Race report: Barrelman 1/2 ironman 2015

“Fast-paced” paddling? I wish!

The 2015 Pan Am games are long gone, but the new athletic facilities built for TO2015 will benefit Canadians of all fitness levels for years to come! The 2nd annual Barrelman 1/2 ironman -put on by Multisport Canada Triathlon Series – began at the new Welland International Flatwater Centre (built for Pan Am canoe and kayak sprint events) and ended at Kingsbridge Park in Niagara Falls. According to the TO2015 website, the flatwater centre “boasts almost eight kilometres of deep, placid water, making it an ideal spot for hosting fast-paced paddling sports. In fact, the name Welland comes from a Celtic word meaning ‘good river’.” [Italics = my addition.] If only my swimming could be considered “fast-paced”! (I’m getting faster, but I’m not “fast”.)

Alasdair and I spent the week leading up to the race drinking copious amounts of beet juice (I’m still not a fan), and then carb loading and gathering our gear.

We arrived at T1 at the Flatwater Centre late on Saturday morning, going through the registration process to get our swim caps, bike stickers, race belts, t-shirts and timing chips. We racked our bikes, mine about as far from the bike exit as possible (which meant I had to run further in my bike shoes), since that’s where spot #454 was. We covered our bikes with seat covers and garbage bags because rain was forecast for later in the day.

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Bike racked by the handlebars because it’s more stable that way (but for the race, I racked it by the seat).

As we were heading to the van to change into swimsuits, I said something to Alasdair about bikes being racked according to bib #, which he hadn’t realized, so he went back into transition to find that he had placed his bike on exactly the right spot of exactly the right rack, exactly where bib #190 was supposed to go! Weird. We swam for about 15 minutes without our wetsuits (it wasn’t too cold), chatted with another athlete (Doug from Ohio) and then drove into Welland to grab lunch at Pita Pit, which we ate back at T1 (sheltered from the pouring rain, thankfully!).

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Short swim done.

At 2:30 PM we attended the first of 2 mandatory pre-race briefings (you could go at 5 PM instead), which covered everything we needed to know for the swim, bike and run segments of the race (including the fact that normally when you cross the centre line on the bike – or the “invisible” centre line where one isn’t painted on – you are automatically disqualified, but for this race, in 2 places of the ride we were actually to ride on the wrong side of the road to avoid road damage caused by trucks transporting wind turbines!). While it would have been cool to have the pre-race briefing outdoors with athletes sitting in the stands, the rain (or wet seats) forced it inside.

After the briefing we headed to T2 in Niagara Falls to see how the bike racks were set up and to find our spots. We checked into our hotel, and had to leave our car for valet parking since the regular lot was full. We had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe with Irina from Perpetually Moving Target, her husband and others from Fletcher’s Meadow Cross Trainers triathlon club in Brampton, including Emma from Running in Tune, who was doing her first 1/2 ironman!

We walked back to our hotel and got all our race gear ready.

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Everything ready to go!

Sunday (Race Day!)

Our alarms were set for 5:01 AM, 5:02 and 5:03 (really!), and by 6 AM we had eaten (oatmeal, yogurt, and a banana for me, pancakes, peanut butter and a banana for Alasdair) and were making our way to the lobby with a myriad of coloured bags with all our race gear and non-race stuff. All athletes were provided with bags since the Barrelman is a point to point race – we don’t return to the starting point when the race ends, but we need our run stuff to be at T2 when we get there on our bikes, and at the end of the race we need our wetsuits, goggles etc. to be waiting for us, as well as anything we were wearing in the morning before the race (e.g. sandals, long sleeved shirt – I wished I had had a winter hat and mittens like some people did!). This race forces you to be organized, or risk not having a critical piece of gear where you need it!

We had called the hotel desk and didn’t have to wait long for our van to be brought to us. Thankfully Alasdair found his timing chip in the van, which beat having to unpack all his bags searching for it (I had put mine – along with my food bracelet – on my sandals the night before so I couldn’t forget to put them on)!

We headed for the Fallsview parking lot, where we would leave our van and board a shuttle bus to the race start (T1) in Welland. We left our “bike to run” gear bags with a volunteer before getting on the bus, waited a few minutes for it to fill up, and once we were on our way, it was about a 25 minute drive, getting us there by 7 AM. I put my food for the bike ride in my bento box, gatorade, water bottles and bike pump back on the bike, and arranged the things I’d need for riding (bike shoes, socks, helmet, sunglasses) and set out the banana I planned to eat in transition.

