I signed up for my 10th half ironman, Victoria 70.3, because I was having FOMO once I saw that four or five Betty’s were registered for the race. And also because Victoria is so beautiful, it’s always awesome to get away from Calgary (June monsoon) and get some actual summer weather. I wasn’t sure how my body and legs were going to respond given the Grand Canyon was just 3 weeks prior. As it turns out, (spoiler) long, slow trail running doesn’t help me in triathlon! For some people it works well, but for me, if I train slow, I race slow.
Rob and I headed to Victoria on Friday evening. I met 2 Betty’s, Alison from Victoria, and Kathy from Arizona, for dinner. It is always such a pleasure to meet other girls with the same interests as me because sometimes I feel like I’m the only one doing this crazy Ironman stuff!
My dad had sailed his sailboat up from WA and we were lucky enough to get a slip right in front of the Empress so it was like staying at the Empress for, like, a tenth of the cost! Staying on a boat for a race, and especially a triathlon presents some unique challenges, like putting your bike together on the dock without dropping any important screws/parts/the bike into the ocean, and once the bike is put together, where does the bike go? Luckily for me, and Cervelo, my dad came prepared and had a huge chain that we used to lock Cervelo to the mast. Not gonna lie, I had a couple restless nights worrying that someone was trying to jack my bike but it all ended up fine!
Alison was kind enough to meet me on Saturday morning for a shake out ride and to make sure I had put my bike together properly. We ended up on the last few miles of the bike course which was helpful to see because there was a slight downhill section into a left turn and an immediate hill that Alison pointed out and reminded me that gear selection is important so as to not drop a chain or be grinding uphill in the wrong gear. Check in was fast and easy and our bikes slept over night in transition. I discovered I forgot a race belt, CO2, and a transition towel, so Alison came to the rescue and hooked me up with spares of hers. Alison was also amazing because she had priority parking at transition! Otherwise I would have had to drop off my bike to a transition volunteer, park a couple miles away, take a shuttle back to transition and then complete my checkin. So thanks, Alison! You made my life so much easier!
We skipped a practice swim (since I haven’t been swimming anyway, what’s the big deal?) and I found myself back on the boat with a glass of wine and some sun on my pale, pale skin.
Race morning, my alarm went off at 4:00am. Victoria is a super early start time, my wave started at 6:09am and I arrived at transition a little later than I wanted! Logistics for this race are complicated, involving a shuttle to the race site, but they do the best they can. I met up with Melanie (who unfortunately didn’t start the race due to being sick), Kathy, and Alison and got my transition site set up. I think I’ve been racing a lot of races with 2 transitions so I’m used to using bags and not the grass beside my bike so I just felt like I was missing something (I wasn’t).
My wave of girls waded into the water and waited for our start. I positioned myself near the back because I haven’t been swimming and I didn’t want to get in the way. I did not swim once from IM Boulder (Aug 3) until New Years Eve, when I decided to swim 100×100 (that was fun). Then I did not swim again until I went to tri camp in Tucson in the beginning of March. I’m not sure of the total yards we swam there but I didn’t do the big set so I think it was less than 10,000yds. After camp, I didn’t swim again until 2 weeks before Victoria when I swam 2000m just to make sure I could still do it. So my TOTAL (not weekly) swimming since IM Boulder has been less than 10,000 meters. This is all due to my chlorine sickness problem that’s STILL affecting me, 2 years later. I have tried noseplugs, menthol rub in my nose, allergy meds, scopolamine patches, and nothing works. I still feel like I’m going to barf every time I smell chlorine. My solution therefore, has been to not swim. Because if I don’t swim, I don’t smell chlorine, and I don’t puke! Calgary unfortunately doesn’t have public lakes and beaches so open water swimming here isn’t an option unless I drive about 1 hour to Canmore. This entire situation is less than ideal but I’m just doing the best I can with a crappy situation. The good news is I’m really comfortable in the water and swimming is not a problem for me. I have lost about 10 minutes in an IM swim over the last 2 years, but the way I look at it is that I can devote that time not spent swimming to biking and running, or sleeping and recovery.
All this is to say the swim was fine. I definitely felt like I was swimming slow, and my results prove that. The water was a great temperature, flat, and the sun wasn’t a problem. I exited the water in 39:44, my slowest 70.3 swim ever – about 5-6 minutes slower that I should be but life (and the race) goes on!
