Tuesday, July 22, 2014

2014 Toronto Triathlon Festival Race Report (DNS)

TTF has always been one of my most anticipated races. I'm pretty sure that I was among the first 10 people who signed up when the registration opened last year. How could I miss it? By now, I have an emotional connection to it as it was my first ever triathlon in 2012 and I always loved everything about it. I raced it every year since, so it was unfathomable that I skip it. I got my Olympic distance PR there last July and it still stands by the way. However, this year it was going to be all about having fun given that IMMT is only a few weeks away. Besides, it was Zin's A race and I really wanted to be there for him instead of stressing my brains out.

So it would be pretty accurate to say that I almost didn't care. I didn't obsess over the weather, I didn't think about what to wear, other than I wanted to put on a new Coeur kit that I had ordered and could not wait to receive. I had a fancy race helmet, a bike in perfect working order with speedy race wheels, new road cycling shoes which I learned to clip in without a hiccup. All I needed was for Zin to come pick me up from work on Friday and drive downtown to retrieve my race kit.
We arrived at Coronation Park where the expo and the pre-race meetings were organized under big tents, as opposed to the fancy Westin Harbour Hotel in the years before (no big deal, it was actually better because we didn't have to drive through the construction clusterfuck around Union Station), and we had to wait for the next meeting to start, or no race packet pickup for us. I also found Carol (is she following me or what?! :-)) and altogether we went to listen to Steve Fleck go through the 10-12 min of slides that turned into 45 min. Get me outta here!! I knew each slide by heart. However, there was one slide that literally jumped at me as it talked about the swim conditions and the fact that a swim warm-up was NOT going to be allowed. WTF?! At least in the years before we had about 5 min to splash around. Not this time. This slide also mentioned a water temperature expected between 13-15C. Double WTF!!

I felt compelled to write this tweet.
You may remember that I skipped the swim at Woodstock for the same reason. Under 16-17C, it's too damn cold for my noggin. And so the doubt started creeping in. Why would I subject myself to this if I already declined to swim in similar, yet slightly better conditions (thanks to the allowed warm-up swim) at Woodstock? What if I get a cold? Last year my hands and feet already went numb because of my Raynaud's, what if I get impaired and unable to steer my bike properly? I already had a near miss last year because I was so dizzy coming out of the water.

Anyway, thanks to the company, I didn't have much time to stress about the what ifs. Not until I got back home, but then I looked at the weather app. Thunderstorms and rain and wind, oh my!! I proceeded to organize my transition bag, put the tri kit beside my bed, my change of clothes, my nutrition, every single detail was ready and then I decided to call it a night. As I lay down in bed, staring at my ceiling, I let the thoughts sink in.

My knees were hurting and I had not been able to run more than 3km without pain. I should be resting instead.
It was going to rain. A lot. And I was going to remain soaked for hours.
It was going to be freaking cold in the water. Colder than I could handle.
I was going to fly down a highway on my bike, with puddles everywhere and water in my eyes and slippery oil patches and O M G. What if I crash?!!

And at that moment I knew that the risk was not going to be worth the reward. Most likely I wasn't going to get a PR and worse, I may even get sick or DIE. Yes, I do think about dying on my bike a lot. I would be stupid not too. Have you ever launched yourself head forward on a slope? The tiniest error can end in a LOT of hurt. Have you seen the Tour de France this year? Let that be an eye opener. If you crash, game over. No more Ironman and all training, all sacrifices thus far, gone down the drain. So I posted a status on Facebook saying that I was reluctant to start, but then my mind was already made up. I turned off the light, counted down to 5 and I freed my mind. I slept like a baby and the night went by in a blink.

Next thing I know, the alarm clock goes off, it's 4pm and I'm at peace. I get up, put on city clothes, I don't even look at my tri bag. Hubbs and I go to the kitchen, we have breakfast. Hey, I can even have coffee! Isn't that a treat?! If I were racing I would have had to skip. Bike comes out of the car and I don't even sigh. All I care from now on is seeing Zin SMASH it!!

