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What I learned in my first 70.3

The first time is always the hardest

In 2018, I did my first half-Ironman at 70.3 Muskoka in July. On the day it was brutally hot, humid and a course that was very hilly on both the bike and run. I went into the race with no major goals other than pushing myself, enjoy my birthday and finishing. Before the race, I’d only done a few sprint triathlons, so 70.3 Muskoka was going to be a learning experience.

What I learned while doing the race was, 1) I love doing triathlons, 2) it’s all about pacing, 3) wearing a hat is a good idea, 4) eating is essential, 5) researching the course is smart and 6) the atmosphere at these races is awesome.

TMC web editor, Cam Mitchell, on the bike course at IRONMAN 70.3 Muskoka. Photo Credit to Finisher Pix.

Related: The new Ironman 70.3 Muskoka run course

I love doing triathlons

Triathlons are awesome. I look at doing a triathlon as a way to push myself and see what I can do. Yes, I’m a competitor, and I want to set goals and accomplish them. I even have dreams of winning, but at the end of the day, those things don’t matter. What matters to me, and I hope others, is the opportunity and joy to go outside and race in not just one sport but three.

It’s all about pacing

It’s a half-Ironman, that’s a long race. It’s not a sprint, so don’t go out hot. In the swim, you have roughly 2K to pick up your pace. Then on the bike, you have 90K, that’s over double the distance of an Olympic distance bike leg. As you go out for the run, remember what you’ve just done, lower your expectations. I learned it’s better to build and finish strong, than going out hot, bonk and ride the wave into the finish.

It’s never a bad idea to got out slower and pick up the pace later. Photo by Liyang Wang

Wearing a hat is a good idea

This one is pretty practical. Wearing a hat protects your face from the sun, but you’re also able to stuff ice and water sponges into your hat at aid stations to help cool down. The cooler your head is, the more relaxed your body will feel and the better you’ll perform.

Eating is important

Eat even if you feel okay, especially on the bike. The bike leg is what sets you up for the run. If you put in a great bike split but didn’t eat as much as you should’ve, you are going to hit a wall halfway into the run. For your information, the wall hurts; it really hurts. Take the time a prepare a nutrition schedule for the bike.

Researching the course is smart

If you have the time, try to do a course recon. By seeing the course beforehand, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Before Muskoka, I did a bike recon but underestimated the run.

The climb after the turnaround point. Photo: Cam Mitchell

The atmosphere at these races is awesome

These longer distance races offer an excellent atmosphere to compete in. Remember, while you’re there to do your best, soak in the environment.

Thankfully, I learned a thing or two at Muskoka and was able to make some adjustments before IRONMAN 70.3 Canada this past weekend. The race in Whistler, despite the challenging course and extreme heat, went exponentially better. I attribute that to reflecting on my first experience and making the changes needed.