Shawnigan Lake Tri 2016: The Bone Rattler / by Jonas Caruana

The Shawni Lake Tri is a sentimental one for me because it was where I did my first ever solo triathlon, back in 2014. This year, it was a potential event on the race schedule but not a definite. As we got closer and closer to the Victoria Ironman 70.3 (on June 12th), I was getting more and more present to the fact that my last triathlon was the Stanley Park Tri in September of 2014... it had been a while since I'd raced tri, and even though I'd done way more prep in the pool and in open water than ever before... I knew that I just wanted to have a run-through under race conditions before Vic. Because I wanted to have a good day in Vic.

Then my friend and training buddy Ryan gave me the option to join him and his family at Shawni and gave me no reason logistically to say no to doing the race. This is where having great training buddies really helps: they can read between the lines, see what you really need and help you towards achieving your goals. Thanks again to Ryan, Corinne and the kids for having me along for the weekend!

So I really wanted to come back to Shawni, have a great day and clock a big improvement in my time versus two years ago. That competitive need to beat a previous time may ultimately have been what held me back come race time...


Going into the event, I had the best pre-race routine, ever. Ryan and I were up early, out the door ahead of schedule and the first athletes to show up at the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre, where the shuttle buses picked up athletes to take them to the race area. We were among the first to get body marked, had no-wait access to the porta potties (always nice!), and had our gear set up in transition well before the masses arrived and so we avoided being around all that tense, nervous energy. We had plenty of time to pull our wetsuits on and were the first to step into the water for the pre-race warm-up. We swam out to the first buoy, treaded water for a bit and both commented on how relaxed we felt. It was a beautiful day for a race and we felt great.

The Race...

...didn’t go as well as hoped. I had a hard time in the water; just not able to relax, feeling anxious and out of breath. My wetsuit felt tight and constricting. I had flashbacks to Shawni from two years ago, when I completely freaked out 150m into the swim and had to stop, cling onto a paddleboarder for a few minutes and mentally reset. Twice. This time, I kept flipping between two different states of mind: one where I was 'in it' – basically being irrational and getting caught up in the fear of it all; the other where I was observing myself in the third person, being rational and reassuring myself that I was ok and that all I had to do was keep moving and keep breathing. If you are a nervous swimmer you will appreciate just how much of a mind game it is, and how that can translate into your physical state.

Add to that, I'd swallowed a good amount of water and gulped down some air – and needed to burp myself all the way back to my bike in transition! Hey it's an honest race recap ;)

So I didn't stop this year – which was an improvement – but it was still nowhere near the relaxed swim I'd been hoping for. I got out of the water feeling pretty rattled, mentally and physically taxed with my heart rate racing. My nervous system was triggered and I felt short of breath the whole race and never 'settled in'. It took a good 20 minutes for my heart rate to calm down on the bike and even then I still felt in a high state of physiological stress, the shortness of breath continued into the run. It was a very, very uncomfortable race, and not because I was having a great day and pushing the envelope. Oh, and the roads around Shawnigan Lake are as bumpy as ever. So bones were rattled literally and metaphorically!

Heart rate graph from the bike. It took a good 20 minutes for it to calm down.

Heart rate graph from the bike. It took a good 20 minutes for it to calm down.

So, not the day I was hoping for but plenty to learn from. Lots more time in open water required, getting comfortable in that leg is very important to setting up the rest of the race well. I know I have the fitness to do much better.

Other Misses:

  • In T1, I went to put my Rudy Project Wing57 helmet on and the visor / shield popped off. It might have gotten knocked somehow so I stopped, put it back in... and then it popped out again as I was putting the helmet on. No time for games; so I left the shield off and rolled with my regular sunnies instead. I love that helmet (it's super light, so comfortable, and looks badass) but the way the visor attaches needs a re-design
  • Not having a racing hat for the run. This will sound really silly but I couldn't find a trucker that I liked so I thought I'd try racing without any head gear. Definitely race with something on your head – for no other reason than it keeps the sweat out of your eyes


T1: wetsuit off, helmet on and go! T2: helmet off, socks + shoes on, grab race belt + sunnies and go!

There were plenty of things that went right:

  • Nutrition strategy: one bottle of 1st Endurance EFS on the bike plus a few mouthfuls of water from aid stations on the run. That was plenty and I never felt like lack of energy was a thing holding me back
  • Executed the 'flying mount' and dismount in transitions: when you have your shoes already clipped into the bike, you basically do a running jump onto your bike and it allows for the speediest exit from T1, and the speediest entry into T2. I've also eliminated any decision making in transitions and reduced the number of steps involved with getting in and out as much as I can. Transition game is tight!
  • Lots of Body Glide on the lower legs to help getting the wetsuit off. Worked great
  • Garmin Edge on the bike (alongside Forerunner watch on my wrist): simply easier to see key data (power, time, average speed) at a glance, on a bigger screen, right in between my arms on the aerobars
  • First race on an actual triathlon bike: the Trek Speed Concept is a beauty of a machine and I'm comfortable staying down in the aero position the whole time

Perhaps the biggest win was that it was still fun. I really love triathlon; putting all those three legs together along with the transitions. I came across the line smiling and feeling victorious.


Shawni served its purpose. That being – in the context of the race schedule for the year – as a dress rehearsal before heading to Ironman 70.3 Victoria. Prior to Shawni, it had been 21 months since my last triathlon. I am very happy to have gotten this one under the belt before Vic. I've shaken the skeletons out of the closet and am looking forward to having a great day in Vic.

Final times:

  • Swim: 34:01
  • T1: 2:20
  • Bike: 1:14:35
  • T2: 1:35
  • Run: 46:47
  • Total: 2:39:18


All smiles post race: it's still fun!

All smiles post race: it's still fun!