Blog de Phil

The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Cornwall Triathlon Race Report 2019

It was a perfect day for the Cornwall Triathlon. The morning started cool (but not cold), and when the sun was up, it was warm (but not hot). The humidity was low, and the wind was almost negligible.

It's been three years since I've done the Cornwall Triathlon, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Surely, there would be no way I could come close to my previous best of 2:25. With minimal swimming, and lack of focus since Tinman, I was thinking it would be lucky for me to flirt with 2:30.

The Swim (1500m, 2 x 750m loops)



The swim went great. I had no idea how fast I was going. It felt pretty comfortable, not anaerobic. I got isolated after 750m, and pulled a group for 375m, and then merged with another group on the final 375m. I had opted for the sleeveless wetsuit, sacrificing perhaps a little speed for comfort - and ease of removal - I wanted to wear my watch the entire race so I would have an accurate idea of race-time.

It was satisfying to hit the shore at 24:something, but a huge surprise to find out I was 5th out of the water, and ahead of Chris and Dan.

Official Swim Time: 24:17 (1:37/100m).

T1

I had pre-planned not to use the wetsuit strippers, but was slightly disoriented and forgot to even start undoing my wetsuit until I was nearly at the bike racks. It came off easily enough, and I was on my way to the mount line with little-to-no faffing about. I entered 5th, but came out 4th. I had opted for shoes on the bike, but struggled a bit getting strapped in (not a fan of my new shoes).

Official Transition 1 Time: 1:40

Bike (40K, 4 x 10K loops.... actually slightly less, total bike distance was 39.2K)

It seemed to take the better part of the first loop to get comfortable. I didn't feel like I had any power in my legs. I was hoping to be in the 220s, but was struggling to keep 190 W.  My speed was pretty good though, so I used that to cheer me up.

I kept the bike honest and spent some matches to make passes whenever I crept into a draft zone. Only to be eventually re-passed.

Despite being less than planned, my average power output was consistent. The laps were 203W, 209W, 211W and 204W respectively. I was net passed by 5 people and started the run in 9th position.



Official Bike Time: 1:04:29 (36.1 km/hr @ 210 W weighted average)

T2

Seemed methodical enough, but at the time it felt like I spent too much time wasting time. I put socks on for the run.

Official Transition 2 Time: 1:20

Run (10K, 1 x 5K out-and-back)

When I crossed the timing mat for the Run out, I hit lap on my watch. Being pre-set up in triathlon-mode it should have switched over to Run mode. But somehow, I must have not pressed the button hard enough when I started transition, so for the first part of the run it still thought I was in transition.

I did happen to notice the time, which was the current race time, and it said 1:30 (1 hour and 30 minutes). This seemed wrong to me, I thought that was my bike time. But then I realized that it was in fact my race time, and I started to salivate... I could run a 60 minute 10K and still get 2:30. .... I could run a 50 minute 10K and get a huge PB of 2:20. ... If I ran a 45 minute 10K I would be 2:15!!

Not being in "run" mode, when I got the first kilometer marker, my watch didn't beep, so I didn't know my pace... exactly. It did read 1:35 race time.... so I thought, oh well, I'm running 5-minute kilometers. I made a deal with myself that I would hit "Lap" at the turnaround, that way I would have my kilometer pace alerts on the way back to motivate me to keep going.

The run felt odd in that there was no one around me for the first 5K. I was completely alone, no one to pass, and no one was passing me. I had never experienced that at the Cornwall Triathlon. The first pass came unexpectedly just before the turnaround. And then, there were two more passes along the waterfront. Each time I was passed, it was with authority. I was clicking away in the mid 4:30's and 4:40s and these guys were going low 4:00s.

With about 3K to go, I was doing the math again. It was clear that a sub 2:20 finish time was going to happen. I was over the moon. I tried to will myself to run a little faster, to set a really low finish time, but with no one in front to catch, and no one behind to motivate me, and with a top-10 finish not going to happen, I kind of [regrettably] gave up and cruised it in for a final time of 2:17:52.9

Final Run Time: 46:09 (4:36/km pace; practically even splits for the first 5K and second 5K)

Final Finish Time: 2:17:52.9 [13/134 Overall, 12/87 Men, 4/26 M40-49]

Nutrition Report

2 bowls of Vector cereal for breakfast, 300 mL of water on the bike (not a lot), 2 gels on the bike, 1 gel on the run @ 5K, a sip of water at each aid station on the run.


