Whirlwind race weekend – Oliver half Iron race report

I’ve been a little MIA lately but for good reason! A few weeks ago my husband pitched the idea of doing a half Ironman race to help prepare for Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

So we signed up for the Oliver Half Iron and raced it this past weekend!

image taken from race website

image taken from race website

It was a complete whirlwind. We were only away for 68 hours and drove 2,280km in just over 25 hours. It was all worth the exhaustion I feel this week!

The race

The race was in Oliver, BC and is a stunning course. Part of Ironman Canada/Challenge Penticton rides through the area.

This was the 10th annual Oliver Half Iron. The 2km swim was two loops in a beautiful little lake, the 93km bike was two loops on gorgeous roads surrounded by orchards and vineyards, and the 21km run was two loops mostly on river paths. Nearly 750 people signed up, and 579 people participated.

This was also the first race I saw bike support numerous times! This community loves triathlon, and it shows!


I didn’t plan to taper and wanted to use the race to finish a big week three weeks out from Coeur d’Alene. I got pretty busy and ended up tapering off for five days leading up to it.

We got to Oliver on Saturday morning and went for a short bike and run. We usually swim before a race, too, but I didn’t want to get wet and cold! After we registered, we headed to our hotel the next town over (dazzling Osoyoos) to check in and get our transition bags together. We ate a quick dinner before going back for the athlete meeting.


After that, I crashed hard and slept really well. (The perk of not being well-rested before a race!)

Race day

We woke up bright and early to eat before heading to the race site.


We both like to be early so got there before there were any lineups for body marking and got into transition with lots of space to set up. It was pretty chilly in my books (only 9 Celsius) and the grass was soaking wet. My feet were numb before the day even began!

Although I was ridiculously nervous leading up to the race, I was giddy the morning of and ready to get it started.

2km swim – 39:33

(I swim two km faster in practice so was surprised at the time! See lesson 1!)

photo from race website

photo from race website

There were three waves, and Kelly was in the first and I was in the second. I saw him off and then nervously waited by myself for my start seven minutes later.

Since I was so cold, I didn’t want to go in the water a second sooner than I had to and therefore didn’t do a warm up.

Lesson #1: Always do a swim warm up if you can! It really helps ease anxiety and spikes your heartrate so it won’t be so shocked when you start the race.

The first half of the first lap wasn’t great! I couldn’t catch my breath and swallowed many mouthfuls of water. At one point, I tried to put my feet down which was so silly and freaked me out!

Eventually I got into a rhythm and made it around both turn buoys without too much trouble. We had to get out and run a few metres before hopping in and doing it again. I liked this since IMCdA is two loops. The second loop was a lot better but I sure was glad to get out and get my wetsuit off!

T1 – 8:37

Transition was about 600 metres away from the lake, up a little hill and then down the road. My feet were numb so they hurt a little, but it was better than I expected! I also liked it since the run warmed me up nicely.

I hit a porta-potty right away: barefoot! I cringed but knew it would save me a lot of time. It took me a while to change since it’s so hard to put a sports bra and arm warmers on when you’re wet!

Eventually I had on all my gear, ran my bike out of transition, and started pedalling.

93km bike – 3:07:47


photo taken from race website

The ride was awesome- great roads with incredible scenery. It wasn’t very hilly but it sure was windy for one long stretch. I went from loving the bike to hating it to loving it again depending on whether I was riding with or against the wind!

I tried to push it, but my time definitely doesn’t reflect the effort!

I ate 1.5 Clif bars, 1.5 packs of Honey Stinger chews, and drank two bottles of pink lemonade Nuun. I always try to take all my own fuel for ease.

T2 – 3:45

I love T2 because it means I only have my favourite sport left! I hung my bike on the rack, grabbed my running stuff, and made a decision to stay in what I was wearing, hit the porta-potty again and ran out of there!

Lesson #2 learned: Never try something new on race day! I wore a cycling jersey I’ve biked in countless times before but never ran in. I paid for it later.

21.1km run (ended up being 22km!) – 1:46:05

I’ve only done two small bricks this season, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel. Right off the bat, you head up a little hill where there was a lot of crowd support. Since it’s a two loop run, there were already quite a few people on the course.

I decided not to look at my pace on my Garmin and just go with it. It felt like I was moving so slowly but I was passing quite a few people.

The back of my heel was quite cut from the previous weekend so it hurt.


Luckily, I was able to ignore the pain for the majority of it!

I saw Kelly partway and that always gives me a burst of energy! He was feeling good and looking strong! I kept chugging towards the river and the wind was pretty strong but nothing I couldn’t handle.

At this point, I started to notice burning under my arms (see lesson #2.) I made the decision to ignore it!

I always break the run portion of triathlon into pieces, which makes it seem a lot more manageable. The first lap flew by and before I knew it I was turning around to do it again. I didn’t look at my pace at all but had to check my watch a few times for distance. I told myself to pretend the run was 22km, which was lucky because that’s the final distance my Garmin ended up showing!

I saw Kelly again on my way out and was so happy to see he was almost finished the race! I kept focussing on people in front of me to pass.

With about 2km left I started to hurt quite a bit but knew I could hang on. Kelly was on the sidelines cheering for me, and then it was a slight downhill to finish by the lake.

I was so happy to have finished!

Final time: 5:45:44

Once I’m done, I’m always ecstatic and can’t wait for the next one.



I dipped in the lake to cool off and clean up. We left within the hour and were sitting in a vehicle for the next nine hours before sleeping in the van for a few hours and hitting the road again!

