooney's Bay venue, I had neglected to check where the run out was. Apparently the 3 volunteers I asked in my frantic mania didn't know either - one was going to send me to the bike out... I found it, eventually.

The Run (21.1K, 4 x 5.275K loops)
Okay, let me come clean. I don't know if I'm using this as an excuse but since the start of the year, I have only run 128 K. My biggest run for 2017 was 6K. The month leading up to this race, I have run twice for a total of 10K. I may be an idiot for thinking I could pull this run off  - but for some reason, I was determined to do a real triathlon this year. The MiTi Aquabike left me craving a little something.

The run went extremely well... for the first 10K. The sun was out by now, and I was comfortable running in my tri-top. I knew there was no way I could run 1:45 - that is my half-iron PB run from St. Andrews a few years ago. But, for some reason, as the kms chirped off on my Garmin all sub-5 minutes for the first 2 loops, I thought "well maybe, you never know". And then it all came crashing down. My toes felt like they were on fire, I was certain my big toe nails had fallen off - my calfs were cramping, I was getting the "overheating-chills"... 5:13...5:23, 5:33, 5:47 ... oh man, keep going. DO NOT WALK.

I wasn't sure where I stood in the standings. I figured I might have been 5th at one point - but again, with all the different events, Duathlon and Relays, I couldn't tell who was in what. The women's winner passed me in the first 100m and didn't look back (she ran a 1:38 and finished 2nd overall). 2 guys passed me on the return leg of the last lap. There was no way for me to latch on - I did check their calves on their way by and was assured they weren't in my age-group. Little did I know that up until that point, I was actually in second place overall for the men.

It felt great to be running again. The course is pretty boring, and frankly it is a tad depressing and uninspiring, as many of the other participants in other events were walking or really suffering by the time I was on the course. But - the volunteers were great - I really find if you make an effort to get interactive with them, the energy that gets returned is magnified. I took water at every station - half-the cup in the mouth, the other half over the head. My old buddy Ian and his daughter were at the far-end turnaround, with Zone-3. Wearing my Cornwall Triathlon top got lots of positive vibe from people, "Let's go Cornwall!" All these little things add up and are appreciated.

The finish

Legit smile of content

The finish line for this race is at the end of the straightaway on the Terry Fox athletic centre track. The track is soft, and fun to run on. There are 4 loops on the run, each loop ends with a 180 turn just adjacent to the finish line. On your final trip into the stadium, you take the left lane (instead of the right), and bee-line it to the finish. I could see the time on the clock, it had just rolled 5:19:XX when I entered the track, I knew I could finish within a minute and a sub 5:20 felt just fine with me. I did the old shoulder check to make sure I wasn't going to be pipped at the line, and just trotted in the final 80 meters.

The nice thing about this event was the finish-line photos are sponsored by the local tri team, and also Todd Morin of the Investor's Group, the announcer was calling back 113 finishers for a pose with the banner at the line. Hence the "hamming it up shot" ala Lionel Sanders at the top of this page.

Final Thoughts
I have to admit, this race exceeded my expectations. The production was typical Somersault, but that's not a bad thing. It was safe, adequately staffed, adequately organized, sufficient aid stations, almost accurate distances and there were bonuses: official splits for laps, finish line bbq, finish massage, bike-course bottles, free photos, post-race shower. The weather was interesting with the cool morning and warm afternoon, but it was manageable.

Morning - 2 bowls of cereal
On-the-road - 1 coffee
Pre-Swim - 1/2 Cliff Bar
Bike - 1.25 bottles of water, 1 bottle of Skratch (hand up), 2 Gu Roctaine, 1 sleeve of Clif Blocks, 1 Cliff Shot [Gels/Blocks were on laps 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9]
Run - 2 gels (1 @ 10K, 1 @ 16K). Mouthful of water at each station (~12 or so).

...And Guylaine?
Yet another Overall Podium. 3rd woman overall. 2nd age group. Not too shabby for having raced an ironman 2 weeks earlier.

Michigan Titanium Full Iron Distance AquaBike Race Report

Iron Aquabike, 3.8K swim + 180K bike. Swim = 1:08:56 (probably long), T1 – 1:41, Bike – 5:43:56 (31.4kph, 2.25W/kg Avg, 185W NP, IF=0.776). Total time = 6:54:34. 4th overall. Challenging course. Over biked 1st lap and suffered the last. Glad I didn’t have to run. Well organized. Probably wouldn’t do it again, but wouldn’t discourage others from going.

