Bagga’s Barrelman Report – The Bike/Run Perspective


The highlight race of the 2014 year was the Barrelman. Being held for the first time this year, this race has been promised to offer a great course right by Niagara Falls and some fast racing. It would be my 4th “half iron” race of the year.

I’ll try to make this short…my habit of mentioning too many details only bores more geeks like me and attracts more yawns!

First and foremost, a big shout out to the Multisport Canada crew so making Barrelman an astounding success. I was wary of things going wrong in the point-to-point transitions of the bike course, but MSC left no stone unturned here. Clear instructions, logical layout of things, and knowledgeable staff.

I encountered a few hassles due to my own lack of planning but there were enough co-ordination in place for me to figure everything out pre-race. For example, I wore my running shoes until the race start in order to get my warm-up in, but forgot that the dry clothes bag for post-race must be dropped off to MSC by 9:00am. Daryl Flacks and his family kindly offered to bring my shoes over to the finish line so I could warm-up. Thanks Daryl!

Short version:


  • Official time: 92.0 km in 2:35:05 (35.6 km/hr)
  • Garmin time: 92.6 km in 2:34:20 (36.1 km/hr), 200W AP (201 NP)


  • Official time: 21.1 km in 1:33:03 (4:25 min/km)
  • Watch time: 21.1 km in 1:32:58 (4:25 min/km)


2nd place overall, 1st AG (M39 and under) in the bike/run category.

  • 28th fastest bike split of the day. Enough said. I still suck at cycling. No improvement on my lower/speed at all in the past 18 months…only marginal aerodynamic gains. Time to go back to the drawing board.
  •  9th fastest run of the day including ze pros. Granted, they’re in a different league…so out of the normal over-achieving AG’ers, my run was 5th fastest of the day!

Long version:


Like in Welland, this was a TT-style start with people departing every 5 seconds. The great John Salt himself descended to the T1 mat to wave us off. He was all business.

We all knew this was going to be a windy affair today. The forecast had rain and thunderstorms all morning, and I’d been watching the radar maps for the last 3-4 days. As a point-to-point course, the wind seemed generally in our favour, but against us for the first 40k of the 90k ride.

Once I started, it was clear that the steady-state wind wasn’t that bad…maybe 25-30 km/hr, all you had to do here was find your headspace and settle into a gear and forget about how slow you were going.

But I didn’t account for the wind gusts. And these were real bad. So bad that I swayed across the road unexpectedly multiple times throughout the ride (not just during the headwind part) and nearly lost it a few times. I had to get out of my aerobars and steer by the base-bar because it was getting hard to go straight.

One time, you’d be leaning left into the cross-wind coming from the left…and then a sharp 50km/hr gust would come from the right, catching you completely off-guard. The first 40 km were full of this stuff…even during the latter tailwind sections, there was a lot of cross-wind gusts that slowed me down instantly from 45 km/hr to 25 km/hr (so fast I wouldn’t even have time to change my gear down…I’d be fighting to keep the bike rubber side down) and then back to tailwind within 10 seconds.

That was the ride, in essence. A few bumpy sections in between. The last 15km or so, which zig-zagged us towards Niagara Falls was mostly tree-lined and supposed to shelter us from the wind (which it did, it just happened to be cross-tailwind we got sheltered from!). All in all, I didn’t go that much faster than a loop course….unlike my original thinking. Lots of other fast times on the course though…some people went faster and some went slower than Welland.

The last 7-8km on the bike were amazing riding next to the Niagara river leading to the Falls. So much win right there. I actually wished I had my iPod/phone with me to take some pics along the way!

As I undid my shoes to dismount at T2, I swung my right leg over to the left side to get ready to get off the bike…and then the wind threw one last gust from the right. Instead of getting off in the middle of the pavement, I was steered to the left, squarely at the volunteer yelling me to stop and get off my bike. I braked hard and very nearly hit the poor chap. Then I had to instantly duck to avoid banging my head into the big “DISMOUNT” sign on the side of the road behind him.

My feet hurt from such a rapid deceleration and I could already sense a few blisters in the making. Ah well, disaster averted!! The crowd was super loud here and let out a collective “ooooohhh!!” at my near miss. Glad to provide some entertainment. They would probably have liked to see an amusing face-plant! 😀

I did meet my goal of averaging 200W, and am happy with that. Speed is what it is. At 200W average power output, I can proudly say that both my legs are definitively better than 1 leg of the overall winner, Lionel Sanders (raced at ~365W and 46 km/hr = Mind boggling). He’s taken the tri world by storm this year…his 4th place at the 70.3 World Championships just 2 weeks ago confirmed his potential to be what we already knew from seeing him at local races over the last few years!


