The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Race Report: Somersault Promotions – Thousand Islands Olympic Distance Triathlon. August 21, 2005. Brockville, Ontario.

Posted Distances: 1500m Swim, 41.2km Bike, 10km Run.

I couldn’t sleep, I just heard about the Lance Armstrong EPO allegations, so I had to check them out online – while I’m here, may as well type up my report before I forget! BTW – I still believe in Lance.


This race was going to be a homecoming for me. I grew up in Brockville. On top of this, the race was held on my mom’s birthday. Add to that my sister and brother-in-law were both down. Top it all off with my grandmother, more or less, is settled back at home, after major surgery and several weeks of hospitalization.

Pre Race

Arrived in Brockville on Saturday, and went down with the whole family to Blockhouse Island to pick up the race-kit. My dad, almost convinced me that he had signed up for the duathlon – he hadn’t … but I can tell he’s thinking about it… Anyhow, not much in the freebie department other than a toothbrush (! ? !), and a nicely re-designed T-Shirt. I would be racer number 12. Guylaine and I drove the bike course with the van, and I started to get a bit nervous. I knew the bike was open to traffic, but the course seemed much more hillier than I had expected, and frankly, there didn’t seem like much space at the side of the road – what was there, looked littered with gravel. “Oh well”, I thought, “They’ve managed in the past”.

In the evening we played in the pool with the kids. Afterwards, I wanted to get a few laps in (I hadn’t swam in over a week). I did 10 laps, and got out. I wasn’t happy. I was breathing heavily, and I felt tired. I got back in, and did another 10 laps – “Slow, Easy, Long, Glide” I told myself. They felt much, much better, and I was much more confident after the second set.

Before bed, I back-calculated my wake up time: Start at 8:30, Be on site at 7:30, Leave the house at 7:15, 30 minutes to obsess about bike and T-bag, 20 minutes to shower etc., 10 minutes to eat. Somehow I arrived at 6:10 wake up time.

Side note: Shower??? I’ve got this weird obsession of wanting to be clean before I start the day – any day – especially a race day. Even when I was getting up for a 6AM swim at Meech, I’d still shower, shave and gel my hair… maybe I’m nuts.

Morning Of

I didn’t sleep well the night before. That’s normal. I wasn’t nervous - not like the night before my very first race – I think it’s just a combination of anxiety and excitement. I woke up at 6:15. Ate a bowl of Fruit Loops, a banana and forced some “fruit snacks”. I checked out the bike, pumped up to 110 PSI, checked out front derailleur shifting – everything good – made sure I was in the small chain ring for the steep trip up Ford Street.

Set Up
I arrived in transition as planned around 7:30, again surprised at how many other people were already there. I recognized a few other people from the local tri-scene, and ran into a guy I know from the pool – he was attempting the Olympic distance for the first time – he told me to wait for him at the finish line, I laughed, and told him only if he waited for me after the swim.

I found a decent spot close to the bike-out end where the bar was high enough that I could slip my bike in and out without having to tilt it too much. It turned out to be close to Jim and Pierre – 2 guys from my duathlon group who were also doing the Olympic event. I would run into Jim Borrens, Will Thompson and Dave Backman later on.

I still remember my first Triathlon, knowing absolutely no-one, and feeling a bit out of place while setting up. It’s nice to have met some nice people in the mean time, and to have some familiar folk to chat with and cut the pre-race jitters.

I digress… I set everything up perfectly. I was happy. I went to get my timing chip and get body-marked. I had been planning on writing some inspirational messages on my arm for the race (something I had read about, at the Steelhead Triathlon) – Sure it’s cheesy, but I thought I had nothing to lose. I wrote PITQLF and YCRF on the inside of my left arm. Pain is Temporary, Quitting Lasts Forever…. and You Can Run Faster.

I went to scope out the Swim-In area. I rehearsed the swim-to-bike transition run, only to find out that I had set up in a spot that didn’t allow for a direct run from the swim – so I found a spot on the other side of the rack – and set up again - perfect. (This flip-flop is almost part of my pre-race routine now.) A quick visit to the port-a-potty (not too stinky thankfully), and I was ready.

Between 20 and 15 minutes to the start, I lubed up my wrists, ankles and neck with Body Glide, slipped on the rubber up to my waist, and headed down to the Swim Start. I had 2 sets of goggles with me, clear and tinted – it was slightly overcast – but I opted for the tinted, only because it wasn’t too dark out, and the anti-fog still worked well on them. No one had ventured into the water yet, so I worked the rest of my suit on, it felt really good around the shoulders.

People were getting into the water, so I did too – which was a small adventure in it’s own right – the in/out is a concrete boat-launch ramp, that is covered in sea-weed. I had to crab-walk in. Someone told me not to worry about getting out, as they have people set up to pull you out.

5 Minutes Everyone!

I set up about half way between the start buoy and the shore, pretty much on the virtual start line. The keen/fast swimmers were set up right beside the buoy. I figured I was set up appropriately, the people behind me were well spaced out, as if to concede the first 10 meters without a fight.

