My First Triathlon
I had been thinking of taking up Triathlon for quite a while now, as I love running and biking and thought it would be great to try something different. The swimming always put me off as I couldn’t swim freestyle. However, after watching Ironman Canada in Whistler in 2013 I began to think I think I shouldn’t let one part of a great event keep me from trying it and it’s always great to have a new challenge. I went to the pool and initially could only swim 25 meters of freestyle before being out of breath and having to rest. I signed up for my first swimming course with a great company called Sea Hikers in November 2013 and continued to improve from there. I then did an open water confidence course last Summer as swimming in ocean or a lake is a completely different experience. I totally recommend anyone considering any length of triathlon to certainly get in some coaching/practice in open water before racing.
So, I volunteered at Ironman Canada in 2014 and signed up the day after the race for 2015. I had been training pretty much solo but after much deliberating I finally joined an excellent Tri-club called Leading Edge in March. Certainly the best decision I had made so far for my training. An extremely experienced head coach in Andrew Tuovinen and a supportive group of people. Training 3 times a week with a coached swim, bike and run sessions certainly helped improve in all areas of the 3 sports. I also had 3 private (much needed) swimming lessons with Andrew, which was extremely helpful and certainly helped me focus on my technique and many areas which need improvement.
My first Triathlon was to be a Half Iron Distance. I decided to do Victoria 70.3 as it was 6 weeks before Ironman Canada Whistler, fairly local and a few people had told me it was a great course. The “70.3” refers to the total distance in miles (113.0 km) covered in the race, consisting of a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) swim, a 56-mile (90 km) bike ride, and a 13.1-mile (21.1 km) run. Each distance of the swim, bike, and run segments is half the distance of that segment in an Ironman triathlon.
I often get a little nervous the day before a race but for this event I was nervous a few days before. I put that down to the fear of the unknown but reminded myself I had been training hard and for a much longer event so as long as I was smart about my race plan I would be fine. However, once I got to Vancouver Island, checked in my bike and saw the course I started to get more excited and less nervous
So my race plan was to try to relax and take it relatively easy on the swim (to be honest I only have one swimming speed anyways!), have a good solid bike and then a great run. I figured around a 45min swim, 3 hr bike and 1hr40 run or somewhere thereabouts.
Race start was at 6am but the swim was starting in age group waves so my start was at 6.27am. Early start – up at 4am. I read several articles that say to have breakfast 3 hours before but for me I know 2 hours is adequate and 3 is actually too long. We are all different so you have to know and trust what works for you. Oatmeal (my staple pre-race food), half a bagel and coffee and I was good to go.
New to triathlon, so really not used to having all of this stuff! Also more things to consider – will I be too cold on the bike, too hot on the run – full gloves or fingerless, arm-warmers, which bike shirt…. Decisions, decisions. I am a total wimp who gets cold very easily and always think better to be a little warm than too cold and to have things you can take off (the experienced cyclist have this down to a fine art). I have already learned “who knew you could get so much stuff in the back pockets on your cycling jersey”
Super exciting to get to the race start with a great buzz in the air and all of the athletes getting ready to race. Being a complete novice I just checked out what other people were doing with their stuff laid out by their bike and followed suit. Funnily enough not nervous this morning. Running and biking gear laid out ready, time to get into wetsuit, leave the transition area and head to the swim start.
Happy that it wasn’t a mass start for my first time, remembered to do a little warm up (ideally 10 mins) and then it was my turn. Not been in the open water since last Summer but here goes. There were 95 athletes in my division – 45-49 so not too many people at once. I being completely honest – the first 5-10 mins were awful (was probably only 5 but seemed longer) and thought I can’t do this, I’ll have to pull out. I couldn’t catch my breath, was swallowing water, no doubt splashing around instead of being controlled and relaxed. So, I had one of those conversations with myself that you just sometimes need to have. Janette, if you pull out now Ironman is over, never mind this race. You need to calm down, relax, catch you breath, focus on keeping your mouth shut under the water and breathing out through your nose and control your stroke. Remember what your coach told you – think about your technique and do what you know you can. It probably took me a couple of minutes but soon I was swimming and breathing normally. My sighting wasn’t perfect and I went off line a couple of times but only for a very short distance as I made an effort to keep checking I was heading too and on the right side of the buoys I had to pass. I eventually started heading back towards the shore and I can say I was super happy to have made it through the swim and in a reasonable time of 45.23 – whew! Now time for me to enjoy the rest of the race!
Took my time in transition to get set up for my bike. I learned that it’s not easy to put bike gloves onto slightly damp hands but was glad I used the time and made the effort as I am sure this made me more comfortable for the first couple of hours on the bike. My transition times were pretty long compared to most of my triathlete buddies but I can work on that and just felt for this race it was more important to be ready than rush to save a minute or two.
Take it easy on the first part of the bike was the plan so I did – letting myself get settled into a nice steady cadence. It was a beautiful bike course – 2 loops with a couple of hilly sections which suited me as I like the hills. I did pass a fair amount of people on the bike course and tried to maintain a steady pace. As this was all new and I know that by far my strongest sport is running I was mindful of not going too hard on the bike so that I would be able to run well. Lots of supporters out on the course which was wonderful to see.
Just a small note on my nutrition as this is a super important part of the race too. I had one gel 10 mins before the swim start and then 2 gels on the bike – one after 20 mins and the next one an hour later, followed by a cliff bar at about 2.30hrs, along with some Gu Brew electrolyte and a bottle of water. Bike split was 3.03.26 (2nd loop only 1 minute slower than the first – ideally would have been the other way around but all good) and now onto the run.
Quick transition, change of top and 4 gels stuffed into my favourite running Stuff Your Bra, a quick pee stop and I was off. Needed to go for about an hour on the bike but good decision to wait until transition for sure.
I also took a small hand held bottle I had been training with – super easy to carry and ensures that you take in just a little more water than I know I would grabbing a quick cup at an aid station.
Beautiful run course on a 10k loop on the trail around the lake – nice and shaded for most part which was great as it was starting to get pretty warm now.
I felt great but made myself hold back and used my watch to make sure I wasn’t going faster than planned and I knew from brick training this is very easy to do. Still managed to go too fast for a couple of KM ’s but on average was pretty good. First lap felt great and it was fab to see some of the Leading Edge Supporters on the course as well as a couple of the other club athletes on their second lap. Classic half marathon hard section is 15-17k and yes, at around 16k it was starting to feel a little harder. The inclines that felt much pretty easy first time around were certainly a little more challenging this time and at 18k I was struggling a little. “Only 3 k – that’s just 15 minutes – you have” this was the conversation in my head, pick up your cadence and just keep running. You are doing great – lets finish this off well. So, I did and then I could see the finish line in the distance.
My run time was 1.40.52 – almost right on pace. The plan had been to be faster in the 2nd half which I didn’t quite manage but was only 1min 4 secs slower so pretty good.
I finished in 5hrs 36mins and 32seconds – super happy with my time and my pacing overall. In my age division 19th overall, 65th in the swim, 26th on the Bike and 5th on the run.
6 weeks to the Big One!
As always, thanks to Kintec and NSA for all of their support – I am so grateful and proud to be part of your race team.
Huge thanks to Andrew, my coach who has taught me lots already, even though I have a long way to go. My triathlon journey is just beginning. Also, to my new club and all of the members for the training, encouragement and support for the newbie.
And thanks to all of my amazing friends who I appreciate more and more – for training with me, listening to me, helping me out and just generally being awesome.
Janette, Kintec Race Team