The Welland Half Iron Triathlon is everything it promises to be. It’s flat, and it’s fast.
Sometimes a fast and flat race course can sell itself to the PB-hungry athlete. This happens regardless of how well the event is run, or how much careful planning, time, energy, and care go into its organization and execution.
The Welland Half Iron Triathlon doesn’t really fit this description though. In fact, the event itself is world-class; a true rarity for a small-town race I suppose. If I’ve learned anything about racing in Ontario- it’s that you shouldn’t put it past race director John Salt to not only deliver on the promise of a good, fast race- but also an outstanding, world-class event in any small town that will host him and his crew.
Despite a record turnout in terms of participant numbers, race morning was smooth and well-supported- a timely start at 8:30 had myself and just more than 400 others swimming away from the start-line in the Welland Canal. With a smooth swim in a nice narrow body of water, there was little work required when it came to sighting buoys and holding a good line in the water. In 29 minutes and change, I was out and running for T1.
I was looking for three things in Welland:
- A personal best time for the half-iron distance, ideally below the 4:30 mark
- A bike ride inside of 2:30
- And finally, a sub-90 minute half marathon run off the bike
I would be happy to hit any of these targets, and extra happy with all of them- This was a race that I had prioritized for the first half of the summer season though, so I knew there was a good chance that with a well-balanced day, they were all within reach.
Keeping an eye on my 5K splits through the first half of the bike course I realized that I was ahead of schedule for a sub-2:30 ride. I found myself coming through 45K in just over 2:13. I was excited about the idea of putting some time in the bank during the ride just in case I wasn’t able to hold the pace for a sub-90 minute half marathon. With forgiving winds though, I was actually able to pick up the pace slightly for the last 30K, bringing myself into T2 with a time of 2:25.
It was time to run, and on the way out of T2 I was already feeling as though I could settle into a fairly good pace. Yes! A sub-90 minute half marathon was within reach. I moved through the first 2K at a pace just below 4:00 / K and made the decision to hold onto it. It felt comfortable and I was already starting to gain some ground on some of the racers who had gapped me on the bike. At the time, I wasn’t sure where I stood in the rankings, but later learned that I had come off the bike in 18th place.
By the 10K mark, I still hadn’t slowed- checking my watch and seeing a run time of 39:30 I was for the most part excited, and still a little nervous. I didn’t want to see myself blow up during the second half of the run- but I wasn’t feeling any real sign of that happening, so the pace stayed where it was- hovering around the 4:00 mark.
It was also around this time that a familiar face showed up on the run course- and it was non-other than John Salt riding along on a mountain bike, encouraging racers to keep efforts and energy up. It was awesome to see, and I’ll say it again. World class.
By 16K I knew I was going to have a great run- and there was even a chance of a half marathon personal best time. I had focused mainly on running off the bike over the past few months of training and knew that I was in shape for a half marathon PB, but I certainly wasn’t thinking it was going to happen off the bike! This was a bonus.
I closed the race off with a half marathon best of 1:24:29 and a final time of 4:22, which landed me in 8th place overall and luckily- first place in the age group. By this time, Mr. Salt had made his way back to the finish line from his brief but uplifting tour of the run course, and was standing at the finish congratulating all finishers.
If there is any room for improvement in this race, I’m not sure what it is. With amazing volunteer support on the course- extreme attention to detail, and fantastic design and event management, it’s worth a spot on your race calendar next year. I know that it will be on mine.