As I trotted around the turnaround point of the run loop to head out on my 2nd loop of the 10.5km run course, I made the final decision. I would NOT upgrade myself to the full iron-distance event by doing an additional 2 loops after this one. It had been a scorcher of a day on the course so far, and completing the Epic-distance race, as originally planned, would be plenty enough racing for me on this fine Canada Day in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. After all, I would still have raced 205km by the time I crossed the finish line! Welcome to the inaugural Epic Dartmouth Triathlon in Dartmouth. Deanna and I had driven from Ottawa to spend time with family, take in the sights, and for me to take part in yet another excellent endurance event, all in a whirlwind 6 days. Read on for the full story, check out pictures of the race and of the touring (including paddling near Peggy’s Cove as well as watch the video review I pulled together for Get Out There Magazine.
Pictures from Race
The decision to make the long driving trip out east again this year came about quite early in the year. I’d caught wind of a new race that was being created in Dartmouth, and the race director was looking for racers to sign up for his inaugural event. The timing seemed to work, and I thought it might be a good chance to visit with my dad again, and this time, make a trip to Halifax, since that was one spot we’d missed last year (along with Peggy’s Cove). Also, another friend of mine, Mike Caldwell, was also eager to commit. What’s more, we hatched a plan to actually hop on the motorbikes and make it a big road trip as a little group.
Well, fast forward to late June, and plans changed slightly. Due to problems with dates and schedules, we were no longer all traveling together. Furthermore, we’d also decided (quite wisely) NOT to travel by motorbikes. A few short roadtrips showed us quickly how much longer traveling by bike takes, and we just didn’t have the luxury of time if we were going to visit family and friends. Also, as luck would have it, Deanna’s parent also managed to make a trip out east to coincide with us, which meant our parents would meet for the first time! Pretty good idea seeing as the wedding is just over a year away 🙂 At any rate, this post is mainly about the race, so let’s move on to that, shall we?
I was once again slated to cover the event for Get Out There, so as per normal, I had 3 cameras in tow with me, and was bound and determined to attend most aspects of the weekend. We did miss the welcome dinner and race briefing on Friday night, but the race wasn’t till Sunday, and we were in Pictou with family. However, we showed up early on Saturday to the race check-in and transition area. This gave me lots of time to scope out the layout, as well as chat at some length with Tim, the Race Director. He has put in a herculean effort to make this a true destination race that will grow over time, and after having attended this first edition, I’m sure he’s well on his way.
To give you all a very quick overview of the race course, there were, as always in triathlons, three legs. The opening swim, the bike, and the run portion. This event was unique in that it had three options. Namely, the ‘Aqua Dartmouth’ the ‘Epic Dartmouth’ and the ‘Iron Dartmouth’. All three options involved swimming 3.8k and cycling 180km. In the Aqua, it stopped there. in the ‘Epic’ you ran a 21.1k course. Finally, in the ‘Iron’, you run a full 42.2k course to finish off. I had chosen the Epic with the expectation that even after finishing, I should be fine to do some touring by foot around Halifax. Another unique aspect of the race was that you could start at one distance, and change on the fly. For example, some participants registered in the ‘Iron’ distance, but due to heat and/or not really feeling it, they ‘downgraded’ to the ‘Epic’ distance. That was a nice option. The intention of this was to ensure that as many people as possible finished the race. Now on to the actual race synopsis.
The Swim Stats
The 3.8km swim all took place in Lake Banook, right in the heart of Dartmouth. This facility has actually been home to at least 4 world championship paddling events in the last decade, and is very well set up for this sort of thing. There are no less than 3 paddling clubs within spitting distance of each other on the water there. There are also permanent buoy lines stretching along the lake, and lots of great spectator options to watch the fun. Owing to these facts, the water was very calm, and there were even lines you could sight off in the water which meant you didn’t have to keep looking ahead to make sure you were headed straight.
The race itself started at 7am, which actually seemed to be a pretty reasonable start time. Water temperatures were around 21-22 degrees C, and everyone (except Mike) wore a wetsuit. On account of only having gone swimming 3 times this year, I seeded myself towards the middle, and just planned to get ‘er done. In the water I didn’t feel very fast, and was sure I was losing tons of time to others. Fast forward to the exit, and my watch read 1:09! That was my fastest swim split yet. I was 8th out of the water, and had even beaten Mike, a stronger swimmer than me. I was flummoxed!
Happy to take it though. I jogged over to the wetsuit stripping area and let the volunteers disrobe me of my neoprene cocoon. From there, it was a 100m or so jog to the transition area, and the giant circus-like tent where I could change into my super-hero biking costume (well, not quite, but I feel fast when I wear it…). Since I’d had a quick swim, I languished a fair bit in the first transition, and I think I had the slowest transition of anyone, but I had to fiddle with camera set-ups, and took an extended lavatory break as well. I knew it would be a while before I could take a rest, so I took advantage!
