This race was all about experimenting and testing theory....I would be experimenting with a new 'fuel' and testing out my proposed Ironman pace. Sylvan Lake is known as a challenging course and similar to Ironman in that the bike course is damn hilly at the end. The run course is also a good challenge as it's a partial trail run and also fairly hilly.
So how did it go?? Well let me start with getting out of my car at the race. I had stayed with my friend Nick and his family the evening before in Red Deer and he came out to watch the race. I was unloading my gear from the car when I realized I'd left my two water bottles on the kitchen counter at Nicks. URGH! What a way to start off! Nick of course offered to go get them right away, thankfully we had lots of time. So as he did that I got the rest of my stuff ready.
With all my gear good to go, including water bottles, I headed out for the pre race meeting and the swim. This was a water start, something I'd never done before. I wasn't worried about it though as my plan was to stay to the far left of the crowd. To ease some tension and to make a couple friends in the crowd laugh I did my synchro swimmer impersonation - one leg straight up in the air and spin around. haha. Gotta love the buoyancy of wetsuits! It was after this I spotted my friend Chris treading water. Always nice to see a friendly face and someone to chat with before the chaos starts.
I thought the swim would be harder because of the type of start, but I was far enough over that it was pretty relaxing. The only thing that was hard was sighting the buoy because it was so FAR away! (This was a one lap course.) I'm sure I looked like a drunken swimmer veering back and forth, but I don't trust following other swimmers for fear of ending up waaaay of course. There was one such gentleman that 'bumped' into me when we were about 100 m from the buoy. We both stopped and looked up and the look on his face was hilarious. He was totally lost and shocked that I was laughing - I pointed to the buoy and said 'Uh, you kinda wanna go THAT way', as he was heading in the total opposite direction. That was about it for contact for me, the rest of the swim I just concentrated on my technique and singing 'three blind mice' in my head. I have NO idea why that song popped up, but it did. Rather annoying after a while I might add.
Getting out of the water proved somewhat tricky, the shallow part of that lake extends forever, so a bunch of people were walking. I rather swim it in till I touch sand so had to swim around all these walkers. Very strange. My swim time was 41:09. A little slower than Stony but I account that to the zig zagging I did at the beginning, haha.
The bike was going to be challenging, not just because of the hills, but because I was going to watch my heart rate and keep it down. I wasn't sure if I could do that and still get some speed. The best part about the ride is I didn't feel any pressure! As far as I was concerned this was the experiment and testing part so I was just doing research. Tons went flying by me, gasping for air already. I, on the other hand, remained sitting up and relaxing for the first 15 minutes. This paid off I'm happy to say, as I did not have the usual cramping I get. YAY!!! As I was pedaling along I was singing Janis Joplin's 'Mercedes Benz', it was at this point my coach rolled up in a convertible Mercedes Benz to check on me! Too wild. (She was one of the bike marshalls.) She was happy to hear the start was good so far....now we only had about 80km to go! I learned tons on this ride, like I can keep my heart rate down and spin and get some decent speed. I also learned that I can use a concentrate of my Infinit - a very cool thing as I will be able to carry 8 hours worth in one bottle!
The trick with the concentrate was to make it, then put measured amounts (displayed as marks on my bottle) into my profile bottle. Just add water and 'voila!' I have my fluid. The only thing about this method though is mixing when it's in the profile bottle. My first swig of the stuff and I got a mouthful of salty concentrate...GACK! SPUTTER! No worries, I'll just take out my straw and give a mix. In theory this would work like a charm, however, in practice I somehow managed to stuff my sponge to the bottom of the profile bottle. This now meant with every bump I had the sticky fluid all over me. Even more so when I hit the rumble strips they have before every cotton pickin stop sign! I hit one so hard that the stuff literally splashed me from head to toes. Yes, it took me three of the strips to figure out that I have the capability to cover the open bottle with my hand!!!! I'm such a nerd at times.
At the halfway point I allowed my heart rate to go up a smidge, but I noticed that on the flats it stayed down for the most part. Another interesting result of my testing. When it came time for the hills I felt well rested, a novel idea considering I'd already completed about 60 km of the bike. This was great! I ascended the first hill and had a great cadence and even passed someone. Then the next hill I passed another person. This was friggin great! My legs felt awesome and I had the energy to do it. There was even one spectator, who'd been leap frogging the racers as he was waiting for someone in the race, who kept cheering me on and saying I was doing 'excellent climbing'. Well that's all it took for me to keep charging ahead, and pretending I was on the Tour de France or something, haha. With every person I spotted I decided I would catch up and pass. I was pretending I was Ms. Pacman as I'd get closer and closer and was thinking 'chomp, chomp, chomp'. Who knew hills could be so fun!
As I got back into town, I saw my coach, or rather she spotted me. She was yelling enthusiastically as I told her how good the ride was, that my stomach was fine and that my legs felt awesome. The driver of the convertible must have thought my coach was nuts. haha. The time for the bike was 3:39:19. Not bad considering two transitions were in there! This time was faster than when I rode the course a couple weeks back and I felt WAY better. If I had time in transition to do the Snoopy Happy Dance I would have.
Back to the race though, I still had 21.2km to run. After a quick porta potty stop I was off and, well, running! I saw Nick and Jenn at the start and they both said I looked strong. Very cool. I even felt it!
The run course there is awesome as there is some trail running in it. I LOVE trail running so this was great. My heart rate was a wee bit high, but I thought it might come down once I got into a groove. Apparantly Mother Nature felt it was too high and I should slow down....cause she put a tree root in the way that I tripped over. Oooof! I think was the sound I made as my once vertical body went horizontal then skidded along the ground. Ow. Now that's gonna leave a mark, haha. No worries though, I was up and running soon enough. It wasn't until I poured water over me at the next aid station that I realized I had scraped myself - YEEEOOOW! That stings!
As with the bike, I was starting to pass people in the run. Hmmm....this pacing on the bike really DOES work. I was passing several of the people that had passed me on the bike, and they were looking kind of pooped. Suhweet. I felt like Forrest Gump out there, just running and running. I had tons of energy for the hills and was able to keep a great pace on them as well. Way too awesome.
I have to say that my energy was pretty good through out the entire run. The last 2 km were a bit tiring, but I'd never had this much energy during the last bit of a 1/2 Ironman. Hell, I'd never started a run with that much energy - usually I'm already tired and in pain, haha. The last kilometer was running thru the path along the beach. It was bizarre running through here as there were tons of people on the beach hanging out and bbq'ing. Mmmm....bbq.... As I saw my coach, she was jumping up and down like a madwoman, she couldn't believe my pace. Neither could I. In the end my run time was 2:16:59! A PR for a 1/2 Ironman and on a challenging course too.
My total time then was 6:37:20. I was really happy with it as I expected I'd be about 7 hours with the pace I assumed I'd be at to keep my heart rate down. The experiment was a success then. I learned a ton about how pacing can help you and how to save yourself on the bike in order to have a great run. Oh, and I also learned that I can use the concentrate....but not to squish my sponge to the bottom of the profile bottle. Sigh....hopefully all the water I poured over me on the run washed most of it away. At least the backs of my knees weren't sticking anymore!!
A huge thank you to my friends Nick, Jenn and Paddy for being out there and cheering - it was greatly appreciated!! Massive thank you's to Darcy, IronGreg and Angie for all the instruction on pacing, nutrition etc. It paid off BIG TIME and I'm confident I have a good plan for the big race! Ironman, here I come!!!