Monday, June 27, 2011

Race Report - Half Iron Welland 2011


Since we've been 'behind schedule' getting to the last two races, I decided this time we're going to leave extra extra early! With the truck pre-packed the night before it made for a quick easy morning. The main highway to the race was closed for construction so we took some scenice backroads which had no traffic thus we got to the race waaaaay too early! Well I guess that is not a bad thing but when you get there before the transition and tents are setup then maybe that is a bit much haha! Oh well, we took the time to scope out the course a bit. Nothing felt rushed. The drive in had a few spurts of rain but here it was looking nice and sunny. I kept to my standard warm-up and setup routine and with so much extra time I broke one of my rules and decided to go socialize with the other racers. Usually I keep to myself and stay mentally focused on the race ahead but I just felt so comfortable here, no pressure. I've already done my Half-Iron last year and I was an emotional mess getting to the start line of that one. Scared to death lol. Now I am at the start of my second Half-Iron and I'm cool as a kitten. I dont feel pressured to finish, I am just here to have a good time! I guess the difference is, this time I actually trained so I am confident I'll do just fine. :)
Our club had a few first timers out today, so I did my part to help get them situated. I know how they are feeling, it's still all too fresh in my memory - so I told them exactly what they needed to hear.
I was surprised at how many other athletes I knew there. They were coming out of the woodwork, alot from online and blogosphere but overall just people I've met over time during training. There is definitely a special bond amongst triathletes, you get to meet so many great people!

Before I knew it I was one of the first down to the water. With only 20 minutes to go there was nobody swimming yet! I more or less led the charge for the water to get a quick warm-up in. Once in I realized why everyone waited to enter the water - IT'S FREEZING! That's the coldest water I've been in all year. So it was a very quick warm-up as I didn't want to spend any more time in that water than I had to. I froze to death at Muskoka 70.3 in similar water and my calves cramped before the end so I was a bit worried about today. My mind was put at ease over the water clarity though, I could see everything around me! As we jostled for position on the start line, in-water start, I ran into Training Payne! He has been fighting some anxiety in the water and after getting my dose of inspiration from him, he went on his way to get 'in the zone' before beginning the swim. As he swam away though I figured he might be putting deliberate distance between ourselves since TriTwins promised me big rewards if I 'accidently' laid a few flying elbows in Training Payne's direction. He must know us. lol

Meeting Peter finally

First in the water - SHRINKAGE!

Mass start - surprisingly roomy

Countdown - 10 Seconds, 9, 8 1/2 *BANG*  haha - that was not 10 seconds, the announcer was waaay off or the guy with the horn had an itchy trigger finger! Either way it was a perfect mass in-water swim start. I could see the bubbles galore underwater and this helped me keep myself from getting kicked in the head. My anxiety was not present, I got into the grove immediately. Around the 400m mark my swim mask started filling with water. I deliberately swam the next 400m with it half-full. I figured this would be a good opportunity to get some experience with a messed up mask - just incase it happens at IMLP.

Well spaced on back stretch

It was tough to see, but eventually it was bothering my eye so on the next turn I rolled onto my back to clear it. I didn't get get run over! The buoys didn't line up quite in a straight line so I followed the most direct route while the pack of swimmers went wide and follwed the sighting buoys. This means I was mostly alone for a long stretch. I wondered if it would be faster staying in the draft, but considering I was comfortably doing my own thing off to the side with no risk of flying elbows I think it might have been for the better. We swam under a bridge, that was interesting as you had to not run into the support structure. I got back into the pack for the last 400m. Again, felt great because I could see everything under water.

Exiting the water I felt like a million bucks, the long jog down the path to T1 didn't kill me like it usually does. I was in control of my HR and barely felt any exhaustion at all. The adrenaline was pumping from such a great swim, I didn't even know my time - I didn't have to. I was happy as is. Although the last 50ft to the timing mats was on gravel. OW bare feet suck! 34 minutes and change 2000m.

Great for spectators

Rare photo op - race course under spectator bridge!


