Newfoundland Ironman 70.3

Warning: I have a funny feeling that this may be one of the longest race reports that I’ve written. (more pics to follow)

For those who don’t know, the Ironman 70.3 is also known as a Half Ironman – a 70.3 Mile Triathlon, consisting of a 1.9km swim (1 loop), 90km bike (2 loops of 45km – Pasadena to Cornerbrook and back), and a 21.1k run (2 loops by 10.5k)

“It’s official, I am certifiable.” These words repeated in my mind throughout most of the “run”. I can hardly call it a run, I think I walked more than I ran.


This race excited me like no other race has, when it was announced. I was inspired by the Ironman finishers but knew a full ironman was nowhere near achievable at this time in my life. I didn’t even realize half ironman races existed, until this new one in Newfoundland was announced. I knew training would be a challenge for me being a single mother of two young girls and student, but came up with a plan and thought I could pull it off. However, as so often happens, especially once one becomes a parent, life sometimes gets in the way. I ran into a few roadblocks, and then came to a decision that I needed to give up on a formal training plan in order to enjoy my limited time with my children. The new non-training plan meant that I would not tackle any race that I couldn’t do with whatever training I could manage, while still enjoying my kids. Ironman70.3 was very reluctantly taken off the list. However, I was already registered, and it was mid-May, now past the withdrawal date, with no option to defer to next year. In the back of my mind a little voice kept saying, “but maybe… heck, you’ll be there anyway (since Ian is also racing)… “

I had had a twelve year hiatus from any sort of physical exercise, before taking running back up two years ago. I got my bike back on the road last summer, and just started swimming again this winter. In my former active life in my teens, I’d swam competitively, and run on my high school cross country team, and cycling was my first love in sports, but I’d never raced on my bike, nor competed triathlon.

My first duathlon was in June, offroad, my first tri was on Canada Day, a sprint. On top of my new non-training plan I’d had some minor health issues that impacted my training that I did have time for.
Ian and I had been training together for a few months, then it seemed we could never get out together for any training sessions, and my motivation to get out on my own was deteriorating. “Training” consisted of rides towing the girlies in the Chariot, and very short jogs pushing the Chariot, to and from parks, swimming became almost nil, which my shoulders were very relieved at. Like in my years swimming on a team, my stroke had eventually become limited to almost all breast-stroke, due to rotator cuff/shoulder issues. I have resigned myself to this likely being my only season of tri’s, unless I can find a miraculous cure for whatever I am doing to aggravate them so much.

As race day fast approached I still had this strong desire to just give it a go, and see if I could even finish it. This is where the insanity comes in. Try a sprint on limited training, yes. But a half ironman? Heck, why not? Smile

Even the sprint had proved to be a challenge – for some reason the open water swim freaked me out, and I had lost all sense of security in the water – me who loves open-water swimming! I reverted to my breast stroke and was much later out of the water than I’d anticipated.

So, I packed up for our Newfoundland vacation with the plan to race anyway and see how far I got through it. Part of my motivation for this was this description on the race website:

What are the cut off times?
We are strongly promoting participation of all athletes, and especially encouraging new athletes to take up the Ironman challenge. We are therefore setting very lenient cut off times.
• The swim cut off will be 90 minutes after the last wave start
• The bike cutoff will be 6 hours after the last swim wave start
• The finish cut off will be 9 hours after the last swim wave start
• Note: Athletes will not be permitted to begin the 2nd run lap after 4PM

If I missed the swim cut-off time, it would be decided.

Ian had recruited his best friend, Dave, who is from St. John’s to come join us for the weekend, and spend the day with the girlies so I could race. We stayed at an apartment-type suite in the basement of someone’s home, where we’d have all the comforts of home, making it much more bearable for the girlies.

We arrived from the overnight crossing of the ferry, on Thursday morning, registered Thursday afternoon, picked up Dave and saw a bit of Cornerbrook.

Friday we took a little ride to make sure the bikes were still in good order after the drive with them on the car rack. My nerves were shot, the ride had not gone very well and I wished I hadn’t gone. That evening was the athletes’ briefing and welcome/pasta dinner. We met a couple of other athletes – Curt, in from Australia, who we’d actually met the day before at the registration, and Krista – a woman my age, who looked extremely fit, and had a one-year-old none-the-less!

