IRONMAN 70.3 | Muskoka


Instead of staying at hotel or Airbnb, me and my brother Stepan, who is visiting me from Ukraine, decided we will more enjoy camping. The tent was set up at the Arrowhead Campground, which is about 15 minutes driving from the race venue. This is a huge campground and the campsites are not cheap. One night stay will cost you at minimum of CAD$48.31. Rather than price, we really liked the park. It’s clean, quiet and has toilets with showers. Not to mention a beautiful lake right in the middle of it.

A day before began from a nice and easy OWS in Arrowhead Lake. The water in lake is dark, but really warm. Had a small snack and went to the race venue to register for the race, before it got too crowded. The race expo was really small fit perfectly into the ice skating rink, leaving a plenty of unused space. It was really quiet and felt as I’m at a small town race.
Right after registering went to execute my “mini brick“:

10′ easy spin
15 ride holding RPE 3-4
5′ easy spin

15′ run directly off the bike at CP
5′ FW

Checked in my bike and went back to the campground to prepare for the race and go to bed early.
Stepan is putting up the tent while I stress myself out going through the packing list over and over again.

3:30 am wake up. Quick shower and breakfast at McDonalds parking lot on a way to the race venue.

Now, an hour before the start, T1 looks way busier than a day before. All checked in.
Smile! Final photo before the start.


Literally 3 minutes before my wave start I realized I put the wetsuit on the wrong way. I couldn’t believe… Take it off and put it back on.

Unlike all previous races, this one was not a “rolling start”. We proceeded to the lake and were guided towards the red buoy in the middle of the lake…I got confused. We swam up to it and had to float in water for like 3-5 minutes until we were given a command to start.

There was a lot of wrestling in water. I got kicked in head few times pretty hard and about 100-200 meters before the finish someone’s arm hit me in a head and kicked my goggles off. Nice! Swam the remaining distance with my eyes closed. I’m glad it didn’t happen in the middle of the swim, or worse – at the start.


Below are few tips for you to keep in mind when swimming through the Fairy Lake. I got the following suggestions from the guy who lived over 20 years right by the lake, where the course goes through. He also raced this race a few times himself and is well aware of direction of the current.

After the second left turn, unlike most of the people, stick to the right hand side and continue swimming close to the shore all the way to the finish (current is stronger on the middle & the opposite side). Right by the finish, don’t cross the lake until it’s about 9 -10 hours on a left from you. Turn left to cross the lake and in a few strokes you will be exiting the water.

Below is the swim course map with directions I marked with red arrows.

Had a pretty fast transition, only 3 minutes. No help from volunteers.

Lessons Learned:

  • Make sure you put the wetsuit the right way.
  • If swimming in lake, beware of current.
  • Practice swimming without goggles, simulating them being kicked off.


Did not feel strong at all.
Right on the beginning, about 10 km, a deer:cyclist accident happened. The guy was laying on the side of the road with his bike beside him. Another similar accident happened around 12 km mark.


30 minutes into the ride I dropped my chain and had to stop to put it back. Grateful it didn’t get stuck in the wheel and didn’t cause more damage. Had to make another stop to use the restroom. I think I lost about 2-3 minutes of precious time. 

A lot of rolling hills. A bit windy on the way there, but not much on the way back. Overall it is a fast course. Having a better (tri) bike would definitely help me shave off few minutes. 

Overall I am happy with my performance on the bike. Also had a pretty fast transition, under 2 minutes.

Lessons Learned

  • Beware of animals crossing the road
  • Make sure the bike is perfectly tuned prior to the race
  • Probably worth looking into investing in a proper bicycle

~Epic Finish~

First 30 minutes felt like crap 💩. Well that’s the way it always been for me, both in training and racing.
“Embrace the suck and give it some time Sasha!”
Spasms, tension and muscle pain traveled starting from my pancreas then to the liver and down to the legs. 

“Breath deeply. You need to release the spasms before the body completely shuts down the absorption of any foods you are planning to consume. “

3-5 minutes of deep belly breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth did the trick. Pancreas and liver spasms released, allowing me to continue consuming sugars for fuel ⛽️. 

