This race was a first of many, and of many a first. In terms of the latter, WTS Bermuda is the inaugural World Triathlon Series/ITU race to be held in Bermuda. It was also my first “race” of the season and, in terms of both the former and the latter, it’s my first of what will hopefully be many sprint tris.
I realize that it’s a bit weird for me to say that: I’ve finished five Olympic-distance triathlons, seven 70.3s and three 140.6s, but I’ve never done a sprint. But I digress…
Before I talk about the race, I’d like to talk about Bermuda for a few minutes since it’s such a wonderful place. You can click here to jump to the actual race report.
I’ve now been to Bermuda four times, and I absolutely love it there. It’s such a beautiful island, and the people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. From the moment you set foot on the island, you feel at home. Despite being an island of just about 21 square miles, there’s so many things to see and do on the island. From the beautiful beaches of Elbow Beach and Horseshoe Bay, to the incredible Crystal Caves, to the bustling city of Hamilton with the main hub of Front Street, and to the historic St. George, there’s something for everyone. My recommendation for first timers? Talk to the cab drivers who pick you up from the airport. Most cab drivers double as tour guides, and they’re incredibly proud of their island. In fact, there’s a lot of Bermudian pride that persists (in a very good way) throughout the country, that you can pretty much talk to anyone and learn all about the history of the island, where to go, what to see, and where to eat. Best part? It’s less than a 2 hour flight from NYC!
My first athletic experience in Bermuda was in 2013, when I participated in the Bermuda Triangle Challenge, which consists of a mile run on Friday night, followed by a 10K on Saturday morning, concluding with a full or a half marathon on Sunday morning. It’s a great deal of fun, and as I came to find out, Bermuda is incredibly hilly. So much so that after I signed up for WTS Bermuda, I wondered what type of bike I should bring for the race: road or TT?
Luckily enough, this past January, I was invited to be a part of a training camp/media activation event hosted by the inestimable Flora Duffy! It was a great honor to be invited, especially since I was in such esteemed company – the other participants were Kelly O’Mara (pro triathlete and Triathlon Magazine writer), Nicola Busca (220 Magazine writer) and Kevin Mackinnon (Editor-in-Chief of TriathlonWorld.com and Editor of Triathlon Magazine Canada).
This was a great way to see the island, since we had a couple of epic bike rides and runs (particularly on the Rail Trail – a great place to run!). We also were able to swim in the National Training Center pool (an amazing 50m outdoor pool), where we ran (swam?) into Tyler Butterfield.
Left: Flora, Right: Tyler
During the camp, I was also lucky enough to be taken around the WTS Bermuda course by the Race Organizer, Philip Schmidt (for the video, click here). This allowed me to see the entire course first hand, including the famous Corkscrew Hill. After seeing the course, I realized that while Bermuda itself is hilly, the bike course really isn’t. There are only two hills of note, and while the back half of the course is decently technical, you really only have to get out of aero two/three times. There are a couple of no pass zones on the course (these are clearly marked on race day) as well, but even then you spend a fair bit of time in aero. Therefore for the race, I recommend a TT bike.
I’ll go into specifics for the course a bit further below, but some things to note in terms of other equipment to bring (or not bring):
- For kits, the race falls under a combination of ITU and BTA (Bermuda Triathlon Association) rules. Both rules mean that if the swim is not wetsuit-legal (ours luckily was), don’t bother bringing a swimskin. Both sets of rules prohibit athletes from changing kits in between legs, so if you wear a swimskin during the swim, you have to wear it the entire time.
- Both ITU and BTA rules mandate wearing a sleeveless kit, however BTA rules allow your zipper to be on the front (whereas ITU rules mandate the zipper to be in the back). If your zipper is in the front, then you must leave it zipped up the entire time. This lead to some scrambling on my part, since all of my tri suits are sleeved (thanks to Beth McKenzie and Wyn Republic for coming through in a clutch!), but I did actually see a few folks out there racing in sleeved kits. Still, better safe the sorry, so make sure to bring a sleeveless kit (one or two pieces).
- Bring a wetsuit. They anticipated the race to be non-wetsuit, however on race day it was wetsuit legal (by 0.1 degrees Celsius!). ITU rules allow for wetsuits below 22.0 degrees Celsius.
- Bring an old pair of flip flops to walk from T1 to Swim Start. It’s a bit of a long walk (~500 meters), so make sure to have something comfy to wear. The race swag includes a pair of ITU flip flops, but I rather like them so I didn’t want to throw them out!
- No need for a disc. There can be some wicked crosswinds (especially if you ride towards Dockyards) where a disc can be a problem. I felt my bike move significantly during certain parts of the race, because of the wind.
