I made a last minute decision - the Sunday before, in fact, after a 185km ride - to sign up for and race Calgary. I was going to be putting in the mileage and hours regardless, so why not do them in a race environment with friends? Plus, I thought it would be smart to gain some additional long race experience, especially if something were to go wrong. Then I could fix it and be comfortable with the uncertainty of race day challenges.
Steph picked me up Friday evening and off we went on the three-hour drive with our friend Amanda. The GURUs kept each company on the roof while Starbucks, girl talk and a radio station contest kept us entertained during the ride!
On Saturday, we dropped our bikes and run bags and swam the course at McKenzie Lake. Due to the flooding in Calgary, the swim and bike courses had to be entirely rerouted just two weeks before the race date. Any outsider looking in would never have known changes were made, and I commend Paul Anderson and everyone involved with Ironman 70.3 Calgary for their flawless work to make this race happen. Especially the Facebook communication. It was truly outstanding.
Saturday afternoon was spent enjoying the hotel's hot tub and relaxing in our room Facebook chatting with friends back home and watching Entertainment Tonight. (Royal Baby news is big in Canada!) For dinner, we went to Redwater Rustic Grille where I had salmon with potatoes and asparagus. I'm not a huge pasta carbo-load fan, and having eaten salmon before some previous races and long rides, I've found that it tends to work well for me. Steph and Amanda each had the bison burger and declared it the best burger they've ever had. Calgarians, be sure to check this place out!
Race day started at the bright and chipper time of 5 am. We were suited up and out of the hotel by 5:40 am and at T1 by 6:10 am. Nutrition-wise, I managed to eat half a bagel with peanut butter, a PowerBar and one packet of Honey Stinger chews. I also finished a bottle of Gatorade. We did our bodymarking, finished T1 needs, put on our wetsuits and headed to the lake.
*The fastest girl in my age group came in at 33:04. I am so curious to know if I had her and the others in the water and if my transition time (try putting arm warmers on when you're wet) slowed me down or whether I was that far behind on the swim. I should have gone out in front and really pushed it. Next time...
Really, there is one word to describe this course: COLD. The weather was 8 degrees C (47 degrees F) so riding into wind while soaking wet was not a ton of fun. I wore my tri suit + arm warmers and really was wishing I had some toe covers for my shoes. I literally did not feel my feet due to numbness the entire 90km which was a bit interesting.
The course did live up to it's hill expectations, which I appreciated. I feel like I am getting stronger climbing and am managing my downhills. For those that have followed my cycling this year, you know that riding downhill is very hard for me. With my vertigo, I get extremely anxious going down steep hills at high speeds. Each downhill is a huge internal battle for me, and I've started talking out loud to myself to get myself through them. While it may seem crazy, it does work. So I am sticking with it!
Overall, I know that I need to be more aggressive on the bike. While I clocked a time that is seven minutes faster than Great White North, I know I am stronger on the bike. I need to get more comfortable passing people and just go for it. I know I have it in me. While I might be in survival mode for Ironman Canada, I'm already looking forward to another Half to really push my legs.
Nutrition-wise, I drank three bottles of Gatorade, ate a PowerBar and one packet of Honey Stinger chews. I was happy with my efforts here and felt that I took in enough calories for myself that day.
Let me tell you, running on numb feet is an experience! I was literally looking down to make sure I was putting one foot in front of the other. I took it out fast, clocking an 8:30 mile, knowing I needed to find my groove and settle into a pace. I decided to once again walk through each aid station to drink a sports drink/water and I am very happy with my decision to do so.
The course, which was an out-and-back around a reservoir, was also quite hilly at times, and I power walked each steep uphill. I knew that speed would be about the same as my run speed anyways, and it was a mental savior. At around mile 5, I realized I still hadn't regained feeling on my right foot. In fact, my entire right leg was pins and needles for all 13.1 miles. It didn't hurt to run on, but was an odd sensation. I actually stopped twice to take off my shoe and slam my foot on the ground in an attempt to regain some feeling but with no luck. I started getting a bit more nervous about it (as I had been having some ankle/leg problems) and debating seeking out some medical help, but I decided to just get myself to the finish and worry about it then.
I picked up the pace for the last three miles and all things considered, felt quite strong. My lower back was aching from climbing hills and I still had no feeling in my right leg, but I was passing a lot of people and smiling. I didn't struggle with any cramping (a HUGE fear of mine) and was really pleased with my run efforts especially considering a slow transition and stopping twice for a few minutes.
Overall, I thought Ironman 70.3 Calgary was a great race and I would definitely do it again. The volunteers were fantastic and the spectator support, especially on parts of the run course, was super fun. And the finishers medal that doubles as a belt buckle? Only in Calgary ;)
As for doing two Half Ironmans in three weeks, with a gran fondo and 185km tour in between? Honestly, it was fantastic. Keeping my training and racing volume high has boded well for me. Knock on wood, my body has responded well as I have focused on sleep, rest and clean eating when not racking up the miles. Here's hoping it can hang on for another three weeks. The most important three yet!
And last but not least, thank you all again for your support along this crazy journey. I love getting your motivational texts and messages and knowing that you're cheering for me really pushes me through on race day. You've all inspired me for one reason or another, and I hope I am helping inspire you to go for you dreams. It's true that anything is possible when you put your mind to it.