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The Canadian 1/2 Iron 113 Triathlon

Date: Sept 1, 2007
Description: 1932m swim/90km bike/21km run
Location: Terry Fox Athletic Facility, Ottawa ON
Race Name: The Canadian; Somersault Triathlon Series
Sport: Triathlon/Duathlon
Race Website:

The purpose of this race was similiar to that of the Peterborough 1/2 Ironman Duathlon I did earlier this summer: to get in a hard training effort to prepare for the World Long Distance Duathlon Championships coming up in October in Virginia.  Since the worlds features an 80km bike combined with a total of 21km of running, the 1/2 Ironman distance is a pretty good race simulation….it just happens to have a 2km swim tacked on the front!!!  I did not rest or taper for this race.  It followed a couple weeks of solid quality workouts with the plan of taking it easier in the weeks following in anticipation of the Canadian Duathlon Championships in Parry Sound on Sept. 15, where I will be racing my first ever race as an “elite” duathlete.  (gulp & yikes!  lets hope I’m not being a poser!) 

I carpooled down to Ottawa with my friend Jim, it was nice to have some company for a change!  We stayed with my sister Sarah and her husband Chris (not to be confused with my own Chris!), who are both students at Carlton University and rent an apartment only a few km’s from the race site.  A big thanks to Sarah & Chris for their kindness and hospitality!  We arrived in Ottawa in the early afternoon on Friday, with enough time to get in an easy ride on the race course and pick up our race kits/check out the transition set-up at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility.  After dinner, Sarah, Chris, and Jim all humoured me by watching my current favorite pre-race inspirational movie, “Saint Ralph”.  I just love it!

The Race Course

The swim was a one-loop course in Mooney’s Bay.  It was in the shape of short, wide, “T” with a short swim out to the junction of the “T”, where everyone turned left to follow a LONG line of buoys parallel to the shore (the top of the “T”) out to one end of the bay before turning around to follow the same buoys back past the junction to the right, and then finally turning again to swim back to the junction parallel before rounding a final buoy to head into shore.  Since the course was basically just a long line parallel to the shore instead of the typical square, rectangle or triangular-shaped course, it looked REALLY long and quite intimidating!

The bike course consisted of 6 loops of a 15km course along the canal on Colonel By Drive.  Completely closed to traffic, smooth roads, and pretty much flat as a pancake!  Biggest concern: keeping track of the loops!

The run was held on the paved recreational path running parallel to the bike course on Colonel By Drive.  The two-loop course was again mostly flat and fast!

The transition area for this race was so massive, colossal really, that it deserves a section in this race report all to itself!  A change from previous years, the transition area (needed to hold the 1000+ athletes in the various races) was moved to the field surrounded by the track at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility.  Racks were organized and divided by race.  While it was nice to have everything so spread out, that, combined with the move from the previous site of the transition area resulted in VERY long transitions both to and from the swim and bike courses, as well as within the actual transition area to your rack!  In this race, the transitions really were the “4th sport” of the triathlon! 

The Plan

As with the Peterborough 1/2 Ironman Duathlon the plan was to get in a good, hard training effort without killing or injuring myself!  I was hoping to put in a solid swim (aka: survive!) before focusing my efforts more on the bike and run.  The plan on the bike was to conserve energy for the first 1/2 (3 loops) before “racing” the last 45km.  Similarly, The focus was also on pace and negative splitting for the run: a conservative 1st loop to be followed by an increase in effort for the 2nd loop.  This was also a 2nd opportunity to trial run my nutrition plan in a long race situation.   

The Race!

We arrived early at the race site to help Sarah and Chris with their set-up for the Sprint Duathlon held at 8am, an hour before the start of my race.  I think I was more nervous and concerned about making sure they were okay and at the start line on time than I was for my own race!   

My warm-up consisted of about a 15min jog… my car to grab my waterbottles which I had forgotten!  I didn’t have time to do my normal drills/accelerations but figured it would be okay to miss them for such a long race and with a swim (instead of a run) to start! 

1932m Swim : Down at the beach I discovered the swim was to be one big free-for-all mass start with all 200 of the 1/2 Iron 113 distance participants.  This might not normally be an issue, but the sharp turn to the left around the first buoy about 25-50m into the water wouldn’t give us a lot of time to spread out!  More concerned with survival than a fast time, I placed myself to the outside of the crowd, and took my time wading into the water before starting to swim.  Sure enough though, the first turn was absolute chaos.  I experienced my first ever kick to the face (not fun) and lots of bumping and struggling for positioning.  Finally I found some open water and was able to focus on swimming as opposed to protecting myself from my fellow competitors…funny how everyone seems to become an enemy in the water as instinct/survival mode takes over for each of us (or maybe this is just me….)!  Things were uneventful until the next turnaround (chaos again) and then I seemed to find myself suddenly all alone!  I couldn’t figure out where everyone had gone until I noticed that I was very close to one of the kayaks on patrol….somehow I had drifted quite wide of the line of buoys.  The most eventful part of the swim for me occurred at the final buoy where we were to turn and head towards shore….the problem was I didn’t realize we were at the final buoy and attempted to continue swimming straight.  Fortunately this resulted in my being swum over by another competitor who was turning in towards the shore…I say fortunately, because I doubtless would have continued on following the endless line of buoys, but being the first time that I have ever had anyone swim over me, it was also quite a scary situation.  Flustered, gasping, and spluttering for air, I came to a complete stop, treading water in an attempt to compose myself.  Doing this allowed me to reorient myself, and I realized my mistake.  So after catching my breath for a minute, I turned and headed toward shore myself.  Needless to say, I was pretty happy when I finally found myself running up the beach away from the water!