The Turning Point: how the podium was lost.
…And then it happened. At 120 km, on a short incline, my thighs cramped hard… and then 5 seconds later, I was passed by an aquabiker. Don’t panic. Keep it together. Don’t let him get too far ahead.  Right where the pass was made, a guy on the side of the road: “Keep it up! You guys are 4th and 5th!” I’m punching my left thigh – it seemed like a good idea to cure the cramp – it didn’t help. I need electrolytes… I need Gatorade… (my bottle is dry)…. And as if on queue a sign appeared: Aid Station Ahead.  “WATER AND GATORADE PLEASE!” – I quickly slid one in the empty cage and grasped the other by my teeth --- I emptied the Gatorade in my aero bottle and squeezed the water all over me – the shock of the cold woke me up, but the damage was done. Despite my best intentions, I had over biked the first loop and would pay for it for the remaining 60k. “Second is fine, second is good”. I kept riding as well as I could. Every incline would bring a grimace of pain. It was hot. I was cooked. I wasn’t sure I would be able to complete the ride. Finally: the turn back towards the finish. “You’re done! Congratulations!” A volunteer whisked my bike away to the aquabike rack. I stumble around a bit, regain my composure and hobble over to the rack…. 4 bikes. Four. I came 4th. Four bikes in front of me on the road. Three were Aquabikers. I was number four. Fark.

About MiTi
The Michigan Titanium (MiTi) is an independent triathlon near Grand Rapids Michigan. The event includes a Full Iron distance triathlon as well as Half Ironman and Olympic. There are also relays, duathlons, and aquabike categories for each race. The aquabike category is the Swim and Bike portion. I have been dealing with foot issues for almost a year and haven’t been running. The Full Iron aquabike was ideal for me: 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike (3.8K and 180K in Canadian). Guylaine was entered in the Full distance triathlon (tack on a marathon after all that, a mere 26.2 miles / 42.2 k). For us, the event is ideal as it falls at the end of the summer, is within a reasonable driving distance, and isn’t overcrowded. There’s also no pressure to sign up a year in advance. In total there were 750 or so participants. Ironman brand races with 2 to 3 thousand participants don’t appeal to us.

The event was extremely well organized. Pre-race communication, expo, packet pickup, swag, race meetings, transition zone layout, on-course support, race-day timing, finish line chute and atmosphere, awards and prizes, post-race food and amenities: all top-notch.

Grand Rapids
We split the 11 hour drive up into 2 days, staying overnight in Sarnia on Thursday and then crossing the bridge and travelling the remaining distance on Friday. We arrived early enough to preview the bike-course from the car… despite all the pre-event hype on the athlete facebook forum: it didn’t look that bad [note to self, things always look different from a car].

Grand Rapids appears to be a really nice city. We had booked an apartment through Air BnB in the Heritage Hills area. This is a very nice old neighbourhood with grandiose old houses. We were a 10 minute walk to downtown which includes the Grand River, parks, open-areas, museums, an arena, bars, hotels and conference centres. On Friday night, we strolled around town and took in a comedy show at the BOB center. Saturday night, we strolled around again, and passed through the Jazz festival. We hadn’t really planned out what to do, and didn’t want to indulge in the 60+ local craft brewers too much before the race; the race seemed to weigh on us and kept us from really hunting out the gems and appreciating what the city had to offer.

Downtown Grand Rapids

Our Home in Heritage Hills

Photobombed by an astronaut (!/?)

Hidden Banksy (?) along the waterfront

I'm not saying we rented the place we did because of the pinball machine.... but I'm sure it had a lot to do with it :))

We headed to the venue, Versluis Park, about a 20 minute drive from our apartment, for the 10AM practice swim. The lake looked fantastic. It was calm and clear. The buoys were all visible, and the course was obvious. The practice swim went well, sighting was easy. I messed up my garmin, and had it in Bike mode. It recorded my swim as 2.5K in 32 mins. The distance seemed off to me as I essentially swam the Olympic course (1500m) plus a little extra… but surely not an extra 1000m. Oh well.. at least the swim would be easy – the buoys were bright and big.
Practice Swim setup (Bill Ott, Facebook)

We headed over to the race expo and packet pickup at the YMCA after the practice swim. There was a good mix of vendors and services. We were able to pick up the salt pills that Guylaine was looking for, plus a few extra t-shirts. The pickup was easy, and the mandatory pre-race meeting was clear and concise.

Later in the day, we would return to the venue to check in our bikes. I’m not a fan of leaving the bikes overnight, but I understand how it helps with race-day morning logistics. Especially this race, as there is little on-site parking, and unless you are dropped off, athletes are bussed to the site from a nearby parking lot. We dropped the bikes off around 2:30. The tires had been pumped up to race-day pressure. How much pressure could you really lose overnight? It was hot and sunny. I changed my mind, and let out the air. PV=nRT; I didn’t want to risk a blown tube – we’ll bring the pump with us in the morning.

