Race report: Welland Rose City triathlon double header (sprint and give-it-a-tri)

Why do one triathlon on a Saturday when you can do two? It wasn’t my idea (really!), but it didn’t take long for me to agree to end the 2021 triathlon season with a bang by doing back to back races in Welland. The International Flatwater Centre is a fantastic venue, and Multisport Canada puts on great races in the Rose City. Covid-19 precautions were in effect, with masks in transition and at registration, a covid check, and races spread over 3 days with less athletes in each race.

When we received an email with our individual starts times a few days before the race, we realized that we would have less than an hour between races, and race kit pickup for the give-it-a-tri would start – and end – while we were doing the sprint race. But on race morning Alasdair got it all sorted out – the race crew knew that two crazy people would be coming to register late!

When we first arrived at the venue we accidentally racked our bikes on the give-it-a-tri rack, but we hadn’t set our things up, so when we realized our mistake it was easy to switch to the sprint racks. I left my bike, went through registration, and then got my things organized. I put on my wetsuit and headed down the stairs to the water. I had lots of time before my race, so I watched other people start, found some shade to wait in, then eventually found a random athlete to zip me up! I did a short warm up swim, found Alasdair, and waited for athlete #86 to be called to the start line!

Sprint triathlon

750 m swim

Almost ready to go!

For this race, we were seeded based on our predicted finish times (of the swim? or the entire race? I can’t remember). This meant that the fastest athletes would start first, and the slowest last. One swimmer would start every 30 seconds. The swim start was incredibly well organized. There was a 2-sided digital clock so the race crew and the athletes in the water warming up could read it. My start time was 11:42:30, so a couple of minutes before that I was called up, and went into the water from the dock. I treaded water until my start time, then when the clock hit 11:42:30, I started. Alasdair must have forgotten to seed himself when he registered, because he was placed nearly at the back of the pack 20 minutes after me!

If you’ve been following my triathlon adventures this summer, you will know that I’ve had mini panic attacks on the swim for each of my races so far, the Barrie sprint, Gravenhurst sprint, and Gravenhurst Olympic. Well I’m not sure if it was the solo start, but I had the most relaxed swim of any triathlon yet this summer! My only issue was a bit of water in my goggles, which I quickly tipped out. I was so relieved to have a good swim!

I made my way up the stairs to transition, took the rest of my wetsuit off at my bike, put on my helmet, sunglasses, socks, shoes, and race bib and headed out with my bike. It was quite a long run to the bike mount line.

20k bike

The bike was 5 loops of a closed road course which is relatively flat. There are two 180 degree turns per lap (and two 90 degree turns) – it’s a backwards L shape. As I started my 3rd loop, Alasdair started his 1st. He passed me and then I chased him for the remainder of the ride. Athletes had to count their own laps, or use a bike computer or watch, or use the Sportstats clock on the race course (hard to read when you’re riding fast!). Thankfully, I didn’t lose track! After my 5th lap it was a long run back into transition. I racked my bike, removed my helmet, put on my hat, changed my shoes, and headed out the run exit.

5k run

The run was 2 loops on a path along the recreational waterway. It was while running that I really started thinking how crazy it was to be doing another race after this one. I even considered not doing it, and just cheering for Alasdair! Speaking of Alasdair, as I was starting my 2nd loop, he passed me on his 1st. One thing I’ve missed this year is seeing the age of other athletes on their legs (no body marking this year) – it helps to know if you should actually try to catch someone or keep ahead of them if you know that they’re in your age category! Of course, I might not have had any fight in me anyway!

I was grateful to cross the finish line, but didn’t have time to relax! I grabbed a mask, put it on, and went back to registration, where I confused the volunteers who looked at me funny trying to register while already wearing a race bib! We sorted things out quickly and off I went. I grabbed a juice box, downed that, and headed back to transition to move my bike and all my stuff to the give-it-a-tri rack. I organized my things again, forced myself to eat half a muffin so I wouldn’t be starving during the give-it-a-tri, and then at some point I found Alasdair. It was already time to go down to the water.

Race stats

  • Time: 1:42:56
  • Swim: 21:04 (2:48 min/100m)
  • T1: 1:58
  • Bike: 45:17 (27.82 km/h)
  • T2: 1:18
  • Run: 33:19 (6:39 min/km)
  • Women 45-49: 3/5
  • All women: 33/51
  • All athletes: 94/132

Give-it-a-try

400m swim

My start time for the give-it-a-tri was 2:02:00, with Alasdair 40 seconds behind me. I knew this meant that he would pass me during the swim. The swim course looked so short compared to the sprint course – I was so glad to have done the longer race first. When athlete #210 was called up, I headed for the start line. I had another relaxed swim (!), and before I knew it I was heading back to transition. Sure enough Alasdair beat me there, but he only headed out with his bike a few seconds before me.

