That is something that I never thought I would say about a half ironman distance race. I was aiming for a 5:4x:00 time and I knew I could do it, but to actually get there was a different story!
I had planned to at least do a couple of half-ironman distance races this year before my first Ironman this August. I have learned that there is no better training than actually racing. There is just so much that I can learn on the race day as far as pacing, nutrition, and different weather conditions and tons more other details. So I decided to choose the Saunders Victoria half-ironman as the first H-IM race of the year since the timing was good. In addition due to the lower temperatures, it would be a good time to get a personal best as the performance is higher in the cooler temperatures.
Jenny and I took the ferry over to the Vancouver Island on Friday. It was a nice afternoon and we head straight over to our hotel to check-in and unload everything. The weather forecast was looking to be nice for the weekend with minimal chance of rain. I did a quick swim and a ride around the site on Saturday before my bike check-in. Driving the bike course after proved to be a good idea as the course is hilly. The rolling hills allow for a better time and less energy use if the speed are carried over to the uphills and I am glad I did check the course!
I had trouble sleeping past 3:45 considering I did not go to bed until midnight. It was a good idea to catch up on sleeping the nights before! I did my usual race morning/weekend training ritual with the added bonus of listening to a voice recording Saul Miller did for me as meditation. I was ready to go and waited as long as I could before waking Jenny up, but it was time to go!
Got to the swim site on time and went straight to my bike to setup the transition area and my bike nutrition. This is one of my most favourite part of race morning as it is so calming to slowly set everything up and go over the transition in my head. Sometimes I get so carried away that I have to rush to get my wetsuit on and get ready for the swim!
The swim start was not a huge deal considering there are only a few hundred people in the water and the beach area is pretty large. This almost allows everyone to stand side by side more or less. Swim being the slowest of the 3 sports for me, I tend to take it easy and slowly get into it which is great. The view of the arms and legs flying all over the place is pretty amazing!
I was able to have my fastest swim to date in this race! It felt great coming out of the water into the transition area. The transition took a bit longer than usual as I was putting some arm warmers on since the temperatures in the morning were hovering around 10C. I had a pro-like mount on the bike and off I went to tackle the 90km two-loop course.
The course is very scenic up and down on the old two-lane highway surrounded by big old trees. It was much faster than I had originally thought and carrying speed was the key to minimizing any extra effort going up the hills. On the second loop coming back from the airport, my old friend WIND decided to show his face. However since the direction was to the side, it was not as detrimental to my speed as it would’ve been if it was a head on. So it was more of a mental exercise than physical. I was pretty happy to be back on the highway since the wind was blocked by the trees. Got off the 2nd loop and only a 5k ride back to the transition area. It was a good chance to spin the legs and go over my transition in my head. Before I knew it I was off the bike and running for my running shoes, HA!
A quick transition under 30 seconds and off I was around the lake. The run started slow while my legs were getting used to stepping on solid ground. It is hard to describe how many thoughts race through one’s head on the beginning of the run, some positive and some negative. The true test is to be able to store the positive ones for later access as you know it will be needed and turn the negative ones into food for the brain. I used to think the best way is to ignore them. But I learned that it is even better to use them, feed on them, and get faster! So that’s what I did! I told to myself this is perfect conditions, great weather, nice trails to run on, and best of all I am feeling great. If there was anytime to push my limits, this was it. So I started running at my half-marathon pace without even thinking I just finished a 90km bike. I knew I had it in me, I just had to mentally keep it there.
One thing that every triathlete finds out after their first race is that doesn’t matter how long the race takes, it always feels like a super short race after you are done. Before I knew it I was running by the Finish chute on my way to the 2nd lap of the run. A quick look up at the time, I knew I was on my way to a finish time that I had set for myself. Only 10k to go! Grabbed another gel and some water and was on my way. The last 10k of the race was the easiest part. I knew I had it in the bag and it was time to start pushing the envelope. As my best friend once told me, you gotta step out of your comfort zone to enjoy life. So I picked up the pace, I was getting to my 10k race pace now. With 1km left I could hear someone behind me slowly catching up. As per my other races, I like to sprint the finish line. I knew it was going to be a good one. With about 400m left I finally saw the person that was causing all the noise behind me. He decided to go by me, which proved to be too early for him! I matched his speed until about 100m to go and I could notice his form was falling apart which meant he was getting close to his limit. I turn it to overdrive and took off, he tried to follow but the slowing down of the steps I heard behind me was a good indication that he had already given it all he could. I came across the finish line holding my arms up and proud at a time of 5 hours and 47 minutes!
This was a big step for me as the first big race of the season, it was almost an hour improvement over a race 9 months earlier which proved that my training off season had paid off! I am on track for my future events!