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Everything ready

In between multiple bathroom trips I also covered myself in sunscreen and chatted with other athletes.

Standing in a port-a-potty lineup, another athlete pointed out a sign for canoe polo world championships in 2018, and said “Who knew? I guess they have to create the sport first!”

I went down to the water to check it out – it was beautiful!

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The calm before the storm.
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The fog added a bit of magic to the water.

Shortly before the 8:59 AM race start, the Mayor of Welland gave a short address.

The weather was great, with a forecasted high of 19 degrees Celsius, 10 km/h winds, and no rain! Compared to last year, with thunderstorms forecasted (but not realized) and wind gusts up to 56 km/h, this was an amazing forecast!

I was hoping to be able to finish the race in less than 6 hours and 30 minutes, besting last year’s time of 6:47:11 (my first 1/2 ironman).

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One last picture!

2k Swim

After a very short warm-up swim, I attempted to get out of the water to the side of the spot where fresh gravel had been dumped to make it easier for athletes (I tried to avoid the congestion at this spot) and struggled with balance, but had a very helpful athlete extend his hand to me to pull me out! I went to find Alasdair, and sat with him on the dock for a short time before deciding to get back into the 21 degree Celsius water, because now that I was wet, I was getting cold! We said our goodbyes and wished each other well. I was to start in wave #2 at 9 AM, and Alasdair in wave #4 at 9:10 AM.

With less than 10 minutes to go, I decided to swim over to the start line – I didn’t want to go too early and have to tread water for a long time before the race began. I elected to start on the far side of the white “pipes”, which were running along (not across) the canal. We were to swim in a clockwise rectangle, keeping the buoys to our right. I spotted a drone just past the starting line.

I had been told that there were yellow ropes under the water running the entire length of the swim, to which small sighting buoys were attached (for canoe/kayak distance measurement purposes). If you followed the rope, there was no need to lift your head up out of the water to sight (well, except to make sure you turned when you needed to!).

I found Irina at the start line and told her that she was going to pull me for the entire swim. We listened to a recording of O Canada (I don’t remember ever treading water for our national anthem before!) and then the horn sounded and the pros were off! The race announcer encouraged us to high five the person next to us, to which I added, “or pee on them!” And before we knew it, there were just 10 seconds to race time… the horn sounded, a whole bunch of people started their watches, and we were off!

So much for drafting off of Irina – she lost me fairly quickly. I’ll assume it wasn’t her who pushed off my head (!?) and then hit my hip. I did try to swim along the yellow rope, and had the joy of smacking a few of the small orange sighting buoys when I swam too close. At one point, I bounced one off my head and then kicked it with my foot! I did lose the rope for much of the course, and had to sight more frequently, but it was so easy – a narrow waterway, no huge waves, and a rectangular course.

My swim felt good. I was anticipating a time of about 45 minutes, but wasn’t really sure as I swam along what pace I was swimming at. At one point I thought I saw the green turn buoy, but it was actually just the green swim cap of an athlete in the wave behind me who had passed me. Nevertheless, I spotted the green turning buoy sooner than I expected (always a good feeling!), and turned to swim across the waterway. I turned again and headed back toward the Flatwater Centre. Half way through the swim and I already felt the need to pee!! For as much of the swim as I could, I tried to draft off the swimmers who passed me (however, since they were swimming quite a bit faster than me, this didn’t last long). I had a very relaxed swim, and loved the venue! I really didn’t notice a current, if there was one. One last turn, and I headed straight back to the shore and the Recharge with Milk brown arch. I swam as close to shore as I could, and as I was taking my last stroke, someone shoved me to the side (impatient much?! or maybe they lost their footing?).

I stepped out of the water, ran along a paved path and stripped my wetsuit down to my waist as I ran, then headed up about 20 stairs to transition, where I had my 1st pee break of the race (for anyone counting).

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Great cheers from the crowd along this stretch!

I pulled my wetsuit off, remembered my banana, couldn’t find my banana, thought “Did someone really steal my banana?”, looked inside my “wetsuit bag” (where I would put everything I used to swim before I headed out on the bike) and found it! Yay, my banana! I ate it as I put on my socks, shoes, helmet and sunglasses. I was already wearing my race belt, having put it on under my wetsuit.

