Thursday, 15 March 2018

2018 UBC Triathlon

The 2018 race season started off great with the Pacific Road Runner's First Half Marathon. Following that momentum, the 2018 UBC Triathlon was even better.

Having already had my bike and helmet inspected earlier in the week (mandatory for this race), I headed straight to transition. 

The race guide said to be at transition 75 minutes before your wave start.  My wave start was at 7:00 am.  It was now 5:45 am and there were only 2 other people here. At least I was on time.

Before heading into transition, I asked if I could get my race wrist band replaced.  When it was put on at package pick up earlier in the week, it was not tight enough for my liking.

After the wrist band was sorted I headed into transition.  It was first come, first serve.  I picked out a spot along the back fence close to the bike in/out. 

As I set up my transition, I chatted with the few other early birds.  Most were doing their first triathlon and had alot of good questions.  I answered them and told them to just have fun. 

The guy beside was doing his first triathlon with the goal of doing an Ironman.  I told him that was my goal as well and asked him which Ironman.  He said he was signed up for Ironman Canada in Whistler in July.  Whistler is not an easy course whatsoever. I told him it was great he signed up, but to be ready for a tough day. I did the 70.3 last year and just the Half Iron distance was difficult enough. He smiled and said he was aware, but he wanted to do a local race.

After I was happy with my setup, I did a walk through of transition.  I walked from the swim entrance to my bike, did a mental walk through of swim-to-bike, walked to bike out, made note of the mount and dismount line, walked back to my bike, and then walked to run out.  Satisfied that I knew exactly where to go in transition, I triple checked my gear and made my way to the pool.

I walked along the path I'd be taking to get from the pool to transition. Once at the pool, I took off my outer layers, placed my gear in a locker, and made my way onto the pool deck. 

Being a pool swim, this race is set up a bit different.  You began in one corner of the pool, swam to the end of the lane, turned, swam back, then ducked under the rope into the next lane, and so on. The swim was still 1500 meters (1.5k), so once at the other corner, we had to jump out and jump back in at lane 5 and swim half the pool again to get the last 500 meters in.

Upon exiting the pool, you went outside.  Here you had a choice, go straight to Transition 1 (T1), or use the change tent just outside the pool.  Last year (when racing the Sprint), I used the change tent due to the temperature outside.  Although this year it was not raining, it was still cold.  I opted for the change tent. 

During package pickup, we were provided with a 'wet bag.' This would be handed to us as we exited the pool before the change tent.

In my wet bag I put a towel, a long sleeve cycling thermal, socks, my running shoes, gloves, a cover for my neck/face, and a pair of thermal tights (rolled up and tied off with easily broken strings to help when putting them on while wet).

I dropped off my wet bag and made my way to check in.  I checked in, got my body marking, and my timing chip.  It was 6:40 am.  The race guide said to be on the pool deck 40 minutes before your heat start.

Once again, only a handful of people were on time.

Another athlete who was on time was my friend and Coach Powell Teammate Ann, who would unknowingly become added motivation for my race.  Don't let Ann pass you. 

Coach Powell was on the upper observation deck and happily snapping pictures and giving us some last minute encouragement.  

Soon the race officials called us over for the pre-race briefing.  It was all the usual info, if someone taps your toes, let them pass at the wall, no drafting on the bike, helmets must be fastened, etc. 

We were asked to line ourselves up according to our estimated start times.  After some shuffling, we got into an order we though accurate. 

This heat was the Olympic Group A and they were fantastic! Everyone was extremely encouraging and fun. This would continue throughout the entire race (as you will see).  

The Swim

With Heat A all lined up, it was now time to start the race.  The horn blew and the first athlete entered the pool.  As soon as one athlete started swimming, the next athlete had 10 seconds to walk across a timing mat then enter the pool.  Then, when the race official gave word, they would start and the process repeated.

As soon as the athlete in front of me started, I quickly walked over the mat and entered the pool.  The race official said go a bit sooner than I would have liked, so I probably had a few seconds added to my time as I gathered myself. 

