The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Somersault Promotions – Canadian Half Ironman – Saturday, September 4, 2004

Phil Barnes’s “Try-a-Tri” race report (2nd triathlon event)

The Day Before:
I went down to the Rideau Canoe Club Friday night around 7:00pm for race-kit pick up. I was expecting the worst (given the anticipated 1000+ participants) - but to my surprise, I was in and out in 5 minutes. On the way in, I bumped into Lindsay Murphy from my Thursday Duathlon training group – he was going to do the big event – and I thought to myself: that will be me in 2 years time. After picking up my race kit, I got my bike, and cycled the running route with my secret weapon – a purple stick of chalk, where I marked off the 250m, 500m, 750m marks. I hoped they would still be there the next day and help me set the pace for my first kilometer, and let me know where to turn on the jets for my last kilometer.

The Night Before:
Unlike my previous event, I managed to sleep pretty well.

The Morning of:
I almost slept in – got up around 7:30 and had breakfast (bowl and a half of Muslix). Helped get the kids ready, and then we all headed out around 8:30 for a planned 9am arrival at the scene.

Pre-event:
We got parked, and unpacked with little trouble. As we were arriving in the parking lot, the Half-Ironman competitors were starting to exit the water. I was somewhat struck by the parity of the swim event as it seemed there was a constant stream of them – one after the other.

I arrived in the transition area, and was immediately overcome by the shear magnitude of everything. There were thousands of people and hundreds of bikes. I was nervous about finding a spot to rack my bike, but there seemed to be lots of spaces – however, because of my high seat position and the sloping grassy area where the racks were, I had trouble finding a spot where I could install myself properly. I had to settle for a modified racking position, with just the back of my seat holding the top bar.

I got my timing chip, and headed over to the marking table to get my numbers put on. The marking was better than the previous race in Cornwall, because in addition to your bib number, you were also marked with your age and race event on your lower leg (this way you could clearly determine if the person passing you was in the same race as you and what age category they were in). This is where it gets a little funny, as the person “marking me” asked me my age: “32”, I replied; to which she then she looked up at me and said, “are you sure not 36?” It is odd, seeing 1000+ people walking around with their age posted on their leg. You think to yourself – wow, that guy’s only 30 – he looks older than me; or hey—not bad for 46!

The Swim (200m):
The swim was a straight-line dash from a dock at the canoe club, exiting at a boat launch across the bay. A kayaker would be our “guide” across. Funny thing was, the guy in the kayak looked familiar – and before the start, the person beside me yelled out – “Hey John, you got a rope in there to pull me?” I turned and asked, “that’s not John Waddington is it?” Sure enough it was – Mr. Waddington, my former 8th grade teacher, from Toniata School in Brockville. The guy beside me turned out to be a teacher in Brockville too.

10 seconds… 5.4.3.2.1 and we’re off. Although we were all lined up beside each other along the dock, it didn’t take much time before the straight line turned into a vicious mob of flailing arms and legs. Being a stronger swimmer, I was fortunately at the head of it and didn’t get hit – but I could constantly feel myself kicking other people. I didn’t want hurt anyone – so I put it into high gear to try and escape the mob. I may have ended up trying to swim too hard, as about half way through I was extremely tired – to the point of thinking I might not even make it across. To be honest, I was feeling lousy throughout the swim: the water (although pleasantly warm) was a dark cloudy green – and you couldn’t see past your elbow; my goggles fogged up, and I could hardly see when I popped my head up for orientation; and to top it off, I ended up swallowing a ton of water. I desperately tried to maintain a straight line, and did reasonably well, without having to resort to any breaststrokes. At the halfway point, I knew this race would be tougher than the last, as I could see many people already far out in front of me.

I kept going, and eventually the dark cloudy green water, turned to a dark cloudy yellow indicating shallow water below. I stood up, tried hopelessly to do a dolphin dive, and eventually staggered up the concrete ramp and out of the water.

My dad thought I was 8th in my wave out of the water, but by the time everyone went through the l-o-n-g transition, I was in 32nd. Because they lump in the transition time with your swim time, this gave me an average of over 4 minutes per 100m. (In reality, I was more like 2:00/100m).

Transition 1:
This was the part I was least looking forward to. The transition from Swim to Bike on this course, involves running barefoot across a gravel road, and then 300 meters down a road, over a bridge, and into the grassed area. It did get off to a good start, though, as immediately out of the water, Guylaine and the kids were there cheering me on – as well as my mom and dad, and sister, Joanne who decided to surprise me. “Go Daddy Go!” yelled the kids.

The run up to the t-zone didn’t seem as bad as I had feared. The unfortunate part was the crazy old man blocking my entrance area. But a volunteer, quickly got him out of the way for me. I found my bike and got to work getting ready – shirt on no problem – socks on (eventually), shoes tied, helmet on, watch, sunglasses and head out to the “Bike Out” area. Run over the timing mats, mount the bike and merge in with the existing bike traffic doing their half-ironman loops.