Additional Barnes Family Deets:

Guylaine had a great race, setting a PB for herself at 2:42:45; and, Laura had a great debut at the Sprint distance with a 1:32:56 (and 2nd place in her category).


Past Cornwall Olympic History
  Year
Swim
T1
Bike
T2
Run
Total
 2019 
 0:24:16 
 0:01:40 
 1:04:28 
 0:01:20 
 0:46:08 
 2:17:52 
2016
0:23:35
0:01:55
1:08:47
0:01:06
0:47:59
2:23:22
2015
0:27:08
0:01:38
1:09:38
0:01:15
0:46:07
2:25:54
2013
0:28:00
0:02:26
1:15:20
0:00:52
0:46:08
2:32:41
2012
0:30:06
0:02:01
1:13:59
0:00:58
0:44:39
2:31:40
2010
0:30:50
0:02:18
1:23:21
0:00:30
0:48:43
2:45:11
2009
0:32:17
0:02:00
1:16:31
0:01:00
0:53:21
2:45:08
2008
0:29:20
0:01:46
1:15:00
0:00:40
0:48:21
2:36:41

100 K Time Trial

The 100K TT is something I have wanted to try for a while. I kind-of forced it's way on to the CCC Calendar, so I helped set it up. It wasn't too hot, but there was a nagging wind from the South-West that seemed to slow us down on Hwy 2 and Concession 4 heading back to Curry Hill.

3 Loops (Curry Hill Truck Stop to Westley Road to North Lancaster to Bridge End to Curry Hill)

My plan was to try and hold 200 Watts. It was working for the first loop, and then slowly dropping for the second loop. I was fading for the third loop, but managed to pick it back up for the last 10K. Normalised power is close to 200, but average power was 190W. Power balance, was (suprising) 49-51 (pretty close to 50-50). Average power-to-weight was 2.6 W/kg.

Nutrition was: Bowl of Vector Cereal and Toast for breakfast. (T-1.5 hours); Cliff Bar (T-10 minutes); 3 x gels (one per loop); Bear Claw; 1/2 Cliff Nut Butter; 3 bottles of water; 1 bottle of Powerade. I stopped after loop 2 to refill water and powerade, I was going to skip it, thinking I could manage without - I'm glad I didn't skip it; it cost me 47 seconds, but I used every last drop on the third loop.

It was a satisfying ride. I'm happy with the result. It was mentally fatiguing, and I had to resist quitting after two loops (glad I kept on!)


Laps  Time Total Time Distance Speed HR Cadence NP® Balance Left (%) Avg Power Avg W/kg
1 08:55.5 08:55.5 5 33.6 126 80 208 50 199 2.7
2 08:43.6 17:39 10 34.4 131 91 198 50 197 2.7
3 07:59.2 25:38:00 15 37.6 132 85 204 49 202 2.8
4 08:13.6 33:52:00 20 36.5 131 88 198 49 197 2.7
5 07:03.1 40:55:00 25 42.5 132 87 200 49 194 2.7
6 07:58.6 48:54:00 30 37.6 132 89 200 49 195 2.7
7 08:25.2 57:19:00 35 35.6 127 87 189 49 187 2.6
8 09:19.1 1:06:38 40 32.2 128 85 198 49 190 2.6
9 08:46.2 1:15:24 45 34.2 130 88 194 51 188 2.6
10 08:00.8 1:23:25 50 37.4 128 83 196 50 190 2.6
11 07:52.3 1:31:17 55 38.1 128 86 195 50 191 2.6
12 07:36.1 1:38:53 60 39.5 127 79 191 49 185 2.5
13 08:21.2 1:47:14 65 35.9 125 82 183 49 182 2.5
14 09:29.4 1:56:44 70 31.6 125 79 189 49 179 2.5
15 09:24.0 2:06:08 75 31.9 128 86 186 49 183 2.5
16 08:34.1 2:14:42 80 35 131 86 189 50 185 2.5
17 08:24.7 2:23:07 85 35.7 130 85 191 50 182 2.5
18 07:22.3 2:30:29 90 40.7 132 82 188 49 187 2.6
19 08:05.3 2:38:34 95 37.1 135 82 204 48 199 2.7
20 08:06.3 2:46:41 100 37 133 82 202 48 196 2.7
21 00:07.2 2:46:48 100.09 45.1 148 91 268 49 132 1.8
Summary 2:46:48 2:46:48 36 129 85 196 49 190 2.6


Challenge Roth Registration

Spoiler Alert: Guylaine and I will be climbing this hill next year
Challenge Roth is one of the most epic and iconic triathlons in the world. It has been a bucket list event for a while now. Before you even start thinking about booking your flights to Germany, you have to win the registration race! (hint: it sells out in 46 seconds).

