Tag Archives: Ironman Canada

Race Recap: Ironman Canada – The Run & Post-Race

THE RUN – 4:16:33 // 9:47min/mi average

As I ran out of T2 I saw my friends and family again, and all I could think about was whether they knew I’d had struggles on the bike. I mean, I don’t know how they would know because I certainly didn’t take time to stop and tell them! But I’d told them that I expected to come in under 6 hours with 100% certainty, and I didn’t. I worried about them worrying about me.

Running out of transition

Running out of transition

The run course is a double loop with an extra tail at the end. The loop being about 12.5 miles (each time). The first 4ish miles are on packed gravel trail has a few long gradual climbs and a few short steeper ones. It’s not extremely technical, but it does wind back and forth and up and down with more intensity than a wide and paved road would.

The gravel trail ends near Green Lake where you run along the boardwalk and then onto a paved trail for a mile or so. Next is long out and back along the highway (which was still closed to traffic) for a couple of miles. The road is slightly off camber and there are a couple long rolling ups and downs, but the view of Green Lake is worth it! After running back there’s more paved trail that winds through the trees (shade!), alongside the stream, beside a few housing developments, and right past the finish line for round 2.

Ironman Canada Whistler Run Course

The run is kind of a blur to me – all I know is that I let myself off the hook very early, and I regret it very much. I don’t think I made it 2 miles before I convinced myself that my stomach hurt and stopped for my FIRST EVER mid-race porta potty trip. The real problem was that I felt sorry for myself, so rather than try to run through it I let myself off the hook.

Shortly after this photo I turned down a high 5 from a friend "because my hands are bloody". Wonder what spectators thought about me shouting that mid-race!

Shortly after this photo I turned down a high 5 from a friend “because my hands are bloody”. Wonder what spectators thought about me shouting that mid-race!

For the entire first loop I took periodic walk breaks – they may have started as “walking through the aid station” but each one lasted longer and longer and longer. I tried to stop a couple of times to get paper towel for my nose, which was still bleeding, but some of the aid stations wanted me to stop and sit down. If they weren’t willing to give me a paper towel for the road I was off!

I hated everything. I felt disappointed in my day and angry at myself for having given in, but I couldn’t muster a real rally. I didn’t see any point in trying to kill myself now to post a time I wouldn’t be thrilled about anyway (#badchoices).

Ironman Canada Run

A brief moment when I was actually running with enough speed to have both feet off the ground

I started thinking about how much fun I usually have doing this sport; even when I hate it I’m having the time of my life! But in these moments I wasn’t. So I decided if I couldn’t have the race I had trained for and wanted, it was okay to make it more fun. I committed to getting to where I knew I’d see my friends, family, and coach next, but at that point if I still hated everything I would allow myself to stop and tell them and figure out how to proceed.

The funny thing is, as soon as I saw them I didn’t hate anything anymore (other than my bloody nose and tired legs). I waved and ran by and that was the end of feeling sorry for myself.

Soon to be starting loop 2, head down, tissue in hand!

Soon to be starting loop 2, head down, tissue in hand!

The second loop wasn’t much better pace-wise, but I could finally smile about being out there. I became grateful to be there again, and it didn’t hurt that I picked off a couple of girls in my AG in the final 6 miles.

2 seconds off from last year's time. Unbelievable!

2 seconds off from last year’s time. Unbelievable!

I ran down the finish chute and laughed out loud as I saw the clock ticking. I could speed up and beat my time from last year – or I could have an epic story about finishing 2 separate and completely different Ironmans with the exact same number on the clock. Shockingly I did have some (small amount of) pride left so I kicked for the last bit and came in at 11:35:55, 2 seconds faster than last year. But this year I did hear the announcer proclaim me an Ironman.

OVERALL – 11:35:55 // 11th AG

Obligatory step and repeat photos

Obligatory step and repeat photos

Post Race

The hours and days after the race were good. After I got out of medical for my bloody nose my people retrieved my stuff while I limped to the shower. We had good food and good wine that night, and celebrated the day, the year, and being together. I got to enjoy Whistler without worry or guilt, including champagne, oysters, and an amazing dinner that completely took my mind off of Ironman.

Amazing view from Peak 2 Peak

Amazing view from Peak 2 Peak

And since then, in recounting my race to others and putting on a smile for their sake, I’ve convinced myself that I’m okay with the day. Truly, I’m content with it.

You see, there’s really no other option. IYes, I’m disappointed, but the only thing I did wrong was have a bad attitude, and I’ve forgiven myself for that. Life’s too short.

Next time (or the next 100 times) I want to give up or give in Ironman #2 will come flooding back to me, and then I’ll keep going.

Yep. Whistler Re-do 2014!

Yep. Whistler Re-do 2014!

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Race Recap: Ironman Canada – The Bike & T2

THE BIKE – 6:02:39 // 18.53mph average speed

As I made my way down the first stretch of road I tried very hard to ride conservatively. Riders were gunning it out there! But having ridden the course before I held back, wanting to stay smart.

Ironman Canada Bike

Bike time!

The bike course is extremely challenging, with about 6600 feet of climb overall. There was much debate in the months leading up to the race as IMC had posted a number in the 4k’s, but as it turns out they used a method of measurement that didn’t account for the rollers which make up a significant portion of the course. However, even with the rolling hills the vast majority of the climbing took place mile 14-22 and mile 96-112.