The rest of the afternoon was spent organizing the different race bags: T1, Bike special needs, T2, Run special needs, and dry clothes.

Racked and ready

Racked and ready

After the usual restless night of pre-race sleep, we woke at 4:40 to be on the road for 5:15 to be at the parking lot for 5:35 to be at the venue for 5:45 to have an hour to prep and be by the water for the 6:45 warmup and announcements. Everything seemed to go as per the schedule we planned. Tires were re-pumped up: and we earned some karma points lending out the pump to various others. At 6:45 we were counted in to the swim corral and ready to get the day on. The lake looked different…

The pre-race announcements were made. A blessing was shared by a local pastor. The US National anthem was sung beautifully acapella by a young lady. We were on time, and ready to go. The swim start was from waist deep in the lake. I was on the front row. 3-2-1-Go.

The Swim – 3800 meters (2.4 miles) - 2 loops of an approximately isosceles triangle – each vertex marked with a large pyramid shaped buoy.

Keep it in check. I was determined to not go out too fast. I went out exactly as planned at a good, controlled tempo. 50 meters in, the gaps were opening up. There were 2 lead swimmers side-by-side I was number 3. Someone was nipping at my toes. It didn’t bother me. I was comfortable. It was a little disheartening to not be tucked in behind someone, but I didn’t want to risk swimming too slowly. Around 100 meters off shore, it became apparent this swim would be bizarre. The water was warm, the air was cool. There was a one foot thick layer of mist on top of the water. Forward visibility was about 10 feet. We couldn’t see the huge colourful buoys. I could make out the splashes in front and I was relying on the lead swimmers to set the course. Eventually the buoys would come into focus. At the first vertex, turn to the left, and…. nothing. Zero visibility.  Mist plus the rising sun equaled zero visibility. Everyone was stopped, treading water. The stationary kayaker (sitting above the mist could see the buoys and probably couldn’t understand our dilemma) over there – and pointed his paddle – we continued on, the lead pack was now all together. From the practice swim I knew there was one marker between the 2 corners of this side of the triangle. We found it, and the group started treading water again… one person turned, “That’s not the turn!” I yelled, somehow they figured it out. We resumed swimming into the sun, hoping to find the pyramid. We did. And now the quest for the line back to the beach began.  Somehow, we completed loop 1, and were on our way onto loop 2. Surely the mist will have broken by now. It was marginally better, but the sun was now blinding. Things cleared up a bit for the final leg of the last loop and I was able to see the shoreline as my target – the sandy beach appeared below me in the water, and the swim was done. Despite the navigation confusion, and the treading water, I knew I had swum good and hard as my shoulders were aching from the effort. I caught the clock on the beach – a 1:08 swim. Rats, that’s slower than I had hoped. Oh well. I knew I was close to the front.

Dat Mist Tho'


It was a short run up to transition. I was able to get my wetsuit down to my butt as I ran. This made an easy job for the wetsuit stripper to do the rest. A volunteer shouted out my number, and my transition bag appeared as I rounded the corner. I had opted for a full-zip race-fit bike jersey. I had practiced swimming in it under my wetsuit a few weeks ago. I didn’t like the tight feeling when I swam, so I had planned to put it on after the swim - wet. The sleeves have a grippy material which makes the jersey hard to put on even in dry conditions. I had pre-folded them up so that I would be able slide my arms in more easily. It worked. My transition was very fast.

Not sure why I'm staring at my arm

Bike – 180K (112 miles) - 2 loops of a lollipop style – stick out, lollipop loop around, stick back and repeat.

The bike course on paper didn’t look too bad. The pre-race drive proved that there were “rollers” and that the conditions weren’t ideal in some patches, but surely, it wouldn’t be terrible. It wasn’t terrible, but it was much harder than I expected. My plan was to arrive at the finish line absolutely spent with no gas left in the tank. This was a strategy I had successfully used and enjoyed at the Barrelman Aquabike last September. Key to this strategy would be my power pacing. The Power Tap pedals that I won from Sportstats last year would be my silver bullet. To figure out my magic power number, I would need to know my FTP, and the % FTP I was able to hold for 180K. 236W and 85%. Those were my numbers and 200 Watts was the target. [I laugh out loud now when I read what I just wrote].

The sky was clear, the wind didn’t feel like a factor, and I was on the bike. The course starts with a gradual uphill. My watts were in check. This is it.