The registration was set to go live on Monday July 15 at precisely 10 AM CEST (Central European Summer Time) aka 4 AM local time. We had our alarm set for 3:49 AM. Both computers were pre-loaded with the registration URL and ready to go. Our eyes just barely adjusting to the light of the computer screen we hit "refresh" to just make sure things were good. A change. 3 new links were added: German registration, International registration and Relay registration. Thinking it had opened early, we eagerly each clicked the "International registration" only to find a new page, that explained the registration would open at precisely 10AM CEST. In the middle of the page, was a big green refresh button. We still had a few minutes. But of course, we still each hit that big refresh multiple times.

With 4 minutes to go, something was up. Instead of the instant refresh, it was taking 10, 20, 30, seconds for the page to reload. Uh-oh... I cracked open a few extra tabs on my browser, and began a systematic [CTRL]+[TAB], [F5] cycle. After what seemed like an eternity, magically the form appeared.

[Pause for some context...]
How the registration process for Roth works (now anyways) is this:
Step 1 - At 10AM CEST, apply online for a registration voucher.
Step 2 - If you are successful in Step 1 - you will get an email with a registration code, where you have one week to confirm your entry and make your payment.
Step 3 - Any remaining unclaimed spots go up for a final sell-off process in December.

For step 1 - the Application process, it was published that you just needed to enter your Name, Nationality, Date of Birth and email address.

Knowing we had to enter email address; and it being the norm that you have to enter it twice for confirmation, we had preemptively copied our email addresses to the clipboard. Instead of tapping out all 16-20 characters, a simple [CTRL]+[V] would shave precious seconds.

[And now back to our magically appearing form...]
True enough 6 fields: First Name, Family Name, Nationality (drop down box) - [tap C thrice to get Canada], Date of Birth --- those European tricksters dd.mm.yyyy (note the delimiting dots), Finally email x 2 [Paste][Tab][Paste], Submit....

"Congratulations, you have successfully pre-registered" (I honestly can't remember what it said, but something to that effect). "WhooHoo, I'm in I squealed" [And sure enough, an email arrived instantly with confirmation, and details on what to expect next]. Guylaine, caught up in the urgency, forgot about the [CTRL+V] email trick, but submitted her form only a couple of seconds later...

"Sorry, we have allocated all the registration spots" (Again, I can't remember exactly what it said).

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO..... " The horror. She didn't get in. [Try it again]. We both tried it over-and-over again... same message. And to add insult to injury an extra line in the message appeared. "Please do not attempt to submit the same information multiple times" - crap they're onto us.

We kept up in desperation, using different email accounts, but alas, at 4:05 a check of Challenge Roth Facebook feed showed that the race was in fact sold out, and the comment feed was filling up with disheartening sob stories of failure.

The unspoken deal was that we would only go if both of us got in. I tried to look on the bright side, at least one spot (mine) would come up for public consumption in the final sell-off in December.... or should I commit to the race, and we try our luck for one more spot in December... Oh the agony. We went back to bed, bummed. I don't think either of us got any more sleep.

[Monday July 15, 9:14 AM EST, a new dawn, a miracle email... ]

Dear Guylaine,

Congratulations! You can race DATEV Challenge Roth 2020

We have great news for you – as we are able to offer you a much sought-after spot for DATEV Challenge Roth 2020! During today's online registration, we have received a few duplicate applications that were not used. That’s why we can provide one spot to you.

{Unique URL with Access Code here}

Talk about a swing in emotion! See you in Germany, 2020.


Tupper Lake Tinman Race Report 2019

That time I smashed my PB at 70.3 and flirted with sub-5 (almost)

TL;DR: Great race. Awesome swim, awesome bike, awesome run. 30-minute delay because of two flats on the bike. 5:28:26 final time.

This was the 37th annual Tupper Lake Tinman and my third time participating in this half-ironman event. For each sub-event, here were the goals: Swim – find a good strong legal draft and stick with it; Bike – normalised power of 75% FTP (180W, 2.5W/kg); Run – Sub 1:45 half-marathon. If all went to plan, this recipe would add up to a PB of under 5:13.

