Warning: LONG. No, really. Those other RR's that say "Warning: LONG"? They're not. THIS is. It's more travelogue for family and friends that I decided to share so please be kind.
Standard disclaimer: Apologies in advance for this being as ridiculously long as it is but that's the way I like them when I read others', and I write these as much for myself for later reference as for the poor suckers that have to endure them, so please bear with me - consider it the final selfish indulgence in a sport that demands more than a few.
Also, it's always hard to know what level of detail to write these at because of the different target audiences. They exist somewhere along the continuum of: "It's a 4k swim, then 180km ride, then a marathon - it took me about half a day" and "I went with my nutrition bottle on the downtube and a standard cage mounted between the aerobars with five zip ties...with the addition of latex tubes, I revised my estimated rolling resistance (using the Chung method and Aerolab) to be..." [sound of half of readers nodding off]
I'm going to start with the part that you often read at the end of these reports - mainly because I want to catch a few key people before they nod off. It's the biggest cliche in the world that while you do the IM on your own, there's really no way in hell you could do one without the support of a LOT of people - "it takes a village to raise an ironman" and all that. I now finally understand why these reports always include such a long list of thank yous - so to my incredible wife and three kids for understanding when I had to dress in funny clothes and go out for the, ahem, occasional workout, to both sets of parents and my brother for their incredible support, including babysitting numerous times to take some of the load off and allow date nights, to my workmates and awesome boss for understanding if I was dragging a bit some days (and to my cubicle neighbours who had to endure incessant talk of training minutiae), to triathlete friends who shared their advice and experiences, to non-triathlete friends who endured as I dropped off the face of the earth (and humoured me with questions when I occasionally surfaced), to the two Endurance Nation coaches and numerous online training partners I never met but feel like I know, to group ride, run and swim partners, to anonymous folks on message boards who generously share information to the friend and co-worker who took time off from work to chauffeur me around all race week, play psychologist and take pictures - THANK YOU!
The first sign from your 6 year old son that perhaps you wear spandex more often than a business suit:
(that says "I do not know")
The evolution of my "racing" is something like this. Occasionally mountain biked over the years, never ran (except for an ill-advised stint as a Labatt's 24-hour relay team member about 15 years ago...wearing wool socks), and any occasional recreational swimming consisted mainly of not drowning. Started running once in a while at lunch with some buddies at work (thanks Dale and Winston!) in summer '05. Did the same in summer '06. Did the same in summer '07 but finally started to take it a bit more seriously and finally tried a 1/2 marathon in Fall '07 (1:38). Did a 1/2 Ironman in July '08 (5:55), then a marathon in August '08 (3:33). Focused exclusively on running in '09 - marathon in March (3:16:18 - 19 seconds shy of a Boston Qualifier - please note ominous foreshadowing - thanks coach MichaelMc!) and another in October (3:08 - Boston here I come!). In late August of '09 it became apparent that there was going to be a brief window where you could register for IMC '10 online, so with the gentle (and by gentle I mean violent) prodding of a few work buddies (thanks Mike and TrevorH!), I signed up - only half expecting that I would actually do it. A few weeks after registering, I even mentioned it in passing to my loving and lovely wife and we came up with a plan to let me both a) train and b) stay married, a father and employed with something resembling a social life.
Being the overanalytical computer guy I am, I of course went a little over the top in terms of research and turning this into a big physiology, psychology and scientific experiment with yours truly as the n=1. I devoured information voraciously - books, videos, online forums and conversations with people I knew who had done IMs before. Eventually I decided on Endurance Nation for online coaching. EN's dirty little secret is that they happily give you something like 80% of their content absolutely for free and it's gold. The 20% that is "behind the wall" is pretty damn nice though - including easy access to two fantastic coaches (thanks Rich and Patrick!), a huge group of smart, motivated and supportive (but not "rah rah you can do it champ") athletes and some great additional resources. I really can't say enough good things about Endurance Nation - their plans are great, the support is great, and their execution advice is stellar - there is no way I would have done nearly as well without them.
I started "Out Season" training in November. We already had a treadmill in the basement and an indoor bike trainer quickly joined it to make the most of the long Edmonton winter. This also let me be as efficient as possible with limited time as I would get the majority of my rides and/or runs in after the kids were in bed and things in the house were squared away. Sadly, I was forced to acquire a new 52" LCD TV to watch while on the bike and treadmill, and this set in motion a huge chain reaction that necessitated upgrading our amp, DVD player and entertainment unit. It was tough let me tell you. A bike power meter was my final major acquisition as I hunkered down for the winter and for a triathlete geek, cool tools don't get much cooler than it as far as I'm concerned.
