Ironman 70.3 Muskoka Race Report

17 07 2018

Well friends, it’s been awhile. I hope you’ll still let me call you friends! I’m popping in to write up my race report from Ironman 70.3 Muskoka because it was a day I don’t want to forget!

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Pre Race:

We flew into Toronto on the Thursday before the race. I had purchased our flights with miles and the cheapest flight got us to YYZ at 11:15 pm. The race takes place in Huntsville, ON, which is a good 2.5 hour drive north-and I was told by locals it could take twice that long on busy summer weekends- so we opted to spend the night close to Toronto and then drive to Huntsville in the morning. For those of you unfamiliar (I was!) the race is Ironman Muskoka because the district is Muskoka. The town which functions as race HQ is Huntsville.

 

 

We went straight to the Summit Center, which is where Ironman Village was, and I unpacked my bike and took it to get looked over by the bike support folks from D’Ornellas since it looked like part of my headset was crooked. While I waited for my bike, I perused the M-dot gear and got checked in. I got a kick out of the fact that Ironman Village was on a hockey rink. Once I got the all clear on my bike, I took it out for a 50 minute spin on the first part of the bike course.

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It was so fun! Yes, it was challenging, but there was so much GREEN everywhere and lakes, and the change of terrain and scenery was exactly what I was needing in my training right now. It made me really excited about race day. After my ride, it was time to check in to our AirBnB!

PSA- if you ever do this race, you must, MUST stay at the Fairy Avenue Getaway – our hosts were amazing, and the location CANNOT be beat! It is literally ON the swim course, a block from the run course, and a short 15 minute walk to the Summit Center.

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The AirBnB’s backyard

Once we checked in, the river was just calling my name. I mean, how could I NOT go for a swim when the water is RIGHT THERE? I threw on my wetsuit and jumped in to the cool 74 degree water. Confession- two weeks ago I posted in the TriMuskoka group to get some information about the water temp. Someone responded that the water was 65 (well, he actually told me the temp in Celsius), so I ordered some booties just in case. Well, the week before race day, they had a heat wave- temps got into the 100s! But, that also warmed up the water, which made this girl happy!

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I swam a little, but also putzed around/floated to try and get a feel for the current. I kept hearing about how this swim is against the current once you get to the river, but to be honest, I couldn’t really feel much pull. I practiced some sighting and found a few landmarks for the race before I got out.

IMG_7586Friday night before a Sunday race meant PIZZA! We walked to downtown and went to the Mill restaurant for some coal fired pizza. It was quite tasty, as was our cheesy Naan. Carb it up baby! I was planning on not having any alcohol until after the race, but I couldn’t stand not trying a local brew. So Bill and I shared a Muskoka Brewing Lager. We enjoyed it so much that we actually ordered a second. Oops. 🙂 After dinner, we got some groceries and then headed back to the Getaway to relax. It was the night before the night before so I made sure to get to bed early!

 

 

Saturday morning I woke to no alarm. It was so nice to have slept in a comfy bed with the windows open and cool, fresh air coming through the windows. Hooray for cooler temps! I had a leisurely breakfast before heading out for a 45 minute ride, followed by a short run. I ended up getting distracted on my run by all the hub bub downtown. Huntsville is a small town and there’s a main street that’s several blocks long- but in the summer all the “cottagers” are out and about (please say “about” with a Canadian accent here- “A-boot”) and today was no exception. There was a small market with local artisans all from within 100km of Huntsville where I meandered and chatted with some of the vendors. Then I heard some bag pipes, which I discovered were prepping for the parade of bath tub boats. Yes, there was to be bathtub races later in the afternoon as part of Dockfest.

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Back at the house, Bill and I ate a hearty lunch before I prepped my race gear. A little before 2pm we walked over to the Summit Center to drop my bike in transition and attend the athlete meeting. I was a little surprised to see that when I got to transition, there were no assigned spots. We needed to bike with our age group, but it was first come, first serve in those rack. Had I known that, I would have gotten there closer to the time transition opened to secure a better spot. Oh well, at least the 35-39 AG racks were directly in front of the Bike Out!

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This is the hill immediately out of transition.

At the athlete meeting, the RD basically walked us through the athlete guide, but I always like going just in case anything had changed. Also, former professional triathlete Lisa Bentley gave us a little pep talk. She talked about a time where she was racing and her shifters weren’t working. She was on a hilly course and she was stuck in the big ring. Rather than throwing in the towel, she decided that she wasn’t going to give up, that she was going to throw her heart over that hill- do whatever it took to get over this hump. She told us to race with heart. What she said spoke to me, so on race morning, I wrote on my wrist “Race with <3” as a reminder.