I cheered when I got my wetsuit off. It came off perfectly, it has never been so fast! Usually it gets caught on my ankles because I can't get enough material in a single pull with such long legs. Anyways, I took extra time because I stuffed my back pocket with pre-opened powerbars and cliff blocks. I couldn't bring myself to use a 'Bento Box' because I think they are hideously ugly and dare not be seen with that on my beautiful bike. I'll shop around to find something more appropriate. I cant stand those things so being a 70.3 I just used my back pocket of the tri suit to carry food.


Immediately I felt great. Flew out of town and relentlessly passed rider after rider like they were standing still. One of the corners had a police office and a misplaced traffic cone that had me go too wide on the the turn and I crossed the center of the road. I was worried I would get disqualified. I just kept hammering though, I felt great! Just before the 30km mark on a straight smooth road I came up on an unexpected small pothole and BAM! Lifted the front wheel over but caught the back one - flat tire. My bottle launched out too and by the time I pulled over I had a long ways back to go retrieve it. No matter, I stayed calm and didn't mind since I'm pretty quick a changing flats. "Because an Alaskan Winter is not a weakness. It is my Strength." As I went to inflate it with CO2 it blew again. That was my only CO2 and only spare tube. Uh Oh. No matter I stayed the course and pulled the patch kit out. A snake bite should be easy to spot so I patched it quick and then went to start begging for someone to toss me a CO2 or pump. It felt like an eternity, none of the lead riders want to help me out so I figure eventually one of my club mates will get here and they'll give me a hand. Nope, they didn't stop either. haha!
I can understand the guys on their first 70.3 and I dont expect them to stop but the ones that have finished before, come on - really?

***POST-PUBLISH EDIT DISCLAIMER: Note the 'haha' as that is meant to make light of the situation! :)  Also note that 'club mates' refers to any one of my buddies or clubs that I train with and that know me! Some people *cough* Jesse *cough* felt like I was centering them out negatively. No dude, we love ya and I don't want anyone thinking I was referring negatively to him. To be honest, I thought you were still behind me at that point in the race lol.  And to be honest, I would be surprised if any of my buddies would stop, as many would love to see me finish dead last hahaha! ***

Whatever, eventually a support motobike showed up and a competitor stopped at the same time. The competitor was pullling out of the race so he didn't need his CO2 - he tossed me one. The motobike on the other hand warned me that if he assists me then I can get disqualified if a race official see's him. I was confused since this was the motorbike from the official race support group with a tent and tool station at the transition area. He made it clear they will take my timing chip if he helps. At this point I cant finish the race anyways, and its a loooooooong walk back to town so whatever, I took his assistance so I can at least get rolling again. Just as we were finishing up, a Race Official going the opposite direction on a motorbike did a U-turn to come back for us.
Not a peace sign. The number 2 for the flats I had.
Ohh great there goes my timing chip. Or so I thought. As he arrived the support bike driver made it clear to the official that he warned me and that he wasn't 'duping' people out of their race chip by 'illegally' helping. He did give me a long winded disclaimer in his defence. To my surpise the race official said to the driver 'that is ok, because we want you to continue doing what your are doing. thank you for your help'.  Wow - that was close. I got to keep my chip and the motobike got to officially support the race.  I learned later that there was confusion since the race announcer incinuated that the technical support was allowed from this bike shop specifically. Instead of robing people of their timing chip over a misunderstanding they just let people continue. Excellent!
In honor of the motorbike guy and the competitor that helped me out - I made the best of the next 60km. I hammered the $hit out of my bike. I went deeep into the hurt locker, so deep I figured I wouldn't be able to run by the end but damnit - I'm going to catch as many people as I possibly can before this bike is over. I was having the ride of my life, even with a bitch of a headwind I just tucked down let the snot and drool fly and thrashed my legs as hard as I could. When my legs cry'd in agony I just pushed harder. What a blast!!
I blew by a couple familiar faces which allowed me to gauge just how far back I was. Wow, I was far back. I know it was at least 20 minutes on the side of the road, but I am confident I could say it is closer to 30 minutes. I dont know for sure because my peice of crap Garmin GPS didn't charge. Even though it was charging for 2 days, it had 'locked up' when I plugged it in, yet again. The charging circuit doesnt work if the unit's software screws up. Luckily I remembered the keystrokes to reset it at the beginning of the race but there wasn't enough juice for it to record the first hour. Garmins suck.
Anyhow I had my fun on the bike and held nothing back.

