So last Saturday was the Chinook Half Ironman here in Calgary. The Chinook Half is a local race put on by Mike Bock, an awesome event organizer who puts together a wicked, athlete focused event.
The course definitely more challenging than Calgary 70.3. The swim is a two loop 2km swim in a local man-made lake, followed by a 96km out and back to Kananaskis Provincial Park which is pretty much the entrance to the Rocky Mountains, and the run is a two loop course through Fish Creek Provincial Park which is relatively flat with the exception of the large descent/ascent out of the Fish Creek Valley.
Pre-race was fairly routine for me. We had a pasta party put on by the event organizer the night before at the pre-race meeting. Oddly enough though, around 8:00pm I started getting some pretty acute pain on the inside of my right ankle which really started to worry me. I massaged and stretched it out through the next couple hours though.
Race morning, got up at about 5:30am. Had an Ensure, a bagel with Nutella, and a banana. Got all my stuff ready and headed down to the race start.
Setting up transition was straightforward and easy, there were huge sponsor posters and no assigned spots so I planted my spot right in front of a huge Subaru sign. Went around and said hey to everyone I knew, the team from Tri-It, and a few people I’d met from previous races. This really helps to calm the nerves and remind you that you’re out there to have fun.
Water temperatures were 16C, so pretty warm considering the time of year. I did a quick pre-race swim with some fist drills to remind my body to catch strong. Went back ashore just before the start.
The horn went off and out we went. In the first couple hundred meters I definitely let the rush get the best of me and I had to really focus myself and calm down. My stroke and sighting were suffering a bit because I was just too into the hustle. At the first buoy though I was able to settle in and get a good pace going. The rest of the swim was pretty straightforward with the exception of someone who decided they would grab my leg from behind and try to move me aside which almost pulled my timing chip off my ankle and really irritated me. When this happened I started kicking like a madman to let them know that if they want to be a jerk they’d have a grand time doing so.
I’m not sure how my first and second lap compare, but it does seem that my second lap went a bit faster.
Time: 42:42, distance 2.1km (can thank shoddy sighting for the extra 100m), HR 160bpm, 65th place. I wear my Garmin 310xt in the water, for the record.
Transition 1: 3:33
The bike is my strong suit so coming out of the water so far back didn’t rattle me at all. The first few km I settled into my pace and stayed in low zone 2, so heart rate around 150-155, and power around 75% of my FTP.
I quickly started gaining position and was feeling good in the first few minutes but not long after I realized I wasn’t feeling 100% internally. I can’t really describe it but my legs felt cool and heavy, and for a little bit I was starting to get a stitch. I started to think about my ankle from the night before and was really playing headgames with myself. This lasted for the first maybe 15km of the ride. The saving grace was that at this time I was also making up huge positions.
Around 30km things started to feel better and the field had really thinned out. By this time individual riders were at least 500m apart. We were starting to get into the hills and I was having no issues keeping pace. I kept calling “left!” to make sure the guys I was passing knew I was coming since I really don’t like getting over the line on some sections on that roadway.
Approaching the turnaround I counted about 20 riders coming the other way, but couldn’t tell who was racing and who was just out riding but figured I was in the top 20 anyways. Reached the turnaround and some confusion with the guy controlling traffic really upset me so I just dropped the hammer and hauled ass on the way back.
I stuck to my strategy during the bike. For the first 1/3 ride in Zone 2 with HR sub 160 with power about 75% of FTP. Then the second 2/3 ride in high Zone 2-low zone 3 with HR in 160’s, power at 80-85% FTP. Its a course with a couple big climbs, and a lot of rollers so the strategy on those was to not exceed 110% FTP on the short hills, and 100% FTP on the long climbs which wouldn’t last more than 5 minutes anyways. Over 55km/hr I’d just tuck in and get small. Its a tricky course to get a read on power though since most of the time you’re either climbing, or spinning out.
Nutrition also went according to plan, 1 hammer gel every half hour, and finish two bottles of Perpetuum, no need to stop at aid stations.
Time: 2:56:12 for 96km. 3119 ft of climbing. Ave HR 160bpm, Max HR 172bpm. Ave Cadence 92rpm. 7th fastest bike time of the day.
Transition 2: 1:07.
For the run my plan was run an even split, and try and stay under 5:00min/km. Getting off the bike of course my legs felt heavy and I really wished I’d done more bricks recently but as per usual the battle was mental. My run cadence is spot on what my bike cadence is so I usually motor along just fine. For the first lap I motored along between 4:35/km and 4:50/km. After a few km I felt great.
Todd (my coach) was chillin around the 7km mark and when I saw him I told him he was a sight for sore eyes. I’m not sure what it was but it was definitely a good boost to see a familiar face since there weren’t many spectators down in the valley.
Second lap I started hurting. During the last bit of the bike I chugged down what I had left of my drink which was maybe 1/3 of the bottle. Up until now I was aware that it wasn’t really processing in my stomach but it didn’t start to bother me til then so I settled back the pace a bit and let it go down. Once my stomach started feeling better and I picked up the pace, I started to get a stitch under my ribs, now I was in the hurt locker.
I tried to run through the stitch, and I pictured Macca and Raelert in the last few km of Kona and I remember seeing Macca at one point push under his ribs and double forward, but he just kept running which is what I wanted to do… Then I pictured Chris Lieto who sort of shut down in the run which was a little less inspiring. I had to stop and walk at 16km for about 200m which I’ve never done before in a half marathon or half IM. Reflecting now I wish I hadn’t walked but it was definitely hurting, and I knew I had a good few minutes on the next person behind me.
When I picked up the pace again I still had the stitches but I could run through them now that they’d eased off a little.
Going up the beast of a hill out of the valley I ended up walking once more. It was just one of those hills that if you tried to run it you’d take such small steps someone might legitimately walk past you. And I was completed gassed at this point but it was just a km to go once I reached the top.
Ran the rest in, crossed the line, and made a big smile.
Time: 1:42:45 for 21.1km. Ave HR 175 bpm. 17th fastest run split of the day.
Had Shirley and a whole bunch of other friends there to welcome me as I came into the finish. I was definitely hurting after the race but most of that subsided in about half an hour.
Finish time: 5:21:49. 2nd in Age Group, 12th Overall! (For the record, 1st in my age group was Grant Burwash, a pro/elite triathlete who won overall).
Special thanks to Coach Todd from No Limits Triathlon who helped bring my Half IM time down on a much more challenging course, by more than 20 minutes in less than a year.
Also Congrats to Keith Blundell, my friend and training partner, for finishing his first HIM ever and who finished strong considering he’d never ridden that far ever before.
Shayne Arseneault, who finished his first triathlon that day and to the second, had the exact same time as my first triathlon.
My friends at Tri-It for being an awesome support team for me and all Calgary triathletes.
And last but not least my wonderful girlfriend Shirley who supports, challenges, and inspires me to give nothing but my best.