The swim: 1900 meters, a single big U-shape

The swim start was a rolling self-seeded affair. The virtual corrals were set up as 25-35 minutes 35-45 minutes and 45+. I figured I had a 32-minute swim in me, so lined up close to the front. We were sent off in groups of 5, with a 10 second gap. A running start over the timing mat and into the water (which was 70 degrees F). The swim start seemed more frantic than it should have, and there was contact and jostling for the first 100 meters until it settled down. As luck would have it, I found my strong draft shortly thereafter. It helped he was wearing a wetsuit with a big red panel down the back, so I never lost sight of him. Drafting during the swim (which is completely legal) can be tricky when it comes to gauging your effort. Swimming in a draft is easier than not, but with open water swimming, since you don’t have any immediate feedback on how fast you’re going, it can be difficult to evaluate your performance. After about the half-way mark, I was breathing hard and grunting – just on the edge of discomfort – this was good - it let me know I was right where I wanted to be effort-wise and so I continued with my escort.  We hit the shore, I could see the bottom so stood up early and jogged in while self-stripping the upper part of my wetsuit. It is a new suit, and very difficult to get the arms out (I had performed some emergency surgery on the wrists of the suit in the morning, by carefully cutting some slits so as to widen the openings – it worked!). The tight suit meant that I had opted to not wear a watch or Garmin for the swim – during the race, I had no idea what my swim time was. I knew it was good, when on the bike I was eventually passed by Rob.

Official Swim Time: 32:51 (1:42/100m)

Transition 1

Transition spots were pre-assigned for this event. I had bib number 286, and that translated to a fairly good spot in transition; and right beside a tree for easy sighting. The slitted wetsuit wrists resulted in a wrestle-free upper body exit; and a pre-applied massive dose of body glide on the shins and ankles made an easy exit for the lower body. I had opted not to have the shoes on the bike, so instead attached them in transition (sockless), strapped on the helmet, and off I went. On exiting transition, you have to cross a road before mounting – sometimes they stop the traffic, sometimes they stop the racers – I got lucky as they had stopped the traffic, and I was able to get away without delay.

Official T1 Time: 1:37

The Bike: 90km, out-and-back, open-to-traffic highway, terrible road condition for half, hilly for half.

The problem is, the road is not in terrible shape, so it likely won’t be replaced anytime soon. The shoulder, however, is a different picture – it is absolute crap:  cracked and crumbling, spackled and patched (for the first half of the out, that is – the hilly part). The second half which is nice and rolling, is pretty good pavement. The type of pavement you are not likely to get a flat tire on. (more on that later). The first 20K of the bike course was a tad congested, as the Tinman competitors were working their way through the slower Olympic and Sprint distance riders. The long deep, wide cracks that separated the road from the shoulder made pulling around (into traffic) so as to pass quite sketchy. After this section (which was also the relatively hilly section), I was able to find my groove, and just put my head down. I was riding well, but getting somewhat frustrated at constantly being passed and never being able to reel anyone in. At about 40K, the first-place biker was heading towards me, and he had a huge lead. At 44.5 km (500 meters to the turnaround): PSSS-SHEW.

Rear Flat. Faaaaaaaaaaaaaark.

Somehow, I didn’t freak out. I pulled over and got to work. Shifted the gears to small and small. Unhook the brakes, undo the skewer and off with the wheel. The tire came off easily enough – I checked it quickly for a sharp object, nothing. I got the new tube in and seated, tire back on, CO2 ready – inflated (a little hiccup with the chuck, but eventually it seemed to get going). Perfect. Wheel back on, brakes attached – and – KAPOWW! Tire burst.

Oh shit. What now. That was it. My one and only spare. My race is done. What an idiot I am, I totally missed something sharp inside the tire. Fuck.

After another 3 seconds of self-pity, I remembered the little patch kit (it had fallen on the ground when I emptied my tool kit). That little patch kit that was a last-ditch $3 add-on to a MEC order to qualify for free shipping.

I undid the wheel, got the tube out, checked the tire – nothing sharp – I inflated the tube by mouth to try and find the hole. Sure enough a huge gash (actually the biggest I’ve ever seen in a tube). [Still not sure if it was a bad tube, over-inflation, or something sharp that was in the tire]. I peeled off the patch, attached it firmly. Held it for solid for 10 seconds. Blew a little air into the tube to shape it, and then re-set the tire. Now – my only saving grace would be, if there was enough air in the CO2 canister to give my tire any shape – I would take 20psi if I had to.

