Race Recap: Saunders Subaru Victoria Half Ironman

Though I haven’t been so diligent about updating the Internet about how training has been going, overall the answer is very well. I continue to see small but consistent gains, especially in swimming and biking, and if I compare the athlete I am now to the athlete I was last June there really isn’t much of a comparison. My training has been strong and is going quite well. However, that doesn’t necessarily always translate to a crazy PR or the race results that you want to see.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in Victoria. The course is a bit short (comparison below) but not enough to affect how hard you’re going to work or how you want to pace yourself for the day.

Half Iron Distance Chart

The Victoria Half Ironman course is also known for being very fair (meaning tough) with a bike that has lots of climbing. As proof, during the race my Garmin got 3,320 ft of climb, and others as much as 4,200! In my pre-race meeting with my coach we talked about goals for my effort and heart rate, but only once did she acknowledge pace when she asked what my previous PR was. When I told her 5:24 and change she smiled and said, “Well you’ll have a new one soon.”

Pauole Sport at Victoria Half Ironman

This was my first race with my new team and coach, and the pre-race experience was really great. Especially because not only was I surrounded by Pauole Sport athletes, but some of my favorite friends from my old triathlon training group were there racing too! Knowing so many people made what’s usually a nerve-wracking experience go more smoothly, but it also made the 75 minutes I had to get transition set and warmed up FLY!

Fast forward to the end:

Overall Time: 5:06:58 // 2nd AG // 10th OA (including female pros)

And then rewind back the beginning:

Swim 34:35 // 1:38/100 yards average pace

Victoria Half Ironman Swim

The lake was the perfect temperature, the water was clear, and I had plenty of space around me, so when I felt the sensation of panic about 400 meters from the shore I was extremely disappointed. My swimming has come so far in the last 9 months and this was NOT how I wanted my day to go. There was a traffic jam in front of me that I couldn’t get around, and though thinking about it doesn’t make me nervous now (who cares, people, meh!) in the moment it did. I sat up and floated for over 60 seconds and watched my friends swim farther and farther away. Pretty soon white caps (the color beginners wear) started passing me by and so I put my head down and swam, HARD.

The rest of the swim felt very long, but once I got moving I felt strong and steady. There was some weird clumping happening; it honestly appeared that experienced swimmers were flanking their friends to prevent any contact from a more aggressive athlete. It felt a little bit unfair, especially since they were blocking valuable swimming space but I kept moving because it wasn’t my battle to fight!

Once I actually started swimming I didn’t get passed once, so that felt good and helped me feel more in control of my day. As I exited the water I tried to hurry up the ramp even more than usual. With a wasted minute or two up front there isn’t room for dilly dallying! I heard Garth cheering and yelling my name and tried to make eye contact and give him a smile as I ran, but I’m pretty sure I looked more like a dead drowned rat than anything else. Even with my lame stop this was a 3:15 swim PR for me, which is HUGE.

T1 2:01

Bike 2:49:16 // 19mph avg speed

Once on the bike I immediately started trying to pick people off. Breathing hard I rode away from transition and out to the main road where we’d ride 2 laps. I knew my heart rate was much higher than what it should be, but I also knew that it would steady out once my body accepted the bike. I passed all of the athletes I knew in the first 12 miles, and then it was time to get comfortable being uncomfortable and hold my effort.

DSCN7532

The bike course was extremely beautiful with views of the countryside and Cordova Bay. It was also tough, with very few flat sections and hills so rolling you never for a second stopped working. The hills were mostly long and gradual so no granny gear was needed, and the downhills I pushed in my big ring up front  and smallest cassette ring.

Nearing the end of the first loop I wondered if I could maintain my effort to do that again. And I also wondered where all of the other people were! Once I got through the initial congestion and got a few drafters off my back there really weren’t many other bikes I could see in front of or behind me. The occasional disc wheel and aero helmet passed me, but truly just a handful. Other than that it was me, the road, and my own heavy breathing.

I did maintain my effort for the second loop up until there were only a couple of miles remaining. In retrospect I probably didn’t need to back off, but all of a sudden I realized I’d become so absorbed in racing my bike I forgot I still had a half marathon to run! It was time to start preparing for it.

T2 1:01

DSCN7562

Yes. Spiderwoman was in T2!

Run 1:40:05 // 8:02 min/mi avg

Victoria Half Ironman Run Start

The run was 2 loops around the lake and though there was a feeling of relief to only require my own 2 feet for the last portion of the day I was also nervous. I was recently diagnosed with a stress reaction and hadn’t done much running in the last few weeks. I knew my fitness was fine, but running felt foreign to my body and it was pretty clear immediately that at least this portion of the run was not as “flat and easy” as I had pictured in my mind.

I chugged away and tried to keep my feet fast and light and my breathing under control. I passed back by some of the men who had overtaken me in the late portion of the bike and none were as competitive with me as they had been while riding on 2 wheels. Rather than grinding by and grimacing, most of them congratulated me and wished me well, and I did the same.

Around mile 2 or 3 my friend Julie passed me by. Though I was surprised to see her so soon in to the run I wasn’t surprised that she was winning the race between the two of us. She’s a stellar runner and a strong athlete! We cheered each other on and I watched her disappear into the woods in front of me wishing that I could keep up. However once she was out of eyesight my heart rate dropped, running got easier, and I felt myself lock in for the long haul.

Victoria Half Ironman Run

As I went back into the woods for loop 2 I noticed that my heart rate was in the appropriate range, but in the lower end. I was trying so hard to run on feel and I’d done a good job but probably had it in me to push harder for this final loop. I very much appreciated the course markers in km’s and immediately started my countdown.

When I got to 2km remaining I pushed with everything I had left. It wasn’t so much that my legs were tired, but my heart rate was high and my everything was tired! In the last 2km I passed at least 4 or 5 people and sprinted (red: ran faster, because it probably really wasn’t anything like a sprint) up to the finish right on the heels of 2 guys.

Victoria Half Ironman Finish Line

As I crossed the finish line I was relieved and happy. In my wildest dreams I had hoped for an overall time lower than the one I earned, but I can honestly say that I have never ever worked so hard. I worked smart, but I worked hard, and my heart rate data shows it. I wish I was a better runner and hadn’t let Julie pass, but I’m so proud of the 18 minutes I knocked off my old PR to achieve a new one. And other than the time I lost in the swim I have no other regrets from the day.

Victoria definitely made me less nervous and more excited for Whistler come August. It turns out I do remember how to do this triathlon thing…

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Filed under Ironman, Race Recap, Racing

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