My desire to participate in and finish an IRONMAN triathlon started a few years ago when running events became repetitious and a little boring. It was at that time that I wanted to complete something more challenging. Not that running is easy. It's difficult and painful, especially the longer distances. Perhaps I was just looking for a little more pain.
Growing up, sports and athleticism were not part of my life. Not only did I dread the choosing process for teams by my fellow PE victims (I was usually chosen last), but running forced me into a life of crime where forged notes and feigned menstrual cramps or stomach aches became a norm. Running hurt too much. It was suffocating and burning and very similar if not the same as all the evils adults protect little people from, like the stove and drinking poison.
Jump forward to my late thirties. Like many people in their late thirties, hormonal imbalances occurred that directly cause rational people (like myself) to think and do things a little less rationally. For example, considering pain as a prerequisite to an amazing journey. It was at that time when I began my running adventure with Couch to 5K training for the Starlight Run in Portland, my first 5K. Oy, did that ever hurt. (Some of the thoughts that went through my head while running this 5K may or may not be similar to what Jenny experienced during the opening scene of Jenny's Blue Velvet.)
About three years after the Starlight Run and after many other events including overnight 200-ish mile team relay races, half marathons and one full, we (Fred and I) decided to attempt triathlons. But first, I had to learn to swim. That was an experience of its own that may be discussed in future blog posts. Since we all know how often I blog, don't count on it though.
After two years of Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, the next step was clearly an IRONMAN 70.3. Because duh. Actually, I should clarify: MY next step was the 70.3. Fred, however, was having way more imbalances than I was and signed up for a 140.6. We both signed up for Santa Rosa (a beautiful course, btw)
We made up our own training plan and ran and swam and spun our bike wheels on an indoor trainer regularly for months before the races. I did not finish my 70.3 and was completely disappointed. Fred made me super proud by finishing his 140.6. He is an IRONMAN. And I couldn't be prouder.
Although I don't like to be told "No" or "You can't", and will do everything to rebel against it, deep down I always question if I actually can. Especially in this case. Because, really, whoever thought the girl who ditched PE to get out of physical activity and who didn't know how to swim and panicked in open water would ever be capable of finishing something like an IRONMAN 70.3? I for sure didn't think I could, but I wanted to try anyway.
When they shutdown the bike course in Santa Rose before I was finished and picked me and my bike up around mile 46, I wasn't surprised. Heartbroken, yes. But surprised? Not at all.
Tri and tri again.
I chose IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria, BC for my next attempt. Victoria is in Canada on Vancouver Island about a four hour drive to the 90 minute ferry from where I live in SW Washington.
The journey to Victoria 2018 began in the late fall of 2017. We ran, we spun, we swam. I purchased many books on training plans. The one we used is "IronFit Secrets for Half-Iron-Distance Triathlon Success" by Don and Melanie Fink. We started with the Intermediate Plan build phase. Then we moved onto the Competitive Plan from there. I figured the more I worked, the faster I would get, and it was a necessity to get faster. Obviously. There's a time limit. We worked for about 6 months. Day in and day out. We adjusted the schedule to meet our needs and life demands, but for the most part, we rarely missed workouts. Fred trained with me and encouraged me even though his first race wasn't until three weeks after mine. (Because he's amazing) We took Wahoo Kickr studio classes at our local gym and purchased a Wahoo Kickr for home use. We biked scenic and challenging rides in the Gorge. We swam and swam and swam in the pool and in open water. Until race day.
PERSONAL JOURNEY continued and THE RACE REPORT
I'm a native to the PNW and haven't lived anywhere else. I like overcast skies and a temperature in the low to mid-60s (Fahrenheit). This is the weather I train in. Rain? No problem. Sun? No, thanks. Not for running in anyway. So, Victoria sounded perfect.
We arrived in Victoria on the Friday afternoon before the race via ferry from Port Angeles, Washington. It's a little expensive, but it was the fastest route to Vancouver Island and the drop off is in Victoria instead of on the other side of the island like the other ferries. It's advisable to make online reservations; our boat was sold out and full of triathletes. Also, don't forget your passport.
The loft we rented was in downtown, just on the border of Chinatown. It was a perfect location and I highly recommend staying downtown if you want to explore before or after the race. I wish we had more time for exploration and hope to go back just as a vacation trip to do so.
We picked up our keys, dropped off our bags and my bike (called Vicky), and headed up to the lake to check in for the race. It was about a twenty minute drive with traffic. Parking was sparse at the village where we check in at the start line, but we managed to find a spot along the road not too far away.
