Victoria was the venue for my next attempt at 70.3 miles, compliments of Ironman. A relatively new race to the Ironman circuit (year #2) the location and timing was ideal for us so we planed a trip up north. My bike and swim were looking strong. Hitting the pool 3-4 times a week and getting in those quality rides. I can not thank Zwift enough for providing a distraction during the dedicated trainer sessions as well as the fantastic weather in Carlsbad to encourage long rides on the weekends. The run was question mark as a hamstring issue left me with barely any running in the previous month. Doing a 10k on limited running is fine. 13 miles (or 12.9 in this case) seemed like a recipe for disaster…but that is for a few paragraphs later.
Here I am in tip top shape ready to tackle tough bike course (picture compliments of the San Diego Century):
So, I fly into Victoria with my bride and mom (I know, what am I thinking!!) It is going to be a fun weekend and we land, wait, wait, wait for all of our bags, bust through customs and immigration, grab our rental car and head off to the race venue! A few laps around the potential parking spots lands us in the grass lot adjacent to the TriBike Transport Crew. We need to hit them up later, so we power into the venue and try and figure out where to go. About 4 lines later we are at the VIP tent and we get the goods!!!
I assessed the venue and the course looked ideal! Smooth as glass lake, amazingly scenic ride and a trail run!!!! I’m coming back for sure! Here is the swim venue.
We took off to our hotel, stopped at the store for some food where I saw this and it made me wonder, I have heard of cookie butter, but have never tried it.
Could this be the magic sauce for IM victory??? I figured it was not, but wondered if it was, anyway we made our way to the Westin Bear Mountain and called it a night. A chill day was coming to a close and so far, everything was going according to plan!
I was up super early. The plan was to do a swim and bike and then kick it.
The swim was great, my Mom came with me and hung out while I swam out and back. The water was perfect and there was no plan for the conditions to change for race day. I did a little bike course preview and quickly realized the course was really lumpy. Time to race smart, not fast!
Since the swim and bike were done for the day, I got to rack my bike. Thanks to some pretty good results last year, I obtained AWA status and had a primo transition spot. I was right on the end of one of the racks very close to the swim venue. So the bike all slicked out with a set of Zipp’s, was ready to hibernate for the night.
And what better way for me to kick it, then to hit up the Fairmont and have some tea!!! Not the best place to let the Zoot kit color’s shine through, but I got all fancied up and had a really fun time with Mom and Julie.
There was a bit of a debate around dinner but we eventually landed at the hotel and enjoyed a good meal. Everything was all set for the morning, so we just called it an early evening knowing that the alarm would be going off early.
Despite having a nice suite, my initial morning actives of making coffee and making more coffee disrupted the support team and before I knew it, everybody was up and about with huge enthusiastic smiles on their faces 😉 I whipped up a Vega protein shake and had half a bagel while I was getting ready with some pretty bland almond butter on it. I have really grown to appreciate what just a hint of sugar can do for the taste of things. And I know there is the whole avoid refined sugar philosophy, but I’m sorry, it actually makes it taste like food.
We had a bit of a drive to the race start (about 20 minutes) and there was also a required shuttle bus trip so out the door we went at 4 something and made our way down to Elk Lake. We pulled into the parking lot and trudged up the hill to the awaiting school buses. School buses were really roomy as a kid, but now being a bit taller, they are quite cramped. I had a banana on the bus and despite having to wait in a left turn lane for what seemed like forever, it was a pretty easy trip.
I got to my bike, aired up the tires to 110 psi, laid out my gear and took off for a quick warm up run. I did a little bit of the run course and quickly realized that it was a pretty narrow trail on the way to the finish. I’m not sure what exactly I meant to do with that bit of information, but I logged it into the back of the brain and made my way back to my gear. I was so glad the hamstring was being cooperative! About 30 minutes leading up to the swim I had my Skratch Hyper Hydration mix along with a Vega Perform packet. I find this has given me a pretty good dose of energy through the swim and into the early part of the bike where I start to eat a little more as conditions allow. I had the luxury of putting my wetsuit on twice as I forgot to reconnect the quick release zipper. It is a great function that allows you to activate the breakaway zipper but requires a little bit of common sense before putting it on again and on race morning, my capacity for common sense is pretty limited. So off it came, a quick connect and back on again. The beauty of the Huub wetsuit is that in addition to fitting like a glove, getting into it is a piece of cake. So I grabbed my goggles and swim cap, topped of the pre-race nutrition with a quick Boom gel and made my way down to the water.
