So Ironman 70.3 Muskoka… they say all good things come in pairs so if you want to do the most beautiful yet difficult race this one’s for you.  

Why Muskoka?  Well the main reason for the trip was to actually go fulfill a promise to pester a friend of mine for a few weeks while seeing Canada for the first time. Luckily it just so happened that there was a 70.3 only hour and a half drive away from where she lived and what better way to way to see the country than in lycra and pain. My research into the race showed that it was not a big/high profile race by any means with 700 athletes last year but it was a race nonethe less and was a great opportunity to see one of the most beautiful places in Canada.

As always I arrived a few days before the race to get settled in, jet lag wasn’t an issue for me as the last few days in Dubai was spent getting myself on their time. This was a huge advantage and I really recommend it for big time zone changes. After a 13 hour flight I landed at Pearson Itl in Torronto with the race venue being a 3 hour drive inland to a small town called Huntsville in Muskoka. Thankfully we stayed at my friends trailer most the trip which was halfway between the two and deep in the country.  It was the perfect location, step out the door and youre on a fresh water lake with plenty of forest trails to run,  she warned me that I just needed to keep an eye out for bears when I did... nice!

My only worry leading upto the race was that it was at +400m and having only trained at sea level the higher altitude might prove difficult.  My first run backed this fear up as I felt short of breath, light headed and struggled to hold a decent pace. This faded over a few days as my body became acustomed to the lesser oxygen. If you are planning to do this race id say you need minimum four days to be completely aclimatised and race ready.

The day before the race we did the remaining 1.5 hour drive up to Huntsville for registration and check in before enjoying the arvo on the lake.  The event was really well organised well laid out,  final bike checks done with a free once over by a bike mechanic. Id say this was mandatory as there was acouple of hairy decents! Entering transition I could see there were a few more than the 700 athletes last year… in fact there were 1500 this time around and some strong looking people. I just went about my usual, found my spot and racked before quietly sneaking out.  

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Accomidation wise there was 4/5 places a short ride from transition with some great deals if your staying for longer.  As a thankyou for putting up with me I splurged and booked a room at the Deerhurst resort for the weekend, it’s a bit taxing $$$ wise but is definatly worth it!

Once we got to the room I laid all the gear out and got everything ready. My plan was simple: go hard on the swim, go hard on the bike, and put everything else into the run.  Easy plan and simple to remember but only 1 way to find if it was a half good plan!

My nutrition was the same as always:

  • 1 gel before the swim
  • On the bike I had 2 bottles of water, 1 bottle just plain and 1 with electrolytes mixed with 2 hi5 gels and topped with water and finally 2 GU gels in storage. The gels were reserved for the 35km & 65km mark while the “energy” bottle was to be sipped at throughout the 94km.
  • The run was 2 GU gels and salt tablets

That night we went to one of the many restraunts at the resort and carb-loaded with a few other athletes, thankfully it was a buffet which meant limitless pasta!  Once I felt sufficiently bloated we headed off to bed and it wasn’t until my alarm went off at 4:30 that I woke up.  I felt well rested and started to get ready while munching on some porridge and dancing to the music like an idiot. 

We did the short drive to transition and parked in one of the many designated parking areas, it was only a short walk to transition from where we parked which was great.  There was a dark atmosphere around everyone; there had been a little rain the night before so everything was a bit cold and damp.  I went about preparing my gear: getting the bottles in place, gels in storage with CO2 and tire leavers, shoes clipped in with the elastic holding them up, and my spare hidden under the seat.  Finally I made sure I was in the right gear ratio, the mount line was at the base of a small hill.  I did a few practice mounts the day before to find the right gear to get up easily and after that I was set! 

Once the wetsuit was on we did the 500m walk up the canal/creek to the start.  As always it was a very tense atmosphere, we were set off in waves of 2 age groups with 5 minutes between waves and I was in the second wave with the 30-35 AG. It was now that the nerves hit and they hit hard. I backed off into the corner of my mind and zoned out until our wave was called.  I said my goodbyes and headed off to the water.