Perhaps you've heard of "Total Immersion" for swimming? I instead chose a program coined by one of the aforementioned friends called "Total Avoidance(tm)". This would later prove to be something of a strategic mistake. In the sense that it allowed me to stay married, I suppose it wasn't that bad a call though.
The Out Season was actually relatively uneventful. Aside, that is, from cracking a few ribs in the first couple of weeks of training during "the last mountain bike ride of the season." Fortunately I was still able to ride and it wasn't too long before I was running normally again. The EN plans, as promised, pretty much redefined work as I had previously understood it. You don't necessarily workout long but you sure as hell workout hard. After a while, my wife stopped coming downstairs while I was on the bike trainer for fear that she would witness me fall off - especially during FTP tests. Not long after that, she started wearing earplugs to avoid the noises emanating from the basement. Throughout the season, I tried to follow the EN plans pretty religiously but my primary goal was to show up at the start line healthy. I listened to my body and if it was aching or tired, I was not shy about bagging a workout or cutting it short - although it turned out I had to do that a lot less than I thought I might have to.
By the time April rolled around, with a sprint tri looming the next month, I decided I needed to start hopping into the pool with some regularity. Up until this point, I had always swum on my own. One day I was chatting with a buddy's wife and I was explaining I swam alone because I'd always felt that I needed to take lessons before I headed to masters, otherwise I'd just be flailing away there getting in people's way and further ingraining poor form. She accused me of having "fat chick syndrome" (her words) and described this as "I'm going to start going to the gym to exercise, but not until I lose X pounds first so I look ok in my workout clothes". I took it as a challenge and started swimming with a group a couple days later (thanks Marnie!). The look from the group swim instructor said it all: "you triathletes are all the same - leaving everything to the last minute!" Actually as I recall it wasn't a look, he actually said that word for word. The last minute? I had 5 months! As it turns out, he was right - I had pretty much left it to the last minute. The aforementioned sprint tri was on May 30th - it snowed the night before so they made it an aquathlon instead - I think I was bottom ten in the swim and top ten in the run (note additional ominous foreshadowing).
Lovely May day for a triathlon:
With a good foundation established during the Out Season, the training began ramping up in earnest in May. I had scheduled the Great White North 1/2 Ironman on July 4th as a bit of a sanity check. I did it in 5:09 (as compared to 5:55 in '08) with improvements in each discipline. My confidence was building, but another old cliche is that a 1/2 IM is more like 1/4 of a full IM. A week after GWN I did a leg of the Sinister 7 adventure race in the Crowsnest pass. While it was a fantastic experience with a great bunch of teammates (thanks Shane!), it beat the hell out of my legs and forced me to recover a bit more than I would have liked.
Not too long after GWN, I decided to buy a tri-specific bike to supplement my existing road bike. Not because I *had* to but because, well, because it was a really cool bike. Most good hobbies allow you to justify buying new toys and there were certainly a few purchases over the course of the year. The best saddle in the universe (with an associated pricetag), an aero cover for my back wheel, customized nutrition, a borrowed (later bought) snazzy front wheel, an aero helmet that I still chuckle at every time I see - and a few miscellaneous things that I'm not going to mention because it's entirely possible they were not run by the appropriations committee.
My first son's first year of university tuition:
By the time mid August rolled around, I think I was ready for the training to be over. My long rides and runs were going well and through those and my Race Rehearsals I was slowly but surely dialing things in. While the 1/2IM and adventure race had punched a hole in my schedule, in retrospect it forced me to recover a bit and resume training with focus and a healthy, largely recovered body and mind.
It actually still seemed pretty hypothetical until I had to pack everything up the week of the race. I headed to Jasper the Tuesday before the race with my wife and kids and we did Jasper-y things (the falls, the tram, the hot springs - which we're kicked out of due to lightning: note ominous foreshadowing) and I tried to decompress. Right on schedule, I came down with a decent cold and cough that I hoped would be gone by the time Sunday rolled around. I got a massage in Jasper and it was just what I needed - the masseuse, when she hears what I'm doing, said "I think the key is to do it while you're young - once you hit 40 the body just doesn't bounce back the way it used to". I look up at her and say "I'm 39."
