I woke up at 4 am on race day and puttered around the house getting ready…showering, putting on sunscreen and attempting to choke down breakfast (one hard boiled egg and two slices of dry toast). On the drive down to Auburn Bay I managed to eat a banana and sip on some water. I got to transition probably just after 5:30 and started to get things ready, laying out my bike gear and putting my bottles of EFS on my bike.
Between saying hello to friends (like Keith who snapped the above photo) and getting ready the time in transition went by fast.
I had hoped to get in a trip to the porta potties before getting in my wetsuit but the line ups were crazy long! It was either take a trip to the potties or put my wetsuit on and get in a warm up swim. I opted for the warm up swim.
I wriggled into my wetsuit, took a gel and made my way into the water. Almost as soon as I got in we were told it was time to exit the water but I had just enough time to warm up my suit and make sure my goggles were good.
The national anthem was sung and then we observed a minute of silence for the young boy who drowned in the lake on Friday evening. I was feeling so emotional and tears started to run down my cheeks.
Before I knew it, it was time to race.
Ironman 70.3 Calgary Race Report
Swim – 1900 m: 44:24
Ironman 70.3 Calgary is a single loop swim with wave starts. In order to make sure we’d get the full distance in the lake we were supposed to do a u-turn near the end of the course. It was a little confusing to tell where exactly this was, but I was hoping that once I was in the water it would be fairly straightforward. I made the somewhat bold choice to line up near the front of the pack and when the air horn went off I charged into the water.
I started swimming early in the shallow water with a few other girls, while most of the girls around me were still running in. Once everyone started swimming we were all so close together and I started to feel a little bit anxious! In order to keep calm I switched to single sided breathing and just kept telling myself over and over that I was okay, I had done this before. Once we spread out slightly I was able to get back into my bilateral breathing rhythm.
My goal for the swim was to not be lazy and to focus on being efficient and strong in the water. It felt like it didn’t take that long before I started to catch up with a few of the people in the previous waves. When we got to the u-turn portion there was some definite confusion.
Some people were turning early as there were no paddle boarders nearby to really direct them away from the turn. People around me were popping their heads up and asking which way we were supposed to go. For the earlier/faster swimmers I heard there was a lot more confusion and wound up swimming up to 2600 m. I’m pretty sure I swam the course as it was intended and I measured 2069 m on my Garmin 920XT. There is a lot of error with GPS watches when they measure the swim so I’m not too fussed with my watch showing over 1900 m. My time was on par with what I expected. I was really happy with my swim. I felt like I nailed this one and met my goals.
T1 – 5:16 (0.34 km)
I saw Neil and my friend Rena cheering at the swim exit. I ran up the hill to the wetsuit strippers and my wonderful volunteer had my wetsuit off in no time. I was concerned it might be cold on the bike so I already had arm warmers on that I wore under my wetsuit just in case. Otherwise I took my time cleaning sand off my feet before putting on socks and my bike shoes.
Bike – 90 km: 3:09:31
My goal for the bike was to ride smart so that I could set myself up for a good run. The bike course climbs for the first 50K as you ride out of Calgary, so being smart and patient would be the key to a good day!
In order to ride smart I decided to set up a race plan on Best Bike Split, following the power I wanted to average over the course of the ride. Based off of my bike geometry, riding style, bike weight, my weight and the terrain Best Bike Split gave me power targets to hit at various points along the race course. I was able to save the power course to my Garmin Edge and I would get notifications for my target power on the unit throughout my ride.
Just after I rode past the mount line a fellow racer passed me and told me that my saddle bag was bouncing around. I wasn’t sure if maybe something had come loose in transition so I figured I’d better pull over and check it out. Thankfully all was fine with my saddle bag, but when I clipped in and tried to get going again I wound up falling to the right and whacking my knee and elbow on someone’s driveway. My knee was bleeding and my elbow was sore (but most likely saved from getting scraped up thanks to my arm warmers). I brushed the fall off and got back on my bike, telling myself that this was now outside “my box” and that I needed to focus on the task ahead.
The ride out to Bragg Creek was absolutely beautiful. I felt like I was riding very conservatively following my power plan but I knew this was the right thing to do. I spun easy and steady up the hills. I concentrated on drinking EFS every 15 minutes and I’d chew on two Honey Stinger Cherry Cola chews every half hour or so. Once we left Bragg Creek I knew the fun part of the ride was about to happen…the net downhill on the way back to town! I got into aero and just enjoyed the fast ride back.
