This is the only triathlon course I have re-raced and with good reason. Victoria is one of the friendliest, most easily navigated, most picturesque places you could ever swim-bike-run. If open water swims are terrifying for you, this may not be your favorite race; but the run more than makes up for that.
Not only that, Americans score big for this year. CAD to USD, this 70.3 ended up running about $250 bucks, well below any 70.3 stateside.
I had a horrible race, but that was my own fault and not Victoria's, so I fully intend on repeating Victoria for years to come.
Start/End Location: Elk Lake, Vancouver Island BC Canada
Aid Stations: Stocked with water, Gatorade, Red Bull, Cola, Clif bars and blocks, bananas, pretzels, ice chips
Terrain: Lake swim, open course bike with some bumpy pavement at times, hard-packed trail run
Parking: Plenty, with shuttles constantly running from Beaver Lake (south of Elk Lake)
Note-worthy Course Details
The swim is a rolling start, self-ceded based on projected swim time. This means there’s no break in between groups of people going in the water. Expect more chances for feet and hands touching you. In 2016 this was a disaster. Elk lake has more space, however, so it was far less of an issue in 2017. I still don’t care for it.
There are several turns on the bike that then go uphill. The slowing for a turn just to gain elevation can burn out the quads if that hasn’t been practiced.
The big hill that you see on the map isn’t the hard one. From the top, you coast down allowing the legs to relax, slow to a sharp left turn, and have to start a shorter but steeper climb. You’ll say curse words on that one, I promise you.
Weather: The bike course is about 50% shaded and weather usually sits at partly cloudy and mid 60’s during this weekend (it has the past 3 years) so it can take a bit to warm up post swim. Arm warmers on the bike and taking them off on the run seems to be the perfect balance to not be overheated or too chilly.
The run is trail and 80% shaded. Road shoes will work fine as it’s hard-packed trail, but I prefer my trail shoes for this race to avoid slipping and eating extra energy when I’m already tired.
Wetsuit: Blue Seventy Fusion. It’s ok. I don’t have anything to compare it to so I can’t say if it’s great or not.
Tri Top and Shorts: Zoot. Also just okay. I prefer Wattie Ink in Fit and pocket design.
Headgear: Rudy Project Tralyx. The earpieces are so flexible that they never hurt my head (a common problem for me)
Bike: Cannondale Slice with ISM PN 2.1 Saddle. I hate this saddle.
Cycle Shoes: Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Carbon. They run small and hurt my feet. I would adore them if they fit properly, though.
Hydration: Speedfil with GQ-6 Flooid + Energy (user failure)
Fuel: Munkpack, Huma Gel, Nature’s Bakery, Clif bar, bananas (aid stations)
Socks: Only on the run, Swiftwick Aspires. Wouldn’t wear much else.
Shoes: Topo Athletic MT-2 with Lock Laces
Bib Belt: Amphipod. It’s been a tried and true bib belt for 3 years now, as it also holds fuel easily.
Misc: Rock Tape H20 on the foot arch for added support. It likes to cramp in the water, so I wanted to avoid that. I wore a Reebok Spartan Race sports bra. It’s thin with light support but works great under tight triathlon gear and dries super fast.
I went into this 70.3 with it as a “fun run” after needing a little more recovery post Ultrabeast that cut into training. I knew this wasn’t going to be a PR or AG placement, but I didn’t foresee me making such bonehead moves this weekend!
The swim is far more intimidating when it’s such a straight line out and back (unlike Beaver Lake’s course in 2016), but I managed to only get minor kicks and hits. Fairly early on, I jammed my finger on a guy’s foot, but it felt back to normal by the time I was out of the water. Swimmers are so spread out, I hugged the line of the buoys as I swam and managed to not get too disoriented (I panic fairly easily in the water).
So… Let’s back up a couple days.
Getting into Victoria on Friday, I decided to head straight for the lake and bike the big hill just to remind the legs what they have to do. It was as I was taking the bike off the rack that I realized I hadn’t emptied the water out of my Speedfil, and that it had GQ-6 in it still. Moldy straw, bottle, and all. AWESOME.
Needless to say, the first thing I did when getting to my Air BnB was get that sucker in the sink with hot, soapy water. It sat for the rest of the day and the next day I cleaned it out. It seemed fine. I tossed it back on the bike and dropped her off in transition.
Back to race day.
The first 20 miles (hour 1) was such a whirlwind of cyclists trying not to get penalties for drafting each other as we go over rolling hills, hug shoulders of the open course, and try to warm up in the chilly shade that I completely forgot to drink. After passing the first water station my lack of hydrating had occurred to me and I went to take a big swig, only to veer a little and spit out my water.
Soap. I just drank soap.
HOW?! I cleaned that sucker SO thoroughly! In the meantime, I had my camelback water bottle ready for me on the frame. The mouth piece had half popped off and wasn’t working, dumping water all over me. GREAT. My overly-priced water bottle back up was a dud.
Another 15 miles to the next aid station, I stopped fully to empty a new bottle of water into my Speedfil, get back on the bike and go, hoping to keep my pace and come in just under 3 hours. Big swig.
SOAP. Now I was having to discuss with myself:
Do I not drink water and risk dehydration?
Do I drink the water and risk soap poisoning?
Is that a thing?
I sucked and spit it all out to lighten my load and hoped for another aid station soon. Stopping fully at the next aid station I took up two water bottles trying to clean out my Speedfil, filled it, and road on, losing my pace at this point.
The soap must have soaked into corners or the soft rubber of the straw. That was it. I couldn’t drink out of this thing. Sucked and spit it all out, I road empty.
The final water station, I grabbed a bottle to have a few sips before having to chuck it at the “last trash” line and off I went to finish the course and get on the run.
At least my food was on point.
There’s not much to say about this run. I adore the beautiful course, the friendly chatters, the spectators that are along the whole way, and the peppy volunteers; but I was a wreck and accepted that.
The first lap I was fighting myself just to not keel over in stomach pain from being so empty and dehydrated. The second lap was a fight between feeling like I needed to dry-heave and pass out from being light headed. I had to walk a lot, use other walkers/runners as help to keep me moving, and tell myself, “You have all day to finish and this is the best part of this course. Keep. Moving. Forward.”
This race was completely foiled by myself. Sometimes that's just how it goes. Every race isn't always in our control, but when it is and we screw up, we learn. I 100% believe I won't be making a foolish mistake like that again, but I also learned what I can and can't do when something like no water occurs.
Sometimes plan B is to just finish.
Plan B accomplished.