On Thursday night, my wife and I finally get a bit of quiet time and have "the talk" - about how she is proud of me no matter what happens, about how I am in awe of how supportive she has been through all of this - about a lot of things. The conversation will echo in my head numerous times during the race (thanks Tara!). Later that night, a friend and co-worker does the cannonball run thing down from Edmonton (thanks Wade!) and we make great time thanks to work letting him hit the road a bit early (thanks Paul, Jack, Ryan, Menzies, Orlene and Diane!). We drive to Kamloops and stay overnight there. We finish the drive off Friday morning, rolling straight for registration. The race site itself is quite the scene and the energy is palpable - things were feeling less hypothetical by the minute.
After registration, we meet up at Salty's with some friends and family (some of whom have done the race before and are doing it again, others who are there to cheer) and I have my first pint of the incredibly delicious Naramata Nut Brown Ale (note to self: potential sponsorship opportunity?). At lunch, those that have done it before are happy to share last minute advice (thanks TrevorD, Kim, Brent and Jason!).
We then head to where we were staying. It's a 10 minute drive away from the race in a suite with a really cool family. They have an ~8yo girl, a ~5yo boy and a ~9mo girl and they are the cutest kids and nicest husband and wife you'll ever meet (thanks Jason and Michelle!). There is also another triathlete staying in their RV on their driveway.
We then drove the bike course (you start to realize it's going to be a long ride when it takes a couple hours to DRIVE it at ~100km/h) - stopping to hit a fruit stand along the way - and afterwards head straight to the athlete's dinner. It's a fantastic experience with the incredible Steve King including three especially moving parts - talk of Jordan Rapp who won last year and lived in Penticton but had a bad biking accident earlier in the year, a lengthy standing ovation for two sons who were doing the bike and run in memory of their father who unfortunately passed during the swim last year and another standing ovation for Sister Madonna Buder who was doing IMC at, and I think this is the right spelling, FRICKING EIGHTY YEARS OLD!
After dinner we go shopping for a few supplies, head home and do the majority of packing and bike setup (that has got to be the shortest summary of the longest process EVER - I joke to Wade that "I think I got into triathlon because carefully pinning my race number to my shirt the night before a running race wasn't quite OCD enough for me") and then try to get some sleep.
[FAST FORWARD NINE HOURS]
I SLEPT GREAT! It was fantastic and just what I needed. I decide to head out for a 15 minute run to make sure I hadn't forgotten how. I ended up bumping into the triathlete staying in the RV on the driveway. His name is Dan and he's from California and is the greatest guy and we proceed to talk for a couple hours about EVERYTHING before we both realize our schedules are getting thrown for a bit of a loop. It's only after an hour of chatting and him picking my brain that he casually mentions he finished 3rd in his age group last year here. Ahem. We agree to chat later, I get my bike ready, do a quick ride of most of the run course, then finish by riding the bike downtown for bike check-in and T1 and T2 bag dropoff. I scout the transition area a bit to get the lay of the land and also get a bit of inspiration from the bronze plaques for previous winners that are in the ground in the park/transition area.
Rappstar's plaque (thanks Jordan!):
I then meet up with Chris of EN and ST fame who had been kind enough to suggest grabbing a coffee. I'm thinking it will be a great opportunity for me to finally thank him for all his great advice over the last year but instead he proceeds to give even more - which will come in handy numerous times the next day (thanks Chris!). My chauffeur/therapist and I then go for lunch (Salty's again) where I proceed to have two more delicious pints of Naramata Nut Brown Ale (it's important not to change any part of your regular routine before a race) - we're joined by Trevor (who did IMC last year and is volunteering this year) and his wife Elaine (who is doing GWN next year!). Over lunch, I'm quite proud of myself as it occurs to me that I should memorize the watch reset key sequence in case there is a problem with my Garmin.
The view outside Salty's:
The view inside Salty's:
I talk with my wife and kids who have encouraging words (thanks Brodie, Nate and Sabine!), then we head home - but not before stopping off at the mall for a last acquisition (and a Booster Juice). After watching the temperatures the last two days, it occurs to me that purchasing a throwaway jacket might not be a bad idea - while purchasing one, I'm told that I'm certainly not the first person they've seen doing just that. I do final preparations, and then convince Wade to drive the last part of the run course (which I had still not seen). I'm still not sure if this was a great idea or a horrible one as the hills look terrifying.
