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Race Report – Ironman 70.3 Calgary

Here is the race from my perspective, some strategy, challenges, and thoughts for next year.

As my accident kept me from participating in the Chinook Half Ironman, the Ironman 70.3 Calgary was my first attempt at this distance; and the event did not disappoint.

I will dedicate a future post to the logistics of the Ironman 70.3 Calgary, and some of the lessons I learnt.

Pre-Race

I arrived in transition at 0630, approximately 45mins prior to my wave start. This gave me enough time to ensure everything on my bike was race ready, get changed, and hit the washroom. Unfortunately I had to run from one end of transition to the other to drop my dry clothes bag, and didn’t have much time to warm up in the water prior to the start.

Highlights: Got help and helped a couple of fellow competitors while setting up.

Lessons: Change into my wetsuit right after setting up my bike and drop my dry clothes bag before heading to the water. This should give me an extra 5-10 minutes to warm up prior to race start.

Swim – 1.9km – Ghost Lake

Prior to the race, most of the comments surrounded the water temperature in Ghost Lake. Having grown up in Calgary, and proud of it, I know how cold it can be. Maybe it was the familiarity or the adrenaline, but the water didn’t seem that cold.

The race called for an in-water start, and as I had to rush to the water, I was resigned to tread water for 3-4 minutes toward the back of the pack. I wasn’t worried as I knew my swim strength would take me through toward the front before the turn around.

Swimming under the bridge was a little eerie as the shadow cast on the water not only changed the light, but I found the water was noticeably colder. I had to ask myself, ‘did I just blackout?’. I didn’t, and continued on.  After the turnaround, having moved up through a good bunch of the swimmers, I tried to find a similar paced swimmer to draft off. With no luck, I came under the bridge by myself, giving a good timing mark this time.

After coming out of the water, I lifted my goggles to my forehead and was summoned to the ‘strippers’. I have never had two women strip me of my clothing, let alone as efficient as these two did. I grabbed my T1 bag and bike gear and ran up toward my bike.

Highlights: Felt great and strong on the swim.

Lessons: Need to make sure my GPS watch is under my wetsuit sleeve to help removing my wetsuit.

Result: 34:13 1:48/100m 16/71 Age Group

Bike – 94km – Ghost Lake to North Glenmore Park

The bike started fast, I had to remind myself that the first 10km is pretty much downhill. I passed a couple of guys, and got passed by a couple of others. Once we made the turn north, the climb began. I was able to stay on my aero bars for the majority of the climb, with a couple if hills taking me onto my handle bars.

My nutrition plan was to take 1 salt tablet and 1 GU Energy gel every 15km. I would try to time it whIle I was on my handle bars due too, you’d guessed it, broken collar-bone. I went to grab my first salt tab and crap, dropped it. I had 2 extras, so hopefully no big deal.

I was pretty much alone for the next 30km, with a couple of riders passing me on one of the quick downhill sections. No problem.

Coming through Cochrane was an absolute blast. The roads were smooth and heading downhill to the river I was passing traffic. Even the dreaded hill didn’t seem so bad and I crested it chatting with a guy who was trying to pass. The rest of the ride was uneventful, I was glad to see Glenmore Trial signaling the bike leg was coming to an end.

Coming to the dismount line, I saw a couple of guys heading what seemed too fast, so I decided to be a little cautious coming in.

Highlights: Confident on my aero bars for the entire race.

Lessons: I am not sure if my feet fell asleep or were cold from the swim, but I didn’t feel my toes for 90km. I am going to have check my shoe sizing for my next race.

Result: 2:39:54 35.27km/hr 16/71 Age Group

Run – 21.1km – North/South Glenmore Park

I started strong on the run, for the first 1km I ran at around a 4:30/km pace.  I reminded myself to pace as 21.1km is a long distance, so I slowed to 5:00/km.  Hit the first aid station running, grabbed some water and continued on.  I stopped at the next aid station, 5km into the run, and hit the washroom; hey, a good indication that I was properly hydrated.

My nutrition plan was less structured than the bike.  I had 3 gels in my fuel belt, one flask of water, and 8 salt tabs.  I would use the aid stations for my main nutrition as they provided the same product I train with, and use the fuel belt for between.

Coming down the hill I opened up and coasted down the hill, over the bridge, and along the flat.  Once I hit the hill on the other side, I slowed to a walk as I couldn’t convince my legs to run up.  From this point on I struggled.  Once over the hill, I picked up the pace and continued toward the turn around.

My quads stated to cramp around 8km, so I increased my intake of salt tabs to counteract.  This did the trick and the cramps left within about 5 minutes.

At the turn around, I noticed another runner struggling, so I tapped him on the shoulder, and shouted ‘come on brother, let’s make it to the next aid station’.  So we ran together toward the aid station at 13km.  I grabbed some water, a sponge, and continued on toward the downhill section at 15km.

Again, I opened up downhill and coasted along the flat, reserving myself to slow to walk the uphill section.  I did, crested, and waked through the aid station at the top of the hill.  5km to go.  The wind picked up, the shade was no longer, and the course takes you away from the finish line before you turn around.  Mentally, this was the hardest point of the race.

Highlights: By focusing on the next aid station, I was able to continue when my mind wanted to stop and walk.  Once the cramps left, I felt no soreness or pain for the remainder of the run.

Lessons: I need to increase my overall fitness to be able to increase my run speed. 

Result: 2:04:05 5:52/km 41/71 Age Group

Overall

I crossed the finish line and accomplished my goal, finishing upright with a smile on my face (at least I think there was a smile on my face).

As my first experience at an Ironman 70.3 sanctioned event, I was impressed.  The organization was spot on, from the wetsuit strippers, the aid stations, and the volunteers, everyone was helpful and happy.  As one finisher said to me, ‘I wanted to propose to the girl who poured water on my back at the finish line without me asking.  She is a giver.’

The course was challenging, but as expected.  I travelled 117km on Sunday morning, no one figured it would be easy.

Result: 5:22:43 25/71 Age Group 175/675 Overall

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