12k bike

I was so disappointed when I found out that we had to do 3 laps of the bike course (12k), and not 2 (10k). I was mentally prepared for only 2! Thankfully, another 2k wasn’t a big deal. When I started biking I felt that my legs were definitely more tired than they were at the beginning of the sprint! I chased Alasdair the entire race, but it was a losing battle – he was pulling just slightly further ahead with each loop.

2.5k run

I spotted Alasdair heading out of transition on foot as I was running back in with my bike. The run was 1 loop of the course we ran in the morning. At this point, I was really glad that I was only doing it one more time! Alasdair passed me when I had between 500m and 1k to go. And then not a moment too soon I too crossed the finish line, for the second time that day!

Race stats

  • Time: 1:02:25
  • Swim: 12:09 (3:02 min/100m)
  • T1: 2:26
  • Bike: 29:08 (25.95 km/h)
  • T2: 1:31
  • Run: 17:11 (6:52 min/km)
  • Women 45-49: 3/5
  • All women: 16/51
  • All athletes: 43/101

After the second race we were finally able to relax! We chatted with Race Director Jason Vurma, then headed for the water to cool off before heading home.

With Race Director Jason Vurma

Thank you Multisport Canada for adapting and putting on races this summer! We were so thankful to be back racing. See you in 2022!

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Race report: Welland sprint triathlon 2018

With very heavy rain in the forecast, a closed bike course requiring many many turns, and my body only 1-week out from Ironman 70.3 Syracuse, I wasn’t quite sure how the Welland sprint triathlon would go! With race registration ending at 7:45 AM on race morning, we were up very early and out the door at 6 AM, aiming to be there by 7:15 and giving ourselves just enough time to get set up. We didn’t count on the big line-up at registration, and when I heard that the transition zone was closing at 7:45, I started to worry that I might have to do the speediest set up ever. Thankfully, whoever said that was wrong, as the transition zone wouldn’t be closing at all because of the super staggered race start. With a closed bike course (3 loops of 6.6k for the sprint race – and three 180 degree turns around cones per loop), the race organizers wanted to space people out as much as possible (just imagine if most of the athletes were biking at the same time – that would be very congested and dangerous). Instead, swim waves were spaced far apart, with the first going at 8 and the last around 9:40. For this reason, people were allowed to access the transition zone at any time, but had to watch out for athletes who were already racing.
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All my gear hidden under a garbage bag.
After setting up, Alasdair headed for the swim start, and I watched some of the race from the transition zone and then from the start of the bike course. It was pouring by the time the first wave started, so I shared a huge umbrella with two spectators. I would have been cold had I not been wearing my wetsuit. IMG_6313 The bike exit became a flood zone, and one poor person’s gear in transition was in the middle of the raging river – I think their stuff was on an overflow rack (they were the only one using it). I was half expecting it to start floating away. IMG_6315 I missed Alasdair as he headed past me with his bike, but spotted him as he reached the mount line. I headed for the swim start, barely remembering to pick up my timing chip at the water’s edge (normally, you pick it up at registration). I did a quick warm-up swim, then headed to the start line. 750m swim I found the start of the swim extremely congested, with swimmers on either side of me squeezing me in the middle. I tried to get away but couldn’t at first, then finally accelerated and got out of that mess! The rest of the swim was fairly uneventful. I used the wires under the water as much as possible to sight, but eventually remembered that swimming right on top of them isn’t a great idea, unless you enjoy whacking small buoys or getting tangled in their ropes periodically! I was slightly disappointed to see how long the swim had taken me – oh well! 20k bike I had never done a triathlon with a closed bike course before, meaning no car traffic. In theory it sounded like a great idea, but I wondered whether the number of athletes biking at once would make for dangerous passing and riding conditions. I needn’t have been worried, as the spaced out swim waves really reduced the number of riders at any one time on the course. I decided to push the bike as much as my tired legs would allow, and was happy with how they responded. The course was flat, and while there was a bit of rain/mist during my ride, the conditions were far better than for the earlier swim waves! There were a few spots on the course where the puddles made us squeeze close to the centre line to avoid the water, but I never had trouble passing people and kind of liked the 3-lap course (a lapped course was also a new experience for me). I tried hard at the end to get my average speed up to 30 km/h but didn’t have enough time to do it. Still happy with my bike! 5k run The run was a 2-loop course along the recreational waterway, mostly flat with one short steep hill. I pushed as hard as I could, but it certainly wasn’t my fastest running pace. Alasdair had already finished by the time I started my run (his race started 35 minutes before mine) so he cheered for me as I set out, and as I started my second loop. There was one racer who was enthusiastically cheering for every single racer she encountered while running – I’m not sure where she got the energy! I was grateful for the short run and happy to be done. Time: 1:33:59.2. I found Alasdair, and we went over to the food tent – it was my first time having oatmeal (Stoked Oats) as a post-triathlon snack! For the first time, there was juice to drink instead of pop – yay! I rarely drink juice (and never drink pop), but after a race, a burst of sugar hits the spot! All in all, not a bad race considering my legs (and body!) were in recovery mode. Race stats:
  • Time: 1:33:59.2
  • Women 40-44: 15/30
  • All women: 92/218
  • All athletes: 255/470
  • 750m Swim: 18:49.6 (2:30/100m)
  • 20.6k Bike: 41:42.2 (29.9 km/h)
  • 4.8k Run: 28:56.2 (6:01 min/km)
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Race report: Rev3 Niagara Falls Barrelman Swim/Bike 2017