We head home and I lie down and pretend to try sleep. I think I actually do nod off for a bit, but wake up at 2am to down 2 naked juices (to be clear, that's a brand name). I wake up for good at 4:30, and have my usual breakfast (albeit slightly smaller), Dan knocks to make sure we're up, we wish each other luck and he reminds me to remember to smile often. I do final final preparations, then head out the door. We drive to the site, Wade drops me off and I head to drop of Special Needs bags and get body marked. After bodymarking I spot Cindy - she did IMC last year and is doing IMAZ later this fall and is here to support her husband Scott - who is getting marked and is #666! Awesome.
I wander over to my bike, do a quick tire pressure check and pump, load my nutrition and while I'm doing that, fellow EN athlete Gordon introduces himself to me. He has been a great presence in the IMC forums and we chat for a bit and I'm amazed at how a little chat with someone you've only talked with in a forum can make the thing seem that much more manageable (thanks Gordon!). I give my pump to Wade, say my farewell and provide him with an updated last will and testament (not really). I do final T1 and T2 bag checks, then line up in the ridiculously long porta-potty line. Dana from EN introduces herself to me as she goes by and we wish each other luck (thanks Dana!).
It turns out the porta-potty line is 45 minutes long. I got in said line at 6:10, which means I get out, let's see...carry the one...FIVE MINUTES BEFORE THE RACE START! I quickly throw my wetsuit on, toss on my swim cap (complete with Garmin under the swimcap - did I mention I'm a geek?) and goggles and someone helpfully offers to zip me up. While shrugging my shoulder blades together to help with zipping, I feel something go "twang" in my shoulder area. Twang is not a good feeling right before the start and I'm kicking myself for not warming up better while standing around for 45 minutes.
I jog down to the beach and go to the back left where I immediately (and completely coincidentally) run into three people I know. I'm standing beside my training and work buddy when I have a 5 second coughing fit that expels every last bit of phlegm in my body. He looks at me with the widest eyes I have ever seen and, while I am sure he fears for my life, has done this three times so is able to keep a straight face while he wishes me luck.
The horn sounds and people start swimming and/or wading into the water. When Steve King says that it's been 1m30s since the start, we wade in as things have begun to clear out.
Still the guy at the back:
I start swimming. The water is beautiful - warm, clear and not too crowded at the back. I try to make it a point to look around at the surroundings every once in a while as they are truly spectacular. The first turnaround seems to come surprisingly quickly and it's pretty cool to have a houseboat as your turn marker. Not long after that, I somehow find myself on the wrong side of a buoy - this is quite easy to do as they are only the SIZE OF A MINIVAN AND NEON ORANGE. Not long after the turn, I look up to see a swimmer who looks to be in distress - I pull up to ask him if he's ok, but before I can even speak, another athlete is talking to him - it turns out he's fine and after a few seconds we all continue on. This camaraderie and respect for fellow athletes was a continuing theme throughout the day - the swim may be ugly at the front, but back here we're all just happy to be alive. The second houseboat comes quickly, but the last (and longest) leg home drags. It doesn't help that I am taking it easy on the swim and trying to nurse my twanged shoulder. I focus entirely on swimming easy in my own space and not trying to catch fast feet (of course at the back of the pack where I swim, you are just as likely to find feet that slow you down as speed you up). As you get to shallow water, there are numerous rocks that you need to traverse, and as I hop out of the water I hear 1:30 something. I was thinking 1:2X would have been great, but I'll certainly take it. Later I hear the course was probably a bit short and/or there was a favourable current. Ahem.
My left arm finishing (I'm the guy at the back):
I grab my T1 bag and head into the transition tent and get changing.
My bag is the one at the back:
The volunteers, as they have been and will continue to be, are awesome. I waffle a bit but decide to put on the jacket that I had purchased the night before. I run towards my bike and switch modes on my Garmin and accidentally hit the super-triple-top-secret "Key Lock" sequence. Uh-oh, I didn't memorize that one yesterday. Fortunately I manage to reverse engineer what I've done and am quickly running towards my bike. Actually, no I'm not. There is a fence in the way, and I'm forced to run 75m towards the mount line, then 75m back towards my bike, then 75m back towards the mount line with my bike. Should have discovered that a bit better during pre-race recon.