SWIM

The swim was a simple course and really well marked out with massive orange buoys every 100m to sight off. It was a deep water start and the water was beautiful. I positioned myself on the front row of swimmers expecting to have a strong swim and be in the front pack.

The gun went and it was eyes to the back of my head for the first 300m to break away. I paired up with one other guy and we swam shoulder to shoulder, it didn’t take long before we were passing the slower swimmers from the wave ahead.  Come the first turn marker I’d made a small gap and was well into the wave ahead and feeling good. Kept a strong pace for the rest of the swim until I was amongst the top 10 swimmers from the first wave in the closing meters of the swim.  Then it was straight out of the water and into the wetsuit strippers which had me out of my wetsuit and on my way before I even said hi.  After a 400m run to transition and a quick change I was ready for the bike.

Ended up finishing the swim in 1st AG and with the 4th fastest time.  Much of the credit goes to swim buddy Michael who knows not of the word “Steady!”

BIKE

Words can’t describe how incredible this course is, so I’m not going to try. What I can say is it was a single 94km loop around one of the big lakes, the first half of the course was spent going through winding country roads surrounded by wilderness with a lot of sharp climbs and descent’s. Whilst the second half of the ride was on open “highways” in the sunshine.  Mostly overlooking the lake while passing through small towns and by some waterfalls. One of which I voluntarily came out of the bars just to take it in for a minute!

This by no means made it an easy course though, with 1250m of recorded climbing I was glad I spent so much time riding the hills and getting comfortable with how the bike and wheels handled which is a MUST DO if you plan to do this race!

I had a great start to the ride and really enjoyed the feeling of a fast pace through the small roads. Ever so slowly I began reel the front guys in, until about 40km where I’d worked up to 2nd place from our 4 waves. A quick stat check at 47km and my power was right on the money.  It wasn’t long after that where I was passed by 4 uber bikers who just flew past!  But from then on it was quiet with no one to be seen.  

Coming into transition I got my feet out of the shoes early and coasted the last 200m downhill to the dismount line, I jumped off the bike and hit the lap button on the garmin, 268W average and a split of 2:41… I was exactly where I wanted to be!  As I ran into transition the PA went off announcing that I was currently in 1st for my AG and 6th back to transition.  A great way to start the run.

RUN

Last but not least the run, similar to the bike there was almost no flat spots.  300m of ascent over 21km it should have been called a climb more than a run.   As soon as I got to the hills I threw all hopes of 4:10/km out the window and it just became a don’t stop kind of run.  My legs felt fine and I felt composed the entire time but it was either straight up or straight down.  I kept to my plan and took 1 salt tablet every 20mins or so which kept the cramps away and a gel at 10km.  Unfortunately while admiring the view my competitor snuck up on me and sped past at the start of the second loop, I gave a big push and we ran together for all of 3km before I was spent.  This 19 year old kid from high school was just on another level! 

It was nice however to run up to a lady on my second lap waring the TriDubai kit! Sorry I didn’t get your name but If your reading this, however brief the chat was it was nice to know I wasn’t alone there and it gave me a little more energy to keep going!

Slowly ticking the Km’s off and downing as much coke as possible in the last 7km I was approaching the end.  I took the turn away for the town with the big finish sign on it, with a huge cheer from the crowd and 1km to go I was headed for the finish.  It was an awesome feeling running down the finish chute having had an amazing race and giving it everything you had and knowing that all the hard work paid off!

I saw the finish tape pulled across the line as the commentator called out 2nd place for 24 & Under and the 14th person over the line before being taken to the medical tent.  That feeling of breaking the tape was something else and I was ecstatic with my performance. On the day the kid that beat me had a better race and I just have to go train harder for next time.

Mitch Kennedy
July 27th, 2017

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