The course can be broken down into segments pretty easily:

  • T1 to Callaghan Valley Rd.– Mostly rolling with a couple significant ups but more significant downs (approx 14 miles)
  • Callaghan Climb + Descent – Straight up with hardly a break for 8 miles, then straight back down (approx 16 miles)
  • Climb back to Whistler – Mostly rolling but more of a climb (approx 10 miles)
  • Descent to Pemberton – Screaming downhill with a handful of short climbs and rollers (approx 20 miles)
  • Pemberton Flats (out & back) – Pancake flat farm road with some sketchy pavement (approx 30 miles)
  • Climb back to Whistler/T2 – Up, up, up with hardly any flats or downhills to spin (approx 20 miles)

Ironman Canada Whistler Bike Course

So, I’ll do mini recaps to follow that format.

The luckiest part of the entire day was the weather for the bike. Not only was it sunny and mild, but the wind stayed at bay which isn’t usually the case through the mountain pass and farm valley.

The bike was fun, when I wasn't bleeding, flatting, or serving my penalty.

The bike was fun, when I wasn’t bleeding, flatting, or serving my penalty.

T1 to Callaghan Valley Rd. – The entire time I was worried that I was working too hard. My heart rate was on the high side but not insanely so, and by the time we’d gotten to Whistler Village I felt more steady so I kept with that level of effort. The road was extremely crowded and there was lots of passing and leapfrogging with riders around me. I saw quite a few people pass on the right or hanging out on the left for extended periods of time but rather than get irritated I rode on focused on how the hills ahead would spread the field out and did what I could to ride legal. I had my first family sighting and it was great to hear their yells as I whizzed by.

Callaghan Climb + Descent – The climb up was just as tough as I remembered. I had hoped that it would feel more like the second day of camp (a slower but steadier spin) but instead I felt like I was fighting the road the whole stretch. I was still within a comfortable zone, but I felt like I was working too hard to be getting passed left and right by EVERYONE, men and women alike. It was amazing and inspiring to see people powering up with seemingly no effort, but it made me feel weak to get completely crushed so early on. I (sort of but not really) wish there had been a timing mat at the bottom and top to see how many people passed me. When we hit the turnaround at the top I was relieved to be done and check the tough part of this portion off, but I was also somewhat worried about how I’d fare for the remainder of the day with my spirits already a little low.

Climb back to Whistler – The climb back to Whistler felt strong, and was probably my best portion of the bike. I rode strong but smart, got good nutrition in, and made up some ground that I felt had been lost. This section wasn’t easy, but I was pretty familiar with how to push it to make the best of both the ups and downs. And the second family sighting was great too! At this point I felt like I’d regained some momentum, though my heart rate was still high for my perceived effort.

Descent to Pemberton – This portion was fast fast fast, just like I knew it would be. I spun out my gearing quite a few times and simply had to coast until my momentum lessened. The view was beautiful, and it felt like a perfect day to be on the bike. Some of the stretches were congested but other times I truly couldn’t see another rider on the road. This race was the first time that British Columbia has closed a highway for an event, and it was amazing to ride this section without fear of traffic, or the noise.

Pemberton Flats – I hit up special needs, switched out my bottles with the quickness, and pushed hard to get away from aid station chaos. After a couple turns I hit the flat country road slog. I felt strong, but the road was packed full with bikes. For the first while there were only riders heading out, but after some time the pro’s and elite ag-ers started heading back to Whistler and passed the opposite way. And as more people passed by the more packs I saw on both sides of the road.

I caught up to a group riding tight, and as I got closer it was more and more evident that they were purposefully riding that way, and even taking turns pulling. I passed, but a few minutes later a rider passed back, then another, then another, then another, and before I knew it I was dropping back for, no joke, 20 riders. I re-passed when I could, but the same thing happened again. And then again, with a different leader. It may be hard to ride legal on packed flat roads, but it’s not hard to not cheat!

It was challenging to get away from the group and so when we hit the turnaround I put my head down and hammered. I felt like I had made some ground but quickly realized my nose was bleeding heavily. I wiped it onto my forearm and kept working. At this point a couple of men passed and warned that the pack had chosen my wheel to suck. Crap, I thought I’d lost them!

I couldn’t work any harder without feeling worried about the climb to come so I kept my head down and kept spinning and kept sniffling my bloody nose and spitting. As we neared the town of Pemberton again I glanced left and riders had started to pass en mass, it felt like I was getting swallowed by a swarm of bees. It happened so fast that my only option was to sit up and brake and as soon as I did I saw: an official. My stomach dropped – I’d just given these guys a free ride for the entire way back, but all the officials saw was me braking. The motorcycle pulled a u-turn, rode up alongside me, and shoved a red card in my face. I was beyond angry but I made eye contact to acknowledge my suggested infraction. I rode away, and fast, full of rage. A few of my friends who’d warned me about the pack were just up the road, and when I caught up I told them what had happened they were just as angry as I was.

Bike2

Pre-penalty tent, post flat, mid-bleeding.

Climb back to Whistler/T2 – All too soon we had started the climb back to Whistler, and as soon as I started climbing my bloody nose got worse. I stayed conservative up the first mile climb trying to think about what to do. I felt considerably more tired than I wanted too, but my heart rate finally seemed under control. Was I tired because I was upset? Or was I tired because I was worried? Or was I tired because I was tired? After the first climb there was a fast decent to a short flat…which is where I flatted.