- The bike rack in T1 isn’t your traditional sawhorse with cylindrical tubes. Rather, it’s made out of rectangles, so if you don’t have enough clearance between your saddle and top tube, you’ll have to hang your back via the base bar. This isn’t really an equipment note, but just an FYI since I was a bit surprised by this.
Leading up to the race, I knew I wasn’t properly trained for a sprint race. I didn’t have the type of training I needed to do to race a sprint (lots of speed work, track work, and higher-end intervals on all three disciplines) but I was OK with that. I also didn’t quite have the fitness I had originally planned on having because, to be honest, I had a hard time re-motivating myself after the debacle of last year’s triathlon season. I didn’t start buckling down on myself and training until the beginning of March, which gave me about 2 months to raise my CTL from where it was (42) to wherever I could get it to on race day (81).
You can also see from my PMC that I was carrying a fairly high level of fatigue going into Race Day (-22 TSB on the day before the race), meaning I didn’t actually taper. Honestly, I had a hard time justifying a taper for myself, considering I had just started really training a few weeks ago, and I didn’t think I warranted a taper.
Also, I really just had one primary and one secondary goal for the race. My primary goal was to get out of the swim, and my secondary goal was to have fun. Since last year I stopped having fun with triathlon, and I realized that I needed to take a big step back. Instead of focusing on performance and individual goals, I wanted to re-discover the joy I feel when I train for and participate in a race. So, to that end, I switched tri teams to allow me to train with a larger group of people and I did not register for any long course races.
Therefore, when I arrived in Bermuda on Wednesday evening, the first thing that I did was put together my bike at midnight, so I could ride Thursday morning. Thursday AM, I did the same ride that Flora, Kelly, Nico, Kevin, and I did in January, which was a 32 mile ride to Dockyards and back, with about 1500 feet of climbing. I followed that up with a short 10 minute brick run, and by the time I finished a few of my friends had arrived. The next day, we did the same ride because I wanted to show my friends the beauty of Bermuda and how much fun it is to ride there.
Now enough of the pre-amble, and let’s talk about the race!
Now enough of the pre-amble, and let’s talk about the race!
The swim in WTS Bermuda is entirely within Hamilton Harbor. There are two courses, one for the sprint and one for the Olympic. Both courses start and end in the same or similar location. The sprint starts against the sea wall and goes south across the bay, before turning west across 4 buoys which are kept on your right. After those buoys, you turn north and swim towards the sea wall again. Near the sea wall, you turn west and follow the sea wall to the purpose-built stairs for the swim exit.
For our swim, I would have to say that the water was fairly choppy due to the winds. It wasn’t a problem with sighting, but sometimes when I tried to breathe I got a mouthful of sea water instead of air instead. Overall, it wasn’t too bad and we were prepared for it because of our practice swim the day before (more on that later). What did give me a problem in sighting was that I was kicked in the face about 5 minutes into the swim, which dislodged my right contact lens from my eye. Something very similar happened to me in 70.3 Worlds, but I handled it MUCH better this time around. Instead of having a panic attack and looking for the nearest kayaker and hanging onto them for a while, I was calm and able to readjust my goggles and keep swimming. Unfortunately I had a hard time seeing (for some reason, it’s much hard for me to see without a contact in my right eye as opposed to my left eye), so I had to stop a few times to re-orient myself. You can kinda see that in my Strava, since it looks like the swim course overlaps on the out and back. It doesn’t. The swim course actually looks like a hot dog, or….nevermind….
Swim Start – I’m all the way on the right, in the Roka Maverick X
Other than being kicked in the face, the swim actually went pretty well for me. Yes, I had moments of anxiety, where I felt my heart rate start to elevate but I was able to handle them on my own. I didn’t need a kayaker to hang onto, of which there were very few. Instead, I was able to tread water for a few seconds, get myself calm again, and continue swimming. I also didn’t freak out about the fact that there was not a lot of support out there. I think I spotted 4 kayakers on the course, which normally would have given me a big cause for concern, but honestly I didn’t care. I had something I didn’t have before, going into the swim, which was calmness. Normally before every swim, I’m freaked out and entirely in my head. This time, I was calm and relaxed, despite the fact that I did not have the swim volume I normally would have prior to a race. Last year, I would swim 10,000-12,500y/week, while this year I was swimming something close to 5,000-6000y/week and that just started in March.