I drive us downtown again and I drop hubbs off near the transition, then I go park the car. As I started walking along the canal towards transition, I looked at my wristband. I had not removed it. That's ok, it was going to give me in and out privileges and I was glad for the opportunity, I could be much closer to Zin and to all my friends racing that day. If I dare to say, I has happy and content with myself.

Before I could find hubbs, I ran into Margarita, she is one my long time blog readers who won a top at a small contest that I ran on my blog last year, just before TTF. We met back then and stayed in contact since. She has stayed true to herself in her pursuit of endurance challenges, and I could not be more proud of her. She did TTF last year and came back for more!
As you can see, it was still dry when I met her, but not for long. Literally 5 minutes later the skies opened up and it started pouring. Here's what my hubby's transition spot looked like:
I bet putting on your wetsuit was the best course of action for everyone, but also the most challenging. Oh well, people seemed to do just fine. I followed Zin to the swim start, but I was trailing a bit behind as I kept looking for Carol. And then I found her!
Big MUAH under the umbrella. This girl had a lot more courage than me for sure! I found Zin too, and then things got a bit weird, of course.
The swim was on hold and people were getting anxious. Those two seemed to be doing just fine though. But soon enough, or maybe after what felt like an eternity, they got to jump in. Blue caps, Zin's wave.
Then the yellow caps, Carol's wave. Look at them go!!


As for me, I stayed on the shore, taking pics. It was a hoot. Look who I even ran into!! Simon Whitfield, who even offered to take the selfie himself. He's got it perfected to a science! And it just made my day. Best perk of a DNS, ever!! :-)
I waited for everyone I knew to get out of the water and it was very painful to see so many people returning by boat. I knew at that moment that I had made the right decision. NO REGRETS. I was having a great time cheering on my family and friends and getting to watch the TTF operations from a different perspective. As a matter of fact, I realized that most people were taking me for a volunteer since I was wearing the same tshirt as them. Thankfully I knew so much about the race that I had no problem answering their questions. I even got a volunteer confused when I returned in transition and he asked me if I was there to guard the bags. Apparently he was assigned to this job and wanted to make sure we weren't both doing the same thing. No problem buddy, it's all yours!
In transition, I found other friends from FMCT tri club, including my coach, getting ready for the sprint race. Look at them proud members of the Team Canada (psst, they are all going to the World Championships in Edmonton)!
Then I waited for Zin to come in from his bike, worried that he may have crashed too. But oh relief, there he was!! He made a grimace while running towards his spot, but overall he T2'd like a champ so I didn't worry too much. Honey, don't leave your gels inside your shoe next time.  ;-) And wait, you're not gonna eat anything?


Apparently not.

Soon it was time for the sprint folks to swim, so I returned by the water where I could also see the oly people leaving the transition to go on their run. I saw Margarita again, followed closely by Carol. They were safe too, phew!! Then I did a quick mental calculation and realized that time had flown by and that I should make my way towards the finish line to see hubbs bringing it home. I must have run backwards the entire km that separated Ontario Place from Coronation Park, but I could not see him. Was starting to get worried again. Did he bonk? Did he trip? Did he get abducted by the aliens or fall into a sinkhole? Eventually I arrived at the entrance of the park and saw people coming in who had left way after him on the run and then it stroke me that he must have finished already. That's what he gets for being too fast! Yeah, well... he was not impressed. But he looked good with the medal!! 9th in his AG with a 2h24 time, in a super packed field! He smashed it, alright!!
Soon afterwards it started dumping buckets of water on us. Torrential downpour!! My umbrella could barely do the work. But as long as my iPhone was dry and I could keep taking pictures of my friends coming down the finish chute, I was going to be ok.
We stayed around until everyone finished and the awards ceremony got under way. Some of our friends placed in their age groups and we wanted to be there for their podium. I could also not wait to congratulate John Young, who has also been doing this race for as long as I've been. We were even in the same wave in the inaugural year. Finally, we could connect again after being Facebook friends for a while. Look at those smiles!
He is such a smart, kind, and genuine soul and I have the utmost respect for him and his drive to complete endurance events such as the Boston Marathon and the Ironman. Just watch him! I know he will do great!! Here is a story that Toronto Star wrote on his race that day.

