Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ironman Canada 2011 Race Report

So Sunday was the big day, and with everything fresh in my mind I thought I'd post my race report to let you know how it all went and share my experience with everyone. I'll be concise and a bit more technical in this post, and sometime in the next few days I'll talk more about the experience.

Had dinner at about 5:00pm the night before and got to bed around 8:30 or 9:00pm. I woke up at 4:00am and had 2 Extra Calorie Ensures, half a bagel with peanut butter, an orange juice, and a coffee, all good for probably a bit under a thousand calories.

Made my way down to the special needs drop off and body marking at about 5:45am. You could really feel the excitement and nervousness in the air as everyone exchanges greetings in the early dawn light mixed with giant flood lamps. Then took care of all the other pre-race stuff like tire pressure, one last pit stop at the porta-potties, and wetsuit on. Then it was down to the beach....

Over 2800 people started on that beach, its a crowd. As per my coach's suggestions I started on the inside right of the buoys where it is less crowded. I'm not a strong swimmer so I seeded myself a few rows back.

They sing the national anthem and then in about a minute the horn blows. I managed to find myself a pretty open spot of water and didn't really bother to draft anyone, but I know I had a couple ladies drafting me. Didn't have too many issues with other swimmers, but around the corner buoys you definitely have to go into a head up swim (don't do breast unless you want to start frog kicking people behind you).

Early in the swim I had some issues with my left shoulder but they want away after about a thousand meters. After about 2500m I started getting tired and had to just focus on long powerful strokes. For the record, I'm not a great swimmer, my longest continuous swim prior to this was 2100m, and 18 months ago I could say I swam only in the loosest sense of the term, meaning I wouldn't drown if you threw me into a pool.

Coming back into shore there are some issues with sighting and where the sun is, but with tinted goggles it isnt' really an issue, my suggestion for anyone else would be to sight the condo towers and not the buoys.

Swim Time: 1:28:29 | Swim Place: 2187 | Position after swim: 2187

Fast transition, used the wetsuit strippers, already wearing my ride/run kit, so it was helmet on, shoes on, and I was out of there.

T1 Time: 00:03:48 | Position after T1: 1966 (yes, I passed 221 people in transition, thats why you practice your transitions)

The bike was good, I'd ridden the course once already so I knew what to expect. I also know that there are very few people who are as slow as I am in the water, but as fast as I am on the bike, which is a blessing and a curse. So there was a lot of passing.

My plan was to ride at 180-200 watts, but with the heat I was forced to ride on the lower end of this, around 180 watts, given that my heart rate was getting into the high 150's. I just had to listen to my body and respond to the conditions. I knew that if I rode any harder than I was, that I'd be shot for the marathon in the heat later on.

My advice to anyone would be to skip the first aid station at McLean Creek since stations are every 10 miles, or every 30 to 40 minutes, and you shouldn't need aid half an hour into the ride.

From McLean to Osoyoos is fast with an overall descending profile and usually a tailwind. If you're an average rider this is a good place to relax and prepare yourself for Richter and the rollers, but if you're more experienced or have ridden the course before, you can take a calculated risk and try and make time here since after Richter you're always either climbing or descending.

Richter's Pass is a baby if you know how to ride it. The key to Richter, the rollers, Yellow Lake, or any hill in an iron distance triathlon is to maintain the same level of exertion that you would have on the flats. I'm a strong rider and my ftp is roughly 280 watts, or 3.8watts/kg, and there were a lot of people passing me early in some of the climbs. This is completely fine but if you're breathing is audible and you're riding out of the saddle in a 180km time trial followed by a marathon in 35 degree heat, you're doing something wrong.

Once I reached the top of those hills, be it Richter or the rollers, or Yellow Lake, it was "click, click, click" as I geared up and accelerated downhill with the same effort as I climbed up (about 190watts for reference). Trust me, its a lot easier and more fun to pass people going down hill than uphill by keeping your exertion level on both sides.

I didn't have any issues with tacks and flats, or with aid stations running out of water like some people did. Once in a while I'd see groups of people with flats, but I honestly don't think it was tacks, just rough roads combined with some maybe too high tire pressures in the desert sun, but I could be wrong. As for aid stations running out of water, that really sucks, I only showered myself with water from a bottle once when a lady offered me a bottle that she'd used to do the same (a class act I should say).

At Yellow Lake I saw Shirl, Jen, and Jill in a Tour de France-esque tunnel of spectators which provided a great boost at a challenging point. That was great, and from then on it was one small climb and 30km of descending into Penticton.

