The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

I'm a Moron. Canadian 226 - Iron Triathlon - Race Report


Five-Forty pace, five-forty. 5:40. A four hour marathon is 5:40/km pace. I was going to break 11 hours at the Canadian, and I was going to do it with a four hour marathon. All I needed to do, was run smart at the beginning, and keep a 5:40 pace. Open it up on laps 7 and 8 to really go sub-11. Five-forty pace. My silver bullet this year was a borrowed Garmin 910. It was going to keep me on pace. Five-forty pace.

T2 came and went, I was feeling good, and ready to run. I was pretty much on schedule after the swim and bike. Hold it in, not too fast and keep a four-fifty pace. I was off and running, watching the Garmin the whole first kilometer. 4:39... 4:40... 4:48... it chirped the first kilometer a little under 4:50. Perfect, right on pace. It was feeling harder than it should have, but I kept it up and stuck to the plan. First out-and-back: definitely in 4:50 range. But, then I was starting to breath much too heavily for this easy pace, I was getting way too hot, I couldn't keep it up. I was slipping behind. I approached the finish of my second lap, it was apparent, there was no way I was going to keep this 4:50 pace. My 4-hour marathon was shot, and my sub-11 was looking more like, a hope in hell for a 12-something. And then it hit me. F##K! I was suppose to run 5:40 - NOT - 4:50! Three years in a row, I blow it on the run.

I was feeling like crap, the heat had caught up to me. For the next 3k, I seriously debated abandoning. If Guylaine and kids hadn't have been working the aid station near the stadium, I'm pretty sure I would have packed up and gone home. I stuck it out...

Eventually I finished: 11 hours, 45 minutes and 58 seconds. I felt great. Happy to have survived, and happy to be done. I'm proud of my Canadian 226 experience.

Caution: What follows next is a typical "me-me-I-I-I" race report. Long, boring, and full of minutia.

The Canadian would be my third iron distance event (3.8k swim, 180k bike, 42.2k run), in 3 years; having previously done the Montreal Esprit in 2012 and 2013 (with times of 10:57 and 10:55 respectively). I was feeling particularly fit this year, and even though the Canadian is a tougher course than Esprit, I had set my sights on a sub-11 finish. My A-goal for this race was a 4-hour marathon. At Esprit, both times, I had gone out way too fast at the start of the run, and paid for it in the end. A four hour marathon is a 5:40/km pace. Five-Forty. I had borrowed a Garmin from a friend, with that purpose alone – to be able to keep 5:40 pace.

The swim – 2 out-and-back loops, beach start - 3.8km Total.

2nd out of the water.
The swim start was refreshingly civil.  Within 100meters, it was apparent that I was leading the swim. This was sort of bitter sweet – nobody to draft off, but huge ego boost; plus I get to follow the lead kayak. Unfortunately, the kayak was taking me waaaay off course; seemingly miles away from the buoy line. I decided to ditch the kayak and head up closer to the buoy line, only to be intercepted by another kayak who told me to follow the lead kayak. ERrrrgh. Eventually, he figured it out, and kept a line closer to the buoys for me.

Loop 1 was great, I felt pretty strong. I was bilateral breathing the whole time. Slightly into loop 2, I noticed another swimmer coming up beside me. Phew, I thought, a bit of a break, so I tucked in behind him. I swam on his toes until the 3-quarter mark, where he surged and I just couldn’t hold on.  Finally, the swim was over, and I was second out of the water.

I split my Garmin, and it said 1:10:57. My goal had been 1:09:40, so not bad.  I’m not sure how accurate the Garmin is on the swim, but it measured 4.22km! ARRR 400 meters (7+ minutes) too much.

Transition 1
The transitions here are long, and I knew this going in. I wasn’t going to over-cook it, but I wasn’t going to lolly-gag either. Everything went well, and as it turns out I was first onto the bike course.
Garmin says T1 was 691m at 5:12. My predicted time had been 4:30, so still pretty close.

The Bike – 12 out-and-back 15km loops - 180km Total.

Finishing the first loop of the bike.
This bike course is probably on the crappiest stretch of pavement in the country. There is one section, about 100m long that looks like it was re-paved within the last 2 years, but the rest is cracked, crumbling and patch-riddled.  It keeps you on your toes though, as you constantly have to seek the best line to follow. Despite the terrible road conditions, I felt great on my first down-lap; I knew the down part was net downhill. When I rounded the 180 degree turn at the end, I quickly realized this was going to be an awkward bike ride. The wind was fairly strong, and directly in your face for the entire stretch home. Arggh.  I don’t have a power meter, and I was trying to hit a time goal for the bike ride, which in retrospect was not wise. I wanted to keep as close to 32km/hr average as possible. I was holding it pretty well, but I could feel the strain in my legs.

One interesting thing I noticed about this year’s Canadian was that with over 700 people on the bike course throughout the day, I always seemed to be alone.  Whenever I would pass someone, that would be it, or whenever I was passed, again, that would be it, there was no leap-frogging or back-and-forward.

