Ironman Canada ~ Whister: Race Report

After 34 weeks of hard training, it was GO time.

alarm

The date:  August 25, 2013.

The place:  Whistler, BC.

It was the 31st anniversary of Subaru Ironman Canada, and the inaugural location of spectacular Whistler.

With the alarm set, I woke up after just a few short hours.  I was as ready as I could be.  Thankfully, I had slept well the night prior (Friday night), so having a shortage of sleep the night before the race was no biggie, in fact, I expected this.  I made my way downstairs and quietly made some coffee, a toasted bagel with peanut butter and had two small bananas.  I got dressed, pulled my bottles from the refrigerator and freezer and left around 4:30 am.  My friend Kari and I decided to meet to take the shuttle over to Rainbow Park, but as it turned out, we missed each other completely at our pre-arranged location.

I didn’t lose focus though and I told myself I would see her when I see her.  I added a hand-held water bottle to my run bag for T2 (transition 2:  the bike to run) and dropped off my special needs bags for the Bike and Run.  All I had left was my morning bag of dry clothes and wetsuit/swim gear.  I got on the bus from the T2 staging area and the driver shuttled a full bus of athletes to Rainbow park.  It was still dark out and the bus was quiet.  Everyone seemed to be focused.

The gentleman next to me tried to make small talk, but the only thing I really heard was that he chose the Whistler course over Challenge Penticton because he doesn’t like descending.  I asked him if he practiced the bike course and he said no.  Hopefully, my face didn’t give away my horror that he had not practiced this bike course.  It was hella hard and he had no idea what he was in for.  I was scared for him!  But, I remained cool and told him he would do well and I wished him a great day.  Secretly, I was so thankful I had the opportunity to practice this bike course two times leading up to the race.  Both times were very challenging and had me questioning what the hell I was doing.  In fact, the second time, I even questioned riding my TRI bike.  I pleaded with my coach to use my road bike for easier climbing gears.  He assured me (and he was right) that I should use my TRI bike.

I arrived at Rainbow park went straight to my bike.  First things first … I needed to pump my tires.  We were told that mechanics would be on hand with bike pumps in the morning, so I didn’t bother to bring mine.  I took my bike and found a long line of other athletes waiting to fill their tires as well.  So, I waited.  About 20 minutes in all.  When it was my turn, the bike mechanic filled my tires to 100 psi per my request.  He even complimented me on my nails … telling me I had the best race nails he has seen.  Why … thank you! 🙂  And, with that, I quickly made my way back to where my bike was to be racked.

(I just so happened to have snapped my friends my race ready nails before leaving for Whistler!)

nails

I filled my aero bottle and placed 3 more bottles on my bike.  I then started filling my GuChomps in my bento box when Kari found me.  She was ready to go.  Holy hell, she’s fast!  I still needed to use the bathroom and the line was horrendous!  Erg.  Why is this always the case?  I also needed to add some socks to my T1 bag (transition 1 – swim to bike).  I did that first, then got in line for the porto-potty.  I waited for what seemed like a long time, but really only took about 15 minutes.  Time to don the wetsuit.

T1 was buzzing with athletes ready to go.

t1 Rainbow park

Kari waited patiently for me as I got into my wetsuit and we made our way over and dropped off our morning bags.

This is it.

I’m doing this.

2.4 miles to start.

140.6 in total.

Today is Ironman time!

Deep breath.  The sun was rising and the clouds cast a haze and a beautiful fog over the water.  It was gorgeous.

alta lake

alta lake swim start

Swimming.  Oh, how I used to dread swimming!  I’m still not great at it, but I practiced swimming much more this year than I did for my previous Ironman.  I knew I was a little faster, so the first goal I set for myself was to do the 2.4 mile swim in under 1:45:00.  That seemed doable, given the fact that two years ago, I did a 1:53:00 something.  My coach had high hopes for a 1:35:00, but I seriously just wanted to get under 1:45:00.  So, there it was …

GOAL #1.  Swim a sub 1:45:00.

The pros started 7 minutes ahead of the age groupers and then it was go time … 7 am.

The course was a two loop swim, counter-clockwise, starting from the water.  Kari and I made our way in and took a few strokes to warm up and make sure our goggles were on right.  I knew I would lose her soon enough in the mass of 2600+ people.

