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 a half Ironman distance race with only 6 weeks to fully train. 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! So after completing my first triathlon, I present to you my first race report for the 2017 REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman.
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. For those weeks leading up to 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 gear, in case a supernatural phenomenon occurred while I had slept causing everything 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. My bike spot was close to the exit from the canal, and was happy with my spot as I went over the route. 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.
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 loved the water conditions. The water was calm 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 out of their wetsuit, but I was excited to wear mine and the suit helped my speed quite a lot. 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.
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 along 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 run this race didn’t seem much steeper. The route looked fun with a lot of variety. At the 10km mark the races loops back to the start and then you run the whole route again. I don’t mind loops because I like knowing what to expect and familiar landmarks make the time go by quicker.
My boyfriend and I scouted the post race area and picked out a 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 was determined to get to bed early so we paid our bill and checked into an Air BnB that I had booked, a convenient 5 minute drive from the race starting point.
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. All the gear you will need before your race and anything 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
-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
-a light jacket
-race number tattoo, race bracelet & tracker
-Gluten free english muffin with peanut butter
-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
-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:
-loose track pants
I was in bed by 10:00PM and thankfully fell asleep almost immediately, waking up in a panic a few times to check the time, and falling back into a dreamless slumber.