2011 Ironman Canada Race Recap
*disclaimer* this is a long read, grab a coffee first!*
**official photos updated**
I awoke at 345am, as with all morning workouts I jumped in the shower for a long warm up and loosening of my back. I just tried to look at today as an opportunity and roll with it. I had to focus on controlling my thoughts and worries about the day, so many unknowns that are sure to come. It’s how you deal with those that will define your day. I told myself the choice is mine if I want to complete the Ironman today I could. I recalled the hundreds of workouts leading up to this day that I’d done, told myself that the work is all done and today’s really just about stringing it all together. Tried to eat a 1000 calorie breakfast but probably ended a bit below that, had a jennies macaroon (315cal) first thing, a cup of coffee, bottle of water, sodium tablet, 2 pieces of toast with PB, and a banana. We probably got out of the motel by 5am and right away the drive was fairly blocked off so it took awhile to get to the starbucks/bodymarking area.
|5am, as spry as I'll ever be|
Ophee dropped me off and I entered, tossing my special needs bike and run bags into the right boxes then over to bodymarking. Everything was pretty smooth in here. I put my shuffle and headphones in and had thrown a good playlist together to listen to but really only listened to a few songs in all.
Over to my bike, poured my Perpetuem into the Aquacell front bottle, put a bottle of water in the downtube cage, and realized I had forgotten a bottle in the fridge. Only planned on carrying 1-2 bottles at any given time anyways since the course will have plenty (cue the haunted premonition music), so I didn’t give two thoughts about the forgotten bottle. Set up my Garmin 305, filled the bento boxes with my hammer gels and special US only white chocolate macadamia clif bar, and walked away towards the start.
|Like cattle to the slaughter, into transition|
|Bike ready to go|
The line at 545am for the portapotties was reasonable, that was one of my worries but they seemed to have plenty there. Over to the grassy area and saw some Nanaimo folks. It was good to see a familiar face in Joel (even though I only met him 2 days prior), he’s a super fast swimmer and seemed calm. The rest of the Nanaimo frontrunners crew were there including Stefan and Norm. As I put on my wetsuit I realized my hands were shaking, put my earbuds back in and turned it up to tune things out. Looked down at my drygoods bag and wondered how it got so full, right then it split wide open. Thankfully they had an extra and miraculously I remembered to transfer my #552 sticker from old to new bag or I’d have never found it again.
Walking out of the swim course chute and onto the beach is a very sobering moment and probably the one that I dreaded more than any other aspect of taking on the Ironman. I decided to take it in and look around, remember everything. I saw 3000 other swimmers waiting for the start. Saw the hills just being lit with sunrise as I looked out at the buoys and swim course. Saw the thousands of spectators lined 5 deep at the fences along the beach. I walked along the beach and cement right to the far left edge hoping to see a familiar face in the crowd. As I got into the water I chatted with a guy who was super calm and had been here before. Kept spitting in my suddenly fogged up goggles and nervously rubbing them..then the national anthem came. Go time!
Overall 2394/2832 M30-34 196th/219th Male 1713th/1963
And off the horn went (no cannon anymore?). I swung my arms around and slowly waded in after the 2,832 athletes turned the nice glass-like surface of Okanagan Lake into whitewater. Knowing that if I got onto someones feet I’d be able to conserve some of my energy by tagging on, unfortunately the first few feet I followed seemed to blow up early and slow right down, or I noticed them veering off course too much. Surprisingly my swim felt good and I just told myself to make the first turn buoy and DON’T look at your watch at all costs. I kept my thoughts positive, thinking back to 11 months ago in the Metrotown pool with kids doing cannonballs on top of me, and my first lap when I got 25m to the end and had to clutch the poolside, get out, and walk back to the first end to get my inhaler and rest. I recalled the old men doing vertical pushups off the pool wall blocking me, and the 5am swims with a swim group way beyond my level. I remembered IMC’10 the day before signing up swimming out there with Josh when we went along OK Lake’s buoys and each one seemed 1000m away for me. Josh had emailed me after my first 4000m swim and said to remember how far I had to come and the confidence will stay. The one thing I noticed right from the beginning of the race swim was how I must’ve had some velcro facing inward from my wetsuit strap towards my neck and it was rubbing each time I turned. I did a few slow face down floats just to try to fix it but couldn’t and gave up. That pain will be the least of my pains today! Besides, floating face down will only panic the volunteers in kayaks.
