My 2017 Niagara Falls Barrelman Experience!

IMG_2647My Apologies for a super late race report, my wife is due with our baby boy any time now and I’ve been slammed with my honey do list, as we prepare lol.

I went into this race with no expectations and was going to finish it even if I had to crawl across the finish line. This was going to be my first ever Half Marathon and the longest race of my life. Here is how it all went down.

To say that my training leading up to this race has been a bit unorthodox, would be an understatement. I have had two 10k running races, five Sprint Duathlons and three 100+ km cycling events this year rounding in a total of 1800 kms on the bike and only 63 kms ran to date. I know for an athlete, these numbers are a giant RED FLAG lol, but as the season got closer and closer to the culmination, I was feeling healthy, injury free and focused. Life has been far too crazy to make the commitment to training that I have in the past, so I really needed to dial in my nutrition if I was to pull off a respectable finish in The Barrelman Bike 86km/ Run 21.1km without hurting myself. I completely switched to F2C Nutrition on June 30th and after two and a half months of fuelling with Glyco-Durance, Ultra-Durance, Electro-Durance and Rehab 3:1 exclusively, I went into this weekend feeling physically ready for the unknown experience that awaited me, despite the obvious lack of preparation.

You better believe that I was questioning my ambitions. I was going to need to be stronger than my mind on this occasion and as I arrived at the race site Saturday afternoon it was all becoming a reality. The Welland International Flat water Centre was booming with excitement! The Venue would play host to the first half of the race for all of the Triathletes, Duathletes and Swim/Bike athletes. Transition area 1 was beginning to fill with bikes, the vendors were busy getting to all of the customers and F2C was crowded with athletes looking to sample the on course nutrition that we would desperately need to endure the long day ahead. I dropped my bike and gear off at the BLADE booth and said hello to Rob and Jessica before heading into the race kit pick up area. As I filled out my waiver, my favourite face appeared out of the corner of my eye. It was John Salt, Multisport Canada Founder and President! You could see the excitement on his face and he looked very confident with the work everyone had put into making this Event come to life for its 4th year. After a warm hug hello and a quick conversation we parted ways. I have and always will dedicate myself to this series, because of that man and the unbelievable level of commitment he has to our sports and bringing us all the best possible experience, event after event. I hope I am able to be at least half the man he is at that point in my life. A true role model.

I went into the building with a game plan. If I buy a Barrelman cycling jersey I will have no choice but to cross that finish line so the jersey won’t have to hang in shame inside the closet lol. It seems silly, but it was a step in the right direction mentally. The kit pick up was super easy, quick and everything was very detailed inside our bags, making the whole experience very calming. Having been a volunteer for the entire morning at the WIFC for the Swim/Bike in 2016, I had noticed some incredible changes that seemed to really speed up everyone’s day. For instance the body marking was no longer an issue, substituting it for easy to apply temporary tattoos. Having been one of the body markers last year I can tell you that even though I was enthusiastic about writing on all of the athletes, my legs did not share my enthusiasm lol. The constant up and down took a toll on all of us and the lines were huge as the athletes waited for us to resurface, which I can only imagine looked something like a group of fish out of water lol. I made my way back to the BLADE booth, put the number stickers in the appropriate spots on my gear and filled both my Run and Dry bags. It took a total of 30 minutes from the time I arrived to get everything I needed to completed. Talk about an easy set up! I had some time before the mandatory meeting and headed over to the F2C Nutrition booth to jump in and start serving samples to everyone. It was great to meet a bunch of the athletes who had flown/drove from all over North America for the race and educate them on what products would be at their disposal on the Bike and Run courses! Fast forward to race morning.

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I arrived to the race site at 7:45am, leaving myself enough time to address any issues before my 9:40 race start. Sure enough as I walked over to my bike in transition, my front tire was flat. After pondering how or why this happened, I borrowed fellow Duathlete Peter Schindler’s pump and pumped it back up, hoping it wouldn’t be an issue later. After about 20 minutes of walking around with my family, I couldn’t shake the thought that the front wheel was going to be a problem if I didn’t address it further. Back to transition I went with my pump in hand and peeled the tire/tube off looking for the issue. It turns out the new tube I had put in had a removable valve core that I hadn’t noticed and it was a few turns loose. Problem solved! We lined up along the fence for the time trial start and were set off in 10 second intervals.

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Fellow BLADE teammate Dempsey Cruz was first off and I was second. I saw him taking his time at the mount line and ran past him leaping onto the bike and put the hammer down to try and get as far ahead as I could before getting swallowed back up by the stronger athletes. I had a bunch of issues on the loop out, with my saddle bag coming loose 4 times and fumbling around trying to fill my hydration system and nearly running the bike into the ditch a few times. For the first 40 Km’s I had forgot about the bigger picture and had a solid ride coming into the half way point with a 35km/h average. I knew I would pay for it later. Dempsey had caught back up at this point and I gave my head a shake. I took it easier on the return, keeping my average closer to 33km/ h and pull into T2 in 13th with a time of 2:33:06 and an average of 33.7km/h for the 86km Bike. I stopped my garmin and it displayed a recovery time of 72 hours haha. Clearly it doesn’t understand I still have a half marathon to go. This is where the fun began.

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I spent what felt like an eternity in T2 , trying to stretch out my entire body and massage my quads that were pulsing with every movement. My wife was kind enough to get a ridiculous picture of me stretching for your enjoyment lol. I finally made my way out of T2 and started a slow jog hoping to loosen things up.

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The first 10km went fairly well. I found myself walk/ running for most of it. It was getting really hot out and I was drinking, eating and shovelling ice down my race kit at every aid station. I’m not sure what happened next but I took the warning seriously. I had been running without problem until my heart rate would hit 180 and then would bring it down with a short walk trying to keep things moving. After that 10.5km mark things changed quickly. I couldn’t bring my heart rate above 160 without feeling dizzy. The heat must have been getting to me, as I was doing everything I could think of properly. I must have used the porta-potty at every aid station on the second lap. I was consuming more fluid and food then I have ever eaten in a race and sweating buckets. I had hit the bike ride time goal I had set for myself, but it was obvious that my proposed 2 hour half marathon was far from reachable on this day. I continued the death march for the last 2.5km to the finish chute and was able to run the last 400m to the finish line to the cheers of my family, crossing in a time of 2:52:42 for the run and 5:35:21 total. Good enough for 19th overall and 4th in my age group! It was a successful day and I finished. I took my hand shake from Jason Vurma, collected my finisher medal and walked towards the finisher hat table. As the volunteer handed me my hat, the tears of joy began to flow. It took me a minute to shut them off as I stared at the falls and collected myself to head over to the after race festivities. I was out of it, to say the least and accomplished what I set out to do!

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We hung around for the beginning of the awards ceremony, indulged in the HERO burger post race food and I had a chance to congratulate the familiar faces before we called it a day. I could see the heat was taking a toll on my very pregnant wife and we made our way back to Welland.

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For someone who’s had a chance to see both sides of this race being a volunteer one year and an athlete the next, I need to congratulate Multisport Canada for putting together a perfect day for us all. The amount of preparation and quick thinking it takes to produce an event of this magnitude is truly impressive. No that I’ve got this long course stuff out of my system, I look forward to the 2018 Sprint Duathlon series to begin in Welland!

A huge thank you to my sponsors and supporters, without you all I would not have the privilege that I do to race, never mind race 11 times in a season. Here’s to 2018!

Sport Chek

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Skechers Performance

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Blade Carbon Wheels

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F2C Nutrition

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County Cycle

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