Based off of my power target with Best Bike Split my ride time was estimated at 3:07:06. I hit my target and my race time was 3:09:20, but actual moving time was 3:07:55 (included the fall and two stops to pick up my dropped chain). It was really cool to see just how accurate the software was! And even better, I knew I had well paced the ride and was ready to run…
Bike Gear: Cervelo P2C, Torhans Aero20 Bottle, Zipp 60 Wheels, Garmin Vector pedals, Garmin Edge 810, Shimano WT52 Tri Shoes, Specialized S-Works Evade Helmet, Betty Designs World Champion Tri Top and Tri Short, Pearl Izumi SELECT Thermal Lite Arm Warmer, Specialized Women’s SL Comp bike gloves, Feetures Elite Light Cushion No Show Tab Socks
Nutrition: 2.75 bottles of double strength EFS, 1.5 packs of Honey Stinger Chews (64 gr carbs/hour, 242 cal/hour)
T2 – 2:24 (0.21 km)
It had warmed up by now so I stripped off my arm warmers and swapped out cycling shoes and helmet for running shoes and a visor. I debated hitting the porta potties in T2 but ultimately decided to wait and find one on course. I did grab a cup of water from the aid station in T2 to try and rinse my knee off.
Run – 21.1 km (2:21:00)
My goal for the run was to try and execute a strong, well paced run. To hold myself back I had a plan to run my first mile between a 10:15 – 10:30/mile pace. Well…apparently my legs felt so good off the bike I was running much faster than that. I clocked my first mile split in a 9:36 which included a stop in the porta potty! What was I thinking?? I was just so caught up in the race that this felt doable. When I passed aid station #1 I forgot my original plan which was to grab a gel to hang on to for later. Instead I thought that because my nutrition for the bike had been so good that I could wait to grab a gel from aid station #2. Unfortunately aid station #2 had no gels at all so I was going to have to wait until I got to the next aid station.
I felt really good as I was running towards the turnaround. I had a few people around me that I was keeping a great pace with and my spirits were high. The run is a nice little downhill to the turnaround though, so no wonder I was feeling good!
On my way back the fatigue and tiredness started to creep into my legs. That 9:xx/mile pace that had felt so effortless before was no longer possible.
I was thirsty and tired so I started grabbing 2 Cokes and a water at each aid station. My tummy was starting to not feel so great so gels didn’t sound interesting to me anymore. I was incorporating walk breaks between the aid stations now. The last few kilometres felt like they were taking forever but I kept telling myself that I was faster running (no matter how slow that run was) and that I just needed to focus on where I was, not how much further I had to go.
Finally the finish line was in sight. All done in 6:22:35.
There was a lot of good on this day! I had a fantastic swim and I really nailed my bike plan. I was very mentally positive over much of today, even when I was struggling and slowing down on the run. This was my seventh half Ironman and my third fastest time on quite probably the toughest course I’ve raced on so far. That is definitely something to be happy about! I still feel like I have a lot to learn, which is ultimately what keeps the drive alive to do these longer distance triathlons. I’d like to become better at pacing on the run (perhaps following my plan might be the start of that??) and I’d like to be better at being able to go to the “pain cave” at the end of a race. I’ve done it before at the Tinker Bell half marathon but I still struggle with it and I don’t trust myself enough yet.
As for the race itself, I loved the course. There are a few things that could be done to improve the swim to make it a bit less confusing, but Auburn Bay is lovely to swim in. I think the bike course shows off much of Calgary’s beautiful scenery and is appropriately challenging and fun. The run course is a challenge for sure, but running around the Glenmore Reservoir has to be one of the prettiest places in Calgary. A good chunk of it is also well shaded, key on a day when the sun comes out. The belt buckle medals are fantastic (and honestly I’ll take a beautiful medal over a sling bag any day) and the finisher shirt has a great design, fits well, and is one I’ll be proud to wear. Communication from the race staff leading up to the event was great and there were oddles of enthusiastic and helpful volunteers. I’d definitely come back and do this race again.
Female 35 – 39: 31 out of 52
Female Overall: 171 out of 289
Overall: 640 out of 895