T2 entrance via Destroyed yet satisfied legs
A wobbly entrance, those legs are well-cooked. I had to take some extra time to empty the back pocket of tubes, spent CO2 and powerbar wrappers. I seen the wife and family on the sidelines who looked confused as to why I took so long and I think I answered with some rather loud profanities lol. No matter, I wasn't upset, I just laughed it off and focused on the run ahead.

Initially I pushed hard with the intention of backing off and just enjoying it as a training run. On the first turn around I seen one of my running mentors that helped get me to the next level of speed work. He inspired me to push myself and now he was within 1Km in front of me! I ran hard and reeled him in. When I caught him he was clearly pacing himself for the long term. It's his first Half-Iron and was exectuting a smart gameplan to ensure he makes it to the finish. Good for him! I on the other hand decided to go a little quicker than my comfort zone and slowly pulled away on him. I figured he would catch me eventually. Tortoise-hare kind of thing. I then seen Training Payne going the other way, I guessed 30 minutes ahead of me. No way I could catch that - he was looking great! I conceded defeat, beating him was a hill-mary of a goal to set to begin with so no surprise anyways. Even without the flats, it was a lofty venture that I'm certain he would have still come out on top. No disappointment here though, I tend to set really lofty goals to push myself. I welcome the challenge. 

 ***POST-PUBLISH EDIT DISCLAIMER:  The next part is completely my perspective on my OWN race on how it played out. In fairness to Jesse he claims he never said the quote below, so I dont want anyone thinking that he's an "Asshole" (his words). He did have words of encouragement, I noted that below, and the context of his words are completely my perspective (I also noted that below already) but he feels like I'm being a jerk to him so there you have it. Oh and he would also like me to note that he thinks that he didn't say the quote below and that "I only heard what I wanted to hear" lol well if it makes him feel better, I'm OK with that too because either way IT WORKED! Obviously I'm motivated by my competitiveness, everyone knows this lol! We love ya Jesse, dont fret it bud***

Anyways my run went on and it was hot. I was happy to see ice sponges at one of the feed zones - that felt great! My first ice sponge ever! Sweeet! I held a pace that was unsustainable for the entire 21Km's but no matter I didn't feel like holding back just quite yet. Then I seen Jesse going the other way. That was another goal for today and here he is way out in front and I'm miles behind. As he passes the other way though he gave me some words of encouragement and then he said something that made my blood boil

"I'll wait for you at the finish line"

Ummmmm OK. He hasn't been part of the TrashTalk that has been going around with Rodney, Training Payne and all so he is completely innocent for saying that. However, thats one of the lines repeatedly used to rib each other on twitter when it comes to IMLP.
So when he said it, I got pissy. Wait for me at the finish line? You assume you're going to beat me? I've already been counted out and the phat lady hasn't sung yet? I'll be damned to lose to a cocky young guy like this, How rude! I know I know, he didn't mean it rudely but damn I had a chip on my shoulder that someone would dare underestimate the things I could do.
"Because I have to believe, even if they don't"
That lit a fire under my ass. I picked it up a notch and ran harder. At this point I didn't know how far he was in front of me, only that I just needed to get to the turn around and then I can decide whether I stood a chance to catch him.

The turn around was far away, and I was pushing hard. I guesstimated he had an almost 3.5km lead on me. I did the math - ok no I didnt. I tried really hard to calculate out how fast I need to run to catch him but between my lungs and my heart I couldn't hear myself think. Besides I didn't know how fast his pace was so it's really kind of futile to do the math. In the end I kept it simple. I promised myself to push as hard as I can to the other end of the island at the next turn around and see if I pulled any closer to him. I kept a steady fast pace and dug deep. The next time I saw him there was a noticable dent in the gap. Close enough that I may be able to pull this off but it's going to come down to a sprint finish. My family and friends were at the turnaround but I was too far into the hurt locker to muster up a wave or hello, all I could do was look down and concentrate on maintaining my run. Their presence was felt though, my Father got up early and drove all the way here to watch, my Son came out to volunteer for the race and my awesome wife was there making lots of noise like usual. My running coach and friends present -  I was on a mission.

