I’m Half a Man!!

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Well, I’ve done it! I can honestly say now that I’m half a man! Well, half an iron-type man that is! This weekend marked the successful completion of my half iron distance triathlon right here in Ottawa. For those of you who might not be aware of what that means, or the distances, I’ll summarize it for you. For starters, you swim for 1.9km, then you hop on your bike and pedal for 90km, then to finish it (you) off, you put on your running shoes and plod through 21.1km of running. The full iron distance, in case you haven’t figured it out, is twice as far for every discipline 😉 I registered for this race way back in February, and at that time, I was torn betwen doing the full iron distance, or the half iron distance. In the end, sanity won that time, and I registered for the half. After all, I did the half marathon before tackling the full marathon as well. I guess that can only mean that next year, I’ll have to take on the full distance. But I digress (as I often do). This blog posting will be all about my race experience in “The Canadian 1/2 Iron Distance Triathlon”, put on by Somersault events, and raced out of Mooney’s Bay beach. The weather was great, I had a nice little contingent of supporters (Thanks Jody, Kev, Grant, Bonnie, Maya, Natasha, Dave and Meghan!). That kind of thing always makes things go better. To save everyone the trouble, the bottom line is that I did way better than I had hoped. My goal was to finish in 5hr 30mins., but I shattered that by finishing in 5:11:13!! Luckily, there’s also a good bunch of pictures that were taken by Kev and Jody, which you can check out in their folder on flickr. For the gory details, just read on!

For this race, I’ve basically been training all summer. Since the season is more or less winding down, this was one of the last ‘big’ races of my season. The only other one that will compare is my 12-14 hour adventure race coming up at the end of September, the Salomon Adventure Challenge Canadian Champs. But as far as effort required in a race, this would probably rate as the most intense race I’ve done all summer. Adventure races are generally run at a much lower intensity level, but over a much longer period of time. The marathon was a herculean running effort over a period of 3hrs and 17mins this year, and this race maxed out at 5hrs. 11mins of top intensity level racing. For that reason, I guess I should have good reason to be proud of how I did. I was very careful about a lot of the different variables, such as hydration, caloric intake, etc. etc., and minding those details is what helped me have a very well-run race.

The race usually starts a couple days before, when you have to start getting your head in the right space and keeping all the nagging little what-ifs at bay. To help with that, I try to get all my gear sorted out 2 days before, so that the night before, I’m not rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off! The other thing you have to do is make sure you get a good nights sleep 2 days out, and start drinking lots of water. I did a good job of getting all those things in order this time around. The idea is to be able to show up at the start area the morning of the race with a clear head, and a rested body, ready for the challenge. Of course, once I got to the race site, I had to do all the typical pre-race stuff too. Pick up a timing chip. Check. Body marking (permanent marker on arms and legs with my number). Check. Swim cap pick up. Check. Lay out all the gear in transition area. This is a key aspect of these races. You really don’t want to waste much time between disciplines digging around for stuff. This is just as much a part of the race as everything else. I did give myself a little extra time in this race, since it was much longer than what I was used to, but I still wanted to be quick. Slap on the sunscreen, grab the wetsuit, and head to the beach. There was no turning back now.

My race started at 9am on Saturday, which was nice for a change. This gave me enough time to dawdle a little bit, and still be ready with a buffer. However, before I knew it, they were calling out the 5 minutes to race time. Yikes. In the water, I had planned on a 38 minute swim, allowing 2 minutes per 100m. By the time I stepped out of the water, I had actually only been in for about 31 minutes! Awesome. In the water, I had focussed on a clean stroke, and a good hip roll. I think it paid off. This was actually one of my fastest swim paces in a race yet, even though it was my longest swim. I was buoyed! (nice pun, eh?) The funniest part in the swim for me was the fact that right at the end, I ended up going slightly off course, and as luck would have it, Jody caught me on film. I was just totally zoned out at the moment. No biggie though. The day was young. The weather also co-operated big time for us. It was overcast, but warm, with no rain during my entire race. Perfect weather for me!

I ran up the beach to the transition, and suited up for the bike, taking time to double check everything. I wanted to make sure that I had all my tools, pump, tube, fluids, etc. In a long bike leg like this, you need to be prepared to change flats and make adjustments on the fly. Another funny moment. After all that checking, I had forgotten to reset my bike computer, so I didn’t zero it out until about 4 km in. Damn. I couldn’t care less though. All that mattered was spinning those pedals at 80rpm for the next 90km. And that’s what I focussed on. 80rpm, minimum of 30km/h at all times. Oh yeah, and smiling and posing for cameras, as well as chatting up other racers. The race is really all about doing a job to the best of your ability. My ‘fans’ did a great job cheering for me, and kept me energized the whole way. My only snafus came in my first lap, before I was totally in the zone, and before everyone was out cheering me on. To start with, I dropped my gel flask, and left it there. A girl was surprised, saying it was a little early in the day to not worry about it, but I assured her I’d get it on the next lap (after all, we had 6 x 15k laps to do). Then, at the first far-end turnaround at Laurier, I wiped out! It was quite annoying. This dude decides to pass me right before the turn. Fine, I think, at least he’ll be fast on the turn around. I’m always fast on sharp turns, due to my mountain bike experience, and confidence in technical sections. Well, instead of being fast, this joker STOPS in the middle of the hairpin. So of course, I crash into his back tire, and wipe out on my ass in the turn. I was back up on my bike in like 3 seconds, but there were like 5 other people around me then too. Luckily, no one else fell, and all asked if I was okay. More embarassed than anything, thanks for asking. It’s amazing though how fast your body can react in a situation like that. I really didn’t even think about anything. It just happened, and then I was biking away, no harm no foul. Again, that’s all about the mental preparation, and getting the job done. There really is just one thing to do: get it done.