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After the race meeting, we went home, and I relaxed on the hammock and read. I’m currently reading Deena Kastor’s book and I’m loving it- I took nuggets of inspiration from that book into race day too. In the early evening we made dinner in the kitchen at the Getaway (rice, sweet potatoes, tempeh, and tomato soup) and went to bed early!

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Race Day:

I woke up at 4:45am after a pretty good night’s sleep. Despite being in a house with other triathletes, I was the first one up. I made myself a Belgian waffle with PB, banana, and syrup and cracked open my iced coffee. I stepped outside to a brisk 49 degrees. I looked out on the glassy river to the rising sun and thought to myself that today was going to be a good day.

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I got on my kit, braided my hair and walked over to transition. I arrived a little after 5:30 and began to set out my stuff. As I put my water bottles in my rear cages, I realized that they were way too tall; I’d have to maneuver my bike out by angling it to the side so that everything could roll under the rack. It will be awkward, but I’ll make it work. I pumped up my front tire, and then moved to my back. As I was unscrewing the nozzle, my valve extender came off in my hand and I heard that awful rush of air coming out of the tire. “No No No!” I thought. This is not how I wanted my day to start! I quickly walked my bike over to the D’Ornellas folks, and asked for help. Thankfully, they were able to fix it up quickly and I could get back to setting up my transition area.

When back, I starting having yet another bike issue- my handlebars/front end of my bike kept turning sideways. I could not get my aeros to stay straight ahead while on the rack. I finally got it to stay by putting my bike shoe on the side of my wheel. Hopefully that would work. The other thing I realized is that this was the first time I was racing with a between the handlebars bottle (I used to use the built-in hydration bladder in the down tube) and between the aeros was where I usually laid my helmet, sunglasses and nutrition. Hmm, I guess I’ll put it on the outside of my aeros, but still on top. I gingerly put my helmet, nutrition and sunglasses, on the handlebar, did one more once-over of my stuff, and headed out of transition to get in a warm up.

By this time the sun was fully out and it had warmed up quite nicely. I did about 10-15 minutes of dynamic warm up and stretching before going for a short jog. At about 6:45, I headed towards the swim start, a short walk away.

After a potty break I put on my wetsuit and did a little swimming around after the playing of “Oh, Canada.” Soon, it was time to line up and then move into the water. I was a little nervous, but ready. I was excited for this course and to see what my day would bring. At 7:15 we were allowed in the water and we made our way to the start line for a floating start. At 7:20, the gun went off – time to get this party started!

Swim: 29:31

I took off at the start to get out of the crowds, but it quickly thinned. I was able to settle in to a nice rhythm and I had plenty of open water. There were no other pink caps near me that I could see. This is a position I’m used to in smaller races, but it was cool to be up front in an IM branded race.

The course takes you out into a lake, kinda like three sides of a trapezoid, and then down into the river, straight to swim exit. The lake part was nice- the sun was high enough that it wasn’t in my eyes. And the water was refreshing and wetsuit legal. I started passing people from previous waves by the 2nd or 3rd buoy, but it didn’t get crowded until I was in the straight away in the river. But, it never got too hectic; I was always able to find myself some open water.

I sighted off a big house on the river and I thought it might have been where we were staying, but when I got closer, I realized I still had a little ways to go until I was passing the Fairy Ave Getaway. Soon though, I swam by and I saw Bill and our hosts sitting on the dock. I waved several times, before I realized I should stop so that the guards don’t think I’m in distress. I later found out that they didn’t see me because the sun was directly in their eyes. I had to laugh when I saw my Garmin’s map:

 

 

 

I swear I didn’t get out of the water to give Bill a kiss!

Shortly after passing them, I was nearing the exit. I was assisted out by a nice volunteer and I skipped the wetsuit strippers to save some time. I ran up the really short but steep hill to get onto the road, and then ran along the carpet (thank goodness!) to get into T1. When I looked at my watch, I smiled- I went sub 30, and I felt like my effort was controlled- much more so than I usually am. My day is off to a great start!