Luckily it was my front wheel, and luckily I’d had plenty of practice changing flats this summer. However with a bleeding nose and a penalty I hadn’t served yet it was tough to keep a good attitude through yet another thing. I didn’t want to give up, but I also didn’t want this day!

I got the flat fixed quickly and hopped back on my bike and spun up the rest of the hills. I felt like I got passed 100x and probably did, but I didn’t feel able to fight back and I still don’t really know whether than was a physical fitness issue or my bad attitude.

With a mile or so to go I found the penalty tent, dismounted, and served my 4 minutes. I watched rider after rider fly by and felt like my day was slipping away but I tried to stay positive. Another athlete rode in at my 1 minute mark and asked the volunteer for a tissue or towel; he must not have known they aren’t supposed to give you anything. I guess the volunteer didn’t know either because she handed him a tissue, he took it and looked at me, and handed it over. He must have noticed the blood all over my face! Lovely.

Take my freakin' bike already!

Take my freakin’ bike already!

T2 – 2:38

T2 was quick and easy. Throw the bike at whoever looks most capable of catching it. Grab your run bag, run into the tent. My volunteer wanted very much to be helpful but I’m so minimalist there wasn’t much for her to do. She straightened my race belt so I’d get it right side up, handed me socks, and did a good job cleaning up after me because all of my items – even the ones I didn’t use – were properly packed up when I got my bag back later that day. The jog out of transition was long, but on to the run!

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Race Recap: Ironman Canada – Swim and T1

THE SWIM – 1:10:55 // 1:40/100 yards

Suiting up!

Suiting up!

Making my way down to the water I wasn’t as nervous as I sometimes am for the swim portion of the day. Things that I think helped contribute to that: I had a solid plan, I had quite a few solid swims in Alta Lake prior to race day, and 2 days before the race I found out that the start was deep and in water. One of my biggest fears had been a shallow water start and having to navigate the first 90 degree turn only a couple hundred yards from shore, so learning that we wouldn’t have to turn for nearly 1/2 mi made me feel much better.

G's IMC Mugshot of the day - Alta Lake

G’s IMC Mugshot of the day – Alta Lake

So, as I mentioned, the swim was a deep water start with the start line running about 200 yards, from the first buoy all the way to shore. It was angled a bit as well, so that no matter where on that line you positioned yourself it would be the same distance to the first orange (turn) buoy. The course was 2-loop, but what made it different from a lot of other 2-loop swims is that swimmers stayed in the water for both loops and only made their way back to shore to finish the leg. Usually 2-loop IM swims have a mid-way check point on the beach where swimmers have to exit, run across a timing mat, then enter the water again for the second lap.

Ironman Canada Whislter Swim

I walked through T1 and was sure to cross the timing mat to turn my chip on. On the beach there were hundreds of athletes milling about nervously, but I got straight into the water. The more time I could just float around and acclimate the better, especially knowing that the water was the perfect temperature and there was no risk of getting cold. I got in a solid warm up with a few short hard strokes and treaded water while Oh Canada played, the pros went off, and AGers started getting into the water. I was surprised how many hung back and stayed on the beach, it was almost like athletes weren’t sure how the start was supposed to work.

Athletes getting ready

Athletes getting ready

My plan was to start a bit off of the buoy line to try to avoid the chaos but also to not get in faster swimmers’ way. Randomly I saw 2 of my teammates that I hadn’t yet spotted that day floating within 10 feet of me. We laughed and joked about how skilled we were at following our race plans; since we all have the same coach we figured she had given us similar instructions on where to start. It was great to have some familiar faces nearby though, and since both teammates are stronger swimmers than I am I felt safe positioning myself right behind them and knowing that I’d have space.

ironmancanadaswimstart

3…2…1… Go Time

The first loop of the swim wasn’t too eventful. It felt very crowded, but there were only a couple of times that I felt held up by the traffic around me. Generally I was able to work hard and keep pushing my effort and pace. The turns were pretty rough and congested, but for how many people were within arms reach (A WHOLE LOT) I feel like the experience was pretty calm.

The second loop of the swim got a little more dicey. Swimmers were much more spread out by that point so there weren’t so many people to be conscious of, but it felt like swimmers began to flail a lot more. The water got more rough and even though there was plenty of open water I got hit quite a few times trying to pass groups or when people wanted to fight over the feet I had found to draft off of. I wonder if the same thing happens in a 2-loop swim when a beach exit midway is required.

The 2nd to last stretch before the turn back to shore I started feeling tightening in my left calf, and then in my right. Cramping doesn’t usually plague me during exercise, but I’ve gotten cramps in my sleep enough to know exactly what was happening. I immediately stopped kicking and tried to keep moving forward using only my upper body in hope that my calves would chill. That did it for a couple hundred yards or so, but as soon as I started working hard again my right calf cramped up as bad as I’ve ever felt it. I tried to swim through but I couldn’t keep my lower half from sinking with how paralyzed I felt. I stopped, sat up for a second, and manually flexed my foot with my hands. The cramps came and went a few times during the rest of the swim but I was able to swim through them and before I knew it I was at the last turn buoy.

