Ironman 70.3 Victoria 2018
With less than two months to go until Ironman Canada, Victoria 70.3 lined up as the perfect preparation race. It's a relatively flat course in a great location, so this trip would double as a mini vacation for my wife and I. In the week leading up to the race, the weather didn't look promising - lows in the 50's and a good chance of rain. I made sure to throw in my gloves and arm warmers, and prepared myself for what would likely be a cold bike ride.
We left on Thursday night after work and made our way to Port Angeles to stay the night. Our ferry ride to Victoria was scheduled for 8:15 the next morning, so staying the night in Port Angeles ensured we wouldn't have to wake up super early to catch the ferry. The ferry ride was pleasant and uneventful. Once we got to Victoria we drove up to Sidney and went to the aquarium there and then had a fish and chips lunch at a small restaurant on the pier overlooking the ocean. Following lunch we went to Butchart Gardens - definitely a must-see if you ever visit Vancouver Island. For dinner we went to a very nice greek restaurant in downtown Victoria. It's called Ithaka, and I highly recommend it!
On saturday we had a leisurely morning, and then headed over to the transition area to get checked in. The event parking was in a grassy lot along the southeast side of elk lake. There was a shuttle from there to the beach where the transition area is, but instead we decided to walk along the path around the lake to get there. The weather was nice and it didn't seem too far, plus it would allow me to check out the run course. The walk was nice, but it took us longer than expected to reach the transition area and by the time we got there we were both tired and hot - not a good combination the day before the race. The check-in process was pretty standard, except they didn't give us a backpack, which seemed kind of odd (I later found out that the backpacks had been delayed in customs and that we would receive them at the finish line). I dropped my bike off in transition and then we met up with my parents at a nearby RV park where we would eat dinner and spend a very short night.
We got to the race parking area at about 4:30, and after the shuttle ride I arrived at transition close to 5. I had very little time and so much to do. Since the race started at 6:10, we only had until about 5:45 to do a swim warm-up. I quickly set up my transition spot, then had to decide if I wanted to use the bathroom or warm-up - but not both. I decided the bathroom was more important. I then had just enough time to put on my wetsuit before the closed the transition area. Not a great start to a race...
I struggled to get started, and had a hard time breathing for a few minutes. Eventually I did get into a rhythm, but I knew my swim time would suffer as a result. Others than that, the water temperature was good, despite the cooler air temps. About three quarters of the way through the swim and I got hit in the head. Fortunately my goggles stayed in place, but I almost lost my swim cap. As I exited the water, I saw my family alongside the chute and then immediately stumbled and almost fell to the ground. Apparently there was something under the carpet and a lot of people were stumbling on it. My family saw someone face-plant due to this bump.
After a pretty speedy transition I was out on the bike and ready to make up some lost time. The first part of the course is mostly rolling hills with a few flat areas - no majors climbs until later in the course. The weather was also cooperating. I was worried that the first few minutes on the bike would be cold, but the air temperature was almost perfect. I focused on keeping my power in the right zone and saw my average speed continue to climb. Unfortunately, about 20 miles in my luck ran out. As I was rounding the corner to get onto Hwy 17, I ran through a rut in the road and got double pinch flats. Both of my tires deflated instantly. I had two flat tires and only one spare. There was nothing I could do except wait for the support vehicle. Thankfully, there was a flagger stating at the corner where I was stranded and I asked if he could call the bike support vehicle, which he did. I waited and waited, getting colder and colder having to just stand around in nothing but a skin suit. I was trying to decide what to do. Should I drop out? Should I wait for the mechanic and try to continue? It was also quite demoralizing seeing hundreds of people pass me as I stood there on the side of the road. The support vehicle did eventually arrive - an hour later. The mechanic was great and jumped right into action, quickly getting my tubes replaced and getting me back on the road. Just before I flatted, my average speed was 21.6mph. By the time I got back on the road, my average speed had dropped to an abysmal 9.9mph... I had some serious time to make up. By this point there weren't too many people on the course and it was easy to pass the few there were. The back half of the course does become more hilly, but nothing like the hills of St. George or Coeur d'Alene. Even the biggest hill wasn't very long or challenging. Going as fast as I was, I was able to build my average speed up to around 14.5mph, but even with some time made up, I was still far behind. I decided that if I saw my family as I went through transition, I would speak with them and decide if should do the run, or simply call it.
I didn't see my family, so I decided to just go for it. The first part of the run was great, my legs felt fresh and I was moving quickly. I focused on my nutrition and keeping good form and just kept chipping away a the miles. It started raining about when I hit the halfway point, but even then it was only a sprinkle, the weather had been much better than I had anticipated it would be. The run course is almost all gravel and follows a forest trail around the lake. Because of these factors, this is indeed not a fast run course. By about mile 9 I started to feel the fatigue building, and ended up slowing down a bit in the last couple miles as a result.
We were scheduled for a 3:00 ferry out of Victoria, and because of the delays in my race, we had to move quickly if we were going to make it. We took the shuttle back to the parking lot and headed south to Victoria hoping we'd make it. Unfortunately we didn't, and would be on the 7:30 ferry instead. This did allow us and my parents to enjoy a nice dinner at The Keg in downtown Victoria while we waited.
There's definitely some mistakes I made with this race, and some things that happened which were simply out of my control. I should have allowed myself more time at the beginning of the race to get everything done. The tube situation was very frustrating, but there was nothing I could have done, and no way I could have predicted that I would need two spare tubes at once. I'll just need to decide if it's worth carrying two spare tubes in the future.
Overall I enjoyed the course and the location of this race. It is a great early season option if you don't mind preparing for less than ideal weather. I would definitely do this race again and likely will next year.