Checking in was a breeze. There were no lines and plenty of volunteers to help distribute packets. Mandatory Athlete Briefing was just about to begin, so we planted ourselves in the grass to listen in, then walked along the lake on our way back to the car where we saw a small family of ducks waddling on the shore.
For dinner, we stood in line for forty-five minutes at Pagliacci's for a pasta dinner on Friday night. Next time, we probably won't do this because they don't have many vegan/plant based options other than pasta and marinara, which is what we got.
Saturday didn't go as planned. We were up early to get Vicky ready for check in. The plan was to check in the bike, go for a practice swim, and then drive the bike course. Unfortunately, Vicky's computer wasn't working. Too much time was spent trying to figure out what was wrong. Finally, after changing the batteries four hundred times, it worked. By then, however, we were in no mood to spend the afternoon driving the 56 mile route, so we checked Vicky in and then hit the water for a practice swim. The water temp was in the mid 60s Fahrenheit, it was calm and fairly clear. I did not see any scary lake monsters. Perfect.
2:30 am came fast. Fortunately, our bed was comfortable. Unfortunately, staying downtown meant loud/drunk people singing and enjoying Saturday night outside our door. This was the only night I heard any festivities late at night, of course. It woke me often. But before I knew it, rest time was over.
I forced down oatmeal, a banana, and half a protein smoothie. As always on race morning, it didn't go down easy. Race food and drink were prepared the night before, so after getting dressed, we were set to grab my bags and head to the lake.
Parking was on the other side of the lake. We were the fifth car into the lot, but a line of cars followed. School buses shuttled us to transition on a winding dark road that seemed to go on forever.
After body marking, transition set, porta pots hit (several times), air pressure checked in tires, another banana, wet suit wrangled into, we headed to the start line to get in a warm up swim while the late arrivals rushed through their motions. Early arrivals, like myself, had no need to hurry.
The water was warmer than the air and it felt good to fill up my suit. Once done, it was time to wait.
THE SWIM (1.2 miles)
The swim was a self seeded start, which was awesome. Self seeded means that athletes enter the water with other athletes who swim close to the same pace. There were markers along the line noting the speed times that athletes stood and waited behind. My fastest open water swim this year was 48 minutes (20 minutes faster than last year, thank you very much). I positioned myself at the 50 - 55 minute pace. Last year in Santa Rosa I put myself at the back of the line so I wouldn't get run over. I didn't care if I got ran over this year, just as long as I stayed as close to the buoys as possible to not add any unnecessary distance. Surprisingly, there were a lot of people behind me.
Just before getting in line, I quickly drank a pre-workout drink. Despite drinking it for years before every workout, for some ridiculously unknown reason, I completely forgot what it does to me and why I always drink it at least half an hour before my workout. A decision had to be made. Do I have time? Definitely. Will the feeling pass? Probably not. Will someone zip me back up when I'm done? I hoped so. Is there a line? No, there's one open now. I dashed for it.
This was good practice for peeling off the wet suit after the swim since I was already wet, but then having to also peel down my tri suit in the small porta pot without touching anything was something I should have considered. **Note for future tris** Verify there is TP before peeling everything off.
Once I felt better and was back in line, someone graciously zipped me back up. It took another ten minutes to get to the start.
I ended up starting with the last of the 45 - 50 minute group.
My swim started out awesome. The course was an easy one loop, out and back. I kept straight from buoy to buoy, played my music in my head to keep my tempo, and sighted every other breath as I practiced. Other people? Not so much. I didn't swim over anyone but I did go around several swimmers, which probably added some time. The swimmers who didn't practice sighting squeezed me out of some spots and ran into each other and sometimes into me. I may have advised them to go straight or to sight, but since their heads were underwater, they probably didn't hear me. But after the fact, it's all good. It was a great swim and I finished it a little over 52 minutes.
TRANSITION (5-ish minutes)
Fortunately, there was only one transition area, so all our stuff wasn't spread out between two locations. This was ideal, in my opinion.
I may have been so excited about making the swim cutoff that I ran the wrong way, which I would have eventually figured out if I kept going because it was a dead end. Maybe I was light headed from the swim. Whatever the reason, I don't really remember. A volunteer kindly directed me to the correct direction. One man who was just as excited as I was asked/shouted at me, "Do we keep going?" I didn't understand what he meant at the time, but now I'm wondering if he made the 1:10 cut off. I told him, "YES! Keep going!!!!! Don't stop!!!!!" Because that's exactly what I was doing. Go. Go. Go.