The last stretch back to shore was the worst part of the swim, in my opinion. I don’t know if people lost their form because they were tired, or if seeing the beach makes people more competitive with each other, but it was a pretty brutal fight to the finish. I tried not to shy away from faster feet and the advantage of swimming in the pack, but with plenty of space around there were too many errant arms and legs for my liking. It felt chaotic and like there was a lot of panic in peoples’ movements. But finally the water got so dark I couldn’t see a thing, which meant it was shallow enough that sand was getting kicked up. I stood up about 2 strokes too early but quickly made my way out of the water and across the timing mat on the beach.

T1 – 3:21

I got to the wetsuit strippers and felt like there were 1000 of them and 1 of me! I scurried up to 2 guys and they had a hard time but after a few tugs successfully stripped my suit off.

The inside of the tent was extremely dark, and I felt like there was no one there – athletes or volunteers – so I got to work by myself. I threw my suit, cap, and goggles on the ground, dumped my bag and started putting my shoes on when a volunteer asked if I needed help. I told her I only needed help packing up and a couple of moments later I had grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, and was off to find my bike.

Tracks!

Tracks!

The transition area was a little bit clunky in terms of the set up; no fault of IMC but the park was strangely shaped so it was hard to make the best of it. I found my bike with no difficulty though (tip: always walk your race day path through transition a few times before the race!) and made my way out of transition, across train tracks, up a path, and to the main parking lot to mount. As I got on my bike I was so so so glad I had remembered to put it in the small ring, as climbing up the hill to get out of the lot was more of a b*tch than I remembered.

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Race Recap: Ironman Canada – Pre-Race Prep

I am an Ironman. An Ironman x 2, actually.

Olympic Rings in the Village

Olympic Rings in the Village

I’m happy, disappointed, content, and what’s another word for disappointed? at how everything went down on August 25. But what happened is what happened, and I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world that I got to have my day in Whistler (and SPOILER ALERT that I’ll get to do it again). The most important people in my world were there to cheer me on, and when things in my brain got ugly the only thing that kept me going was my will to not allow them be as disappointed in me as I was in my day. Their cheers and shouts and neon shirts and maps marked with the perfect spot to intersect my path made my day one that can make me smile!

The week leading up to the race was as perfect as it could be. We adjusted to Whistler, I had work to keep me distracted, the few tiny workouts I had went very well, and I figured out the logistics before the aggro triathletes who intimidate the living heck out of me arrived and took over town. Having been in Whistler for our 4-day camp helped me orient myself quickly, but before I knew it I started seeing the Mdot logo on everyone everywhere, and I got anxious. Some athletes thrive off of that competition and buzz, but seeing lean fit bodies and bikes 3x as expensive as mine everywhere I go makes me want to hide under my bed.

Me and G lunching post golf/run

Me and G lunching post golf/run

Which is why it was so awesome to have my parents and best friend and her husband roll into town in the couple of days prior to Go Time. Having non-triathletes there, normal people, if you will, brought me back down to earth. It forced me to slow down and think about what I was doing, but it also ensured that I didn’t think too much. Suddenly a moment debating the latest Selena Gomez hit (Duh. It rocks.) was just as important as 140.6 miles, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s how it should be.

The Expo

I hit up the expo early on Thursday with what felt like 99% of the athletes racing. It took me over an hour to get through all of the many lines I had to wait in, but the volunteers were great and the athletes were excited. It seemed like the majority of athletes were confused about how the check-in process worked, so along with the few veterans beside me I found myself answering a whole lot of questions pouring out from around us. It made me feel confident and secure that I really knew the answers. The expo at Whistler was much larger and more of a production than what I experienced in Penticton last year, but I think mostly that’s due to the fact that IMC is now a WTC managed race.

It was a cool experience to have all of the tents set up in the Olympic Plaza in the Village, one of the most central spots in Whistler. There was plenty of space for athletes and their families to hang out and spend a significant amount of time (and money!) there. Luckily I walked away mostly unscathed before the race minus some goggle defogger (that didn’t work, sadly) and a race poster to hang in the bike room. I tried to spend the most minimal amount of time possible amongst the chaos, but it looked like people were having a lot of fun.

T1 & T2 Bike and Bag Drop Off

As soon as I got back to the condo on Thursday I started planning and organizing my bags. I do best when I have plenty of time to think without feeling rushed, so I gave myself 2 whole days to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I’m pretty minimalist when it comes to race day “stuff”; the fewer decisions I have to make and the fewer things I have to remember, the better, but I sometimes worry that I could be under prepared and missing something. Come Saturday’s drop off here’s what was in my bags:

Transition bag staging area

Transition bag staging area

T1

  • Bike Shoes
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Clif Bloks

T2

  • Running Shoes (to be added race day)
  • Socks
  • Sunscreen
  • Race Belt
  • Visor
  • Body Glide
  • Clif Bloks

Special Needs Bike

  • 3x 24 ounce bottles mixed with Infinit

Special Needs Run

  • None – there’s nothing that I could possibly need or want that I couldn’t get on-course!

Having a split T1 and T2 made things a little more confusing than Ironman Canada was in Penticton, but after the rain subsided on Saturday morning it actually wasn’t too bad. I rode my bike with my T1 bag to the lake, and it only took me about 10 minutes to get there. I made sure to walk my race day route (lake – wetsuit strip station – grab my bag – changing tent – bike – bike out) and identify sights to remember, and then I hopped on a bus that took me right back to our condo.

