I have been wanting to compete in the Barrelman half distance triathlon for a few years, and I finally did it on Sunday September 16. The distances this year were 2 km swim, 90 km bike (longer than last year due to construction), and 21.1 km run, and I set my goal time to be 5:30.I liked the prospect of an extra 100 m swim (because my strong event is swimming), but was worried about the logistics of starting in Welland and finishing in Niagara Falls. Luckily, I was able to stay with my brother-in-law in St. Catharines, so accommodations were free, but it added an extra wrinkle in the driving and planning. My husband offered to go, but I decided to manage on my own (I know he gets bored and was secretly hoping he could stay home and track me on the computer instead).
I drove to Welland Saturday for the bike check-in and mandatory athlete briefing, and opted to go for a quick spin on the bike to make sure everything was working. Good thing I checked – the electronic Di2 gear shifting wasn’t working. After an hour of panicky visits to the bike repair tent and phone calls home and local bike stores, someone suggested I check the cable connections. The cables all seemed to be connected, but I pulled out the rear cable and re-connected it, and was rewarded with a reassuring whir when I pressed the gear shifter. Another quick spin to make sure all of the gears worked, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I didn’t have to drive home to get my other bike. I spent 30 minutes in the evening packing my gear bags, and was a little anxious that I wouldn’t have access to something important because I put it in the wrong bag.
I drove to Niagara Falls Sunday morning, and took a few minutes dividing up my nutrition and filling up my running belt bottles. I hopped on the shuttle to Welland, arriving an hour before the start of the race, and was grateful someone I knew lent me his pump. I rubbed the washable tattoos onto my arms, and eventually found my timing chip (another sigh of relief). I did a quick warm up before the swim, and joined the men in the first wave (I chose to pay the upgrade fee back in March because I don’t like swimming from behind). The swim went really well, and I completed the 2 km in 32:45 (1:38/100 m). I felt pretty strong on the bike, and was grateful there wasn’t a strong wind. Because of the heat and humidity, I drank my fluids pretty quickly, and topped up my water at 33 km. I grabbed a bottle of electrolyte at 60 km, but I took a sip, and found it too sweet, and immediately threw it back. I rationed the fluid the rest of the ride, but I feel 3 bottles in 3 hours was enough. I ate all of my nutrition (2 Clif bars, 2 Clif Shotbloks, and Stinger chews), and took 6 salt pills. The bike ride was very flat, through Welland and over to Niagara Falls, and I averaged 34 km/h, which was much faster than my goal.
I was grinning coming into T2, knowing I had some buffer for my run time to make my overall goal time. My first run split was 4:55, and I swore aloud (sorry fellow runners), and tried to slow down. I ran the first 5 km in under 25 minutes, and kept trying to slow down (though I was feeling pretty loose for the first 10.5 km loop). I saw lots of friendly faces, including many Running Free members. I enjoyed the many shouts of “Go Running Free” as I ran by, and returned the favour when I saw other RF jerseys. The run course was hillier than I expected, and included 3 flights of stairs we had to run down before the nice fun downhill section. The sun was beating down, and the heat seemed to increase with every kilometre. We had a nice view of the Falls, but only slightly felt the mist as we ran by. The exhaust coming from the cars in the lane beside us added additional heat, and I tried to focus on staying hydrated as much as possible. I was very pleased I had my running bottles with me, since I needed more fluid than I was getting at the aid stations. I struggled in the second loop, averaging 5:35 per km, and was fading fast at the end. I had planned to have 3 gels, but only had 1, and I wonder if I would have finished the run stronger if I had managed my run nutrition better. My run time was 1:54:30, which was slower than I wanted, but considering the heat, I was happy with my time.
I was wishing I could jump in a lake to cool down, but luckily there was a water park by the finish line, with a 10-foot high water tower cascading cold water. The adult finishers quickly took over this area, mingling with the kids, and this was a big highlight of my day. My final time was 5:11, finishing first in my age group and 12th female overall. I was ecstatic with my race, especially since this was my last race of the year. What a great way to conclude my racing season!