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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! >>

Mississauga Marathon: Why I Run

A few weeks ago, I ran the Mississauga Marathon, my sixth marathon I’m proud to say!  Over three years had passed since I last ran 42 kilometres, so I was a bit nervous going into this race…would I be able to pull off another full marathon?  I thought this would be a good time to write a post about how I started racing, and why I love to run.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Ottawa Marathon

I hated running in middle school gym class.  Tossed out onto the street without any training, we were instructed to run around the block sporting our frumpy gym clothes.  Only a few kids advanced to the next “level”, while the rest of us simply gave up, and miserably walked the same route over and over.  In high school, I stayed away from running and joined the swim team.   I tried to keep up swimming throughout university, along with biking and the occasional kickboxing class. 

I ran my first 5K in 2008 with my best friend.  We had signed up for the Princess Margaret Multiple Myeloma 5K in memory of her mom.  The morning of the race, we did everything wrong!  I ate an oatmeal muffin for breakfast and we ran in our winter coats, haha!  We overheated quickly and had to tie our bulky coats around our waists.  My fibrous breakfast kicked in near the end and I bolted across the finish line and ran straight into the Port-O-Potty!  But I learned from my mistakes and in 2009 I tried again and ran the 5K Run For The Cure.  The race was the same day as the Toronto Marathon, and as I watched the runners pass by me in awe I thought to myself “wow those people are crazy, I could never do that!”.

I caught the racing bug and the following year I ran the Sporting Life 10K. A few months later I conquered the Midsummer Night’s Dream 15K and finally my first half in the fall of 2010 at the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon.  Each time I completed a race, I set a new goal for myself and after I finished the half, forty two kilometres didn’t seem so impossible anymore.  

The time had come to sign up for the full marathon.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Running to the start line for my first marathon! – Toronto Marathon

Training began in 2011 and with every passing month, I fine tuned my regime.  I imposed a strict diet on myself: no alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, dairy or gluten with limited red meat intake. I’ve since posted on my blog about how I try to eat more lamb instead of beef or pork when I’m training.  Halfway through training, I developed an ache on the outer side of my knee after I pushed myself too hard on a long run.  I learned all about my IT band, a common distress among runners,  I had never known pain until my massage therapist pressed on my super tight bands!  I bought a pair of IT straps that helped to ease the strain and have run with them ever since.  

The day of the marathon started off wet and rainy, but I didn’t mind too much, the cool droplets felt refreshing.  To this day I don’t mind a little rain on my runs!  The race was going well until the last few kilometres that went up a slow incline.  My goal, like many first time runners, was to run non-stop so I didn’t pay attention to my pace. By this point, I was running so slowly that my body was overly strained, and when I hit those last few kilometres I thought I was going to die!  I remember an elderly man passed by me and it made me feel like I was running in slow motion.  

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon 2011 – near the finish line

My best friend, my ex-husband, his mother and brother all waited for me at the finish line that I crossed after 5 hours and 19 minutes.  I had never been so happy to see familiar faces! My best friend ran the last bit of the race with me and I collapsed into the arms of my mother-in-law.  That evening I soaked in the tub and marathon-watched Kitchen Nightmares.  This was also the day that I fell in love with Gordon Ramsay, I guess I’m a bit masochistic!  I was super proud of myself for accomplishing my goal, but there were many things I wanted to improve on, including my time.

The next day, I signed up for another marathon.

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon was only 4 months away and I resolved to be even more diligent with my training schedule. The only hiccup being that I was traveling for a month to Peru and Bolivia.  I had planned to cram in a lot of training once I returned home, but unexpectedly, I landed a job my first day back and was swept up in a very busy contract.  I wasn’t feeling prepared and tried to swap my bib for the half but there were no takers.  

At the race expo I picked up a pair of compression socks, and they’ve since become one of my most prized pieces of running gear.  Compression socks help prevent swelling and promote recovery after a long run and I noticed a big difference in my recovery time after wearing them, I highly recommend buying a pair if you regularly run over 15K.

My friend was signed up for the half so we decided to start off together.  But on the day of the race, the grounds were crowded and chaotic and we couldn’t find each other.  While trying to find my friend, I was distracted and forgot to take my bib out of my bag before I handed it off to my ex-husband.  Cell phone-less and in a panic, I begged a kind stranger for their phone so I could call him to bring my bag back.  I managed to line up in my corral with minutes to spare but it was a terrible way to start the race.

Despite the rocky start, by the halfway mark I was still going strong.  Around this time, I discovered pace bunnies: runners who wore bunny ears and held signs with target finishing times.  I matched my pace with theirs and used them as markers as I tried to stay ahead of the pack.  Before I knew it I had crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 50 minutes, a new personal best!  After this race, I understood the importance of pacing, and proper prep.