T2 (and the finish line) was only a block from our front door, so a bit later in the day I dropped my T2 bag off and did the same walk through to help visualize my race day path, however it was much easier to do in a wide open parking lot than in the T1 park with trees and barriers.

Pretty soon I was done for the day and spent the afternoon eating pasta, tracking all of my friends running Hood to Coast, and making sure that things were set to go for race day morning. I got in bed around 8pm feeling dead tired and ready to close my eyes, but the rest of the night produced very little and very light sleep, which is unusual for me. I willed myself to not worry; if there’s anything I did well the 3 weeks leading up to race day it was sleep!

Race Day Morning

I woke up at 3:30 on race day and tip toed around trying to get ready. I made coffee and downed it along with a bagel, 24 ounces of Nuun, and a banana. At 4:30 I put on my running shoes and went for a 10 minute jog with intermittent strides to warm up and get my heart going, something I’ve found really helpful in managing potential panic during swim starts. By 5am I had all of my stuff packed up and ready to go, so I kissed Garth goodbye, turned off the lights, and walked to T2 to catch a bus to the lake.

I got all the way to the check in and got marked with my number and everything, when I realized I had forgotten my Imodium (a race day ritual): mistake #1. I walked back to the condo, grabbed it, and hurried back. I dropped my special needs bag, did one more walk through from bike in all the way to run out and started stepping onto the bus when I realized I was still holding my running shoes IN.MY.HAND.: mistake #2. I scurried off the bus, back to my run bag, dropped them, and caught the next bus 5 minutes later feeling like an amateur.

The bus ride to the lake was dark and quiet and I tried to close my eyes for a few minutes, but before I knew it we were outside the park and my seatmate was shuffling into the aisle to disembark. I was really glad I knew my way around the park, and knew enough to hang out by the entrance for a while to use the real bathrooms! I cycled through that line a couple of times until it got light enough to see the bike set up well and moved onward. So far I’m 0 for 0 in bringing my bike pump to a start line this year, but a lovely girl in the row behind me actually offered hers up without me having to ask.

Alta Lake. Photo from earlier in the week.

Alta Lake. Photo from earlier in the week.

Then I met my bike rack neighbor Erin in person (who is now an Ironman!), hung out by my bike taking it all in, said ‘hi’ to my coach and a few other teammates, and before I knew it that “extra” 45 minutes had turned into 10 minutes and it was time to go get in the water.

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Ironman Canada (Whistler) Video

As a preview to my upcoming race report, here’s a video my #1 fan put together of the day.

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Are You Ready

In the last 3 weeks I’ve been asked So are you ready? more times than I could possibly count.

Am I ready? Well. I’m as ready as I’m going to be.

This year I haven’t done a great job of tracking things here on the blog, but Training Peaks (where I log my workouts) doesn’t lie. My year in training started out similarly to how last year did, but the last 3 or 4 months were not similar at all. The summer months brought much longer long days, more two-a-days, and more overall hours, but also more rest days too. There were a lot of days when I thought I don’t know if I can do this. And then I did.

For a moment I thought about pulling number of miles swam, ridden, and run, feet climbed, and calories burned, but those numbers don’t really mean anything to you or to me. What means something to me is that I completed every single workout as well as I could. I gave every session my all. Sometimes I wished I had more to give, and a lot of times I wished I was fitter and faster, but all you can give it what you have. And there is nothing more certain in this world to me than that I did just that.

So when I say I’m as ready as I’m going to be, what I mean is that the cards can fall as they may on Sunday and I will have no regrets about my preparation for the day. There are no should have’s, could have’s, or would have’s that I feel leading up to that start line. I do have hopes, dreams, wishes, and some anxiety about what will happen on that day itself, but I am as ready as anyone possibly could be for a day when anything could happen.

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Race Recap: Ironman Lake Stevents 70.3

As I sit here enjoying my coffee from the couch and waiting for the Ironman Canada expo to open I figure I may as well recap Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3.

It seems like IMLS happened forever ago. Worlds ago! But really it was just 5 weeks ago that I thought I was exhausted, yet actually had no idea what the word exhaustion truly meant, and then woke up at 3:30am to drive an hour north to race a Half Ironman.

From the beginning, my head wasn’t really in it for this race.

Pre-race photo courtesy of Megan!

Pre-race photo courtesy of Megan!

I wanted it to be – I really wanted to go out there and impress myself – but a number of things kept my head from being that clear. I was on week #3 of a 5 week-long build. I knew the next 2 weeks of training would be the hardest thing my eyes had seen or my body had done (see: Whistler Training Camp & a 125mi ride weekend). I was tired from the previous 2 weeks of training, which rivaled my 2 peak weeks from last year.

These are not excuses, but facts, really. I’m actually pretty pleased with how I did that day considering, but there are also some pretty clear things I can improve upon.

SWIM: 34:27 // 1:38/100 yd average pace

Me and Megan pre-swim. Why on earth do we look so excited?!

Me and Megan pre-swim. Why on earth do we look so excited?!

My swim goal was fairly simple – DON’T STOP. My swimming anxiety has improved a lot, but sometimes it’s still second nature for me to freak out and stop. For example, Victoria. I really wanted to practice an aggressive-for-me start and swim through that feeling I get a couple minutes in that tells my brain I CAN’T DO THIS I MUST STOP NOW.