My bike is the one at the back:
I run my bike well past the mount line, then hop on and clip in to my Speedplays - happy that I have been practicing repeatedly to ensure I don't make an ass of myself in front of thousands of people. I pretty much proceed to make an ass of myself in front of thousands of people - but I don't get in anybody's way and nobody smokes me, so I chalk it up as a victory. I start riding and for the first 15km or so I feel completely out of sorts. The liner of the jacket is sticking out of the cuffs. My bottle cage is rattling - have some zip ties come loose? Why didn't I check those better? My jacket is flapping like a cape (someone even points it out to me) - why the hell didn't I zip it up or cut off the arms and turn it into a vest like Dan suggested? I'm going to die on the descents? AIEEEEEE!
Aero helmet on crooked? Check. Jacket unzipped? Check. Mesh liner sticking out of cuffs? Check. Ready for 179.5 more km? Erm:
After a while, there's a bit of an uphill that takes my mind off this, and I stop at an aid station to ditch my jacket. We then descend, make the turn, hit a flat stretch of road with people stretching out in front of me for miles and finally I'm able to get back in the box and feel at one with the universe. I settle in, start hitting my numbers and begin flying by people. This lasts approximately 10 minutes until I hit a small patch of rocks, hear a very funny noise from my front wheel followed by the telltale smell of rubber. I quickly stop and say SHITSHITSHIT. And that is the censored version. But the front wheel doesn't feel soft and neither does the back. WTH? I do the trick Dan taught me the day before - spin the wheel with your glove on it to remove any debris. I do that, then pedal off gingerly and after a systems check, am back up to speed and passing person after person.
The climb up Richter is great. I'm in my easiest gear the whole time (I'm running a compact 50-34 up front and had changed my cassette from a 12-25 to a 12-27 not too long before the race and am very glad I did). I'm amazed at how bad some of the bikes sound as they go by - it's like they've never been tuned or lubricated - and that includes some pretty nice bikes. I'm feeling no pain, and everyone around me seems to be mashing the living hell out of their pedals. Halfway up Richter a girl behind me says "Craig, you're awesome - you're like a page out of a Rich Strauss playbook!" (Rich being one of the two EN coaches). I say "thanks!" but unfortunately don't discuss it more than that. That sentence becomes my mantra for the rest of the race (thanks anonymous girl!).
The descent down Richter is exhilarating but I am absolutely terrified and speedchecking the whole time due to my ditch incident. What ditch incident? Well I'm glad you asked. Two weeks before the race, while doing my last race rehearsal at about 5h30m in with 30 minutes left, the largest gust of wind I have ever encountered comes out of nowhere and blows me several feet to the right - I end up on the cheese-grater pavement that slants into the ditch and I have no choice but to head for the corn. Fortunately I manage to keep the rubber side down and simply coast to a stop - I'm surprised I have the presence of mind to unclip at the end. I check my bike over and then finish the ride - while there is no physical damage, the mental scars run deep. In a span of 5 seconds, I go from ex-mountain-biker-man-I-love-bombing-downhills-as-fast-as-I-can-and-these-Vittoria-Open-Corsa-Evo-CX-320TPI-tires-roll-so-smooth-I-am-going-to-hit-90km-going-down-the-descent-after-Yellow-Lake to jeebus-I-am-going-to-die-I-love-my-wife-and-kids-and-family-and-friends-so-much-perhaps-I-should-just-walk-my-bike-on-the-downhills. Also, it now occurs to that I may have neglected to mention that incident to my dear wife and her reading this might be the first time she's heard of it. Hi honey - I love you! No biggie!
What hitting the ditch at ~42km/h looked like from my Garmin's perspective:
The rollers (or 7 "Sisters" as they are not affectionately known) are not quite as bad as I have heard and they come and go. Each aid station is incredible. At the last aid station before the out and back I see TrevorH who did his first IMC last year - he has words of encouragement. I cannot say enough good things about the "concentrated Infinit bottle on the downtube, water in a standard cage between the aerobars" strategy. At each aid station the workflow is: take a sip from existing water bottle, chuck it, go past the Gatorade folks, grab a new water bottle and rack, ride past food and second Gatorade station, grab second water bottle, take a sip, squirt some on head (the Lazer Tardiz with its aquavent on the top is AWESOME). Done. Some people look like they're shopping at Costco at the aid stations and I'm glad I'm out of the fray most of the time. I'm taking in 200-250 cals per hour of Infinit done as a big drink every 20 minutes, chased with 3 big drinks of water. Every other 20 minutes I took a decent sip or two of water, to thirst.