And that's a wrap, my friends! I had a super awesome day at TTF, cheering rather than racing, but without any sort of regret. Hearing from everyone how harsh the conditions were and how dangerous the bike was, I know that I made the right decision. I am proud that I could think clearly and did not get carried away with emotions or guilt. Being in control means that you have to make the decisions that you believe are the best. Ironman training is definitely a learning process.

(To see all pictures I took at TTF, go here).

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

IMMT Training Weeks 24 and 25: In damage control

Two interesting weeks to say the least. New limits found, which brought me to higher grounds both mentally and physically. Then making hard decisions and putting on the brakes where there was need to. No regrets, but ended dealing with withdrawal and guilt. This sounds like a therapy session already, so better get it started before someone falls asleep.

Swim

Coming off my biggest week of training yet, I attacked the last stretch of this building cycle like a devout athlete to its Training Peaks bible. There is only forward and this is my mission!

We celebrated Canada Day with a few workouts (why do I keep thinking fireworks?), but of course. These included a quarry swim of 2.5 loops, out of which the first one was a mission to accompany a 13yr old girl who did not want to adventure around the quarry by herself. I told her that I was a slow swimmer, and she said ok, but then ended waiting for me at each buoy. She was a fish or a mermaid, not quite sure, and man was she speedy! I managed to swim sub-19min per km, which officially made it my fastest training swim. Lesson number one: little girls kick my ass, and they don't even care to wear wetsuits.

The other 4 swims that I did were all at Professor's Lake. Twice I swam 2 loops (1.5km), once 4 loops (3km) and then a mega 5 loop (3.8km) swim, another Iron distance in the books. The day I swam the 5 loops the lake was really choppy and conditions were not ideal, but I managed to finish it all in 1h20, which makes it more and more a reality that I may swim at Mt. Tremblant in about this time or less.
Rebecca and I. She's fast!! Can't you tell?
I am proud of my sighting technique
Working on my form
I also drafted for the first time ever as I found in one of my friends from the FMCT tri club a perfect pace match. I stayed on his feet for an entire loop which made for yet another very speedy swim with very little effort, other than looking forward for bubbles and trying to spot fish at the bottom of the lake. Lesson number two: find a good pair of feet and stick to them, it may help in the (long) swim.
Tight skin
Last but not least, I upgraded my wetsuit to a Maverick Elite from ROKA Sports and it made a big difference. I swam each of the 4 loops about 1 minute faster per loop and I even negative split the entire swim. In general, while swimming with my older wetsuit, I would swim each loop slower by one minute as the time goes on, but this one seems to keep the fatigue at bay. #Win! However, getting into the wetsuit is another workout in itself. It usually takes me about 3 minutes tops to put on my Xterra, but this one is more like 15 minutes. I admit that I NEVER thought that I'd fit in it when I took it out of the package. It has a waist smaller by 2-3 inches on each side (!!) that makes it look like it was made for a Barbie. The first time I put it on (at midnight nonetheless) I had to remind myself to breathe a few times...I even did a celebratory dance. Thankfully I did not feel constricted in open water and it became more of a second skin. I am looking forward to racing in it and hopefully seeing a swim PR sometime soon.

Let's do the Midnight Boogie!
Bike

The first week I did 2 outdoor rides and one on the trainer. Someone's gotta watch So You Think You Can Dance! First outdoor ride was once more on Canada Day with Zin, my coach and 2 other friends. We rode to Belfountain for coffee and back. No ice cream this time, as I found that I'm allergic to dairy and it triggers my asthma (#FML). It was challenging and exhilarating at once as we pushed hard on the climbs and kept on bombing the downhills (recovery ride my ass!). Who said that us Canadians don't celebrate in style?