Having never had the chance to see the T2 setup before the race, I didn’t know where to rack my bike. A little confusion here but volunteers guided me to the right spot and I found my red-T2 bag with my goodies for the run. Good stuff.

Obviously…this is after the race! The volunteers even packed up our stuff back into the red bags when I came back to get my stuff!! Amazeballs.


As in previous races of this distance, the goal was to break 1:30 on the run. This was a 2-loop course.

1st loop:

Heading out into the run, my legs felt good. I let myself run slow since the brick legs always deceive me. At the 2 km mark, I was at 8:00 mins. That’s not slow. Damn. Then I saw the hill they’d talked about in the race-briefing for the first time. It was steep looking, but nothing dreadful. I chugged up at 5:30 min/km pace and once it was over, I realized that the next 4km are also a slow slog uphill.

But, whatever goes up must come down, so I looked forward to the next 2 km of straight downhills. It didn’t disappoint. This would become my best memory from this race: coming charging down Murray Street facing Niagara Falls and getting doused in the natural mist from the Falls. Fantastic feeling.

10k was at 43 mins and I was OK with losing just 30s to the hills on this lap. This was the beginning of my mental lapse, now that I think of it. Unknowingly, I had already negotiated a time of 1:31:XX from my original goal of 1:30. Hmmm.

2nd loop:

Between 12-16 km, I slowed down again. This part is all slightly uphill. I remember doing the math to calculate my finish time…at the pace I was going, I would come right between 1:35-1:36 for the run. I went through thoughts like “that’s OK…this course is hillier than you planned” or “It can still be faster than the Peterborough run split” and “maybe everyone will just be slower today”. Nonsense.

Of course, at this point I was just about to hit the downhill on Murray street again and all the uphill portion was nearly done…I noticed I hadn’t eaten my last gel and was about 15 mins overdue. Once I gulped down the nutrition, I hoped it wasn’t too late to start my kick to the finish. I stormed the downhill and began firing on all cylinders again. Soon I changed my run goal to sub-1:35…then sub-1:34.

I think the mental game is one I should consciously improve on. It was much worse 2 weeks ago in Ottawa where I basically fell apart mentally on an easy flat run because I just didn’t want to run hard anymore…so I did a little better this time. Maybe it just comes with experience.

I had only been passed once in the run so far (by Rich Pady, nothing to be ashamed of!), but then one 28-year old decided to pass me at 17km. I tried hanging on to him but he was too quick and built a good 30s lead on me within a few minutes. My mind fought with my legs a bit more and I was able to speed up to keep this distance. I told myself that I NEEDED to come under 1:33. I sprinted hard in the last km and although my watch said I made it, official timing showed 1:33:03. No matter. The high of pushing myself is always rewarding.

I found myself being happy at this race on a few occasions. From the lakeside views on the bike to going through touristy part of Niagara Falls only to be awed by the Falls. Twice. One of the cops manning the intersections was particularly enthusiastic and high-fived me on both loops with words of encouragement. Passing by the old Hydro station, excited kids and random tourists…this was right up there on experience and natural beauty as last year at Zofingen, Switzerland.

Folks, this is not just a race. It’s an experience. Live it up.


After I caught my breath and had one (or two?) chocolate milks, I got lazy in their compression boots again and chatted with Garima and a few familiar faces.

At the awards, I was surprised. In most races, Bike/Run or Duathlons are generally considered a notch below the main triathlon show (and rightly so, from an organizer’s perspective). However, in every regular season race, MSC has always given the same awards and AG categories to the duathletes despite their lower numbers.  At Barrelman, this was no exception. In fact, they went a step further! I was unexpectedly called up to the podium on several occasions:

  • AG win: M39 and under
  • Fastest bike split for my AG
  • Fastest run split for my AG

Yes, I know these are small victories…and don’t mean much in comparison to the competition in the Triathlon race, but it still feels good!

The last two instances earned me a Timex chrono watch each time! I was also given a plaque for my AG win, a bottle of Rockway wine (Garima said she’d take care of this one 😉 ) in addition to my finisher’s medal, t-shirt and hat. Wow. I almost felt like an elite athlete!

Add in live updates, great parking, shuttle buses, healthy post-race meal, good deals at race expo…I could go on for a while.

I’m very happy with this race and the way things turned out. Sure, I could’ve gone 1-2 minutes faster on both the bike and run, but there’s always that improvement n execution, not fitness. It would’ve made no difference in the overall result anyway.

Keep pedaling.

Read Parichit’s Full Report and other stuff at his blog.