The out and back is also not as bad as I had heard and I'm cruising along. I'm staying on top of my hydration and nutrition and feeling good. At special needs I grab my second nutrition bottle and (thankfully) leave the extra tube and CO2 that I had there in case I had used one during the first part of the ride (I'm carrying two - paranoid plus sacrificial offering to the merciful flat tire gods).
Then there is the turn at Keremeos and it turns into an entirely different race. All of a sudden we're riding into a brick wall of wind. There is a line as far as the eye can see and everyone is just grinding along and unfortunately I'm no different. I chip away at things but I'm starting to get cold, and there is cold rain (I later find out that earlier in the day there had been hail and/or freezing rain, so sometimes being slow pays off!). I don't have a lot of extra body fat (I'm a buck fifty soaking wet) and I'm soaking wet. I can't believe that 30 minutes earlier I had been dumping water to cool down, and I start to consider if I should use the aquavent to pour chicken broth on my head.
About the only thing that keeps me going is the long line of spectators on the road and the volunteers at the aid stations. And the Yellow Lake Tunnel! The tunnel is a huge collection of people that gather on each side of the road and crowd in to give you a bit of a Tour de France style experience. TrevorD - who has done this race and will tell you he invented the tunnel (and I have no reason to doubt him) - spots me and gives me a shove on my way by. This is as close to outside assistance as I get all day, but I'll take it! I see Wade my photographer and try to stop grimacing for a few seconds. I see Cindy who is packing up and ask how Scott is doing - apparently he's doing well.
I'm not. By the time I'm at the top, I'm cold and looking forward to the descent even less than Richter's. A friend who has done this race had previously told me "by the time you get to the last descent, you won't care if you crash because at least that would stop the suffering". This isn't quite true as I'm scared shitless because I'm shivering a ton on the way down and (and here is where prior research is NOT a good idea) apparently a cold body shivering is the perfect resonant frequency to start or enhance a speed wobble. I go into defensive mode (and in doing so must give up somewhere around 100 spots to people bombing down beside me) do my best to stay out of everyone's way and somehow make it to the bottom. By the time I roll into town I'm no longer shivering uncontrollably - just numb everywhere. I try shift at one point and find I don't have the finger strength to do it.
Handing your bike to a catcher has easily got to be one of the best feelings in Ironman. At that point just about all of the completely out of your control things that could happen are gone. No more chance of major mechanical problems, no more chance of a major crash, no chance of getting clipped on a descent at 90km/h. Just me and my shoes.
In T2, I take out my portable popcorn maker and whip up a quick celebratory bowl.
It takes a while, but I find the butter and salt really helps me during the run. Ok, I didn't but to look at my T2 time, you'd think I did. I'm in the tent a bit longer than I would have liked, but the costume change is fantastic, and the clean dry socks feel as good as anything I've felt in my life to that point. The volunteer is awesome again and I toss on a long sleeve shirt because I'm so cold. It's been cloudy for the last couple hours so I leave my sunglasses behind. I grab a bottle of Powerade from my bag to slow me down in the initial miles and hit the road. I glance at the clock on the way out and see the time is 3:06 which gives me 3:54 to do the marathon and still break 12 hours. I tell myself to ignore the clock and just run my planned pace. I realize about 15 steps out of transition that I will not need the long sleeve shirt that I have and that I will need the sunglasses that I decided to leave behind.
As I start the out and back, I see the 1st and 2nd place men coming back towards me - the crowd goes wild and I raise my hands in mock celebration to accept their ovation - I hope they realize I'm kidding. It was actually one of my random goals to start the run before the winner finished, so I'm secretly pleased. I see Mike, my training buddy, and soon thereafter I see Kevin, another one - they're both looking good. I try my best to stay on target for the first 10km (goal pace plus 30 seconds per km) and generally do an ok job (translated: I am still a bit fast) - per some great advice from Chris I also somewhat adjust for the fact that it is a gradual uphill on the way out of town - without that little tidbit it probably would have been ugly.
