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(My brother in the 5AM hour writing in chalk on the run course)
Before I get started, in case ya missed it, here’s the days leading up to Ironman Canada, covering all of the pre-race action: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.
Oh…and you knew this was going to be long… but look at the bright side – at least I didn’t divide it into three even longer pieces (Swim/Bike/Run). 🙂
I woke up around 5:00AM and planned to get to the race site by about 5:45AM. Given virtually everything was taken care of the day before, all I had to do was just load my nutrition bottles, snap in my Garmin Forerunner 305 watch to my bike, and put on my wetsuit. But before that I first had to drop off my run and bike special needs bags. There were a bunch of boxes lined up with numbers on them. You just tossed your run bag in one, and bike bag in the other. They loaded them onto the trucks in the (fuzzy) background.
From there I walked a few more feet to body marking. It was fancy-style with two marker-people per athlete, and they had you step up on a little stool. Again, sorry for the fuzzy early morning cell-phone photos.
After that into the transition area I went. Dropped off the bottles, swapped some bag items, filled my bike with air, and then off to porta-potties.
(Good news…from here on out – no more cell phone photos!)
Then it was time to head to the water.
At around 6:30AM they started to let people into the beach area. I was still happy in a porta-potty at the time, but eventually I made my way over at around 6:40 – just in time to see the pro’s head off.
I waded into the water and swam out 25-50 yards and just sat out there for a few minutes. I faced the beach and just checked out the scene. There were numerous moments during the course of the day where you start to tear up – turning around and looking at all the folks along the shoreline and in the water was one of those moments. A person to the right of me was noticing the same thing and say “I wish they could see the view from out here…incredible”.
The swim caps are simple: Pink for gals, blue for guys. Pro’s had yellow.
Eventually they called us back to the line (a little banner strung across the bay). This is when they started to play U2’s ‘It’s a Beautiful Day’. Which is incredibly powerful to hear. It would also be the second of many moments when I started to tear up. They started to shout out and ask who was going to be an Ironman.
And then came the 30 second warning. A quiet calm fell over all the people around me. I was located on the front of the swim line, standing directly on/under the banner. In the above photo, I was about 1/3rd of the way up the line.
My plan for the swim was to just take it easy and make it a non-event. But I also wanted to get stay out of as much of the mess as possible, so I knew that staying on the front edge would probably afford me some of that.
Then the canon sounded and off we went. Well…some of us went off anyway, I’m not exactly clear on what the game plan was for the guy below…but it seems like his plan was more relaxing than mine.
The swim wasn’t too bad. It’s a big one-loop swim making a large triangle around two house-boats. Highlights and lowlights included:
I got kicked in the face four times and had my goggles fill with water all four times. But I got DAMN good and flipping on my back like a sea otter and emptying them out all in about the length of 2 strokes. I was really personally excited about this quickly developed aquatic capability.
I had one Type-A pink-cap forcefully push my down. After a few tri’s you can tell the difference between an accidental push and a force-full push and hold down on your back. After that she then held onto my leg and pulled me backwards. Let’s just say…I solved that problem and she stopped doing that. I don’t care if your the hottest chick out there…
The two corners were the most weird feeling on earth. It was like a calm before a storm. Leading up to and after each corner it was typical thrashing. But the actual corner was complete calmness. We all just somehow swooshed around it in one big massive tidal wave. The only thing I can compare to is like playing old school Mario Kart where you cornered sorta sideways (about 18 seconds into that YouTube clip). It was just unreal.
At any rate… as I started to turn to home and had to perform another sea otter maneuver I was just amazed at the massive wake of people behind and in front of me. Astounding.
In my little ‘predictor’, I had put in 1:06 for my swim time. Ad 1:06:43, I exited the water and crossed the timing mats into T1. The swim was a non-event, which is exactly what the plan was. One peach done, many more to go.
T1 was very very quick. I hit up the wetsuit strippers and it was off in no time. Unfortunately they didn’t allow us to put our shoe and helmets on our bikes like the Pro’s were allowed to. Ours had to be in a little gear bag that we took with us into the transition changing tents. So that cost me some time. But I just zipped into the tent, sat down and put on my shoes and helmet and bailed out of the tent.
Because my cycling shoes were kinda wet due to water on the grass, as I passed my bike rack I performed the most awesome slide across the pavement. I had to have slid at least 6-8 feet trying to stop. It was classy.
I completed T1 in 2:53.
The bike course started out down main street with the crowds lining the route. I actually saw both my Dad and brother a few hundred yards up the street. How I picked them out of the crowd is beyond me, perhaps they were shouting my name. No idea. There were many blurry moments during the day.
During the pre-race briefing the day before the officials were good about being reasonable. They said that they understood that during the first miles of the bike course they knew that keeping out of draft zones was going to be tough and weren’t going to be tightly enforcing it until things thinned out.
But I think some took it a bit too far. There was some serious Tour de France Peloton’s goin’ on out there till Richter and the refs weren’t even blinking. Speaking of Richter…here’s the course profile:
The three climbs are McLean Creek, Richter Pass and Yellow Lake. McLean creek was a non-event. I don’t really even remember it. I do remember going slower though, which was the climb. And I remember going down, that was fun – albeit kinda blind so not as fun as later on.
As we were approaching Richter, Shawn passed me and said hello. We would play tag back and forth for the next 8-10 miles leading up to Richter. On Richter as we all slowed down to single digit speeds we chatted for a few seconds and he reminded me (correctly) that I was pushing it a bit too hard on some of the earlier hills and that it’s still ‘a long day ahead’.
There was a few hills leading up to Richter that I broke into Z4 trying to stay out of draft zones, however once on Richter I was calmly in Z2/Z3. It was funny, as Shawn was giving me valued advice, some German guy pushed hard up the early section of Richter out of breath saying “How can you guys be carrying a conversation!?!”. To which I almost responded – ‘Because you’re pushing too hard’, but decided against it. I passed him calmly a short while (2 minutes) later and never saw him again. Richter pass was otherwise a piece of cake.
Here’s me cresting Richter Pass:
Descending Richter was awesome. And really rather fast.
It was shortly after Richter that I hit my highest speed ever on a bike – 51.6MPH. I remember looking down and thinking – Holy Crap this would hurt if I fell. But…it was a blast!
After that it was the seven rollers between the passes. It’s hard to tell on the profile of the course, but there are seven hills in there that just grind away at you. Shawn and I would continue to play tag for another dozen or so miles. Here’s me climbing one of those seven hills:
After that it was out to a short detour through the out and back section. This area goes out on a random road about 5 miles and back about five miles. In what would be the first strange bike incident of the day, I actually got stung by a bee on my leg. It hurt for a few minutes, and then made a neat little mark, and then I slowly forgot about it. But go figure… a bee?
Eventually I made my way to Yellow Lake – the last ascent before cruising all the way back to town. The crowds were unreal there, cars stopped on the road and people lining both sides of the hill – just like you see in The Tour, with a small 8-10 foot wide path for you to go up in the middle of them. This would be another one of those ‘Wow, I’m really doing an Ironman’ teary eyed moments.
The crowds were incredible. No matter where you were on the course – even 50+ miles from the middle of nowhere, there were people sitting out on the course. The town is unbelievable in their support.
Once hitting Yellow Lake, it was time to descend back into town. This was basically a nice solid downhill stretch of 40MPH for a while before hitting the busy town center.
(Coming down the backside of Yellow Lake, my new banner photo was also taken at the same time, both by my brother)
So once I was back in town, I figured all was good. I no longer had to worry about crashing at 50MPH down a hill and getting a DNF on the bike. All I had to do was simply run a marathon in just under 10.5 hours.
And that’s when it happened. At mile 110 I saw a 6 year old on his small bike in the road ahead. I think he was trying to cross or something but became disoriented and started to panic when a group of about three of us sorta side-by-side-side descended down upon him (at about 20MPH). I saw it coming and quickly started pulling on the brakes, thinking the kid would just stop and I’d be able to cruise by.
But nope, he kept on chugging on this diagonal line (represented by the red arrow below). I was still hitting the brakes, but I didn’t really have anywhere to go other than the curb. I yelled out a huge scream, but that didn’t seem to help my case much either. He narrowly missed the other two bikers, but T-boned straight into my left side – at basically the exact same moment I hit the curb. Somehow in the whole thing I actually remembered to clip-out, so I didn’t fall over off the bike.
(Admit it, you are amazed and blown away by my Microsoft Paint skillz, I did this all by myself. Ignore the fact that my little bikes look like cows.)
I was fine, and the kid seemed fine (minus his parents now yelling at him). Given I was fine and the kid wasn’t crying, I bailed. However, I left some of my leg behind on his handlebars. Well, I’m pretty sure that’s what cut me up anyway. My bike was pretty much fine too as I took the brunt of his bike right into my lower leg. I was just happy I didn’t have to add another 2 miles to my marathon and run the bike in. Although, in retrospect I would have had the story of a lifetime to tell if I ran a gimp bike in. Here’s a shot of my leg about 5 hours later, after 4 hours of rain washing it clean. It was much cooler when there was still blood streaming down it on the run.
At any rate… I finished up on the bike and blitzed through T2.
Bike Split: 5:29:12 (Avg: 20.4 MPH)
I had predicted/assumed a bike split of 5:28:30 – so I was pretty darn close to my predicted split. Although my goal split was a few minutes faster.
My T1 time was fairly quick though at only 1:46. And that includes having the sunscreen ladies cover my shoulders in sunscreen!
I knew at about Yellow Lake that I wasn’t going to be able to run the marathon pace that I wanted to. It’s just that at Yellow Lake I didn’t know why I wasn’t going to. Meaning, I was tired but I just assumed it was because it was a long day. But more about that later…
Off I went out of transition area and straight into walking for two minutes. You have no idea how hard it was to walk straight out of transition for two minutes (at a brisk pace) – but I was following the plan laid out for me (speaking of which, someone shouted out my full name right near the start of the run – I’m still not sure who it was – but I’d love to know – thanks for the cheers!). At exactly the two minute marker I picked up the run pace and started trekking up Main Street.
At around mile 5 I went past my brother, mom and Dad – where they took these photos:
The reality was that I was already hurting. Not physically, but just energy wise. I was drained. I was still following my plan of walking every aide station, but the walks became longer.
Soon the walks stretched from the planned 30-60 seconds to a few minutes. And then it was walking some of the hills. Miles 9-12 were tough. The wind was absolutely brutal coming off the lake. Strongest winds I’ve ever run in, and sustained for essentially 6 miles without any protection. Well, actually, that’s not entire true. I did exchange the wind for protection…in the hills. It was so strong that if you dropped your cup on the ground, the thing would instantly go flying off into the distance faster than you can run.
Here’s a short one of the official photographers took – you can tell I’m not exactly thrilled at this stage.
I was doing the math and slowly watching my goal times slip away. I had revised my goal time already once from 10:15 to 10:30, and now was revising it again to simply make 11. Heck, I had just finished walking the better part of a mile at that point.
It was around the turnaround though that I actually had some renewed energy. I think it was because I saw Shawn again just ahead of me and it gave me a goal – something to shoot for. So I made it a goal to try and catch back up. Really, you have to remember at this stage I’m grasping for anything.
I slowly cutdown on my walk breaks and really kept them to more or less just the aide stations. I also actually started taking in calories. Remember that mention of being short on energy? Well, come to find out later on when I picked up my bike – I only took in 40% of my planned caloric intake on the bike. Yup, that’s it. Oh, and on the run – 10% of my total planned gel consumption. So I was simply running on nothing. Except your brain doesn’t function that well at this stage – it didn’t process these two together. At the turnaround I had a few cups of Gatorade and soup and started to feel better – but I didn’t even link that together as the cause of feeling better, so I stopped doing that for no good reason. My HR was low, my legs didn’t hurt – I just had no energy. I need to somehow make a little chart for myself when I’m on the run and tattoo my arm or something, cause I never seem to learn.
But I actually started cooking on the way back after the turnaround. I was running almost according to plan. About 8:25 minute miles + about 45-60 seconds at each rest station (walking). I had even gathered a small pack that was running with me and told me I was keeping a very solid pace for them. It was like three of us marching together in silence.
The whole time I was doing math in my head of course. Can I make 11 still? At the turnaround, it was rough mathematically. It required me to run 10 minute miles – which on any other day would be easy. But not today. Today it was like maintaining a 5 minute mile pace. Somewhere along the way though, the math started actually really working in my favor. Then it became a new game – can I make 10:49:49?
And that became the name of the game. Keep on going steady to just make that. Mile after mile I did just that.
Did I mention it rained for the last 18 miles of the marathon? Thank goodness – as it kept me cool!
(Coming down the last half mile of the run)
As I came down the home stretch in the last few hundred meters, I knew I was going to make 10:49:49. There was a girl and a guy about 20-30 feet of ahead of me, I think both in my AG actually. But there was no point in passing them – I knew I would make my time so I eased up a bit – let them enjoy their moments, and then came down in front of the crowds and enjoyed it myself!
After that I was whisked away by some of the best volunteers on earth. First stop was to get my splits sticker put on my bib. Kinda nifty – a quick little sticker that has all my splits on it. Next step was to get my official finisher photo:
Then she brought me over to the chairs and food/drinks. That’s where she pretty much stayed with me and got me whatever I needed. Hot soup, drinks, etc… Good deal!
(I’m the one in the blue coat – my Mom managed to worm her way in to give it to me)
Oh, and here’s my volunteer person who ‘caught’ me at the finish like and watched over me for a bit.
After a while (like 45 or so minutes) – it started to occur to me that I was shaking pretty uncontrollably (actually, it was mostly noticed by other people around me asking if I was alright). I was getting very very cold fairly quick, and hot soup wasn’t helping anymore. My mom then tried to go get my dry clothes bag with my info, but was rejected. So I had to make the walk way the heck away (we’re talking a few hundred yards here – that’s simply like miles away at this point).
But eventually I got my warm clothes and then changed out of my soaking wet stuff and I stopped shaking. I was just happy the medical people didn’t pull me into their tent. It’s a bad-bad place.
I learned a ton this year during my first one. Mostly that nutrition is a game you can’t win if you get behind. I hit my swim and bike goals, but came up very short on the run goal due mostly to nutrition (or lack thereof). I was actually really good about my overall HR zones on the bike, as well intake of both water and salt tablets. And while I thought I might be disappointed for missing some of my goals – I’m surprisingly not. I truly am more than happy just to have finished. Oh, and I’m already signed up next year. 🙂
And it was great having my Mom/Dad/Brother up there, awesome support. Plus, they took the majority of the photos above – which are also awesome!
Tomorrow-ish I’ve got a whole post just about what happens at midnight (17 hours from the start, which is the race finish) – including some cool videos I took, as I think that deserves it’s own post. Plus another post for all of the festivus that happens on the day after the race. And then…you’ll be IMC-post free for another year.
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