Niagara Barrelman Race Report: Sept. 20, 2015
By Ruth Calman, Sarah Hamadi, Lars Jorgensen, and John Selles
Year two of the Barrelman half-iron race was touted as having many improved features from the inaugural 2014 race and we can attest to at least weather improvements from both 2014 and one day prior to the race. Despite rain and very heavy winds on Saturday, the Sunday race day dawned clear, sunny and much less windy. Air temperature was about 15 degrees at the time of the swim start –9 am.
Pre-race: We all stayed in Niagara and checked our bikes into T1 the day before the race. On race day there were shuttles from Niagara to Welland. As T1 and T2 were separated, there was use of bags for post-race clothes, wetsuit and running kit. A bit more pre-planning required, but it all worked out ok. The only downside was that you couldn’t set up T2 and had to pull everything out of a bag.
T1 and 2K Swim: T1 and the swim were in the newly created Welland Flatwater Centre. Thank-you Pan Am!! Winds were quite light in the morning so the swim was in reasonably warm and relatively flat water. Water temperature was 21 degrees. With five waves of swimmers, none of the waves were too crowded and the rectangular course was very well marked for sighting. Ropes connecting buoys were found and followed by one or two people in the group for part of the swim. Swim exit worked well and run up to transition was short. Having a grandstand with cheering spectators was an extra bonus. All in all great swim conditions in a beautiful venue. Ah, and in addition to port a potties there was a warm inside washroom available for those in the know.
89k Bike: We all started out thinking we would have personal bests on the bike and that an Olympic future was still possible but it turned out that we had amazing tail winds to start. John started out at 42k per hour in the first k but this turned out to be a problem when he hit the first corner. Having had to adjust his brakes for a wheel that had gone out of true when his bike toppled on the way down to the race (a different story), John was unable to slow fast enough to negotiate the first turn and went down scraping his hand and knee. More at the end about this but suffice at this point to say that he was back on the bike in speedy John style and able to finish.
Lars laid down an amazing close to 35k per hour ride despite the fact that the tail winds were short-lived and headwinds were part of the ride which consisted of a loop in the Welland area before heading to Niagara Falls. The route itself was quite beautiful by local standards with lovely farmland, lily pad covered canals, and scenic views of Lake Erie and the Niagara River all in beautiful morning light. Lars missed most of the scenery but at her considerably slower pace Ruth was able to take it all in though she did forget more than once that she was supposed to be racing!! There were a few sections of bumpy road, but nothing to really complain about as they were quite short. Bike course was very well marked in terms of directions, pot holes and rough sections to avoid with helpful police officers guiding us through intersections.
T2 and 21.1K Run: Finding your transition spot and run bag in T2, a transition area you had never seen before, was made easy by the very helpful volunteers who were also happy to direct you to port- a-potties should these be required.
The run was a double loop with quite varied scenery and terrain which helped to make it feel shorter than it was. There were a fair number of shaded treed sections, some open sunny sections and for part of it you were running past the casino on a smooth but cobblestoned paved walkway with people milling about and staring but plenty of room to run and volunteers clearing a path. The highlight though was running by the Niagara Falls where you were lucky enough to get misted by the light spray as you enjoyed the view. Each loop had one very short but somewhat steep hill and one slightly longer gradual hill but time was easily made up on the downhill section and it was great that the finish was flat and slightly downhill. Fellow participants were very positive, in great spirits and demonstrated great sportsmanship and camaraderie throughout the run, especially on the uphills, which Sarah in particular really appreciated. The camaraderie continued after the race as well where some of us had the opportunity of introducing ourselves to athletes with whom we had just run.
The Finish Area and Swag Report: Beautiful finish area by the Niagara River and, in addition to the t-shirt that we received for entering the race, Finishers received a medal and a finisher’s cap. Also a good day for race results for all participating U of T athletes with Lars achieving a PB for the half ironman distance on the Bike, Ruth a PB on the run and overall results, Sarah Louise a PB on everything as it was her first half iron distance race and she did amazing and John, being John, coming first in his age category despite his crash. John and Ruth each won a bottle of wine for their respective first and second place age group finishes — which we didn’t drink on the way home. Such a well behaved group!!
Other: Despite John’s highly competitive nature there are rumours that Ruth was able to out- carb him in the bread department at dinner. He is still recovering from that debacle. But just a rumour!!
Thanks to Sarah’s Mom and Ruth’s coach, Tereza Macel, who were there to cheer us on!!
Ruth Calman, Sarah Hamadi, Lars Jorgensen, and John Selles–University of Toronto Triathlon Club
Recommendation Level on Scale of 1-5: 5 if the weather co-operates