For me, Ironman was a different kind of suffering than I am used to experiencing. Running for 4 minutes on a track is an intense hurt of the lactic variety, but you know it will end and quickly. Running the last half of the marathon in an Ironman is a pain that requires a mental fortitude that no first timer can prepare for. Will multiple IM’s prepare one for this closing stretch? I don’t know the answer to that question, and you’ll have to read on learn if I plan to find out ;-)
In my last blog, I said that if I met 2/3 of my goals for the day I’d be a happy Ironman come Monday morning. I’ll say it was a hat trick (I finished, I enjoyed it & I went sub 10), because while I did go through an immense amount of anguish in those last couple of hours, the first 8 or so were an absolute joy that put a smile on my face. The smile which went south as I headed north along Skaha, crept back on with 2 miles to go and hasn’t left since (well except for an hour or so Sunday night when we thought I might have to go to the hospital is as I lay in bed shivering/spasming and wanting but unable to puke).
My wife and I headed down to Penticton a few times during IM week: Thursday to check in, Friday for the welcome dinner/mandatory meeting & Saturday to check my bike. By the time we left home in Kelowna Sunday morning at 4:30, we were both a little tired of that drive. Staying at home kept my nerves in check though and I felt remarkably calm as I stood on the beach ready to embark on the unknown challenge that lay ahead.
One of the highlights of those pre-race trips was the opportunity to listen to race champ Jordan Rapp and former champ Jasper Blake dole out some good stories and sage advice about how to tackle the IMC course. I was listening guys… honestly… I was listening!
I lined up as far left as I possibly could to avoid the scrum which causes so many such concern and let the speedsters head out when the cannon went off. Let me say… this was the smoothest swim that I’ve had in a triathlon in the last year (1 Sprint, 1 Olympic, 3 HIM & now the Full). Sure I probably swam 4k on Sunday, but it was effortless and enjoyable. Every time I breathed to my right, I’d catch a glimpse of the masses not 10 yards away and think to myself “suckers… smooth water over here”. I even had a pair of feet to follow all the way to the first turn buoy, which we happened to swim about 30-40 yards past before stopping at a kayaker who advised that we might want to turn if we didn’t want to end up on Hwy 97! The rest of the trip was also out ‘wide left’ also known as the anti Scott Norwood for all of us that grew up Buffalo Bills fans. I finished off in a time that was right in line with my expectations.
Wow, there were a lot of people in there! Get in, take forever to get my bag, get my helmet on, put my shoes & glasses on & go.
Bike – 5:11
I cruised down Main St. on the anti-Norwood side of the road, passing plenty of people (I’d pass over 700 on the bike so it was a common theme throughout the day). As we headed up McLean Creek Rd. there were a LOT of people fixing flats, the tack droppers had been out and I was lucky to be riding in the middle of the road due to my speed (Kyle Marcotte, last year’s top Canuck at IMC, had advised me that the tack droppers likely drive along dropping them out the passenger side window so to stay to the middle of the road on that infamous stretch. Thanks Kyle!). I had time checkpoints for a 5:15 ride memorized in my head and I was 2 mins ahead of pace at the top of Richter and feeling great. I got off at the top to have my first of 2 bathroom breaks (the other at the top of Yellow Lake) and was right back on pace as I started the descent. I went through the rollers very easy about 30-40 yards off the back of a huge pack of cyclists that stretched out for a long way up the road. If I were to try and pass them through the rollers, I’d likely expend too much energy. Once we passed Barcelo Rd. on our way to Keremeos, I put in the effort to get past this group and, still feeling great, started to move further ahead of pace. I really had to back off the gas from Yellow Lake on in or I’d have ridden 5:05 which would likely have made the run turn even uglier than it did. Or maybe it would have been the right thing to do and had me a little tired starting out the run. Ironman is no doubt a learning experience.
I took the time to change into running gear and hit the bathroom again/sunscreen up before hitting the road. Not very many people in there.
Run – 3:24
“Ok… I listened to Jordan & Jasper, let me take these first couple of miles easy and see where I’m at.” Forgot to look at the watch at mile 1 but at mile 2, I was 13:00… oops! But it felt so easy! Part of the problem with being a runner is that 6:30 miles are actually my default pace, what I run if I’m out for an easy run at lunch. But as you notice from the picture above, there is a lot of air between me and the ground… this means more pounding for me than the typical runner… that pounding was soon to become part of the challenge that is IMC. If you are going to run 6:30 miles for a marathon you need to prepare your legs for that pounding. If you are going to shuffle through a marathon, you can likely get away without as many long runs or hard tempos on a hard surface. Through 10k feeling groovy (40 min)… 8 miles in and I finally run a 7 min mile… wow this is gonna be easy (did I even swim and bike today?)… let me finish off this Marathon in about 2:45 and I’ll be home by dinnertime. Through 10 miles in 66 mins and things are starting to get hard… my stomach is screaming at me to find a porta-pottie and fast! The next 14 miles would become a jog/walk/run adventure with my focus either on getting to the next aid station for the porta-john or getting some fuel in to me for what had become a death march with ‘dead quads’. Thankfully I had the hook line from Foo Fighters ‘Resolve’ in my head on a loop so all I heard in my head for 16 miles of pain was “A little bit of Resolve, is what I need now”. About 24 miles in, I smelled the barn and ran a couple of decent miles to bring me home in under my goal time of 10 hrs with a final time of 9:54.
I caught my friend Kyle who had been on a death march of his own in the finish chute and managed to chat/take a couple of pictures before my support crew (Malindi, My Parents and Doug) caught up to me. I will simply say that an immense feeling of satisfaction took over. I’d worked at this goal for a full year and now I’d finished and accomplished everything I set out to do. As an athlete who has accomplished many goals (and come up short on many occasions too), I often get asked “aren’t you elated or euphoric” after a win or meeting a goal. The answer is always “no, I’m feeling very satisfied”. We train and prepare to compete with an expectation of a result. We plan to achieve that result. When we do we are satisfied. When we don’t we are disappointed.
Do I have unfinished business with Ironman? Quite frankly, I’m not entirely sure. I think I probably do, but it may take a while before I do another. I’d like to improve as a swimmer and biker and get faster at the short stuff over the next couple of years so I think it’ll be a while before I do another IM (if ever). I think I can go much faster with the right preparation, but I’m not sure if there is a time/place in my life for that preparation and I’m not sure if I’d get a feeling of satisfaction going out and doing another without it being a big improvement on the first.
Big thank you’s go out to my support team on the day… Doug, Mom, Dad and to my wonderful wife Malindi J This Ironman business is such a selfish pursuit and I thank you for your patience with my indulgence (but I have a feeling one of these years it’ll be your turn). Thanks also to everyone out there cheering on the day… it was so HOT out there (34 degrees) that watching was its own big effort. A HUGE thank you to all who volunteered for this event!
Congratulations to everyone who got to the start line on Sunday. You all have an inspiring story to tell, make it your means to give back after your year of ‘me’. Inspire others to go out and challenge themselves, to make themselves better and take the discipline and effort required to complete such a daunting task forward in their future endeavors.
P.S. Yes I could have gone to Kona (roll-down) but No I am not going!
P.P.S. I have a spreadsheet of my training from the day I signed up for this adventure here (you'll likely need to copy/paste into your browser).