On Saturday I had on my schedule my first ever 180km ride (about 7h). I decided to do 2 loops of 90km to prepare myself mentally for seeing the same scenery twice. My coach also suggested that I do the ride solo. But since dying by myself in a ditch is not something I look forward to, I suggested another friend from the tri club, who is also doing Ironman Mt. Trmblant, to accompany me. She's about 10yr younger and super fit, so my main goal for the day, aside from remaining upright, was to keep up with her. I was so glad that our schedules matched and she said yes. It was probably a good plan not to share the route with her in advance because she would have asked that I take a psychiatric evaluation for sure. But I wanted to make this ride as truthful to the IMMT course as possible, which meant including a few steep climbs. About 8 more than at IMMT, but I hoped that she would stop counting once she was too far out to ride back by herself. I'm so mean. To help counter the feeling of wanting to murder your riding partner, I also threw in some super fast descents (what goes up must come down) which would inject enough adrenaline in our brains for a high to last a week.
10 x Cat 4 climbs on this ride. Because we can!
My friend looking good in Coeur
About to click 73.4kph on Horseshoe Hill
Time for a selfie!
The second week I did 2 trainer rides, easy so I can catch up on 24 this time. The second ride was at the track where I was supposed to do a "brick of hell" along with other peeps from the tri club, but I chose to stay on my trainer, take pictures and skip the run part because my ITBs were giving ME hell.
His and hers. I used my beloved hybrid bike.
Coach giving out instructions to the group. Boy that sounds hard!
I'm the one who doesn't sweat
I was ready to run, but stayed perched instead.
As to the last outdoor ride, since I did not start the Toronto Triathlon Festival race (will write a separate post on that), I went out in my countryside to make it count. With a strong head wind and no energy whatsoever in the legs, I rode 40km in silence with Zin drafting behind me, giving an occasional finger to drivers passing too close by me. I was in a pretty foul mood to say the least.

Run

This is where things got complicated. I had a few big weeks, all with weekend runs 22km+, but then my knees started hurting on the outside of my legs, sign that my ITBs were mad at me. I went for massage therapy, iced, Advil-ed, elevated, foam rolled... but every time I would run the pain would return after 2km. I have no pain when I walk or rest, so it's hard for me to know if I can run until I actually try. So the theme of these past 2 weeks has been "will I or will I not finish my runs"?

The first week I ran 7.5km on Thursday after the swim and it wasn't too bad. On Saturday I was still feeling like a million bucks, with a run off the bike that I could have turned into a marathon if I had listened to my adrenaline-filled brain.  But then on Sunday, the day of my long run, it all turned into a huge #fail. I put on my magic Coeur kit, my bouncy On shoes, my HTFU cap, I even took my favorite water bottle with me, and despite waking up at 5am to get this day started with a #win, I turned around after 2km, cursing my body for giving up on me.
Made the decision not to run until Thursday, hence my track workout-brick turned into a spin, but then the same thing happened, pain came back after 2km during my short loop around the lake. WTF! More rest ensued, with the decision of pulling out of the race on Sunday made in the last seconds before I fell asleep on Saturday. For now I have been ordered to stay off my feet and run in the water for the rest of the week. I won a race entry for Saturday at the Belwood Tri, which must have been a sign that I should skip TTF. I will run there (7.5km) and see how my legs feel.

In a nutshell

Went from 15h of workouts in the first week to 5h in the next. It was supposed to be a rest week anyway, but the fact that my knees/ITBs started bothering me was definitely NOT in the plan. I have to adjust my workouts in the next two weeks and reassess the damage as I go, but this should not be deal breaker me thinks. Just need to take it easy and let me body bounce back. With the last 180km long ride, and the open water swims that I managed to complete in very decent times, I feel a thousand times more confident about IMMT. I made a smart decision not to race and listened to my body and intuition. My coach should be proud because he always says that my enthusiasm gets in the way of my reasoning. I hope to be back with better news in the next recap. Onward and upward!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

IMMT Training Weeks 22 and 23: Hammer time!

