This is fairly long, and there are a lot of things I'm not getting in here. There are so many things and feelings you experience during an Ironman that a race report is really too short to capture it all. Things that happen during the week also make the race special - the people of Penticton, the beauty of the area, the expo, etc. My race report is very high level to keep it short, otherwise I could write a post a day for a month and still miss something.
4:00 AM – Awake and ready to get going.
4:30 AM – Everyone is loaded up and we’re off to the race start.
5:10 AM – I head to body marking, meet some great folks including a gal who just turned 50 and was doing her first IM. Very inspiring.
5:20 AM – Put 2 bottles of Gatorade and salt tabs on the bike, check air, double check air, triple check air, decide 110 PSI is good.
5:35 AM – Run into a friend, hang out in long port-o line.
6:10 AM – Put on the wetsuit. Chat with some more folks, cram warm clothes into the “dry clothes” bag, stretch a bit and wait.
6:30 AM – go across the swim mat to activate the chip and “sign in” for the race start. Head onto the beach!
6:40 AM or so – Singing of Oh Canada! I was surprised how emotional it was, many spectators and athletes joined it, truly an amazing thing to be part of.
6:45 AM – Pro Start. It was very cool to watch the Pro’s from the water. I could pick out Rapp and Granger from where I was standing.
7:00 am – Spectators and athletes countdown from 5 and off we went! Boat horns, cheers, and music send us off.
I was surprisingly calm and relaxed just before the swim started. Usually, the swim freaks me out a bit and I figured the mass swim start (2600 +) would have me on edge. I spent a fair amount of time over the last year visualizing a calm and relaxed approach to the swim and that strategy worked for me.
The start of the swim is shallow, so you have to wade out a good 25 meters or so to find deep enough water to swim in. Once out in the deeper water, I found a bit of space and followed a couple swimmers in front of me for 50 meters or so before we converged on a group of 20 other swimmers. We all bounced off each other a bit, tried not to kick each other in the face, and managed to spread out. The sound of all the swimmers in the water at once was wild, a constant churning of water. At 600 meters, I finally found enough room to get into a rhythm and motored on through the first series of buoys to the sailboat that marked the first turn at 1618 meters. I managed to get there with very little contact or disruption, although I found myself on the inside of the first turn and swimming with the sailboat/buoy a few feet to my right and 50 swimmers on my left. I found a gap and pushed through, then noticed the divers in water below me. It was a bit of a shock, but fun to see. They were waving at us, so I took a second to give thumbs up and continued on to the houseboat that marked the second turn.
The second leg was 450 meters and went very quickly. I kept my pace and took a wider path on the second turn to avoid getting jammed up. The last leg of the swim is 1800 meters, and you can see downtown Penticton from the turn. It’s a great sight that makes the last leg seem shorter than it really is. About 1000 meters into the last leg, I started to search out the last few buoys to get an idea of where the finish was. I passed buoy 16, could see 17 and 18 and figured I was getting close. Big mistake. Buoy 17 suddenly had 18 and 19 after it. At 19, it looked like 20 was it. Nope! A few more to go, but I could see the flags on the beach so that was my new mark. At this point I was 3.3K into the swim, and was having a relatively easy go at it. I felt great, I was calm, the water was amazing, and I had generally survived the Ironman washing machine unscathed.
I’m motoring along at 3.4K, when both of my calf muscles suddenly and painfully cramp. At this point in the swim a lot of swimmers started to tire and were no longer swimming straight. In fact, the last 300 – 400 meters of the swim was worse that the start. Swimmers were now crossing in front of me, or hitting my feet and pushing on my back. It was a bit chaotic, and I had to deal with 2 cramps. I flipped onto my back and punched my calves a few times, then tried to rub them out a bit all while being swam over. It was pretty wild, and after what seemed like an eternity my muscles relaxed and I promptly flipped over and made it to T1, with a smile on my face. I had survived the 3.8K (2.4M) swim!
