I arrived in Penticton on Wednesday, which gave me plenty of time to have a relaxed lead-up to the race on Sunday. Mostly I hung out with my family (Theresa, Lana, and Danny our Corgi) and relaxed. The perfectionist in me wants to churn over goals and times and all the rest in minute detail, but after four Ironmans I’m pretty much over getting too worked up beforehand. Like I told Mark “TheFog” Moody at the race expo, I do these for fun and I try to keep it that way.
I checked in early Thursday (20 minute wait) and poked around the Expo for a while, then we walked Main Street. We made some dinner reservations, poked in some shops, and had iced coffee at the Bellevue Cafe. Then we returned to the hotel to relax before the team dinner at the Lakeshore Resort. We had a pleasant evening of conversation at the team dinner, sitting with Mark, Logan and Shannon, and Eve and Kevin. I enjoyed the “go around the room introducing yourself” part; there were 16 of us in the race and I actually didn’t know everyone.
Friday morning I was up early for a swim in the lake with JFT2 friends. The water was warm for the 20 minute swim. I like the atmosphere in Penticton at IMC – lots of nervous energy in the air but most people are fairly relaxed. And Danny (now 3 years old) enjoyed playing in the sand and getting petted by everyone young and old.
I rode the bike course with a few JFTers (Rachel, Jess, Steve, Anne, and sorry I think I missed one or two of you) Friday afternoon and it was beautiful. Perfect weather, good company, good pace. Rides like that are why I like being a part of the JFT2 team.
Saturday was about cleaning my bike, putting my bags together, dropping things off, and staying relaxed. We downtown for a while and had lunch at the lakeside restaurant (the Barking Parrot). I had a massage while Theresa and Lana walked downtown, then later in the afternoon I enjoyed a swim in the hotel pool with Lana. In the evening I built my race plan. My nutrition plan was the same plan I’ve used in the past – CarboPro mixed with Gatorade Endurance, electrolyte capsules (Thermolytes instead of Saltstick), a GU gel one per hour, and on-course GE and water. I switch to cola on the run and mostly skip the Gatorade. Late in the evening I figured out my goal times based on past performance as a 1:25 swim, 6:25 to 6:50 bike, and a 4:20 to 4:40 run plus average transition times. This gave a target time range of 12:21 (all three are great) to 13:10 (all three are average). I decided to be happy with anything sub 13 hours.
Race morning was peaceful. I had slept well and was up at 4:45am for my morning shower and coffee, got dressed, and we left the hotel at 5:45. Staying at the Super 8 on Main Street meant that was closed on race day, so we went the back way via Government Street (as per prior planning) and it was super easy. Once at the race start I dropped off my special needs bags, put my nutrition and electronics on my bike, and was ready to go.
I seeded myself on the far left because I didn’t want to get kicked around too much in the swim like last year. I saw Michael, Jill & JFTer’s (way cool!), talked briefly to Mark, and boom the cannon was off and I was wading out. It seemed like a long time I was wading, and soon after starting swimming I was getting hit around pretty good. There was one guy who kept head butting my side, and then in the span of 30 seconds I had been head butted from the right, slapped in the face from the left, my ankles grabbed from behind, then my right arm hooked and my head dunked while breathing so I choked badly. I had a panic reaction right then – I was incredibly hot, I couldn’t get any air, and a little devil in my head screamed “GET OUT NOW”! Taking a DNF even crossed my mind but that was so WTF it snapped me back to reality so I just treaded water for a bit and did a couple backstrokes to get going, then back to a crawl stroke. After that I found some good drafts, rounded the turns well, and turned in my second fastest IM swim. I was pleased overall, but I would have had my fastest IM swim without that 3 minute panic attack. Grrr. It was cool seeing Kevin Christian in the transition – we got out of the water about the same time.
Bike – 6:52
My plan here was patience, go easy, and kick it in at the out-and-back. I felt smooth and steady, and kept an easy low-wattage pace to Richter. That climb was uneventful, and it was great seeing all the JFTers – Jeff, Anna, Rachel, Judith – and the JFT support van folks waved out the window. The descents and rollers were uneventful, and then I started hitting it harder leading up to special needs. One problem was that they didn’t have Gatorade Endurance on the bike – they had regular Gatorade which I find sickly sweet and I hate hate hate Orange. I was drinking more on-course water than Gatorade but otherwise following my usual nutrition plan of a fuel bottle per 90 minutes (two scoops CarboPro, two scoops GE), and taking two Thermolytes per hour, and the occasional gel.
The ride was steady and my plan was going well. I saw Anna, Rachel, Jeff, James and I think one or two other JFTers. On the climb up Yellow Pass I started to get nauseated – pretty sudden onset. I stopped at the top of the descent to retch, but managed to bring up only a little and only felt a little better. Yuck. Time wasted, and I still felt crappy and sloshy inside. A nearby medic came over to check on me, and his advice was that my stomach had stopped processing fluids due to sodium depletion, and I needed to get salt in by sucking on pretzels or the like – no fluids, no food in my stomach because that would make it worse. He pointed out I was covered with salt residue from sweating which hasn’t happened before. I told him my nutrition plan, and he said in his 10-Ironman-finisher experience that I was overhydrating and under-electrolyting, which seemed reasonable.