The Swim, 1500 meters

10 Seconds…. 5 Seconds (I started my watch), 4, 3, 2, 1 … again, I can’t remember if there was a horn or a gun, but we were off. Nice and easy I told myself. 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Immediately, I was happy, there were people all around me, but nicely spaced, no fists or feet. I swam a straight line to the first turn, and took it tightly without incident. The course was set up as 2 loops of a 750m triangle, delimited with 4 buoys – 100m (turn 1), 300m (midway along the hypotenuse), 500m (turn 2), 750m (back at the start – turn 3).

Along the way to the 300m point, I noticed that I was breathing every 4 strokes, I tried to force myself back to every 3. I would go back and forth between 3 and 4 strokes – but I felt good. Another thing I noticed, was that I didn’t notice my wetsuit at all. I couldn’t feel it pulling anywhere. At the second turn, the field had thinned out, and I noticed I was in a line of about 2 or 3 others. Ok, let’s hook on for the ride.

Drafting on the bike is not allowed. Drafting on the swim is allowed. Everything I had read about it, suggests that you hang back and off to the side. Don’t get too close so as to annoy or provoke. It was working well. Thankfully, the line was swimming straight. There was a guy a bit to the right and behind me, who appeared quite agitated. Whenever I turned my head to breath that way, he seemed to always be looking up and around – the first few times, I thought he was just sighting – but it started to bug me after a while. I tried to let it not bother me.

One of my objectives for this race, was to not cruise through the swim, and put a bit more effort into the second loop. I did just this. And, as I rounded the final buoy for the shore (a 250m gap), I really picked it up – and passed a lot of people. I got to the shore, and sure enough, there was a human chain pulling people out of the water. I set my feet down, and reached out – someone grabbed me, but I slipped down. Another heave, and I was out.


I had really pushed it for the last 250meters, in retrospect, maybe not a wise thing to have done, because my chest was heaving when I got to my setup. It didn’t stop me from efficiently shedding my wetsuit, but I fumbled a bit with my jersey, number and helmet. Around this time, I thought to look at my watch – It read 23 minutes and change. “What the” – holy fast I thought, then almost immediately, I panicked – I must have cut a buoy I thought – I hadn’t (In fact, I had reached out and punched the last one, as I had done at Mooney’s Bay). It must have been the draft… maybe the wetsuit. I ran out to the bike mount line – I could see Andrew, my sister and my dad cheering me on out of the side of my eye – I tried to wave or smile, but I was feeling border-line nauseous. I got on the bike and headed out towards the steep climb up Ford Street.

Swim + T1 Time: 24:12 (1:37/100m)

Looking back at the results, the swim course must have been set up too short. The top 10 times are all at a sub-1:20 pace, which is possible, but not likely. I don’t think I could repeat that time in a pool - even with a wetsuit.

The Bike, 41.2km

The 150meter climb up Ford Street went something like this – Click, clack (chain slipping a bit) “Come on Baby, you can do it” (me coaxing the bike) – Click, Clack, “Almost there, don’t fail me now”. Tick-tick-tick … “Phew! We made it.” I got down King Street another 300 meters or so and switched into the big chain ring, glad that that was out of the way.

The bike course is 2 loops of a 20K out-and-back, along the scenic Highway 2 beside the St. Lawrence River. The turn around point is about 1km outside of Maitland.

The ride was actually quite pleasant. There was more than enough room. It wasn’t congested at all. Traffic was little-to-light. The wind was at our backs for the first half of the out-and-back. This added to the “gentle-rolling-hills”, made for some good speed in the 40’s. I was feeling great- although I seemed to be getting passed quite often – of course I’d glance down. OT on the left calf, age on the right. Crap! 31… Crap! 33… “Race your race” I told myself – meaning, don’t burn out trying to catch these guys – there’s plenty of road ahead – at least you beat these guys in the water.

At about 9K, Dad, Joanne and Andrew passed me in the car. They were screaming, Andrew had his head poking out the window. A big smile on his face. I hope I never forget that mental picture.

First turn-around. My plan was to eat half a jam sandwich. This is my fuel of choice seeing as I just can’t get used to Gels. I pass by the gang, they had pulled into a side road, and were set up waving me by. Andrew later told me he thought it was funny to see me with my sandwich dangling out of my mouth.

The rest of the ride back into town was tough – the wind turned out to be very strong, and where I was doing 40+ on the way out, I was struggling to keep mid 20’s on the way in. Finally, I got to the next turnaround, and the wind was at my back again. I told myself to take as much advantage of the wind and hills as possible. Time spent in the high 40’s would even out the inevitable 20’s on the way back.

The last leg of the ride was tough. “You can go faster” I screamed at myself, and I picked up the cadence. Big Jim Penman caught me at about 35K “How do you like this headwind?”…. “I Love it” was my reply.

