IMCA 70.3 Race Review – 2018

Total Time: 7:28:00
Swim: 45:47 (2:25/100… but i did 200 extra so my actual time on my garmin is 1:58/100)
T1:4:58 (thanks for my fastest T1 time ever, volunteers!)
Bike: 3:49:13 (23.08kmph, 14.34mph)
T2: 3:52
Run: 2:44:11 (7:05 min/km, 12:32 min/mi)

If you want the details keep reading… if not you can just jump down to the cliff’s notes!

I went to canada!! I’ve never been to canada before so to make my first trip for a race seemed appropriate! We flew into Vancouver on Thursday afternoon/evening and the timing, i think, was perfect. We rented a car to head over to Whislter. There was a shuttle we could have taken but the cost of the car was almost the same thing & then we had a car for us in Whistler, which worked out perfectly. We definitely could have lived without the car (we hardly used it) but it was handy.

The drive from Vancouver to Whistler was GORGEOUS. It’s only a couple hours up 99 through mountain roads lined with big forests and lakes. Stunning, breathtaking views. We checked in to the Hilton Whistler and then headed out for dinner. I highly recommend staying at the Hilton there- the staff was SO nice, it’s close to everything (tons of bars, restaurants, stores, etc), walking distance (1/2 mile or 0.8km) to the ironman village, and right by the path that takes you to the start (2 miles or 3.2km).

The awesome huge kitchen in my hotel room

Our first night dinner was at Tandoori Grill and it was AMAZING. The naan wasn’t vegan but the roti was! And they had a great selection of local beer & wine! On our way back to the hotel we stopped at The Grocery Store and stocked up on snacks and breakfast food for the room. All the shops in the Whistler Village are so handy!

The view from my balcony

Friday we woke up & did breakfasts in the room before heading to the expo to check in, buy some shirts (they sell out so fast!), and pick up our bikes. I highly recommend checking out the merch tent early if there are things you definitely want & want to make sure they have your size available. They also have some great sales so the earlier you get there the better! Check in was super streamlined, per usual. The only consideration for us (coming from the states) was making sure we had signed up for the Canadian version of a USAT one day pass. I paid that online as part of my registration via Active.com so didn’t have anything to show or worry about there- they had a list of who paid and if you didn’t they just walked you over to a separate table to pay before doing everything else. One cool thing about this race was getting a $25 food/drink voucher for participating restaurants, of which there were many! You could only use it Thursday, Friday, and Monday I think but totally rad that they offered it!

Reunited with our bikes

This was my first time using Tri-Bike transport so i was a bit nervous about picking up my bike. when you drop it off at the partner bike store in your area they give you a little ticket but they tell you that you don’t actually need that to get your bike- just your ID. the pick up process was SUPER simple and the guys put your pedals on quickly and have pumps available to get you ready to rock. A tip i got (after i had already done this) was not to pump your tires & to actually let a little air out on Saturday before leaving your bike to sit in the 90+ heat all day + overnight and to just make sure to pump your tires race morning. I didn’t do that and it all worked out but why risk a blown out tire? After getting our bikes and checking out the course talk we put on our bike clothes and headed out on the trail to Alta Lake/Rainbow park- the trail was beautiful, shaded, well marked, and full of signs that direct you right to the stunning lake surrounded by snow capped mountains and forests.

Side note about the course talk: there was a powerpoint that would have been AWESOME to have available to use to review on our own. There was very little shade to watch from and most of the shady spots made it hard to see the powerpoint slides. In 90+ degree heat two days before the race the last thing you want to do is sit in the hot sun getting dehydrated for an hour. Plus there weren’t many spots to refill water bottles so i was walking to the playground constantly to refill my bottle- also not ideal right before a race!

Super cute jersey they had at the merch tent

Even the view from the course talk was beautiful

After our ride + shower we hit up Harajuku Izakaya for dinner & happy hour! they had delicious happy hour drinks and the food was INCREDIBLE. they had vegan agedashi tofu, which is one of my favorite things ever and the vegan roll they had was SO BOMB. i’d put it in top 5 favorite rolls of all time. and then it was time for bed!

