Last weekend was my final triathlon of the year, IM 70.3 Muskoka.  I had really high hopes for this race.  I struggled through it last year in my first attempt at the half-iron distance, so I was familiar with the relentless hills on this very difficult course.  I’ve come a long way since I did 6:50:15 here last year.  I knew that I should have no troubles setting a new course PB my a large margin, but that wasn’t the goal of the day.  I went to Muskoka to try to claim a place at the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant.

(If you want to skip ahead to race day scroll down to Race Morning)

Race Week
Going into the race I knew the field would be much tougher than in previous years because extra World Championship slots had been allocated to the race.  I guessed that I would need a sub5-hour race to get a spot in my age group.  I had done 4:57 on an easier IMMT70.3 course in June, but my fitness had progressed since then so I thought I had a shot.

Leading up to the race my biggest concern was that I would be fully recovered from my Ironman race in Tremblant.  There were 3 weeks between races, and from what I read online the recovery period for an Ironman is generally 4-6 weeks.  I figured my age would help me here, and I knew that I recovered from most races pretty well.  Additionally, I called on the expertise of a friend who created an all-natural sports recovery supplement, MojoMax, for some thoughts on what I could do between the two races to have the best chance to recover fully.  I went out for a ride the weekend before the race and I felt good.  I did some hills, as well as a short TT stretch, and even though I could feel I didn’t have everything in my legs by that point (2 weeks post IM) I knew that by the following weekend in Muskoka I would be ready to go.  But then on the Tuesday before the race the wheels started to fall off.  I came down with a cold, I had problems with my sinuses, and a really bad headache.  I also lost my appetite.  I knew this wasn’t good.  I generally try to avoid all pharmaceuticals, but with 5 days to go until the race I knew I had to do something.  I began taking Benylin and Advil, which seemed to help with the sinuses, but it would make me light headed.  I continued to do this, and decided I wouldn’t get concerned until Friday; if I woke up Friday with no appetite and a pounding headache then I would sound the alarm.  Friday rolled around and I woke up feeling much better.  My energy levels were higher, and I was coughing much less.  I was excited and got refocused on Sunday.

Saturday I woke up and I had some congestion but I was feeling pretty good.  The day before a race I generally try to get in lots of fluids, some carbs, and very little meat. I spent the morning shining and re-shining my bike, she has to look good for race day!  In the afternoon I had to pick up my race kit and check in my bike.  As I was checking in my bike I got to meet Andreas Raelert, one of my favourite triathletes.  I was really stoked for race day and continuing to feel better.

Race Morning
I woke up race morning just after 5:00AM.  I still had some congestion to deal with but was excited it was race day.  I love to race, and I’m always really pumped up race morning.  I had a bagel with almond butter for breakfast (I have toast with almond butter almost every day, this was basically the same).  I washed it down with a big glass of water and a tablespoon of chia seeds (also regular staples for breakfast).  We were out the door and on our way to transition around 6:00AM.

When we arrived at Deerhurst it was still really cold out.  I gave my bike a once over checking the brakes and gears, set up what I needed, pumped my tires, and then headed to the swim start.

I was familiar with the swim course and recalled that citing wasn’t very difficult with the shore so close.  I was hoping for a sub-33min swim and lined up near the inside 4 people deep.  The horn sounded and we were off.  About 25m into the swim someones arm came down and knocked my goggles askew.  Luckily I had the strap of my goggles under my swim cap so there was no risk of me losing them.  I flipped over onto my side and continued to kick hard as I got them back in place on the fly.  From that point there was some contact, but nothing too serious.  There were so many people moving around on the way to the first buoy there was no point in trying to draft one person.  Like most races the first turn was pretty congested.  I did my best to work my way around as quickly as possible, there was a lot of pushing of feet as other people tried to do the same.  The pack began to thin out into 2 or 3 lines as we crossed the lake towards the second turn.  I got onto someones feet that I followed to the second turn and around onto the ‘back-straight’ of the swim.  I felt like the person I was drafting was a little slower than I would have liked, but whenever I would pull out to pass him I got a feeling in the centre of my chest as my breathing picked up and I began to work harder.  I decided to continue to follow these feet until about halfway along the back-stretch when we came upon a big group of swimmers from an earlier wave and we got separated passing them.  I also lost the guy who had been hitting my feet for the last 600m or so.  For the rest of the swim I was solo.  I made it to the final turn and was headed for home.  I always take the last stretch of the swim to think about transition and the race ahead of me.  I was happy with my sighting on the last leg of the swim, I felt like I was pretty straight all the way in.  I don’t wear a watch when I swim, and I didn’t see the clock, but I figured I was still in the hunt for a WC slot.

(Looking back on my swim after the race my time was 1:30-2:00 slower than I would have liked, but on an otherwise good day it would have been good enough.)

Swim: 33:59
Age Group: 9
Overall: 295

Coming out of the water I was coughing quite a bit and I could feel that my heart rate was really high.  I tried to concentrate on slowing down my breathing and focusing on what I needed to do to get through transition smoothly.  They had wetsuit strippers to help everyone out of their wetsuits, followed by a fairly steep run up to transition about 400m away.  I had my bike in a good spot on the rack and was able to find it no problem.  I had some trouble stuffing my waffles into my jersey pockets, it was still cool and my fingers were moving slowly.  I managed to stay calm and get them in there and I was off running out of transition.