But first, STOP! Let's have a moment of PANIC!! Ironman Mt. Tremblant is a mere 7 weeks away. I can't even count in months anymore. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh! I'm the one with the paper bag, by the way.

However, from a workouts perspective, it's all good. Nothing to worry about. I can do this. Just wait for it. And breathe.

Swim

I've only done 3 swims in the past 2 weeks, two in open water and one in the pool. Due to all the thunderstorms and heavy rainfall that we had, the usual Thursday OWS had to be cancelled twice and I did not want to go to the pool instead. But at this point, swimming doesn't scare me anymore because I've already swum 4.24km in open water just 2 weeks ago and I feel invincible! An Ironman distance (3.8km) swim? BRING IT.
I've been working on improving my speed in open water since, concentrating on good form and a strong pull. But I realize that I'll need to be as calm and composed as in my own puddle of joy to be able to deliver. Swimming with 2000 other people? Good luck in keeping my shit together.

Bike

Went on the bike 6 times: three times on the trainer and 3 times outside. The first trainer ride was just 2 days after the 70.3 and so I did an easy spin watching 24. The second trainer ride was a recovery one again, although a little longer and harder. 1h45 doing the Virginia workout from Trainer Road with two more episodes of 24. The third one was meant to mimic hill repeats and I did something like 4x10min intervals in slow grind, watching 24 again (I'm all caught up now!).

As to the outdoor rides, Centuries are the new norm. Aside from one easy ride with Sam to help her get used to my old bike Neo (she is starting to race triathlons and I lent her my bike for the season), the other 2 were both over 6h and gave me a huge boost of confidence about riding 180km at IMMT.

First century ride was in Caledon, half split with the triathlon group, which took us to Holtom's Bakery in Erin for coffee and treats (and a high five to my favorite bike shop owner Brian from Forks Bicycle Shop) and half with Zin all the way to Schomberg's Grackle Coffee Company for more coffee and more treats.
Finally, a century ride on my schedule and I could not believe how strong I felt throughout, it was like I conquered the Everest or something. Of course, I rested and celebrated in style with intense couch lounging and rainbow sherbet tasting.
And you know what? A week later I got to do it again! This time I let the word out that I wanted to cross off my "40 steps to 40" list the bike ride to Niagara and back. I had to revise my initial plan of riding from Brampton because a 275km ride was nowhere on my schedule this year, so I adjusted the distance with a start from Burlington and a turn around in Niagara on the Lake instead of Niagara Falls. Because the food is better and it's a lot more quiet and classy. So Zin put together a meetup on Daily Mile and you won't believe what happened.
Just look at this!! All my running friends (on bikes!!), plus a bunch of folks from the FMCT tri club. 16 people in attendance, all ready to go at 7am on a Saturday. The RSVP emails kept on coming in and I wondered at times "what have I done??" Not everyone was going to ride 160km, but they were all in for having fun!! Okay then...
We rode, we stopped for coffee, half of the group turned back, then 8 of us rode some more. A lot more. Starving, we ended at the Little Red Rooster in Niagara on the Lake, where we indulged with burgers, fries and salads. And cold beers, of course. Then we turned around and did it all in reverse, finally making it back home at 5pm. It was really a long, long day on our bikes, but I would do it again in the blink of an eye. In such great company, centuries are easy as a breeze. The fact that we rode in a pack and that the route was pancake flat helped a lot, but it's days like these that cement friendships and I wouldn't miss these opportunities for anything in the world.

Run

Not much running happened in this cycle, but the workouts completed had a lot of quality in them.
On Wednesdays I went to the track and got my speed on. Here is a glimpse into the sufferfest:
1200m warmup
3x1200m @ 10k pace
2x800m @ 5k pace
1x200m @ 1k pace - all with 200m recovery in between
1000m cooldown
I realize how my times improve the more I stick with these workouts, so they are all confidence boosters as well. Overall, I noticed that my 800m times are about 15sec faster than last year = yay for progress! Just keep at it, folks. Consistency is the key, and it works.