Swim Stats

Time: 45:37.4 (2:16/100m)

Women aged 40-44: 21/34

All women: 101/163 (*Take the “All women” and “All athletes” stats with a grain of salt for this race – I didn’t double check the stats provided by Sportstats. I only verified women in my age group.)

All athletes: 353/497

89k Bike

I grabbed my bike and ran to the bike exit, past the mount line, and got on my bike. It was slightly cool to start the ride but I warmed up quickly. The route starts along a recreational pathway but quickly meets the road.

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Apparently I was admiring the view! You can see the Flatwater Centre just to the right of me.

The first 30k felt great – I was averaging over 30 km/h. I saw turtles sunning themselves (some with their necks stretched way up) in the water in the small waterway we rode next to (I counted 15-20) plus a cool little bird also in the water on a log. I had been playing leapfrog with an athlete named Pamela, and when I pointed the turtles out to her, she said, “See, that’s when I wish I had my camera with me… I’d ask you to stop and take my picture!”

The wind was around 10 km/h, coming from the north east, so when we hit Lake Erie and turned left, we hit a headwind. We had that headwind for the majority of the ride, I think. Along Lake Erie is one of the most scenic stretches of the bike course. I enjoyed sipping my gatorade during the ride, and eating a soon-to-melt-so-you-better-eat-it-now chocolate peanut butter ball. Some athletes who passed me cheered for me by name (since I was wearing my bib on my back).

Of the people I passed on the bike, I only noticed one woman in my age group. I was passed by more people than I passed, since I started in the 2nd wave, meaning there were lots of people starting after me!

I got a side stitch around 55k (I never get them on the bike!), and despite trying to alter my breathing, I couldn’t shake it. It forced me to slow a bit, and made it hard for me to force myself to eat some of my homemade granola bar – I really didn’t feel like eating anything.

I stopped at the 60k aid station/bottle exchange for my 2nd pee break (thankfully, no lineup!). I forced down a gel at 70k. One athlete passed me on the bike and said, “Is it just me, or have we been fighting the wind the entire time?!” I had another gel at 85k, but in reaching for the gel, my right hamstring cramped up, I thought, “Oh no!” and had to stand up and let it relax! It was really beautiful riding along the Niagara River.

I fully expected Alasdair to pass me at the end of the bike, since I was slowing down, but he didn’t. The bike course was very well marked, with police at intersections where riders needed to have the right of way.

Coming into T2 with the side stitch, I was wondering how the run would go… I racked my bike, took off my helmet, took my bike shoes off, put my running shoes on, tucked a gel into my shirt, forgot my hat, and took off! I stopped for pee #3 on my way out of transition. Unfortunately, there was a line-up, so I had to wait close to a minute.

Bike Stats

Time: 3:10:02.2 (28.1 km/h)

Women aged 40-44: 17/34

All women: 89/163

All athletes: 362/497

21.1k Run

At the very start of the run my stomach was super unhappy, but I can’t even explain what was wrong with it… in addition, I still had the side stitch! I wondered how I would be able to run 1 km, let alone 21.1! The run course is a 2-loop course, which has athletes running through downtown Niagara Falls and past the American and Canadian falls twice (the spray from the falls was great!). Between 2 and 3k my cramps worsened, forcing me to stop and walk, then run again. Alasdair reached me at about 3k, at which point I told him about my stomach issues. At 5k I stopped at an aid station for pee break #4 (!), had a drink of heed, a cup of water, and a few grapes.

When I started running again, I felt great! My stomach was fine. Suddenly running 21.1km seemed much more doable.

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Running past the American falls

I stopped at almost every aid station to drink water and/or heed, and later in the race to eat more grapes (I really didn’t feel like gels, even though I had the one in my shirt and they were offering them at the aid stations). I have to say that the aid station volunteers were fantastic! They did a great job calling out whatever it was they were holding (so you knew who to go to for what)! Thank you volunteers!!!

Somewhere along the run I started feeling chafing on my arm from my tri top, but it wasn’t bad!

On the second loop, I was catching Alasdair (but didn’t know it), and at the point I spotted him running toward me (an out and back) we were not much more than 1 or 2 km apart – it was then he told me that he was having knee and calf issues.