I was one of the later waves and so I had the pleasure of watching some of the other waves start and then jumped in for a quick warm up. I was not much of a warm up but more of a get wet and float in the water session. The water felt good. Definitely not cold, and not too warm so I just hung out and relaxed in the water until is was time for me to line up.
So while not a great swimmer, I am getting better. NOLA was a fast swim, mostly because of the distance, but I have developed a bit more confidence in the water. That was a time trial start with 8 athletes jumping off a dock at 3-5 second intervals. Victoria you start about waist deep which was also a little different. I can’t think of how else they can start you given I have done the run in swims as well as the tread water for 20 minutes prior scenario. So I went to the front but towards the middle of the line-up. My thought process was that by avoiding the far left where all the buoys would be, I would avoid having to be run into if I was slower than I thought and swimming into a foot fest if I was faster than those in front of me. I could see all the other AWA athletes to my left and started to question my choice, but oh well, we were 30 seconds to start and not much I could do about it at this point.
Air horn!!!! Push off with the legs, dive in and go. My little plan worked like a charm. Nobody in my way, nobody swimming over me!!!! I was doing pretty good, noticing a few groups starting to form around me most noticeably those boys on the left, but also one on my right. I had to make a call and started making the merge left. If I am going to be faster, I need a little help. By the time I got far enough over to line up behind the fast kids, they were gone. Lesson learned, maybe a few kicks in the face are not that bad after all because I have learned to appreciate the benefit of swimming in the draft at my morning master’s swims. From this point I was kind of on my own. There were a few others around me so I would jump on their feet and then move along after a short break. Find a new set and keep moving up through those who were tiring out. The swim course was straight out, left turn, about 150m, left turn and then head back. I started to pick up some earlier wave traffic and was getting pretty far left for turn number one. It looked nice and clear and so I took the turn and looked for the next buoy. I couldn’t really see anything due to the sun, so I just peeked every once in a while for flailing arms ahead of me. The next turn came pretty quick and was a little more congested but I made it through unscathed and looked up for the finish. It was a long way away and so I just focused on keeping the sighting buoys close by. At this point I started to get warm. I am guessing it was the sun warming my back but it was not the most pleasant feeling and one I had not experienced in any of my other races. Regardless, I kept going and hit the finally buoy, made an odd little jog to the left and swam my way into the beach.
I had no sense of my swim time, whether it was fast or slow so I was curious to see my time when I surfaced. It felt long, so I was preparing myself for another 35 minute swim. Once up and off with the goggles, I hit the lap button on my Garmin and……..33:11….Yay!!!! A little party took place right there, and gave me some extra encouragement to get to transition (of course the official time was a little longer due to the location of the timing mats – 33:53, 21st place in my AG).
The Huub was down at the waist in no time and I made the decision to forgo the short sleeve jersey I was planning on wearing on the bike. In no time I was at my bike, I had my wetsuit off and the socks and shoes were on in a flash. I grabbed my Bonk Breaker bar and an extra Boom gel, put on my quick to fog up glasses and my brand new Smith Overtake helmet! I made quick work navigating the swimmers extracting themselves out of their wetsuits and got to the mount line, jumped on, clicked in and was off…T1 was 1:38!
There was some confusion about the course length, some websites had it listed as 90km, others shorter, so I was not sure what to expect. We take off down a wooded road towards the loop. For the 70.3 distance, the loop is done twice before heading back into town. I had seen bits and pieces of the loop from driving and riding earlier but for the most part, I was going in without a lot of knowledge on the course. So the plan was to race the course, not attack the hills (which is always so tempting).
Here is the data you have all been screaming before…first public release!!!