2017 was to be my 4th time participating in the Barrelman half ironman (the only point to point triathlon in Ontario), until a tender foot forced me to switch into the swim/bike at the last minute. Too many fun things going on this fall to injure myself any more!

Saturday

Alasdair and I went to the Welland International Flatwater Centre for the pre-race briefing, picked up our race kits (quick and efficient process as always), checked our bikes into transition (where they would spend the night under the watchful eyes of the Welland Police), did a short practice swim, and watched one of the event staff (Malcolm) rescue a wayward buoy and bring it to shore. Good thing he used to be a varsity swimmer – Alasdair and I would never have caught it blowing down the recreational waterway!

We had a delicious dinner at Bravo Pizzeria and Grill in Niagara Falls, and went for a short walk to see both the American Falls (left picture) and Canadian Falls (right picture). We prepped and organized our race gear, and hoped for a good night’s sleep!

Not so much.

Sunday

Our alarm went off at 5:30 AM, and after a quick breakfast (a banana, oatmeal and yogurt for me), we left the hotel and headed for the Upper Rapids parking lot, where we would leave our car for the day. Having done this race before, we parked as close to the race site as possible to avoid a longer walk at the end of a long day, but as far as possible from the shuttle buses we were about to board.

We arrived at the race site in Welland around 7 AM, with plenty of time to set up our stuff in transition before the 9 AM race start. Since this is a point to point race, you have to be careful to leave the right things in the right places. At registration you get different bags to organize your stuff:

  • black bag to put your swim stuff in after the swim leg (wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, sunblock, etc.);
  • red bag for the things you’ll need for the run (e.g. running shoes, a hat, sunblock, gels, etc.); and
  • clear bag for whatever you want access to right after the race (e.g. a change of clothes, sandals);

Since I was doing the swim/bike, I didn’t have to worry about a red bag, but those doing the triathlon or bike/run events gave their red bags to volunteers at T1 (or at the shuttle bus at Upper Rapids), who would drive the bags to T2 and put them at your spot in transition. Just before the race I handed my clear bag to volunteers, who would have it waiting for me after the race was done.

It was really foggy first thing in the morning at the race site, but the sun came up and the fog cleared before the race began.

Just before 9 AM the US and then Canadian national anthems were played, and then the pro wave took off. Alasdair started at 9:06 and me at 9:12.

2k Swim

I decided not to follow the underwater rope (wire?) that is used to keep rowing markers in place, knowing that while it would eliminate the need to sight while swimming, it would be much more congested!

My swim started well, though my left goggle was foggy right from the start. I had no issues all the way to the first turning buoy. I was even swimming pretty straight. I turned, crossed the waterway, and turned again to swim parallel to shore. It was here that I found myself accidentally right on top of the guide wire, so I decided to just go with it and follow it as long as I could. I’m a convert. I loved not having to sight, despite twice having someone try to push me off it. It was definitely more congested, but I’m confident in my (slow) swimming ability and wasn’t too bothered by it (just annoyed). Somewhere along this stretch I noticed my hair in front of my face – somehow it had escaped the swim cap. I made the final turn and headed for shore, hoping to see a sub 50 minute swim. It wasn’t to be, though my swim went really well. As I stood up and felt my head, I realized that the swim cap was barely on my head – the tight goggle strap is all that held it on.

