Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Calgary 70.3 Race Report - 2013, The swim

Sunday, I completed my second half ironman.  When I signed up for it last fall, I saw myself blowing away my performance from 2012.  Then, three months ago, I had the experience that almost every endurance athlete has to deal with at some point.

An injury.

In my case, a stress fracture.  In terms of running, it's a game stopper of injuries.  Oddly, at the same time, it's one of the simpler ones to heal.  (Not necessarily easy, but simple.)  Bones can heal fully, provided you are smart enough to give them the rest they need.  There's no debate; you have to stop running on it.  There is some debate as to how long.   In my case, I spent 4 weeks in an aircast, letting my bone heal, while my muscles atrophied.  Then, 4 weeks of walking without the aircast, but still no running unless it was in a pool.  That left me being able to hit the road running 1 month before the race.

My run training was a mix of water running, elliptical, and some actual running, with run/walk intervals.  I am so thankful for my coach, Angie.  If I hadn't had her, I don't know if I would have made it to this start line.  I would have had no idea how to structure my run training to safely get there.  When it came down to it, I hadn't actually run more then 10km on the road for exactly three months, the day I ran my last half marathon.

This is where I was going to have to trust the training.  I had done some very long pool runs.  I'd also had a couple long "runs" where I spent a good two hours alternating between running and the elliptical.


This is the first time my husband and kids came with me to an early morning race start.  I had been a bit stressed about this, but my husband took care of all the kid stuff, leaving me to worry about my last minute race preparations, mainly getting my hydration and nutrition together.  We had planned to leave the house at 5:00 am, and were pulling out of the driveway at 5:05.  Not bad, in comparison to the planning.

Due to the recent flooding in the Calgary area, the swim was in a completely different location, at Mackenzie lake, in South Calgary, rather then Ghost Lake, which is close to Cochrane.  This meant it was about an hour drive in the morning, rather then the 15 minutes it would have been.

There was no parking nearby, so I got my husband to drop me off, while he and the kids went to park.  I headed over to body marking and looked for Leana, as she was volunteering there.  I found her husband, Neil, first.  I joked that I was looking for her, but he would do.  He told me that I could still have Leana if I wanted.  I asked who had the nicer writing, and when it was determined it was Leana, she was called over.
Leana was kind enough to put my number right side up, even though I gave her an upside down age a couple weeks ago.  (Photo courtesy of Neil, stolen from Leana's facebook page.)
Then I headed over to my bike.  I was feeling a bit tight on time, and realized that although we had left the house almost on time, we should have planned to leave earlier.  The drive was almost an hour.  I had arrived at the race with less an hour to go, and taking into account set up, the porta potty line up, getting the wetsuit on, and doing a warm up swim, I had no leeway.

Since my husband was there to give it to, I had brought my own bike pump.  I got my nutrition set up on my bike then went to pump up the tires.  I started to unscrew the presta valve on the rear tire, and the end of it came shooting off as all the air forcefully expelled.  I stood there somewhat dumbstruck and almost ready to cry.

I know how to change a tire, and some of my visualizations of the race even included that possibility.  At the moment though, it just seemed completely overwhelming.

The girl next to me was the voice of reason.  "Best time for that to happen," she said.  "Take it over to bike support.  They'll help you with it."

I wheeled it over to bike support and tried to get a handle on my emotions.  Not a big deal, I told myself.  She was right.  Way better that this happened now then have it happen mid race.  Still, when I got to the bike support tent, I was still teary eyed.

"Are you okay?  Can I help you with something?" one of the guys asked me.  I explained the situation, and he immediately took my bike from me and started changing the tire.  I can't say how thankful I am to Speed Theory for helping me out.

While my tire was changed, I went back and set up my transition.  I like to keep my transition zone pretty simple, but this time, I did have the extra items of a jacket and arm warmers.  The temperature was supposed to be kind of cool, and I hadn't decided which to wear on the bike.