"Because of my Father, Because of my Son"
If I could catch Jesse then at least this day wasn't a complete write-off with my flat tires. I like a competition to push myself. Maybe he wasn't out to beat me,  I don't know, but who cares - this is my competition and lofty goal that I set for myself and I'm using it to push me harder. I have to at least try.
"Because when I do, there is always the chance to be extraordinary"
The final lap of the island would bring us to one final turn around where I could see him and gauge the distance. As the turn around got closer, I began to succomb to the heat. I was way out of my comfort zone and I did not expect to last this pace to the finish line. My feet were ON FIRE! Seriously my feet were burning up in the shoes, it was killing me. I have nice shoes, running socks but they did not feel cool or dry. It was extremely irratating. As I got closer to the turn around I did not see Jesse where I expected. As a matter of fact I was within 200ft of the turn around before I seen him going the other way. Wow! I put a huge dent into his lead - I am going to do it! I'm going to catch him! I tried not to look down the road to see how far ahead he was as I was dreading what I was going to do when  I got there. When I finally got to the back of his heels I slowed my pace and matched his. I was surprised to see he was at a 5:30min/km.  He's a fast runner, short distance 5-10km and sprints with wins so I started to psych myself out a bit. Is he going this slow to conserve energy and bolt away on me? Is he planning to sprint the final stretch? If he attacks now, I have nothing in the tank to keep with him. I gave it all I had to bridge the gap and catch him but I dont have enough to pass him convincingly. I hung back there for about 5 minutes and tried to regain my composure. HR was skyrocketing and legs screaming. Out of nowhere he dropped down to a 5:45min/km and I matched but now it became painful. I can't go from a 4:45 to a 5:45 like that, my stride didn't feel right and weird pains were setting in. I had to get a more steady pace. I figured he was trying to force me to pass, it's always easier to pace with someone in front of you. I thought strategy and figured if I rode him to within sight of the finish line, his sprinting experience will do me in. As much as it pained me to to admit it, the only way I can pull this off is if I attacked early and played the long game. I mustered up a bit of muscle and made the pass. I didn't pass convincingly enough, he knew I was there and he knew I was just getting ramped up so it's not like he couldn't respond if he wanted to. I went back to 4:50-5:00min/km pace and just held it for as long as I could. With only 5km to go I was ALL IN. I reached the second to last feed zone and glanced back but I couldn't tell if he was there or not. I didn't drink anymore after this - I just splashed cup after cup of water on me to cool the motor.

Hurt Locker. I am there.

Then it happened - at the 2km to go mark I blew up. My form fell apart, I couldn't get anything resembling a decent technique, my engine overheated and I dropped down to a 5:50-6:00min/km. Damn, thats it - that is all I have. The last 2km was longer, harder and more painful the the previous 100+km combined. The finish line was so close yet so far away. After the final feed zone I glanced back and people were there and closing in on me. Great, this is it - he's going to pass me. As the person behind me made the pass I realized it wasn't him. Every bout of heavy breathing and footsteps that approached from behind made me anxious. Was the next person him? He's coming for me. Oh no, as soon as he see's me he's going to sprint by me to the finish. Damn, after all that I am going to fail. I didn't give up, I continued to give it all I had but there wasn't much left. There was no sprint to the finish. I didn't walk, I kept  hobbling along at a pace that was between cardiac arrest and fainting.

Giving Everything. Means Everything.
"Because I had to try. Again."
I couldn't see or hear the spectators, only the screaming of my legs, the pounding of my heart and the dark spotty figures from lightheadedness trying not to bonk and collapse.

He never did pass me. :)
I crossed the line, grabbed the poor kid not paying attention so he could rip my timing chip off and I B-lined it for the river (canal). I didn't forget about my Finishers medal and Hat, I simply DID NOT CARE.
"Because knowing I gave everything, means Everything." 
All I could think about was if I dont get to that river in the next 30 seconds then I'll be going to medical for heat stroke. I collapsed in the water, I barely remember the volunteers catching up to me to give me my medal, hat and a bottle of water. I submerged myself and it almost felt good. As freezing cold as the water was during the morning swim, it just wasn't cold enough. I layed there on the side of the bank for a good 30 minutes. It took awhile to regain my composure.

Eye'ing medical tent. Opted for river instead.

Salamandors - Biting my toes!!

Post Race River Roll to the shore. I couldn't get up.