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T1: 2:46

When I got to my rack, I had a minor heart attack- my helmet was missing. OMG, did it fall off, and the officials come by and DQ me for a messy transition area? Did it fall off and break and I wouldn’t be able to race? After what felt like a long time (it wasn’t) I realized that my helmet was on the ground, under my bike. My nutrition and glasses had spilled out, but I quickly grabbed them and got myself ready to ride. When I went to pull my bike off the rack, my strategy of angling my bike wasn’t working. It would not fit under the rack. So, I awkwardly pulled out my rear bottles, put one on the ground, and pulled the bike out, before putting them back. Oh it was awful. I’m sure it didn’t take all that long, but it felt like forever and I felt like such a rookie! Finally, I was outta there!

Bike: 2:45:09

Despite being a flatlander, I was seriously looking forward to this bike ride. I was pumped about the change of scenery, cooler temps, and hills. I just needed to make sure I didn’t burn out my legs on all that climbing. The ride was an out and back this year due to some construction, and it was the first year it was 56 miles. Normally, it is a bit longer- 94km and a big loop. The elevation change was the same as it had been, but apparently the part that was taken out had some steeper climbs and more technical sections. I was totally happy with the course we got. The first part of the course had some punchy hills, but then after the left turn at Baysville, there were more gentle rollers. Then we turned around and did it in reverse.

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The roads were lovely for the most part- there was a section between 14-17km that we had been warned about and it was clearly marked. There were a few other pot holes along the way, but I was super impressed by how smooth the roads were for a place that probably has a lot of freezing and thawing.

The course was a beautiful as I was hoping- so much green, lots of lakes, some large rocks along the side of the road. The roads were open to traffic, but the traffic was sparse. I was really impressed because I also noted that some race staff was actually out biking the course- and I saw one of the guys help someone with a flat. I’ve never seen bike support on bikes before!

I was feeling really good on the bike- and reminded myself to be patient, and pace myself. I ate on schedule and was really happy to not have any nutrition issues. I was shocked by how many people seemed to just spin up the hills.

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I played leap frog with a few men- the men outnumbered the women nearly 3:1 by the way!- and one of the guys, when I passed him a second time, remarked in a very French accent, “Oh, it’s the pink lady again.” Yes it is!

On the bike, I saw one woman fly past me, but I think she was in the 40-44 age group. There was one or two other girls from the earlier women’s wave that passed me, but that was it. I was really happy to have ridden as strong as I did. Usually, I’m just waiting to be passed on the bike.

After the turnaround, we had a headwind coming back to Baysville, but once we made the right turn to head back to Huntsville, we got a little bit of a push from that same wind.

Soon, I couldn’t believe I was almost done. I had ridden smart, and was ready to tackle this run!

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T2: 1:48

When I arrived in transition, I noticed one other bike on the 35-39 rack. Dang, she was speedy. But, I was in shock that I was in 2nd place. OMG can I hold on to this? As I was leaving my bike and heading out, I noticed another girl on my rack just getting in from the bike. Shoot! She’s close! I reminded myself to focus on my race, not hers, and got myself out of transition.

Run:1:57:29

As I was leaving transition, I struggled to put my bottles into my new Naked Sports belt. I had practiced putting the belt on and putting bottles in, but I think I was usually standing still to get them in. I think I’ll need to do that next time! Anyhow, I finally got the bottles in right before I starting up a short hill, followed immediately by another short hill. Oh boy, this was going to be a tough run!

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Downtown Huntsville

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The crowds in downtown Huntsville were AH-Mazing! So many people! They were so needed because you’re hit with a short hill that their cheers helped you up. The town’s fire department had a truck spraying water to cool down the athletes. It had warmed up for sure, but it was nowhere near as hot as any of the races I’ve done. I honestly didn’t really notice the heat. The truck’s spray was actually a bit much- it was stationed near the top of the hill and it was flowing so fast that a little river was forming. Ok, not really, but the water was probably an inch deep on the road and just FLOWING down the hill. It was super early in the race (I don’t even think we were a mile in) so I didn’t want to soak my shoes and socks, so I ran around (almost onto the other side of the road) to dodge the flow of water. We made our first of many turnarounds (this route had 6!) and down the hill and over the bridge. Once we got out of town, I didn’t really enjoy the course. There was a short section where we ran through this narrow stretch and it wasn’t clear whether we should be running on the right or left side of this tiny trail. I think on one lap I was on the right side and the next I was on the other. It seemed to be dictated by who was coming at you on the trail. Then, there was this longish out and back along a highway. It wasn’t really pretty, and it seemed to be a false flat going out to the turnaround. We also had the wind in our face going one direction, and a tailwind in the other. After the straightaway, we were back into a little neighborhood, had another turn around, and then we went back downtown to do it all again. Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.31.18 PM

I was actually feeling surprisingly good on my first lap. I was drinking my skratch and eating my chews. I had zero tummy issues, which I was super pleased about. I decided I wasn’t going to look at my watch because I’d get in my head about pace. I’d go only by feel for as long as I could. When my first mile ticked off, I knew it was fast. I didn’t need to look at the time to tell me. I reminded myself to be patient and think of the first 5k as warm up. I tried to slow it down some, but when I looked at my times after, I really didn’t succeed at that. I definitely was out too fast.