Saturday, was bike and gear bag check-in. Dean drove by as we were getting a photo in front of the Ironman sign, and called out to me. Smile That morning I’d picked up a full wetsuit (after trying a cheapo shorty, I wanted one for my main purpose of ocean swimming, early and late in the season) but, I wanted to use it in the race, so a practise swim was in order (nothing new on race day Wink ) My swim went very well. What started out as a short swim to get the feel for the wetsuit turned into a swim-the-course and see how long my slowest (all breast-stroke) swim would take me. It seemed I could get in, in under one hour, half an hour earlier than the swim cut-off time – it looked like I could really do this thing! Of course, that was when I began to worry about the bike again. I’d decided that my run would just happen in whatever time it took, as long as I could finish it. Saw Dean again after my swim, he was getting out of the water about 20 minutes later after his practise swim.


The weather was pretty good for race day. We’d had ridiculously high temperatures (especially for Newfoundland) the two days prior, and this was a fair bit cooler, and cloudy. Showers on the bike route were a bit of a worry to me. But the only negative parts of the weather for the day were the humidity, and the wind – which I especially dreaded for the swim (the water was a fair bit choppy due to wind on Saturday), and of
course, any head wind on the bike.

Ian and I walked 15-20 minutes to the hotel to catch the bus to Pasadena (race start). There were a few pro athletes on the bus with us (most of whom were from Australia), which we guessed, it turned out there were more than we’d realized though. Once we arrived we had an hour to pick up timing chip, get body marking, take care of last minute preparations and warm-up. Ten minutes to start, everyone was called out of the water for the shore start, we bump into both of our new friends from Friday evening and chat for a few minutes while we wait.
All of us move toward the back to get out of the rush of aggressive swimmers.

My swim was probably two-thirds breaststroke. I just kept reminding myself there was plenty of time and not to worry about who was around or behind me. When I got out of the water (well under an hour) I heard the announcer say that there were ten to fifteen swimmers left in the water and encourage the spectators to wait around for the last swimmer out, to give them a warm Newfoundland cheer.

My swim-to-bike transition went well until I realized that my sunglasses that I had so diligently placed in the bag (inside my shoe to prevent them getting crushed) were not there! I just couldn’t see riding without them and began frantically re-searching everything in my bag 2-3 times. I even went back out to the bag racks to see if they were in my run bag.

No luck. Looks like I’m cycling without shades.

As luck would have it, I was better off without them except for the big descent when my speed picked up significantly and I could feel stuff flying in my face. It was cloudy for the whole race so the lack of sunglasses was comfortable, but when the rain started I was glad not to have lenses getting all wet and distorting my vision. The course is almost entirely flat (by Newfoundland standards) they’ve designed it with one significant hill – just to remind us that we’re on The Rock Wink – however it’s a looped course so we hit this hill twice. The worst of it was that we’d had a nasty headwind leading well up to the big hill. I couldn’t believe I was using such low gearing on such flat sections, but there I was. The pros started passing me on their second lap, well before I hit the hill. I couldn’t believe their speed, nor the sound of their wheels! I now know why the popular ones are called ZIPP, that’s exactly what they sound like. ? On each out and back I watched for Ian as he was heading in the opposite direction across the median. We exchanged greeting the first and third time, but the second time I almost missed him – he didn’t see me. The rain was hovering over the turnaround, which was at the top of the hill, so we rode into it and got drenched coming down the big descent.

We were riding on the inside lanes of the TCH, which were closed to traffic, keeping to the far left, to stay away from the open right-hand lanes where the traffic was limited to 60 kph. This turned out to be a lot of fun! The road had one section under construction, which was a no passing zone. But otherwise riding was just about me, the bike and the road (and the odd competitor to pass, or be passed by). I even managed to eat, change water and Gatorade, picking up a few supplies at the aid stations and not stop once! About 3-5 km from the bike finish I saw Dean sitting roadside pounding away at his quads, I yell a quick “You doing okay?” he says yes as I ride by.

The bike-to-run transition went smoothly, I took my time to allow my legs a little time to loosen up, but forgot to make the porta-potty stop I’d intended to.

