Half Ironman

I've wanted to try a triathlon for quite some time now. In terms of running, I've completed a half and full marathon, and in terms of biking I've done two 5-6 day trips, and several one day trips back and forth between KW and Turkey Point. On the swimming front, I went to the pool 6 times during the winter of 2008 as a means of cross-training. I started out doing about 20 minutes in the pool and peaked at 1 hour at about 2.4 km/h.

After finishing the bike trip to Sudbury this year, I got curious about whether I would be able to do a relaxed half Ironman down at Turkey Point. My legs were in good shape from all of the biking, and a one hour swim wasn't prohibitive, so the only question was whether the leg strength from biking was enough to carry me through a half marathon. I decided to give it a shot.

It was Saturday July 4th, and we were down at the cottage with mom, dad, Hannah, and Beryle and John. I went to bed in good time the night before and planned to get up at 5:00 AM for an early start.

After waking up, there was lots to do in 40 minutes: Eat some toast, load up my CamelBak with water and granola bars, get all of my running and biking gear beside the cottage (my little transition area), get into my bib shorts, which would double as my bathing suit, take a towel down to the beach to wait for me, and then drive down to the end of Turkey Point to start the swim.

Aunt Beryle suggested that it wasn't safe for me to swim without a spotter, so thankfully my dad was willing to get up at that extreme hour to watch me swim. (As it turns out, I was swimming in 3-5 feet of water the entire way)

The morning was gorgeous... come to think of it, I don't know if I've ever seen a sunrise in Turkey Point. The sun came up behind the smoke stacks in Nanticoke, and the resulting sky was just beautiful.

After driving down to the end of Turkey Point, we parked the car and walked another couple hundred metres down the street to the start point of the swim. I climbed over the rocks down to the water, and boy was I surprised by how cold the water was. Not cold enough to prevent the swim, but enough to make it pretty formidable! I quickly realized the difference between going for a "dip" in really cold water VS going for a swim. When you swim, you keep your head submerged, and all of the nerve endings in your face make for a pretty fierce burning sensation!

Despite the cold, the 1.93 km swim was a lot of fun. Towards the end, I think the cold water was starting to take its toll. As I was walking towards shore, my balance was off and my legs weren't working that well. I took my towel and walked back to the cottage with dad. Putting my cycling shoes on with numb fingers was an interesting process, but persistence paid off and within 8 minutes of stepping out of the water I was rolling down the street on my bike.

It was approximately 6:40 AM by this point. As you might imagine, being wet and zooming along in the cold morning air didn't do much to warm me up. It was actually nice to cycle up the hill out of Turkey Point to generate a bit more body heat! After twenty minutes or so my core body temperature had risen enough that I wasn't chilled, and from then on the bike ride was wonderful. There was a little wind, but I have no complaints because it seemed to be stronger for the parts of the ride when it was a tail wind. The 3 hour 42 minute bike ride went by surprisingly fast, and I was delighted to finish in under four hours. As I was riding just south of Simcoe, I saw mom and Beryle on their way to get berries!

As you can imagine, I was dragging a little by the time I started the run, but it was still only about 10:30 AM, so the heat hadn't gotten too bad yet. This was the first time I've ever tried to run after being on the bike. The transition wasn't bad, but I suspect that's because I didn't push myself on the bike. Still, I had to focus putting one leg in front of the other. By this point I had been on the course for almost five hours, which is the time length of a marathon!

I decided that I would walk up any significant incline to avoid pushing my legs over the edge, which I think was wise. As I continued along past an hour of running, the day had become plenty hot and it was good to try and run along the side of the road that was shaded whenever possible. I ran along an interesting road called Spooky Hollow Road (map) which I had never been along before, and it was quite a neat route: You descend a big hill and the road becomes very densely surrounded on the sides and even above by trees.

About 13k into the run my ability to motor along began to suffer and walk breaks started happening every 5-6 minutes rather than every 10 minutes. After 16k, the desire to walk got even stronger, and I was a wary about pushing myself given the relatively small amount of training I did, almost all of which was below the typical heart rate that you have when running. I walked the large majority of the last 5k, but of course it was only fitting to suck it up and run that last couple hundred metres to finish.

My final time was 7 hours and 32 minutes, with around 8 minutes at each of the transitions. I was happy with how I felt at the end of the race, which was actually much better than I felt at the end of the marathon... I think it makes a huge difference whether you heed to your body's weakness towards the end of a race and slow down, or whether, conversely, you really dig deep down and push yourself beyond the pace that you've managed up until that point. (Precisely what I did for the last 8k of the marathon)

It was nice to be able to see Meredith and Eli, take some pictures, have a quick shower, and then REST. Beautiful, wonderful rest never feels so good as after a big physical effort! We walked down to the chip stand and got a hamburger, fries, and poutin... mmm, calories!

For a little perspective, here's my fitness graph for July. Red is running, orange is biking, and blue is swimming, and pink is walking. (The pink on July 4 is Mer and I walking down to the end of Turkey Point at the end of the day) The dotted line represents approximately 30 minutes of exercise, which is a good daily target.

... and here is my June graph, where you can see the bike trip quite clearly.