Yesterday I raced the Niagara Falls Barrelman Triathlon. Man did we ever luck out! The night before the race they were calling for thundershowers all day. We had a look at the radar map about an hour before the gun, and there appeared to be red cells heading straight for us. But, once the gun went it appeared that the universe felt we needed awesome conditions for the race, so the clouds parted. About an hour after the gun I was working on my sun tan (which is dramatically lacking since I have been doing all of my training indoors).

I made a real effort to get to this one with adequate time so that I was not rushed in the morning. I got there 1.5 hours before the race, a new record. I had ample time to get ready and get a warm-up in, so I was in a nice and relaxed head space when the gun went. I didn’t swim very well. I got ambitious and went out as hard as I could, trying to hold Alex Vanderlinden’s feet. Unfortunately, my efforts were futile and by 200m I was dropped. This put me in some severe oxygen debt, and when the group of swimmers who are closer to my ability approached, I was quickly dropped as I needed to slow down to allow the system to reset. This meant swimming alone the rest of the way. Oh well, don’t know if you don’t try.

I exited the swim 2.5 minutes back of who I presumed to be Cody Beals. I knew he would be hitting the bike hard, right from the get go. I vowed to do the same. Unfortunately, my power meter copped out after the race in Lakeside last weekend. Apparently the strain guage has failed. On this note, I have to give a huge shout out to Stages. All products, have malfunctions, flaws, etc. How your company deals with these is the true test. Within 10 hours of messaging Stages they informed me what the issue was and that it would be covered by warranty. Within 48 hours a replacement was shipped out. And today (6 days later) it is scheduled for delivery. I have nothing but good things to say about this company, and their product.

That being said, I raced this one on feel. I figured this was a good race to get out of my comfort zone on the bike. I also knew that around 40k into the bike we would have a massive tailwind, and that a fast bike split was definitely going to be possible. The first 40k or so though was some tough riding, a mixture of very gusty cross-wind, and tough headwind. I almost went down on several occasions. But, as promised, around 40k that cross-wind turned into a tailwind, and then we were flying. Additionally, I was testing out Garneau’s new one-piece aero-suit, which has shown in wind-tunnel tests to be one of the fastest on the market. I took all of these factors as a chance to treat the bike as a pure-90k TT, and worry about running when I got there.

I entered the lead around 65k. I went by Cody as hard as I could as I wanted to try and snap the elastic as quick as possible as I was unsure how I was going to run after biking so hard. The course turned out to be closer to 93k than 90k. This meant on paper I wasn’t going to break 2hrs, but I could see that I had a good shot of going sub 2hrs through 90. This was motivating so I really pushed the final 20k. I ended up passing through 90k in 1:57:10. The average speed for the entire ride (92.8k) was 45.83. Here is the data through 90k, followed by the data for the entire bike:

Through 90k


Barrelman Bike

I was super happy about the time. I realize it was drastically wind-assisted, but anytime you get the opportunity to go sub-2 hours in a race setting, is a time to be cherished. It was a very cool experience. Unfortunately, I could feel the bike in my legs pretty hardcore on the run. It was also unfortunate that Cody Beals had to drop out because of two flats. I didn’t know this until after the race though, so I was running scared the whole time. My intention (if I came off the bike first) was to run closer to Ironman pace then 70.3 pace. I intended on running 3:30/km throughout. It was surprisingly (due to how flat the bike was) a challenging run course. I made it through 12km holding pretty strong. At this point I started to feel the hard ride. I think I did a decent job of holding things together. At 19 kilometers I had to use the Port-A-John. I was kind of happy about this because this is the first time I’ve used a one-piece suit in a long-distance race, so I wanted to see how quickly I could get in and out of the washroom. I ran that kilometer in 4:12. I’m pretty happy with it, but I think with some practice I could get this under 4 minutes. Here are the run splits (the run course was a bit short, hence only 20ks):

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
3:32 3:20 3:28 3:24 3:27 3:17 3:23 3:34 3:41 3:32 3:32 3:30 3:30 3:34 3:44


16 17 18 19 20
3:21 3:38 3:42 4:12 3:31


I should mention that it was a totally awesome experience to run by the falls twice. Plus, it was starting to heat up, so the mist coming off the falls was awesome as well. I ended up crossing the line in 3:44:55. Here are the results.

I have to say, this was an absolutely awesome race from start to finish. It was cool to swim under the bridge in the Welland canal. The bike course was in good shape, and was super fast. And running by the falls twice was amazing. John Salt did an awesome job with this event. I really think this race should be on everyone’s bucket-list, no matter where in the world you are. Totally worth travelling to.

On a really good note, we were able to take our dog Chewy to the race for the entire day. He is a rescue dog and in the past has had some severe anxiety in open spaces. He was a bit nervous, but towards the end of the day he was so relaxed he fell asleep in the grass. I think it was a really big step for him.

As always, I must thank all my sponsors for allowing me to do this. As well, thanks to everyone who came out to cheer; it really helped as the going got tough. And thanks to Erin for helping me all day, and watching us crazy people swim, bike and run as fast as we can. Thanks for reading!!

12 thoughts on “Barrelman

  1. This blog is not complete without full details of what you ate after. We require details on the Whopper …(or 2)..and how tasty it was.

    Awesome race Lionel. You are right – it was a great race, the run by the falls was pretty awesome (I got to enjoy it in slo-mo, like many others, who got to the run with little-to-no legs left after that bike)…

  2. Lionel, it was great racing the same venue and having the opportunity to speak with you and your “support crew” Erin before and after the race. It was pretty cool running through nature’s own misting station. Great performance Lionel, as always!

  3. What a race, Lionel! The headwind going out made it so tough to save your legs, but then it was hard to hold back with that tailwind and my legs were toast for the run too. What a way to cap off your 70.3 distance racing – a sign of great things to come in Florida!

  4. Awesome race Lionel. That first 35-40 K on the bike was hard with the headwind but it was a huge relief to hit the lakeshore and get a taste of the tailwind. That water station on the run overlooking the Falls was worth the stop…both times.

  5. Lionel you are one great athlete, I chased you around the entire course as a photographer. This was one great race on a very tough day. Glad the Niagara experience was a good one. All The Best

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