The last turn back down Ford Street finally appeared. T2 was approaching. Both brakes on for the descent. Spin my legs for the last 200meters. Click, click (unclip). Bike dismount. “Keep your helmet strapped up until you rack your bike”.

Final Bike Time + T2 : 1:16:16. 32.4km/hr (based on 41.2K, I actually clocked 40.5K)


I found my spot easily enough. Racked. Bike shoes off, socks on (feet very wet), shoes on (no problem, thanks to Yankz), load-up my jersey with my quarter-sandwiches. Fumble with Lap button on watch. Look for my little green cloth – “Ahh where is it?” “Forget about it” “No” “Phew, here it is”. Helmet off – Let’s go…. Allez, allez, allez. We’re running.

On the way out of T2, I ran past my Dad, Joanne and Andrew. Chris, my mom, Guylaine and Laura had joined them – Go Phil! Go! (Go Daddy Go!, Go Papa!). My dad yelled out something like “There are only 6 ahead of you”. I was a bit befuddled, it took me about 2k until I realized he probably meant in my age group.

The Run, 10K

By this time, the sun had appeared, and it was getting hot out. The first water station seemed very close to the Run Out – I passed through it, fumbled again with my watch – realized, that I wasn’t going to get a real split for the first kilometer, but got over it.

I didn’t feel like I was running particularly fast, but I seemed to be passing a lot of people. Looking back, most of them, would have been the slower people in the Sprint or Try-A-Tri event. I think I got a bit caught up in the slower pace, and didn’t go as fast as I should have for the first part of the race. Nonetheless, I did catch up and pass Big Jim (As I had done at Mooney’s Bay … I assumed, he’d pass me again close to the finish). It wasn’t until 2K that I got my first real split .. It was 5:26. I was struck with a pang of “What the ???” Get Moving I told myself.

The run, is mostly flat, along residential streets (Water to Jessie to Hartley … the 1K marker was right outside my old buddy, Roger O’Connor’s house), shortly after Hartley street ends, it takes a funny turn up towards King street and curves into St. Lawrence Park, where it goes along a bike path that is a bit of a nightmare, a gradual climb followed by a sharp plummet, followed by another gradual climb to the 2.5K turn around.

On the return, when I was at the foot of the “plummet”, I recognized local Triathlon legend, Devashish Paul at the top, coming down. The sun must have been making me loopy, because I thought for a nano-second I was ahead of him, but then quickly realized, I was at 2.7K, he was at 7.3K. He blew by me on Hartley Street like I was standing still.

The 5K turnaround finally appeared, and I was already struggling. I put on a brave face for my family who were cheering like mad, and headed out for the last 5K. PITQLF… PITQLF… It helped a little bit. I slugged on. Between 6 and 7K I recorded a 6:26 split. YCRF, YCRF “You Can Run Faster” I chanted in my head. At the foot of the “plummet” (7.7K), I allowed myself to walk up, but then I told myself, “Let’s go Boy, Bring this baby home”

Reading what I just typed makes me cringe, but this is really how I talk to myself in my head. I had burned out on my previous triathlon at the 8K mark. I had promised myself to go hard for the last 2 K of this race. 8K to 9K was 5:02. Much better, even on a fast training run, I’m dipping into the 5:20 range by now.

At 9K, a super fit young lady with thick yellow hair in a tight braid blew by me. “Go For It! Nice strong finish!” I yelled out. I drew a little inspiration and picked it up. Down the home stretch, I could see the Finish banner. I could also see a woman running a little slower than me in front. My quick mental differential calculus told me, we’d arrive at the finish line together. Not wanting to crowd her Finish photo, I backed off, to let her go ahead ... but then (as courteous as that sounded), I realized, she was actually 5 minutes ahead of me (the women’s wave started at 8:35), so I put on the super-sonic jets and sprinted by so that I could get the best time I could for myself. About 20 feet from the line, I could hear over the speakers, “Coming in, number 12, Phil Barnes from Ottawa!” On my right, I could pick out Laura cheering like mad. Directly ahead, Joanne and Guylaine were lined up for finish line photos. “Beeeeeeep” (over the timing mat).

I was handed a cup of Gatorade, and a cup of water. The chip-man, stripped my chip. I kept walking…. I had seriously over-heated, and my “anti-puke” instincts told me to keep walking. “Phil!, Phil, we’re here!” Guylaine was chasing me. “I’m sorry – not feeling good – I’m fine – just need a minute..” “Oh, Ok, we’ll be by the finish”. I was fine after a few minutes, and joined the whole gang: Mom, Dad, Chris, Joanne, Guylaine, Andrew and Laura. They were all smiling and happy.

"...this is great", I thought.

Run Time: 52:49 (5:17/km)
Final Stat Line:

74/172 2:33:16 BARNES , Phil Bib#12 Ottawa, ON 59/123 Men, 13/22 Men 30-34, 61/172 Swim - 24:12 1:37/100m 81/172 Bike - 1:16:16 32.4km/hr 80/172 Run - 52:49 5:17/km