The spectators were great. I received a lot of cheers and encouragement along the way. One lady in particular would cheer me on by name, every time I passed. Guylaine and the kids were on the course and that kept my spirits high. I would estimate that I stayed aero 85% of laps 1-10, and then I was unapologetically not aero most of laps 11 and 12, but my speed didn’t seem to suffer too much.

The official bike split includes a small part of T2 and was 5:47:04 (31.1 kph); the Garmin split - actual time on the bike course was 5:45:46 - over a distance of 182.65 km (31.7 kph). I had predicted 5:41:46. Not terribly worried yet... a little ticked that the distance was longer, but I had a suspicion it would be.

Lap 1 includes time to get onto Colonel By from Hogs Back road.
Feeling low on energy, lap 9. Stopped at spec needs on lap 10 for banana and mars bar.
Energy boost apparent on lap 11.

Transition 2

Again, fairly long. The Garmin measured the total distance traveled as 442m. This did include a little detour to the change tent, where I whipped off my bike shorts and tri-top in favour of light running shorts and loose t-shirt. An exchange which cost not much time at all. (I swam with my bike shorts and tri-top under my wetsuit, it was a complete non-issue on the swim, and the shorts dry out pronto on the bike).

A minor annoyance with this race, and I noticed it as a 113 competitor last year, is that there's no dedicated 226 rack, so while I was out on my bike ride, a half-iron competitor racked up beside me, leaving not much room to squeeze back in.

T2 time was officially 3:29. The Garmin split was 4:04. I had planned on 4:00. So pretty good. I was starting the run in 4th position overall with a clock time of 7:05:59. 6 minutes over.. not terribly bad, considering a long swim, long bike, plus unforeseen wind on the bike.

The Run - 8 out-and-back 5.275km loops - 42.2km Total.

The run course is okay. A third of it is along the path through Mooney's bay (flat), a third of it along
Finishing the first loop of the run.
Each of the loops does a 180* turn
at the end of the track. You get to keep
going straight through the finish chute
on the last loop.
Riverside Drive (flat), and the last third (sightly downhill) through an oddly uninspiring multi-million dollar subdivision on Revelstoke Drive. The pavement quality is a gradient of good to poor as you progress from Terry Fox stadium to the end of Revelstoke. Turnaround and repeat. Oh, and no shade.

Well stocked, and well-manned aid stations are slightly before each turnaround, so you can hit them each twice on a loop.

So, all race, I was thinking about the run. That 4-hour run. At 5:40 pace. But, for some reason, my brain completely went to mush, and I mixed it up in my head, and was convinced that I needed to run 4:50. And so I did for the first loop. And some of the second loop, until I realized, I couldn't hold on, and then it all came crashing down.

After having my pity-party on lap 2 or 3, I decided to just get on with it, and run consistently from one end to the other and back. I would allow myself to walk the aid stations, but not in between. This kind of mental trick keeps me going, and the laps seemed to pass by uneventfully. I was always looking forward to each aid station, especially Terry Fox, as Guylaine and the kids were working there. My parents had also dropped by the stadium, and were able to catch my last 4 laps.

I ended up running 4:39:58. In retrospect, not bad. Everyone else was hurting on the run. I have never seen so many people walking - the half-iron and half-dus were on the run for a large portion of mine. There are other factors too that I will fess up to: 1) Ego maniac on the bike ride. I was determined to hit my goal time despite the wind. I should have dialed it back a bit; and 2) The heat was on. 30+ humidex from noon onwards, with no shade to hide in.

Classic Phil.

The Finish

My last lap was a farewell tour of sorts, I would get chance to thank all the other families for cheering me on; having passed by them 8 times already. A final check on who was still behind me, I wasn't sure where I was overall, but I knew I was off the podium. Entering Terry Fox Stadium for the 8th and final time, and taking the middle lane to the finish chute was awesome.

This white-board sign would pop up on the bike and run course.
The message would change each loop. It was always nice to see.
Final time was 11:45:59. 6th out of 28 overall. 2nd out of 3 M40-44 (hey I can only beat those who show up ).

Nutrition Report

Supper: Chicken Quesadillas and a pint of Bytowne Brown Ale at the Clock Tower Pub.

Breakfast: 2 small bowls of Fruit Loops / Reese Puffs mix; bagel with strawberry jam; 2 small coffees.

Pre-Swim: Cliff Bar and Banana

T1: Cliff Bar 

Bike: 2 Cliff Bars, 4 gels, 1 Banana, 1 Mars Bar, 1.5 Bottles of Gatorade, 5 Bottles of Water

T2: Nothing

Run: 3 quarter cups of coke, 10 half cups of Gatorade, 3 banana thirds, 5 salt tabs, 3 gels, 1 jube-jube.

Approximately 3700 calories for the day. Probably not enough, but I never felt bloated, sick, over-sugared or under-energized.

Garmin Files

Swim - Garmin:

T1 - Garmin:

Bike - Garmin:

T2 - Garmin:

Bike - Garmin: