My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Ever since I first read about an Ironman, completing a triathlon has been on my bucket list.  As a natural swimmer, leisurely biker and a marathon runner, the idea of combining all three seemed like great fun!  While I wasn’t crazy enough to jump right into a full Ironman, I did register for half Ironman distance race with only 6 weeks to fully train.  Which brings me to this race report for my first triathlon: the 2018 REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman.  This blog is a doozy but I read a lot of race reports in preparation and found them incredibly helpful.  If you’re about to take on your first triathlon I hope you will find this useful as well.  I highly recommend this race for a 70.3 newbie!

Before I knew it, race weekend was here.  I felt as ready as I would ever be.  Even though I had crammed in my training, I felt as though I had been training for ages.  The weeks before race day I had felt an anxious knot in the pit of my stomach but the more I read and the more I trained, the more confident I felt.  Now when I watched the promo video for Barrelman, I felt excited.  I will swim, I will bike and I will run my heart out!

Saturday morning I triple checked all my bags, in case a supernatural phenomenon occurred while I had slept causing my gear to disappear from my bag.  We packed up my bike “DO NOT FORGET THE BIKE” and drove out to Welland, near Niagara Falls.  The atmosphere at the race expo was pretty relaxed and it was easy to find parking and pick up my race kit.  A handful of vendors were set up outside and I sampled the F2C electrolyte drink and Endurance Tap maple syrup gels that were going to be offered along the course.  I dropped off my bike in T1 and checked out the transition area.  I went over my route from the canal to my bike and was happy with my spot which was easy to find, and right along the gate.  I would even be able to see my boyfriend during transition.  A wave of relief passed over me as I began to feel more comfortable in my surroundings.

We sat in the first athletic briefing and it was informative and full of positivity.  “We want to make sure everyone will finish so there will be no cut off time for the bike” the race director John Salt stated.  You could feel the sense of community in the air.  The race was a competition no doubt but even a newbie like me felt welcome.  The one thing that everyone was really concerned about though was the heat.  The briefing took 40 minutes and we were roasting in the sun, it felt like the middle of summer!  We were reassured that extra ice and water had been ordered for the run course.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Peeling on the wetsuit in the boiling hot sun

After the briefing, I wandered down to the canal and slithered into my wetsuit – now I was really starting to sweat!  I did my practice swim in the canal and the temperature was heavenly.  Cool enough to beat the heat but I didn’t overheat in my suit. I heard many people say that they were opting to not wear their wetsuit, but I was excited to wear mine and the suit also helped my speed quite a lot.  I loved swimming in the canal, the water was calm and it was easy to spot the buoys that I would be sighting.  I didn’t swim for too long however, as I wanted to make sure we had enough time to scout the bike and run courses.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Time for my practice swim!

I gave my tires one last pump, said goodbye to my bike and we headed out for a stunning drive around Niagara.  We drove the whole bike course which was now down to 86 kilometres due to construction.  The roads were nice and flat and I was grateful for all the pretty scenery to admire on my long ride.  The run course was a bit trickier to navigate through the crowds and traffic on Clifton Hill and we were unable to check out a few kilometres that were hidden away in a park.  I kept reading about how deceptively hilly the run was but I had examined the elevation.  Compared to other marathons I had done run this race didn’t seem any steeper.  The route looked fun with a lot of variety.  At the 10km mark you loop back to the start and do the whole route again, but I actually didn’t mind because breaking the run up made it feel shorter.

My boyfriend and I scouted the post race area and pick out a back up meeting spot.  Then we headed back to Welland for an early dinner.  I had made a reservation at Don Marco’s in Welland, a cozy, comforting Italian restaurant.  A delicious way to carb load before a long race!  I stuck to my pre-race rule of no alcohol, and had made sure that I drank lots of water and Gatorade throughout the day.  Time was ticking by and I wanted to make sure I got to bed early so we paid our bill and checked into an Air BnB that I had booked, conveniently a 5 minute drive from the race starting point.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

All my gear, ready to go!

I placed all the mandatory stickers on my gear and bags and sorted everything out before heading to bed.  This is a point to point race so there are three bags that you need to prepare: your black wetsuit bag, your red bike to run bag and your clear post race bag.  Everything that you will need before your race and everything that you will not be bringing on your bike will go in your black wetsuit bag.  Here is my final packing list for the whole weekend:

-swimsuit & cap for warm up swim
-bike pump
-Lamond road bike with clipless pedals ($50 from MEC), cadence sensor ($50 from MEC) aerobars, 2 x waterbottle cages on the frame and portable bike pump

The morning of:
-Sugoi trisuit purchased from Enduro Sport – $119 (on sale)
-Moving Comfort sports bra purchased from Enduro Sport – $30 (on sale).  The best sports bra I’ve ever owned!
-Garmin Vivoactive sports watch – $200 from Amazon
-yoga mat, stretch bands
-KT tape
-Body Glide
-a light jacket
-sports scandals
-race number tattoo, race bracelet & tracker
-Coconut water
-Gluten free english muffin with peanut butter
-Ginger tea
-Naked Protein powder, a banana, almond milk and my Magic Bullet to make a smoothie

Black Wetsuit Bag:
-Gatorade and a Honey Stinger gel for pre-swim nutrition
-wetsuit – rented from Enduro Sports in Toronto (4 days @ $50)
-my pink swim cap indicating my swim wave
-tinted goggles – purchased on Amazon
-back up goggles 
-dry wick towel 
-old towel for transition area
-bike helmet – nothing fancy – from MEC
-Pearl Uzumi spd bike shoes – $100 from MEC (on sale)
-Sugoi bike gloves – $30 from Sweet Pete’s (on sale)
-my trusty compression socks – purchased about 5 years ago for $100 at a race expo
-waterproof sunscreen, face sunblock stick, kleenex 
-shitty old sunglasses
-race belt with BIB, salt tabs, kleenex, Blisteraid, hand wipes, lip balm
-two frozen Gatorade bottles – one filled with water, one with coconut water
-3 packs of Cliff Bar gummies, 2 with caffeine
-salt tabs
-scotch tape to tape my gummies to my bike frame
-1 Cliff Bar broken up into pieces in a ziplock bag
-in my small bike bag under my seat packed: a glueless patch, spare tube, 3 x tire levers, torque multitool and Monkey Grease wipes
-I will be placing my face sunblock stick and Body glide in the side pockets of my trisuit

Red bike to run bag:
-my trusty Nike Pegasus running shoes
-small coconut water and Honey Stinger Waffle for a quick snack
-gels for my race belt
-IT running bands
-dry wick hat

Post Race Bag:
-race shirt
-loose track pants
-clean underwear
-body wipes
-cooling gel

My swim wave was at 9:03AM.  I woke up at 6:30AM, made my protein shake, forced down an English muffin with peanut butter and drank some coconut water along with my ginger tea.  I did a few warm up yoga stretches, and lined the back of my neck, armpit line and inner thighs with Body Glide before pulling on my trisuit.  My boyfriend helped stick on my race tattoos and taped my shoulder, and I was ready to go by 7:20AM.  

I was in T1 by 7:30AM and took my time setting up my area.  I hung my helmet on my handle bars where I placed my sunglasses and bike gloves, and laid everything else out below on an old towel.  I had everything set up by 8AM.  I dropped off my bike-to-run and post race bags, drank some more Gatorade and headed to the bathroom line for my last break. At 8:30AM I ate a gel and pulled on my wetsuit.  I was in the water for my practice swim by 8:40AM and before I knew it – 9:00AM was here.  All the weeks of training, stress, worry, happiness, highs and lows came down to this one moment.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Race day. Welland Canal.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Ready to go! This is it!

My biggest concern about the swim, like most triathletes, is the start.  I had read terrible stories about chaotic starts where people swam over you, and your goggles were smacked off by other swimmer’s out of control elbow.  As I bobbed around with the other pink caps, I tried to position myself near the edge of the pack but we seemed to be well spaced out.  Everyone, including, surprisingly myself, seemed very calm.  The whistle rang through the air at 9:03AM and we were off!

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

And we’re off!

I found my groove, breathing every three strokes and sighting every 9 strokes.  I was so relieved that the start went OK that I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.  I can’t quite explain what came over me, but about 5 minutes into the swim, I suddenly felt very crowded.  There was someone swimming very close to my right and my left side and there were feet bubbling in front of me.  While I had done a practice swim with the local triathlon club the group was only about 15 people so it was a pretty different feeling versus swimming with hundreds of swimmers.  A wave of anxiety swept over me and the neckline on my wetsuit suddenly felt very tight.  I was surprised by this feeling, I had never panicked in water before.  This was supposed to happen, swimming is my favourite sport!  But the thought of going on for another 40 minutes seemed overwhelming.  The feeling was awful. 

I had two choices, either bail or stick it out.  So I kept going, one stroke after the next.  I calmed myself down, focused on my breathing and started to get used to moving among the other swimmers.  When anyone started to get too close I either slowed down or sped up until I found my space again.  After a few minutes the anxiety passed, and I felt great!  Sighting was a bit harder than I had anticipated but because the course was straight it wasn’t that necessary.  As I passed the halfway point I even saw the yellow buoy string under water and followed it all the way back, I was flying!  

I finished the swim in 42 minute (estimated time 50 minutes).  Once I got over my spout of anxiety I really enjoyed the swim.  I felt strong and had a great rhythm going.  I was puzzled by what happened in the first five minutes but can only attribute it to inexperience in an open water race.  Regardless, on to the bike!

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

The 2km swim

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Swim complete!

Posed for my boyfriend as I ran to the canal exit.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Time to bike!

I had practiced transitioning at home many times, and estimated about 3-4 minutes.  Not even close!  I spent nearly 10 minutes in transition.  While I did take a moment to give my boyfriend a quick kiss, the bigger issues was that I tried to dry myself off a bit so that I could apply sunscreen, but between my wet skin and sweating I kept dripping sunscreen everywhere so had to dry off and apply a few times.  Note for next time: get better waterproof sunscreen!  Other than that everything went smoothly according to plan.  I gulped down some more Gatorade, and peed on my old towel as I put on my compression socks and shoes.  I clipped on my race belt with my bib, slipped on my sunglasses, gloves and helmet and was ready to go.  But 10 minutes though!  Ugh.  Now I understand why the pros just slip on their helmet and run away with their shoes strapped to their bike.  Don’t get too comfortable!

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

So happy on the bike course!

As you can see from this photo, I LOVED the bike course!  This was my face the whole time!  Flat, fast and so scenic, the time flew by!  I was diligent with my nutritional, as this was the time to stock up hydration and energy.  I munched down all the pieces of my Cliff bar in the first half hour and then ate a few gels every half hour after that.  In between I took sips of my coconut water, then my water, making sure to pick up the opposite at each hydration station. 

This was my first time in a bike race so I had to keep remembering to say “on your left” and gaging when to pass the biker in front of me.  I was surprised by the number of cyclists who weren’t saying on your left though, I thought that was kind of dangerous and a little egotistical.  However for the most part I was passed by really lovely fellow triathletes.  I forgot I was wearing my bib so was a bit startled the first time someone called out my name in encouragement.  “Thanks, you too” I called back and chuckled to myself as they were clearly doing just fine.  I even received a compliment on my fun polka dotted trisuit!  I would actually keep passing the same woman a few times on the race, and called out a friendly “hello ____” each time.  Love it!

The heat wasn’t too bad by this point, as the flat course was kind on the legs and allowed me to reach speeds up to 45 km/hour at one point on a downhill!  I pretty much stayed around the 30km/hour mark though and aimed to be between 70/80 RPMS. Biking along the open country roads was much more fun than city biking, where I had to stop every few minutes for a light, pedestrian, child or dog. I loved every minutes of it!  A couple of times on the course my stomach felt a little grumbly, but I just attributed the issue to heat or perhaps the electrolyte drink that was provided.  Time flew by and before I knew it was racing through the last kilometre.  I felt full of energy, like I could bike forever, and flew passed a few people near the end.  I completed the bike in 2 hours and 55 minutes, way better than I ever imagined having roughly estimated 3.5 hours.  Awesome!

My bike to run transition took just as long as my swim to bike unfortunately.  The first issue was because I had to wear my run belt with my bib on the bike, I didn’t want to bike with all my gels so had to add them in my belt during transition.  My hands were all sweaty and I struggled to get the darn things in.  I’m not sure what I would do differently here, I guess wear the gels on the bike?  Even if they were on a separate belt I would still have to swap my bib over.  I gulped down some coconut water and loved my yummy Honey Stinger Cinnamon Wafer – a nice change from all the chews! 

On my way out of transition I took my first bathroom break of the day, and ran into my second issue.  My stomach was NOT happy with me and I couldn’t figure out why.  I had done everything exactly the same as during training, with the exception of the F2C endurance drink on the course, but I had drunk only a small amount,  and couldn’t imagine that was the source of the problem.  To make matters worse, I had to take off my belt and prevent the tops of the gels from touching anything in the port-a-potty (ew), and it was so hot and sweaty that the toilet paper stuck to everything.  I tried to slide some more Body Glide on my calves and sanitize my hands the best I could but I had to get going.  Another 10 minutes down the tube.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

First loop done. Where did you say my friends were??

I was so happy to see my boyfriend as I exited the transition area!  My best friend was coming to cheer me on as well and I asked my boyfriend where she was.  “She’s at the casino” he called.  “Casino??!!” I yelled back, as for some reason I appeared confused by this response.

Once I started running I felt pretty good!  My legs weren’t tired at all and despite the heat, there was some shade along the course.  I soon fell into my usual marathon routine of consuming a gel every thirty minutes and rotating between water and the electrolyte drink at each hydration station.  The run through the park was nice and cool and a pleasant break from the city streets.  I headed up through Clifton Hill, weaved my way through the tourists and ran down the path in front of the casino.  I was so happy to see my best friend and her daughter!  I gave her a big sweaty hug and high fived her daughter, who ran alongside me for a few paces.  Even though you may only see a familiar face briefly on a race, that little boost of love and familiarity gives you a huge swell of energy.

I was feeling pretty good as I completed the first loop and ran past the finish line.  A woman spectator made me smile when she called out “there goes my polka dotted trisuit!”, haha!  I loved how my fun trisuit was getting lots of attention! 

Just after the 10KM mark something REALLY bad start to happen in the bowels below.  I had felt a little something at the 8KM but felt I could live with it and ran past the port-a-potty.  As I ran through the park I noticed a real washroom on the other side of the route.  I decided that I might as well be comfortable for the rest of the run, and would stop in on the way back out of the park.  Big mistake.  I was about 30 seconds away from the washroom when all of a sudden, an explosion erupted in my trisuit.  I cannot explain it any other way, but I’m certain that the runner behind me must have heard the blast that came out of my butt.  I apologize for going into detail, but there is no other way to describe the situation.  Thankfully, the bottom of my suit is black, and tight, so I was able to make it to the bathroom without further embarrassment.  I wasted about 5 minutes cleaning up the mess, feeling thankful that at least I was in a real facility.

The remaining 7 kilometres were the most uncomfortable 7 kilometres I have ever run.  My stomach felt off so I stuck to water and cut back on my gels.  I felt so hot, sweating more than I ever have in my life, having never run more than a 5 kilometres in +30C conditions.  Worst of all, my wet trisuit chafed like crazy.  I have never experienced chafing and WOW, is it ever unpleasant.  I tried to use some Body Glide in the washroom, but everything was so wet that it didn’t have any effect.  The last few hydration stations were out of ice, but I was such a mess by this point I didn’t care anymore. 

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

The finish line is in sight!

19 kilometres, 20 kilometres, and finally, my favourite part of any marathon, the last kilometre.  Even though I was uncomfortable I tried to enjoy this last part of the triathlon.  I thought about how lucky I was to be physically able to take part in a race like this.  How lucky I was to have two legs, two feet, a working heart, strong muscles and bones.  No matter what happens to me in my life, I will always have this moment.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Give it everything I got!

What a wonderful feeling it was to see that big, white finish line.  I knew what to expect because I had passed the finish line on the loop, so as soon as I turned into the park, I gave it my all.  I never realized how intensely demented my face looks in these last seconds of the race.  As you can see from the photo above, I am in beast mode!  My feet pounded the pavement, my arms swung back and forth rapidly like Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix, and my breathing sounded like a raging bull.  I charged through the finish line and threw my hands up in the air.  Barrelman.  Done.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

My first half ironman complete! Best feeling ever!

This triathlon was one of the most accomplishing goals I have completed in my life.  For me, in comparison a marathon is physically harder, but competing in a triathlon was mentally more challenging.  The stakes felt higher for a triathlon, and even though I felt physically ready, there were so many other factors and possibility for error.  I was more nervous before a triathlon than I had ever been for a marathon.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Enjoying the moment

I finished the run in 2 hours and 20 minutes, my exact estimated time. I completed the Half Ironman distance REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman in 6 hours and 20minutes finishing 479/863 overall and 149/323 in my age group.  While I was incredibly happy with my time, I couldn’t help but think to myself – if only I hadn’t wasted so much time in transition, and then in the bathroom on the run, I could have shaved off another 15 minutes!  So it begins…

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

I can do anything 🙂

As I thought about the race on the way home,  I couldn’t explain the stomach problems that had occurred, I had never experienced anything like this on a marathon before.  I called my friend who had been coaching me and gave her my race report.  She said that it could have been anything from the water in the canal, to the electrolyte drink, but more likely the intense heat or simply the fact that your body is taking on three different activities!  I was very grateful that this was the only problem I had encountered, and would take bathroom runs over an injury any day. 

All of a sudden it hit me.  Could it have possibly been the coconut water?  I had trained with it, but now that I think back I remembered having similar stomach problems whenever I drank it, but had attributed it to other factors.  After a quick Google search I learned that while coconut water is very hydrating it’s also high in potassium, and reacts like a laxative if you’re sensitive to potassium.  Being one of these people (which is why I only have a banana in the morning, never during a race, to get my system going), I should NEVER use coconut water as source of hydration for endurance sports.  I was appalled at myself, how had I not realized this earlier?  I had drank SO much coconut water today!  Then I laughed, I mean what can you do?  Live and learn.  Plus it does make a pretty funny story! 

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

Actually…THIS was the best feeling ever!

The second best feeling after crossing that finish line was standing underneath this wonderful, Splash Pad.  I could have stood there for hours, relishing the cold water as it rinsed off all my salt, sweat and tears and cooled off my poor chafed bum.  I couldn’t have asked for a better race for my first triathlon.  The course was straightforward and scenic, and even though the weather was hot, sun is better than rain!  The event was very well organized and I was impressed with how the race director John Salt seemed to really care about the athletes and providing the best race possible.  

The one thing I really took away from triathlons is how much I loved the community.  Everyone was really nice, helpful and encouraging to other triathletes, and I raced with athletes of all different ages, genders and levels.  I also felt so inspired by the athletes who raced with disabilities. There was a blind triathlete, and another who was racing with their dad who had MS.  I’m so amazed with what we can accomplish with our bodies.  With that in mind and a half Ironman under my belt…there is faint whisper in the back of mind chanting I-ron-man, I-ron-man

Wow thanks for making it all the way through!  What 70.3 triathlons have you raced?  Is this your first triathlon?  How do you improve transition times?

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Training For My First Triathlon

While I usually keep my blog focused on food, travel and horror movies, I’ve recently decided to blog about one of my other passions: endurance sports.  This year I’ve blogged about Why I Run and the Mississauga Marathon.  I hope you’ll continue to follow my racing adventures as I write about training for my first triathlon! 

I had been eyeing the REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 70.3 race for a few years now.  I came across the race after signing up for the Multisport Canada newsletter while marathon training.  What I find humorous is that it never occurred to me that there were shorter triathlon options.  Nope, I had figured that this was what a triathlon was and it sounded pretty awesome!  So I jotted down “do a triathlon” on my list of New Year’s resolutions and kept an eye on the registration deadlines.

Unfortunately I was stuck in a bout of unemployment so I had to hold off on any unnecessary costs.

Months past.  The September 17th race day was now four months away.

I completed my 6th marathon at the the Mississauga Marathon in May, and had an interview the next morning.  Thankfully, I got the job and would now be biking to work. With the triathlon in mind, I started increasing my bike mileage a little bit each week.  I was a leisurely cyclist at best when I lived in the suburbs but after I moved downtown a year ago, I became a much more avid biker.

Now that I was employed, I could also afford to get a pass at the local community pool to brush up on my swimming.  Swimming is second nature for me and I feel perfectly at peace in the water.  What can I say, I’m a Scorpio – a water baby – at heart!  I grew up taking swimming lessons and continued onto the swim team in high school.  I had also left behind the pool in my condo when I moved downtown, so I hadn’t swam regularly in the past few years. Despite this, I was able to swim 2km no problem the first time I hit the water.

Summer flew by.  The day before the final registration deadline arrived.  On this particular day at work, we were told that our project was going on hiatus, for an indefinite length of time.  A normal person’s reaction might have been one of panic or anger, but nope, not me.  My boss and the CEO of the company looked at me bracing themselves for my reaction, and I merely replied “well I guess I will sign up for that half Ironman”.

Signing up for a half Ironman felt much different than signing up for a marathon. One lingers over that “confirm registration” button just a bit longer fighting off excuses and uncertainties.  But then that little voice in your head goes “ah to hell with it” and suddenly you’re signed up for your biggest challenge yet! 

Naturally, I panicked.

My biggest concern was the bike.  I knew that I could do it, but my current bike was a 7 year old urban hybrid and I didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.  The weekend after I registered, I biked to 43n kilometres to Oakville, about half the distance of the triathlon.  My pace was OK but my legs felt pretty wobbly, and I realized the advantages of lighter, faster road bike.  As luck would have it, a few days later I got a flat tire riding back home at night from volleyball practice.  The next day, I was complaining to my boss about my bike, and she told me that her ex-boyfriend had been a serious cyclist and had worked at a cycling store.  She had a brand new road bike that she had only ridden a few times before they broke up.  She offered to lend it to me and I nearly cried with joy!  Suddenly I had been upgraded from a crusty, heavy bike to a beautiful, brand new, light as a feather road bike!  I knew nothing about road biking and suddenly I was swimming in questions in regards to clipless pedals, aerobars and cadence.  

This is me testing out the road bike for the first time.  The bike was borderline too big for me, but I remembered having sizing problems when I bought my urban hybrid.  I have short legs and a long torso so I remember having to saw down the saddle pole, so we did the same for this bike.  The hoods were incorrectly placed on the stem, and I also ended up swapping out this stem for a slightly smaller one.  Once the stem was adjusted and the saddle was shifted all the way forward, the bike felt perfect and was way more comfortable than my old bike, which now felt small and awkward. 

Training For My First Triathlon

Testing out my new road bike

With five weeks left I threw myself into training.  I became one with my road bike, read up on anything I could get my hands on about triathlons, and watched You Tube videos on tips for swimming and biking.  I also read Barrelman race reports from previous years and found videos on You Tube of race day . 

The difference between running and triathlons is that running can be a very solo, individual journey.  I had always trained on my own and saw my training time as a sort of private ritual. Triathlons feel like more of a community.  I joined a Facebook Group called Women for Tri and found the support to be amazing and inspiring.  I reached out to friends who biked to go on long rides, and got to know the folk at my local bike shops who helped teach me bike maintenance 101.  I tested out my first open water swim in a wetsuit with the local triathlon club and when I went to the cottage I asked friends to canoe beside me so I could practice sighting while swimming across the lake.

Training For My First Triathlon

Swimming across Haystack Bay to Gardner Island

Training was coming along well and every day, my confidence grew.  Swim, bike, run, swim, bike, run.  Because of my condensed training schedule, my only “rest” days were Wednesdays when I played volleyball.  Swim, bike, run. Swim, bike, run. Each week I increased my distance and twice a week I would do a full brick training trio so I could run through my transitions.  I also made sure I had my nutritional plan down.  I decided to stick with gels for the runs and gummies for the bike.  I tried gels while biking and the goo went everywhere and I ended up with very sticky stems!  The road bike came with a small bento box which fit a gummy pack and a broken up Cliff Bar.  I planned to tape two gummy packs to my bike frame for easy assess.  Before the run I planned to drink some coconut water and have a Honey Stinger Waffle for a motivating treat.  I trained with water and coconut water since the race was not going to have Gatorade like all the other races I had run.  I would later regret the coconut water, as you will read about later.

As luck would have it, I met a girl who had done a few Ironmans and was looking to start coaching newbie triathletes.  She helped me shop for a trisuit, gave me race day tips, and not only gave me bike tips regarding clipless pedals and my cadence but also lent me her set of aerobars!  Some of the more important tips she gave me were to use salt tabs to help with hydration and as a break from all the sugary gels and drinks.  She also went through the steps I would go through at the start of race day. I learned to set up my transition area and to carve out my own space by laying out an old towel on the ground to place all my bike gear on.

Here I am trying on my first trisuit.  Before signing up I fully thought that on race day you changed right out in the open between sports, haha!  I went with a Sugoi sleeveless trisuit which was super comfy and in my price range.  The polka dots were a fun bonus!  I’m wearing a Moving Comfort adjustable bra underneat, one of the best sports bras I’ve ever owned!

Training for my first triathlon

Trying on my first trisuit at Enduro Sport

Now that I had my trisuit, I focused on the bike.  I went to Mountain Equipment Co-Op and bought the Garmin cadence meter, spd bike shoes and clipless pedals.

I was cramming a lot in a short amount of time, but I loved every minute.  Looking back I think the training kept me sane after the disappointment of going on unemployment again.

Two weeks before race day, I was at the cottage with some friends and was greatly enjoying the change of scenery.  Swimming in the open lake water was a welcome change of pace from the chlorine dosed waters of the community pool.  I was also trying out my aerobars for the first time and the quiet, winding country roads were an ideal place to test them out.  On the second day at the cottage, I received some unfortunate news.  My Mom’s mental health had been declining for some time and my dad called to say that she had had a mental break.  She had started to physically abuse him and today he had called the police and she was taken away.  I had never heard my dad sound so shaken and to be far away from him during his time of need was hard to deal with.  Needless to say, I appreciated the time alone on my long bike rides and runs.

As soon as I could, I hopped on a plane to Ottawa.  My mom was in a mental health hospital now and seemed to be doing better.  I continued to train in Ottawa, finding a bike rental place nearby and thankfully there was even a YMCA with a clean, brightly lit pool across the street from my parent’s house.  I went for some beautiful long bike rides and runs along the canal and traveled out to some beaches and parks that I had never been to before.  Every day I would train and then we would visit my mom, and this became the new norm.  I’m amazed how, with the exception of two marathons, disaster always seems to strike right before a race.  Almost like a final test before the big day.  But what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, and once again I was thankful to have my training as an outlet for the emotions I was feeling.


Training For My First Triathlon

A quick selfie by Hog’s Back Falls, Ottawa during a 21 km training run

One evening while at the hospital I found out that I would definitely not be returning back to the project that was still on hiatus.  I was really sad because I loved the company and had barely begun the project.  However, I could not afford to turn down any job offers at this point and that evening I accepted a job at the same company I had been at a year ago.  I was happy to be back among friends and on a solid project.

My first day back at work was the day after the triathlon.

Training For My First Triathlon

Beautiful bike ride by the Experimental Farm in Ottawa

With my mom in stable condition and less than a week before race day, I returned to Toronto, picked up all my stuff from my former job, picked up my wetsuit and packed for Niagara Falls.  The day before departure, I went to the park and practiced some yoga.  I wanted some time by myself to stretch out my muscles and calm my mind.  The past 6 weeks had been a whirlwind of events and physically and mentally I was wired.  I felt sad that my parents would not be able to spectate the race because of my mom’s condition, and I felt a bit anxious not just about the race but about the new job I would be coming back to.  As the sun set over the park and the city lights flickered on, I felt proud of all I had accomplished over the past 6 weeks.  I felt ready.  I was hungry.  I was going to kill this.

Next week >> my race report from my first triathlon!


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Maple Bacon Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Maple Bacon Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Maple Bacon Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Maple Bacon Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Oh, Canada!  My home, native land, and where maple syrup originated. First collected by the indigenous people, Canada became the largest producer of maple syrup, and today exports 70% of the world’s demand. Sweet and silky, this amber syrup has hints of toffee and caramel and is like no other. If you’ve been lucky enough to taste our famous export, then you know what I’m talking about. Every spring our maple trees are tapped and the sap that collected is carefully boiled down to pure syrup. Maple syrup is used on everything from an oozing pancake or French toast topping, to a popular dessert flavour to a sweet glaze for vegetables, chicken, fish or pork. So basically this magical syrup goes with everything! Bacon and maple syrup in particular, are a delightful combination and one of my favourites. When your maple syrup runs all over your plate and soaks into your bacon, there are no complaints! So when my friend and I found a recipe for Maple Bacon Jam we knew we had to make it. Paired with some strong cheddar cheese on fresh multigrain bread, this Maple Bacon Cheddar Grilled Cheese is truly the tastiest way to say Happy 150th Birthday Canada!

This recipe is from Better Homes and Living, and the only change I made was to swap the regular bacon for maple bacon. We bought the two-pound pack from Costco and it took all our will power to not sneak a little bite. Their bacon is so thick, salty and super maple-syrupy!

Maple Bacon Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Maple Bacon Cheddar Grilled Cheese

The ultimate sweet and savoury combination, the sweet, caramelized maple flavour balances the rich, salty bacon and strong cheddar cheese. Using mayonnaise instead of margarine or butter is a grilled cheese maker’s secret for a perfectly crispy browned sandwich.

Maple Bacon Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Maple Bacon Cheddar Grilled Cheese

Maple syrup flavoured bacon is caramelized into a sweet and savoury jam, complimenting the strong cheddar, making for the ultimate grilled cheese!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 1
Author ISeeHungryPpl


  • 1 pound maple bacon chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1` medium yellow onion minced
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 cup strong coffee
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup old cheddar cheese thickly grated
  • 2 slices multigrain toast 1/2 inch


  1. In a large pot (Dutch oven works best) over medium high heat,  saute bacon until just brown and slightly crisp on the edges. Remove cooked bacon and pat excess grease off with paper towels.

  2. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from pot. Turn heat down to medium low. Add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent. Add apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and coffee. Bring to a boil. Add cooked bacon.

  3. Simmer on low for 1½ hours, stirring every 10 minutes, watching closely as the sugar will burn easily.  Bacon jam should be thick and syrupy.

  4. Transfer bacon jam to a food processor or Vitamix. Pulse jam until creamy but still a bit chunky. Spoon into 125ml mason jars.  This jam cannot be processed and must be stored in the refrigerator.  Use within one month, or freeze up to three months.

  5. Head cast iron pan or grill on medium low heat.  

  6. Spread one tablespoon of mayonnaise on each slice of bread and place in hot pan.  Quickly top with half the cheddar cheese, 2 tablespoons of bacon jam and remaining cheese.  Place 2nd slice of bread on top, mayonnaise on the outside.  Cover tightly with a pan lit or ceramic plate.

  7. Toast for 2 minutes on one side until lightly brown.  Flip and toast on the other side until brown.  Turn off stove and leave covered for a minute or so until cheese is melted, making sure the sandwich doesn't burn.

  8. Slice in half and serve with ketchup or sriracha!

With this delicious sandwich in hand, I say Happy Birthday Canada!  I’m so proud to be a Canadian and live in a country that believes in equality, diversity, peace and protecting our planet.  I’m thankful for all you have given me.  From the beautiful camping trips to a safe home, a group of friends from many different cultures and the freedom to express myself and believe anything is possible.  Cheers to another a hundred and fifty years!

How did you celebrate Canada’s 150?  Have you ever tried a maple bacon cheddar grilled cheese?

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