The “if I can do this, anyone can” race
I just had the most fun I’ve ever had in a race at Ironman 70.3 Victoria. The training cycle for this one was pretty rough and not a priority at times, so I’m pretty happy how everything turned out. I had raced BMO Vancouver Marathon 6 weeks prior, and also wanted to have a great time at the Rock n Roll Seattle Half Marathon that would be 6 days after finishing Victoria. So with (the lack of) training, I was banking on my riding my marathon fitness, and seeing what I could pick up and cram in from a well-timed triathlon camp in Vernon that I attended three weeks prior to race day.
Athlete Check In/Bike Drop
Ironman Victoria 70.3 had the worst check in I’ve ever experienced. In previous years, all activities were held on the other side of Beaver/Elk Lake, and they moved it all this year so there would be more parking and space available. It was awful, so I can’t imagine how it used to be. When we arrived at Beaver Lake, the road by the highway was really crowded, so we decided that we should hop out and walk in with our bikes. It. Was. So. Far.
When we finally arrived at the Athlete Village area, there was a huge line up to check in, and I stood in line with our bikes before space finally cleared up on nearby racks. I needed to pay one day race insurance fee, and got diverted to the slowest table to even though I had exact change. Then we had to go to another table to sign waivers, and give permission on if our names could be shared in case of accident. Then we went to another table to pick up bibs and swim caps. Then another table for our chip timers. It was in a really small crowded tent, and I disliked the process here compared to other races.
The Athlete Village was kind of nice and had a few vendors. As a pre-race ritual, I went to go buy a new pair of goggles at the Aquasphere tent. I did like how there was a huge swag tent, there was lots of swag to look at compared to Ironman Calgary. I bought a bunch of race branded water bottles because it looked like they were running low, and planned on returning to the swag tent once I finished. We put the stickers on our bike, dropped off our bikes in transition, and walked by the swim start before leaving for the day.
Since the race started around 6am, we woke around 4am so that we could get to transition early without rushing. I opted to eat a Clif bar for breakfast, which I took with me and ended up eating while setting up at transition. I was going to have a gel before the swim, but totally forgot.
With the way I swim, I really have no business participating in triathlons. But I really wanted a 70.3 finisher hat. I didn’t do any pre-swimming at the venue because everyone had nasty things to say about Elk/Beaver Lake. I didn’t do any open water swimming before this race, because the waters were still too cold. I was only swimming about 1x/week.The outdoor pools had just opened for the season. I didn’t even try on my new wetsuit until before athlete check-in/bike drop. The odds were really against me.
On race morning, we learned the swim was officially shortened due to lake weeds. Yay! Shortened swim should mean auto-PB. It didn’t take long to set up at transition, and I rushed so I could get in the water for a small warm up. I wore a one piece Sugoi trisuit, and quickly put on my wetsuit. I made sure to Bodyglide the back of my neck, around my elbows and knees. Walking barefoot from transition to swim start was honestly the hardest part of the entire day. The swim start was really far from transition and I should’ve brought flip flops.
The lake was warm and there was no visibility — perfect! All my triathlon swims have been in murky water, so this is all I know and I think I prefer it. I let water into my wetsuit, swam towards a buoy and got back out to get in line. It was a self seeded start and I put myself in the last 1/4 of the crowd. The swim start area felt like a cluster. The corral was too small, and there was not enough space to wait by the signs for your expected swim times. I’ve only ever experienced wave starts, so this rolling start was new to me but it felt very much like a running race. The gun went off, and you gradually make your way through the starting arch. Everyone started getting into the water, and I waded in until about waist deep and started swimming. Some people walked in until up to their neck. I swam a little bit and then started to get jostled. Nothing major, no punches or anything. But in the first 100m, every time I got bumped I would completely stopped and then I started to panic and get scared. But I couldn’t quit because I wanted that hat. And I was too close to the shore and the crowd. So I forced myself to keep going. I exhaled extra hard and counted my strokes to keep myself busy. After I passed the first buoy, I felt better. When I passed the second buoy, I was over the moon. I was suddenly having THE BEST SWIM EVER. I was having the best time ever. I just kept counting my strokes and enjoyed the swim. It was magical. Until it was time to turn back. The turn buoys switches sides (which was really confusing, I thought we kept all buoys to our left) and we got into the lake weeds. I didn’t love that. I didn’t know what to do so I started to swim weird. Then a weed landed on my face. But it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I thought that if you were to get into the weeds, it would start pulling you down into the depths of the lake and stuff. Nothing like that happened. The lake weeds were also nowhere as scary as people bumping into me.