Pfft. Good luck. Completely spent.

Arghhh… what the hell am I going to do now. Again, I wallowed in self-pity for about 5 seconds, until it dawned on me: maybe there’s neutral support or a pump at the turnaround. I gingerly rode the flat tire and made the turn into the turnaround.  Nope. No miracle neutral support. No pump.

Fuck.

I had three choices: Pack it in, beg for a CO2 off a fellow competitor or wait for Guylaine to pass by (she was racing too). I knew she had a small hand-pump in her tool bag. So that’s what I did. I hung out with the referees for a while (they were taking a short break from the motorcycles at the turnaround) I double checked with them that it was okay for me to receive aid from a fellow competitor – it was. I was relieved when Guylaine showed up. I grabbed the small pump and a CO2 and sent her back on her way.

My first attempt at reinflation was the CO2. Nope. Something went wrong, and all it did was fart cold white blobs of congealed carbon dioxide. Figures. Either the chuck head was plugged, or it was a bad cartridge. I thanked my stars for the hand pump and got to work. 200 rapid strokes later, the tire had some sort of form to it, maybe 30 psi – good enough: on-y-va!

From the initial flat to the final fix, I had lost over 30 minutes. I restarted the bike ride a little conservatively, not sure if the back tire would hold; nervous to flat-out again, but I got braver with each kilometer and with each person I passed, until eventually, I was back at my target watts and enjoying the added benefit of the slight tail wind. At around 70K, the rough pavement reappeared, and the hills, and the rain. It was taxing on the nerves having to pull around people to pass over the rough cracks, especially swinging into the traffic lane – which was uncharacteristically very busy with lots of trucks, trailers and RVs. The last big hill – and downhill – were frightening – would the tire hold, or would it roll off sending me to an untimely demise… The last hurdle was the final 2km in town, again with tons of traffic, and lots of large sewer grates to avoid… what a relief to finally hit the bike-in chute, for a barefoot dismount, and celebratory jog into T2.

Official Bike Time: 3:09:54 (17.69 mph / 28.5 km/hr); unofficial moving time: 2:41:49 @ 180W (33.4 km/hr)

Transition 2

No nonsense. Knowing there was a good chance of rain, I had kept my shoes and socks in a plastic bag at my spot. They were nice and dry when I put them on. At the time of T2, it was still drizzly and overcast, so I opted not for a hat or sunglasses.

Official T2 Time: 1:47

The Run: 21.1 km (Garmin distance 20.5km); an odd out-back-loop-out-back hilly affair

I have been running well lately. My goal was a 1:45 half-marathon (aka 5-minute kilometers, 8-minute miles). “Keep it in check”. My always mantra for a triathlon run. Sure enough, the first km was way too fast at 4:36. I managed to dial it in a bit, but I was still sub 5 minutes for most of the first half of the run despite it being mostly uphill. Around 13k, the heat and hills were adding up, and the kms dipped into the 5:20 range.  The last 5K was a mental game – having been held back almost 30 minutes on the bike, I was running through a relatively slower group of competitors, so I was targeting and picking off people one-by-one. I made a deal with myself that I would empty the tank for the last km. As my watch chirped 20K, I picked it up – and very shortly I was on the grass heading back for the finish line. In the last 200 meters, I was outsprinted by two people – I have no finish line kick - these were the only two people to pass me since remounting my bike at the turnaround. I crossed the finish mat with 1:42:something on my watch, and was over the moon.

An ice-cold towel was put on my neck, and that was one of the most awesome things ever. After a brief moment of stumbling around, I readied myself to head back to transition and pack up my stuff. I bumped into Eric and Rob on the way back - and then the heavens opened with a heavy cold rain. It was refreshing for a moment and then bone-chilling the next.

Official Run Time: 1:42:18 (7:48/mile, 4:51/km)

Final Finish Time: 5:28:26 (88/334 OA, 72/255 Males, 14/40 M45-49).