My butt/hamstring is still bothering me. Actually the only time it hurt all day was during the swim (go figure) and in transitions. Not being able to sit down quickly or straighten your leg makes it difficult to get shoes on and off! No one is quite sure what the problem is, still. I’ve had a couple treatments of shockwave therapy which feels like getting a tattoo on my butt and hamstring, and for a bit I thought it was getting better but now I’m not so sure.
Once I was on the bike I started passing people right away. This is a new thing for me. I used to always come out of the water in the top quarter or so of my age group, then get passed by about half the group on the bike, then get passed by the rest on the run and end up near the bottom. So basically I would spend the entire day just getting passed. But because I haven’t been swimming (and so come out of the water later), and because I’ve been working hard at getting stronger on the bike, I get to pass people now! And seriously, passing people is WAY better than getting passed. The course is very rolling. I didn’t find that there were any big hills, just short, punchy climbs requiring a little standing. But with those little climbs came fast downhills and lots of speed.
Right at the start of the bike a guy rode past me, complimenting me on my helmet (and then kit, shoes, bike – all pink) because he was wearing the same pink aero Rudy helmet. We ended up leap-frogging each other for the rest of the bike. It was so fun! We always made sure to say something when we would pass. It really made the ride enjoyable.
The part that wasn’t enjoyable was all the douchebag men 40-44 years old who can’t stand to be passed by a girl. Clearly, if I’m riding up on you, I am going faster than you so when I pass you, you need to drop back. But there’s always a few of these guys who won’t let a girl pass. At one point me and another girl (who looked totally badass) were surrounded by 5 or 6 guys in a little pack and neither of us could break free. Every time we tried to pass, the guys would speed up so we’d have to drop back and then try again. It was hard physically, but harder mentally. Just because I’m a girl and everything is pink, doesn’t mean I can’t ride a bike, and it doesn’t mean I can’t pass you! Finally, I got the courage to put the hammer down and ride away from these dudes. The girl yelled something I couldn’t understand but I just hoped she wasn’t mad at me. Finally I was free of the pack and the girl had ended up coming with me. As she rode past me she said “you rode awesome back there! Great job!” and we talked about how frustrating it is when guys with too much ego or testosterone won’t drop back. And she wasn’t mad at me, she was yelling at me to go, because she wanted to come too!
My bike time was 2:53:02, just 1 minute off a 70.3 PR for me, on a tougher course. I know I can still improve but this is a great start!
The run at Victoria 70.3 is the best course I’ve done. It’s almost entirely on a shaded trail, twice around Elk Lake. There are a couple small hills, but they’re really small. In fact, I think this is the first 70.3 I didn’t walk at all (except aid stations). However, I am still completely unable to run off the bike. It happens in all distances. For a 70.3 I run about 25 minutes slower than an open half marathon, and it’s even worse for Ironman. I think I’ve broken 2 hours on a 70.3 run only once, out of 10 half ironmans.
My stomach had been off the last bit of the bike, I think it was from a banana that didn’t sit quite right, so the first lap of the run was pretty uncomfortable. I wasn’t able to take a gel until well into the second lap. As I came around to the transition area after the first lap, I stopped momentarily where Rob was standing, looking just for a hug, and instead all I got was a big “why are you stopping?! You have to keep running! GO!” No hug.
The remarkable thing about this run course is I have never seen so many people running, and running FAST, in a 70.3. I know it’s Victoria, home of the Canadian national training centre, so fast people are expected, but I also race a lot in California where fast people abound and there was always walkers. Here in Victoria, seriously, NO ONE was walking. At least it kept me running because I didn’t want to be the only one walking!
So I kept running, something I never do. I actually felt better on the second lap, and although my splits show I slowed down, I really thought I was running a negative split and by the time I finished, Rob thought I had run the second lap faster as well. I guess what happened is I just didn’t slow down as much as I normally do. But that’s progress! I ran just over 2 hours, again, 2:05 but importantly, I felt better the last half of the run. So maybe the trail running actually is helping me!
Overall I finished in the time I expected, 5:42. Considering it took me 6 half ironmans I think, to break 6 hours, and now I can pretty easily hit 5:40ish, that’s pretty awesome. Maybe in 10 more I’ll be around 5:20 🙂
The race was wonderful, Victoria is one of the most beautiful places in the world, so I would highly recommend this race! I will definitely be back.