My “run” was a huge disappointment. I had no goal time, but I had planned to do 10:1’s the whole way (unlike my usual walk through the aid stations at all previous running races). It was immediately clear that this would not be doable, so I quickly changed the strategy to 5:1’s. Ian was coming in from lap 1, as I headed out of transition, at least we can see each other on the course a little. I expected he’d pass me soon after, and he did – right after I went into the porta-potty. I came out and one of the volunteers said, “a guy just ran by said to tell the missus in the porta potty when she comes out that I love her!” I missed him. Sad As it turned out I walked a lot of the first quarter, with stomach cramps. I suspect my diet of gels and one PB and banana sandwich on the bike not agreeing with me. The 5:1’s eventually became 4:2’s. Ian runs by one last time, with a tip about ice at the next aid station Smile Then my foot started hurting. I was quickly reminded that I’d felt some strange twinges in my foot during much of the swim, which had gone away on the bike. Now it was back, and progressively got worse.

I reached the turnaround of lap 1, I still had another lap after this! I was so envious of all the people on their second lap running “easily” by. However, I’m determined – I’ve made it this far, there’s no turning back now.

I don’t recall when, but I saw Dean on the course a few times, as we exchange encouraging words, he made it in from the bike, and then finished the run well ahead of me.

As I began lap 2, I was in a lot of pain. The pain on the top of my foot, was now keeping me from running much at all. My 4 minute runs:2 minute walks then become 2:2’s, and it wouldn’t be long before I couldn’t manage that. Curt ran by complaining of a knee that he said was collapsing under him. He asked “How you going?” I tell him I’m hurting. Eventually I’m walking until I feel alright, then attempting to run, only to stop 30 seconds later and walk some more. With about 5.5km left I decided to save some for the finish. My heart rate has dropped, (but escalates rapidly with little effort), I’m overheating and pouring water over my head frequently. It begins to rain again, and all of us still on the course are so thankful. I’m going to walk the rest of the way, and run in the last 500m or so if I can. A couple of times I attempted to run, as I just wanted to get off the course, but was immediately forced to stop as my entire foot was hurting when I ran by now. This is when I kept hearing in the back of my head “This is it… you’re officially certifiable…” I reached the 1k marker and I decided to give it a go. I ran the whole way in, with no more pain!

Ian’s waiting as I come around the corner out of the trail, and up the finishing shoot, he runs alongside signalling to Dave and the girlies that I am coming. The girlies are cheering and trying to slap my hands, I smile and wave, but can’t veer off to reach them. If I have a big smile for my finishing photo, they’re the ones who put it there. I am so happy I’m done. I get my bottle of water, my medal and finishing shirt. Ian’s standing at the top of the finishing shoot waiting for me. A big hug. I almost start to cry. I am done. I had asked him to make me go straight for a massage no matter what I say, and he was so determined to do so, I almost didn’t get to hug the girlies Wink

Ian took care of my hurting self (I’m a lucky girl), and the girlies (& Dave) kept me company while I waited my turn for massage.

Carl, one of the organizers had run with a couple of other women, and encouraged me to run with them when they came upon me, walking on my way out on lap 2. After a couple of minutes, he left the three of us encouraging us to run together, and went off to encourage another guy headed back in.

After my massage I bumped into him on my way to gather my things. He stopped me to ask about my finish and how I was feeling. The support of the organizers and volunteers on this race was amazing. The spectators were not in large numbers, but were dedicated – they stayed out, in the rain, cheering the last of us in, on every section.


Our new friends joined us for dinner at the Awards ceremony. Krista, who’d started training again in December, after the birth of her child in June, placed second in our age group and is going to the worlds!
Today we drove 700+km to St. John’s to begin our vacation. Every time I got up form sitting was more difficult than the last. I’m now exp
eriencing some sort of post-race, muscle cramping insomnia. But, it’s all good. Smile

This was an incredible experience, and I’m happy I decided to go for it in spite of everything. However, I have no intention of doing one again until I’m able to stick to a dedicated training plan realistically. Had I been trained the way I’d hoped to be, this would have been a much different race. No matter what, it was worth experiencing.

226 Overall 7:45:08
16/17 Age group F3034
Swim Place: 225 50:30 2:32/100m
T1 Place: 236 8:40
Bike Place: 228 3:45:53 23.9kph
T2 Place: 180 3:34
Run Place: 222 2:56:15 8:24mpk

Dean, Trish, Ian

About Trish

family legacy curator, social justice advocate, blogger, amateur photographer, reader, cyclist, runner & swimmer, mom of two