Ironman 70.3 Victoria: Outta the water smiling! / by Jonas Caruana

I had a great day in Vic! Having shaken the skeletons outta the closet at Shawni, I was looking forward to Vic and beyond that, just excited to have at 'er at my second half-Ironman distance triathlon. I felt fit and – aside from a niggling pain in my left foot – otherwise healthy.


Just one for the whole day: Get outta the water smiling! I know that when I have a good swim, I have a good race. Good swim = good head space. And being in a good head space means I can come out of the water and really capitalize on my strong suit (the bike), which sets me up for a solid run. Of course, there were a series of tactical goals relevant to each leg, but this was the one most important 'metric' of the day: be happy coming out of the water.

I had two different race time scenarios in mind; with only a slight variance in average bike speed differentiating the two. Having ridden the bike course three times beforehand in preparation, I was fairly confident in how it was going to roll:

Race course modifications

We arrived in transition on race morning to the official message that the swim had been shortened. It was to go closer to the island (see map) but apparently, someone hadn't noticed that the weeds had been busy growing up from the lake floor and were so thick that sending everyone swimming through them was not a good idea. So they moved the buoys around a bit to get us clear of the weeds, and set up a 1,500m course.

Now you'd think that I'd be the last person to complain about a shorter swim, but a part of me was a bit bummed out. You sign up for a 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run, and you want to complete the full event. You've been setting yourself up mentally and physically to meet the challenge of those distances. That said, there's no arguing with it, and you race the course of the day, on the day.

The Swim

Get outta the water smiling. That was all I had to do, all I asked of myself, and all I thought about out in the water. I actually enjoyed it. I achieved a balance of about 50% freestyle, 50% breast stroke, which is good for me and heading in the right direction (longer term goal = 100% speedy freestyle). And this picture tells the whole story:

See that cheeky grin on the guy sneaking by at far left? That's the grin of "I did it!" (kept my sh*t together in the water) and "let's riiiide!"

I had a completely different experience in the water in Victoria, as compared to Shawnigan. In Shawnigan, I swam 1,500m in 34:01 and got out of the water mentally and physically rattled. In Vic, I had my head straight and swam 1,500m in 30:19 and came out of the water fresh mentally and physically and ready to rock the rest of the day – game on! This underscores how big a piece the mental game is for me in the swim. A great triathlete needs a strong mental game all race long; for me, it needs to be particularly good in the water.

The Bike

Aero setup, ready to hammer! 

I was so freakin' excited about the bike. Having come out of the water smiling and feeling fresh in mind and body, I was ready to get into aero and push some Watts. Conservative Watts, of course – I was mindful of not pushing too hard; I needed to ride strong but within limits so as to feel good going into the run.

I spent maybe the first 3/4 of the race shouting "passing, Left! LEHHHFT!!". I was cranking and loving it. All that work riding in the aero position in training had left me feeling comfortable and powerful down on the aero bars and things hummed along nicely for the whole ride. I was grateful for every pedal stroke.

Nutrition-wise, I had three bottles all loaded with 1st Endurance EFS to get down. This year I switched to an all-liquid nutrition strategy and it was really working for a few reasons:

  1. It simplified the setup on the bike: no taping gels to the frame or stuffing them in pockets, no messy eating and fiddling with wrappers
  2. Drinking from a straw makes for easier intake: you can sip more frequently, without coming out of aero (less fuss), which means you'll likely be better at staying on top of your nutrition game
  3. You have everything onboard that you need: this meant I could ignore the aid stations completely and just blow right by them (for full-Ironman distances, you'd need the aid stations)

Towards the end of the bike course it was clear that I'd made my way through the masses and was towards the front end of the field. Things were going great.

The Run

I always find the run takes some mental bracing, because I have to leave my rocket ship in transition, put on my runners and start moving about a quarter of the speed. I need to find ways to make the run not boring.

The plan for the run was to negative-split the two laps around Elk & Beaver Lake. First lap: get the running legs under me, find a rhythm. Second lap: lift the pace by a few seconds every kilometre and finish strong.

I got off the bike feeling exactly as I wanted: relatively fresh, strong, and with plenty left mentally and physically for a good run. You know within the first few steps where your body is at, and I felt ready to tackle a half-marathon.

The first lap went well but I could feel my body starting to tighten up and tire out. By the second lap, that niggling pain in my left foot was starting to persist and my average pace was going in the opposite direction than I'd planned. I just kept telling myself to hold on, one foot in front of the other, get around the next bend, get to the next aid station. One segment at a time.

Those last few kilometres hurt. But I'd had a great day and the results showed it.

Final results (adjusted) and takeaways

Made it onto the official shirt!

Overall, I had a great day in Vic and was very happy with my race strategy and execution. I continue to have significant opportunity in the swim (get to 100% freestyle) and on the run (build speed, muscular endurance, form). 

Final times:

  • Swim (1500m): 30:19
  • T1: 2:35
  • Bike (90km): 2:26:34
  • T2: 1:14
  • Run (21.1km): 1:43:40
  • Total: 4:44:22

Now if I were to adjust this for the missing 400m swim to get a comparable half-Ironman time, I'd add 8:04 (4x 2:01/100m - average race swim pace) and get a total time of 4:52:26. Compared to my previous half-Ironman time (the Subaru Vancouver Triathlon in 2014) of 5:09:12 (adjusted), that's about a 17-minute improvement and I am stoked!

Tying these results back to the original goal times, the swim was better than expected ('38:23' adjusted vs. 40:00 target), bike was bang on (2:26:34 vs. 2:26 in the 'better' scenario), but the run was off (1:43:40 vs. 1:35 target). Plenty of room for improvement.

With only six weeks to go until Ironman Canada, I am starting to get really excited! 


People make the party and it wouldn't have been the same without my bestie Juliet coming out in support, who ripped around the course popping up all over the place to yell at me. Thanks Jules! Oh, and did I mention she rode all the way there, and back again? Yes, from Vancouver. Actual, downtown Vancouver.

And to training and racing buddies Ryan, Tom and Travis: it was a blast traveling and racing with you as always – let's do it again soon!