Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Ironman 70.3 Muskoka 2013

Held in Huntsville, Ontario - about 4 hours drive from us. The course is challenging but beautiful, as the organizers label it - naturally tough! I signed up mainly because of the 100 slots to the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championships and the event didn't seem to sell out, so I thought I'd try my luck. But with 2 weeks after Ironman Whistler, I wasn't sure what sort of form I would be in. Li-Ann was away in California travelling with her parents who are here for a USA/Canada trip. One of the rare times that I would be racing without her by my side. I was concerned about keeping myself awake during the long trip but it turned out okay.

I got to Huntsville at 11am Saturday and it was raining. There was limited parking at the host hotel, Deerhurst Resort but the organizers arranged for shuttle buses throughout the race eve and race day from a nearby parking lot, formerly an airstrip about 2 kms away. I picked up my race pack and checked in my bike. Bike racks were allocated according to age groups but were not numbered. So luckily I checked in early and booked a spot close to the bike exit. Went to say hi to Coach Sheri who had an expo stall selling trigger point therapy equipment.

With 2010 World Ironman Champion, Mirinda Carfrae. I'm a big fan as she rides a Felt and win her races on the run. 
I checked into my accommodation - Motel 6, a very nice place actually, about 7kms away. Rested a while before returning to Deerhurst for the professional athlete press conference. After that, it was pepperoni pizza for dinner - yes, my trusted pre race meal! And then, tried having an early night's sleep. But I was having trouble sleeping. Didn't stress too much about it, instead I checked up on Facebook updates and watched the final bits of the movie Anaconda (Jennifer Lopez looked so different then) and finally fell asleep a bit after 11pm.

Race morning, woke up at 5am and got ready. My gear was all prepared the day before so all I had to do was have breakfast and get changed. The shuttle bus service was really efficient. After getting my bike ready in transition, I still had 1.5 hours before the race start! So I sat in a quiet corner in Deerhurst Resort lobby. Had a final visit to the toilet and got into my wetsuit. It was a pretty cold morning, less than 10 degrees celcius so I placed arm warmers in transition. At least it wasn't going to rain as earlier forecasted.

Race start was 8am, I was the next wave after the professional athletes. The walk from transition to the start was LONG! And we were walking downhill, which means we have to run up after the swim! The swim course is one lap, shaped like a letter P. There were maybe about 150 people in my wave and I had the sun in my eyes for quite a bit of it. So navigating was a bit difficult but I didn't think I went off course too much. I came out of the water in 12th position in my age group in 30:44.

A bit disoriented after the swim
This was the first time I used wetsuit strippers, great idea - I should have done this in my earlier races! My legs were a bit wobbly and I felt a bit disoriented running up the hill into transition. The sudden change in blood flow from being in a horizontal position while swimming to vertical. It wasn't that cold when I got to transition, so I made the decision not to put on my arm warmers. I mounted the bike with no problems. T1 was 3:18.

Had a pretty smooth transition
The bike course is one loop, lollypop shaped (or something else for those of you who think that way haha) with a big head and a short stump. It is 94km with lots of ups and downs with not many flat sections. But I didn't find the hills too steep. There were some of the bigger climbs I had to use my 27 teeth gear but I stayed in the big chainring at the front throughout. As usual, I used my weight to my advantage, overtaking the guys in front on the climbs but finding myself losing out on the downhills. The roads were not closed to traffic but they were wide enough and I was able to descend confidently on the wide open sections. Only found myself braking like a wuss on some of the tight corners.

Enjoying the ride and scenery
The weather was perfect, sunny with not as much wind as earlier predicted. The scenery of the lakes and tall pine trees was simply amazing. Towards the later stages of the bike, I caught up with some of the pro females who started 6 minutes earlier. That gave me quite an ego boost but I guess they were new pros just starting out in their career. I came off the bike in 2:50:47, still in 12th position in my age group. And guess what? My bike split was only just over 5 minutes quicker than Coach Sheri! 

Nice scenery eh?
Into transition, grabbed my visor, sunnies and race belt and off I went, slipping them on as I'm running out. T2 was 43 seconds, I think that's a new PB! 

The run course was one lap, out and back. Mostly on road. We ran about 7kms towards town before making a turn into some dirt trail and then making a U turn. It was pretty challenging too with some steep climbs. I was surprised with how good my legs felt. The weather stayed cool and that really made a difference. I reached the turnaround point just under 44 minutes. My pace went a bit slower after, I was expecting it so I wasn't worried. But it didn't drop by much. 

Surprised with how good I felt
Somewhere after the 12km mark, my left hamstring seized up but I shortened my stride and prevented it from becoming a full blown cramp. At the downhill sections, I leaned myself forward, using momentum to roll myself down. There was one section where there was a wooden bridge, I don't remember crossing it in our outward lap and the cones were placed on the outside path adjacent to the bridge. Still, many were crossing the bridge on the way back. I did so, for a few steps and backtracked to the outside path. Lost a few seconds there. I passed Coach Sheri as she was heading out in the opposite direction - she still was able to shout out critiques about my form! Look straight! Swing your arms! 

Putting up a strong front going up one of the hills
As I got close to the finishing chute, there was one guy in my age group just a bit ahead. I quickened the pace the final few hundred metres, overtook him, only to be outsprinted from behind at the finish! And just a bit ahead was another guy in our age group as well. I finished the run in 1:33:39, a new PB for a half ironman run, with an overall time of 4:59:11. I came in 11th in my age group and 76th overall. There were 8 slots to the World Championships and all 8 were taken. I would be kicking myself it a slot rolled down to either 9th or 10th! Still, I'm very happy with my race performance and amazed at how well I backed up after the Ironman two weeks ago. 

I'm no sprinter, hence lost out to the 2 guys in front but very happy with the strong finish!
The spread at the post race buffet was really good. My only gripe was they only allowed us one time to get our food, there was only so much food I could carry with my two tired arms and I was hungry! I waited around for the roll down as there were some other Coach Sheri athletes who stood a chance. Coach Sheri won her age group as usual and was 21st female overall including the pros, with a 5:18:41 if you don't mind! Congratulations to her and all those who got their slots. My regular training buddy, Clare lost a slot by 1 second, also outsprinted at the finish by a girl who came from behind! What a pity! 

I celebrated my race with a KFC dinner. This is my first time having KFC here in Canada, and I was surprised the coleslaw is green and there was no hot N' spicy on the menu! But a reliable source told me that this was probably only specific to Huntsville. So that's it for racing for this year. Time to get fat to prepare myself for the winter. I haven't committed to any big race next year. It's a weird feeling not having a goal set out... but that won't stay for long!

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