Barrelman Triathlon at Niagara Falls was such an incredibly awesome way to kick off our pre-wedding festivities. I hadn’t raced in 8 months and I was itching to throw down, just to see what I could do, post-injury. I jokingly called this my “wedding body” race because it forced me to squeeze some exercise into my insane summer schedule. When we got to the venue, my head nearly exploded when I saw the swim course. For you Mirror Lake fans, you will love this! It’s so similar. There’s even a lane line. I don’t love swimming and even I was pumped for getting in the water. We checked in at the expo, met the awesome RD John Salt, and got by bike tuned up by the on site bike mechanic. After that we did a shake out ride and run along the water. Then we went to the mandatory athlete meeting and it was packed! I couldn’t believe what they were listing for awards/prizes… wine from local vineyards, watches, shoes, gift cards, etc. That made me even more pumped to race. This event feels like triathlon used to feel to me. As an athlete I felt super appreciated and you could tell by the vibe that the event was put on out of love of the sport, and not in a detached way by people who don’t care much about the sport itself. Getting swag donated for prizes for an event takes time and energy that isn’t mandatory, but it was done anyway.
Somehow, on race morning, I remembered how to do the whole race-morning thing. Despite there being two separate transitions, the morning went smoothly and without a hitch. The race was really well organized. It was also cool to get a glimpse of the falls once more, knowing we would be riding there in a few hours and getting an awesome run tour while racing, in the afternoon.
The swim was an in-water start and I was in the first wave after the pros. I’ve swam about four times in over a year and I wasn’t expecting to break any records. My goal was to get through the swim, without being too far behind, and without flipping out if someone touched me (because that makes me think I’m drowning). I can’t draft because of this lame paranoia, which is a huge disadvantage. Somehow though, I was feeling so comfy in the water that I decided to try to practice swimming on someone’s feet. I maybe did okay. I can’t tell. But the water was perfect and I remained calm and came out in 39 minutes. Not too shabby and not my best either.
I was stoked to get on my bike because my riding has gotten so much stronger over the last year. Even though I was on crutches in March I considered cycling to be non-weight-bearing and I got a huge base at Strong Like Bull Training Camp. I knew the course was flat and heard there was a tail wind to expect after riding into a headwind for the first 20k or so. I rode HARD and was FLYING and thinking “Wow! If I’m riding this well into the headwind then I’m really gonna kill it when I get to the tailwind!” The course was gorgeous with red barns and beautiful trees and fields. It reminded me of the prettiest part of the Rev3 Quassy course, but it was that pretty for the entire 56 miles. I stuck with my nutrition plan and had Base Salt every 15 min on the bike and all of my calories (300/hr) in my bottles and with Carb Boom gels. I had no idea how I was stacked up in the competition but every time I passed a girl I thought “she’s a better swimmer than me”, and I only got passed by one woman, so that got me amped. At around 20-25 miles I realized I was getting close to halfway through the bike and I felt like I was working harder and not like I was moving like a freight train thanks to a powerful tailwind. I just focused on maintaining my pace/effort as well as I could and I was loving every second of being back at racing. Later I was told that the wind was opposite what we expected and most of the bike portion had a headwind. I still nailed it! As we approached the falls and T2, I thought what I always think at that point in a race, “I cannot wait to be running”. This time I had that feel even more because the weather was perfect and I was getting to do the tourism thing while I raced!
In T2 I fumbled for too long with my shoe inserts and sneakers. I’m unaccustomed to using these in a race because I got them after rupturing my plantar fascia. But I didn’t care because I RODE A 2:42 BIKE SPLIT IN A HEAD WIND! I was so happy with that and a little nervous it would effect my run negatively. The run was BREATHTAKING. The falls were misting us as we ran by! It was the coolest thing ever. I slowly started ticking off ladies during the first 10k but it was only a few and I got passed by two women. I ran as best as I could and didn’t focus too much on competing for the run, because I felt lucky to even be running in the first place. I didn’t walk for 2 months in March/April and have barely run much since then. The run was super engaging with a steep but short climb, paths through a park, stairs, and of course Niagara Fricking Falls. I ran that entire 13.1 miles with my heart bursting with gratitude and just being completely present. In the final 2 miles I passed two more women bringing me from 14th to 9th place since I got off my bike. It was definitely not my best run performance ever (1:45) but it was one of my best run *experiences* ever. Plus, my bike split was monstrously awesome.
So, that’s the story of how I 1) did a 70.3 in 5:10:26 with little training 2) got my wedding body 3) all while checking out the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. I definitely want in on this race again next year. No doubt.
(Photo: See? Wedding body… wearing my dress into the ocean on my wedding night, one week after Barrelman. Hehe)