For an in depth course review on the Calgary 70.3 Bike Course, visit Recon Rider’s in depth analysis and full bike course video.

I know this is about two weeks late, but its been a busy little time for me and just got around to writing this race report now.

All through the season I had been planning on racing Calgary 70.3.  The plan for the season was a couple run races in the spring, Chinook Half Ironman in June, Calgary 70.3 in July, and Ironman Canada in Whistler in August as the goal race.  When the flooding happened in June it affected Ghost Lake and things became pretty hectic anyways, so I decided I’d wait and see for Ironman Calgary 70.3.

Well, as luck would have it, about two weeks before the race it was announced that the swim venue would be changed from the chilly waters of Ghost Lake, to the warm, tranquil waters of Lake Mackenzie, where I’d be doing open water swims in prep for Ironman Canada anyways.  A swim in Mackenzie meant the bike route would change dramatically and be a lot more like the Chinook course, which is on highways where I spent my years getting into road cycling on.  So I signed up.

The Swim

Having swam the swim course a couple of times already I was fairly familiar with the lake even before it was moved to that venue.  The man-made lake in Calgary get fairly warm by August by virtue of the fact that they’re fairly shallow, and fairly small.  Typically the swim isn’t my strong suit but having trained in this exact venue and put down reasonable times in training, I was pretty confident going into the swim.

The swim was a waved start with all the male AGer’s heading out in the same wave.  The start was exactly what you’d expect from a 400 person start, a little chaotic, a little bit of shoving, but by the first turn the field had opened up a bit and I could find my own space just fine.

Confidence is a big thing in swimming, if you’re nervous at all about your ability in those surroundings it’ll make you want to rush the whole swim and it’ll translate into a poor swim stroke, and a poor stroke means wasted energy.  With a bit more confidence this go I was able to swim an MOPish 40:20 1900m swim which believe it or not is a PB for me.

Here’s the swim file… and no, I didn’t go on shore at the island, it was interference coming out of the tunnel in the swim.

The Bike

So like I said before, I was fairly familiar with the bike route.  And by fairly familiar with the bike route, I mean I know every inch of the course since I grew up about a 5 minute drive from right where the route goes by.  Knowing that a lot of people were going to be thrown into a bit of a tailspin from the drastically changed bike course, I wrote a fairly lengthy post detailing the route and giving some tips on how to ride it.  When you write a post like that, you better own the course because you’re telling everyone else how to do it.

The bike was business as usual.  I spent the first 10 or 15 minutes getting into a good rhythm and calming down from the swim.  After that I started to make my way slowly up the field.  I played cat and mouse with a few other riders for the first half hour, with them passing me on the uphills, and me passing them on the downhills.  Riding with a powermeter, I really try and focus on keeping my power consistent with I’m ascending or descending, which is a practice that I really encourage other riders to get into.  I know that some riders have a strategy of going a little harder on the climbs and planning to recover on the descents, but I think its a failed strategy for anything longer than an Olympic distance ride because on a half or full iron you just end up burning through too many matches.

The first half of the ride is rolling foothills with quick downs followed by some punchy short and steep climbs and most of the course’s 2300ft of climbing.  The second half of the ride is a long false flat with a tailwind for a good 30km.  The first half I probably averaged about 30kph, the second half probably a lot closer to 39kph with a total average of 34.7kph.

I was taking a gel every 20-30 minutes, and drinking whenever I felt thirsty.  I used to subscribe to the “take a sip every ten minutes” approach to hydration, but I found I was always needing a nature break about an hour or two in with that approach.  By the end of the ride I’d only gone through one bottle of drink, but felt pretty well hydrated, but note, the air temp was about 15C at this time, had it been warmer or sunnier I could have easily drank twice that.  Going into Ironman Canada, I think I’ll focus on listening to my body for hydration rather than a 10 minute timer.  As far as gels go, I’m comfortable with one every 20-30 minutes.  Between the two I net about 250 calories per hour, and just for reference I weigh about 160lbs.

The bike route was a bit short at 86kph, so I can’t take all the credit for a good bike split, but my time was 2:26:19, which was good for a 66th ranked bike split in a field of 730.  My watts average Very happy with this result.

Bike Course Technical details:
Time: 2:26:19
Average Power: 198 watts
Normalized Power: 205 watts (75-78% ftp)
Average HR: 161 bpm (81% ftHR)
Average Speed: 34.65kph
TSS: 151

The Run

With such a good bike split I was a little nervous about how well I’d execute on the run.  I knew that I didn’t exceed any thresholds on the bike, and didn’t push too hard at any point, but nothing comes without a price and I was finding it a little hard to believe that things could go so well on the bike without paying a little on the run.

As per usual I found myself constantly having to back off the pace on the run.  Getting off the bike its pretty common to have your legs moving faster than you think when you’ve been spinning at 90+ rpm.  For the first couple kilometres I kept having to back off from running 4:20min/km.  Eventually I got into a groove and was running steady with my HR in the 160-170 range.

Around 6 or 7 km in I found my heart rate monitor kept slipping down and having to adjust it.  Feeling pretty good about my RPE I decided I’d just take it off and turn the function off on my Garmin.  I’ve spent about half my runs this year not using a HR monitor and just focused on listening to my body, so this was one scenario where that kind of prep really paid off.  I was in tune, and feeling good the entire run.

I finished the run feeling pretty good and pulled out a 1:39:24 run split which was ranked 99 overall and was a PB in the half iron distance for me.  Up until the last couple of kilometres I was feeling a little anxious that I’d suddenly hit a wall and the endorphins would just evaporate, but it never happened and I finished a great half marathon.

The Finish

I finished the race 93 overall out of a field of 730 and PB’d with a 4:50:20 half Ironman.  My goal for the race was to break 5 feeling comfortable, but going into the race I knew that if I needed to push hard to break 5 hours then I’d back off since Ironman Canada was only four weeks away.  I managed to get the 4:50 without leaving that comfort zone and executed the race with a solid B-race effort of maybe 7 or 8 out of 10.  Ten minutes under 5 also gave me some relief around breaking that all important mental threshold,  if I’d just squeezed in under 5 hours with a bike course that was 4km short, I’d have an asterisk on the race result in my mind.

The volunteers and Paul Anderson did a phenomenal job of making this race happen.  The Calgary floods really put a curve ball onto this race and they responded in true Calgary fashion by figuring a way to get it done.  Kudos also goes out to the Mackenzie Lake Community Association for being gracious enough to allow us to take over their lake for a few days and hosting our race.  Also a huge shoutout to my friend Miss Melissa Reuame who volunteered for both body marking in the AM, and catching in the PM!

Lastly, I have to say, Ironman Calgary 70.3 this year probably had the best finisher medals I’ve ever seen.

Belt buckle… It’s a giant belt buckle.