I registered for another marathon.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Facebook status after the 2011 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

The Niagara Falls International Marathon was the following fall so I had ample time to train and prepare properly.  Unfortunately, a month before the marathon, my cat was diagnosed with diabetes and kidney disease, and life became very stressful.  Seeing my sweet, innocent pet in pain was awful and I felt frustrated trying to figure out how to help her.  

A week before the marathon, I was trail running and sprained my ankle, badly.  I had run down a small dip in the trial, and rolled my ankle on a tree root.  I knew the second it happened that the sprain was a bad one.  Luckily there was creek nearby and I immediately dipped my foot into the freezing cold stream. My luck worsened as it started to rain, and back then I didn’t run with my cell phone.  Soaking wet, I hobbled to the closest station and waited forever for the bus to come.  

I spent the days before the marathon alternating between visits to my chiropractor for my ankle and shuttling my sick kitty to the vet.  The chiropractor visits helped the swelling go down, and I was able to walk on my ankle by the end of the week.  I arranged for a friend to take care of my cat for the weekend, and we headed up to Niagara Falls Friday evening.  

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Niagara Falls International Marathon

I had come prepared with an armful of supplies: an ankle brace, physio tape and tea tree oil to reduce swelling, my trusty compression socks, and extra strength Advil and freezing gel for after the race.  The day before I ran a few kilometres during the warm up gathering, and my ankle felt OK.  After a quick and hilariously scary trip through the Nightmares haunted house, I crossed my fingers and went to bed early.

The race started off on the other side of the falls in Buffalo, and the weather was perfect; a clear, blue sky filled with crisp, fresh air.  I wore my favourite dry wick shorts and my lucky tank top with some new armbands just in case it was chilly by the water.  The course was a dream – nice and flat, surrounded by pretty scenery.  The run across the bridge back into Canada was really cool, too.  My ankle miraculously cooperated and as I ran around the last bend, a brilliant rainbow appeared over the falls.  Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” shuffled onto my iPod as I crossed the finish line, a perfect note to end on.

I completed the race in 4 hours and 5 minutes, a new personal best!  Overall I felt awesome and I counted my lucky stars that I didn’t have to run in pain.  I was a bit shaken from my injury and it took me a few years to return to trail running.  Needless to say, I will never run on a trail so close to race day ever again!  I was happy with my time, but I started eyeing the Boston Marathon, and I wanted to qualify.

So I registered for another full.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Niagara Falls International Marathon

My parents lived in Ottawa at that time, so the next marathon I decided to conquer was the Tamarack Ottawa Marathon the following May.  Training went smoothly and it helped that my gym was beside my office.  I felt confident going into the race, and thankful that I didn’t have any injuries this time!

Race weekend took over the city creating a fun and lively atmosphere in the capitol.  My dad drove me around for my standard pre-race route scout while my mom made comforting comments like “you’re going to run all this way?  You’re going to die!”.  

My parents lived close to the start line, so the morning of the race was one of the easiest.  The weather was cool, cloudy and I felt excited.  This course was one of my favourites, and the most interesting to date. Winding along the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River, across the river to Gatineau then back into Ottawa and past 24 Sussex, we finished at Parliament Hill.  The race was also special to me because it was the first time my parents were able to see me run. Ottawa was my strongest run so far and I ran a personal best clocking in at 3 hours and 48 minutes.  

I still needed to shave off 18 seconds to qualify for Boston…so I signed up for another marathon.

20170529_Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Tamarack Ottawa Marathon

I decided to register for the Run For Heroes Amherstburg Marathon for World Alzheimer’s Day for a couple of reasons.  Amherstburg was a scenic, flat course that many people had achieved their personal best.  The town was close to London, where my best friend lived so I planned to visit her.  Finally, I believed in the cause.  My grandmother died from Alzheimers, and my best friend’s grandmother was suffering from the disease at that time, so this race was dedicated to them.

I had also signed up for Tough Mudder, a 12 mile obstacle course race that I trained for with my first personal trainer.  Between running and the Tough Mudder training, I was in the best shape of my life.  Then, my world turned upside down.

One month before race day, my marriage fell apart.  My husband and I decided to separate and I headed into some of the darkest months of my life. Thankfully, I kept running and all the extra training kept me grounded.  While I was grateful for all the support I received from my friends, this also resulted in a lot of drinking and smoking, something I would never do before a race. The weekend arrived, and my best friend came along with me to Amherstburg.  This wasn’t going to be pretty, but I knew I would cross that finish line in one form or another.