Shortly after I left the downtown area, the woman who racked her bike shortly after me passed me. SHOOT. The run is my weakness and I wanted to hold on to a top 5 position so badly! I reminded myself not to worry myself with her, but focus on my run, on having good form, and doing the best that I could on this day. I kept her in my line of sight- she was never too far in front. She didn’t seem to be making her lead any bigger. Soon, I caught up to her again. And then, at an aide station, I passed her, and I never saw her again (I think she ended up in 6th).

I was feeling decent as I started the second lap, but I was starting to get tired- but I feel like my level of tired was appropriate for where I was in the race. As I ran over the bridge for lap 2, I spotted Bill. He talked to me a little, gave me some encouragement, and told me that the app hadn’t been working for him (which is why he missed me on the first lap). I told him I thought I was in 2nd place in my age group. I kept running though I knew I was slowing. I found myself walking more than I wanted to, but I was still reminding myself to have good form.

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Eventually, just before the 16km marker, two girls passed me- they were running strong, and the one girl was right on the other’s shoulder. I looked at their calves and bibs and realized one of them was in my AG and I couldn’t quite tell if the other was as well, thought I was pretty certain she was. There was no way I’d be able to stick with them, so I just kept my head on my own run. I just did NOT want anyone else to pass me on that run. I wanted a top five slot so badly.

Eventually, I was back at the bridge and ready to make the turn to take me back to the Summit Center. Bill ran with me, feeding me positive thoughts. I was hurting by then and didn’t really respond, but I was happy he was there. Soon, I was entering the finishers chute, I saw the time on the race clock- 5:30, 31, 32…As I was approaching I did some quick math since I knew I started 20 minutes after the clock started. Holy crap I was going to go in the teens! I crossed the line with a big grin on my face and stopped my watch- 5:16. O.M.G. What a day!

Overall time: 5:16:41

4th AG/46

23rd female/326

240th OA

Awards and Roll down:

I knew I had had a heckuva day, but I wasn’t exactly sure what place I had gotten. Bill’s IM app wasn’t working, and my phone was still in transition. And, I couldn’t find a place they were posting the results.

Eventually, Bill went on Facebook since I knew I had linked up my account to the IM app. He asked me, “Who’s Theresa Miller?” and I told him she was one of my SOAS teammates. He went on to read her comment: “Awesome race Stephanie!! Congrats on a podium finish!!” I started crying a little. I was in shock. I had finally made it to the podium at an IM race!

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My face when he read that I had placed:-) 

After what seemed like forever, they got to age group awards. I stood on the stage with the other ladies in my AG- one of whom was 2nd OA with a 4:30! I was super pleased with my 4th place award!

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Since this is one of the first races that’s a qualifier for the 2019 70.3 Worlds, they made an announcement that if you won your AG and knew you were going to take your slot, to go ahead and line up and get registered. Unfortunately I spotted the girl who won my AG in line. There was only one slot for 35-39, so I knew my chances were slim to none for a roll down. But, I waited around anyhow, and one slot did roll down, but it went to the 40-44 AG (I think)- that AG was the largest women’s AG. 35-39 was the 2nd largest. Oh well!

I am still super pleased with my race, and I’ve been given a nice confidence boost by this result. Hard work really does pay off, and I’m motivated even more to keep training hard because the results will come.

 

 

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Chilkoot Trail, Day 3

4 08 2013

We woke up to a chilly, foggy morning.

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Bill and I both agreed that we were happy to have hiked down from Happy Camp last night rather than this morning- walking on the narrow trail would have been tricky! And, we would have missed some beautiful scenery!

It was early in the morning and our bodies were exhausted from yesterday’s challenging day, so we fell back asleep. Today we didn’t need to rush to be out of camp and we didn’t have all that far to go, so we knew we could have a lazy morning.

Sometime between 8 and 9 (rough guess?) we woke up for good and headed down to make some breakfast. It was still pretty foggy unfortunately, but I was hopeful it would burn off as the day wore on.