The course was great! We started and finished in Huntsville downtown. A lot of people were supporting athletes along the run course.
A little boy ran a garden hose from his house down to where we were running and sprayed the athletes with a cold water. 

Approximately 35 minutes into the run, I began feeling better. FINALLY! 

I increased the pace and tried to clear my mind from any thoughts that were taking up my mental energy. I put all my focus on technique. 

“Imagine your knee cups as a headlights of the car.
Chin tucked in.
Don’t run like you have a cactus up in your bum, stand tall and strong.
Release the tension off your shoulders, move them down.
Don’t swing your hands too much, keep them close to your torso.
Find a rhythm in your breath.
Breathe deeply: a long exhale and fast big inhale.”

Racing in Hawaii, Kona 70.3, specifically the running part though me a good painful lesson. I learned how painful it could be to run with the injury and how much it can actually slow me down. I learned the difference between the muscle pain and the injury pain. You can not manage the pain coming from the injured body part and it only getting worse as you go. 

I was really hoping that my knee pain will not come back during this race allowing me to run up to my potential. 

After the turnaround I continued feeling strong. No injuries, no pain that can slow me down. Everything hurts, but it’s a muscle pain, know the difference. 

I slowly caught up with the guy in a blue shirt that passed me like a rocket 🚀 when I was struggling on the beginning. I remembered him because he had a number 53 written down on his ankle. Triathletes know what that number means – the age. 

I caught up with him and expressed how impressed I was by his pace at the age of 53. We ran side by side, averaging the pace of 4:14 /km while keeping the conversation. His name is Shean and he’ve been running his entire life. 

“There is a lady running upfront… She’s 52 and she is about to win her age group. I need to catch up with her.”, Shean told me. 

5 km until the finish:

Aid station. Two water cups, one on myself, another in myself. Shean slowed down a bid, and felt behind. I increased my pace and continued running solo. 

The pain was real, but it was a muscle pain. I pushed really hard and gave it all.

Right by the finish line, as I stepped down on the red carpet, Shean showed up in my peripheral view. He really surprised me with his appearance and he was pushing really hard, trying pass me. Suddenly a finisher’s black stripe got pulled up at the finish line and the crowd went ballistic. I had no idea what was happening and the only thing I knew is that I needed to cross that finish line first.

I did it!

The feelings I experienced were so strong so I will remember them forever. I got so much joy and pure sense of happiness. I felt so much respect to Shean and all the athletes around. I experiences a sense of comradery and athletic fellowship.
Wow! What a finish, what a race!

After we both caught our breaths, Shean said that he’ve been chasing me all the way to the finish and thanked me for pushing him so hard. Thank you too Sean! This is what the competition should be like!

Lessons Learned

  • All the hard trainings, pains and tears were well worth that short burst of emotions while crossing the finish line FIRST
  • I learned what the healthy competition should be like and I experienced a pure sense of athletic fellowship
  • I discovered few new shades of pain and pushed my body harder than I did before


Luckily I didn’t overeat so bad the night before, as I did the previous times. Still should’ve eaten less to get a good night rest.

The race had great on-course nutrition: Clif Bars, Gatorade and RedBull. Even with such support, still pack the nutrition products you’re used to and have tried already in training. This is what I did.

Race Morning
Planned to consume throughout the race
Consumed throughout the race

Lessons Learned

  • Planned and actually consumed numbers were pretty close. Good job here
  • Gatorade proved once again to work well for me. Don’t shy away from it during racing
  • Coke gives me liver spasms. That’s a no-no, unless I’m 5 km or less to the finish.
  • Deep belly breathing help relieve the liver and pancreas spasms
  • Don’t overeat before going to bed the night before


Set a new PR
by beating 70.3 Kona by 22 minutes

Repetition is mother of learning!


You are doing triathlons because YOU CHOSE TO, not because you have to. 
Don’t forget that!

You do it FOR YOURSELF, no one gives a f*ck.
Don’t forget that!

NO ONE FORCES you to train every damn day. 
No one, besides your ego or whatever motivation you have.

You can quit anytime you want. 
No one gives a fuck! 

It’s your life, it’s your decisions. 
Don’t forget that!