Saturday we woke up nice & early and rode over to the lake to practice swimming at 7:20 AM, just like we would on race day. I swam with no wetsuit in open water for the first time ever and it was magical! the water was super warm (but not too warm that you wouldn’t be allowed a wetsuit) so it was very fun swimming freely! I should’ve worn my wetsuit just for realistic race day practice but was worried it wouldn’t dry in time for the race and i’m a weirdo about putting on a wet wetsuit. after the swim we relaxed in the grass for a bit before riding back to the hotel. after a shower & snack we rode BACK to the lake where T1 was and dropped off our bikes & T1 bags and lined up to take the bus over to T2. separate T1/T2 areas was new to me so it was great to see how everything would be laid out before the race! i get anxiety about unknowns so finally being able to see everything totally helped me relax!

Relaxing after our practice swim

After dropping off our T2 bags we watched the course talk again & then headed back to our rooms for our pre-race rituals. for me it’s typically pizza & a beer but i just did the pizza thing this time around. i think that’s the first race in years i haven’t had a pre-race beer! but i was exhausted and didn’t have trouble sleeping anyways, for the most part. got a DELICIOUS pizza from misty mountain pizza and i was in bed by 7:30. thank you, blackout curtains! The sun stays out til like 9PM in Whistler!

Vegan pizza from misty mountain

When my alarm went off at 3:30 AM i was ready to wake up! i only woke up a few times during the night and i was able to go right back to bed as soon as i realized it wasn’t time to wake up yet. one of the best nights of pre-race sleep i’ve ever had! My morning pre-race checklist: coffee, food, morning clothes bag, flip flops. water bottles, watch, race nutrition, lipstick, hair, chamois cream, aquaglide (to prevent wetsuit hickeys), and tattoos. Knocked it all off the list nice and early and was ready to meet my friends to walk over to the start. One last look in the mirror and… my zipper was broken! i could see my sports bra through my tri top! Nooooo! couldn’t fix it and didn’t want to have to deal with it mid-race so switched into my kit i wore the last two days for swimming & biking (ew) and ran out the door. Lesson Learned: Always bring a backup kit but make sure you’ve raced in it before (or worn it for a long enough time to know where chafing will happen because OW).

Daily breakfast of oats, fruit, and a bagel w/hummus

Since we couldn’t leave any nutrition in T2 the night before (because of the bears) we headed there first to drop off our T2 nutrition and then jumped on the shuttle to the start. I’m currently reading 35 by 35 by the amazing Taryn Spates and she always talks about how much she loves the pre-race energy and chatting with other racers so i embraced that and totally felt the pre-race nervous buzz in the bus! It was definitely a lively 5:30AM bus ride! After a seemingly long ride (probably only like 15 mins but felt like forever) we got to T1 and it was a madhouse. The line up for the swim start for the full ironman triathletes starting at 6AM was at the same place you enter T1 to set up your bike so it was a bit hectic getting into the transition area but it was fine- just required a little patience and we all were buzzing with race morning nerves! Dropped off our bike nutrition and we were about to head to finish dropping stuff off in our T1 bags when we decided to do one last check of tire pressure. i rarely do that on race morning but decided to check it out just in case- got in line to have the bike techs fill my tires for me because it was easier than finding a pump laying around in transition. glad i did because my tires were at like 60psi or something! i typically fill them both to 100. Tires full, nutrition set, T1 bag ready to rock… now just watching the full swimmers crushing it (the first pros were out of the water before the half swimmers even lined up for a 7:20AM start) and last bathroom stops before getting lined up! We lined up a little late so we started later than ideal but pretty close to our swim times so not too shabby! The music at the start was so perfect & i felt like every song was speaking to me!