Bike Time: 5:44:06 | Bike Place: 467 | Position after bike: 777 | Average/Norm Power: 167/180 | Average HR: 155 bpm

Dismounted my bike, and while I was running it turned on me and I fell on it because of my slippery cleats. Big bruise on my leg, but my ego took the worst of it. Cleats off, running shoes and visor on, sunscreen on, and I was out of there.

T2 Time: 00:03:24 | Position after T2: 739

The Marathon
This hurt. Something about getting off your bike after a 180km bikeride and going to run a marathon at 2:30pm in 34C (94F) heat is mentally challenging. My original plan was to run 5:20km's and only walk the aid stations if necessary but it quickly became clear that this marathon was about surviving the heat.

Your legs never feel great when you start the run in a triathlon and this case was no different. After about 5km I was starting to recognize that keeping my body temp down would be critical. So the plan changed to walking the aid stations and doing everything I could to keep cool, sponges, water, ice, etc.

At the 8km aid station I was kind of a jerk and walked right by Shirl, her family, and some of my friends. I knew they were there and I could hear them, but that was probably the first aid station I walked and I was simply in a world of hurt and needed every last ounce of energy to keep moving forward. After that point though I thought about how those people were there for me and I owed it to them, and myself to HTFU and get on with it.

Jordan and the Tri It crew were about on bikes providing words of encouragement telling me I looked strong. But when I started seeing some of the pros walking I started thinking about how easy it would be to slow down and how much time I had to finish. Then I saw none other than Janelle Morrison, a true inspiration for me, and she reminded me of the wise words she shared with me a couple weeks before, "you owe it to yourself to fight". My pace picked up, and I wasn't about to back down.

I stuck with walking the aid stations, as did many others, it was simple attrition out there, and anyone who managed to run the whole course deserves an extra medal or honourable mention or something. Into town I just kept telling myself, get to the next aid station and you can walk just a little bit, and then I kept telling myself, "40 minutes and you're an Ironman, 30 minutes and you're an Ironman, 10 minutes and you're an...".

Run Time: 4:10:41 | Run Place: 410| Position after run: 470 | Average HR: 162 bpm

The Finish
My wonderful fiancée Shirley, and two incredible friends Jen and Jill were my catchers and I was so happy that they were there on the other side of the line rather than somewhere back on the course. They brought me pizza, pepsi, water, and smiles.

Coming down that finishing chute was like... well finishing an Ironman. You literally have thousands of people cheering for you as you run down the carpet, and after 42km of you body telling you to stop, all of the sudden, you're done. Its a mix of all the bad things you'd expect from a 226km day, completely muted by the relief, exhilaration, and happiness of landing among the stars for just a few brief seconds.

One quote sums it all up best...

“I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious”

-Vince Lombardi

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ironman tomorrow

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Powerful Beyond Measure

The first multisport race that I ever signed up for was a sprint duathlon two years ago. I was hesitant at first but wanted to set a goal for myself. I guess after that race I was hooked and went from racing a sprint du, to signing up for the 2010 Ironman Calgary 70.3 even though I hadn't been in a pool in ages.

Fast forward to last August, a few weeks after Calgary 70.3, I was signing up for Ironman Canada which is now only days away.

I didn't realize it at the time but when we set our sights high and finish what we set out do, something great happens to those around us, they ask themselves to do the same. In the past year I've had the pleasure of seeing my dad, my brother, my fiancee, and a half dozen other friends cross the finish lines of their own races. From sprints to Half IM's, they've done it. I can't say that they wouldn't have done those races anyways, but its nice to know that I've been those journeys.

Aiming your sights high and settling for nothing less than success isn't something you do just for yourself, its something you also do for those around you. The power of individual successes combined with the strength of social networks means that we can each make the world a better place by rising to our potential and encouraging others to do the same.

(For empirical evidence of this I strongly urge you to watch Nicholas Christakis' video on the Hidden Influence of Social Networks)

For more poetic evidence of this, I have a quote for you.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

-Marianne Williamson

A Big Thanks

Just a few days away now from Ironman Canada. I arrived in Penticton yesterday evening and did a "quick" 2 km swim this morning in about 40 minutes, followed by a 40km bike ride. Its funny how your perceptions of short and long seem to change when you're doing an Ironman.

Anyways, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say a few thanks to some huge supporters of mine over the past few months.

First and foremost, the team from Lululemon on 4th Street in Calgary has been incredibly generous to me and has been a great team to have on side. I became a Lululemon Ambassador this summer and its been an incredible experience thus far and I look forward to the next year of being a part of the Lululemon family. And a special thanks goes to Andrea, the rockstar who was the first to introduce me to the Lulu team!