Yes. I just crushed this race.

We stayed until the very end. Everyone finished. Everyone won. A great day for our team! I love sticking around meeting people and exchange war stories, it's the best time to make great friends! After I got out of the river I went for the food tent and ate like a king. I consumed everything in sight. One of the highlights of the day was watching our first timers cross the finish line. That is so incredibly special. It really moves me to watch people do these events for the first time. To see the look on their faces when they realize they have done it. That they can do it. That they just vindicated months of hard work. That they believe in themselves. I love that moment. I wish everyone could experience it.
Several of my friends podiumed. And some won door prizes. As soon as the door prizes completed everyone left, but sadly the announcer asked everyone to stay an extra 10 minutes to cheer on the final finisher. Yet very few stuck around. I know it's a long day, heck we showed up before transition was even fully setup.
My Father
Yet we made the time to go cheer on the very last finisher of the day. What a rewarding experience. It might not mean much to those people that left, but in this moment a probable first time finisher has given it their all for almost 8hrs straight and I wanted to be there to see their dream come true. An older lady and an overweight guy finished together to end the day. I had a tough race, but they had an even tougher one. I love cheering people on. If only others would give the extra 10 minutes to make a difference in someone's life. A moment that they will remember forever. A crowd cheering for them at their Half-Iron finish. Forget 10 minutes, I'd give alot more if it meant being part of someone's memory of a lifetime.

Training Payne. The better man today. Inspiration.

My Son

My Son Volunteering

My Awesome Cheer Squad - And Loving Wife!

Half Iron - 5:20hrs. (Includes double flat)

What goes through my mind on a hard run?
See video below...


  1. awesome race. in muskoka 70.3 i got a flat. totally sucks

    i still say u should have rode to welland, won the try-a-tri and then rode home.

  2. Awesome race report. Loved the drama with Jesse. Congrats again, you kicked some major ass. Too bad about the bike, next time be more alert (Mark Allen always says if you get a flat, it's your fault for not paying attention to the road - spoken like a champion -hehe).

    Loved the photo's, the photographer really captured you. Amazing.

    Keep up the good work. Good luck to Fran next weekend and see you in 27 days in Lake Placid. If you beat me there, I'll buy you a half a beer. I don't want the other half to go to waste. haha.

    Again, nice work.


  3. Great race report. I have never had a flat in a race and I hope I could handle it as well as you!

  4. I flatted at my first 70.3. It was demoralizing to me... felt like I threw the day away. Great job creating a challenge out of the race and gunning down your buddy. I am the same way, I find someone and they turn into my rabbit and I will catch them.

    Not sure if I would have gone all out w/ only a month til race day though, your legs are going to take awhile to recover I would think.

    Looks like everything is falling into place man, great job!!! That was an AWESOME TIME!

    So we finally got rid of the dumb cat pictures, lets get rid of the JP pictures and get more of Fran alright? Deal!

  5. Great race report! I am so impressed that you didn't let the flats ruin your day, that's a tough one to bounce back from. That run impresses the shit out of me!
    You know if I had been there, I would have been cheering on those last few people with you. Good for you for staying!!

  6. Great report! What Mark Allen says about the flat being your fault is right but now you know! And you know to carry more tubes and CO2!

    Great part about the B races is what you learned! See you at IMLP!

  7. Great race report John! Reading it, it felt so real, like I was running there myself.

    By the way, if you don't like the BentoBox, here's the Speedpack , which is bigger and a little bit better looking.

    Congrats for a great race! I hope your legs recover quickly and that they won't affect your training plan for Lake Placid.

  8. I loved this John. what a race! you are amazing!

  9. Fantastic! I'm not really all that competitive and it's so much fun to read the reports of those that are. What a killer instinct! Such a bummer about the flats, I've always been very lucky to never have one on a ride at all. I did have one this evening though before I left!

    Now on to some recovery to get ready for the BIG race! By the way love the pic of you looking dead in the water! LOL!

  10. WOW - a 5:20 even with all that time lost to flats?! That is a huge bummer about the flats, but that is still a good time. It's great that you KILLED the bike and run course and didn't let the flats shut down your mental game.

    Nice race report - it's making me excited for my first 70.3 of the season in a few weeks!



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