Then I had a tempo run where I tried to beat Zin back home and it worked (with a 10min head start, but anyway - it counts). No brick runs because I was too pooped.

I did my long runs on Sundays, and with all the century miles in my legs, they felt quite challenging. I suppose that was the purpose, so I didn't complain. I did both runs on the Etobicoke Trail and I took in all the bliss I could despite the burn in the legs.
Both times it was very hot and humid and running in these conditions for 2.5h each time took out every ounce of energy I had left. Despite eating and drinking well, I ended the day on the couch again, barely able to move. Below is my third attempt of going to bed, I think it was 7pm. Zin likes to capture my "Ironman in training" self as it happens, so enjoy!
In a nutshell

Biggest training week just ended and I'm still alive and kicking. 16h of workouts and it's not even the "worst" so to speak. The next week promises to be even more epic.

But you know what this deserves? Another sticker and ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED!
I have now reached 15h of workouts and this may safely be considered Level 2 in Ironman Training. (Level 1 with 10h of workouts was reached in Week 6)
Not sure that I want to reach Level 3 (20h? I don't think I saw such volume in my schedule, but you never know, coach is not the best at math). We shall wait and see...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Rose City (Welland) Half Race Report

...Better late than never, right?

As part of my Ironman training, I asked coach to let me race a 70.3 distance (among other fun things like a du, a sprint and an olympic), but only until after the Woodstock Du I got the permission to actually "go for it". I shared my thoughts about finding new inspiration in my top 5 placement at that race and how I was hungry for more of that kind of hurt. Last year when I raced Muskoka 70.3, my main goal was to make it across the finish line with a smile. But for my second attempt at this distance, I wanted to know how far I could push the envelope before I start cursing myself, while keeping in mind that this wasn't my A race. It's always about finding new limits, the mantra of my middle life crisis, I guess.

Hubbs and I decided to make it a mini family vacation and in competitive fashion, Zin signed up for the sprint race the day before. We got us packed for the weekend and on Friday night the 4 of us headed to Welland, where we took residence in a modest hotel about 10 minutes from the race site. A few other members from the FMCT tri club were also racing the same day, so it was a great opportunity to cheer everyone on and snap as many pictures as I could before I emptied my iPhone's battery. I will spare you all the pics that I took because the race photographers did a much better job than me, but I will share the one photo that I'm going to turn into wallpaper for my bedroom, thanks to Bob Hatcher. Hot damn! Aren't we good looking?
This stud took 4th place in his AG and had the second fastest bike split and 9th overall. He may just break the sound barrier next!

We spent the rest of the day in Niagara Falls, waiting for our kids get tired of having fun. Highlight of the afternoon was a little stroll through the park, relaxing on the grass (I wanted really badly to take a nap), and being our usual goofy selves.
We ended at Kelsey's for dinner where I had the exact same salad as the night before the Woodstock Du, but it was nowhere near as good as the first time. You'd think they follow the recipe to a T, but not really. Anyway, I had enough junk throughout the day, so it was time to eat my greens and shut up.

Back at the hotel, I made all the last minute race preparations, including taping 3 gels on my bike tube like the pros. That was really a great idea, thanks hubbs! I wonder why I didn't think of it before. Then I took my nerves to bed and switched off for the night.

I don't remember what time I woke up, but it was early. D'uh! Got into my Coeur kit and made sure that I had my spanking new helmet and sunglasses from Rudy Project and my transition bag ready to go, then headed downstairs for breakfast. I had 2 slices of bread with butter and honey and an orange, and something else that I cannot remember. 
We left for the race shortly afterwards since Zin was going to volunteer and had been assigned to body marking first. I didn't complain as having extra time to set up, socialize and take endless bathroom breaks was going to help bring the stress way down.

