Friday, August 7, 2015

I'm only happy when it rains: An Ironman Canada Race Report.

I'm only happy when it rains. I'm only happy when it's complicated. -- Garbage

Speaking of complicated: notice my use of the metric system throughout this post. Not only did I do an Ironman, but I learned math. 

The weather report was not ideal: there was great potential for 50F, 10C temperatures and a downpour during Ironman Canada. The Whistler area had been plagued with fires (poor air quality) and hot weather in the weeks leading up to the race, so I was grateful for cooler air. Fortunately, I had packed some extra gear, and was ready to spend some extra time in transitions to change into dry clothes. I borrowed some thicker arm warmers and shoe covers from super-Sherpa Kathy.

Assessing the situation before the swim start.
Swim: The swim was in Alta Lake - fresh water and about 21C, 70F. The weather didn't affect my swim because no matter what, it was wet! The only part of the swim that worried me was the mass start and where to position myself among 1,600 other athletes. I picked the back-to-mid right side of the pack. I didn't want to be all the way in the back, but I was willing to swim a little extra to the right of the buoys in order to maintain sanity.

The rest of the swim I tried to maintain a very zen-like state. When I felt like I was losing my focus, I tried to draft for awhile, or would pick a swim focus between each set of buoys. (Between this set, I'll think about relaxing my head, next set I'll think about reaching, next set I'll think about pulling, etc..)

There is a point in every swim over one mile where I think, "Geez, am I done yet?" I thought this would happen after the first lap, but instead of being negative I thought, "This is going to be the longest swim you've ever done - good job!"

My worst fears 1.) total panic, and 2.) being kicked in the face, didn't happen.

A 1:23 swim time made me happy. I would have been happy with 1:30, or even 1:40. I just wanted to get on my bike!

Pleased with swim time.
T1: Transition #1 was long because I decided to change most of my clothes and put on dry capris, a bike jersey (with my nutrition in it), a vest, arm warmers, full gloves, and socks. Oh yeah, I also grabbed the wrong transition bag and had to run back out to return it and grab the correct bag. Sorry, #609, I hope you found your stuff ok. :)

At least there was no lighting!
Bike: This is Ironman. It's not supposed to be easy. So, the rain was going to make it more difficult. So what? Just keep pedaling!

My heart rate was off the charts for the first 10 minutes - about 170 or so. I knew I needed to settle in and just enjoy the journey as much as possible in the pouring rain. My shoes were drenched in the first 30 minutes. My arm warmers were drenched at about 60 km. I had to keep my body temperature up!

Luckily the first hill was early into the ride, which kept me warm to some extent. There were many athletes coasting on the downhills, but I took the advice of my coach who says to keep pedaling, even when breaking. This kept my body temperature up on the downhill, and shielded my legs from lactic acid build up. Thankfully, I also enjoy downhill sections and didn't feel out of control descending, even on the wet roads. I passed A LOT of people going downhill because I refused to stop pedaling. I was a pedaling machine.

Pedal smooth up.
Pedaling down.
Pedal all day.
Pedal to the metal.
Pedals and pearls.

The rain caused two rivers of water on the road, so you had to make the decision to swim on one side or the other - or you'd just get yourself (and the person behind you) wet. No one wanted to be up on someone's wheel when they are spitting water back at you, so drafting didn't seem to be a problem.

Passing through Whistler was fun with the crowds of happy, soaked, cheering Canucks. I got a glimpse of Marek and Brian standing in the wet (bless 'em). About half way through the course though, I worried that if it kept raining, I would be completely soaked and very uncomfortable. Fortunately, as we approached Pemberton, the rain subsided.

I decided that I would stay at a low heart rate at the TT portion beyond Pemberton and save myself for the final climbing section, and the marathon. I stayed below 150, closer to 145 and still felt like I made good time through the flat section. I also felt like I had enough time to stop at the port-o-potty. My coach believes you should just pee on your bike, and that's fine. But she never said anything about #2 on your bike - and I was wet enough already.

I saw Deirdre after she had turned around from the out and back at Pemberton. She was "faffing" with her watch, but looked strong. I timed myself from the location where I spotted her and figured 20-25 minutes behind SpeeDee was fine with me!

The climbs out of Pemberton were not as nasty as I imagined. Instead of a steady climb, there were three or four moderate climbs with some downhill and flat sections between. Another cyclist commented, "There shouldn't be many more of these - we are running out of kilometers!" Right he was.

About seven salty balls got me through the bike. Nom, nom, nom.

Grab bag! Go! Sun is shining.
T2: Ironman volunteers gave so much help in the transition area. The gal who helped and set out all of my essential run items for me while I changed was really awesome and encouraging. Hats off to all of the volunteers throughout the day! They really make the experience.

I ate 1/4 of a turkey sandwich. It wasn't as delicious as I had imagined.

More rain. 
Run: Kathy gave me a little pep talk out of T2, and asked me if I needed anything. I couldn't believe I was going to run 26 miles. My longest training run was 14, and I think it's because I went over the planned workout.

The run course had two loops - starting and ending in Whistler Village, where most spectators are out on the course. The turn around was by the beautiful Green Lake, a glacial lake with very pretty colors! The two loops gave me plenty of "fan" sightings (Kathy, Brian, Mel, Marek) and also competitor sightings (Dee, Brynje, Tana, Stephen, Jeff to name a few). Mentally, seeing others out on the course was so motivating!

The few kilometers out of Whistler Village were slightly uphill and I had shin cramps.  I walked a bit and adjusted my shoe laces. Once the cramps subsided, I picked up some time on the downhill.

Going into Ironman my goal was to "run" as much of the run as possible. Too many times I had heard about the Ironman-shuffle, which is often more walking than running. Although I walked a little bit and through a few aid stations, I was able to use some of my CIM training and keep a pace throughout. I tried to think of it like a slower marathon; I kept a pace where I felt that I was holding back slightly. Once my pace got below 5:30 per km, I backed off the pace. That was going to be too fast to sustain for 26 miles. I tried to keep the pace closer to 5:45 throughout, which is about a 9 minute pace per mile.

Another trick that worked really well to break down the marathon, was envisioning the race at four 10k races. (Thus my love of the metric system really began.) The first 10k was adjusting. The second 10k was settling in. The third 10k was maintaining. The fourth 10k was giving everything I had left. I'm not sure if I negative split the marathon portion - but the second loop of the race was much more comfortable than the first.

Best things on the run besides seeing my friends on the course: pretzels, and chamois butter. (My arms and thighs were chafing like no body's business.)

It started to rain again during the last 2 km of the run, and I was starting to get cold. But I remembered thinking, "OMG! I'm not going to bonk or have gastrointestinal issues! This is fabulous!"

You can't just finish. You have to do something with your arms to show that you are still alive. Unwritten rule.

Finish Line: I had done the math, and realized I would be finishing in under 12:30. There was still plenty of day light, despite the rain clouds which had accumulated overhead again. There was only one more little loop through Whistler Village.

I saw the red IM rug appear under my feet, lifted my arms above head. Finished. Hugged a volunteer, then Kathy, gave Brian a sweaty kiss. Kathy made me take a finishers picture because she knew I would just walk by, then she made me get in the massage tent.

It was only then that I felt any pain. Yep, my body hurt. I kind of wished I was still running. It was so much harder to stop - it hurt much more to be finished. What an awesome journey!

No comments:

Post a Comment