Swim finish area

The swim was great- i love swimming in fresh water & i felt pretty good in my wetsuit but my groin muscle in my leg started hurting. what in the world?! i’ve never had leg pain while swimming and it was annoying but i still rocked 1:58/100, which is WAY faster than normal for me. At the oceanside half in April i did 2:31/100 so this was amazing considering the total lack of swimming ive been doing! The swim felt pretty spread out, especially compared to Oceanside, until the last turn buoy. I couldn’t believe how quickly the buoys flew by on the first half of the swim but the second half felt like i’d never get to the third turn buoy. Then after the third turn buoy things got a bit crowded running into the last few swimmers from the full distance and just a more narrow area to swim in. Before i knew it i was getting out of the water and the wetsuit strippers were telling me to sit down so they could take off my wetsuit. SO AMAZING! Grabbed my T1 bag and ran to the changing tent. SUPER short transition run- probably the shortest i’ve ever had in any race of any distance ever. Score!

T1 Bags

T1 changing tent

In the changing tent it was busy but not super crowded so i found an empty seat & dumped out my T1 bag, per the advice of the guy doing the course talk. Started putting on my socks & realized i chose the wrong socks for a race- they’re great socks & super comfy and cute but SUPER tight and hard to roll onto wet feet! whoops! Got my socks on and then a volunteer angel appeared helping dry me off, put on my shoes, get my helmet and sunglasses for me, and then she shouts “Grab sunscreen and GO!” and she put all my leftover stuff back into the bag & turned it in for me. Angels i tell you!

beautiful bike course!

All smiles i headed to my bike- my favorite part of a tri! (funny because when i started this whole thing it was my least favorite!) The run with your bike from transition to the mount line is pretty long to avoid riding over train tracks and through a weird gate. Got on my bike and off we went, instantly on rolling hills. The hills at the start were pretty small and every uphill was rewarded with a downhill but the whole course was a battle of gear changing. very few flat spots on the course! it’s a 1 + 1/3 loop course, so you go all the way out to the turnaround, turn back, go back PAST T2, back past T1, and loop back around. when i got to the first turnaround at the top of the biggest climb of the course i was so pumped. at that point i basically knew almost everything that was ahead & i *knew* i could do it and was starting to think i could do it in under 4 hours. I was super worried the bike was going to take me 5 hours and i wouldn’t be able to finish the half marathon in time. but i was rocking a decent pace and the hills weren’t as intimidating as i had expected. Let me clarify- this course should NOT be underestimated. it is challenging and there are a LOT of hills. but living in san diego and doing SO much hill training really set me up to survive this course. was i fast? HECK NO! but i did it! i knew there was a long climb at 10% grade and i was dreading it so much… but once a random guy on one of the hills mentioned we were on that 10% grade spot i was shocked- it felt challenging but totally do-able… definitely not like what 10% felt like in my imagination. so i got super pumped and rocked the hill! and the downhills were soooo nice! got lots of great time stretching! strava says my max speed as 43.6mph! WHAAAT! insane. towards the end on the little 1/3 loop tail we had to do the hills were starting to get to me and i saw some people walking up them but i just kept moving forward through the exhaustion and pain and knew i was going to finish. before the race i honestly didn’t think it was going to happen and it was exciting to finally feel confident in finishing, even if i had to walk the half marathon! on the bike i went through two huma gels, one larabar, two bottles of electrolytes, and one bottle of water. i was planning on eating another base bar but it flew out of my bike bag because i forgot to zip it up at some point. whoops! i also used base salts a couple times an hour to make sure i was getting enough salt in!

T2 bags (changing tent in the background)

The 70.3 course was cut short by a few miles (strava said my bike was 52.4 miles instead of the standard 56) due to a course change for safety so the bike was over before i knew it! it ended a bit abruptly and i wasn’t used to handing my bike to a volunteer- i totally forgot i didn’t have to rack my bike back up! After saying bye to Ariel i jogged over to grab my T2 bag and head into the changing tent. No volunteers helped me this time but that was OK- T2 is a quick and easy transition. i grabbed my two bags of dates and threw them in my back pockets and quickly realized they were a bad idea. more on that in a sec.