Found myself a spot in transition just beside my friend Carol (I'm such a stalker!) and quickly took possession of a slice of pavement where I laid out my paraphernalia.
I could not wait to get started. Went to pick up my bib and chip and had my calf and arm sharpied on by hubbs - how romantic! No, he did not draw hearts on, jeez. I went back to transition where I got into a funk about not having a banana to eat before my race. But just as I was starting to fall into an abyssal panic, a girl who racked her bike beside me read my mind and took out a bunch of bananas from her bag and offered one to me. She has no idea that she saved my day, so THANK YOU lovely stranger. I hope karma gave you the best race ever.

Ok, so I put on my wetsuit, listened to the race meeting and made my way to the canal where I got in the water to warm up for the swim. This was going to be an in-water wave start and I was in the second wave. I managed to get about 5-10 minutes of swimming pre-start, but after the first wave left, it seemed that I had barely 2 minutes to get positioned and then it was go time. I didn't have much time to think about what was about to happen, so I put my head down and got to work. My strategy, just like the race folks suggested, was to swim as close to the shore going out, then as close to the buoys coming back, thus taking advantage of the current, if there was going to be one.

For the major part, the swim was uneventful. Almost no contact, like I was swimming by myself the whole time - but of course, everyone else was ahead of me! But even when the following wave caught up with me, people were so civil, that I didn't even notice it. I just saw a few guys passing me, but that's it. There was quite a chop coming back and I remember drinking a lot of water, but not enough to slow me down. Or at least I don't think so. My final time was exactly the same as last year at Muskoka 70.3, but my GPS said that I swam 200m more? I really didn't think that I went off course, so my swim speed will remain a mystery. I don't think that I've gotten faster in open water based on the swims I did this year, so I'll leave it at that. Moving on...
As usual I got all confused with my swim cap and goggles in one hand, Garmin watch in the other (it was under my swim cap) and trying to take off my wetsuit while I was running towards transition. I gave up half way and took it off once I could drop everything on my mat. No biggie, I am quite happy with my transition time and for once I wasn't dizzy and I could remove my wetsuit in a jiffy.

Put on my helmet (not backwards!), sunglasses, a pair of socks and my cycling shoes and trotted my way out onto the bike course. Guess who I ran into again? Hubbs! He was doing the course marshaling around the first corner and I yelled at him "41 minutes" (my swim time, because that's exactly what he predicted). It was also the first time that I was riding in a race with road cycling shoes. Can you believe it? But you should, because just a few weeks ago I graduated from MTB shoes to these after using them on the trainer over the winter. Anyway, point is that I didn't fall over when I mounted my bike and I could clip in successfully within the first 50m.

And then I rode. And I rode hard! Something happened to my Garmin that it paused by itself and didn't start again, so I don't have a trace of the first 5k, but eventually it started showing a pace that my brain couldn't really process, and I took it as a baseline to try and stay on it the best I could. It definitely felt challenging and I knew that I would have to maintain it for the entire length of the bike leg since the course was pancake flat. No rest. No coasting. Nada. I didn't know what racing on flats meant, I have none of those around me in Caledon. 
The legs kept turning, I kept pushing the pace, feeling great. I passed a lot of people, I got passed a lot too. I was told that we were going to have a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back. But for as long as I can remember, there was wind on my face and it never felt easier so to speak. Maybe it was just the feeling of going fast, to which I am not accustomed enough.

Given how the 5k markers were passing by fast, I started eating at 15km and decided to take in food every 15km and a sip of water every 5km. I had a Clif bar first, then used the bottle exchange at 30km and picked up a water bottle, which took me forever to pour inside my aero bottle because the spout would not stay open. That's it, this definitely got me decided to change my hydration setup. I need one of those bottle holders between my aero bars. Enough with the Aerodrink. It's not even sitting straight and it drives my OCD crazy (see the picture above, aaaargh).

Soon enough I hit and halfway point and that's when I started getting some pain inside my left leg/hip/adductor area. It felt like a cramp and it made me think that I should have started drinking electrolytes earlier. At this point I had not yet touched my bottle of Endura, but my stubborn brain took another 15km before it actually sent the signal to my hand to pick up the bottle and bring it to my mouth. By that time the pain was a lot more intense and my speed was going down because I needed to spin more often in order to keep the grinding to a minimum. Around 70km the cramp finally went away (elecrolytes and magnesium, magic!) and I could pick up the pace again.

