Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Half Ironman Peterborough Race Report

My 2006 and 2008 finisher medals side by side.

Both Aaron and Darren already have their race report up. There are a number of thoughts 'running' in my head after the race. Let start off with a brief summary of my expectation and what really happen on race day.

This season I was training on and off. With that in mind, my expectation wasn't too much. I just want to see how fast I can go from the bike on to the run.

This is the second time I raced Half Ironman Peterborough. I love the terrain. The lake is calm. The bike course is smooth with lots of nice rollers. The run course is tough. No shades and rolling hills. I love it.

This was my first Half Ironman two years ago. Even though, I did my first Ironman last year. I considered Peterborough as the race where I go long.

With all this in mind, I looked forward to this race. I looked forward to the memories that I had from this race.

On Sat, Aaron picked me up and we spent an hour at the tri-store fixing his aerobars. Then we headed out. I slept a lot. On the way there and after we checked. I managed to get the same room two years ago :).

It was great to spend some time with Aaron. We chatted about a number of things job hunting, tri life. He was sharing with me how his first Half Ironman, he had a bike problem and had to run on barefoot back to the transition for 10 km. So he ended up running 31 km :).

On race morning, we got up pretty early and head to the transition area. I did my normal routine.

Race Start

With a few minutes to go Aaron managed to spot me and wished me luck. I also saw Macro, a triathlete worked at my community pool. He has been training for Ironman Wisconsin.

I settled in the pack and let the horn go. My bladder was going crazy so I did what a normal triathlete would do. I let myself go. It reminded me of a pro who said that once she was standing beside Peter Reid and she felt a warm pool of water next to him :) (he apologized!).

Swim - 51 min I love the mass start. It wasn't before 500 m before I really settled in. For two laps, I didn't follow anyone's feet. They were either too slow or kicked too hard.

Coming out of the water, I headed over to the transition. I can't wait to ride. As I was taking off my wetsuit, my bladder was complaining..so I let it go. I rather do it now than on the bike.

T1 - 2 min 12 sec

Bike - 2 hr 55 min

It took me a while to settle in. I was pretty slow on the swim and I was already picking people off.

Heading out

'To your left' (what you say when you are passing someone on the bike) and sometimes 'to your right'.

Looking back, it took me an hour and a half to really settle in. I kept the intensity consistent throughout the ride. I replayed a scene from Arrested Development in my head. That put a smile in my face.

On the rollers, I would standing up and breathing relax. People besides me were huffing and puffing and I kept a very relax pace.

On the downhill, I would move on gear higher and kept the cadence the same. That built up solid speed to propel me uphill. The key is efficiency.

My legs felt great. I drank and eat enough. The sun is out there and it is time to go back town and start the run.

T2 - 1 min 17 sec (including putting on socks)

Run - 1 hr 55 min

The run started off running around the transition before heading out. This is where I saw Darren coming back. He was serious. I told him to keep it up and make my way out.

Once we left the transition and onto the road, there was no shade and a few rolling hills.

It was hot. I was trying to keep my pace at 5:10. It worked for a while. By 7 km, I felt pretty good. By 13 km, I was falling apart. I stopped to took a leak (at least I am hydrated). The sun was getting to me. By 15 km, I walked.

With the semi expectation from the race, there was a lot of internal voices in my head. It's hot. I should take it easy. I have been running with a heart rate of 170+. I should take it easy and slow down or I will blow up. I could have walk. Why not. I am almost there. At one station i drank too much water and my stomach is feeling weird. Oh slow down Cliff.

Then an man passed me by. I saw the age marked on his calve as 55 and told myself, if he is treading along, I think I can do that too. So I slowly caught up to him. He encouraged me to keep moving. His name was Fred and he told me to just keep it easy now.

We went pass the last hill and headed back town. There were three people ahead of us and he told me, 'hey Cliff, do you think we can catch up to them?' At this point, I only thought of not slowing down. Breathing hard, I summon a few words, 'I am trying to keep up.'


Coming back to town, we were to run 4 more km in the park before heading the finish line. This was the hardest 4 km I ever run. It felt more like stumbling. Easy pace easy pace. Well there is no easy pace. Every step hurts. I was hot. My body stopped sweating and I felt my skin baking under the sun. Each km seemed to go longer and longer.

With too much water from the previous aid station, I decided to pass one aid station without taking water. Bad mistake. I was really thirsty.

Everything is a blur. My feet are killing me. I was grasping for air but it doesn't seem like I am breathing. It feels like I am in a vacuum.

At this point, I already passed Fred. I kept looking forward. There was one guy 500 m or so ahead of me is in my age group.

There were two km left.