Next is the Tri It Multisport crew. I've got to know and work with the Tri It team on a couple of projects through redlime marketing and I've had an awesome time. On top of that, the experience and knowledge of the sport that they've shared with me and all of their other customers has been top notch. I'm happy to call them my friends on a personal and professional level and would recommend anyone in Calgary visit them for anything and everything triathlon related.

My coach Todd Malcolm of No Limits Triathlon has been a great coach and mentor in triathlon for me. His knowledge of the sport, technical aptitude, generosity, and exceptional athleticism make him a great guy to have in your corner going into a triathlon of any distance.

Now of course my friends and family. You've all been incredibly supportive and patient with me over the past couple of months. Triathlon is an incredibly demanding sport, not only of one's self, but also of the relationships you have with others. I'm so greatful to have you all as my base of support and hope to do you all proud on August 28th. And for those of you out here in Penticton, after I finish the race, first round is on me!

Last but certainly not least, my wonderful and beautiful fiancee (as of last Friday), Shirley Blundell. Thank you so much for being my support crew, my biggest fan, my inspiration, and my best friend. I can't wait to give you a great big hug the moment I cross the finish line and I'm so happy to be with you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A round up of some good IMC discussions

Internet forums are a great tool to communicate and learn from other individuals and athletes. Generally as a big race approaches, old discussions will be rehashed and new ones will come up about the best strategies and tactics for the big day.
Below is a roundup of some good discussions I've come across on slowtwitch with loads more information than I'd be able to summarize here. Happy Friday everyone!
For those of you heading to Penticton <-- Strongly recommend reading this one!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ironman Canada Bike Course

So its not long until Ironman Canada now. I've just finished my last big weekend and it was a good learning experience. I rode the bike course a couple of days ago and found one thing I wasn't quite prepared for was the heat and really started to fade in the second half of the bike course.

For anyone who is doing Ironman Canada and won't have the luxury of riding the bike course before hand, I've come up with a few quick pointers based on my experience and the advice of others.
  • If at any time during the ride you feel like you are going hard, you're going too hard
  • Be sure to hydrate, I usually take in about 750ml of fluid per hour and I stuck to that plan this weekend. It wasn't enough, both times I reached my girlfriend Shirley who was supporting my ride I found myself chugging almost a litre of water even though I didn't feel thirsty. Remember, by the time you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated
  • The ride down to Osoyoos is fast and a slight downhill, if you find yourself cruising along at 40kph and your HR is relatively low, consider taking advantage of that time to hydrate and relax. The work starts at Richter, and you can start to build there
  • Take your time up Richter, its not as bad as people make it out to be if you have a plan. Be mentally strong here and be very patient. I'm a strong climber/cyclist but I made a point of sticking to my 200watt target race power even up Richter. For me this meant I was climbing at about 9-10kph. For my friend Keith, an average cyclist/triathlete who was trying to stick to 160 watts, this meant climbing at 6-7kph. If you're making the ascent any faster than either of these two respective ranges, you're going too hard
  • Learn to descend comfortably, it may be a little late for this less than 3 weeks out, but a couple rides with some long descents will do good to prepare you for the IMC course. Even if you just do the climbs and descents of the IMC course in the weeks before the race, you could save a couple minutes on the ride
  • On the rollers after Richter you may be tempted to try and take the momentum from the last descent and power over the crest of the hill to the next descent. Don't, these rollers are a little too long and too many to do this without burning up your legs
  • Not long after the out and back, which is where you get your special needs, you'll approach the Seven Sisters. They start so gradually you may not even notice you're starting to climb. Here and all over the course you should always be mindful of your power/HR/perceived exertion. There are a lot of false flats and a lot of sections where the terrain will deceive you into thinking you aren't climbing when you actually are. Remember, if at any time you feel like you're going a little hard, you're going way too hard
  • Save your energy for the run. At the end of the day, incremental power on the bike isn't as valuable as incremental power on the run simply because you're trying to overcome far more wind resistance riding at 35kph, than running at 10kph. Going 5% harder for 6 hours on the bike might mean you get off 10 minutes sooner, but end up shuffling for an extra hour on the run. Its not worth it, people rarely say "I wish I'd gone out harder on the bike", but often say "I had a great ride, but things fell apart on the run", its all legs, its all related, and on a course like IMC, your patience on the bike will be rewarded on the run.
Anyways, I'm assuming everyone racing IMC who reads this is now probably into their taper. So stay safe, and take it easy, we're into the home stretch here friends!