Ironman Canada 2002 Race Report
Posted July 29, 2004 02:54 PM
August 25, 2002
3.8km Swim, 180km Bike, 42.2km Marathon
As I write this it's nearly one week post-race and the "dust" is beginning to settle a bit.
Our whole experience in Penticton was so memorable. We arrived one week before the race which was a great decision as it allowed us to settle in well beforehand and to relax, read and do some easy workouts prior to the big day. We really needed to recharge our batteries during that week plus we were also able to acclimatize to the heat in Penticton - though temperatures during the week started in the mid-20's and only rose to the low 30's. It can be high 30's normally. We were able to take part in the various festivities that are planned during the week (carbo-loading party two nights before and the athletes parade down Main Street the afternoon before), plus spend lots of money at the exposition and in the merchandising tent! The best part of renting the house for 9 days was that we were able to bring Sacha and Finnegan with us, and not have the stress of leaving them behind in a kennel or having our neighbours look after them.
We had a great sleep two nights before the race (always the most important night pre-race) and even managed to get about 5 hours the actual night before the race which was a real bonus. Race morning dawned cool, overcast and damp as it had rained heavily at about 3am. We were up at 4:30 to make sure we ate properly prior to the race, and to slowly take our time so that we were not in a flap heading out. Arrived at the race site at about 5:30am and headed down to the body marking area. It was still dark out, but there were lots of people around either being marked or just watching the activity and taking photos, etc. Then it was time to actually head down to the lakeside and get into our wetsuits and have a warmup swim. Waiting for the start of the swim I was filled with total calm - all the preparation was behind us and the big day was ahead. Whatever was going to happen in the swim (bumping & bashing etc.) was going to happen and there wasn't much we could do to avoid it. The bagpiper played a tune, O'Canada was sung and then the cannon roared at 7am and we were off!! I tried to stay with Bob for as long as possible but was cut off by someone swimming sideways (?!) within the first couple of hundred metres. I managed to have a lot of clear water around me for most of the race and only was gently bumped a couple of times so the nightmare swim that I had anticipated in the months prior didn't materialize, thank heavens. The 3.8km swim was slower than I'd expected, but as the day is so long anyway 5 minutes here or there really doesn't make much of a difference unless you're one of the professionals or top age-groupers. I paced myself well in the swim, which was one of my goals, and wasn't tired or breathing hard when I exited the water.
Out of the water there are volunteers waiting to help you strip off your wetsuit - they then fling it over your arm and send you in the right direction to pick up your bag containing everything you'll need for the bike portion of the race. Into a change tent where another volunteer is at your beck and call to help you strip down and redress, apply sunscreen, or whatever is necessary. Then it's out to the bike transition area to grab the bike and head out on the 180km course. It was overcast and cool on the bike course - ideal biking conditions as we didn't overheat at all. The faster cyclists (i.e. Bob!) made it through the entire course and stayed dry, however by the time I reached the 140km point in the ride (just before the infamous Yellow Lake climb of approx 10km straight up - or so it seemed...) the skies opened and those of us still on the course were drenched. To add to the drama there was also a thunder and lightning storm which was pretty darn frightening. As I'd been experiencing some problems with my knees in the couple of months leading up to IMC, my bike strategy was to wear some knee supports, tape my IT bands and to go at a pace that would not flare up my injuries. This worked perfectly and I was able to exit the bike and head out on the marathon (42.2kms) without any problems. The first 50 kms of the bike course is relatively flat and the scenery is so wonderful, heading through farmers fields and vineyards, along a lakeside and then out into the countryside. Richter Pass, an 11km undulating climb, was a highlight of the day as I was very strong at that point and was passing a ton of cyclists. It was much easier than I had expected it would be. Then there was a fabulous section of steep downhills where you felt like you were flying! It was exhilarating. However at approximately the 1/2 way point there is a very "cruel" section of the course where you go onto one of the back roads and cycle in the direction from which you've just come for about 10kms before heading once more towards Penticton - the infamous "out and back". This is where you pick up the "bike special needs" bag containing items that you might need to get you through the 2nd half of the bike leg. I decided to take a good break at this point and sat with some other cyclists on the grass and had a picnic from the items in my bag. It was a good chance to recharge the mental and physical batteries. The next section was the Yellow Lake climb which seemed absolutely interminable. No break from the slow (and I mean slow!) steady, grinding up the hill. By the time I reached the summit I was a drowned rat, and could barely see through my sunglasses as it was so dark with the rainclouds. Luckily I had put a lighter pair of sunglass lenses in my special needs bag so changed them over once I was able to stop and take both hands off the handlebars. Normally the last 20kms of the cycle leg is a fast descent back into Penticton. However, due to the rain soaked roads, for about 15km of that distance, everyone had to slow down considerably for fear of crashing. It was nerve racking to say the least. Luckily I had brand new tires on the bike so was confident of the tread. Such a wonderful feeling coming back into Penticton and heading down Main Street to the cheers of thousands of spectators. The whole city turns out to either spectate or volunteer (4500+ volunteers help make the race the success it is). We also had at least 20 of our Y Tri Club friends come up to Penticton to cheer us, and the other 6 from the club doing the race, on.