At one point some person kept grabbing my ankle and pulling back repeatedly, fairly odd swim stroke I’d say, so a few frog kicks slowed that down, before they hopefully noticed a very warm patch of water envelope them behind me. I noticed I drifted right and ended up right on the orange buoys, so slowly made my way back left to avoid the gong show. Reaching turn buoy 1 (1600m) in 36:17 for a 2:16 pace, pretty fast for a human anchor like myself. A good friend who did IMC 09 told me his story of how he looked at his watch thinking he must be half hour in and saw it was 8 minutes only, that advice proved to be good seeing as how the first 36 minutes seemed to go by not bad (by avoiding my watch), bar for the punches and kicks that were to be expected. Around the buoys its just insanity, like cramming a salmon run into a right angle turn. People climbing over one another, some stopping to hold the buoy, some looking fully scared shitless.
Leg 2 is only about 400m long and it went by quick before turn buoy 2 was more of the same with Vancouver style traffic jams. The last leg was 1800m and I finished it 45 minutes or about a 2:32 pace, slowed a bit but couldn’t snag a good paced pair of feet for long stretches. I had done calcs before the race and knew I had plenty of time to make the cutoff so tried to just swim efficiently and smoothly. Random note is how much I had to pee...right at the start, once on ankle puller, and once half way back, damn nerves. Coming in towards the beach I started to hear the crowd and announcers, and approaching shore I did as Coach Bob and Carolyn had told me, swim as long as you can instead of standing up and running. It kept my heart down nice and low, relatively speaking. As I came up through the mats I made the rookie mistake of stopping my watch, so Im sure that’s one picture ruined! One exit pic wasnt a watch looking picture at least...
Overall T1 1734/2832 T1 Male 1187/1963 T1 M30-34 145th/219
I felt absolutely jacked to have the swim done with. See you next year wetsuit! After the wetsuit strippers had pulled it off I jogged up and threw my socks, shoes, helmet, gloves and race belt on. Got a good lathering of sunscreen on the way out too, where I noticed the sting of it in my new wetsuit burn on my neck. A black guy running with me was laughing because he was just caked with sunscreen and looked at me yelling “I went in black and came out white!”. I held back any MJ jokes at this point. Grabbed my bike and made my way up to the mount/dismount line.
Post T1 2363rd/2832 (passed 31 people through T1)
Bike 180km 7:38:27 23.6km/hr pace
Overall 2447th/2832 Male 1761/1963 M30-34 204/219 (holy shit)
As I started the bike I saw Josh hanging over the fence, and then heard Ophee and my mom yell my name as I rounded the corner. My heart was pumped but I made an effort to calm it down on the ride out of town. Holding 33-35 heading out I felt allright, this was about the last time I felt cooled down for the rest of the day with the air evaporating off my jersey and shorts. The entire crew of Adam, Tash, Charlotte, Madeline, Owen, Katie, Mark, Crystal, Josh, Ryan, Darren, Jane, and Rowan all were there sporting the bright red shirts with my ugly mug on the front. I had to laugh seeing the kids with the shirts on too. Was great to see everyone there.
As the ride continues then turns up McLean Creek Road I chatted with a Lisa who asked about the hill and when it was. Throughout the day I found I was more and more of a tour guide to others who chatted a bit, as I knew the route fairly well and was astonished how many people had no idea when the climbs were coming or distances. Aid Station 1 approaching on my right, I was looking forward to some water finally along with some water to mix in my very concentrated 10 scoops of Hammer Perpetuem.
