Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Canadian Half Iron 113 Duathlon 2014

I wanted to return to Ottawa to do this race ever since 2012, when I won it in a great time. It was one of the rare races that I've done, which was in, uneventful. Nothing went wrong, everything went to plan. It was a near perfect race and I wasnt even exhausted at the end!

Originally, I had no plan to do this race. Definitely not the full Iron 226 distance (4 km Run, 180 km bike, 42.2 km run) as I have not trained nearly enough to do justice with an attempt. I was mainly eyeing the Half Iron distance (2 km Run, 90 km bike, 21.1 km run) but was still uncertain about registration as me and Garima had been dreaming up plans to visit NYC for 3 days. Once that hope was shattered, I decided to do this race a mere 6 days out, but missed the online registration deadline by a few mins (relevance of this is coming later...hang on!). Our salvaged getaway plan was to head to Montreal after the race for 2 days!

The weekend arrived after a very busy work week that saw us both miss 2 days of taper workouts and generally mentally drained. We packed our bags and hoped to beat the long weekend traffic out of the GTA by leaving early on Friday.

After arriving in Ottawa at 8:30 pm on Friday night, we got to stay with Cindy who graciously offered to host us for the race. We last saw her when she visited us in Toronto during Canada Day weekend.

Race morning was uneventful and getting to the race site+parking was a breeze as it took only 10 mins from Cindy’s home. 

I'm comfy in this folding bed.
Wake me up when its time to go go!
We hadn’t yet registered for the race and got our first shocker of the day. The race day registration was expensive. For me, the race day registration fees was $250. OMG. Regular rate was $175 online till 1 week before the race (which I stupidly missed due to my own fault). Garima was racing the Sprint Distance Duathlon which was significantly cheaper, but had the same race day surcharge ($80 online versus $115). But still, a 43% RACE DAY FEES INCREASE?!?! HOLY SMOKES BATMAN!

OK. Rant over.

This is a big event for the Somersault series with races of all distances happening in wave starts throughout the day. The first race (Iron 226 triathlon) begins at 6:30 am and the last race (Evening Marathon) begins at 5:30pm…with finishers all the way till midnight! I can’t imagine how complex it would be to organize something like this.

My race was squeezed in to start at 9:30am but Garima started at 8:00 am. This meant I could cheer her on during her race, and after she finished, she would have to suffer through sitting in the sun waiting for me for 5 hours…no overlapping parts at all. if you want to skip the boring race day details, go right to the bottom to our pics from the Montreal trip!

The Good:

  • I won.
  • Very spectator friendly race.
  • Generally well-organized/co-ordinated. 
  • The race was on a Saturday which meant me and Garima were still able to enjoy the rest of the weekend heading to Montreal!!
  • I still had fun! Sort of.

The Not So Good:

  • Bad, bad roads. Bumpy all the time, and people weave left and right all the way without warning to avoid the potholes and cracks. I don’t blame them not looking back before weaving either…that gets tiring when you have to do that every 10s over a 15 km loop that you have to do multiple times. My aerobar pads slowly tilted down in the first hour, making my elbows a good 3-5cm lower than where they started. After the race, I found out that my saddle was also considerably tilted down…this is a first. I have a lot of neck and butt pain 3 days after! This road is so much worse than the last time I did this race in 2012.
  • So windy…like tents-and-signs-falling-off type windy…we witnessed this as the medical tent blew away after I finished the race! There was tailwind during the biggest 2 downhills on each lap, and headwind / crosswind all other times. Everyone I spoke to was disappointed with their bike time this like 10 mins! 
  • Lost my 2nd L’Arabar snack, lost an electrolyte tablet, and leaked a chocolate gel in my hands going over bumps!! Ended up 200kCal in debt compared to what I planned, despite carrying some backup.