I finish the powerade over the course of the first 3 aid stations and then settle down to business. Even at this point many are walking, and nobody is moving particularly fast so I'm passing people constantly. I run into TrevorD (the aforementioned founder of the Yellow Lake Tunnel) and he asks how I'm doing. I say "good" and he replies, somewhat incredulously, "really?!?". Note to Trevor: your pep talk needs polishing. I say "yeah, really, I feel good!" and I think I convince him. Later it will all make sense - I see the pictures of me on the run and realize why he was asking - I look like hell. I'm going to chalk it up to the lack of sleep, the cough and the cold, because I really did feel not too bad.
Looking "good" on the run:
I'm moving well, power walking at the aid stations to ensure I get nutrition in. I'm supplementing with salt caps (or placebo pills as I call them). There is a tailwind on the way out that I know will be a headwind on the way back, so I try and feel the wind at my back and move well. On the uphills, my calves start to tweak a little bit and so I back off a tiny bit to ensure they don't get any worse. I see Chris - he had said he'd be wearing red shoes and therefore be easy to spot and indeed he is - I shout that he's looking good (he is) and he gives a thumb up in return (he will later tell me that he was venturing ever deeper into the pain cave at that point). He will go on to grab a Kona slot.
I see Brad from Edmonton and say hi, Jason from Edmonton spots me and says hi - they're both looking strong. I see Wayne, a fellow EN'er that I also saw at a similar spot before the turnaround at a 1/2IM earlier in the summer so I figure I'm in good company. A while before the turnaround I see Brent - also from Edmonton. He chased me the whole way in at GWN so I decide to try and return the favour. At the turnaround I take nothing from my special needs. I glance at my watch and it says 1:55 - I do some quick math and realize that I'm going to have to run essentially the same time on the way back to crack 12 hours.
The 5km or so after SN is mentally and physically tough as there are non-trivial uphill sections. Paul from EN spots me and asks how I'm doing (thanks Paul!). Scott spots me and says hi (thanks Scott!). It's a bit after this point that I begin to repeatedly pass, and repeatedly get passed by, a girl in pink Timex kit with pink compression socks. I dub her "My Pink Nemesis". She does not appear to like the designation. She is running slightly faster than me, but taking slightly longer at aid stations so we are boomeranging constantly. It later turns out she is from Edmonton and my buddy Wade knows her - we will finish within 2 minutes of each other.
Wade tells me that Kim is up ahead (she got a Kona slot the year before at IMC and is the nicest person you'll ever meet - she is also inhuman - she ran the Edmonton marathon a week before in brand new shoes). Brent is running just behind her and I say hi. I say hi to Kim as I lumber by and she says "Wow, you look so strong!" She is lying but I will take it - it's a great mental boost at this point and I'm just glad she doesn't see my face. I'm still feeling surprisingly strong all things considered but, as predicted, the headwind has begun to rear its ugly head. Between that and the hills it's a struggle to maintain pace. I've been sanity checking my watch occasionally and realize that sub-12 hours is going to be oh-so-close. I've been carrying my long sleeve shirt this entire time and finally decide to ditch it - fortunately Wade happens to roll by on his bike and he scoops it up which is nice because it's my BQ shirt from Victoria.
I continue to go through the aid stations, essentially alternating Gatorade at one station with water (and sometimes salt) at the next. I'm increasingly aware of the time each aid station is costing me time but focus on getting nutrition in to avoid anything ugly. I consider rolling the dice and skipping aid stations to save time and make sub 12, but since this is my first rodeo, I'm still worried about a band of ninjas jumping out of the bushes and beating the crap out of me. With about 5km to the finish line, a guy with a dragon on his shirt that I've been running near says "if you can go, now is the time to do it - I can't."
Me during my final push:
I thank him and decide to go from sort of burying myself with most steps to absolutely burying myself with each one. Despite this, the splits just aren't there and by the time I round the corner onto lakeshore I know that I'm going to miss it by oh-so-little. After the final turnaround I see the clock has a 12 on it, removing the possibility that I was off with my time estimate. I instead make it my new goal to finish strong under 12:01 and not ruin anybody's picture. I sprint down the final meters to the roar of the crowd - raise my hands at the finish line and then I AM DONE.