Can I catch him? Will he kept pushing? Should I let him go? I ain't a pro. Why should I be so competitive? Why not take it easy? Let him go.

At this point I decided I will fight to not slow down and see what happens. With 1.5 km there was a turn around. He walked a bit. Good. I inched my way until I caught up to him.

As I was passing him, I straighten my posture and look like I am runner easier. Right. Now the hunter became the hunted. I kept my pace and kept moving. No slowing down. And no showing signs of weakness. Passed the aid station where I skipped on the water. Took a small sip.

By this time, we have to run around the football field (about 600 m) to go.

As I looked back, I saw no one. So I walked a few steps. I picked up the pace and head for the finish.

I never felt so happy crossing this line in my life. Mentally it was as tough (if not tougher than an Ironman).

Total time: 5 hr 45 min (personal best, 7 min faster than 2006 :) )

I lay in the grass for a while. I smiled and just lay there.

I asked myself...for all the pain, is it really worth it?

On the race day, you get to know yourself really well. We all face adversity. We all face the noises in our lives. In this race, the internal noises seem to scream louder than ever. It is up to us to decide what to do.

Now two days later, today I walked in the office without my shoes because I had a bruised toe. My coworkers think I am nuts. I just tell them...as sick as it sounds..it is a lot of fun.

I looked back and see how great my bike ride was. I never realize I can run with such a high heart rate without blowing up. If I train more consistently, I could hold a faster pace.

My next race is Toronto Marathon. It is in Mid October...as I say good bye to Peterborough, this Half Ironman put me in the right mindset for the next race :).

Spent good times with my tri-buddies, got some wick tan lines, and two bruised toes. What more can we ask for :D

Am I doing the fists of joy or chin up pose? You decide :)

Special shout out to
- Darren for tearing the field apart...
- Aaron, the drive and letting me snooze the whole way and back
- Fred, for keeping my spirit up
- for others, who I race along the way.....who knows pain can be so much fun :)

You know you gonna have a great race when you ride like this :) (Darren)


Anonymous said...

Great race report Cliff!!

Now, on to the marathon!

Born To Endure said...

You looked so happy..congrats!

Brent Buckner said...

Strong test out there! Good report.

Nice thing about getting faster: means you can up the intensity in events somewhat because you'll be finishing sooner and so can hold the higher HR. Well, OK, or maybe "crack like a walnut".

AddictedToEndorphins said...

Loved the race report!!
Good job on the half ironman...
I want to learn how to swimmmm.

I love (after the race is over) the races that put you in your place!

I'll see you on the start line of Toronto!

Steven said...

Nicely done, Cliff. And congrats on the PR!

I like the Fists of joy pic.

triguyjt said...


loved how you came out of the swim and made up nice ground on the bike...you looked real tough out there on the bike shot.

your 1:55 half mary run is something i can dream about..but still work toward...

and never...never..never let a 55 year old school you on the course.... (blush)

great report.. props to aaron for driving your tired carcass to the race site...

congrats...5:45...very very good time....

ShirleyPerly said...

CONGRATS Cliff! Nice job on the PR and great race report. Love all the thoughts going through your head as you were racing and the photos. Who cares what your HR is if you can hold it together for 13.1 miles? I think I run in zone 3 during the run segment of a half iron tri too unless I step on glass earlier :-P

Darren said...

Excellent report! Most excellent finishing pics! I wished I looked half as good as you do at the finish.
Haha.. thanks for the bike pic - I'd forgot about that.

I especially like that last part when instead of caving, you embraced the pain and finished strong. Awesome stuff Cliffy.

jameson said...

awesome race dude..... way to dig DEEP!!! it's amazing how bad hurts to push that hard... but then how good it feels when you cross the finish line knowing you just gave it everything.... it's definitely worth the pain. Keep it up.

Kewl Nitrox said...

Excellent report. I really needed the motivation too with my 1st Oly Tri this Sunday. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Nice report and good job on the PR.

brendaj said...

Great race report. Congrats on your finish time. And that's a great story about meeting Fred!

anners said...

Nicely done, Cliff! Congrats on the PB! Hehe, my coworkers always think I'm nuts when I hobble into the office the day after a race, too. They don't get it :)

Rae said...

Great race report and congrats on the new PR! You look very strong in the finishing pics!!!

cdnhollywood said...

Very nicely done! You're setting a great example for me!

WildWill said...

Hi Cliff

You've come a long way since i last read this blog

Well done on you progress and your PB, and a great race report

qcmier said...

nice race...been a while since I've been around here.

Jade Lady said...

Cliff, you are so totally awesome - I really enjoyed reading your race report - thanks for sharing all your emotions during the race. One day..I aspire to do something like this...

Iron Eric said...

Way cool man! Good for you!