Other swimming notes: didn’t bother to try drafting anyone this time so swam alone for the duration; again used the strategy suggested by Len to breathe every stroke (vs. every 3 strokes) and this continues to work well: I feel less out of breath and therefore the effort seems easier to me.

Time: 32:34

T1: It was a LONG run from the beach up to the transition area and then across the field to my bike rack.  Whew!  Off came the wetsuit and on went some bike shorts over my race outfit in the hopes of providing a bit of extra comfort for the long ride ahead.  On with the Helmet, sunglasses, and bike shoes (haven’t had time to master getting on my bike with them clipped in yet), grabbed my bike and was off on the next long run out of transition to the mount line.   

Time: 3:15

90km Bike:  According to Jim’s garmin, really 91km or so….plus the long run from transition to and from the mount/dismount line.  This was my 2nd race on my new GURU Trilite, and my first time using my new race wheels so I was really looking forward to trying out all my new equipment!  Unfortunately, the bike didn’t start as smoothly as I hoped: once at the mount line I had major difficulties clipping into my pedals for some reason.  I just couldn’t clip in…both feet!!  I’m sure I wasted at least a minute at the line and then coasting up the road a bit before FINALLY clipping in.  I have no idea what happened there…maybe dirt in the cleat…or just one of those freaky things that just seem to happen on race day!?!  Regardless, it was a waste of time!  Oh well, put that out of my mind and concentrated on getting a Gu Energy gel down along with some Gu20 from one of my waterbottles to start my nutrition plan.  Not much to say about the bike course…umm…it was 6 flat loops out-and-back along the canal….not very exciting.  The winds are worth noting however, they were quite gusty, especially heading out towards the far turnaround, but at times they seemed to be against you on the way back in as well…go figure!  I didn’t find the course too congested and seemed to be pretty much by myself for the duration of the ride.  I did see some big clumps of riders, however.  No blatent drafting or other infractions that I could see, and it was an easy course for the OAT officials on their motorcycles to make their presence known and keep close tabs on everyone.  The turnarounds were typically pretty slow waiting for the riders ahead to negotiate the corners before being able to accelerate by them.  According to plan, I took it easy on the first 3 loops.  I spun my pedals effortlessly, cheered for the Irondistance racers, sang songs to myself, and gave big smiles to Sarah & Chris, who had finished their Sprint Du (both 4th in their categories, Congratulations guys!) and were out in full force cheering and picture-taking.  I could see several women were ahead of me on the bike but tried not to worry too much about it, there was lots of time to pick up the pace.  I stayed on my schedule of taking 1 gel every 45mins and drinking regularly.  The 1st half of the bike passed by uneventfully aside from being VERY uncomfortable on my bike seat…AGAIN!  I really am at a loss here.  I felt fine during training the past couple weeks.  The bike shorts didn’t seem to help at all…maybe I should have taken off my wet race shorts underneath?  Something to try next time.  Luckily, once I started 
“racing” the 2nd half of the bike, I was able to focus and didn’t notice the pain as much.  With 45km left to ride, it was go time!  I put my head down, and plugged away in some harder gears.  I pushed into the wind and tried to take advantage of the tailwind when I could.  Sure enough, I started passing people left and right.  By the middle of my 5th loop I had passed 2 of the 3 women ahead of me and by the time the ride was over I was within about 30secs of the leader.  It felt good to be able to just go hard and not worry about pacing for the last part of the bike.  I didn’t even think about the run to come, just focused on getting a good effort in on the bike.  I was able to finish fatigued but very strong. 

Other bike notes: This makes two successful races using this bike strategy.  In the future I will have to work on starting to “race” earlier and earlier on in the ride until I am able to push for the whole distance.  A good goal for next year maybe!  Nearly had some unwanted excitement when on the start of my last loop a big gust of wind blew a big piece of cardboard box across the road and into my path.  Up out of the aerobars I was able to safely negotiate around it, whew!  I could just see myself sliding across the pavement on the thing! 

Time: 2:37:21 (34.3km/hr)

T2:  Negotiated the long run back to transition with my bike but instead of heading to my rack I veered off to the line of porta-potties on the side.  This freaked out one of the volunteers a little until he realized what I was up to.  I wasn’t about to run all the way over to my rack first and then have to retrace my steps!  Emptied my bladder and then continued on my way to my rack.  Quickly changed from biking to running gear and took off towards the run exit before looking down and realizing I was still wearing my bike shorts so I ended up retracing my steps back to my rack to slide my shorts off.  Lots of encouragement and joking from the transition area volunteers (are you gonna take off any more layers!?) including the information that I was about 30secs down on the leading woman, which I hadn’t known up until that point. 