The first 50-100 meters went smooth.  Down to the end, turn, up, under the ropes, and repeat. 

Around 150 meters I could feel my heart rate start to spike. This happens from time to time on the swim.  I knew all I had to do was focus on my form and breathing and it will go away. It also helped that at this point I had caught up some slower swimmers and was forced to slow down. 

I gave them a tap on the feet and one by one, I was passing people constantly.  I soon myself in what looked like 3rd.  

At each end, I would slap the wall before ducking under the rope.  The race officials made it clear we had to touch the wall for the lap to count.  I wanted to make it obvious.  Each time I did this, I could hear Coach Powell yelling encouragement. 

At about 800 meters, an athlete with an orange cap came out of no where and passed me easily. He was either late, or really underestimated hims time. I did not let it phase me. I had my own race to run.

I was soon at the end.  There was a ladder a few meters from the wall, but the race officials made it clear to go the wall first.  I went to the wall, but did not use the ladder.  I just pulled myself onto the pool deck and I was out.

I walked to the middle lane of the pool, hopped in, and began again. 500 meters to go. 

With about 400 meters left to go, I felt a tap on feet.  Once at the wall, I let the athlete behind me pass.  He thanked me as he turned.

I gave him a few seconds then pushed off. I could have caught back up with him to pass, but I decided not to.  There was only 400 meters left to go and pushing hard to stay ahead of him would have expended to much energy.  So I caught a draft and eased off all the way to the end.

As we approached the wall, I noticed an athlete go straight to the ladder without touching the wall.  As I swam past I shouted to him, "Touch the wall! Touch the wall!"  I did not want him to get out only to have to jump back in to touch the wall. 

I got out of the pool and made my way outside to the change tent.  A volunteer was there with my wet bag ready. IT WAS COLD.

In the change tent, others from Heat A chatted about the swim.  I was happy with my swim time. Much faster than I thought.  Someone remarked that for such a fast swim, I was not breathing heavy. I told them that the swim is my warm up, the bike is my best, and that I suck at the run.  I joked that at some point, everyone there would pass me on the run.

I proceeded to dry off, put on my thermal gear, and slip my running shoes on. I put on my gloves and neck cover while on my way to T1 to save time. I also took this time to take a gel.  Breakfast of Champions.

It was very easy to find my bike.  I slipped off my running shoes and placed them with my run gear for T2.  I put on my helmet, my bike shoes, and my sun glasses and was on my way.

I walked to the mount line, mounted up and was off! 

The Bike

The course was new this year and way better. I had a blast on the bike. 

The beginning of the bike was a gradual uphill on East Mall.  I took this time to ease into the bike and get some water. 

At the end of East Mall the course began a gradual downhill to a roundabout. Then it took the first right onto 16th Avenue and down a hill. 

I took the roundabout and the hill more conservatively than usual just to feel out the course. There were 4 laps, plenty of time to to speed up. 

At the bottom of the hill, I took the turn easily and pushed on the first 180 degree turn around.  

Once at the turn around, I realized that I had been singing Stan Bush out loud. 

Doubling back to 16th, the course did a crossover onto the other side of the divided road.  I saw a couple of athletes in front of me slow down and take the turn very tight.  The roadway was wide enough to swing far the left and take the S turn at speed.  And that is what I did. Wide left, cut right, wide left.  This spit me out right on the back wheel of the 2 other athletes ahead of me. I dropped into my aero bars and passed them with ease.

As I passed people in Heat A, I could hear them encouraging me as I flew by.  Have I mentioned how awesome Heat A was?

I went on a recon ride the Sunday before the race and noticed quite a number of potholes just past the SW Marine Dr Viewpoint.  I emailed the race director and they assured me it would be well marked for safety.

And it was.  As I made my way down to the mine field of potholes, each and every one had at least 3-4 bright orange cones in front of it.

The road from UBC to the turn around is a long gradual downhill.  This in conjunction with being in the aero position as much as possible helped ensure I was making good time.