What also helped me was our practice swim the day before. A good friend and XC teammate of mine, Isaac Keselman, swam next to me during our practice swim. Isaac swam on my left, while Abby swam on my right. We swam along the Olympic swim course, and he noticed that I have an incredibly high stroke count. Basically for every one of his strokes, I was taking about 4 or 5 strokes. This leads me to fatigue easily, and also to not be able to get enough oxygen in during my breaths, because I have a short window in which I can breathe. He had me slow down my stroke by making me count to three and gliding before taking the next stroke, and it really helped. My heart rate immediately lowered and I felt more relaxed in the water. See, my mindset before our mini-lesson was that if I’m not moving in the water, I’m sinking. He actually showed me that my hips and legs were higher in the water when I was gliding, as opposed to when I was swimming. I also did not swim appreciably slower using a slower stroke, since I was able to generate more power on the pull phase since I was less fatigued with each stroke. This was life-changing, and it also gave me something to focus on when I would feel my heart rate start to rise. So, thank you to Isaac and Abby for being there and for continuing to support me!
Heading to Swim Exit
I came out of the water in 21:16, which was admittedly about 5 minutes slower than I wanted to come out, however I came out of the water calm and in a much better mental place than I normally do.
There’s a long run out of the water, and into T1. The run is mostly carpeted in the ITU blue carpet, with the exception of the very top of the hill where the bike course intersects the run into T1. Essentially, once you climb the stairs, you follow the blue carpet to Front Street. Then you make a left onto Queen Street, which is an uphill run. It starts off gently, but really kicks at the end. Once on top of the hill, you enter a parking lot where transition is located. It’s about a 400m run to transition.
Once in T1, I took off my wetsuit, grabbed my helmet, put on my bike shoes, grabbed my bike and left. Admittedly, I was out of practice and could have been much smoother, but that’s OK. Also, I need to learn how to do a flying mount.
T1 Time: 3:27 (Overall: 24:43)
The bike course for the sprint race is a two loop course. You come out of Transition on Wesley Street, loop around it, and come down on Queen Street. This area is a no-pass zone since it’s narrow and there could be some congestion. At the bottom of Queen Street, you make a left on Front Street, where the no-pass zone ends. You ride down Front Street to the first traffic circle, before turning right onto another no-pass zone and quickly turn right and do a loop around Pomander Road (the no-pass zone ends when you make the right on Pomander). At the end of Pomander, you turn left and go back towards the traffic circle, where you turn right and go up Trimingham Hill (one of the two hills where I got out of aero). At the top of Trimingham, you do a 180, and go back down the hill to the traffic circle, go straight through, and then make a hard right up Corkscrew Hill.
Ah, Corkscrew Hill. I’ve ridden down this hill three times prior, so I knew what to expect. It’s short but it kicks up immediately once you make that right. It’s a tight turn also, so you end up killing a lot of your momentum from the Trimingham Hill downhill in order to make the turn.
Knowing this, on my first loop, I switched to the small chain ring when I approached the traffic circle, but kept myself somewhere in the middle of my cassette in order to still have chain tension. When I made the right turn, I immediately tried to shift to an easier gear and stood up. As soon as I did so, I heard a loud clanking sound and I was grinding my gears. I ended up dropping my chain (despite having a chain catcher), and almost fell off my bike.
Quickly getting off my bike, I put my chain back on within seconds, but when I looked up I realized the gradient was too steep for me to get on my bike. A female spectator told me not to bother, and to just run up the hill. Realizing she was correct, I ran up the hill.
While Corkscrew is short, it’s incredibly steep. Running up the hill while in bike shoes and while pushing my bike totally destroyed my legs. I knew I was killing my run (and the second loop of the bike) at this point, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to get up the hill and get back onto my bike. Nothing’s more embarrassing than having a fully kitted triathlete with a fancy bike running up a hill, while spectators are cheering you on. So, I ran and then I got back onto the bike.
Once back on the bike, the course takes you down Reid Street before making a turn up Burnaby Street. You make your way back around transition, and onto Serpentine Road. This back half of the course is a bit more technical with more 90 degree turns, but there are a lot of good stretches of road to get into aero.
After you pass the Fairmont Hamilton Princess (race hotel), you make a left up Woodbourne Avenue and snake around a couple of streets before going back into transition and starting the second loop.
On my second loop, I was a bit smarter about my gear selection and got into a much easier gear before getting into Corkscrew. This let me ride up the hill, and the female spectator who advised me to run up the hill the first time, said: “Yay! You made it!”
Coming back into transition for T2, I realized that my bike was way off where I wanted it to be. Officially, I rode the bike in 41:05, where I was expecting to ride closer to 35 minutes. I knew I would be a bit slow on the bike, because I felt the fatigue in my legs when I tried to ride hard. My power numbers reflected this, because I was way under wattage. I wanted to ride the course in 200w, but I ended up riding just 160 (zone 2 power).