I think we got about 10k of tail wind while riding along some body of water, and that was it. Then we hit the last stretch back into town and in a blink I was done! I had no idea what my time was given that my watch had been paused for quite a while, but I was happy to be back! Here is me again clickety clack-ing my way into transition. Damn, that Coeur kit looks rad!
After another quick transition I was happy to finally start the run, but I also knew that I was going to suffer. The initial plan was to stay on a 5:30min/km pace and hopefully come in under 2h, but it quickly went out of the window because of the heat and the tired legs. By the time I reached the 4th kilometer and started running on the pretty trail, I wanted to be done. My Garmin also gave me a headache by showing 800m extra distance and I thought that it got a sunstroke before me, therefore I chose to ignore it from that moment on.

Because of the two loops that we had to do on that trail I got to see everyone else about 3-4 times. That was interesting and a bit depressing too, especially when the pro gals passed me to start their second loop as I was starting my first, then other people left the trail towards the finish and I still had to put in 10km. I ate my Clif blocks like a champ, took in water at each station, either for my head, back or stomach. We even got sponges! Those were awesome. I stuck one inside my top at the base of my neck and let it drip on my back... So good. I also came across ice which I put inside my bra. Happy boobies, wheeee!! About half way I got some stomach pain. It was uncomfortable and it felt like gas buildup. I remembered what my hubby said about drinking coke during the Muskoka race. I first tried some HEED, but that made it worse.

You have to know that I gave up drinking pop about 5 years ago and never had Coke or a similar drink since. I was apprehensive to say the least. But I decided to try it anyway and see what happens. It tasted awfully, it was super hot and flat, of course, and to be honest, the taste was very different than what I could remember. Maybe because I wasn't drinking regular Coke back then, but the diet kind? Anyway, not even a km later: FAAAARRRRTTTT. Longest ever (sorry TMI). But it gave me instant relief. Another magic drink!!

A few kms later I took another sip of coke, passed more gas and I was finally pain free. But oh so tired! I had made pace with coming in over 2h, thanks to the reminder that this wasn't my A race. I truly did my best out there. Everyone was having a hard time. This race was definitely not a piece of cake, despite its pancake qualities. 

Eventually It was my turn to leave the trail and start the countdown. I was thankful for a straight line to the mat, but then... wait... why is there a mat 800m ahead of the finish line? Little did I know that was the actual finish because the course markings were actually screwed up and someone had added 800m to the course, hence the Garmin hiccup. I wish I knew, because I gave it all and in regular Irina fashion, sprinted in the last 500m because finish line pictures are so much better when you fly over the mat!
Yeah, right. I tried flapping my arms, but nothing happened. I got the picture above for proof though (glad that I shaved my armpits the night before). And DONE!! 5h42 and a full hour PR!!
Sure you cannot compare the hilly Muskoka 70.3 race with this one, especially with the 4km extra on the bike there, but a PR is a PR, and it's all mine!

I rested for a few minutes on a chair at the finish line, then went to grab some food. There was pizza but it tasted awful, so I threw it in the garbage. I scarfed down a few handfuls of pretzels then went to try yet another magic drink, Chocolate Milk. I wanted to get some swag from them because they have cool stuff, so I even posed with the STRONG(ER) sign. I certainly thought that to be very fitting for the day I had. It skyrocketed my confidence ahead of the Ironman and I could not be happier.
I came in 8th in my AG (out of 16) and that was good enough. I knew the field was going to be packed with much stronger athletes, so I didn't give myself unrealistic expectations. I went in this race for a test of my endurance and I delivered on that. 
I was also glad that I survived the day, despite all the "new things on race day" that I did not shy away from: helmet, sunglasses, heed and coke! It was the banana that made it all right, I tell ya!

And that's all folks. It took me 2 weeks to write this race report. I feel exhausted!!