Soon I was at the second 180 degree turn around. There was a bit more room on this one to start out wide, cut tight, and exit wide.  Just one problem.  Right at the apex of the turn around was a road reflector.   As I was making my turn, my back wheel caught it, and I almost went down. As I passed the med/aid station tent, I warned them about the reflector.

As I made my way back toward UBC and up the long false flat, I warned some other riders about the reflector.

I could now see more of the Heat A athletes I had met on the pool deck. We exchanged encouragement as we passed.

I soon saw Ann zooming along the other side of the course.  We each cheered as we flew past one another.

Don't let Ann catch you.  While I knew at some point she would, it was still good motivation while I was ahead.

Soon I was back at 16th and making the turn to climb up the hill.  I changed to an easier gear and tried to maintain the same perceived effort as on the flats. At the top, it was a left turn in the roundabout to end up back on East Mall.

This part of East Mall was still an uphill until you passed Stadium Road.  Once the road and my heart rate began to dip down again, I grabbed a gel and some water. This seemed the best spot to take a gel, It was the end of a lap, my heart rate would be dropping, and it meant I could get the 4 gels needed for my time on the bike. I coasted down the hill to the 3rd 180 degree turn and the end of my first lap.

This turn was much wider than the others. It needed to be as this was also where the mount/dismount line was.  I made sure to check for any athletes entering the bike course from transition before making my turn to begin my second lap.

(That is not me, but it shows the lap turn around)
It was now onto lap 2. After the gradual uphill along East Mall, I took the downhill, the roundabout, and the hill down 16th much faster.  I now knew the course and felt comfortable kicking it up a notch. Bam!

I also began to wait longer before slowing down on the 180 degree turn arounds. By the time I got to the second turn around, the race officials had covered the road reflector with a cone. As I rode by I thanked them.

I could see the others from Heat A at the same distance behind me, except Ann.  She was gaining. Ann is a much stronger biker and runner than me. It was inevitable that she would catch me, but I still liked the motivation.

I made my way back up the long false flat and back to the hill on 16th.

Then is was business as usual to finish off lap 2. I got my heart rate down, took on some fuel, and was ready for lap 2.

Lap 3 was business as usual as well. I kept up my speed, was smart on the turn arounds, dodged the potholes, and was soon climbing the hill on 16th again.

At this point the duathlon athletes were out on their first run leg.  I heard a cheer from the run course up and to my left.  I looked up and saw an elite athlete I have met at Cultus Lake last year.

His name is Allen Fossheim. During Cultus Lake, I was suffering through an ankle injury.  After completing his race, he stuck around to cheer on those still running.  He encouraged me to keep going and finish the race. I did just that.

Now to see him again, cheering on athletes he did not know, was a great feeling.

Once at the top of the hill and onto East Mall for a third time, an athlete passed me and asked if I was at Cultus Last year.  He remembered me!  We had payed leap frog on some hills at Cultus.

On the third turn around, I saw my friend Stuart cheering me on.  He was doing the super sprint race later in the day and was there to cheer me on. Jen was there cheering as well, but I missed her.

On lap 4 I thought about pushing harder but knew I had a 10k run ahead of me.  With my run being my weakest, I decided to keep the same bike pace to conserve for the run.

Half way up East Mall on lap 4, it happened.  Ann passed me. Ann is a great team mate, always encouraging those around her. She gave some of that encouragement as she passed. I felt good about holding my own until lap 4.

The athletes of Heat A continued to encourage each other knowing that we were all on our last lap.

Soon I was at the turn around.  I almost missed the turn into the dismount line but read the sign just in time.

I dismounted and made my way to T2.  Jen walked along side me asking how it went.

I racked my bike, switched shoes, grabbed my race belt, and traded my helmet for a visor.  I walked to the run start and was ready to go!

The Run

The start of the run was uphill and I really wanted to walk it.  I also wanted to make sure I had a good run.  So I ran up the hill slowly keeping my cadence high.

My pace was very slow, but this was fine.  I wanted to ease into the run.

The run course took us down the Main Mall Greenway towards the football stadium.

The first aid station was at Stadium Road.  The volunteers were saying "Gatorade and Water!" I asked for one of each,  Turns out, they had already mixed the water with the Gatorade, something I usually do on my own.  They knew what they were doing.

