Race Report: Ironman Canada 2011

Ironman Canada 2011: August 28, 2011

MellowJohnny and I had been planning our Ironman trip for a few months now. He’s not a big planner, but his kids would be with him for the week so we decided to be prepared for it. It made for a different type of pre-race preparation than I have ever been used to. I was definitely less organized than usual and more busy. This made it almost impossible for me to focus on the nervousness that I usually have. Camping in a family setting added more complicated elements. Looking back, I wish that I had taken some more time to myself to get in some focusing and visualization. However, it was a good experience overall and I had all of the necessary equipment despite my almost forgetting to put my gels and other nutritional needs in my transition bags the day before (I remembered everyone on race-day, which is all that counts).

The 4 of us in Banff

Race Morning:

We woke up at 4:30 and got ready to go. My stuff was all set out and ready. All I had to do was get dressed, eat some breakfast (toast with peanut butter and a banana), and fill up my water bottles to prepare for the hot day ahead. MellowJohnny and the kids dropped me off and we had a quick goodbye at the transition fence. I would have been more teary-eyed, but there was no time – I was swept away by the special needs bag drop-off and the body marking lines. I was busy adding items to my transition bags and to my bike.

It became clear to me that my mind was scattered on race morning when I told the body marker that my number was 2305. I was completely convinced that this was my number until I went to the transition bag marked 2305. It wasn’t my bag. I looked at my wrist-band and saw that my number was actually 2503! I didn’t know what to do about my body marking, but figured that it wasn’t a big deal and just went on. It turns out that NO ONE noticed! I wonder if anyone even looks at the body marking? It is a funny story to tell now though. Also, that morning I called a banana an apple. Yeah, I was scattered.

The only familiar face I saw before the race was my friend Navarra, who I knew had been training hard for this Ironman race and was looking for a good time. I wished her well and went on to put on copious amounts of BodyGlide and then my wet suit. I did see Lisa Bentley on the beach talking to some of the women pros. It was nice to see her all smiley and positive. I thought about telling her how inspirational she has been to me, but totally chickened out.

Race Morning!

The Swim:

My plan for the swim was to swim consistently, don’t panic about how many people were around me, and try to draft a bit. Because I had no swam much this year, I didn’t have big hopes for this swim. However, I finished in 1:32, which is two minutes off of my last one. Not bad considering the amount of training. During the swim, I got hit a few times, but I just kept going and didn’t get too mad. About halfway through the swim, my goggles were hurting my head somehow so I adjusted them quickly and kept going. The wetsuit strippers helped me off with my wetsuit, I grabbed my transition bags, and went to the change tent.

The volunteer in the change tent was super helpful. I wanted to have a fast transition, so I didn’t sit down. She dried my feet and put on my socks and shoes. Seriously, the best part of this race is the volunteers! She was so pleasant and awesome. Both of my transitions were about 5 minutes each.

The Bike
Oh, the bike. The Ironman bike. As usual, biking down Main street of Penticton was amazing. I saw MellowJohnny and the kids briefly as I went by. That definitely gave me a big boost of energy. My good friend and training buddy, Trevor, road bike and told me to “shake that ass!” as he road by me. The ride to Osoyoos was a nice one, except for the tacks on the shoulder that gave many people flats. I was happy to have made it through without getting one. The next thing I knew I felt a big “thump” and knew that I had a flat. I swore and stopped on the side of the road. Luckily, I was right by a tech support person, who helped me out. I pulled out a 1″ nail that made its way through my tire, my tube, and into my rim. It was ridiculous! I was happy to be back on my bike and made it to Osoyoos.

I was looking forward to and dreading going through Osoyoos. Right after going through the town, the climb of Richter’s Pass started. My plan for Richter’s was to climb slow and steady. I knew it was long so I just tried to enjoy it. I smiled a lot because as we were climbing, I couldn’t help but think that we all had paid a lot of money for the torture of biking up this mountain. It was quite humorous at the time, but now I wonder if it wasn’t the heat going to my head. It was awesome getting to the top and a guy on a sound system congratulated each person on making it to the top of Richter’s Pass. I knew, though, that there was a long day ahead of me.

The rollers have mentally killed me in the past during the last Ironman Canada 2007 and then again during the Desert Half Ironman in 2009. So I was prepared for them. I went up steady and went down hard. I actually enjoyed them. But then came the out-and-back, another aspect of IMC that is a mental hiccup. This year was no different. Each pedal stroke was difficult and I kept thinking “how much further to the Special Needs area?!?” It is a truly annoying part of the course and I would rather bike anywhere than that stretch of road, where it is hot and seemingly endless. I did have some great conversations with some people on that stretch of road, though. Unfortunately, due to the heat and hours on the bike I can’t remember them.

After the out-and-back came the climb to Yellow Lake. The day before MellowJohnny and I had driven the bike course and his words echoed in my head “Yellow Lake isn’t nearly as bad as Richter’s.” I tried to keep this in mind as my pedals churned up the hill one slow and difficult turn at a time as my legs screamed. It was the hottest part of the day and there were several aid stations without water – the ice at the aid stations were very helpful as I stuffed them down my shirt and my shorts. As I reached the top of Yellow Lake, I then heard MellowJohnny’s voice say, “It’s all downhill!” As I went down the hill, I couldn’t figure out why this downhill was so damn difficult! I have heard since that there was a headwind on the downhill, which makes a lot of sense. There were definitely some times when I had some speed and didn’t pedal, but mostly it was slow and tough. I made it back to town and was really glad to get off my bike.