IM Canada swim start

The gun blew and we were off.  I found my stroke and remained calm, even though I was surrounded by hundreds of people.  I kept telling myself to follow the bubbles, get on someones feet and follow them.  Conserve energy and breathe.  Half way through the first loop, some guy was breast stoking and kicked me right in the goggles.  OUCH!  Thankfully, they didn’t come off, they were just shoved deeper in my skull.  Thank you mister, now move outta my way!

mass swim start

The first loop went by in what seemed like no time and I was excited to start my second loop.  I was also very thankful the race directors didn’t make us exit the lake to run ashore and then back in again.  I looked briefly at my watch and noticed it was roughly 47 minutes.  Not fast, but not as slow as last time.  Push!  I wanted to make under 1:45:00.  I focused on my breathing, stroke, reaching, pulling, gliding.  The final stretch, I increased my arm cadence and gave myself a push.  I came out of the water at 1:43:25.  YES!

Goal #1 — accomplished!

swim alta lake exit

I ran up to the wetsuit strippers and was quickly stripped from my BlueSeventy.  Some nice volunteer handed me my swim to bike bag and into the ladies changing tent I went.  I sat and peeled off my compression sleeves.  I contemplated wearing them all day, but I really wanted the full compression sock.  Another nice volunteer assisted me in putting them on and then I was off to find my bike while she put everything away for me (my wetsuit/goggles/cap).  There weren’t many bikes left in transition, which meant one thing … I am still so freaking SLOW at swimming.

My buddy Dave, captured this shot and posted it to Instagram:

T1 exit Rainbow Park

Oh well, I made my goal.  I was smiling and happy to start my bike leg.  112 miles of the toughest riding I have EVER done.  Seriously.

coming out of T1

start of IM bike

leaving rainbow park on bike

I set off easy enough because I knew I would need to have a lot left in my tank to climb the final 20 miles back to Whistler.  The bike course was absolutely stunning and I really loved the fact that Ironman shut down most of the roads, especially the out and back to Pemberton, and it was smooth sailing.  The riding conditions were near perfect.

biking IM Canada

Out and back to Callaghan whizzed by and before I knew it, I was heading back to Whistler.  I knew I would see my family along the course and they caught me riding by!  With a huge smile on my face!

bike

bike IM

I was just over a 1/3 of the way done and I knew I would zip out to Pemberton, which was mostly downhill with one steep climb called Suicide hill on the way.  There is no climbing this hill in anything but the granny ring.  I made it to Pemberton in no time and it was nice the community of Pemberton was out there to cheer us on.  Afterall, Ironman had completely shut down the entire road from Pemberton to Whistler for this race, so they were kinda stuck for several hours.  The special needs station was a lot sooner than I anticipated and I completely went by my bag and stopped about 50 feet away.  No one could find my bag!  I kept yelling “626?” … no one could find it.  After a few minutes, some volunteer realized she had been holding it the entire time.  OOPS.  No biggie.  It’s not like I was going to win this thing.  I quickly grabbed some pretzels and took a swig of a 5 hour energy drink.  (OOPS — something I’ve never done! …. oh well).  I exchanged two of my bike bottles, since I was drinking a mix of OSMO and nothing else.  And, off I went.  Out and back in Pemberton was flat and fast.

bike leg IM Canada

guy got chicked on bike

I passed several people and spoke to a few along the way, asking them about their day.  A few were chatty back, which I love!  Rounding the corner in Pemberton to make my way back to Whistler, I knew I was in for some tough hills.  This was the final push I had been scared of for months.  I knew I would do it, but I was going to be in a pain cave for a bit.  I was not focused on my time, I was only focused on nailing my nutrition.

Goal #2:  Nail my nutrition!  (Because … well, most of you know what happened in IM 70.3 Boise …)

For the bike, this meant drinking at least one bottle of OSMO per hour.  I consumed 2 GuChomps on the 1/2 hour and 4 GuChomps on the full hour.  Once I hit 3 hours, I started eating some pretzels and I ate 1/2 of a Protein bar.  I carried on until all my GuChomps were gone!

The climb back to Whistler went better than expected.  My quads were a little sore, but that was to be expected.  I made conversation with a gal from Michigan and we endured the long climb back together.  Heading into Whistler, there were several turns and tons of spectators cheering as I came into T2.