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This morning’s breakfast was oatmeal and hot chocolate. We brought Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate Indulgence mix and added a little powdered milk. Holy Yum! It may have been the setting, but that hot chocolate was the absolute best.

At breakfast, there were several others who had made it into camp late the night before as well as our new friends Jared, Julie and Trevor. We were all enjoying our meals when we heard some voices off towards the lake.

More hikers! They had left Happy Camp uber early that morning to start their day. They commented about the thick fog on their journey down to Deep Lake and told us they were continuing on to Bare Loon Lake, just like the rest of us. They rested for a few minutes before continuing on, and we told them we’d see them at Bare Loon.

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Today’s journey was a 3 mile hike to Lineman City and then we’d continue on another 3 miles to Bare Loon Lake (mile 29).

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The miles to Lindeman City passed pretty quickly. There was lots of greenery and rushing rapids all around us.

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You definitely didn’t want to fall down there.

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When we were just outside of Lindeman City, we started to see lots of piles of poop. When we arrived at Lindeman City, we discovered why:

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A mama bear and two cubs had been pretty active at this campsite, so we kept our eyes peeled as much as we could. I joked with Bill though that we may have walked right past bears and not known it because we were too busy watching our feet and where we were going!

Earlier on the trail, we chatted with a park ranger who mentioned that there was an “artist in residence” program happening on the trail this week, and the artist would be at Lindeman City for the day. Curious, we stopped by to check out her art work. She was hiking the trail and painting scenes from the trail when she was in camp. It was pretty neat to see an artist’s rendition of where we had just hiked.

Lindeman City also had some small canvas “houses” set up, with historical pictures and placards set up. We peeked in one and there were several people in it already and not much room for anyone else, so we opted to skip it and head to Bare Loon. Looking back, I kinda wish we had explored a little there, but oh well.

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The last three miles for the day were probably the most boring of the entire trail. It was very dry and very rocky. I thought it was also the ugliest part of the trail. However, off in the distance, we spotted what we hoped was Bennett Lake, the end of the trail.

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The end was in sight- we were almost done! It was kind of sad though, because we had spent so much time and effort planning and executing this hike. Now, we were only a short ways from it all being over. We pushed those thoughts aside because we still had a little ways to go today and then 4 more miles tomorrow. Ha, only after going 25+ miles do you say 4 miles is “a short ways”.

In early afternoon, we made it to Bare Loon. We were one of the first people to camp, so we had many options for where we wanted to set up. We picked a platform close to the lake with an outstanding view:

IMG_7924I went down and felt the water and it was a little chilly. However, a few brave souls took a dip while we were there!

Bill set up the tent, and by now, he was an expert.IMG_2443

Our home for the night 🙂

We had arrived in camp early enough that we sat outside the tent and relaxed while munching on some trail mix. It was so peaceful and quiet out here besides the occasional caw of the seagull.

I had a slight headache all day that was starting to get worse, so I decided to go inside the tent and take a short nap. I don’t think I really slept; it was too bright and it was getting noisier as more campers arrived for the night. So Bill and I decided to head up to the food hut to have dinner. I still wasn’t feeling super, but I put on a happy face and sat with Bill as he prepared our Rice Sides (chicken flavor). We shared a table with our friends from Deep Lake, and the other tables were occupied by other campers we had met along the trail. Everyone was talking and laughing and eating- but the smell of the food was not appetizing to me. So, I sat there, figuring I was still full from my lunchtime snacks and tried to chime in when I could. But my head was pounding and I was starting to feel slightly nauseous. We quickly wrapped up our meal and headed back to the tent where I immediately laid down. I took 2 ibuprofen, hoping that would help my headache go away. Bill was getting pretty worried and so was I. I started to wonder if I was dehydrated. I thought I had been pretty good about drinking water all day, but I asked Bill to check the level on my Camelbak. When he pulled it out, I had only drank half a liter. That plus the half liter I drank at breakfast was DEFINITELY not enough. Bill tried to get me to start drinking some water, but my tummy felt full, and I didn’t really want to drink any. But I knew the situation could go from bad to worse in an instant, so I had him prepare some Skratch. I slowly but surely force-fed myself the electrolyte enhanced water. I went to the bathroom for the first time since we’d left camp this morning (this should have been my first sign I was dehydrated!) and came back and continued to drink a liter of Skratch. When that was gone, I switched to the water in my pack. Finally, my headache started to dissipate and my stomach felt settled.

Relieved, we climbed into our sleeping bags and headed to bed for the night. I was thankful to be feeling better, but lesson learned- hydration is extremely important and I need to be hyper vigilant about it!