I started in the middle of the second row and when the gun went off the first row took off. I hung for a couple buoys and then I honestly don’t really know what happened! One stroke I sighted and there was a huge gap (clean water hellz yeah!) and when I sighted next there were all these people in front of me and in my way. I tried to go around them and swam SMACK into a buoy. I sort of swam over a few others. Sorry ladies!

On the way back to shore we all started catching up with the slower swimmers from previous waves (M 3034, M3539, F3539) and that wasn’t pretty. But I zig-zagged around them and made it across the timing mat.

I was hoping for a swim closer to 32 minutes, but I’m pleased with the fact I accomplished a smooth swim where I was able to work hard.

T1: 2:02

Not too shabby time-wise, but my transition felt clunky. I ripped off my wetsuit, put on my helmet with glasses attached, put on my shoes, grabbed my bike and started moving, and realized I didn’t have my race belt. WHICH YOU DON’T NEED FOR THE BIKE. Yet for some reason I decided I needed to go back and get it because I usually do wear it for the bike leg. Dumb dumb.

Mount line ahead!

Mount line ahead!

BIKE: 2:52:50 // 19.44 mph avg speed

As I mounted my bike and put my sunglasses on I heard a popping noise. Goodbye lens! Drat. My lens bounced across the road and I started spinning down the block with glasses in my hand. I saw a team member and tossed them at her hoping she’d realize I wanted her to keep them for me.

Here, please take my worthless glasses!

Here, please take my worthless glasses!

Almost immediately I felt disappointed on the bike, because I knew I couldn’t ride as hard as I wanted to. I watched the riders in front of my pull farther away but when I tried to ride harder my legs screamed. I knew if I kept it up I’d be screwed for the run. I checked in on my heart rate frequently, but it was low for how hard things felt. About 10 miles in I decided to ride on feel and use heart rate as a looser guide than usual.

I kept going, thinking about my lost sunglasses but felt thankful it was overcast and misty so I didn’t really need them. Lost in my thoughts at about 20 or 30 miles in I got stung by not one bee, but two! Descending I felt something smack my knee and instantly it felt like glass had sliced me. Whatever had hit me was stuck in my skin, and as it turns out two bees were hanging by their stingers. Having never been stung before this made for an interesting rest of the ride. I waited until I hit a flatter and slower portion and tried to wipe the bees off in the direction to pull their stingers out with them. Then I proceeded to breathe deeply out of my mouth about every 10 minutes or so to make sure I could still get air. Guess I’m not allergic!

The rest of the bike was ho hum. It’s a very tough course in the back half so I spun up the many hills, pushed the few downs, and went back and forth between trying to catch people and letting them go. When I focused on me I knew I was working the right amount of hard for a Half Ironman, but when I focused on others I got complacent and a little bit down, honestly.

The highlight was a cheer from my friend Colleen who happened to be on course on mile 55 of the bike. “Go get that f*$#er!” So I sped up and passed him with less than a mile of the bike left.

T2: 1:50

Again with the bad decisions! I took off my bike shoes and decided to wipe my feet off on my towel (wtf). Then I fiddled with my socks and made some lunch and did some online shopping and headed out to run. (Not really – there’s no Internet in transition, silly! – but that’s how I felt)

RUN: 1:44:35 // 7:59min/mi avg pace

Happy to be off the bike.

Happy to be off the bike.

The run is a fair course: moderately hilly with some rewarding downs but not much flat. I don’t have a lot of play by play memories, but I know I caught a few of the women that had been leapfrogging me on the bike early on but who had ultimately won out on that leg. I ticked them off and chatted with a particularly nice one for a few strides and we thanked each other for pushing the bike.

Eat my dust, guy!

Eat my dust, guy!

About 3 miles in I noticed a guy was running right on my heels, so I moved over to let him pass. He didn’t, but instead pulled up alongside me. Nice pace. Without speaking a word he and I ran together and took turns “pulling” for the next 7 miles. He crushed me up the hills, but I’d get him back on the down hills and flats and we kept each other trucking along at a good pace.

The run is essentially a figure 8 that you travel twice. Running through the center so many times give friends and family a good idea of where you are and a great opportunity to cheer. I have a tendency to get in the zone and can lose appreciation of what’s going on around me, but when I heard “More Knutson!” from the sidelines and looked up to see my teammates and friends I stood a little taller and stopped sandbagging behind a girl in my AG in front of me.

With 3 miles to go I tried to push harder and within a few blocks I lost my run friend. But I knew I could keep up a harder effort in this final countdown and I wanted to squeeze out any additional seconds that I could.

Finishline in sight, and my run doesn't look like a shuffle!

Finish line in sight, and my run doesn’t look like a shuffle!

OVERALL RESULTS: 5:15:44 // 11th AG

Overall this was a 9 minute distance PR and a 30 minute course PR for me. I can’t not be happy about that! But I know I have a better bike in me with the fitness I’ve gained this year, and even if I hadn’t shaved seconds anywhere else I would have been better served not being such a scatterbrain. I would say this was a well executed race for me, but a little on the safe side.

After I caught up with friends and teammates we hit the road back to Seattle. Hours later I found myself on our deck with a glass of wine and got a note from a friend; I would have gotten a roll-down spot to the 70.3 World Championships in Vegas had I stayed. (You have to be present to claim awards and qualifications at IM events)

For .5 seconds I wish I had been there, and then I let it go. The championships are 2 weeks after Canada and I have bigger fish to fry and more important things to stay focused on. Like Ironman Canada!