This transition felt faster than the first, but according to the official time it was about the same. The worst part was that I left my bike shorts on while I ran out. The volunteer in the tent was great as she got me ready to go. I sat down for this transition because I had to change my shoes and I just needed to rest for a second. Somehow I passed Trevor in transition, but he caught up to me a bit later.

The Run
Before the race, I had already decided that I was going to walk the first part of the run. After the half IM in Stony Plain, I decided that I didn’t want to have that internal and physical struggle again. I tried not to get too demoralized as I did the out-and-back and turned left to go out on the course as fast people turned right to finish. It was tough though and I still think it is the worst part of the Ironman Canada course. So mean!

Trevor caught up to me about 2km into the “run.” We walked for a bit, but he was a hurting unit with cramping legs. He ended up DNF-ing, which sucks. I kept going on my power walk and running down hills. I was actually happy to be out of town because I didn’t like everyone seeing me hurting. I felt better after 5km of walking with some running. I got to MellowJohnny and the kids, who were waiting for me by the campground we were staying at. There were a few familiar faces as our campground neighbours were there with their dog! It was great to give high fives and hugs. C asked me why I was still doing “the big race” and why it was taking me so long. I just laughed and didn’t really answer her question because I was asking myself the same question with no answer. We got some good photos at this point and then I kept going.

Feeling fresh 8km in to the marathon
My Cheering Squad (minus one)

One of the bonuses of being slow is that people start to talk on the run. As I caught up to people, I started chatting and finding out about where people are at, how they are feeling, and what is keeping them motivated to keep going. There was one common theme among all of us: our time goals went out the window. Our reasons were all pretty similar: we didn’t train enough, the heat was just too much, or we didn’t get enough water. I guess I passed a lot of people on the run because most people I chatted with kept walking, where I was running a bit especially down the hills. I chatted off and on with two women almost the whole time.

As it got darker and darker, people got their glow sticks. It was pretty neat watching the neon yellow “lights” lining the highway as far as I could see. It would about 7 miles from the finish line when I heard MellowJohnny ringing his bike bell and cheering people on. Sure enough, he was biking with the sleeping kids in the bike trailer. He biked with me into town when he went back to get the car and meet me at the finish line. It was great having the company and telling him about the day. Him biking the run course with me is becoming one of my favourite parts of a race; he has done this a couple of times now and I look forward to biking with him when he does his first Ironman.

Only 6 to go!

Genevieve, a wonderful gal, and I had been run-walking together pretty much the whole marathon. We both had high hopes for a sub-15 hour race so we bonded over the disappointment of not making that goal, but being happy that we will be finishing the race. We agreed that it was a really tough day. I mean, every Ironman is! Maybe we just underestimated Ironman. It’s a lesson I have learned before, but sometimes one really has to experience it to learn (right Trevor?). Genevieve and I ran to the last kilometre, but I was feeling good and wanted to push it hard to the end. It’s my go-to move – start slow, finish fast. One day I will start fast and finish faster! Until then I will finish fast. I was so stoked to be coming down the chute. I was screaming and felt like I was flying – it was just how I remembered it the first time. It was so exhilarating! It really is the best feeling in the world. Another Ironman done! I am an Ironman again! It was amazing and a bit surreal. Crossing like felt like a dream and I wondered if it was really my body that just did all that in 15 hours and 54 minutes (7 minutes slower than last time).

After the Finish Line, I was greeted by a very nice volunteer. She asked me how I was feeling. All I said was, “Am I really done?” She laughed and told me I was. Another volunteer took my chip and I was escorted to the Finisher’s Photo line. Luckily, I looked back to see Genevieve come in and I gave her a huge hug. It was really a wonderful experience to run with her and finish with her. I got my photo taken and was escorted to the food.

Since I’ve been a triathlete for as long as I’ve been vegan, I know that food after races are not very vegan-friendly. They had pizza (all with cheese), pop, chicken broth, and chips. I ate some chips and an ice tea. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I quickly started to feel a little wonky. It probably wasn’t because of the food, but it didn’t help. I sat on the ground hoping that MellowJohnny would know where to go to find me. Then Valerie from another Saskatchewan tri club came up and congratulated me. I had no idea who she was and felt so silly when she told me. Ironman not only affects the body, it affects the mind. Eventually, I saw MellowJohnny and the kids and we quickly took some photos while I was sitting on the ground.



I walked slowly to the car and just felt tired. We went to bed quickly, but I woke up several times  to go to the bathroom. I guess I was really hydrated for the run. It took a few days before I could walk normally, but even two days later I felt pretty good. I did lots of walking and stretching while we drove home, but it was painful to sit in a car for hours at a time. As I’m finishing this blog post and doing all of this reflecting, I am so proud of myself completing this challenge once again. It has me hooked and I want to do another one with proper training. It’s an achievable goal and I feel like I finally have the support in my life to do that!

We were in Penticton!
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