The run course was slightly different this year. At one point, we had to run up a few stairs and then down 3 sets of 9 stairs (I held the hand rail as I ran down, knowing that my legs were tired and not wanting to fall). They weren’t a problem at all.

The run course was well marked and the spectators in Niagara Falls were very enthusiastic. There were a few good signs along the route: “This seemed like a good idea 6 months ago.” and “Smile if you peed in your wetsuit.”

The hardest part of the run (other than the first miserable 5k) was from 18-20k, which is a steady climb – not steep, but continuous. I was looking at my watch frequently, knowing that it was becoming more and more unlikely I was going to finish sub 6 hours 30 minutes. I pushed as hard as I could, and I skipped the last aid station.

I crossed the finish line in 6:30:31.3, or 17 minutes faster than last year (the ride last year was 3k longer, but I still would have beaten my time)!

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Exhausted.

After a few minutes of wandering around a bit, I was ready for chocolate milk, pizza, fruit and a cookie.

Run Stats

1st 10.5k: 1:13:53 (7:02 min/km)

2nd 10.5k: 1:14:07 (7:03 min/km)

Women aged 40-44: 24/34

All women: 98/163

All athletes: 374/497

Alasdair ended up finishing in 6:11, a few minutes faster than last year.

The Barrelman is a phenomenally well organized race! It’s a must do!

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You can’t see it in this picture, but my face, neck and arms were covered in crusted salt!

Overall Stats

Time: 6:30:31.3

Women aged 40-44: 20/34

All women: 98/163

All athletes: 374/497

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Picture by Irina

What a season 2015 was! 9 triathlons, including 2 sprints, 3 Olympics, 1 long course, 2 half ironmans, 1 sprint relay, our first race in the USA and new tri friends!! Can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

Thank you John Salt and Multisport Canada Triathlon Series for a fantastic season! See you next year!!

Race report: Ironman Syracuse 70.3 2015 (in which dizziness, hills and weather played a factor!)

Earlier this year when Alasdair and I registered for our 2015 triathlons, the Ironman Syracuse 70.3 was not on our list (a 70.3 race is also known as a “1/2 ironman” and is named for the total length of the race: 1.2 mile swim + 56 mile bike + 13.1 mile run)! We had to withdraw from the June 14 Welland 1/2 because of a conflict with cadets, but still wanted an early season half (because we like to torture ourselves). We decided that a 3 1/2 hour drive to Syracuse wasn’t too bad. It was to be our first time racing in the USA! (Heck, I hadn’t been to the USA in nearly 19 years until earlier this month when I went to Buffalo for a basketball tournament.) Big thanks to Chris for taking K and A for the weekend!!!

In the days leading up to the race, I got all my gear organized.

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Ever the optimist, I packed sunblock despite the weather forecast.

We headed out Friday at around 4 PM, and arrived at our hotel in Brewerton, New York around 8 PM (hotel recommended by a local friend who was also doing the race).

SATURDAY

I had been obsessively checking the weather for Syracuse all week, but by Saturday morning, the forecast was still for rain with a risk of thunderstorms. However, Saturday’s weather was perfect! We drove 25 minutes or so south to the race site at Jamesville Beach Park in the little town of Jamesville, a great race venue.

We were impressed right away by the volunteers in the parking lot and at registration – there were lots of them, they were efficient, and very helpful! All told there were 1,500 amazing volunteers for this race! Thank you volunteers!!

We were given a “morning clothes bag” and a small black backpack, as well as our race bib, stickers for our bikes and helmets, a wrist band identifying us as athletes and as the owners of our bikes, race t-shirts and some sample products. We signed our lives away on 3 separate waivers, and then picked up our timing chips (verifying that our names appeared on the computer screen).

Next we headed for the 10 AM mandatory pre-race briefing (one of several that athletes could choose from), where they covered the details of the course, rules, and how things on race day would run.

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This tiny car was carrying 7 bikes! Maybe not so good for the car…

We did a 10 min bike ride, checked our bikes into transition (each athlete had a specific spot to rack his or her bike – marked on the racks by bib number), removed everything that someone could steal (pump, under seat bag for tools and tubes, cross bar bag for food), did a 5 min run, and then did a practice swim when lifeguards opened part of the course at 1 PM (we had thought that we would have to swim in a little roped off public beach area). When the lifeguards told people that they could swim past buoy #1, turn at 2, swim across to 7, and head for 8 (the course is an upside down U), a few asked, “Do we have to?” Alasdair and I swam without our wetsuits and it was fine at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (though cold first getting in!), but we would be wearing them on race day!