I retrieved my bike and gave incredible thanks for it.  Then I saw the porta potty line. The really long porta potty line.  I took my wetsuit with me and waited in line.  And waited.  While I waited, I heard them announcing that everyone needed to come out of the water.  Okay, no swim warm up.  Finally, I reached the front of the line and did my thing.  Then I headed to a little grassy corner and got my wetsuit on with a couple other people.

While getting my wetsuit on, I heard the singing of "Oh Canada".  I was zipping it up as the pro men wave started.  I had planned to give my dry clothes bag to my husband, but I didn't see him around, and didn't have time to look, so I just dropped it off at the official drop off and headed down to the beach.

By the time I got there, the pro women had gone, and the teams were being sent off.  That meant there was one wave left before mine, the age group men.

I found my kids off to one side watching the start and gave them a hug.  My husband was just getting back from looking for me.  They wished me luck, and I went and took my place on the beach.

I was actually feeling very calm, and ready.  It's amazing how just three years ago, I was afraid of the deep end of the pool and now, the swim was the part of the race I was the least worried about.  It was a bit of a challenge to seed myself, but I looked around and realized I was standing behind some men.  Since the age group men had already gone, they had to be part of the newbie wave, which went after the age group women.  I moved forward some until I was pretty sure I was in front of the newbies.
I'm in the black wetsuit
Then, it was time to go.

The Swim

In the last few races, I've discovered that, for my current swim ability, how I enter the water is more important then how I seed myself on the beach.  I pass anyone who is doing the obvious hanging back and walk brickly to the edge of the water.  The people in the front that sprint for the water stay ahead of me (as they should) and the others entering similarly are either close to my speed or a bit faster.

Then I was in and swimming.  I was bumped and jostled a few times, but I took it in stride,  something I'm very pleased I can now do.  I concentrated on getting my stroke smooth and avoiding any panic kicking, and I started to watch for feet to draft, if they should happen to appear.

I even found them.  I don't rely on drafting, but when I can, I've started trying to.  I've found that since I've stopped hanging back at the beginning, it's easier to find those feet.

The swim went really smoothly.  If anything, I would say it was a very comfortable swim.   I continued to draft for about half the swim.  At that point, I touched the girl's toes, and she stopped really abruptly and pulled up in the water.  I carried on and went around her.

There's a tunnel in this swim course, which was kind of cool.  It was darker, but not pitch black.  By now, the faster swimmers from the newbie group had caught up and were starting to pass.  Out of the tunnel and I just kept going.  Concentrating on a long, smooth stroke.  No panic kicking, which is a habit I have in open water, whether I'm panicked or not.

At one point, I was a bit confused about which way to go, so I probably lost a bit of time before realizing there was now a triangular buoy to head for.  The lake was only just big enough for this swim, so it had more turns then you would normally see.

Then it was into the shore.  I concentrated on feeling the water and pulling as much as I could.  I felt really strong at this point.  I kept swimming until I reached the boat launch and then waited until I was touching the bottom.

Up, onto my feet.  I undid my wetsuit, got it to my waist and headed over the strippers, then it was into transition to get ready for the bike!

Swim time: 45:31  (Garmin measured at 2.09km, quite possibly a bit of crooked swimming in there.)

Next up: The bike and run!  (Maybe together, maybe separate, depends how long it ends up being...)


  1. I'm in the one in the black wetsuit...LOL.

    Great swim split! At least I think it is. Can't wait to hear how the rest of the race went!

    That sucks about the tire, I would have been panicked, but yes, super lucky on timing!

  2. Yay Deb!! Congratulations on your race! So happy you were able to find me for body marking in the morning. Looking forward to hearing the rest of your story.

  3. That's an awesome time!

    I probably would have cried at the flat tire. So stressful but glad that the experts were there to fix it quickly.

  4. Mechanicals and injuries - the bain of our existance. So glad that the bike guys were able to get you all fixed up. That is a fantastic swim split. I'm very impressed! Can't wait to read the rest.

  5. Nice job Deb! Can't wait to read the rest of your race report!