I was stunned but being only the first station I figured maybe they don't stock as much here since its early in the race. I remembered Graham Frasers pre race speech saying it’d be hot and to conserve water, which I hoped wasn't a precursor to poor planning of logistics. I rode past not wanting to put my stomach through the sugary test of PowerBar Perform just yet. Moments later I saw a few people with flats, then around a corner from the top of the road a lady was yelling for us all to move to the centre as there were tacks scattered everywhere. The pace slowed right down as everyone around me just took it easy trying to avoid any tacks on the road, which is more about luck than anything at this point. Unfortunate that the ‘tacker’ struck again, not realizing that Ironman Canada puts Penticton on the map and brings in millions of dollars every year. Hitting the main highway again the pace sped up and its mostly a descent with a bit of tailwind perhaps, I was careful to lay off the gas for this 40k stretch but still held 30km/hr with my heart rate firmly in zone 2.
Rolled past the Osoyoos Husky station which is the beginning of the Richter Pass climb. In training I climbed this 12k stretch in about 45 minutes, today it took me 51 minutes. I was probably too paranoid in keeping my heart rate from going too high this early in the race. As Jordan Rapp had said the race begins on the summit of Richter Pass and this is where you want to feel good, not bagged. I saw so many people huffing by and standing up, I hope they realized the prime Timex $1000 bonus was only for first up the mountain. I was on the last of my water and spraying a tiny bit on my head when a volunteer came running down the road ahead of the next aid station..
Its funny, the first thought I had was that these poor volunteers must feel horrible, its not their fault after all, yet THEY have to bear the bad news to the athletes and to take the brunt of the anger and comments. I asked for anything they had, even leftover bits in the hockey nets and took 3 bottles that were no more than half full. I was determined to dodge this mental curveball and stay hydrated, even if I wouldn’t get as much as I’d expected.
|The Support Signs|
From the summit of Richter the winds were in our face, so top speeds didn’t seem as high today. I noticed a ton of traffic though in both lanes forcing me to brake and slow down more than once when an impatient motorhome blocked me a few times. Some riders also seem to not get that you shouldn’t pass on the right, and saw a couple who were wearing ipod headphones which is also against the rules. The race marshalls seemed to be fairly lenient at the beginning of pack riding but I saw some serious pelotons go by, and noticed only one drafting penalty given the entire race right before Osoyoos. The next 33k to Becks Road is all about the Rollers. I seemed to have zero juice on the climbs up them so would get passed, but then I’d fly by on the descent, leapfrogging the same people over and over. Next water station yelled the same, “No water!”. I took some powerbar perform and another half used bottle, and kept taking my salt pills religiously every 30 minutes.
|Out n Back|
Heading back towards my wife and family I kept a good pace again feeling rejuvenated, I also was carrying my co2 and extra food to give to them since now I wouldn’t need it. I managed to eat some clif shot blocks and a few gels leading up to here and had plenty left over. Seeing them cheering again I pulled up to stop this time, dispensing my stuff and having a bit of water poured on my back. Also ditched my frozen water bottle that Id packed in special needs full of perpetuem that was now in my front bottle, figure I was taking in enough or more than enough calories so far. Riding off towards the Bear Fruit Stand they passed me again and I started the slow climb up towards Yellow Lake .
|Signage Waiting for me on Yellow Lake|
Here’s where things went a little sideways for me and I started to lose the plot. I seemed to have less and less energy, and if I pushed hard I’d see my HR spike too high, so I kept it low and kept trying to get fluids down. I figured maybe a bit of heat stroke since today’s the hottest day I’ve ridden in all year, and the longest time wise as it’s turning out. The climb from here to the very top took me a full 11 minutes longer today than in training. My feet started to cramp badly, same as in training but more severe. The heat was relentless, like opening an oven door and feeling that warm blast hit you square in the face over and over. On the final climb up the steeper pitch to Yellow Lake I was bone dry out of water again and saw my family on the side hunkered down in some shade and all I wanted was to be there cooling down. I saw so many riders at this point feeling the effects of the insane heat (35 degrees, though many told me it hit 37 on top of Richter). Some bikers had pulled into grassy shaded lawns and sprawled out, others were face down on the road, ambulances screamed by pretty well every 10-15 minutes, it began to look like a war zone that was no doubt due to the heat and the lack of available water, but also some riders probably pushed beyond their respective pace and were bonking. Seeing the carnage was a lesson to me to stay calm and just complete this race, nothing too risky and no big pushes. Last climb up there were at least ten people walking their bikes up the road, and I saw an old co worker from Japan who also was the first woman to complete Ironman Canada, Dyane Lynch. The supporters in this stretch along Yellow Lake blew my mind, from the 3 shirtless dudes singing the song “whos too strong, youre too strong” to the girls in all the outfits, it was awesome and so uplifting. Even though I looked like death I’m sure, these people and my support crew kept cheering me and urging me on.
Hitting Yellow Lake I pulled in and stopped at the aid station. As I slowed to a stop the kid looked at me and said ‘Are you allright?”. I must’ve looked rough, plus I put all my weight on my aerobar arm pad and it bent down so going aero would be awkward now. They were almost out of water too he said. A kid working there gave me his peach flavoured aquafina water, and a bottle of refilled water from the lake or someones hose((?). I took another PBP drink and got going, foot cramps just killing me. Further up the road I saw the boys, Josh, Darren, and Mark. Actually first I saw Darren, as he has jogged almost a km down the road to spot me. Their math was a little off or I was way slower than they expected because they waited there awhile. Apparently Darren was freaking out about me and kept running all the way down the hill and back trying to spot me. He ran along by me as I mumbled a bit about water and he kept me going. As I rode by all I heard from Josh as he yelled “take as many fluids in as you can!!”. It snapped me back to reality and I drank the peach drink (gross) and the other water which was surely from the lake as the taste was horrid. I got about half the bottle down but couldn’t stomach it any longer. This section was always my fastest in training, descending most of the final 30km, but today I rode this portion a full TWENTY minutes slower. Almost amazed even now.
In the end, I lost 87 places on the bike. So much for my strong sport of the three!
Overall 2487th/2832 Male 1720/1963 M30-34 199/219
I honestly thought I was in T2 for 6-7 minutes. How it became 13 is some sort of twilight zone mystery that I’ll never know. I got off the bike at the dismount line and limped over on my very cramped up feet, incredibly painful, felt like hell. Got my bag and slowly got into the change tent, bike shoes off felt good but saw my feet were cramped up tight so gave them a quick rub to get blood going. Changed my socks, put shoes on, put forerunner on, new sleeveless shirt, hat, bandaid on nipples, borrowed a guys ziplock o vaseline for the nether regions, and then went into the portapotty for a good long piss. Walked over to the sunscreen ladies who were busy so waited a moment, got lathered up good but my wetsuit burn screamed out at me again when I got sunscreen in it. Almost out of T2 when I saw WATER, oh it had been so long. I felt like Chevy Chase in 3 Amigos, just guzzling the water back. Even ate a gel I think, but water, so good. Hit the T2 mat go beep and started the run.
After T2 I’m in 2442nd place..closing in on top ten.
Overall 1827th/2832 Male 1302/1963 M30-34 160/219
As I started running and moving my legs they felt better and better. My first km was a 528, then a 558 (aid station walk through), then 529. 3k at a good clip and my heart was low, starting to feel rehydrated again after that 7 hours of drying out on the bike. The course loops you around main street then back to LakeShore Drive, it teases you with the finish and some of the pro’s finishing even before dispatching you back into the death zone heading south. Through town there’s amazing support, people cheering and yelling all along the way.
I kept looking for anyone in red shirts or anyone I knew, its funny the way your mind works. It almost barters with you asking you to push a little harder just til you see the friends and family. Unfortunately they were still stuck in traffic from coming down Yellow Lake seeing me there so didn’t have the chance to see them until 21k point at ½ way (Ok Falls). From the 8k point you leave town officially and climb a small hill, but its also where you are full on exposed to the sun and sporadic supporters. I started to hurt here, badly. I walked every aid station, and the hill. It was a good break for the legs but more importantly my mind. The water and every 2 stations the sugary gross tasting PowerBar Perform too.
I cant stress enough, it was like a battlefield. All day I’ve seen ambulances roaring past, people begging for water, seen bikers passed out in shade mumbling. Now on this stretch of 13km down Skaha is really where you are laid out to prove yourself. Here you can see the returning runners on their home stretch, many pulling over to the side of the road and throwing up. I started to question if I could finish this, a marathon is still a marathon, the distance has to be respected. It’s humbled me each of the 6 marathons I’ve completed and this one will be no different. I had to mentally fight with all I had to block the negative thoughts, to focus on the year build up I’ve put into this, to remember that I put in the work and I am *able* to do this, now just do it. I kept my hat pulled far over to the right like a gangster homey but it was the only way to keep the sun outta my face for once all day. Took sponges (very used sponges by this point in the day) and put them under my had, on shoulders, back, front. I took ice and put them down my shorts even. Anything to keep my core temperature down and kept taking in liquids and at least a gel per half hour. At the exact moment the sun went down I looked at my watch, 7:11pm, as it hid behind the mountains west of Penticton. It was like a switch (Sylvester Stallone blatant reference there), I could look up again, run taller, the heat was going away little by little. Getting closer to OK Falls half way point and the special needs run bag, I was getting excited. Came down the hill and saw the red shirts all over and was pumped. I grabbed my special needs bag and walked over the timing mat for my half way split time (2:39) then walked up to the crew with Ophee. Decided to sit down and change my socks, unconventional yes, but Im not here to win this thing. I could feel my blisters coming, and why not spend 3-4 minutes with everyone who’s been out here waiting forever for my slow ass.
It was a good visit, short, but very morale boosting. I got going and Coach Carolyn ran with me to the top of the hill, actually we walked it, since its the steepest hill on the course giving me some tips and motivation. From the top I started jogging again, then running, and passing so many people. Post race stats show I passed 257 people from Bike to Run (and I’m not a runner), but I’d say that on the first half I was passed by about 50 people in my hurting state at least, so on this final half marathon passing at least 300 people kept me moving. I was going to finish this thing. I just had to keep going, like Josh had implored into me leading into the Ironman, its just getting from A to B at the end of the day. I was hurting but the shuffle persisted, even as I got the glowstick handed to me at the 27k point and begrudgingly put it on my hat so I wouldnt have to see it. The entire route back I took chicken soup broth and coke at alternating aid stations. My body was not happy, and what I call a run was probably closer to a grandpa shuffle, but I was getting there. I noticed a disproportionate number of athletes walking, I’d say 95% at this point were walking. I know you can ‘walk’ a marathon and say you’re a marathoner, and maybe your body is shutting down right now so you are forced to walk as well here. But some of these folks were chatting up a storm and eating a bag of chips and just walking back knowing they’d make it there just before midnight still at the pace they were going at.
My competitive side tells me to respect the race and the distance, to push yourself to that limit and see how long you can hold it there. You trained all these months why hold back now and float home? It felt hard, but it’s supposed to be hard. It hurt, but it’s supposed hurt, it’s pushing your limits. As I approached the outskirts of town I saw Ophee cheering me on, a very good surprise! From here it’s just 7k to home, and I told myself just keep smiling, enjoy this, it’ll NEVER be like THIS again. I use that line often and it’s not meant to say that things are all downhill from here. It’s to reiterate to cherish the moment and enjoy what you have right here right now and appreciate the present.
The crowd support grows as you approach town, even seeing a couple of old ladies ringing cowbells on the street in their lawnchairs, I smiled and eeked out a thank you. I tried to thank every single person who was out still cheering, its a long day for support too. Coming down main street I was getting jacked, realizing that I was going to do this finally. The warm summer air felt so good, and tons of memories of the past year of build up came to me, all the early swims, long solo rides, long solo runs, missing weekends and much of summer. Missing friends weddings, missing family reunions, finally it would all be worth it. I thought of my wife Ophee and how many sacrifices she had made over the past year to support me, cook for me, get me out the door when I was bagged, and realized its officially a ‘solo’ sport but at the same time its a support group that keeps you going and inevitably shares in the day and the accomplishment with you.