  • Dinged my front derailleur over a nasty bump that dropped my chain right from 50-12 to a 34-12 gear. At first I thought I’d just suck it up and keep pedaling as hard as I can..but my cadence went up to 120 RPM for the next 15 mins. After comparing my lap splits, I gauge losing about 1-1.5 minutes in the outbound section of lap 3 due to sheer inability to pedal any faster on that gear. I eventually had to stop twice to manually shift my chain up to the big ring. 1 more minute down the drain as I couldn’t pedal at that RPM for the remaining 50km!
  • This is really my fault in the end, I knew that my front derailleur was dodgy, and I was just lazy in doing a cable replacement as the internal cable routing on this bike can be highly aggravating!! Shoulda fixed it, coulda maintained my speed, woulda been 2-3 mins faster for free. Shoulda coulda woulda.
  • Did you notice the empty bottle cage behind my seat? Yep, I dropped my flat kit (was in the bottle) as well. Along with spare CO2 cartidges, valve extenders, tire levers, etc. I went looking for it afterwards, to no avail. I might as well have a hole in my wallet these days.
  • Running through a little gravel and lots of uneven grass in both transitions. Long run till from transition area to mount/dismount (~1:15 each way, with the timing mat half way) No T1 time.
  • Once I got my running shoes on, I quickly went to gauge how far back I was off the leader. I’d been keeping a time check on him on each bike lap and he didn’t seem to gain time on me other than when I had to stop or had the chain mishap. My legs felt good and I was surprised to find myself only 1.5 mins behind him after 3 kms, and I had caught him by 5 kms. 
  • Then the next string of weird things happened....i had some new cramping pain under my right big toe. Strange. It got worse as the race progressed, but I was able to phase it out. When I took off my shoe after the race, I found a big piece of packing tape and grass stuck to my socks. "Thank you for the flying dismount and running without shoes in transition", the big blister on my foot said.

  • I saved my biggest mistake for the last 7-8 kms. Once I realized I had a comfortable gap on the 2nd and 3rd place, I closed shop and shut it down. I was frustrated and now didn't have any motivation to push hard. After doing the first 13 kms at a good 4:13 min/km pace, I just lost the will to keep at it. I slowed down, took it slightly easier just enough to maintain a good lead. But perhaps the biggest lesson I learnt was that towards the end,  it still hurt just as bad as if I had run fast all along!! Once you slow down, whether deliberately or not, the legs just wouldn't wan't to wake up to run fast again...even if you left something in the tank. I realized this in the last few kms when I tried to pick up the pace but just embarrassed myself. Run till you blow up, or reach the finish line, is the new motto!

                                                                                                               Image belongs to: 

Finish line video (@ 1:51:11): 

The Bad:

  • Race day registration fees. I won’t pretend to know what it takes to put on a race, but I can only compare with other events I’ve done where I’ve had to register on the day of the race. Paying a 43% premium on race day doesn’t sound right. 
  • Road surface sucks. Best Bike Split says I lost 4-4.5 mins because of this road surface…holy crap.
  • The mental fart on the run really did me in. I lost 5 mins in the last 8 kms because I just didn't need to push anymore!

Garima's Race: 

Garima's race was short and sweet. She had a similar slow bike ride because of the tough wind+road conditions, but she did have 2 very good runs. She finished the  3 km Run, 30 km Bike, 5 km course in 1:40 and finished as 4th woman overall, 1st in her AG and 13th in the whole field! I snapped some pics of her before my race began later in the day.


There was a lot of uncertainty about when the awards were going to be. Nobody had a real good idea. So painfully Garima waited for another 2 hours (she had already been waiting for 5 hours while I raced!) and we shared some fresh BBQ burgers and pasta (put on for only the half iron and full iron participants…) and I got a massage. There was a little subtle announcement which Garima happened to pay attention to, and as she walked over to the Finish line to ask if they were doing the awards….she was handed my medal and prize pack. That was it. 

We saw an unused podium nearby so we grabbed the chance to take our own pics!

Did I mention I won? As a nice irony, I got a gift certificate as prize to a local Ottawa shop for…a free bike tune up. Well, this way I can at least get my derailleur fixed and my saddle/aerobars adjusted!!
Saddle tilted down...
Arm pads rotated downwards...
 Then we went to Carleton to re-live some college memories and eat at the university cafeteria. This place was going bonkers during frosh week at this time of the year!

Too much food. Not enough workout.
Now you know how they get the Freshman 15!
I'll leave with some great time we had at Monteal,which is definitely a more bike friendly place than Toronto!!

Next race is the Epic Tour Halton 140 km bike ride!! I promised to do this ride with Garima as it is going to be her longest ever bike ride. Should be fun!

Keep pedaling.

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