Ironman Victoria 70.3

I entered Ironman 70.3 Victoria due it being the only local 70.3, however, the timing was far from ideal. It had only been 3 weeks since the Ironman World Championships in Utah and the real question would be had I recovered? Normally I would pass on a race so close but there are so few middle/long distance events around Vancouver I didn’t have much choice.

Generally, I felt OK apart from my calves which were definitely still tight. Despite my concerns I was going to go after this race as I wanted a World Championships slot. I was also taking a mid season break (ish) after the race.

Lauren and I went over on Friday evening and met up with our friends Derek and Anna. The highlight of the Airbnb were the pet goats. They took a particular interest in Lauren and her carrots…

Lauren and I have also come to an agreement going forward to get over her boredom of triathlon. For every day’s holiday spent on triathlon there needs to be one spent not on triathlon! Seems fair and will encourage us to do fun things.

At this race there wasn’t much time for that though as Saturday was registration. On top of that there was a big Pacific Spirit Triathlon Club turnout (over 20 members racing) and as Director of Events I needed to be there to assist. My other duty was being interviewed by Ironman as next years race is the Tri Club Championships. From this I learnt I am not a natural in front of the camera!!

Meeting up with my clients Kiah and Marvin who both raced their 1st Half Ironman

Saturday afternoon was spent in Victoria having lunch and walking around. I hadn’t been before, and it is a lovely place. Lauren did her undergrad here so on our route home took me on a tour of the coast and the super-duper nice houses.

As evening came my attention turned to the race. Back at the house I put my nutrition together an completed the final checks before an early start. The start gun was going off at 6am.

Race Day

Derek and I drove down to the shuttles early to be ahead of the game. Normally I am full of praise for Ironman logistics, but this was a gong show. The busses couldn’t get to the car park because of cars trying to get in to park. They then also couldn’t get into the venue as had to turn left across the traffic. This race has been going on for years and I can’t believe they haven’t managed to resolve this yet.

Regardless, we eventually arrived with a decent amount of time to prepare the bike, think ahead and even get a warmup swim in. I placed myself right at the front of the swim chute as I wanted to swim with the quickest swimmers possible. After the national anthem we were on our way…

Fancy a game of where’s Richie?

I set off hard as usual. I had been concerned the water would be cold as Canada decided to skip spring this year, but it was the perfect temperature. Not cold on the face but cool enough I didn’t overheat. Apart from one moment where I got a little lost the first half went smoothly. I found a good rhythm and if someone overtook me, I made the effort to sit on their feet as long as I could.

On the return there was a woman just ahead of me which was perfect. She was a stronger swimmer, so I was being pushed to stay with her and being dragged along nicely.

She dragged me the whole way to transition. It felt like a good swim and later found out it was 31:01, the first time I have broken 32 minutes. All the hard work swimming is slowly paying off, but I really need to be sub-30!!

The Bike

I collected my bike and exited transition. There was only one big decision for the day. Socks or no socks. I usually don’t wear socks but if it’s cold I do to prevent numb feet. I had gone no socks and within a minute I knew I had made a mistake; my feet were already going numb. Nothing I could do now but suck it up and get on with it.

I started overtaking people until about 10 minutes when a guy I passed came back past and said let’s work together on 5-10-minute efforts. This is allowed as long as you stay out of the 12m draft zone while following.

We ate up the km’s and moved up through the field. It was just us until 25km in when we started getting caught by some other riders. This is where things started to get complicated but good for me. The people catching were better riders than me but given the benefits of riding in a group they were unable to pull away.

At 30km I lost one of my bottles to a bump, which was half my nutrition. This would be a cause for concern later, but I just took what I could at aid stations and kept the power on.

The group grew and grew and by 60km there must have been 15 to 20 of us. I felt bad that I wasn’t taking my turn on the front, but I was above my power target just hanging on the back. I had to stay extremely focussed though as occasionally a gap would appear or a rider would fall of the back ahead of me. Losing the group would really hurt my average speed so when this happened, I gave it everything to close the gap and then recovered on the back until the next effort.

At 70km there was a long climb and here I lost contact, my left glute aching badly, and I just couldn’t hold on. I was left alone watching the group ride away. On the plus side I saw the leader coming down the hill, so I knew I was in the right section of the race. I persevered and kept plugging away.

As we entered the last 10 km I started to close back up to the group although the hill had broken it in too many little groups. I just maintained my level and slowly continued to close back up. As they slowed for transition I joined back up and came in to transition together.

Having seen the lead bikers, I knew I was around the top 20 with my strongest leg still to go. The big question was would my calf hold up to the stress of a hard half marathon on trail rather than tarmac?

The Run

As I started my 1st loop, I passed Lauren and Anna for my first cheer. I didn’t really know what to expect from the course or from my limited run training so just set off hard. I pulled away from the first guy and caught a couple of people quickly. For the rest of the first lap, I sat with two other guys but on the climbs in the second half of the lap I had to let them go.

Because I lost my bottle on the bike, I was so far behind on nutrition that I took 4 gels on the first lap, normally 2. This in itself wasn’t a problem, but it meant I had to take extra gels on the run. They were Maurten which are good but not what I’m used to, and I found them really hard to get down.

At the start of the second lap the guy I left behind at transition came past and I couldn’t stay with him. As I approached the final 6km I was really struggling and just hanging in there. I hit the final climb with about 3.5km left and out of nowhere I got a final wind. I dug deep and pushed on. By now there were lots of people on their first lap, so it was focus on the person ahead catch them and then a new target.

At 1.5km to go I was in touching distance of the guy who I had dropped but had come back past. I gave it everything to get on his shoulder as we came in to the last 400m.

Unfortunately, his shoulder was as far as I got. I had nothing left and he was able to pip me to the finish.

Crossing the line, I knew I had left nothing out there. My first thought was this probably had been my most complete race. There was no where on the course I could have found easy time. The things that could improve that race, more running in the build up and not losing a bottle, were out of my control.

Post Race

I finished in 4:27 – Swim 31:08, Bike 2:27, Run 1:25. This was good enough for 15th overall but frustratingly 7th in my age group. I would have been top 5 in any other age group and top 3 in all but one. Another thing that is out of my control. One day I will get my podium finish!

As a sign of progress though as I qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships directly for the first time rather than via roll down. This is a nice feeling.

Another solid race in the bag and I would be returning to St George, Utah, in October for a third and final time. Hopefully this time I will have smooth race, but until then I have to look after my body and try to keep fit and healthy as it seems this year that is proving the hardest part of training!

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