In Challenge Roth, on the other hand, I rode an average of 174w (NP: 188) and that was for 112 miles. My HR was also super low, and I was in high-zone 2/low-zone 3 the entire time. This is where I typically race an IM, and I had expected to be in zone 4a the entire time. So, while I was disappointed with my bike time, I honestly figured as much due to how loaded my legs were going into the race.
Bike Time: 41:05 / Overall Time: 1:05:49
Ahh T2. I was definitely out of practice here. Not only did I miss my row initially, I eventually entered the correct row on the opposite side. So, I racked my bike on the wrong side and had to duck under the bike rack to get to my shoes. Once I had my bike racked, I took my helmet off, switched to running shoes, grabbed my hat, race belt, and gel, and ran out of T2. Not my smoothest T2 ever.
T2 Time: 1:55 / Overall Time: 1:07:45
The run starts off by going down Queen Street. If you remember from the run to T1, the top half is a sharp downhill. While on that downhill, I realized that my right shoelace was untied. I debated running without it tied, but realized that was stupid, and since I was running downhill, I should take advantage of the fact that I would have gravity to help get back up to speed. So, I stopped to tie my shoelace and gave a little girl across the street a wave, as she cheered me on (I was the only runner on Queen Street at that point).
At the bottom of Queen Street, you make a left on Front Street but veer towards the finish chute. Parallel to the finish chute is the start of the first and second loop, so you run by the finish before getting back onto Front Street. On Front Street, you run parallel to the bike course for about .70 miles before the turnaround and come back to the start for the second loop. On the way out, it’s slightly up hill so on the way back, it’s slightly down. This is also where the Front Street Mile is for the Bermuda Triangle Challenge, so I was very familiar with running up and down this street. There are aid stations near both turnarounds, so you could actually have 4 aids stations in a 5k.
There’s nothing really to report on the run. It was fun to run up and down Front Street twice, with the crowds, and also good to see my friends on the run. I saw Jeremy finishing the 10K for the relay, Isaac, Chris, and Alix on their run, and Barb on her 10K for the Olympic. It was great. I ended up running just a low-zone 3 effort (HR average was 162, and zone 3 starts for me at 161), which reflected in the overall time of 24:48. It’s about 4 minutes off of what I wanted to run, but I decided early on that since I was way off of my goal time (1:15), there was no point in killing myself. So, I put in a decent tempo effort and smiled my way throughout the whole run course. I did not do a repeat of my Ironman Arizona run down the finish chute.
Run Time: 24:48
Overall Time: 1:32:33
Running down that finish chute, I was ecstatic. While it’s the shortest triathlon I’ve ever raced in, it was one of the more meaningful ones I’ve participated in. Last year was so demoralizing and depressing, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to regain the happiness I feel when I race and train. Thankfully, thanks to the support of all of my friends and the beautiful island of Bermuda, I’ve regained it. I’m re-motivated to get back out there and keep training and keep racing and to keep getting better about the swim. I’m not there yet, but I’m making progress in the right direction!
Special thanks to the following people, for all of their support and help: Abby (you’ve hung with me for all of my best and worst races. Thank you for being the best sherpa I’ve ever had!), Isaac and Maria (thank you both for sharing my love of wine and triathlon, and for all of your help in the swim! Looking forward to racing with you guys again soon!), Diaa/Jimmy/Rachel of the Ventum family (thank you continued support!), Beth of Wyn Republic (thanks for all of the help with the last minute kit emergency!), Kris Gemmell (thanks for talking me into doing this race, and for the wetsuit help! 😉 Can’t wait till next year!), and the lovely people of Bermuda, particularly Jill Dill, Victoria, Alastair, and Lauren (you’re not from Bermuda, but you helped make January happen!). I can’t wait to be back in 2019!
So, as part of this trip my friends and I filmed some promo videos to help promote the race for the Tourism Authority. We were asked to simulate an in-water race start, some race effort swimming, and (the most fun) a few elite-style start off of the blocks. Below are some of our more entertaining videos/photos of the video shoot!
Boys’ 2nd Attempt. Belly Flop!!!
Girls’ 2nd Attempt. Still better than the boys.
Filming some mass starts
Was so fun, i mean, the way you told the experience. Do you know how many degrees of climbing the corkscrew hill has?
Thank you! It’s definitely a great race and I highly recommend it! Based on my data, the average gradient of Corkscrew Hill is 22%. Definitely a tough one!