When I reached the transition zone I headed straight for the portapotty nearest my bike (thank you for spreading them around the transition zone this year!). I took my wetsuit off, dashed in quickly, and headed for my bike. I had a very short conversation with a few women around me, one of whom said she never has a problem finding her bike after the swim (because she’s a slow swimmer and everyone else is out on their bikes). I said it was the same for me, and another athlete commented on how we turned a negative into a positive! I slathered sunscreen all over myself, ate a banana, and took off. It was quite a long run to the mount line, since I was way in the back corner of the transition zone.

86k Bike

Due to some freshly begun road work just before race day, the bike course had to be rerouted, resulting in an 86k route instead of the planned 89. It didn’t bother me. I was going to get a PB at this race no matter what!

We were warned at the pre-race briefing that some of the road sections were rough, but that the pavement would be spray painted to flag the worst of the hazards, like potholes and freshly cut out sections of pavement.

My ride started out great, with me averaging 30 km/h for the first 30 km or so. I was pleased! Since I wouldn’t be running afterwards, I knew that I wouldn’t need to take advantage of the bottle exchange, since drinking 1 bottle of gatorade and 1 of water would be enough for me. I also carried more food than I needed, but did end up having 4 small homemade chocolate coconut balls, and 1 Endurance Tap maple syrup energy gel from the 2nd bike aid station (I grabbed it as I rode through) – wow was that ever delicious!

2017-09-17 | 2017 Rev3 Barrelman Triathlon

I’m always surprised by the super speedy guys who zoom past me on the bike course – and not early on. I noticed a couple of guys in the 40-44 age group this time, who started 6 minutes ahead of me. Did they really swim that much slower than me? Did they get a flat and have to fix it? I’ll never know!

My favourite part of the bike course (other than the last 100 metres!) is the part along Feeder Road where I get to count turtles. This year, I counted 22 painted turtles, 1 duck, 1 cormorant and 1 heron. It helps to pass the time!

I also like the section along Lake Erie, and noted this year there weren’t any white caps as I rode by!

At some point I passed a woman who yelled to me that it was her that told me during the Wasaga Beach Olympic triathlon that she had read my blog, and that I had exchanged something with her husband. I was confused, and replied, “I exchanged what with your husband?” She yelled, “Yeah!” It was after the race that I ran into her again – Kim!  – and found out that her husband Dan and I had put medals around each other’s necks at Wasaga. Mystery solved.

Later, I experienced another racing first – I rode past 12 or 13 riders on horses walking down the road. Several of the riders cheered for us as we rode by.

The remainder of the ride was pretty unremarkable, except that I started to have pain in my wrists (I’ve been doing physio for sore wrists/forearms) and had to give them a rest – more and more frequently as the race progressed. I was disappointed, because as I rested them (I don’t have aero bars), I had to slow down.

I was relieved to finally arrive on the Niagara Parkway (another scenic part of the ride), knowing that I was nearing the end of the bike course.

As I approached the dismount line, I was not for a second feeling like going for a 21.1k run! I was no longer disappointed that I was “only” doing the swim/bike. I ran to my spot in transition, even though my race ended when I crossed the mat into transition. I racked my bike, took my helmet, shoes and socks off, hit the portapotty, then walked a big loop around to the finishing chute, where I ran (slowly) to the finish line.

2017-09-17 | 2017 Rev3 Barrelman Triathlon

I happened to run in just after the 4th male finisher, who was breaking the tape for his age group. John Salt (race director) shook my hand, and I received a finisher’s hat and medal from volunteers. As usual, the volunteers at this race were stellar!

IMG_0163

Alasdair and all the other runners had to contend with running in very hot/humid weather, while I sat in the shade near the finish line. I also stood for a while at the bike dismount line to cheer in the last few cyclists, including one who got a flat and bent rim at 68k and proceeded to run/walk the rest of the bike course – in his bare feet! There was also Joe, who “got lost twice!”, and earlier on, Jeff, who was pulling his father in a bike trailer (and also pulled him on the swim in an inflatable boat). Very inspiring athletes all around!

Once again, John Salt and his team did a fantastic job organizing and executing this race. I’ll be back.

Stats:

  • 2k Swim: 51:13.2 (2:33 min/100 metres) (27/33 women 40+, 35/43 women, 56/78 athletes)
  • 1st 54 km of the 86k ride: 1:48:19 (29.91 km/h)
  • Next 32 km of the 86k ride: 1:10:01 (27.43 km/h)
  • 90k Bike: 2:58:19.3 (28.94 km/h) (19/33 women 40+, 26/43 women, 45/78 athletes)
  • Time: 3:55:22.6 (19/33 women 40+, 26/43 women, 45/78 athletes)

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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.

b1
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!).

b2
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).

Barrel K swim
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.

Barrel K run
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)!

Barrel K end1
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!!