Johnathan's Muskoka 70.3 - A Decade in the Making

Muskoka 70.3 – A Decade in the Making

My triathlon career has been a challenge.  My first ever half-ironman run in 2006 was the fastest of my career.  Like many people I’ve spent the last 11 years having huge expectations on myself only to fall short of them on race day.  If I’m being honest with myself, I have over-ridden every single race I have participated in.  I can tell you, there were times when I wanted to quit and give up and honestly, there were years where I did quit and give up.  In the last two years, I’ve made some huge lifestyle changes to try and give myself the best chance of achieving my athletic goals.  Last year felt somewhat disappointing as I really didn’t have any races that I could look back on and say I got it right.  So for me, Sunday July 9th was not just a race, it was a revelation.

Race Week

Having raced Syracuse only 3 weeks ago, I was able to remember the little things about how I was feeling.  As the week went by, I noticed my body feeling more and more in-tune and I was recovering really well from the hard training over the past 12 days.  I also felt a real calm about myself leading up to this race, something I hadn’t really felt before.  There weren’t a lot of nerves more a quiet confidence.  Having been through race week many times in the past, this one just felt a little bit different and I was excited for what the day would bring.

The Morning

In years past, I would eat a lot of food at 3am trying to do something different than what I do every single Wednesday and Saturday when I go out for long/hard training days.  This year I decided to eat the same thing I always eat.  So up I got and at 3 chia muffins (my daughter and I make them together in the mornings, these ones were made a bit before the race) with Almond butter.  I had a bad cup of coffee and a bottle of Skratch Hyper Hydration Mix (1700mg of sodium) and off I went to race site.  Got there nice and early and good thing because the porta-potty line was slower moving than usual and I really didn’t have a lot of extra time.  All good though, no time to think about what I was about to do!  I had a great walk down to the swim start with Jon Morton (NRG athlete) and we talked about how I keep waiting for the ‘magical’ day when my run legs that sometimes are there in training show up for a race.  Maybe today was the day!!!

The Swim

Swimming in the first wave is nice, nothing to really worry about.  I started out wide to the right as I know I’m a solid swimmer and I didn’t need to fight with people and start out too hard.  Took the first stretch to get into a great rhythm of swimming.  As we made the turn to come back down the channel, you could feel the difference and things slowed down a bit.  I focused on swimming smooth and efficiently and taking a good line down the channel so I wasn’t swimming any extra distance.  When I exited the water I figured I was in a pretty good spot because there weren’t too many people around. There was no clock so I just took it for what it was, got my wetsuit stripped off and headed to transition.  I did my usual rough wetsuit count in transition and it looked like I was right, good swim couldn’t see more than 10 wetsuits around (I was in fact 9th out of the water with a time of 33 min….slow swim for everyone).

The Bike

As I got on my bike, I thought about one thing and one thing only….be smart for the first 15km of this ride because it is the hardest.  I had a goal range of 200-210w for the bike ride.  I knew that if I rode this power correctly, I would have some good speed.  It is less than I have ridden in the past, but I’d leaned down this year and have been really focusing on getting more aero on the bike.  The first 10km or so are net uphill so trying to hit my target was going to take real focus.  I kept telling myself, you can’t win the race right now but you sure can lose it.  I got to the end of Brittania and I was at 210w average….PERFECT!

Now on to the dreaded Dwight Beach Road.  At this point I was feeling pretty good about myself and how well I was on top of things.  And then…..BAM off goes one of my two bottles which was Skratch Hyper Hydration Mix (a new thing for me trying to take in a lot more sodium).  Now I’m down to one bottle and no back up salt.  I took a minute and said to myself, OK what do I do here.  I decided to relax, it wasn’t too hot out and take a bottle of Gatorade from the next aid station to try and get a bit more sodium than just gels and water.  Problem solved.

There weren’t many people around on the ride given I was the first wave.  I had one guy blow buy me on a lot of hills early on and then I would catch him on the downhill sections (I must admit, I looked down to see if he had a power meter and he didn’t…..I knew he was in trouble).   As we turned onto hwy 117 (where the race flattens out a bit) we were right with each other.  I put my head down and focused on my numbers and within 5 minutes I couldn’t even see him behind me……I guess he overcooked the hills.  Now we are halfway through the bike and my legs felt….nothing.  That’s new.  Usually by now I’m counting down the 5k markers going by.  I was able to keep a really steady pace and keep my average power where it was.  I had to double check I hadn’t gone of course a few times as I couldn’t see anyone ahead or behind me.  It kind of felt like a training ride.  In the last 25k or so the work started to build a little bit in the legs but nothing unmanageable.  I was still able to hit my numbers up the hills, in the flats, etc.  Heading into transition I was looking at around 2:40 on the bike which is about what I had expected this ride to be given the hills and the added length. 


So my typical race has me going into T2 praying that everything is OK.  This time was pretty much the same.  I got my shoes on, put on my hat and watch and started heading out.  There was a guy right behind me coming out of transition.  I started off running by feel and it felt really easy.  I looked down and I was running 4:15/km.  My race plan said 4:30-4:35 so I was ahead of this but I honestly felt like the numbers were reasonable so I held the pace.  Given I haven’t actually run a half marathon in 10 years, the race plan number was just a guess anyways!  I turned my head around at 1km to see if the guy was still behind me and he was.  The old version of me would have slowed down, let him go by and taken on a defeatist attitude.  Today was different.  Today, nobody was going to pass me on the run.  I saw Nigel and he said I looked good, I told him I finally got this right.  I just kept the pedal down and kept on running.  I thought back to a run off the bike with Gord Henderson about a month ago where he pushed me from behind and I ended up down at 4:05/km.  I knew I had it in me, I just needed to get it out.  As I passed through 10k, Nigel told me now was the time to step on it….little did he know, I already was.  I just kept going as best I could.  In the last 3km I slowed down a bit in the final few hills.  This is about the only thing all day that I wish I had done differently, I think I could have gone after it a bit more at the end and held the pace but that’s why there’s a next time! 

As I headed past the 20km marker, I had this sense of relief that can only come when you want something this badly for so long and then finally get it.  The run ended in 1:32….a 5 minute PB!

The Finish

I finished the day in 4:51, 14th overall (once you take out the relay participants) and 4th in my age group.  It was my first time on the podium in a WTC race and something I won’t soon forget.  As soon as I got to the finish line, I started thinking about Ironman Mont-Tremblant in 7 weeks and finally thinking to myself: I can do this. 

When you battle with something for 11 years you end up with a lot of people that impact the result.  A huge thanks goes out to Nigel.  I’m sure he’s wanted to kick me more than once for the way I have raced but his support and encouragement have always been there.  Brandon has been riding me all season to get my ass in gear and he all but forced me to do this race – thank you!  All of my friends who I spend hours of my life in spandex alongside: Tim R, Tim L, Rob, Dushan, John K, Ken, Chad, Cary, Kerry, Andy, James, Scott (I’m sure I’m missing some)… guys are what make it a joy to get up and do this crazy sport day after day, year after year.  It will be no surprise to anyone that I can’t even put in words how much the support of my wife Laura means to me.  I have the easy part in all of this.  Not only does she look after our two girls while I’m out doing this sport, but she is the one who pushes me to be better than I think I can be.  She is always there when I need her on a bad day and often pushes me out the door to train when I don’t feel like going.  Without her, this just wouldn’t be possible.

Now that the monkey is off the back, it’s time for the next one!

The Podium Picture!!