The Bike (15K):
In a word – fast. I was feeling really good. It seemed like I was passing lots of people from my event, and even those in the big event. At one point, a guy caught up to me, and yelled over: “Wow, are you ever flying for a mountain bike – I can’t believe how fast you’re going.” (Well, it’s actually a hybrid, but comments like that put a smile on your face for sure). At about 5k into it, I saw the flaming red goatee of Andrew Carryer from my duathlon group on the other side of the road – “Go Andrew!” I yelled across, but he was probably 300 meters past me by the time I got the words out.

The bike course for my event was a 7.5 Km out and back loop along Colonel By parkway. I got to the turnaround, and almost had a crash. About 200m out, there is a warning sign telling you it’s coming up; no problem, I’ll slow down and get in behind the lady in front of me, and follow her through. I didn’t expect she would come to almost a complete stop in front of me in order for her to navigate the corner. I took some evasive action, cut the corner a bit sharper than I would have liked, and ended up passing her through the corner. With that behind me, I put the hammer down, and headed home.

The ride back was faster than I had anticipated – there didn’t seem to be any wind at all, and the uphill sections didn’t slow me down at all. 200 meters to the turnaround / exit, and yet again, another cyclist in front of me. I slowed down to follow her line, but then the unexpected, she cut to the outside, and unclipped her foot (What are you doing !?!?!?) Again, evasive action forced me, to pass her on the inside – I actually skidded the tire while braking. With this latest hurdle out of the way, I coasted into the "Bike-In" lane.

The bike was faster than I had hoped for, and I got in with an average speed of 31.4km/hr - not too bad for a 35lb hybrid!

Transition 2:
Got off my bike properly before the timing mats (unlike a guy who apparently went rocketing in before me). I jogged my bike along the path, and down the aisle I thought my rack was – luckily enough it was the right aisle. Racked my bike, took off my helmet, set my watch and headed out for the run. Oops – I forgot my sunglasses. I don’t like running with sunglasses, but I forgot to take them off. For a split second, I considered just tossing them (they’re on their last legs anyways, and retail for $9.95), but decided against it, and ran with them on.

As I was exiting the “Run Out” gate, Guylaine was there cheering me on.

The Run (5K):
Strangely enough, my legs felt pretty good. Normally they feel like tree trunks after a hard bike ride, but not today. It did feel like I was running slowly, but I saw my first 250m mark on the path, and checked my time: 1:08 – Ok, not bad. Let’s keep this pace up! 1KM – 4:28; 2nd KM 9:18 and eventually the turn around point. When I turned the corner, it all of a sudden felt like I was running down hill; but then, I could feel a stitch coming in on my stomach. I tried not to worry too much about it, and fought through it. I’m pretty sure, it was due to the river water I had swallowed. At about this time, my game plan went into the garbage – originally I was going to just flat out run my fastest and deal with the pain, but having seen many people from my event pass me by already, I resigned to just finishing. I still gave it 95%, and was 18:36 at 4Km. The cheering crowd pulled me through the last 500m, into the tunnel, around the bend and over the finish line.

I timed my run at about 24 minutes, but my official split was 25:04 because it included the transition time.

The Finish:
20m before the finish line, I could see my whole family lined up. Big huge smiles on their faces. Andrew was holding his “Go Daddy Go!” sign. I pumped my arms in the sky, as the announcer called out, “Now crossing the finish line, Phil Barnes from Gloucester”. I crossed over, and was instantly presented with a finisher’s medal. My cheering squad encircled me, and I was proud of what I had just done. Andrew could hardly contain his excitement, “Did you win Daddy?” “Andrew, “ I said, “everyone’s a winner today.”

I finished with a time of 1:02:14. This was good for 21 out of 153 and 3rd in my age group. So I was pretty happy with that result.

Overall Impressions:
I’m definitely hooked on Triathlon - it’s a real rush crossing the finish line. Although I enjoyed race, I would have to say, that the Cornwall event was much better organized and had a much better racecourse – from both a participant’s perspective and a spectator’s perspective.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Learn how to dolphin dive out of the swim.
  2. Why am I so slow in the swim-to-bike transition??? Maybe I should get some Yankz.
  3. Don’t swallow water on the swim!

What I did right:

  1. Arrived early enough to get a good feel for the transition area. Practiced finding my bike, and locating the exit points.
  2. Managed not to get hurt on the swim
  3. Swam in a straight line
  4. Managed to pace my first kilometer of the run properly.
  5. Trained properly. My Thursday night duathlons proved useful, for the bike to run transition.

Next Year:
I probably won’t do this particular venue next year. It is just a bit too busy for my liking. Smaller, community events seem to be more my style. Also, it’s time to graduate and leave the Try-a-Tri, to take on the bigger Sprints. Maybe even an Olympic event…