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Whistler

I’m in!

Countdown begins the moment I cross the NYCM finish line next Sunday.

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Ironman Canada Photos

Thanks to Colin & Alanna for these amazing pictures. Far better than anything Brightroom has ever captured!

Please ignore my highly advanced fuel storage system.

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You Are Ready

In the week or two before Ironman Canada I was stalking Slowtwitch forums and found the essay below, written by Hurricane Bob. After becoming an Ironman I don’t have anything new to say about it other than,

Bob, you are right. This IS Ironman Canada.

But I wanted to make sure that when I need to read this 800x next August or September for inspiration and a reality check, just like I read it 800x before this year’s race, I can find it.

Right now you’ve all entered the taper. Perhaps you’ve been at this a few months, perhaps you’ve been at this a few years. For some of you this is your first IM, for others, a long-overdue welcome back to a race that few can match. 

You’ve been following your schedule to the letter. You’ve been piling on the mileage, piling up the laundry, and getting a set of tan lines that will take until November to erase. Long rides were followed by long runs, which both were preceeded by long swims, all of which were followed by recovery naps that were longer than you slept for any given night during college. 

You ran in the snow. 
You rode in the rain. 
You ran in the heat. 
You ran in the cold. 

You went out when others stayed home. 
You rode the trainer when others pulled the covers over their heads. 

You have survived the Darwinian progression that is an Ironman summer, and now the hardest days are behind you. Like a climber in the Tour de France coming over the summit of the penultimate climb on an alpine stage, you’ve already covered so much ground…there’s just one more climb to go. You shift up, you take a drink, you zip up the jersey; the descent lays before you…and it will be a fast one. 

Time that used to be filled with never-ending work will now be filling with silent muscles, taking their final, well-earned rest. While this taper is something your body desperately needs, Your mind, cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to you. 

It won’t be pretty. 

It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure, and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren’t ready. It will try and make one last stand to stop you, because your brain doesn’t know what the body already does. Your body knows the truth: 

You are ready. 

Your brain won’t believe it. It will use the taper to convince you that this is foolish – that there is too much that can go wrong. 

You are ready. 

Finishing an Ironman is never an accident. It’s the result of dedication, focus, hard work, and belief that all the long runs in 
January, long rides in April, and long swims every damn weekend will be worth it. It comes from getting on the bike, day in, day out. It comes from long, solo runs. From that first long run where you wondered, “How will I ever be ready?” to the last long run where you smiled to yourself with one mile to go…knowing that you’d found the answer. 

It is worth it. Now that you’re at the taper, you know it will be worth it. The workload becomes less. The body winds up and prepares, and you just need to quiet your worried mind. Not easy, but you can do it. 

You are ready. 

You will walk into the lagoon on August 26th with 2000 other wide-open sets of eyes. You will look upon the sea of humanity, and know that you belong. You’ll feel the chill of the water crawl into your wetsuit, and shiver like everyone else, but smile because the day you have waited for for so VERY long is finally here. 

The bagpipers will walk across the beach. Steve King will ask you to sing along. You will. 

O Canada! 
Our home and native land! 
True patriot love in all thy sons command. 

With glowing hearts we see thee rise, 
The True North strong and free! 

From far and wide, 
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. 

God keep our land glorious and free! 
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. 
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. 

You will tear up in your goggles. Everyone does. 

The helicopters will roar overhead. 
Maranatha will roar. The splashing will surround you. 

You’ll stop thinking about Ironman, because you’re now racing one. 

The swim will be long – it’s long for everyone, but you’ll make it. You’ll watch as the Penticton Lakeside Hotel grows and grows, and soon you’ll hear the end. You’ll come up the beach and head for the wetsuit strippers. Three people will get that sucker off before you know what’s happening, then you’ll head for the bike. 

In the shadows on Main Street you’ll spin out of town – the voices, the cowbells, and the curb-to-curb chalk giving you a hero’s sendoff. You won’t wipe the smile off your face for miles as you whisk along the lakeside, past fully stocked, silent aid stations for the run to come. 

You’ll spin up McLean Creak Road. You’ll roll down towards Osoyoos, past the vineyards glowing in the morning sun. You’ll settle down to your race. The crowds will spread out on the road. You’ll soon be on your bike, eating your food on your schedule, controlling your Ironman. 

Richter Pass will come. Everyone talks about it, but it’s really nothing. You’ll know this halfway up, as you’re breathing easy and climbing smoothly. Look to your right. Look how high you’re climbing. Look at all the bikes below, still making their way there. You’re ahead of them. All of them. 

You’ll climb over Richter, and descend to the valley below. You’ll ride the rollers, one at a time. You’ll start to feel that morning sun turn to afternoon sun. It’s warmer now. Maybe it’s hot. Maybe you’re not feeling so good now. You’ll keep riding. You’ll keep drinking. You’ll keep moving. After all, this is just a long training day with valet parking and catering, right? 

You’ll put the rollers behind you. You’ll head into the Cawston out and back. You’ll put on your game face, fighting the urge to feel down as you ride the wrong way for what seems like hours. 10 miles in, you reach special needs, fuel up, and head out. 

By now it’ll be hot. You’ll be tired. Doubts will fight for your focus. Everyone struggles here. You’ve been on that bike for a few hours, and stopping would be nice, but you won’t – not here. Not today. You’ll ride on leaving Cawston behind you and head for the final showdown at Yellow Lake. 

