70.3 Miles of Canadian Torture: The Calgary Half Ironman Race Report
After a traditional night of tossing and turning, I woke around 3:00. I finished off the last of the “Asian Tsunami” and donned my ultra bad ass EN kit. After getting dressed, my thoughts turned to breakfast. It was at this point that I realized a flaw in my EN Ninja strategy: there was no food available at that time in the morning! To add injury to insult for my nutrition, when I went to mix my Infinit solution, I found that I only had ¾ a cup left in the bag!
After getting body marked, I searched high and low for some foods. Finally, with some luck, I found a vending machine with some Sunchips. Even luckier that I had enough Canadian dollars to buy a pack. Also came by a random fruit bowl with an Orange in it.
Disaster relatively averted, I boarded a yellow school bus that was to be my transportation to T1. Unlike some other races I’ve been to, this race takes the cake for inconvenience. Our bus ride was about 40 minutes long to T1. On the way out, we encountered a driver going to the wrong way on the highway. Colliding head on with a SUV, even if I was in a school bus, would surely have dampened my day. Luckily, we made it pass unscathed and arrived T1 at around 5:25 am.
The scene a T1 was far from ideal. It had been steadily raining the night before and everything was soaked. Not just, ooh it’s a little damp out; were talking full on Niagara falls soaked. To make matters worse, the gravel/dirt parking lot was basically a mud bath.
One thing I have never understood is why everyone takes so long to check out their things in T1. I found my bike, spun the wheels to make sure the brakes weren’t rubbing, made sure there was air in my tires, filled my water bottle, and headed back out in less than 4 minutes. I swear some people were in there doing their taxes.
Other than the rain, there was one other thing no one had expected. Mosquitoes. EVERYWHERE. Before I go into this, I need to offer you some history. I am a venerable magnet for mosquitoes. Seriously. I have been stung literally 5 times in the matter of 10 yards. They LOVE me. I have never seen a greater concentration of mosquitoes anywhere in my life than this morning. They were so bad, I got into my wetsuit about 30 minutes early and wrapped my neck in a T-shirt so they wouldn’t bite. For refuge, I waited on one of the buses, which still had like five mosquitoes buzzing around each window. It was intolerable.
I waited to the last moment to leave the bus and head down to the water. Watched the pros go off, including my Montana colleague Linsey Corbin, at around 6:10. Then it was our turn.
1.2 mile Swim – 37:21 38/74 AG, 283 OA
Warmed up for a few minutes in the water. It was pretty cool, but not too much. Clarity was awesome, even though it was pretty dark out still at 6:20. Seated myself just behind the start line. 6:20, off we go. Immediately found myself on top of the front line and I did my best to avoid getting clobbered. No one swam over me, and I quickly found some legs to follow. Mentally, I concentrated on counting my strokes, and working on efficiency rather than on effort. Had some small waves on the way out of the start, and then we turned left for the main part of the swim. For some reason, despite having plenty of space, I kept bumping into people. I took a hard something to the head at one point, but nothing too serious. At one point, one guy kept swimming against my back; I had to give him a quick something in the side to let him know I was there.
My goal for the swim was sub 40:00, so my time of 37:21 is good in my books.
Up the ramp I go and into the strippers. I was wearing my Timex watch for the swim. Unfortunately, as the strippers attempted to get me out, my suit got stuck on the watch, and it took a good 45 seconds to get things untangled. After stripping, made my way to a grassy patch to get dressed. No socks. Donned some arm warmers and my Garmin 310xt. As I was shoving my swim gear in my bag, it ripped. Lucky me. A volunteer said not to worry about it and that they would seal it up later. Made a short little jog around the transition fence, grabbed my ride, and then another short little jog to the road. Then it was adios mosquitoes.
58 mile Bike: 2:57:44 – 40 AG, 263 OA
First up, it was raining. Miserable, overcast, soggy rain. Starting out, felt pretty good. Not too much water in the belly, and relatively comfortable temp wise. As you saw from my scouting report, there were some pretty good hills in the beginning. I managed well through the flats, catching quite a few people. The hills were a little slower going, but I managed to keep pace with most. Unfortunately, the course had a couple of 90 degree turns, and with the rain, I lost a lot of speed navigating through them. I came into the first AID station hoping to get a GU or banana. No luck. I guess I would have to carry on with nothing but Sunchips, an Orange, and half dilute Infinit in the belly. When I reached the half way point, I was looking at 1:28:23, slightly slower than what I had wanted. About this time, I made into Cochrane and began tackling the big uphill for the course. It wasn’t too bad of a grade, but it just kept going and going; torture mentally. After the hill, there was an AID station where I grabbed more water and finally, a half a Power Bar.
For some reason, the flat rate was apparently very high today. I counted about ten people with flats, ranging from the usual “working on the bike” type incidents to the “chucking the wheel and CO2 cartridge into a field” scenario.
My goal for the bike was sub 3:00. Ideally, the best I could have hoped for was 2:30:00 ish. I made it just under the mark at 2:57:44, with no dropped chained incidents.
Power wise, I was shooting for around 160 W, and an IF in the 70’s. Here’s the data from the Garmin:
Much easier for this one. I was in and out of my gear quickly, especially since the mosquitoes were swarming around me. The rain had stopped at this point.
13.2 mile Run – 2:05:12, 44 AG, 305 OA
The first thing I noticed in the run was that my back was KILLING me. One small lean to the left or right sent it into spasms. Another thing was my energy levels: I felt completely drained. I chalked this up to my single half a power bar meal the entire morning, and made my way to the first aid station. There, I was able to refuel with some Gatorade and GU. After a short 2.5 miles in a park with some slight inclines, we made our down into the valley. This started out with a huge steep downhill. Of course, everything that goes down must eventually come up, and I was greeted with a significantly steep hill around the middle of mile 3. This was too much to bear, and I ended up walking for a few seconds before retaking my stride. This pattern of flat with super steep short sections pretty much continued to mile 10.
Ironically, this run was way harder than the run at CDA in 2009. At that time, I literally felt great. Today…it was like diving into a swimming pool filled with razors blades and rubbing alcohol. I was hurting from the get go.
At around 6.5 miles, we looped around, and every steep hill had to be repeated. To add injury to insult, the course was about as interesting as a Readers Digest from 1913….in Braille. That, or I was just too delierious from dehydration and mosquito stings to appreciate it.
I was aiming for less than 2:00. My PR is 1:57. Unfortunately, I knew this is one goal I wouldn’t meet early on, and I came across in 2:05. From what I saw on the run, I lost about 4 places here.
Here’s the Garmin Data:
All I can say right now is that my body feels like it’s been beat on by the LAPD. Today was hard, harder than I imagined. I can barely move my back and my left toe nails are throbbing something fierce. I’m very glad it’s done, and even gladder to be heading into the OS now. Despite not meeting my goal of sub 2:00 on the run, I met my overall goal of going sub 6:00. Not too shabby for a guy in his second season if I say so. A little under a year to go until Couer D’Alene; it should be a good time. Will I be back in Calgary? Probably not, but if I do, I’m bringing Deet or Napalm for the mosquitoes.
By the way, I ran into fellow EN teammate on the run and he was looking good. I also got to meet ENer Wayne, my brother from another mother. Nice to see some representation.
Things I Learned:
Do not depend on nutrition at AID stations.
It’s a good thing to eat.
HIM are hard!
Things I Need To Work On:
Right now, being a good dad and a physician.