We left the race site, drove the first 12 miles (19k) of the bike course to the highest point we would reach, headed back to Jamesville for a delicious lunch at a little place called Half Moon Bakery and Bistro, went back to the hotel, organized our stuff for the morning, then had dinner with my local friend Christina and her husband. It was off to bed early with plans for a ridiculous race day wake up time!

SUNDAY (RACE DAY)

Sunday morning our alarm sounded at 3:30 AM, our earliest race day start yet! It was very strange to eat my oatmeal, yogurt and banana so early! We left the hotel just after 4 AM and were at the race site before 4:45 AM (it was still dark out)! I have never arrived so early for a race, but with a 7 AM race start and only one way into the park, we didn’t want to get stuck in traffic trying to get into the race site. It worked out perfectly – we encountered no traffic, and were one of the first 25 or so vehicles to arrive! We walked toward the transition zone with one very excited man from the Manhattan area, who told us to have fun, smile, thank a volunteer… “the best 7 hours of your life!”

We went through body marking before arriving at the transition zone, getting our bib number on both arms and age on our left legs. I put my pump and bags (including food) back on my bike, added my gatorade and water bottles, had a volunteer tell me to reverse my bike (odd bibs faced their bikes one way, and even the other – who knew?!) and set up my spot below my handlebars (they were very particular about athletes not taking up too much space), wrapping everything in a garbage bag so it wouldn’t be drenched before the race even began! And then the rain started! I went back to the van to take my big triathlon bag (thanks Dervish – it’s awesome!) and grab my phone to take a few pictures.

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Trying to stay somewhat dry.

When I got back from the van it was pouring rain, so Alasdair and I went to hang out under a picnic shelter. I started getting cold, and when the rain let up a bit, I decided that I would put my wetsuit on, even though I wasn’t starting my race until 8:04 (I figured it would warm me up!). So we went back to transition to grab our wetsuits, goggles and swim caps, made final portajohn stops (somehow I find that word odd), and got ourselves into our wetsuits! If you’ve ever seen an athlete struggle to put a dry wetsuit on a dry body, now imagine what it’s like putting a wet wetsuit on a wet body! One athlete put her feet in plastic bags and then pulled the wetsuit on, and seemed to have an easier time of it. Someone suggested she should charge $10/athlete for use of the bag. Another athlete wondered where she could get a marker to write her name in her wetsuit – I suggested body marking, where 20 or so people were standing there with sharpies! “I’m surrounded by geniuses!” another athlete said.

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One last picture before I put my phone into my “morning bag” with other things I might want right after the race. We resemble drenched rats.

1.2 mile (1.9 km) SWIM

With more than 2,000 athletes in the race, we would be sent off in waves, Alasdair in wave 4, and me in wave 17 with all women 40-44 – the final wave (and according to the race announcer, “the best looking wave!”)! Just before the 7 AM race start, we all paused for the singing of the American national anthem on the beach. Very soon after that, a gun went off and the first wave was swimming! By this time, the rain had stopped. After Alasdair started (an air horn replaced the gun after the first couple of starts, which is good because it was very loud), I went to use the bathroom one more time, and then headed for the water to do a short warm-up swim (in the small roped off area). I started to doubt my decision not to put sunblock on, with sunny skies and visions of sunburn in my head! I swam a U shape, no more than 75m, stood up, and felt incredibly dizzy. I stumbled, thought I might pass out, and wondered what the heck was going on. I slowly – wobbling – made my way out of the water, tried to clear water from my ears in case that was the problem, and hoped that I would be fine in 25 minutes or so when my race was to start. My stomach felt pukey and I was worried that I wouldn’t even get to race. I decided if I was okay at the swim start, I would attempt to swim, and if I had to stop, I would.

