The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

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.


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).


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.


Sportstats Line | Strava Swim | Strava Bike | Strava Run