Nutrition

Friday night supper – Ziti alla vodka with chicken and a Blue Moon (prefaced with a Longboard Lager back at the Tupper Lake Motel)

Breakfast – big bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries
Pre-Swim – Cliff Bar, Bottle of Gatorade
Bike – 1 water, 1 Gatorade, 1 Powerade, 2 Gels, ¾ sleeve of Cliff-blocks
Run – 3 Gels, water at every station (one to drink, one on the head)

Bike Power

180W Avg Power, 193W Normal Power, 50% L/R balance, 199W Max 20 minutes, 81 rpm cadence

Bleh. Sh@t happens. Sometimes a 30 minute break in the middle of a race is soothing for the soul.


Guylaine’s Race

Despite being slowed down for 60 seconds at the turnaround to help out her husband, Guylaine smashed her previous time on this course and had a phenomenal race. A (self-described) mediocre swim, but great bike and excellent run put her in contention for a podium… however, all the fast women showed up on this day. She ended up 5th in her group, but very happy with her time.

Links

Sportstats Line | Strava Swim | Strava Bike | Strava Run

Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico Race Report

Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico was held on Sunday, March 17, 2019.  My official time was 5:20:11. I am very happy with my performance.

Hey, that's me in the right hand side. It looks like the second loop of the run, about 14k in.


2019 IRONMAN® 70.3 Puerto Rico

Phil Barnes
#787 - M45-49
TimeRace TimeDiv. PosDiv. RankDPI
Swim34:3334:33141491.8
T14:5039:231419
Bike2:39:413:19:04172194.7
T21:543:20:581629
Run1:59:135:20:11192488.1
Overall5:20:1119 / 10592.6




Prologue
Guylaine and I have both had a renewed enthusiasm for winter cycling due mainly to Zwift, and also fat biking. At Christmas, we had discussed the possibility of an early season destination race over the March break. It boiled down to either IM70.3 Puerto Rico or Florida Intimidator Challenge. Puerto Rico would be more expensive, but more exotic... plus there was the bonus of a potential World Championship spot for Guylaine (more on that later). Signing up for the race was the kick in the ass I needed to get myself out of my post-IMMT funk. I recommitted to training averaging about 11 hours a week of quality workouts. I also cleaned up my lifestyle and dropped 15 pounds in the process. Boarding the plane for Puerto Rico, I felt ready to roll. The event posed an exciting challenge: How would we do so early in the year? What would a non-wetsuit swim be like? Would indoor bike training translate to the road? How would we handle the 85°F heat on the run? 

Pre-race
Despite having a condo only 15 minutes away from the race venue, we decided to wake up early to guarantee a parking spot on site. The race started at 6:55, the alarm was set for 4:30, we ended up getting out of bed at 4:20. At 4:45 AM we were driving down the main strip of Puerto Rico, Ashford Avenue. The bars were still open, pumping music, girls in party dresses were staggering home, and there was the unmistakable smell of colitas rising up in the air. We were early enough on site to obsess over our transition setups, pump up the tires, lather up with sunscreen, and defeat any lineups for the porta-potties. Transition closed at 6AM and we started the 20 minute walk to the swim start, munching a Clif bar along the way; and, tactfully locating a pair of shoes at the swim exit for the long haul back to T1. We had time for a relaxing 200 meter warm up swim prior to the start.

The Swim (the strava)
Looking a little skinny at 153 lbs.
The swim was in a protected lagoon adjacent to the ocean. It was salt-water, and warm (78°F). Not wetsuit legal. Many had swim-skins, some had tight tri-suits. I opted for just tri-shorts and topless, which oddly was the minority.  Each age-group had its own wave start. Fortunately (more on this later), I was in the very first wave. After the national anthems, announcements and some celebratory music, we were lined up, treading water at the start buoys. The start area was wide enough, and I opted for the second row. 3-2-1- Horn, and we were off.

The start was fast, but non-violent. I immediately found the feet of a heavy kicker, and enjoyed the (legal) draft. The pace was fast, but sustainable. There were enough buoys to mark the course. My guide was swimming straight as an arrow, and hugged the buoy line perfectly, I didn't have to sight once. There was a little kerfuffle-ing at the turnaround, and I ended up losing my guide, but found another. He wasn't kicking so much, and I felt was a little slow, so I free-styled my way through the pack and found another great draft.

The swim eventually passed under a bridge, and I knew the finish line was near. I was getting anxious for the swim to be over, and at this point, the water felt a little choppier. I feel like I slowed down a bit here, and lost several placings, but eventually the swim-out-ramp was visible. About 5 of us arrived at the same time, and each politely took our turn standing up and getting pulled up and out of the water by the volunteers.

I split my watch at 34:27 for an average pace of 1:48/100m. I had hoped for a 33 minute swim, but I felt like it was still a good swim in terms of effort-to-time ratio.

Damn! This is a long transition. We had previously measured the distance from swim out to the transition as 680m, mostly along asphalt, concrete and paving stones. It was heavily suggested at athlete briefing to leave a pair of shoes at swim out for this part of the course. I was happy that I had. I got to my spot in transition, slipped on my tri-top, helmet and shoes, and was off to start the bike course. I had a relatively easy spot to access in transition, but it was close to the swim in and run out -- the bike out/bike in being located at the opposite end. This meant a long run navigating the racks with the bike. 

5 minutes and 45 seconds later, I had made a successful transition from swim to bike and covered the 980 meters to the mount line.

The Bike (the strava)
My preferred position, but conditions
would not allow this too often. Had to
keep my head up to navigate pot-holes
and rough roads.
I was feeling very confident about this part of the course. I knew my bike fitness going in was very good. Two, 40K training rides outdoors the days prior to the race had shown me that I was capable of holding an aero position for at least an hour (on Zero aero-conditioning since August of last year). I knew the run would be the most difficult part of this event, so more than ever I was determined to stick to my power plan. Hold an normalized power of 75% of FTP for the entire ride. That translated into 180 W (approx 2.5 W/kg). To facilitate this, I had my screen set up with 3 data fields. 10second Avg Power, Total Ride Normal Power, Lap Normal Power; my auto-lap was set to 5km. The route was a double out-and-back with a 17K lead-in/lead-out, We had no reconnaissance of the route ahead of time, we were told it was mostly flat, with new asphalt. Well...

The lead in, was up and down a series of overpasses, nothing extreme, but enough pitch to bring the watts up pretty easily. There were signs of new asphalt, but they were mostly patches that were not flush to the road surface, so best avoided. Along with various potholes and ruts. It wasn't a terrible road, but you had to stay alert to ride a safe line. It was not conducive of an aggressive aero position. The double out-and-back portion was mostly flat, and slightly better road conditions, but again, you had to pay attention to ride a safe line to avoid ruts, patches and the occasional squashed iguana.  

Once on the double-out-and back, I was feeling settled in, and my watts were bang-on. Each 5K lap showed me I was around 180 to 185 watts normal power. I was feeling particularly proud of myself. I was comfortable in my position, and feeling confident that I could hold the effort for the entire 90k.

Being in the first swim wave, and being 14th out of the water meant I was at the front-end of the bike course for most of the way. I was passed three or four times and passed two or three people over the meat of the course. The road was wide-open for the first loop, but by the second loop, it was starting to get a little busy - and dicey. In particular, the aid stations, oh the carnage. I saw two people go down hard - either due to the dozens of loose bottles all over the road, or simply the congestion. One station in particular looked really bad and I decided to bypass it completely. (Happy I had brought an extra bottle of Gatorade in my back bottle cage.)

Despite the congestion on the second loop, I was moving quickly around people and still had a pleasant unobstructed ride; it was still a relief when I finished the loop, and was back alone on the 17K ride back towards transition.

I have developed a bad habit of under-fueling and under-hydrating in training rides. I was determined not to bonk or get dehydrated. I constantly sipped gatorade, going through 5 bottles for the ride, and finishing a sleeve of cliff-blocks and 2 gels. I was reassured later that I was not dehydrated (as I had to relieve myself twice during the run).

The last part of the bike ride saw a few overpasses, and then, back into town, we were treated to a slight downhill back towards transition. Crowd support was amazing along the last kilometer of the ride.

After a successful barefoot dismount, I was jogging back to transition.  Bike time: 2:37:55, 34.1 kph, 80 rpm average, 174 W average power, 181 W normal power (2.5 W/kg), 75% IF. The bike was bang on plan.

T2 was considerably shorter than T1, but I had a poor rack spot, right near the end. Being in the first wave, there were not many bikes hanging, and fortunately hardly anyone in transition to bump into. It felt like I was moving slow as I shed the helmet, and donned my socks, shoes, race-belt, hat and sunglasses; but, my final time was 1:59:14, so that seems pretty no-nonsense considering the 270 meters of distance traveled.

The Run (the strava)
Finishing loop 1. Feeling pretty good.
I worked to rebuild my running form this year. I have transitioned from 160 steps per minute to 180; through a more minimalist shoe and metronome training. I've tried hard to commit to long runs, since the new year, outdoors, despite poor weather. I've included some warm-up and cool-downs in my runs and a little bit of stretching. I have not had any cramping this year (unlike last year), and my plantar fasciitis has pretty much vanished. I had a great "Frozen Sole", 8K run one month prior to the race, and a really good 18km run, two weeks prior. I managed to convince myself that in the heat and with the hills, I could run a 1:50 half-marathon off the bike. 5:13/km pace. 

And so it went ... for 12 k .... but, then heat and hills finally got to me. I honestly felt really, really good for that first 12k. 

The route was a double out-and-back, into old San Juan, and around the fort. The total course had 200 meters of elevation. Each lap included a very steep hill (10% grade), a couple of gradual hills, and another steep up-and-down on a rough cobble-stoned surface. Each loop also included 2 kilometers of "The Microwave": a section of the course alongside a massive stone wall that absorbs and reflects heat. 

Being in the first wave, I was lucky enough that the microwave wasn't so hot the first time through. It was much warmer an hour later the second time through though. And it was this point in the race, after sucking back a Roctane, that I started to get the shivers. My body felt like it was going into shutdown/survival mode, but I was determined not to give up. I was much slower, and losing big chunks of time every kilometer, but I felt like I didn't give up, and honestly gave it 110% effort. My splits look, "Classic Phil", with a big fade, but it didn't feel that way during the run, and I don't think I would have run much faster had I started out slower.

Running back into town, the cheering grew louder, and Laura was there again on the side (she had previously cheered me in on the bike, and on the turn-around for loop 1 of the run). The final stretch to the finish line was unclear to me, but we had to cross a pedestrian overpass, which I thought was particularly cruel, and then run around and up a grass hill. The finish line was only visible for the last 100 meters, but you could hear it before then. I got passed in the last 30 seconds by a guy in my age group, I had no intention of sprinting, I didn't care, I could see the clock roll over to 5:20:00 and although going sub-5:20 would have been a real treat, I was very happy with my final time of 5:20:11.

Final run time: 1:59:13, 5:41/km pace. Big second-half fade, but considering heat and hills, not bad.

Awards and Roll Down

Words will never be able to do justice to the experience and elation of Roll Down. This race had 40 spots for World Championship Qualifiction, and an additional 25 spots allocated for women only, through a special initiative called Women for Tri. I had previously figured (based on the published start list) there would be 2 spots for Guylaine's category from the 40 regular spots and 3 spots under the extra Women for Tri slots. I had it in my head, that if she finished 5th, she would be in.... she ended up finishing 6th (an amazing effort and a fantastic race, but we'd have to hope for a roll-down).

Imagine, now, to my horror, when going through the 40 regular spots, they noted that one would go to her category (not the two, I had banked on). And, of course, the winner took the spot. One spot rolled from another women's category but it was allocated to a different category than Guylaine's, boo.

So now, they are handing out the extra 25 slots. And they get to Guylaine's category, and they note there will be 3 spots given out. (oh, the tension). I can't be sure, but I think number 2 took their spot, number 3 passed, and then number 4 and number 5 took their spot. That's that then. Guylaine looked at me dejected. I was furiously doing math on my fingers... "hang on, I said, I think one's going to roll...". Sure enough, there was only one competitor in the F18-24 category, and she already had her slot from the regular qualification process. They announced it was going to be allocated to F50-54. This was the VERY LAST SPOT that was going to be handed out......

... My mind went blank, I couldn't remember if Guylaine was next in line or not....

.... the announcer looked like he was a little puzzled, while he was looking at his list, he was buying time... my heart began to race, "he's trying to figure out how to pronounce the name"... and then sure enough:

"GUYLAINE BARNES"

The three of us jumped up and screamed, Guylaine burst into tears, it was freaking awesome.
Ironman's motto is "Anything is Possible".
People who have been say, "Always go to Roll Down".
Either of these would be fitting captions.
Epilogue
The trip to Puerto Rico was very nice. I was surprised at my own ignorance: it's far from third-world; San Juan is a bustling modern town not unlike any other big city in Canada or the US. The people are welcoming and friendly. The devastation from Hurricane Maria was not obvious to me in San Juan or the neighbouring areas we visited. The race production seemed very much locally-owned. We honestly felt like valued customers and welcomed guests of the race director, the crew, the volunteers and the community. Guylaine and I had very satisfying races. This was a very memorable and amazing experience.