Monday, August 17, 2009

Calgary 70.3 Race Report

This season has been a different one for me- after GWN I decided that I was shifting my attitudes towards training and racing. I made a choice not to 'train'- I didn't even open the training plan sent by my coach (sorry Syl). I had a stellar weekend of mtn biking and trail running in Jasper, and then a week of heaven biking 850km through the Kootenays on Tour BC. I didn't swim at all, until race week when I needed to test out the new wetsuit D bought me (a 2XU V:1). Normally this would mean I was freaking out pre race, but I wasn't. This was my last tri of the season and I was determined to enjoy it! I was excited to race on our old stomping grounds and to see some old and new friends. Also, after coming off Tour BC I was ready to test out the bike fitness I'd gained, and when D and I pre-rode the course on Monday I was super excited as it was just the kind of course I love- hilly, beautiful and challenging!
Race week I was relaxed and happy- no stress, no nerves, no sense of impending We enjoyed time in Calgary with D's family and although we had good intentions of seeing more of our friends, the week went by really fast! (Sorry to those we missed)
Race morning I was awake by 3am. It is a good thing as neither of our alarms went off at 4am! I woke up feeling rested, and for one of the first times I didn't wish I wasn't racing that day. As we were driving to the buses for pick up at 4:30am in the pitch dark, I said to D, "we have a pretty weird definition of fun, hey?" Once we go to the bus pick up we were surrounded by like minded weirdos, so it was all good :)
We were lucky to run into our friends Chris and Jill and got to sit next to them on the bus. It was good to chat and hear about how well their seasons are going. These two are inspiring folks! They just get better with age :)
Once we got to the lake we did the usual pre race prep and potty. Then we just huddled together trying to stay warm. I had only worn a t-shirt and shorts because it was so warm in the city. But the temp at the race site was much cooler and I was freezing! Finally we just put our wetsuits on which helped a lot. D was in the second wave, starting at 7am. Once he was off I hit the porto potty line again and stood for another 30 mins. On an aside- why do race organizers always skimp on porto potties? It is such an integral component to the racers' experience of the event. Seriously! Isn't it worth the extra few bucks to have enough shitters?
Anyway, once through the line it was almost time for me to hit the water so I made my way down to the ramp. The wave start was a huge bonus for me, since I usually get beat up during mass starts and dread them. The one thing I should have done was start right at the front of my wave. I am so used to starting a bit back in mass starts, that I automatically did that. As a result I had to swim through slower people ahead of me- and because I refuse to swim over, hit or kick another swimmer, I had to go around or wait for an opening which slowed me down. The swim itself was just ok. As I said, I hadn't swam since GWN other than a couple of 10 min test swims the week of the race. I had some trouble sighting as the buoys were really far apart, and the last stretch into the shore was awful with big waves and a nauseatingly strong flavor of boat fuel. My swim time was slower than I expected, but I didn't know this since I hadn't started my watch.
The first transition was the longest in my history of racing. I felt like I was moving efficiently but it was a looong run to my bike and a looong run out to the mount line. The girl just ahead of me was moving slower than I wanted to, but I thought it would be a DB move to pass her on the way out of T1. Especially since there was a single lane of carpet over the gravel leading out.
Once on the bike I was in my happy place. This is the one area I was ready for, and my goal was to RACE rather than ride. I had so many good rides on Tour BC where I really showed myself that I can push hard on the bike. I loved that ride. I passed heaps of people and felt amazing on the hills. My only issue was losing my water bottle that had my nutrition in it. The first time it popped out I went back for it, but the second time was on the bridge going into Cochrane and it wasn't safe to stop or turn around. So I lost 120 calories, and had to pull out some magic in refilling my only bottle at the next aide station. The water the volunteer handed me was in a sealed twist off cap bottle. So I had to remove the cap from my bottle and hold it in my would while holding the bottle between my legs. Then I had to twist the top off the water, and pour it into my bottle, and recap it, all while still riding. So I may have been the only person out there happy that the aide station was on a descent :) The calorie deficit was a factor though, as I only took in 2.5 gels on the bike, totalling 250ish calories. This would turn out to be my only caloric intake for the race, and since breakfast was at 4am and my race started at 7:40, there was a definite negative effect.
My bike time was 2:55 and change for 95km, which made me very happy :)
T2 was a bit better that T1 other than the fact that there was no change tent which meant I would be running in my thick chamois. Yuck. I made a last minute clothing change when I found out it was expected to hit 30 degrees on race day, opting away from my black one piece tri suit and instead deciding to wear a white race singlet and bike shorts and then change into a running skirt. The athlete handbook stated there would be a change tent in T2....buggers.
The run started well, I felt really good and despite pushing hard on the bike my legs felt fine. The first km went by in under 5mins and all was well. And then a knife plunged into my abdomen under my rib cage. Or so it felt. I have had plenty of stitches in training and racing, and generally can run through them. But this was no ordinary stitch. It literally doubled me over, and I had to walk for a bit. I tried stretching, jamming my hand in there, breathing deeply, and finally pulling my bike shorts waaaay up, thinking the waist band was making it worse. At the next aide station I grabbed a cold sponge and shoved it in there. So classy. Shorts hiked up to my armpits, and a big sponge stuck down my pants. But it seemed to help and I was able to get going. I was plugging along at a steady pace, passing lots of people, but I had lost any pep that I felt at the beginning and could not find another gear. I walked every aide station, drank water and dumped more on me to stay cool. I don't like to walk during a race, but I felt I had to, in order to keep myself going in between. I didn't walk at any other time in the race, which I was pleased with considering all the people walking the hills. Normally the run is where I excel, and I was a bit disappointed that I was unable to go the way I wanted to, but at the same time I was just happy to be able to maintain a steady run. I felt like I finished strong and was happy with my 5:34 time, even though I had a 1:53 1/2 marathon, which is the slowest I have done in a looong time.
Overall it was a great day and an excellent way to wrap up my tri season. I was hoping to be in the top 10 of my AG but ended up in 11th. Ah well, such is the story of my
Post race we enjoyed a massive feast of sushi and a serious slab of ice cream cake, compliments of D's mom who is the artist that captured our race course on ice cream! (I'll post a pic!)