The next 5 loops went by uneventfully, and I felt good the whole way. My hydration / sodium / caloric strategy was working perfectly. The only downfall was the inevitability that all that fluid had to go somewhere. Jody to the rescue! I had recruited her not only as my paparazzi, but also as my support crew. At certain points, I’d get her to do a bottle hand-off to me on the fly. First time didn’t work so well. She was trying to snap pictures at the same time as hand off a bottle. So, in case your wondering, you need to focus on something like that, especially since it was on a slight downhill, so I was going about 37km/h, and wasn’t stopping. The bottle exploded on the tarmac. Ha ha. No sweat, I just got a water at the far end instead. Once again, you can’t let something like that faze you. I was zen-like about it. I think Jody was more worried about how I’d deal with it than me. It might not seem like a big deal, but those bottles were what I was wholly dependent on for energy during this race, so missing one was a pretty big thing, but I coped, instead having water, gel and salt tabs. On a couple bottle exchanges, I decided I’d be better off ‘taking care of business’ while Jody dealt with my water. So I’d slow down, hop off the bike, and run to the bushes. During that time (man is that a relief!!), Jody would swap out my bottles, and hold my bike at the ready. It worked great. I was so grateful that she was there for me! Anyway, 90km later, the bike leg was over. Annoyingly, as I’m finishing, they’re announcing, ‘And there’s Stephan Meyer, with 1 more lap to go’. WTF? I stop, turn around, run to them and yell ‘No way, I’m DONE!’. Oops. They confirm, and I turn back around to head to transition. Vital stats on the bike: My goal was 30km/h average, for a 3 hour time. In reality, I had a 31.9km/h average, finishing in 2hr. 49mins. Yay! Another beaten estimate. Off to the run.

Not surprisingly, my run went EXACTLY as expected. With all the running training and racing that I’ve done in the past few years, I’m very much in tune with my body for the running legs of races. This was no exception. The swim and bike I had wiggle room, and took advantage of them to better my times. The run, it was all about consistency. The results bore this out. My goal was to hit 5 minute kilometers for the whole course, giving me a 1:45 half marathon time. Not stellar for a half marathon, but considering I’d already swam 1.9km, and biked 90km, I figured it was a reasonable goal. Well, in actuality, I wrapped it up in 1:42:12, with a per kilometer time of 4:51. A touch faster, but pretty much dead on. And this was without any kilometer markers at all. That was where all the training paid off. I’m much better at run pacing than any other discipline right now. There really are no stories to relate about the run. On the bike, there are several different races, and many different laps, so it was a constant flow of passing and being passed. The run course is much more clear. I managed to pass a LOT of people on the run. Not a single person passed me in the entire run. So if they were behind me come the run, they stayed there. If they were ahead of me, I had a shot of gaining. I didn’t really count them, but it did feel great to be in that position.

Another thing I liked about the run was the chance to cheer on people and talk to people. Due to the proximity of everyone (we were running on the pathway, not the road), you really were right beside all the other racers. At first, I feared there would be clogging, but in a race of this distance, this wasn’t the case at all. Everyone was running their own race by now, and spread out far and wide. Every time I passed someone (either overtaking them, or passing runners in other direction), I would cheer for them and encourage them. This really had two effects I think. It made them get a boost, and also made me feel good too. It was like a drug after a while, I was everyone’s biggest fan, and it helped me get my job done too! For the final 5km, I decided to drop the hammer, since I had energy in the tank. I ran hard and fast, and made up even more ground, passing people right to the end. However, I made sure none of the passes were right at the end, costing anyone a spot in the last 200m. I know how much that sucks. I did pass a few people at the end, but they weren’t in my category. Besides, I never hit a sprint or anything, I was just finishing at my stride. I couldn’t help but finish this race with a huge sh*t eating grin on my face. I knew that I had done way better than I had hoped, and still felt some energy. It was a great feeling. Especially considering that I got to eat a burger, and two pancakes right at the finish. SWEEEET!

Looking at the clock now, I realize I’ve been typing for over an hour, so I guess I’ve got the blogal runs! To close off the post, I’ll put up the final stats on my performance. Here they are in gory detail:

  • I was the 44th person over the finish line.
  • I was the 38th male over the finish line.
  • I was the 7th person over the line in my age group (men, 30-34).
  • For the swim, I was 45th overall, with a time of 32:46 (including run-up to transition)
  • The swim pace was 1:39 per 100m.
  • My time in transition 1 (swim to bike) was 4:01
  • I was a lousy 95th in the bike, with a time of 2:49:31
  • My bike pace was 31.9 km/hr.
  • My time in transition 2 (bike to run) was 2:45
  • In the run, I was 27th overall! My time was 1:42:12
  • My run pace was 4:51 per km.

So there you have it! I hope everyone else had as good a weekend as I did! I even celebrated by having several beers on both Saturday night and Sunday night! Good times. Now, only a couple races to go this season, and I can get back to maxing and relaxing.

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