Syracuse Swim course

I lined up with the rest of my group near a volunteer holding a big sign with our wave and age listed on it (this race was superbly well organized). A power boat brought a swimmer from the wave before us back to shore, and everyone cheered for him. Eventually, we were in the water, and then the horn sounded! I remembered to start my watch, began swimming, and felt FINE! The swim start was a little congested even though there were only 91 swimmers starting – I had women close by on either side of me, making it hard to get away, but eventually things spread out. There were yellow buoys (“booeez” in the USA!) numbered 1-8 on the way out which we kept to our right. At the red buoy, we turned right and headed across the upside down U shape. The turn wasn’t congested, and neither was the next turn to head back toward shore. Heading back, we kept the orange numbered buoys (1 to 8) on our right. It didn’t feel like I was swimming fast, but I knew I was swimming pretty straight – no going off course for me! I concentrated on finishing my stroke, as instructed by my swim coach Mat. I thought I might see 0:47 when I finished swimming, but as I was running to transition, I looked at my watch and was pleasantly surprised to see 43 something!

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I pulled my wetsuit down to my waist as I made the long run toward transition, stopping at the wetsuit strippers for an experience unlike any other! I said to the volunteer, “What do I do?” (though I had watched a video to know what to expect) and she said “Get your wetsuit below your waist. Sit down.” I did, leaned back, and she pulled the wetsuit off my legs! Much faster than me struggling through it. It looks like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CsX0ls1eaQ.

Swim stats:

Time: 42:57 (2:13/100m)

Women 40-44 placing: 46/91

Gender placing: 294/591

Overall placing: 1,143/2,076

I quickly stopped for a pee break at a portajohn inside the transition zone, then ran to my spot to get my bike stuff on (helmet, race bib, socks, shoes, sunglasses) and ate a banana while doing so. T1 lasted 5:29. There was an uphill run out of transition to the mount line, and then the fun began!

90k BIKE

The first 19km of the bike course has an 1,100 feet (335m) elevation gain, with the 1st real hill an 11% grade! In general, the entire course was a very hilly ride, not just the beginning. Up one very long hilly road (where you would go up, plateau, go up more), a rider behind me said “KIRA, you’re setting the pace!” There were a few great downhills, but they always seemed to end with uphills! At one point I could hear sirens, then was passed by a first responder in a pickup truck. The athlete needing help was an awful sight, face completely bloody. He was standing though, so hopefully he only had superficial wounds.

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Pure torture!

I didn’t feel like I was going fast, and decided to only look at my watch at the half way point. I thought it might be too depressing otherwise! I forced myself to eat some of my homemade granola bar, but for some inexplicable reason I actually felt like it had too much chocolate!? I knew I had to eat during the ride, so I had little bits of food over the course of the 90k (more granola bar, a delicious peanut butter chocolate ball that I will bring more of next time, and dates and chocolate chips).  I drank a full bottle of gatorade, and almost a full bottle of water. I didn’t touch the gels I had packed “just in case”. There were aid stations on the bike too, but I didn’t take any of the food or liquids they were offering (1. I’d most likely have to stop, and 2. I had what I needed).

Some spots on the course had super enthusiastic spectators cheering for the athletes, in particular on the long climbs! Little towns had people on their lawns or driveways. One little girl (8 or 10?) was playing a trombone for us! Two women elsewhere had a boom box playing.

At one point, I nearly crashed into the guy in front of me when he wobbled, swerved and cut me off. I hit my brakes hard, yelled “GEEZ!” and somehow ended up not falling off my bike! He ended up in the oncoming traffic lane (thankfully there were no cars). Crazy!

Later a woman that I passed read my bib on my back and said, “Go KEEERA!”

The skies looked ominous in the distance, but I didn’t see any lightning or hear any thunder, and it didn’t rain!

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The last 10 miles (16k) was mostly downhill, but some athletes were acting crazy and were riding across both lanes of traffic (thankfully no oncoming cars), but I couldn’t pass them. It was very annoying to have to brake on the downhills at this point. I yelled “On your left!” to try to get them to move but no go. It was dangerous.

Near the very end of the bike course there was a no passing zone as we were riding just to the left of runners who were on the right hand side of the road. We were being led by a motorcycle so we couldn’t go very fast. The riders in front of me slowed down on the last big uphill, I did the same, and then the woman behind me nearly ran me over! She may have touched my wheel, and then apologized. At least we didn’t crash!

I figured I would probably end the bike 4 hours 30 min or so into the race, but was shocked and happy to end it at 4:07!!

Bike stats:

Time: 3:18:48 (27.04 km/h)

1st 25 miles took 1:34:01 (25.26 km/h) and remaining 31 miles took 1:43:47 (28.67 km/h)

Women 40-44 placing: 45/91

Gender placing: 233/591

Overall placing: 1,143/2,076

I racked my bike, took off my helmet and bike shoes, put on my running shoes and hat, forgot to grab gels, and took off. T2 was 3:57.