The Bike Stats
180km. Anyway you slice it, that takes a while to pedal. Even longer depending on the weather conditions and pavement conditions. This bike course had a bit of everything in the mix. While the pavement was for the most part pretty new and smooth sailing, there were sections that went against that trend. Unfortunately, they also seemed to be combined with the biggest climbs, and the gnarliest winds. The basic layout was an out and back 90k leg, so in theory, if it was headwinds in one direction, you’d have a tailwind in the other direction.
After the swim and my lethargic transition, I felt pretty fired up to get on the bike and put in the mileage on the asphalt. I settled into a pretty decent speed of just over 30km/hr and dropped into my best aero position. My plan was to try and maintain an average speed of 30 the entire way, which would give me a decent bike split of 6hrs. In theory, it would also leave me with enough gas in the tank to run the entire run course rather than have to walk. My previous iron-distance experience was only in Ottawa, and the course was repeated loops. On that course, you did 12 loops, giving you a chance to know exactly how you were doing on average. The challenge here was that there was no repetition, and you didn’t know what awaited you.
As it turns out, what awaited us were soaring temperatures, and increasingly challenging headwinds. I still felt good at the 90k turnaround point, where our aid bags awaited us. I loaded my ‘picnic basket’ with food and took back off at my decent clip. Surprisingly, I found myself passing quite a few riders on all the uphills on the way back, in spite of the mounting winds. Although I was feeling a little less energy, I kept motivating myself to push hard to get my 6hr goal. I’m told I looked strong the whole way and maintained a good form. Nice to hear, but I can guarantee you that the final 15k seemed pretty miserable, and I really wanted to get off the bike. However, when the final meters closed, my time was just over 6 hours, so I was definitely pleased with that time over what i consider a challenging bike course.
Once again, it was back into the transition zone to change into another outfit to tackle the run. By now, my legs had turned very red from some poor sunscreen application by a volunteer my first time through the tent. This time, I made sure they put a good amount all over my legs, and I did my own arms while they tended my neck. It was still incredibly hot, and the sun was beating down on us, and knowing I had almost another 2hrs out there, I wanted to be safer. I also had to yet again mount my camera again, and this time on my chest, before trotting out.
As I jogged out of transition to get on the course again, my spirits were uplifted by the fact that Dad and Nicole were there cheering me on, as well as Deanna happily snapping away with the camera. I took the time to pause and give her a quick kiss before running off merrily into the hot zone. I knew I had 21.1k to run, but in the grand scheme, that really didn’t seem like too much more work before I could rest.
For the run, we had a closed loop of 10.5km, which meant I’d have one loop to warm up and get to know the terrain, and my 2nd loop to basically get ‘er done. This run was a combination of surface types. We followed a paved pathway for a good chunk, then ducked into a provincial park where we followed shaded trails for several kilometers, before emerging out onto plain sidewalk paralleling busy roads. The path and sidewalk were mostly exposed and baking, but the woods provided a much-needed respite from the sun at least. The heat was still there, but not quite as intense. As hoped, I had gas in the tank, and managed to keep a run pace the entire way. It flagged towards the end, allowing a fellow racer to pass me in the dying 2 kilometers, but at least I didn’t walk at all. Something to be proud of. I’m quite sure that had I opted for the full iron distance, I may have walked at some point in the final 2 loops.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the run course (and bike course for that matter). It was thoughtfully laid out, with aid stations at very regular intervals, all offering water, Gatorade, some with food, and most also with sponges, which were quite useful to beat the heat back. There were lots of volunteers present on all stages of the course as well, smiling and friendly, and quite willing to help in any way they could.
As I crossed the finish line, I instinctively raised my arms triumphantly, as so many do at the conclusion of an event like this. Not because I won anything, or broke any records, but simply with the acknowledgement that i once again slayed a beast of a race and put in a great effort that I was happy with. The race director was nearby, and congratulated me, and we had a chance to speak shortly as well. The word was that a lot of people were out there suffering, and this was definitely hotter than anticipated or expected, but the event was still a success by all counts.
After finishing, there was some great food to gnaw on, including bagels, fruits and HOT PIZZA with COLD BEER! Yup, healthy victory food for sure. It took me a little while to actually feel up to eating and drinking, instead opting for a quick free post-race massage as well as a refreshing dip in the lake. However, when I finally did eat and drink, it was marvelous. Of course, the real meal was the next day, and featured fresh Atlantic Lobster, and lots of other great food options. This was the official awards banquet, and by having it the next day, all participants were able to rest and recover a bit and therefore show up in high spirits, and willing to relive the day, no matter how tired they had been at the finish the day before.
All in all, I give this race a huge thumbs up. Granted, it was a long trip to make for a race, but many people like to seek out a ‘destination race’ to train for, and I think this race would definitely fit the bill for many a triathlete. Check it out online at Epic Dartmouth if you’d like to learn all about it or register for the next year’s event! I’m not sure I’ll make it due to other commitments, but I’d certainly not hesitate to sign up again in the future. From here, I had a couple weeks off before the inaugural Ottawa GranFondo, so stay tuned for that one folks!