I have been asked if I would do this race again, and my answer is probably not. While I loved the course, it is a very over priced race (IMO) primarily because it bears the Ironman name. In terms of value for dollar there are many other races in Calgary and area that out-do this one. There was no pre or post race dinner or celebration, there was ZERO schwag in the race packs, the finishers shirt was cotton and the medal was just a Stampede marathon rip off on a plain ribbon. There were also many inaccuracies in the athlete handbook, including the lack of a T2 change tent as mentioned as well as an incorrect course map for the run. Yes these things matter to this athlete. Considering it is the most expensive 1/2 IM race we've done, I would have expected it to compare with the local races in these areas. That said, the volunteers were amazing, the logistics were complex and handled very well, the course was among my favorite all time and the spectator support rocked. Hopefully the other issues are 1st year things and subsequent years will just get better. I definitely would recommend it as an amazing race course and a great way to see the Calgary area.

Now that I am fully rested after a week of holidays post race my mind has began to wander and what??


Megan said...

Great report Amber... too bad about your nutrition. I totally hear you right now. I feel like I can't sit still b/c I have nothing planned!

Nadeen Halls said...

What's next? Ummm heading out to the Mecca to hang out with Hallsy and JR and do some wine touring and dog walking :)

PS - My word verification below when I had to post this was triut ... that's kind of like tri - ut (tri it). Okay I'm being a nerd. Sorry.

Julie said...

I remember seeing you grimace and head back for the first time your bottle bounced off your bike. And I felt so sorry for you when that stupid bottle bounced off the second time -- I wanted to stop and grab it for ya! Hahahaha!!

You looked great out there -- it was fun seeing you the day before the race too. You are always such a ray of sunshine!

I'm sure SOMETHING will come up for you to focus on next... :) :) :)

Clint-Murphy said...

I agree with your negatives and positives on the race - I think you may have left off the extra 5 kms on the bike as a negative though ;-)

As for the finishers medal ribbon, I quickly figured out why it was that cheap green ribbon - it is a Belt Buckle so I assume they thought most people would peel off the ribbon and use it as their IM belt buckle as we were in Calgary.

Lisa G said...

Great race report, Amber! Thanks for all the info on the race (the good, the bad and the ugly). I really have no itching desire to do that race (even more so after reading your report), or any Ironman-brand race (with the exception of Kona, of course!). I would much rather give my support to the local half-iron races such as GWN, Oliver, Sylvan Lake, etc., where the main intent of the race organizers is NOT to make a profit and gouge the athletes.

Congrats on your awesome season! It's actually nice to be finished with tri's for the year, isn't it?

Kelly B. said...

AMBER!!!! Great Calgary report...I thought I had commented but...
How about your HUBBY!! I just checked the IMC results...OMG!!! I hope I have the right guy...THIRD IN HIS AG!!! Congrats to HIM and YOU (for i imagine cheering your butt off!!) Does this mean Kona!!?? Oh...I hope so...