I did it! I completed the Muskoka Half Ironman: 1.9km swim, 94km bike and 21.1km run!
This was my goal for my year turning 40. In June, I completed my first ever triathlon – a sprint triathlon. I did a second sprint triathlon in August in Guelph and this was the ultimate goal for me this year – a Half Ironman.
It was spectacular. I truly enjoyed the whole experience. When I am engaged in each sport, I think to myself, “this is now my favourite sport…. I just feel so great swimming right now….”, or: ” Cycling is where it’s at – this is incredible; this is my new favourite sport”,or, “Ahhh, running, my old friend. This is the best fun!”
The race began with the pro athletes at 8am. I was in the 5th wave at 8:30 – pink swim caps, women aged 35 to 44. The air was cool; stepping into the water felt lovely. I was ready! I felt great actually and when our gun went off I felt confident and ready to go. I got into a good rhythm from the start and actually felt like I picked up the pace as the race progressed. The route was a large rectangle, with the finish just past where we entered in a little bay. Half way through my swim I was suddenly in the midst of white caps (the wave ahead of me). By the time I climbed out of the water I was even seeing some red caps (two waves ahead of me).
My swim time was 33:13 – which is a 1:45 per 100m; even a bit quicker than what I swam in the sprint distance the week before in Guelph. I climbed out of the swampy water and had a stripper help me out of my suit – my first time with a stripper! Sounds questionable…
Transition 1 – Then there was a very steep 300m run to the transition area. I ran past a few people and got to my gear. Elijah ran up the hill beside me, yelling the whole way!
My plan was to put on compression socks for the ride and run. No go – could not get those tight socks over cold, wet feet. Thankfully I had my little ankle socks set out as well. Socks, shoes, helmet on….grab bike and run to the bike course.
Muskoka is a very hilly route – all 94 kms are constantly undulating. Good thing I love hills. This is not simply postive self-talk to get me geared up for the race – I actually really enjoy the constant change and find it much more interesting than an entirely flat course. The Muskoka race is said to have one of the most challenging bikes of all Half Ironman courses. It is also 4km longer than the typical Half Ironman.
I set off at a steady pace – not too fast, but averaging just over 30km per hour. Looking at my splits I maintained a very steady pace, averaging 30.5 km/hour over the 94km course. There were sections where I was passing people on the uphills and then they would promptly catch and pass me on the downhills, and so it continued for many kilometers. I was in the zone and the views were spectacular – sometimes rounding a corner I was surprised by a clear view of the lake stretching out in front. I was aware of the kilometer markers along the route, but I wasn’t really counting down the distance. I was surprised to see the 70km sign and realized I was nearing the end. I felt great right to the end of the ride.
Transition 2 – I executed my new plan of loosening my shoes and taking my feet out of the shoes, while still attached to the pedals. I was inspired by the sprinters that I watched last weekend! I dismounted with sock feet, ran to the transition zone and quickly slipped into my runners. This saved the step of having to remove cycling shoes in the transition area. I almost ran off with the helmet on, but was kindly yelled at by a fellow racer to remove it.
Now off on the 21.1 km run – Stiff yes, but feeling pretty good. I set out at 4:20 km pace. I had hoped to be able to do closer to 4:00 (I had done that in the sprint), but I could tell early on that I wasn’t going to be able to hold such a quick pace. The run was also very hilly, and by now I was starting to tire. I still felt strong, but this was my first time racing over four hours. My marathon are always completed somewhere around the 3 hour mark. New territory….I must not forget this is my first! I held the 4:20 pace for the first half of the run – at around the 11km mark I was starting to hurt. The last 5km were tough, with me slowing down to 5 min per kilometer over the final tough hill. I ended up with a final half-marathon time of 1:38:38 and an average pace of 4:40 per km. The last 5km hurt, but then with 300m to go I kicked it to finish strong!
It was a thrill to complete the Half Ironman distance. My finishing time was 5:22:01 and, making the whole experience even sweeter, I finished first in my age group (40-44) and 12th female overall. I had a spot to go to Worlds in August 2015, but I declined, as they take place in Austria.
James and Elijah were there cheering me on throughout the whole race. I dedicated this race to Elijah, my 9 year old son, who was booked for a heart catheterization at Sick Kids Hospital the next morning. I spent time along the ride and the run praying for him. He was an inspiration to me in the race.
Training friends Geron Cowherd and Lesley Chown were participating in the race as well. Lesley and I were in the same wave and passed each other many times on the bike, cheering each other on and picking off people together at times! Geron finished 3rd in his age group (50-54) and received a spot that he accepted to go to Worlds next summer. Lesley also had an excellent race – her first Half Ironman as well. She had an amazing swim – the first out of the water in her age group (35-39). She finished 10th in her age group.
I want to thank my family and friends for supporting me in this dream of mine. It was many hours of training; James never complained about the hours that I dedicated to swimming, biking and running. I loved every minute of the swims, long rides and runs with my training friends. THANK YOU for being a part of this ADVENTURE!