I kept running, knowing the pain was only temporary, I forgot about watching my heart rate and pushed my heart up, pushed the pace. Get this done, finish strong. The final 2 km is unlike anything you’ll ever experience unless you’ve done this event. At this point I had no idea what my overall time was, that’s how little I cared, I only wanted to do the best I could. I heard the announcer Steve King say something about it entering the 15th hour now. FIFTEEN hours I’ve been out, trying to be the best at exercising (as Kenny Powers would say). Kept running at my pace, and nearing the finish turn you cut left under the PowerBar inflateable where I saw everyone again and was about ready to throw a Wayne Gretzky fist pump/knee lift I was so glad to be nearly done. Ran out west on LakeShore Drive to the turn around then the final 1k stretch to home. I consciously wanted to not be in someones finish line photo, and also not to have any jackass sprinting up at the finish chute behind me. All athletes around me at this point looked pretty content to walk or very slow jog in to the finish, so once I had a buffer of space in between the person way in front and person way in back, I settled into that spot and took it all in. Right before the finish I saw Ophee, Mom, Arlen, Adam, Mark, and Josh all cheering. Swung right and possibly threw a few F-Bombs in my excitement as I threw a few high fives and hugs out.
Back into the finish line chute with people lining the stands I made sure to high five pretty well everyone in the stands on my way into the finish before hitting the timing mat and nearly ripping the banner in two. I know it sounds cliche in the tri scene, but I had just become an Ironman.
The catcher was there right away and is required to stay with you through the entire process of getting your cap/shirt, medal, going to get bags/bike, medical tent, etc. The crew came over to the fence so I chatted for 3 minutes with them, in this time my heart dropped from 172 to about 110 and I started to feel pretty sick once the adrenaline wore off. The helper brought me into the medical tent to sit down and got me some chicken broth and a slice of pizza. I nibbled it but couldn’t stomach much. It looked like a warzone in there with people all hooked up to IV, the docs said there were an abnormal number of DNF’s and dehydrated individuals. I sat for about 15 minutes and a helper went to go get my 3 bags, while I had to go get my bike myself and walked back to Ophee, Mom, and Arlen. I loaded up on the sparse offering in the food tent (muffins, cookies, and pizza) but really didn’t eat much until the next day. We drove back to the motel and the shower may have been one of my best ever, I reeked. Amazing to be done the race, and even more importantly $2000 was raised to go towards ALS Canada’s research towards finding a cure.
Doing an event like this takes a team unless you are die hard Type A tri guy personality.
- I couldn't have even made one step without Ophee my wife. She pushed me and helped me so much the entire way, from researching nutrition for me and ordering my Hammer products.
- There’s my Mom and Arlen for coming out from Alberta to Nanaimo then to Penticton to see this race, her post race note said “Im so proud of you but don’t ever do anything like this again”. No guarantees Mom.
- My brother Kyle texting all day, as was Brian, and tons of good friends and family on Facebook or Twitter.
- The crew who came up and spent a week of their holidays to help push me to the finish and even had tshirts made, Josh Darren Mark and Adam for consistent motivating emails along the road to IMC, and countless others.
- Bob and Carolyn Gebbie for bringing me out to the TriStars Training Camp in July, that experience was invaluable.
- The Twitter community was amazing, the whole group knows who they are. Seeing others getting their workouts in keeps you honest and doing your own.
- Stefan Jacobsen at Nanaimo Frontrunners who saved my feet and helped a rookie out with his vet experience many times, and Oak Bay Bikes Nanaimo for always fixing my ride quickly and for wicked deals. So much advise from great people in Nanaimo (Janna, Colleen, list goes on and on). There’s tons of others who helped but this is becoming an Oscar speech and Ive tried to email out thank yous already so you know who you are.
- And lastly ALS Canada for the help along the way. Couldn’t have happened without!