Time: 1:58

21km Run:  According to Jim’s garmin again, only 20km….bummer.  It really, really bugs me when courses (especially run courses) are not accurate!!  Especially when the turnaround for the loop is a pylon randomly placed on the road.  It wasn’t until I had left the transition area that I realized I had forgotten to grab my watch.  So I ended up running “blind” with no numbers to help.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, it forces you to listen to your body, but I had been hoping to roughly keep track of my splits on the route.  Oh well.  I felt really strong starting the run.  No GI issues like in Peterborough.  The weather was lovely: sunny, breezy, and about 20 degrees.  Perfect.  The course also had lots of shade, which was nice.  I caught the final woman in front of me within the 1st km of the run and from that point on continued to build what ended up being a substantial lead.  My BIL Chris surprised me by coming up behind me on his bike….he was on his way home, and I don’t blame him!  His day had started early with his own race effort and he had sat patiently through the long bike and ensured I made it safely out onto the run.  He biked beside me for a while giving me encouragement and I asked him some questions about his race and told him how I was feeling.  Eventually I felt the need to stop talking and conserve my energy and Chris turned off at the Bronson exit to head home.  It was a nice distraction while it lasted though!  I concentrated on turnover and keeping up a strong pace with controlled breathing.  My energy levels were feeling okay but so was my stomach so somewhere between 5-10km I decided to take an energy gel in addition to sipping water at each aid station.  I picked up the pace a bit more as I started my 2nd loop.  My body was still feeling okay.  The path was busier now with more and more racers on the run.  I didn’t mind though, it was nice to have people around.  With about 5km to go I pushed the pace even more.  It was time to bring it home!  I took yet another gel and continued to have water at each aid station.  My breathing was a lot less controlled now!  I was able to finish strong with a nice effort in the final km and push down the track to the finish line.  After all the flat running, the slight grade up to the finish area seemed like a mountain!  Funny how that happens!

Time: 1:18:12  (equates to a 1:22:23 21km or 3:54min/km)  3rd fastest running time of the 1/2 Iron competitors!   

Total Time: 4:33:19 (1st female, 9th overall)

Race Thoughts

A good effort, confidence-builder, and learning experience for Virginia.  Again, the race plan allowed for strong positive efforts on the bike and run.  My run continues to be a strength.  Things to work on?  Two things come to mind: increasing the duration of my hard effort on the bike and smoother transitions. 

A big thanks to Sarah and Chris, Jim, and also to Steff Edwards for all your cheers and encouragement on the bike and run.  It was much appreciated and really helped to motivate me and keep me going strong!  Also, the two furthest aid stations on the run course had some awesome cheerers…thanks so much for the support!        

A Note on Nutrition:

Breakfast: muesli at 6:00am (race start was 9:00am)

Bike: carried 2 750ml bottles with Gu2O, and drank both while on the bike combined with a total of 4 Gu gels.  I had my first gel immediately after the start of the bike and at 45min intervals thereafter

Run: sips of water at every aid station and 2 gels…one between 5-10km and one around 16km  

Results: no GI issues this time.  Felt good.  Emptied bladder at T2 and after the race.


Enjoyed a 15min “icing” of the legs in the river with Sarah and Jim.  Then basically ate for the rest of the day: a snack once back at Sarah’s followed by dinner out at the Royal Oak followed by another snack just before bed time!  I hadn’t seen Sarah and Chris since Christmas so it was nice to enjoy Saturday evening and most of Sunday with them before heading back home to my own Chris!

Next up: I am excited and apprehensive to report that my next scheduled race is the Canadian Duathlon Championships/Panamerican Cup in Parry Sound on Sept 15th. I will be competing in the elite category for the very first time and am quite nervous already.  It will definitely be a learning experience, and I am hoping to use it as such while putting in a strong effort and having fun!  Wish me luck!!! 

Thanks for taking the time to read!




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  • Wow! Another unbelievably strong race! You have set yourself up to have an awesome race in Parry Sound. Congrats & Good Luck.


  • Hi Karen!

    Thanks for the positive feedback and best wishes! I feel like I will need all the good vibes I can get going into Parry Sound!


  • Melissa,

    Amazing results all season! I don’t think you should have any reservations about your first elite Du appearance as you have more than proved you belong at that level. Go get them and we will cheer you on from the sidelines. I think the elite racers are out on the course after we AG’ers wrap up.

    Best of luck!

  • Hi Larry!

    I will appreciate any and all cheering and encouragement during the race…the louder the better!

    I’m looking forward to seeing you there!


  • oh my god mel, i totally love saint ralph too!! i rented it last year and watched it multiple times it is so inspirational and cute, such a good film. we have awesome taste, great minds think alike!!!

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