You’ll grind the false flats to the climb. You’ll know you’re almost there. You’ll fight for every inch of road. You’ll make the turn towards the summit as the valley walls close in for the kill, and put your head down. The crowd will come back to you here – the cars are always waiting to cross the summit, and you’ll soon be surrounded in the glorious noise that is the final climb of Ironman Canada. Let their energy push you. Let them see your eyes. Smile when they cheer for you – your body will get just that little bit lighter. 

Grind. 
Fight. 
Suffer. 
Persevere. 
Summit. 

Just like that, you’ll be descending. 12 miles to go, and no climbing left. You’ll plunge down the road, swooping from corner to corner, chaining together the turns, tucking on the straights, letting your legs recover for the run to come – soon! You’ll roll back into town – you’ll see people running out. You’ll think to yourself, “Wasn’t I just here?” The noise will grow. The chalk dust will hang in the air – you’re back in Penticton, with only 26.2 miles to go. You’ll relax a little bit, knowing that even if you get a flat tire or something breaks here, you can run the damn bike into T2. 

You’ll roll into transition. 100 volunteers will fight for your bike. You’ll give it up and not look back. You’ll have your bag handed to you, and into the tent you’ll go. You’ll change. You’ll load up your pockets, and open the door to the last long run of your Ironman summer – the one that counts. 

You’ll take that first step of a thousand…and you’ll smile. You’ll know that the bike won’t let you down now – the race is down to your own two feet. The same crowd that cheered for you in the shadows of the morning will cheer for you in the brilliant sunshine of a Penticton summer Sunday. High-five people on the way out. Smile. Enjoy it. This is what you’ve worked for all year long. 

That first mile will feel great. So will the second. 
By mile 3, you probably won’t feel so good. 

That’s okay. You knew it couldn’t all be that easy. You’ll settle down just like you did on the bike, and get down to your pace. You’ll see the leaders coming back the other way. Some will look great – some won’t. You might feel great, you might not. No matter how you feel, don’t panic – this is the part of the day where whatever you’re feeling, you can be sure it won’t last. 

You’ll keep moving. You’ll keep drinking. You’ll keep eating. Maybe you’ll be right on plan – maybe you won’t. If you’re ahead of schedule, don’t worry – believe. If you’re behind, don’t panic – roll with it. Everyone comes up with a brilliant race plan for Ironman, and then everyone has to deal with the reality that planning for something like Ironman is like trying to land a man on the moon. By remote control. Blindfolded. 

How you react to the changes in your plan will dictate your day. Don’t waste energy worrying about things – just do what you have to when you have to, and keep moving. Keep eating. Keep drinking. Just don’t sit down – don’t EVER sit down. 

You’ll make it to halfway at OK Falls. You’ll load up on special needs. Some of what you packed will look good, some won’t. Eat what looks good, toss the rest. Keep moving. Start looking for people you know. Cheer for people you don’t. You’re headed in – they’re not. They want to be where you are, just like you wanted to be when you saw all those fast people headed into town. Share some energy – you’ll get it right back. 

Run if you can. 
Walk if you have to. 
Just keep moving. 

The miles will drag on. The brilliant Penticton sunshine will yawn, and head for the mountains behind the bike course…behind that last downhill you flew down all those hours ago. You’ll be coming up to those aid stations you passed when you started the bike…fully alive with people, music, and chicken soup. TAKE THE SOUP. Keep moving. 

You’ll soon only have a few miles to go. You’ll start to believe that you’re going to make it. You’ll start to imagine how good it’s going to feel when you get there. Let those feelings drive you on. When your legs just don’t want to move anymore, think about what it’s going to be like when someone catches you…puts a medal over your head… 

…all you have to do is get there. 

You’ll start to hear town. People you can’t see in the twilight will cheer for you. They’ll call out your name. Smile and thank them. They were there when you left on the bike, and when you came back, when you left on the run, and now when you’ve come back. 

You’ll enter town. You’ll start to realize that the day is almost over. You’ll be exhausted, wiped out, barely able to run a 10-minute mile (if you’re lucky), but you’ll ask yourself, “Where did the whole day go?” You’ll be standing on the edge of two feelings – the desire to finally stop, and the desire to take these last moments and make them last as long as possible. 

You’ll hit mile 25. You’ll turn onto Lakeside Drive. Your Ironman Canada will have 1.2 miles – just 2KM left in it. 

You’ll run. You’ll find your legs. You’ll fly. You won’t know how, but you will run. You’ll make the turn in front of the Sicamous in the dark, and head for home. The lights will grow brighter, brighter, and brighter. Soon you’ll be able to hear the music again. This time, it’ll be for keeps. 

You’ll listen for Steve King, or Mike Reilly, or Whit Raymond. Soon they’ll see you. Soon, everyone will see you. You’ll run towards the lights, between the fences, and into the nightsun made just for you. 

They’ll say your name. 
You’ll keep running. 
Nothing will hurt. 

The moment will be yours – for one moment, the entire world will be looking at you and only you. 

You’ll break the tape. The flash will go off. 

You’ll stop. You’ll finally stop. Your legs will wobble their last, and suddenly…be capable of nothing more. 

Someone will catch you. 
You’ll lean into them. 

It will suddenly hit you. 
You will be an Ironman. 

You are ready. 

Hurricane Bob 
* You are ready. * 

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