I was blessed with another perfect race day, without a cloud in the sky, and only about two hundred fellow marathon runners.  For some parts of the race I was completely by myself, with only a lone pace bunny running beside me.  While this was a very different experience from other races, I took this as an opportunity to clear my head and be alone with my thoughts.  I had a lot to think about during this run.

3 hours and 46 minutes later, I finished the marathon, a personal best but still 16 minutes shy of a Boston qualifying time.  I was amazed that I had PR’d given the abuse I had afflicted on my body and attributed my success to pure mental will, and Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” that carried me through the last kilometre.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Run for Heroes Marathon in Amherstberg

I took a break from training after Amherstburg.  I met a cute boy and suddenly I no longer had time for three hour runs on a Sunday.  Exercising with my boyfriend was much more fun, and we would bike, rollerblade and weight train together.  While I still ran once and awhile, I had also started to play volleyball year round, so fitting in long runs became trickier.

But in the back of my mind, the Boston qualifying time still haunted me.

At the beginning of 2017, I was in between contracts, and firmly decided that it was time to get back into the running groove and start chasing that Boston qualifying time once more.  I signed up for the Mississauga Marathon, buckled down and started training.  I went back to logging my meals on My Fitness Pal and added more weight training to my exercise schedule.  Sunday afternoon runs became my new ritual and I was really focused on a proper recovery routine that included chocolate almond milk, yoga, an Epson salt bath, foam rolling and a healthy, protein rich dinner.

I had trained harder for this marathon than any of the other races and I reached my target distance of 37 kilometres on schedule.  The following week I started to ramp down in mileage.  I was 20 kilometres into a 35 km run, when a horrible pain flared up around my hip bone. My hip had ached a bit the previous week, but I had shrugged it off as regular wear and tear.  The pain became so bad that I pulled over and tried to stretch it out, but it wouldn’t cease.  I discovered I had hip bursitis, when the fluid filled sacs that provide cushioning around the joints become inflamed.  I spent a week focusing on recovery and only ran short sprints to work on my speed. While my hip was feeling a bit better, I decided to get a cortisone shot for insurance.  There was no way I wanted this to creep up on race day!

Mississauga Marathon: Why I Run

Mississauga Marathon – getting ready to race!

The week before the marathon it rained every day.  I kept a weary eye on the forecast but the weather was looking dreary for race day.  I waterproofed by shoes and arm band, and went for a run in the rain to prep myself for the worst case scenario.  

But as luck would have it, the weather cleared just in time and the morning of the race was cloudy but chilly.  I revised my gear and opted for tights and my trusty running jacket.  We arrived in plenty of time to score a good parking spot, and I mentally prepared myself by warming up and taking my final bathroom breaks.  

I started off strong and was enjoying the ease of the downhill course.  The route alternated between the scenic campus of the University of Toronto Mississauga to pretty rural streets and industrial areas.  I felt a bit overheated in my jacket, but was thankful for the extra protection when we hit the lakefront.  I was making great time up until the 22km mark when the wind turned against me as I started running up a slow incline, brutal!  From this point on the course was very hilly and was much harder than any other course I had run.

Mississauga Marathon: Why I Run

Mississauga Marathon – near the finish line

I passed the finish line after 4 hours and 7 minutes, not a personal record but certainly not my worse.  The best part was when I saw my boyfriend at the finish line, this was the first time he had seen me race so I wanted to impress him!  The course was tough but I was very happy with my time, especially considering that it had been three years since my last marathon.

Mississauga Marathon Why I Run

Mississauga Marathon

People often say to me “wow, I could never do that, what do you think about for so many hours?” but for me the time flies.  When I’m not pre-occupied thinking about the practical aspects of the race: my form, my hydration and gel schedule, pacing; my mind wanders into wonderful daydreams.  Sometimes I just envision the finish line – “if you dream it you can do it” – they say, and it’s the truth!  I’m still dreaming about a Boston Marathon qualifying time, but until then I have a new goal: I want to run 10 marathons by the time I turn 40 (I stole that idea from Gordon Ramsay!).

I love to race because I find personal satisfaction when I accomplish fitness goals, and I’m also fascinated by how far we can push our bodies.  When my feet hit the pavement, that time alone is special to me.  I can escape from the world and focus on whatever I want.  I’m free, I have two legs and a healthy body and I feel so lucky that I’m able to run, and believe that anybody can do the same.  

I’m not superhuman, I’m just a regular girl who hated running.

Do you love to run?  What’s your running story? Have you ever raced in the Mississauga Marathon?