T1: 3:58

I mounted my bike and was off.  I love getting on my bike because I am very comfortable riding, and usually able to claw back time and positions from the stronger swimmers.  I knew I had some climbing ahead of me, especially in the first 10km, and I was a little concerned that my breathing was still really shallow.  When I tried to take in deep breaths I would feel a pain in the center of my chest, and my throat would make a raspy sound.  I realized just how difficult this was going to be about 3km into my ride.  I was riding uphill, and I usually try to take advantage of steep uphills when I’m not in aero to eat.  I was working as I was going uphill and as I began to eat I realized my nose was clogged and I could only breath through my mouth.  All my calories on the bike are solid so eating and breathing because a challenge that would last the entire bike leg.  By the 15km mark I was feeling pretty down on myself.  I hadn’t faced adversity like this in any of my races in 2013, and this was a race I really wanted.  I spent the next few km’s thinking about everything that had happened over the last 12 months, and how far I’d come from where I was when I did this race last year.  I got a second wind (though my heart rate was still very high) and tried to focus all the positive energy from my races in 2013 into my current situation.  I was feeling better and was able to pull my mind away from my breathing and focus on my legs and the road ahead of me.  I made it through the first aid station at about 35km and noticed I hadn’t taken in much in the way of fluids.  I was reluctant to drink for the same reason I wasn’t eating as much as I should, it made breathing more difficult.  I knew I was going to have to change this if I wanted to survive on the run.  By this point a headwind picked up and I noticed my speed start to drop.  Negative thought began to creep into my head again, but I did my best to stay focus and keep moving forward.  By the time I had reached the second aid station at 62km I was sure I had lost considerable time to the people in front of me, but I had done a better job at keeping up with nutrition.  I got a big boost as I went past the aid station because I saw my parents at the side of the road cheering (though I found out after the race they didn’t see me!) at the turn onto Brunel Road.  After I made the turn yelled a little “Come On!” out loud and picked up the pace.  I think the last section in the most difficult.  By that time you’re more than ready for the relentless hills to stop, but they don’t.  There are also some short steep climbs that make you feel like you’ve stopped moving.  I kept positive, and stopped thinking about where I stood relative to the rest of my age group.  I focused on spinning up the climbs with good technique, and enjoying the scenery.  This final 32km seemed to go on for ages, and I was very happy when Deerhurst was back in sight.  There’s lots of people that line the final climb back to transition, and with everything going on I forgot there was a bit of a flat after the climb, before transition.  I took my feet out of my shoes a little early, but no big deal, I was off the bike.  I missed my goal by about 9mins, but nothing I could do about that now.

Bike: 2:52:02
Age Group: 8
Overall: 168

I racked my bike, put on my socks, shoes, race belt, and I was off.  I don’t carry any nutrition with me on the run, though I still had a waffle in my jersey from the bike.  Usually I’d count bikes as I went through T2 to figure out approximately where I was in the AG but I didn’t bother.

T2: 1:07

The run started off well.  Pre-race I wanted to break 1:40 with a goal time of 1:38.  I was no longer sure how realistic this time was but I would just run and see how I felt.  My first 2 kilometers were both around 4:30/km, but from there the suck really started to pile on.  The pain in my chest was the worst it had been all day at this point.  I could only take half breaths and on the steep downhills I struggled to take any breath at all.  By the 2.5km mark the idea of walking had already popped into my head.  I walked the 3rd aid station, and had to stop at the 4th aid station for a minute to catch my breath.  I gained a better understanding of what people with asthma go through when they experience shortness of breath; I wasn’t thinking about my time or where other people in my age group were, I didn’t think about what nutrition I needed, I was solely focused on breathing.  After a minute I was able to resume a jog, but there were 3 more hills on the way out to the turnaround that I had to walk on the way up and the way down (going down was more difficult for me than up).  I reached the halfway turnaround in 53:54 and set my sights on a new run goal of 1:50.  It seemed like I had just made the turnaround and I saw Lisa.  It was good to see a familiar face, and knowing she wasn’t far behind me helped keep me pushing to the finish line.  A little further down the road I saw Jenn who was doing her first 70.3 and crushing it!  Not long after I saw Martin, also doing his first 70.3 and looking strong.  I must have overexerted myself during this stretch because not long after I saw Martin I found I had to walk one of the hills.  I was happy that the pain was gone from my chest when I would breath, but I still felt like I was sipping air.  I then crossed paths with Mindy and Mark, both looking good, and a little further up the road passed Nicole, who had the biggest smile on her face.  Seeing so many familiar faces after the turnaround was a great moral booster.  I usually know very few people in a race, or nobody at all.  After Nicole there was only about 3km to go.  I could get through 3km, no problem.  I even began to pick up the pace.  I skipped the final aid station because I had a good pace going and I saw a group of 4 guys in front of me.  With about 1.5km I was within 20ft of them and thought I could make out a 22 on one of the guys calves.  I wanted to beat this guy, but I didn’t want to risk a sprint.  There is a downhill then uphill leading into Deerhurst.  We were about 200m from the start of the descent and I decided I was going to run as hard as I could and not stop until I got to the bottom of the hill.  My hope was that he either wouldn’t be able to see my age, or ‘break the elastic’ if he did.  I was tempted but I didn’t look back until I was most of the way up the final climb to Deerhurst and there was nobody within 50m behind me.  All sorts of spectators lined the final stretch into the finish chute and I was really happy to have this little victory of passing this one competitor in my age group.  The finish chute wraps around transition and I was able to see my parents as I ran by.  When I looked up at the clock I wasn’t thrilled with the time I saw but I was happy to get through the day.

Run: 1:47:57
Age Group: 7
Overall: 204

Finish time: 5:19:02

Post Race
I was disappointed in the final results. I missed my goal time by about 20mins and a spot at the 70.3 Worlds by about 11:30.  I didn’t have the race I wanted, but I really was due for a bad one.  Every race to that point in 2013 exceeded expectations.  I kept crushing my goals and truly surprising myself.  I look at what I can learn from this experience, and figure out how I can become better.