Just past the aid station was a hill up to East Mall.  I walked a bit up this hill. Once at the top, the course took a trail that rose above and ran along the bike course. This was were Allen had cheered us on during the bike.

I took his lead and encouraged those still on the the bike course as they climbed the hill up 16th.

We ran around the UBC Gardens and football stadium and soon I was back at the aid station.  I asked if it was the only one.  Turns out it was. "In that case, make it a double!"

I thanked the volunteers and was on my way back up the Main Mall Greenway.

Along this section, some of the faster Heat A runners were coming out for their second lap.  Many offered up encouragement while some even gave the occasional high five or fist bump.

Have I mentioned how awesome the athletes in Heat A were yet?

Allen came down this section as well and he recognized me.  In true Allen fashion, he was all encouragement.

I made my way back to the start of the run, but had to do a short out-and-back to the fountain at Memorial Road before starting lap 2.

At the turn around, my transition neighbor FLEW past me.  He was almost done with his second lap and his race.  If he performs like this at Ironman Whistler, he will crush it.

The volunteer at the turn around was extremely encouraging.  We chatted a bit as I rounded the fountain.  I told him I'd see him soon.

I turned left to head back down to transition before starting my second lap. Stuart was there sheering me on again.

My pace had steadily increased during lap 1 and I continued to speed up on lap 2.

I made my way down the Main Mall Greenway with more Heat A high fives and fist bumps.

At Agronomy Road, Allen was coming back from his loop.  He stopped to give me a hug and some words of encouragement. This meant alot to me.  An elite athlete taking precious seconds away from his race to hug and encourage the likes of me!  It solidifies my love for this sport.

His last words to me before we each ran on were, "I'll see you at the finish line."

After another double at the aid station I made my way up the hill on Stadium Road. I passed another athlete who was walking and gave her some encouragement. She asked me if I was on my second lap.  When I told her yes she replied laughingly, "Damn you!"

I replied, "Don't worry. Soon you will be on your second lap and someone on their first will be damning you."  We each had a laugh as I made my way up the hill.

Once again taking Alan's lead, I encouraged the cyclists making their way up the hill on 16th.

I took a few more short walk breaks on lap 2 only because I was near the end and starting to subconsciously push.

Soon I was back at the fountain turn-around. The volunteer there remembered me and cheered me on.

I made the left turn down the hill towards transition.  The hill in combination with the finish in sight made me run faster to the end.

I saw Stuart and Jen as I rounded the corner to the finish.

I heard my name as I crossed and it was all over.

After I stopped my watch and received my medal, I looked up to see Allen waiting for me.

"I told you I'd see you at the finish line!"  He had waited for me to finish!  I thanked him profusely for the encouragement both at Cultus Lake and here.  We chatted for a bit and got to know each other better as Ann walked up and congratulated me too.  We had a great time chatting at the finish.

After giving Jen a run down of the day and thanking her for coming, I went to get my gear out of the locker at the pool.

I then stuck around to watch another Coach Powell athlete finish her sprint distance swim.

After cheering, I made my way to transition to collect the rest of my gear. There I chatted with a few others collecting their gear.

I made it a point to find the race directors and let them know that I thoroughly enjoyed the new course.

Swim:  0:33:20
T1:       0:09:09
Bike:    1:37:47
T2:       0:02:49
Run:     1:12:17
Total     3:30:20

Although my time was not my best, I am still very happy with it.  I was 30 minutes over my best time overall, 30 seconds over my best in the swim, 14 minutes over my best time on the bike, and 12 minutes over my best time on the run.  But the swim was a pool swim that included an exit and the transition setup was very different.  All in all, given the day, the weather, the setup, and all the factors, 30 minutes over is not bad at all. A great first triathlon for 2018.

Just a reminder that all my 2018 races are benefiting The Alzheimer's Society of BC.

The donation page can be found here. As of right now, we have raised $520!

The next race will be the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon!


  1. Great race report Joe, thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Awesome report Joe. Really looking forward to your 2018 season!