I know that is a lot of garbled up lines, but the bottom line was that I went out a little hard, lap #1 was very consistent thanks to a light load of traffic, while lap #2 saw some others infiltrate my zone. When I get in the zone, I want nobody around….I want open roads, and nobody interfering with my ability to ride my pace. Sure, I don’t mind an Everyman Jack guy passing me, but when I play leapfrog, it drives me crazy. Anyway, nutrition has been great this year and today was no different. A good balance of Boom gels, Bonk Breaker bars and Skratch Labs. Boom is a Team Zoot sponsor and their gels are easy on the stomach and give you just the right kick to continue down the road. Skratch is my hydration/electrolyte supplier of choice and with 90 calories per 8 oz, they provide a quick means to some good calories. Currently, I am hooked on the Matcha & Lemons flavor!!!.
I was excited to hear some cheering from Julie and my Mom as I passed through on the start of the second loop. I did not expect to see them and it gave me a little push on the start of the next lap.
While I was a little more variable on lap 2, I was excited to see a VI of 1.04 and an IF of 0.83. Signs that it was a steady, hard effort. All that being said, I probably should have gone a little harder but rolled into T2 having moved up a significant number of places in my AG (now sitting in 10th!) and grabbing 7th overall on the Strava half ironman loop segment!…All the while, the crowd was going wild!!!
I flew through T2 much to the disappointment of my mother, but sorry Mom, that is how I roll. Bike was racked, helmet off, Zoot Carlsbad (my home town!) shoes on, grab the race belt and the Fuel Belt and bam, out I go!!! T2 in 1:07, I will take that.
If the bike course was unknown to me, the run course was a total mystery given I had seen maybe half a mile of it this morning. I head out, reach back for my drink bottle and notice that one of the two is missing….Noooo!!!! I decide I can manage and settle into a nice pace. The course is spectacular! Trails in the shade! Such a contrast to NOLA where it was concrete in the sun. I found a nice pace and settled in. I always wonder if I have paced myself sufficiently in earlier parts of the race to have a good run and I was about to find out. As I mentioned earlier, I have not been running much in the last months, and so the plan was go out solid for the first 10k loop and see what happens in the second loop. I think the language shared by my coach Grant was “My guess is the legs will really start to hurt after about 10k….” I can not say that was not in the back of my mind but as the miles (or km) clicked by, I was feeling better and better.
As I approached the second of two laps, I decided, it is time to go!!! And go I did! I was feeling great. No longer was I dodging the sprint athletes making their way back towards me on their run but I was blowing past runner’s on their run. I passed the EMJ guy and appreciated the words of encouragement he gave me and started really giving it all I had. The HR was up, the pace was up and I was feeling good.
Enter km 15 into the fold…the exact point I told myself if I started to break down, I could deal with it. I knew that meant 3 miles to the end. There was the last mile which I could storm, and the two lumpy miles just preceding that last mile. I was in pain…so much pain that putting one foot in front of the other was torture. I hit the point in the course where they send you on a hilly out and back and figured this was the death of me. I did surprisingly well, much to my surprise. Yeah, the pain was still there in the legs, but the body just kept moving. So I hit the downhill and though to myself, just make it to the meadow and you are home free. The meadow came and I kicked it in. I think it was just about a mile, but while I finished at 7:16/mile pace, this last mile was at 6:30/mile pace and I was picking off people left and right. I hit the bridge I saw during my warm-up and lap one and new it was good day. I charged home and crossed the line! Not my fastests 70.3 at 4:43 but clearly, the best all around effort.
I was excited to see Julie and my mom at the finish. Sweaty hugs were a given along with some post race food…well, I had an orange and passed on the chili??? Kind of an odd choice. I took some time to reflect on my race, saw my placing in my AG (8th) and decided I had enjoyed Victoria enough. So I smiled for a picture, grabbed my gear and we headed to a proper lunch where I had a beer and a burger!!!
Next up was a nap, some pool time, where we made some friends and talked to some other racers. We wrapped up the night and all crashed after a long day. We had big plans for the morning, so no time to just sit around.
This year, we are exploring more around the race venues and so our goal on Monday was Butchart Gardens for some natural beauty, a lunch along the coast and then a nice dinner downtown. The garden’s were amazing! The variety of horticulture was vast and the colors spectacular!!! Pictures do not do this place justice one bit!