Over the past few years, I’ve done at least 1 or 2 half-ironman distance triathlons throughout my Xterra race season. The longer distance race is a great fitness and mental toughness test. This weekend, the Chinook Half was probably my most enjoyable half-ironman triathlon race to date.
The race takes place in the south of Calgary, so only a 20 minute plus drive from my door at 6:00am on a Saturday morning. At the 8:00am start it was cloudy, pretty chilly (8 degrees air temp and 16 degree water temp) but with my Orca Alpha wetsuit and Neoprene cap on, after a bit of a warm-up in Midnapore lake, it seemed tolerable enough for a 2km swim. Once we were off I found myself swimming with Emmanuela from Regina, and with her swimming just a bit quicker I decided to stay on her feet and conserve a little energy for a long morning at the office! I was the 2nd women out of the water by 9 seconds (time 31:21), and found out after the race that there were cash primes for the swim, bike, and run. It would have been nice to have known this as I may have pinned it instead of staying steady into shore, oh well! Since my fingers were pretty numb, a big thanks to the great volunteer wetsuit strippers who got me out of my wetsuit and going again in no time!
After one trainer ride on my TT bike on Wednesday to make sure it still works, I set on the bike with my new Giro TT helmet courtesy my Luna team. I love the built-in eyewear, and I also felt like Darth Vader on a mission as I could hear my breathing extra loud. The bike is longer than usual for a half by 6km, so a 96km ride. I put my vest on in transition afraid I would be cold, but the sun came out on the bike and it was just fine! The bike is very scenic and is an out and back on the rolling and scenic 22x highway with the Rocky Mountain back drop. I started to feel my unused TT riding muscles like my gluts and hips pretty quickly but tried to just relax and keep a good but strong cadence. About 15 min into riding I passed Emmanuela on one of the rolling hills and knew I was then the first female, okay just 85km or so to go and hold this position! On the way out the headwind was narly and the false flats and uphills made me feel like I was going nowhere fast. I just tried to stay in the aero position as much as I could, and not cook my legs too early.
At the turnaround, I could see Annette Kamenz was not far behind, a super strong rider from Edmonton. I had to get moving, and at least it felt like I was with a nice headwind on the way home (and a 20 minute faster ride on the way back thankfully and total time of 2:47). Soon Annette sling shotted by me on an uphill and I was determined to keep her in sight. When she had some shifting trouble on the next hill I got by again but not for long. Coming up on 20km to go I still had her in sight. However after that point it got tough as we were coming up on all the Olympic distance triathletes on the way back as well; their race had started 1h15 later than the half. I went as hard as I could to keep contact because I didn’t want to have to dig myself into a hole on the run, and couldn’t remember how strong of a runner Annette was!
Coming into T2 my coach, Cal told me I was 1 minute down. Not bad, I thought. And Annette took longer in transition so when I came out running I saw her almost right away. I was surprised how good I felt running right from the start. As I came up on Annette I contemplated being more conservative to start and hanging with her pace for a bit, but realized I just needed to go my own pace. The sun was still out, the temperature was PERFECT, and I was looking forward to discovering the course on the first of the two loops for the run. After running on the bike path through the neighbourhood for a while we descended into beautiful park Fish Creek Provincial Park. I loved the fact we got to run a few kilometers on shaded dirt paths next to a creek. It was so pretty. There is one out and back point near the end of the first lap and there I calculated I had about a 2 minute lead, no time to take it easy for sure. The lap ends with a nice steep climb back up to the start/finish area. It was fun to see so many friends out watching and racing as I started out on the lonelier second lap. The first lap was full of racers finishing the Olympic distance triathlon.
As usual my legs were starting to hurt and I was started to feel hungry. My own coke had run out and the aid stations weren’t doing much for me but I knew I had enough fuel in the tank to finish! At the second out and back I saw my lead had extended to 6 minutes so I knew I could enjoy the last few kilometres to the finish. As I neared the finish I noticed J-F and the kids had made it watch and was happy to see them after hobbling around a bit at the finish (run time 1:29). J-F, Zoé and Nico had all come down with bad colds on Thursday and Friday so I was just crossing my fingers I would hold it off until after this race. Race morning I woke up with a niggle in my throat and even as I was doing the race, especially by the run, I could feel my throat getting worse. Thankfully my body held up to get the job done but now I’m down for the count with a cold too. Ouch say my nose, throat, back, butt, and legs today but as it always goes, “this too will pass!” 🙂
Thanks to Mike Bock, the race director, for putting on such a great event, with tons of awesome volunteers out there. Thanks to Rose Serpico of Tri-It for encouraging me to enter this race just a few weeks ago and go for the Alberta Iron Challenger (see photo below). Of course, a little financial motivation doesn’t hurt. And thanks to Coach Cal for coming out to watch and giving splits! And of course, thanks to my wonderful team Luna for supporting me with the gear to jump in these crazy road events every so often!
Up next (body permitting): Rundle’s Revenge in Canmore – time to hit the dirt for a weekend of mountain bike and trail running race-training!