This fool thinks he can ride 200W for 180K

The bike is 2 loops, and I will break down the meat of each loop into 9 unique segments. Here are the details, and the numbers.

Lap 1
Lap 2
Speed (kph)
Avg P.
Avg P.
Many rollers, net uphill
Slight downhill
Shit Show
Many steep up and downs
To the loop
A few short climbs
The Loop
Mostly flat
chip seal
From the loop
Net downhill
Shit Show 2
Many steep up and downs
Slight up hill
Many rollers, net downhill

Meat of the Loop

The bike course did feature a 6 km section (2 times per loop), therefore 24 km total for the ride that could best be described as a shit show in terms of road condition. In that stretch, there were many sections of ruts, potholes, miscellaneous patch jobs and sections of missing pavement. It also happened that this section was narrow, had several steep up and downs and was under tree-cover, littered with shadows for extra difficulty in sighting. Most of this section was ridden hyper-conservatively, gripping the bars tightly.

Typical condition along the Shit Show segment
As posted in the forum after someone's recon ride.

And this is why I prefer smaller independent races. Overall I passed 2 people and I was passed by 3 people. For 99.9% of the ride, there was no one around me. It wasn’t lonely, the aid stations were well placed, and police officers manned the intersections. Being at the pointy end of the race meant I would see the rest of the field coming at me on the opposite side of the road for the second half of loop 1 and the rest of loop 2.  There was also a great support crew for Team World Vision, and I felt like a rock star when I rode through their cheering section. And there was also the road kill - the hundreds of carcasses along the way in various states of decomp kept things interesting - I did feel a bit sad for the fresh deer fawn.

Approaching the turnaround was my chance to assess where I stood in the race. I saw the lead biker go by, and then a huge gap… and then a guy who had passed me earlier… and then another guy who had passed me… that was it. I was fourth to the turnaround. I was certain I was the first aquabiker. Oh yeah.

The ride went south at 120k. My thighs cramped hard, and wouldn’t let go for the rest of the ride. It would give me cause to groan out loud at any effort over 150W. I still had aerobic capacity, but I was limited because of my legs. There were times I didn’t think I would be able to finish, I was getting glum. When I hit Lincoln road again for the last time, I cheered up a bit. With 10K to go, I was pretty sure I could make it back.

I didn’t really like the bike ride. It didn’t suit my strengths. I prefer to put my head down and just go. If I’m going to go up or down, I prefer either longer climbs or shorter ones. The rollers here were too long and steep and relentless for me to get my rhythm. Often I’d catch myself trying to power through a hill in the big ring, and having to verbally accost myself to switch to the small. I was constantly in the big and small chain ring and scrolling from 27 to 12 on the back.

The Big Finish

The crowd at the finish chute was completely unexpected; the energy pulled me in to the line. Staggering around at the finish I was pretty pumped. I knew I was 5th biker finished (out of all the competitors in the Full, Aquabike and Relays). I had been passed once on lap 2 by an aquabiker. I knew for sure one guy ahead of me was in the full, and I had assumed the other 3 were too… low and behold… nope…  of the 4 people in front of me, 3 were also aquabikers. I would be fourth. Rats.
Final time: 5:43:56. Basically I had overcooked the first lap. I was 9 minutes slower for lap 2. I had not respected the course. The hilly/rolling nature made it difficult for me to keep my power in check.  Looking back through the results though, I was 6 minutes behind 3rd place. I’m certain even with a better pacing strategy I could not have made up that time gap.


My race was done. Now I had 5 hours to spare while Guylaine finished her bike and ran a marathon…. But that’s another story (spoiler alert: she kicked butt and PR’d on a tough day, ran the fastest marathon for all women, and finished 3rd overall woman, netting prize money).

Out for a run in the blazing sun (this was a little shaded spot).
Podium! And a cheque!

Proud Coach.

Nutrition Report
Breakfast: 2 bowls of Apple Jacks + 1.5 mugs of coffee
Pre-Swim: 1 Cliff Bar, sipped water
Post-Swim: ½ Cliff Bar
Bike: Gu Jet Blackberry, Gu Roctane (Vanilla/Orange), Gu Roctane (Strawberry Lime), Gu Roctane (Pomegranate Blueberry), Gu (Lemon Sublime), Cliff Blocks (Margarita w/ 3x salt), Gu Blocks (red package), 1 Cliff Bar, 1 Bottle of Endurance Gatorade, 5 bottles of water (+/-), 1 salt pill.


I don't remember seeing "The Donald" there, maybe he lent his bike to someone else.