We got pulled out of the water at the swim finish, which was a floating plastic dock thing. The volunteers form a human chain to hoist you out. No wetsuit strippers. I literally skipped and ran with joy into transition. I’ve never felt like I was having fun in an open water swim until now. I hope this is my new normal. My swim time was still pretty awful, 42:19 for either 1500 or 1600m, I’m not really sure what the distance was. I lost some time with the buoy confusion. I need to work on sighting, getting comfortable in crowds, and swim strength. So, basically everything.
I was able to run to T1, which is a first for me. I had tucked the end of the zipper string into the velcro part on the neck of my wetsuit, so it was really easy to reach and start unzipping myself. I took off my swim cap and goggles and held them in my left hand while I pulled off my sleeve so they got safely stowed away. I sat down in transition to wrestle the rest of the wetsuit off. I rinsed off my feet using an extra water bottle, and put on my hot pink Betty Designs cycling jersey and Sugoi cycling shorts. Yes, on top of my one piece Sugoi trisuit. I like extra padding. It was overcast, and my jersey has SPF, so I skipped sunscreen.
I had a great time on the bike, but I am so embarrassed by my time. I felt really strong and rode in the big ring for almost all of the ride. Compared to where I now currently ride and train, the Victoria course felt pretty flat, other than 2 major hills. I spent a lot of time with my head turned looking the at scenery. Not aero at all. I planned on riding by HR but couldn’t because the HRM I brought with me ended up being a dud. So I decided to go by RPE alone, and not check my time.
The course was really beautiful, but I felt like there were too many cars for my liking. There were also a few accidents. One was at an aid station, and I think I saw at least 2–3 ambulances over the course of the ride. But maybe that’s par for the course when you’re back of the pack like me. I rode with concentrated Infinit and water, and my nutrition felt bang on. I will ride with one disposable water bottle on future races, so I don’t have to fumble with water re-fills.
When I got back to transition, I finally looked at my time and was shocked! 4 HOURS?! I was so annoyed at my time, and got little disoriented so extra T2 time was wasted by trying to exit out the wrong corner of transition. 4 hours?! 4 hours. Boo. My RPE is a liar. I was hoping for at least 3:25 or under, and ended up being 03:45:13. I learned my RPE is a liar and elevation charts are greatly exaggerated. Next time, I’ll be sure to ride with a working HRM and most obviously, check my time.
I was pretty upset at my bike time, so I forgot to take off my cycling shorts. I changed into my sneakers and threw on my race belt. I opted to run in my cycling jersey because the weather was still cool and I still didn’t want to bother with sunscreen.
The run was pretty flat, 2 loops around Elk/Beaver Lake. The aid stations were every 2km, but felt a lot farther than that in some places. Normally I run 10 minutes and walk 1 minute, but since I never do any speed work, I decided to try a new ratio of 4:1 and see if I could get free speed. I stuck to cola and water, and ate half of a peeled banana for some reason. Pre-peeled bananas are weird. It was pretty hard having to run by the finish line to start the second loop. I thought about how hard that would be on a 140.6. My second loop got a lot quieter. I also stopped for a bio break, and I’m convinced it was the reason why I did not PB (in reality, it was many things). There was a younger guy whose left leg didn’t seem to be cooperating, but he was limping faster than I was running. Just like how there were people who were backstroking faster than I was front crawling on the swim. We leap frogged a bit and chatted some. I lost him when he stayed to walk with a couple girls in really cute Zoot kits. It got a little warmer near the finish, so I started throwing a cup of water down my chest. I’ve seen plenty of other people racing in what look like cycling jerseys, and I loved racing in my hi-vis Betty Designs cycling jersey for so many reasons. It was easy to spot me. It kept me comfortable. It had sun protection and covered my back and shoulders, and I learned it could keep me cool when I needed it.
I was pretty undertrained going into this race. I was getting into the pool once a week. Barely running. I was focussed on getting stronger on the bike (and I was getting there) but never doing any speed work. If I was racing in July, I would’ve been in much better shape. Especially with everything I learned at this awesome training camp. Regardless, it’s pretty cool to see what my body is capable of. Victoria won’t be the top of my list for next year, since it’s really early in the season for me and I don’t like taking the ferry from Vancouver. But I’m excited to race another 70.3 and see what happens. Thanks to my husband and family for being really supportive, and thanks to my friends for all your messages and encouragement.