I AM DONE:
Literally and metaphorically. And metaphysically. The "catcher" does indeed catch me. She asks if I want something to drink and my brain has never wanted sugar more in its life than it does right that second. I sample two flavours of Gatorade that I hadn't had on the course (red and blue) and they taste as good as anything I have ever had in my life. She walks me towards the finisher's tent (she is concerned about how pale I am until I tell her I work in IT and that I'm actually considered quite well tanned relatively speaking) and helps me get some food and additional drinks. She seems to insist on pointing out where the medical tent. I eat the best tasting worst pizza I've ever had (sorry dominos - note to self: no sponsorship opportunity) and eat two bags of the best tasting salt and vinegar chips I've ever eaten. I drink the best tasting root beer I've ever had. I see Wayne, who apparently was a couple minutes ahead of me at the finish and he looks like he just finished a friendly 5k. I'm in a daze and just sit there for a while. 10 or 15 minutes later I've largely recovered and am getting a rootbeer for someone that looks and feels like I did 15 minutes earlier. Yet another friendly volunteer offers to get my dry clothes bag and I'm glad I thought to put my cell in there. I call my wife, then my folks and I've never been happier to hear their voices, then I call my ride. He picks me up and we go and get my bike. We head back to Salty's and meet up with Trevor and Elaine. I order my celebratory pint of Naramata Nut Brown Ale. It is to be the peak experience of an already incredible weekend. They are out of it. I verbally berate the waitress, flip the table over in disgust and storm out. Ok, I don't - I'm too tired to do anything more than sigh and order a different kind of beer. While it wasn't my now beloved NNBA, it was pretty damn tasty. I am too tired to finish it. I had every intention of staying around for the midnight finish but I am physically and mentally exhausted so reluctantly head home and I promptly collapse into a heap.
I wake up 9 hours later, wondering if I will be able to walk to the bathroom. Surprisingly, I can. We head for breakfast. Their coffee machines are broken and they are down to making one pot at a time. When it arrives, the coffee is delicious (I regret not using caffeine during the race) and I begin my next goal of eating my body weight in eggs benedict. Mike and family show up and we begin the post-mortem.
Last year, in one of my marathons, I missed qualifying for Boston by 19 seconds and kicked myself for months. This year, I missed sub-12 hours by 54 seconds and have no regrets. There are of course dozens of places where I easily could have shaved a minute but I gave everything I had and am thrilled with the race. Of course that won't stop me from making 54 second jokes (nor, does it appear, will it stop my friends and co-workers). I prefer to think that I didn't drive in reverse to miss sub12 but instead drove well to even have a glimmer of making it. I seem to have a knack for picking ever-so-slightly-aggressive goals instead of sandbagging and picking a number I can hit.
Accidental picture I took of my leg:
It's so hard to wrap up all the emotions that go into preparing for, competing in, and finishing an Ironman. It's a testament to how hard it is, and how bad a writer I am, that after forty-five-thousand words I haven't captured even 5% of it I had a lot of respect for the race (and competitors) before I did it - I have even more now that I'm done, and although I've learned a lot, I realize I have infinitely more still left to learn.
I of course had heard how magical an experience Ironman (and Ironman Canada in particular) is and had high expectations but really couldn't be prepared for just how incredible it was. The support of the community in Penticton is truly staggering and completely overwhelming. EVERY volunteer - literally each and every one - was amazing. I know the word literally is often misused but I'm serious. The race was unbelievably well organized. The spectators were incredible. I had certainly heard and read great things but the reality was even better. I'll be back - just not next year! If you need me, I'll be in the pool working on my swim - I'll probably start in March this time. I'm thinking Sub-11 in 2012.
Fun with numbers:
I was 2438th after the swim, passed 70 in T1 to move up to 2368th, then passed 779 on the Bike to move up to 1589th, passed zero (and was passed by zero) in T2, and finally picked off 651 on the run. I moved up exactly 1500 places from stepping out of the water to crossing the finish line. I was 161/328 in my age group (M35-39) and 938th overall.
My FTP was 246, and I had a goal IF of .69 and predicted TSS of 286 based on estimated 6:00 hour finish time. Actual TSS was 271, .65 IF, VI of 1.11 (=scared shitless on downhills)
Run goal was:
8:50 for first 6 miles
8:20 for remainder
Mile splits from my Garmin:
23-10:18 (not exactly sure what happened here...but pretty sure it torpedoed my sub12 aspirations)
Number of beers consumed while typing this race report: 4
Number of Naramata Nut Brown Ales that TrevorH brought back from Penticton: 12. VICTORY BEERS!