Shockingly, I wasn’t as sore as I thought I’d be. I have two bad burns under my armpits from my cycling jersey seams, my heel is still cut deep, and I have a black toenail.

I’ve taken it easy so far this week and plan on tapering for the next two before Coeur d’Alene. I definitely didn’t feel great throughout the entire race, which confirms what I already knew. I’m not in the shape I should be in or would like to be in going into Coeur d’Alene.

I’m sure it’s going to hurt! But, that’s part of the experience. Regardless of time, I’m hoping to have a fun day!

What valuable lessons have you learned from race errors?

42 responses to “Whirlwind race weekend – Oliver half Iron race report

  1. That’s a great experience!! Those burns sound painful though 😦

  2. Standing ovation! I am incredibly proud of you. Words don’t do your hard work justice!!

    Your times are inspiring. Poor boo boos. You push through. Your mental strength is unreal.

    The fact that you can’t wait for the next week is amaze. You really are a inspiration for others thinking of doing anything from a 5k to an IronMan.


  3. WOW! I know we’re not technically friends as we’ve never met, but you’re my coolest virtual friend!! I read that whole thing on the edge my seat. You’re going to do so well at coeur d’alene now that you learned so much from this race. That was a great idea kelly had to do a half triathlon to help prepare.

    • You made me laugh, Charlotte! Thank you! It was super long, so I’m just glad you read it all!
      Kelly definitely pushes me to race more than I ever would on my own. (I probably never would if it was up to me!)

  4. Congrats! two more weeks! get that heel fixed and rest up!

  5. You are awesome, way to go! What a race,thanks for sharing such a detailed recap. Although ouch at your foot and the shirt hurting your arm.

  6. Congrats on a great race! I would love to finish a Half Ironman in 5:45. When you take out your transitions, you’re really flying! Have you ever thought about wearing a tri sports bra and tri shorts under your wet suit? Then you can just throw on a cycling top/tank for the bike. This worked really well for me in my Half. The tri tank I used was perfect for the bike and the run and the back pocket held all of my snacks.

    • Thank you, Nicole! For my first half and full, I wore my shorts and sports bra under, but I was SO cold at the start of the bike. Last time, I completely changed, and this time I just changed my top. I’m not sure what I’ll do for Coeur d’Alene, but at least there will be volunteers to help me with my bra!

  7. Runner Girl Eats

    Man, you got some real battle wounds! At least you learned some of these lessons before the big race 🙂

  8. You look and sound like you went through a battle zone! But you did great. Congrats on racing that big an event spur of the moment. It did look beautiful! I’m sure this was a great warm up event for you..very excited for your big day.

    • I look kind of beaten up, too! That area of Canada is just gorgeous, and they get much better weather, too!
      My nerves are definitely here, but I’m excited for Coeur d’Alene!

  9. Congrats! Sounds SO cold!

    I learned a valuable lesson at my first half ironman – don’t put hand warmers in your shoes in T1 during cold races because you might forget to take them out! My feet were so numb during the race that I didn’t notice that I had a hand warmer jammed in my bike shoe until I pulled it out 3 days later!

    • So funny that you didn’t realize! Thank goodness it didn’t bug your feet!
      I actually put foot warmers in my shoes and I was in heaven! My feet area always numb, and it was so great to have warm shoes to put them in. However, the foot warmers stick to the bottom of your shoe and are flat, so they don’t squish your feet!

  10. Great job! I have been regretting not racing more before the two marathons I did the past few months, so I think it’s helpful you got to throw this half IM in at the last minute to get ready for CdA. I hope your heel gets better quickly!

  11. Wow you are tough! If my heel looked like that, I would probably take my shoes off and walk the rest of the way. Great job! I hope the skin on your heel and underarms heals before IMCdA!

  12. CONGRATS!! Tough swim!! That is nice that you got to practice the 2 loops and being horizontal to being vertical times 2! Great bike!! Smokin’ run!! I can’t believe your heel!! Keep babying it and it should be good for CDA (and your armpits too) 🙂 No need to worry about your time in CDA…it will be a “long training day”! Enjoy taper and you will rock it in 2 weeks!!!

  13. Pingback: Friday faves | Change of Pace

  14. Congrats on the race!!! I’ve definitely learned a lot of wardrobe lessons from races, I’m slowly starting to figure out what works and what doesnt!

  15. Your heel looks really painful! Hope it heals quickly in time for your next race.

  16. Wow, you are amazing for pushing through all that pain. I’m so impressed. I’m still learning so much about racing. Fueling is one thing, I still haven’t quite worked that out as I get cramps. So probably a salt thing?! Hope you’ve been getting lots of rest in prep for IMCA!!!

  17. Wow, you guys are incredible! I’d never make it to the blister stage (aka running), I’d be too cold to move from that frigid water! haha You should be so proud!

  18. You two are amazing!!! Your running time is incredible after swimming and biking!! GREAT JOB!! That heel looks OUCH though, take care of that wound!

  19. Wow, amazing job!! You two are definitely hard core!

  20. GAH! Your heel looks painful, but you still were FANTASTIC!

    And guess what…I get to meet you in TWO WEEKS!!!

  21. Pingback: Ironman journey – Coeur d’Alene | Change of Pace

  22. runnerbydefault

    I was nervous for you just reading this!! You did great! I hope everything heals fast for you in time for the Ironman. Good luck!!

  23. Pingback: Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2013 – pre race and the swim | Change of Pace

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