Tag Archives: Half Ironman

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.


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


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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Race Recap: Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3

Since Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3 wasn’t really a race for me, I instead decided to use it to learn a few new things and test out some others.

Overall the day was okay. 5:46:50

The Swim: 37:50

The water was warm and relatively calm. I was happy to start in the first wave following the pro’s, until it became clear that with the frequency waves were starting with it would be extremely difficult to maintain personal space to minimize the chance of getting smacked in the head (exactly what I didn’t want to happen). I swam on the inside of the buoys on the way out and moved to the outside right before the last buoy. The problem was that I didn’t realize that was the last one and I overshot the turn by probably 50 meters. Drat!

The Bike: 3:16:21

We got poured on during the bike. I told myself if it was raining during the bike I would stop for safety reasons, but once I got out there I couldn’t quit. For better or worse I don’t have that in me. As demoralizing it was to watch people fly by me it would have been a bigger blow to myself to stop. So I bargained with myself and kept my focus on the next aid station, and then the next. And I stayed as far away from other cyclists as I could, because though I trust myself to be safe I couldn’t risk another crash. The course would have been hard without the weather conditions combined with my conditions but on a different day I really think I would have liked it.

The Run: 1:48:53

And the sun came out for my favorite part of the day – the run. The run course was awesome – basically a figure 8 with one of the loops being an out and back. The smaller true loop was tougher with not much to look at and a few pretty steep, but thankfully short, inclines. The out and back leg was heavily lined with the crowd for much of it, and even once the road narrowed you still had “oncoming traffic” to look at. I went out at a pace that was very maintainable. And I ran, and cheered, and focused on maintaining effort up and over the hills. And for the first time in history my splits were almost identically even with an 8:20 min/mi pace for the first half and an 8:17 min/mi pace for the second half.

Things that went well: 

1. Because I wasn’t “racing” I used the day to test random new things, including keeping hair out of my face, how to keep a new outfit chafe-free, using on-course nutrition rather than packing my own (minus on the bike and 1 emergency gu on me). These are things I’m never really willing to risk during a race but I learned new stuff that works for me. It’s nice to know that in future races I can rely on aid stations a bit more to simplify my transitions.

2. I used Infinit on the bike for the first time in a race, and forced myself to drink 2 bottles. I probably should have had even more but consuming even this amount was a nutrition breakthrough for me. It prevented the “empty” feeling quite well and I was happy to stay hydrated and not experience any stomach issues either. There was a point where I didn’t quite feel topped off in terms of energy so I broke the rules of Infinit and indulged in some chomps. I thought I was going to have stomach issues around mile 3 of the run but it settled and everything was great.

3. The swim and bike were pretty bleh, but I had a lot of fun on the run. Yes, we do this sport for fun, but by the run I’m usually more dying (and it’s fun when it’s over!) than rallying and enjoying every mile. I used keeping myself at 80% as an excuse to scream for every person I knew who passed by, to cheer on people passing me (or that I was passing), to high-5 everyone with their hand out, and to thank every volunteer within earshot. It was good times and helped redeem the day for me.

4. My transition times were decent. I kept it simple, stayed focused, and followed the plan/layout that I had visualized prior to the race. It worked. Now I just need to figure out how to repeat it. T1: 1:50, T2: 1:56 

Things to improve on next time: 

1. The swim was sucky. Not only because I was afraid of getting smacked, but it took me about 3/4mi to feel warmed up, comfortable, and panic-free, and by that time I was near done. I felt disoriented/seasick on the swim – which happened the Friday prior during an OWS too – and I wonder if it is concussion related or that pool swimming is making me soft. Regardless, by about 800 in I could only breathe on my strong side to keep from feeling affected by rotation. To me this means I need to focus on open water a lot more before I head to Penticton. It’s more important to get comfortable swimming in open water than chance that the minuscule strides I might make in the pool in the next month will be worth it.

2. I would love to know how this bike could have gone without the crash. It felt okay; far from awesome but not terrible. The bike I borrowed fits great and rides great, but it simply isn’t what I’m used to. The balance and weight were really different, and had never ridden a road bike in my life until a week before this race. I did much better on the climbing than I thought I would…but I know I could do better. Needless to say I didn’t make use of downhills – or even flats – other than to let people fly by me! With technical terrain combined with pouring rain this was not the day for me to test anything here. My mantra was to stay as far away from other people as possible.

3. Also on the bike, I need to work on shorter TT type efforts. The flats weren’t terrible but my cadence felt way out of whack. Either high (ie. mid 90’s) or low (mid 70’s). Historically I’m most comfortable in the low 80’s (I know, should be higher and I try!) but I just couldn’t find the effort and gear to match comfort or ideal range.

4. I need to continue to train the nutrition and hydration plan that I’ll use race day. I’m really exceptionally horribly bad at this when I train, but I need to force myself to take in calories and water at the same intervals that I want to on race day. I need to practice everything from bike handling while eating to hydrating with a high HR. I have a really hard time “compromising” my training pace or intensity to do this, and though I had an easy out today at only holding 80% I need to be better come Canada.

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Lake Stevens 70.3

Garth took this video yesterday at Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3.

Though it’s not captured too explicitly on video the Pacific Northwest graced us with another lovely weekend of rain and cold for an Ironman. Cold weather (luckily warm water) swim, steady rain out on the technical and hilly bike course, and then things cleared for the run. Between Boise and Lake Stevens I’m glad I chose not to sign up for CDA 2013. I have no interest in the likelihood of race day rain!

Neither can Tim O’Donnell apparently, who tweeted: “@TOinTRI Dear Pacific Northwest, why don’t you like me?! PN 3, TO 0.” Unlucky for him he’s raced all 3 of these weather winners.

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