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My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report part 2

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2017 Race Report part 4

Welcome to my epic race report on the REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2017!  I’ve blogged all about training for my first triathlon, how I prepped for the weekend, the 2km swim and the 86km bike ride.  Finally, we come to the end – the 21km run! 

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report part 4

First loop done. Trying to talk to my boyfriend mid stride!

I was so happy to see my boyfriend as I exited the transition area!  My best friend was supposed to come to cheer me on and I asked my boyfriend where she was.  “She’s at the casino” he called.  “Casino??!!” I yelled back in the photo above, apparently 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 found my stride and 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. 

As I headed up through Clifton Hill, I 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.  When you see a familiar face while racing no matter how brief, that little boost of love and familiarity gives you a huge swell of energy.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report part 4

The finish line is in sight!

I felt hot but strong 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! 

After the 10KM mark though, something REALLY bad start to happen in the bowels below.  I had felt a little discomfort around 8K but figured I could live with it and continued on 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 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.  Apologies 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.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report part 4

Give it everything I got!

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 5K in +30C conditions.  Worst of all, my wet trisuit chafed like crazy.  This was the first time I 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. 

With every sweaty, chafed stride, I drew myself closer to the finish line. 19 kilometres, 20 kilometres, until 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.

I knew what to expect near the end because I had passed the finish line on the loop, so as soon as I turned into the park, I gave it my all. Once I saw that big, white finish line, a surge of energy pulsed through me and as you can see from the photo above, I went into beast mode!  I never realized how intensely demented my face looks in these last seconds of a race haha!  My feet pounded the pavement, my arms pumped back and forth 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 part 4

Barrelman complete! Best feeling ever!

This triathlon was a huge goal and I’m so proud of myself for completing one.  The training kept me sane during some personal issues that I was going through at the time. Whenever a tough situation arises, I always think back to that feeling during a race when I wanted to give up, but persevered.  I hold onto that strength and use it to pull myself out of the dark.

For me, a marathon in comparison 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.  For this reason, I was way more nervous before this triathlon than I had ever been for a marathon.

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report part 4

I did it!

I finished the run in 2 hours and 20 minutes, my exact estimated time. My final time for the REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 70.3 was 6 hours and 20 minutes, 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..

As I thought about the race on my 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 coached 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 will say that I was very grateful that this was the only problem I had encountered, and would take bathroom runs over an injury any day. 

Then it occurred to me, could coconut water be the culprit?  When I thought about it, I remembered having similar stomach problems whenever I drank it on a long training day, but had attributed it to other factors.  After a quick Google search I learned that coconut water is hydrating but also high in potassium, and can react like a laxative.  Since I’m sensitive to potassium (which is why I only have a banana the morning of a race to to get my system going), I should NEVER use coconut water as source of hydration during sports.  I was appalled at my stupidity, 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 part 4

I can do anything 🙂

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 providing the best race possible.  

The one thing I really took away from triathlons is how much I love 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 raced 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?

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report part 4

Actually…THIS was the best feeling ever!

Huge thanks to Zoom Photo for their FREE race photos and also to Hello Clipless for their triathlon coaching!

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report part 3

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2017 Race Report part 3

Welcome to my epic race report on the REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2017!  I’ve blogged all about training for my first triathlon, how I prepped for the weekend and the first event so far, the 2km swim.  Onwards to the 86km bike!  

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report part 3

So happy on the bike course!

As you can see from this photo, I LOVED the bike course!  I had a smile plastered on my face the whole time!  Flat, fast and so scenic, the time flew by!  I took the opportunity to stock up on fuel and happily munched away on my chunks of Cliff bar as soon as I got up to speed, then routinely ate a few chews every 30 minutes.  I diligently took sips from my coconut and plain water bottles, and picked up a water or F2C bottle at each hydration station. 

This was my first bike race, and I got used to the flow quickly.  I had to keep remembering to say “on your left” and learned to gage when to pass.  I was surprised by the number of cyclists who passed without saying “on your left” and thought that was kind of dangerous and egotistical.  However, for the most part I was passed by friendly fellow triathletes who called out my name in encouragement.  I forgot I was wearing my bib so was a bit startled the first time this happened!  “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 on the bike.  The flat course was kind on the legs and I reached speeds of up to 45 km/hour!  For the majority of the race, I hovered around the 30km/hour mark and aimed to be between 70/80 RPMS. Biking along the open country roads was much more fun than city biking, where I would constantly have to stop for traffic and pedestrians. I loved every minutes of it!  My stomach grumbled a few times, but I assumed it was just the heat and pushed the feeling aside. 

Time flew by and before I knew I 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 since we had to wear our bib on the bike, I didn’t want to bike with all my gels so I had to add them to 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.  As I battled with my gels, I gulped down some coconut water and was thankful for my 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 when I trained.  The only exception was 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 struggled to prevent the gels from touching the dirty port-a-potty (ew), which was so hot that the toilet paper stuck to everything.  I tried to slide more Body Glide on my thighs, but was too sweaty and gave up.  Another 10 minutes down the tube.

Almost done!  Continue on to part 4 of my first triathlon and the final event, the run! >>

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2018 Race Report

My first triathlon: REV3 Niagara Falls Barrelman 2017 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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.  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
-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

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.

To read about my race day, continue on to part two of my report from my first triathlon! >>