Leading up to the race
I have been slowly making the transition from short- to long-course racing over the past couple of years. Two years ago, the Multisport Canada Barrelman Triathlon was my first long-course race (half-iron distance; 2km swim, 89km bike, 21km run). It didn’t go well; I ended up having knee pain on the run and walking most of it. My plans to do Barrelman last year disappeared when I had a bike crash one month before the race, prematurely ending my season. This year I was determined to have my second shot at a long-course race. The complete focus of my training for the first time was on long-course this year, and as such, Barrelman (now partnered with Rev3) was my ‘A’ race.
Barrelman takes place in Niagara Falls, which is where I spent the night before the race. Emma and I got a chance to wander around and check out the festivities of downtown Niagara Falls, and most importantly for me, scope out a Tim Hortons that was close to the hotel. This was important so I could get my pre-race coffee and milk for my cereal in the morning.
I got up early in the morning, got my Tim Hortons, and headed to the shuttle location. Barrelman is interesting in that transition 1 (T1; swim to bike) is in Welland, and transition 2 (T2; bike to run) is in Niagara Falls (the bike course goes from Welland to Niagara Falls). We set up our bikes in Welland on Saturday, headed to Niagara Falls to sleep and park our cars (because that is where the race finishes), and took a shuttle back to T1 Sunday morning. Seeing all the bikes in T1 drove home to me that this was the largest race I had ever done, with 1000 people registered. My main goal was to finish in the top 5, and my secondary goal was simply to have a strong race and enjoy the experience.
With the swim being my weakness and relatively the shortest leg of the race, my plan was simply to maintain good form and not burn too much energy. Knowing my swim ability but also realizing I didn't want to let the field put too much time on me out of the water, I was hoping my effort would get me a pace of 1:35-1:40/100m. I ended up swimming 1:40/100m. I came out of the water in 50-something place, which was fine because I was within my planned swim time and knew I had a lot of biking and running ahead to reel people in. As soon as I exited the water I got a pretty bad hamstring cramp in both of my legs. Luckily I was able to alleviate it with a bit of stretching, only losing about 30 seconds.
Because the bike course is flat and fast I knew it would be tempting to hammer, and that many people would likely do this. Also realizing it was supposed to be 33 degrees by the time we hit the run course, over-cooking yourself on the bike could lead to disaster on the run. My plan for the bike therefore was to not go too hard, especially at the start. I had to trust that if I laid down a solid steady effort I would still be able to work my up through the field. For the first half of the bike I settled into a pace that felt right and was able to pass a few people. The second half of the bike is where it got interesting because some of the faster cyclists started catching up and passing me. Barrelman is a non-drafting race, meaning you have to stay 12m back from the rider in front of you. However, you still get a moderate draft benefit riding 12m behind someone. This added some strategy to the race because I had to determine who I should try and stay with and who was moving too fast that I should just let get away, having faith I would be able to catch them on the run. In the end I think I paced the bike very well, moved up a few positions, and ended up averaging 39.4kph.
Near the end of the bike I started feeling sick to my stomach, so I eased off the pace a little bit for the last 3km, which seemed to alleviate that feeling. As I approached T2 I had a lot of worries about the run. Would I feel sick again, would I cramp up, would I have to use the bathroom like a thousand times (all things that have happened to me on the run in training and racing). I entered T2 not sure what place I was in, racked my bike, threw on my shoes (and socks!) and headed out for the run.
The run was a huge wild card for me. On the one hand, the run is my strength and I have been running really well in training and racing this year. But on the other hand, I had to walk the run portion last time I raced this distance, I have experienced all of the problems mentioned above, and the temperature was 33 degrees; I have a terrible track record racing in the heat. Because I paced the bike well I felt pretty good heading into the run. Knowing it was really hot I didn’t even look at my GPS watch, this run pace was going completely by effort. I figured I would take the first 10.5km lap steady, trying to stay cool with the water and ice at the aid stations (pouring ice down your tri suit is a life saver), and pick it up for the second lap to catch all of the people who took the first lap too hard and those who over-biked. That was the plan anyway. I was in 6th place entering the 2nd lap, but boy would this next lap be a humbling experience.
First, I lost about 2 minutes having to take a bathroom break. My average pace was 4:05/km for the first lap (20 seconds per km slower than my goal – that’s a lot), and for the 2nd lap I couldn’t seem to get the pace any faster than 4:16/km. I figured, ok well going slow now means I’ll probably be able to finish really strong in the last 3km or so. That 3km went by slower than anything I had ever experienced. I wanted so badly to walk the last 1.5km but knew I had to hold whatever pace I could in order to maintain my current position. I felt a huge sense of relief and accomplishment when I crossed the line (maintaining my 6th place). I was greeted by race director John Salt and then had a Facebook Live interview with Cody Beals. I was so physically and emotionally exhausted I don’t remember a word I said during the interview, mostly just gibberish and slurring I would imagine.
Despite being the hardest thing I've ever done, this was the most fun I've had at a race. It truly was an experience. I can't say enough good things about the Multisport Canada crew and how well this race was put together. From my perspective everything was flawless. I didn't get my top 5, but I have a ton of respect for the 5 guys who finished ahead of me, and for everyone who did the race.
That caps off a great season and the most fun summer of my life. I'd like to thank Multisport Canada and the Loaring Personal Coaching crew for being a large part of that. I would also like to thank Zizu Optics for the sunglasses, they came in extra handy today.