13.1 mile (21.1k) RUN

Remember the forecast for rain and thunderstorms? Well with no rain on the ride, I decided to stop on my way out of transition to get sprayed with sunscreen by a volunteer. She warned me that it might sting, and boy was she ever right!

Syracuse Run profile

My legs felt okay at the start, but it was hot out! I stopped at the first portajohn on the run, not yet out of the park. I ran the first hill out of the park, but then walked the big ones after that. It was an out and back course that we ran 2 times. I knew I’d see Alasdair eventually! At 2.5 miles my left quad right by my knee started to scream, tighten and clench, and I thought I might have to quit the race – I stopped to stretch it and had another runner ask if I was okay, “Do you need any nutrition?” I told him that it was just tight and I thought I would be okay. I kept going and it got better, thankfully! The aid stations each had gatorade, water, soaking wet sponges, energy gels, bananas, oranges, pretzels, and flat pop. Over the course of the run I ate orange slices and pretzels (washing the pretzels down with water they were so hard to swallow!). I walked through all of the aid stations, drank gatorate or water, and poured water on my shoulders, head and back! I took a soaked sponge and stuck it under my shirt strap. I got ice from a volunteer and put it down the front of my top, but later, I ate it! I got more at other aid stations from little kiddie pools that were filled with ice and jugs of water.

K-SYR-run

I saw Alasdair just after I reached the turnaround. I was dealing with side stitches and a stomach that felt too full of liquid! Eventually I got back to the park near the finish line where we turned to do a 2nd loop. I couldn’t believe I had to do all those hills again! I stopped to pee on my way out but couldn’t manage to go. The rain had returned and it felt quite nice – it was cooling! I heard thunder but it didn’t sound too close.

As I turned a corner, ran down a hill and reached an aid station, runners coming toward us said that we had to turn around, that they had lifted up the timing mat (at the turnaround) and the race organizers thought a thunderstorm was coming so we couldn’t continue. It was very disappointing but I wasn’t upset that I didn’t have to run those hills again! I figured then that I was about 1 mile from the turnaround (1.6km). I turned back with everyone else and ran/walked almost all of the way with my new friend Franklin from the Bronx, whose first language was not English. We had a few communication challenges but I enjoyed our conversation and it helped to pass the time. I likely ran more than I would have on my own but he was having muscle cramps so we took walking breaks. I had gotten a second wind I think, knowing that those big hills weren’t coming! The thunder was getting louder as we entered the park. He told me “You can run ahead!” since by then he was having knee issues. I said, “It was nice to meet you!” and he said, “Me too!” I ran to the finish, by which time the rain was just pelting down! I received my medal and finisher’s hat, and saw my finish time on my watch of 6 hours 32 minutes and change (knowing that I was approximately 3.2 km short on the run). I was so glad to be done!

Because athletes wear timing chips and cross timing mats at various points in the race, the race organizers are able to determine the last timing mat you crossed. Therefore they knew that I didn’t finish the full run.

Run stats:

Official stats on ironman.com give me a time of 0 for the run, but the following splits:

first 3.3 miles or 5.28 km – 40:09

next 3.2 miles or 5.12 km – 40:02

This was a slow running pace for me, but given all that had come before these hills on the run, I wasn’t that surprised.

Final Time:

Since I didn’t officially finish the race (my first DNF or “did not finish”!), I didn’t get a finishing time, but ironman.com gives me a predicted finishing time of 6:51:33, which is based on my run time being consistent over the remainder of the course. I think it’s probably a pretty good estimate!

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I am thrilled with how my swim and bike went. I know I have room for improvement in all 3 events, but I probably have the most to gain on the run! (It turns out I beat Alasdair on the swim for the very first time – by less than a minute – but he beat me on the bike by about 5.)

After the race, I found Alasdair, we picked up our “morning clothes” bags that we had checked, and then waited outside the transition zone with lots of other athletes until there was a “window” in the storm and we could get our stuff out. We grabbed food for athletes on our way to the van. It turns out the thunderstorm was very short lived, but unlike some athletes who apparently argued with the officials when the decision was made to end the run, I am grateful for race organizers who take safety seriously – I want to return home to my kids!

Syracuse, we’ll be back!

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