The transition grass was soft under bare feet. So much better than the pebbled concrete of Santa Rosa. Plus, a very short distance to the transition.
I stripped off my wet suit, slipped on my socks and bike shoes, helmet, gloves, grabbed Vicky, and jogged to the bike exit.
"Let's go Vicky," I said, and glanced down at my computer. It was dead. That's when I saw Fred standing on the sidelines. I shouted, "My computer is dead!" I regretted doing this after because he would worry. I thought I needed my computer because A: I'm not a super speedy bike rider and needed to maintain an average of 14 mph and B: my brain thinks in miles, not kilometers, so without my computer I would have to do math every time I passed a kilometer sign to figure out how far I've gone and math is hard.
THE BIKE (56 miles)
The bike was one loop around the island with views of the ocean.
I don't really remember a lot of the bike course. Is that weird? I remember beautiful areas and amazing volunteers and the fear of drafting because the race officials hung around the back of the pack for some reason. I remember some hill climbing, but not nearly as bad as the hills I climbed during training. I remember passing people because this was the best feeling ever. I remember people passing me, which was totally fine. I remember during this one particularly flat area, gaining on this one rider who I had tried passing early but couldn't, beginning to pass him and then seeing he had slowed because he was peeing. Yes, people, that happened. I had heard of it, but never witnessed it before. I can't be mad, though, because he slowed down and it was all flowing to the ground instead of splashing back at me. Bless!
I regularly talk to myself when running and riding my bike. Many words were said on this adventure. Good words. Excited and happy words. Most of the time.
I remember of several occasions laugh/crying. You know how your emotions bubble up and out uncontrollably? This happened whenever I passed distance signs, did the math, matched the math to my watch and realized that I could possibly make the time cut off. For real!
What sticks in my mind the most is my failure to follow my nutrition plan. Nuun, dried bananas, and Cliff bars. Nothing else. That was the plan. That was how I trained. But, no, I just had to grab a bottle of ice cold water at the second aid station and then, without thought, guzzled as much as I could before the last garbage can. BIG MISTAKE. My stomach immediately cramped up and stayed that way through the remainder of the race.
Another thing I remember is the last hill, 1.5 miles of climbing, about ten miles from the bike finish. About a quarter of the way up, I was standing and pedaling. A man with a boom box danced on the side of the road. He cheered and encouraged the riders while playing the song "Push it!"
"You're awesome!" I told him.
He pointed at my bike. "You still have gears left! Use them."
I looked down and he was right! I had two gears left! Holy crap! He was truly AWESOME! Thank you, Push It Man. You made my uphill battle so much better.
At the top of the hill, we turned around and breezed all the way back down. WEEEEEE!
TRANSITION (Ten-ish minutes)
OMG! I was so shocked that I made the bike cut off that I couldn't stop shaking, but managed to somehow rack Vicky and put on my running shoes. I grabbed my nutrition of dates, a gel, and dried bananas and stuffed them into my tri suit back pocket, then hit the porta pots before heading out to run.
THE RUN (13.1 miles)
The run was a two loop trail around the lake. The ground was packed dirt and crushed rock and most of it was under the canopy of trees, which was fortunate because it had started to rain just as I headed out.
That abdominal cramping from the bike worsened on the run with every jolt of every step, making this the longest half-marathon of my life.
It was a flat and perfect course, though. The volunteers were plentiful and encouraging with aid stations almost every 1.5 miles.
I ended up walking more than planned, but knew I had time. My goal was simply to finish before the 8:30 cut off.
And I did!
Official time: 8:06:18
This entire race was amazing. It was well organized, a beautiful course (challenging, but reachable, well marked and traffic controlled), and the weather just how I like it. I highly recommend IRONMAN 70.3 Victoria to every triathlete. The volunteers were one of the best parts too. Thank you, volunteers!
I wouldn't have finished without my husband, Fred, pushing me during training and supporting me the entire journey. We did this together. Thank you, Fred. My teenage son, Morgan, also put up with all our training time and was very patient. Thank you, Morgan.
This is my first race report. I hope it helps you on your triathlon journey like all the race reports I read helped me.
Pacific Crest Beastman 72.3
Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa
Ironman 70.3 Cozumel
Will you be at any of these races? See you there! You'll find me in the back of the pack, heading for the finish. :)