After exiting the water I made my way to the wet suit strippers. In seconds, my wetsuit was off (way faster than I ever could myself) and I was running to grab my bag. In a moment of brain fade, I grabbed the wrong bag which I didn’t notice until I was in the changing tent. After running the bag back and grabbing mine, I quickly changed, was slathered in sunscreen by volunteers, and was on my bike.
I started the bike with two goals – stick to my nutrition plan and save energy for the marathon. The first 40k were smooth, fun and uneventful. Exactly what I hoped for. My calf muscles had settled down, and I was doing well through Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos. At the base of Richter Pass I sat up and went to a lower gear to keep my heart rate down. I love hills, and easily rode the 11k up Richter at 75 percent effort enjoying the view and the people cheering along the way. On the way down Richter Pass I somehow lost a bar end plug and had a water bottle cage come loose. I stopped twice to deal with the issues and both times the bike support folks seemed to appear out of thin air, eager to assist and get me on my way. Even with their help, I ended up adding a chunk of time to my overall bike.
After Richter Pass, the course heads up to Keremeos where an out back with seemingly endless rollers awaits. This was the most challenging part of the course for me. The road was rough, the air was stagnant and hot and there wasn’t much to look at. At the turnaround of the out and back at 120k I realized I underutilized my special needs bag by only stuffing a bike tube in it. Folks had stuffed ham sandwiches, chips, fruit and other tasty treats in theirs. This is something to note if you ever do IM Canada, I know I will if I do it again.
By the time I finished the out and back and was heading toward Yellow Lake, my legs were beginning to fade. I was also having issues drinking Gatorade so I had to shift my plan to water, gel and bananas. I had driven the route to Yellow Lake and was familiar with the climb, so I knew what was coming. To my surprise, I found my legs as soon as I started up the hill toward Twin Lakes. I was stoked to see the lakes, and even happier to see the 100 mile marker that was followed by a blistering decent back down to Hwy 97.
I rolled the last few miles into Penticton, saw my family right before transition (sweet!) and handed my bike off to the amazing volunteers into T2.
This time I was much more relaxed in transition. I took a moment to chat with a volunteer who was going to sign up to race in 2010, made sure I had everything and went for another layer of sunscreen.
My legs felt really good, and I was mentally ready for the run.
I had 2 opportunities to see my family at the start of the run, and it really gave me a boost. I found a comfortable rhythm pretty quickly, and the first 5 miles went really well. Shortly after 5 miles, I started to have some stomach issues, and couldn’t get anything down. I wasn’t throwing up or anything, I felt like I had a brick in my stomach.
I managed to run aid station to aid station, but by 8 miles I was in trouble. I had a hard time walking, and I had a back spasm. After a port-o stop, I shuffled along to the 9 mile aid station and grabbed a couple bags of ice. Using my heart rate monitor strap as a belt, I managed to hold the ice bags on my back as I walked to the halfway point (13.1 miles). While I was walking I continued to sip NUUN and flat cola, and it seemed to do the trick. After the turn around, I ran a mile and walked a mile up through mile 21. The miles I walked I sipped cola, and it continued to provide the energy I needed. I was surprised of all the food that was available, that was all I could really stomach. Fruit, gels, Gatorade, chicken broth and pretzels were not welcome. I’ve never used flat cola in training, so it was a little weird to drink and not feel like I was going to regret it later.
At mile 21 I decided I was simply going to run the rest of the way, no stops for food, no stops for water, no stops for anything but the finish line. I was aware of my overall time, and knew if I pushed a bit I could finish under 15 hours which was my only time goal.
Miles 22 – 24 were on the way into town, and there were a lot of people cheering all the athletes in. It was amazing and very motivational. As I crossed mile 25 I knew I had this thing in the bag and started to look for my family, who I saw near the finish line. The last 400 meters were amazing, folks were cheering, kids were high-fiving and I ran across the finish with more energy than I had all day.
14 hours and 52 minutes after the start of the swim, I became an Ironman.
Here's the breakdown:
It's been a week since IM, and I'm still a bit fatigued. I still don't know what I'll do next, and I hear that's pretty normal. It's a hard year of training, and it concludes on one epic day that's pretty hard to beat.
Maybe I'll go run a 5k, maybe I'll toy with Ultraman.