As i ran out of T2 there were tons of volunteers with sunscreen ready to lather it on! it was a nice little neck massage while they put it on and they gave me some for my face too. i’m typically terrible at remembering to put on sunblock so i was super proud of myself for stopping!

back to the dates. i WAY over packed on the date side & had big melted globs of dates weighing down my back. no bueno. luckily pretty early on in the course there was a kind sasquatch (can’t even imagine how hot that guy was) with a table of ice & squishy water filled balls that let me throw my dates on their table. i soaked myself and threw ice down my sports bra and in my hat and continued on my slow run. About 2 or 3 miles in i had the pain of a thousand swords stabbing into the bottom of my right foot. where did that come from?! i ran with my toes curled for a minute to alleviate pressure on the exact part where it was hurting and that seemed to help and the pain didn’t come back for the rest of the run. but for that mile it was a bit brutal! i rocked my 5/1 run walk most of the course until about mile 9 and was feeling amazing! but at mile 9 i was over it- my spirits were still up but i just didn’t feel like running so i started doing a 4/2 run/walk. and then i realized how long it would take me to finish if i did that so after a mile or so i decided to push it again and went back to my 5/1 for the rest of the run. the whole time i was doing math in my head converting km to miles so i was nice and distracted! and the course had SO much shade in these beautiful forests! and the aid stations were plentiful and full of ice and cold water for us so i honestly didn’t ever feel the effects of the heat! every rest stop i had a couple cups of water with a little gatorade, i was using my base salts every hour or so, and had a couple pieces of banana. i tried eating a pretzel at one point but it was so dry it was hard to get down! i also grabbed a cup of ice at every rest stop and put some down my bra and in my hat. At one stop a dude asked if i wanted some ice down my back and it was SO AWESOME. and there were kids dousing us with pails of water and super soakers throughout the course too. one of the soakings got sunblock in my eyes but that only lasted like 20 seconds and then i was fine. i was soaked for most of the run and it felt amazing! the amazing amount of spectators on the course was great too- your bib has your name on it (and if it doesn’t you should write it) which is GREAT because seriously hearing your name somehow just makes you smile! legit every time someone shouts your name you get PUMPED! and every little extra ounce of energy on the course is appreciated for sure!

Towards the end of the run a dude shouted “you’re almost done! only 1.8k to go!” and i just started laughing and shouted back “i have no idea what that means!” hahaha. Oh americans… we dare to be different. When i realized i was almost at the finish line though i couldn’t stop smiling. There were a million spectators and it was so freaking gorgeous! The finish line was shared with the full ironman so it was beautiful and spectator friendly and the announcer was amazing and everything was perfect! my friend Yumi finished before me and was waiting to give me my medal, which made it even more special! The run was BEAUTIFUL and there was chalk all throughout the course leaving messages for other athletes that gave you something to focus on almost the whole time. what a freaking amazing race!

After the race the post-race food wasn’t great (they had pizza, yogurt, french fries, chips, and fruit.. meh) but it was awesome hanging out by the finish watching all the half and full athletes finishing! i really liked the whole experience and it was an amazingly organized race!! And the Tri-Bike transport experience was incredible- after the race we grabbed our transition bags (they weren’t going to be available to 6pm but luckily they were early and were ready at 5!) and bikes and brought them over to TBT, where they removed the pedals and then you’re all done! so easy!

We finally used our $25 vouchers on Monday after spending a day at the spa (highly recommended for post-race enjoyment!) and we got some celebratory cocktails and dinner at Il Caminetto. SO good! it was nice spending a day in whistler just enjoying and not having the stress of an upcoming race looming! Tuesday was a travel day but our flights weren’t until that evening so we got to spend another day walking around whistler village & got to stop quickly in Vancouver as well. Perfect way to end our trip and it was nice and relaxing!

Cocktails at Il Caminetto

Cliff’s Notes Version: Beautiful hilly course, lots of shade on the run, plan for hot weather, almost 4k feet of climbing on the bike, and gorgeous views 100% of the time. Challenging but highly recommended.

Delicious lunch at The Green Moustache

Combined Half/Full Considerations:

  • Merch is tricky- gotta make sure you get the stuff for the right distance
  • Distance markers on the course are not always super clear which distance they’re for- especially when you have an exhausted brain!
  • The finish line at a full is cooler than the typical half finish line so you get the full experience when doing the half!
  • The course talk takes a little longer so they can explain things for both courses
  • Typically there aren’t changing tents for a half… but when there’s a full you get to take advantage of the super amazing volunteers stripping your wetsuit & helping you transition.