Photo Credit: John Pratt
Photo Credit: John Pratt

I dismounted and began to move forward, but lost my balance and dropped my bike.  Thankfully, I didn’t go down with it, but I hated dropping my bike nonetheless.

coming into t2

I handed my bike off to the volunteers and ran to grab my T2 bag.  I had legs!! They were moving.  I ran into the changing tent and exchanged my bike shoes for my Brooks Launch running shoes.  Brand new … since I love running in new shoes!  It was go time.  I grabbed my hand-held water bottle with OSMO and I was off.

Whoa – wait — quick stop at the porto-potty.  Ok — now I’m off.

exiting t2

(My friend @trisilk caught this picture and video of me coming out of T2 and posted it to Instagram!! Thanks buddy!)

Ok, nice and easy I told myself.  Break it into 30 minute segments.  I’ve done this a million times off the bike.  I’m the queen of bricks.  I love bricks.  My stomach was queasy and my quads were sore, but I wasn’t cramping!  That was the good thing.  Keep moving forward I told myself … no matter how slow, keep moving.

runIM

I made 3 more porto-potty stops in the first 13.1 miles, thinking I had to pee, when in actuality, I could barely eek out anything.  It was my body yelling, “PSYCH!  GOTCHA!”  Damn … ok, let’s just do this.

IM Run

I kept a steady pace and played leap-frog with several runners on the course.  I’d walk for 30 sec to a minute per aid station, and run the rest.  I was doing my plan!!  I was running more than walking and I couldn’t have been more happy!!  My quads were on fire … FIRE!  But, hey, I just figured they were telling me that I had kicked ass on the bike course and they should be on fire.  So — keep going girl!

run course IM
I loved seeing my Momma!

smile IM run

And – I did.

With an enormous smile on my face.

I loved seeing my family out there and my friends, John and Judy.

run IM Whistler

I saw Kari on an out and back and she was behind me just a bit.  What the heck?  She had been ahead of me.  I later found out that she had a pit stop in T2 that was a bit longer than mine.  We played leap-frog a bit and it was great to see a familiar face.  Towards the end, I saw my buddy Glenn, and he ran with me for a bit, but urged me to carry on without him.

Rounding the final corner to Ironman run course, I saw the time.  I could see it was 12 hours and 53 minutes.  WHAT?!!!!  I hadn’t been paying attention to my overall time, just trying to nail my nutrition and take each leg for what I could do.

IM Canada finish

Goal #3:  complete Ironman Canada in under 14 hours! (My first IM was in 14:06:00).  Read about my IM Canada 2011 experience HERE.

finish medal IM Canada

Accomplished, tackled, nailed, smashed my PR by ONE HOUR and 12 minutes!!!  

Excited beyond belief!  

I PR’d in the swim, the bike and the run!  

Heck yeah!

IM Canada medal

Thank you Ironman Canada for a great race!  

This happyTRIgirl is over the moon!

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21 thoughts on “Ironman Canada ~ Whister: Race Report

  1. What an amazing story and I got teared up just reading it because I was so happy for you! I can only imagine how emotional your journey was and I was so thrilled to track you and feel like I was there with you all day! I can’t wait for mine in a few months, I am going to be an emotional wreck at the end! lol. You are a beast and I am so glad that we have become friends! Can’t wait to race with you at Oceanside next year!
    Great job IRONMAN!

    1. Thank you so much D! I’m so looking forward to following your IM and I know you will kill it!! There is nothing like the first one and you will forever remember it! Then, it’s on to Oceanside!! WOOT WOOT!! So excited for that!!

      Also, thank you for all your support! It meant so much to me!! YOU ARE A TERRIFIC FRIEND! 🙂

  2. What a great recap – thanks for sharing and congrats on an awesome race! The photos are fantastic, by the way.
    I just signed up for my first IM (Coeur D’Alene, next year) and am avidly reading as many recaps as possible.

  3. Bah! I meant to put my comment “My god – you 100% do not look like you’ve completed an Ironman! You don’t even look tired. This is beyond inspiring, especially since I’m just a sprint girl.” here! Sorry!

  4. Pingback: Life After Ironman | happy~TRI~girl

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