Anyway, I started riding again and pushed it fairly hard but I didn’t feel strong and was still nauseated. My 6:52 was just past my upper goal so I’m still pleased with that. In T2 I needed to pee, and I noticed it was medium brown in color – meaning I was in ketosis (burning all fat, no carbs) and pretty much “bonking”.
Run – 4:30
My run plan was an under-10 minute pace to meet or beat 4:20. No walking except the steepest parts, determined by a low pace and a rapidly rising heart rate. The first few miles flew by at around 9:45 per mile, and I was feeling better so I was hydrating a bit with crushed ice, a little cola, and some water, and sucking on pretzels for the salt. Each time I had fluids I felt worse for two or three minutes, then it would pass. If it lasted longer, I’d reduce the next fluid intake, if it was short I’d increase. I probably had 20-30 ounces of fluid in three hours – less than half of what I would normally have in that heat.
The out and back nature of the run lets you see a lot of people you know. I saw a number of JFTers. Mark was going the other way running strong and waved hi as I was going up an incline, and Shannon was right behind him (it must have been just after he passed her). I saw Kevin, James, Jeff, John, Judith, and Rachel all running their race. We all exchanged “Go JFT” and “looking goods” and had fun.
Pace-wise, I hit 6 miles at 0:57, then 12 miles at 1:57 (meaning my pace was dropping slightly), then was quite surprised to hit mile 18 at 3:08 – way off the pace. Looking at the my GPS data now, you can see that the combo of low energy and walking the steep part of the hills hurt my pace badly: mile 14 – 17 were 10:25, 14:17, 11:27, and 13:12.
Right then I decided to go for it – eat a gel, down two colas, and kick it as hard as I could. I’d either completely blow up, or make my time goal. Thankfully it worked– soon enough I felt much stronger and my pace returned to the upper 9s.
All through the run I kept thinking I was going to come right down to the wire for a sub 13:00 finish. At mile 18’s 3:08 I thought I’d probably miss it by 3 or 4 minutes – probably too much to make up in only 6 miles but I had to try. I didn’t know really what time it was in relation to the race start. While I had my Garmin, I had not synchronized it to the race clock and I only wore it during the run. At least I could make this my “2nd fastest Ironman” which means beat 13:08. Around mile 22 I was feeling good and felt that was close enough in that I could “bring it!” to make the finish line and poured it on. I was passing many runners as I ran up Main Street in the low 8s. It was great to hear the cheering and “looking great” etc from the fans. One of the best things about IMC is the incredible fan support. I always make a point of giving high fives to every kid with their hand outstretched, even if I have to slow down (or even bend down) to get them all. I high fived more than a dozen kids in those last few miles.
Before long I was running past the cheers of my fellow JFTer’s on Lakeshore Drive, grabbing a drink at the last aid station and making the last turnaround to run past them again. That’s when I was stunned by Jill yelling “you can still make 13!” Thanks so much Jill for saying that, because although I thought I was running as fast could, I dug deep and found a little bit more.
I could hear the announcer Steve King saying something like “Let’s cheer everyone in for a 13 hour finish – 2 minutes to go!” All I could do was run toward the finish line as hard as I could hearing him count down “90 seconds to go”, “less than a minute to go”, then “30 seconds”. I passed three or four runners and the crowd was really cheering but I could barely hear them over the sound of my hammering breath and pounding feet. My Garmin says I did the last quarter mile at a 6:57 pace with an average HR of 189 and a peak of 197, which must have been right as I entered the finish chute and knew I had made it.
I ran the last few yards with my arms overhead in victory, and broke the tape at 12:59:46, falling onto the catcher on the other side. She got me standing and walking and I saw my fellow JFTer John Marquis just a moment later and screamed “I made it!” I knew he was a finish line volunteer and I was so happy he stuck around after his shift was over. Thanks John! I also saw Theresa and Lana on the other side of the barricade and I was so happy that they had seen my “big finish”.
John and another volunteer helped me walk around, and I wanted to talk to medical about my ketosis problem. I got their advice to get some chicken broth in me, and get fluids starting but to sip constantly rather than gulp in large amounts. The volunteer brought me some broth and we chatted for a while, mostly me prattling on about how my race went. The broth was incredibly good (meaning I really needed the salt) and I was also sipping a water bottle, and within a few minutes I felt good enough to make my way over the pre-arranged meeting spot where Theresa, Lana and Danny waited.
I had a dramatic and fun finish to an overall strong performance and a good day of racing. I realize that 14 seconds doesn’t matter in the scheme of things, but I really wanted to make 13 hours because that was my goal and it was a realistic goal. The only thing standing between me and a sub 13 was me and how hard I could run. I wanted Ironman Canada 2009 to be a repudiation of my poor performance last year, and it was. I was more than an hour faster, but more significantly my determination and racing spirit never wavered this year. Even when I thought I’d missed the 13:00 goal, I just set a new goal (sub 13:08) and strived to make that. Yeah, you could say I’m pretty pleased with myself. :-)