Finally it was time to begin the run. All day long I'd tried to compartmentalize the race, just dealing with the task at hand and not thinking ahead to the next stage. When it came time for the run I tried to remember the advice we'd been given – to just break it down into 26 x 1 mile runs. Try to run in between each aid station and then walk when refuelling. My plan was also to walk any hills as my run training had consisted of a lot of pool running and there are not too many hills in the pool (!) - it helped keep my legs healthy though, and that was the main thing. So this strategy worked for the most part on the first 1/2 of the run (the highlight of that section was seeing Bob heading back to town when I was at about mile 7, and calling out words of encouragement and love to each other), but after picking up my run special needs bag (and having another sit to recharge the batteries again), the second 1/2 was much harder. Even the slightest grade was classified a "hill" in my mind! As the sun began to set over the hills behind Lake Skaha (with the most beautiful sunset reflected in the water - an image I'll never forget), the volunteers began handing out glow sticks to the participants still out on the run course. Finally a huge milestone - arriving at a point on the course where we're back on Main Street, (about 5 miles from the finish). The end was almost literally in sight! It was at this point where I joined up with another runner who I'd seen off and off through the entire marathon. I remarked that we seemed to have been going at the same pace the whole time and he suggested that we run the rest of the way together. Bruno had done the race last year in a much better time but had stomach problems this year and was compromised on the run. So off we set, exchanging mutual words of encouragement, with the determination to overcome the last portion of the race. As we hit Lakeshore Drive the noise from the thousands of people in and around the finish line was deafening. In another cruel course design decision, the last section of the run actually takes you away from the finish line for approximately 1km before heading back towards the finish line chute. Looking at my watch I calculated that we could finish in under 15 hours if we kept up the same pace. However at the turnaround point Bruno's stomach was acting up again and he needed to walk for a few minutes. I told him that I wouldn't leave him and to take all the time he needed - that we were finishing together! So off we set for the final few minutes of the race. Bruno encouraged me to savour every second heading into the finish line, to take my time and connect with the crowd. He urged me to go ahead in the last 200m and I was able to high five both sides of the crowd, to hug my dear friend Monique who had come to spectate from Vancouver, and to finish strong crossing the finish line at 15:01:58. My finish line photo shows me with the biggest smile imaginable on my face - as I was coming across the line I could see Bob waiting for me to present me with my finisher's medal. This had been the ultimate dream and part of my visualization of the finish in the months prior to the race. I had never expected it would actually happen as I knew Bob would cross the finish line hours before me, but there he was! It was the crowning moment of the day. After the race it was time for a massage and a soak in the hottub, before putting on the dry clothes that had been worn to the race so many hours earlier. We joined our friends in the bleachers and watched the final hour of the race - cheering ourselves hoarse for the last competitors trying to come in before the 17 hour deadline at midnight.
Arriving home at 12:30 am we cracked open a bottle of champagne, plus a bottle of Ironman wine to share with our friends. After going alcohol free for 1 year I thought this would be a major treat post-race, however I could only tolerate a couple of sips of each - they tasted foul! Too many power gels and sports drinks in the hours beforehand. Then it was finally time to hit the bed and put the day behind us. Managed to get a couple of hours of sleep - I was flying so high still - before heading out at 6am with Jan Frith to sign up for IMC '03! Yes, I'm certifiable, I know.... Bob had decided to give next year a miss - he will be my support crew instead! He can rest on his laurels – he completed his first Ironman race in 12:24:13. Such a fabulous athlete. I'm so wildly impressed. He had a very steady, comfortable race and paced himself perfectly as well. Neither of us was particularly sore after the race - I had a bit of pain with my left knee for about 12 hours, but by mid-afternoon the day after the race it was gone and I was up and down the stairs at the rental house without a problem. That night we attended the awards banquet and afterwards went with a group to a nightclub downtown and danced until 1:30am!! Insanity!!
So now we're back home - we're unpacked and normal life is returning, somewhat. The house sale and purchase have been concluded and our next big challenge (completing the kitchen renovation at the new house within 6 weeks) looms ahead of us.