Ironman Canada 2004 Race Report
Posted September 5, 2004 10:13 PM
What an amazing day August 29th turned out to be!
After settling down on Saturday night Bob and I managed to get about 5 hours sleep before the alarms (we had 3 of them set to be on the safe side) started going off at 4am. My first thought was “what’s the weather like this morning?” It had been raining steadily when we went to bed and it had continued raining most of the night. By the time we got up the rain had, mercifully, stopped. Finally the weather gods were on our side.
We had our breakfast and got dressed in the outfits we were wearing in the race. We then put other clothes over top to keep warm – these clothes would go in the “dry clothes” bag which was handed in after we put on our wetsuits. We would collect the bag after the race and put on our clean clothes after our massage and soak in the hottub. Jan and Ken loaded the dry clothes bags, plus the bags we would be dropping off for special needs on the bike and the run (which we would collect at approx the 115km mark of the bike and the halfway point of the run) in their car and we set off for downtown at 5am. We parked and proceeded down to the body marking area where we dropped off the special needs bags into the designated boxes. We found our respective lineups (based on your race #) and were marked on both arms and the fronts of our legs. Finally our age was marked on our left calf. This proves invaluable as while cycling and running you can see if there is anyone in your age group ahead to work towards passing!
We then headed to our bikes and used the pump to ensure that our tire pressures were ideal. The location of my bike was very close to the back fence and there was a large generator powering a bright light – this was great as it was as bright as daylight there so I could see exactly what I was doing. Then it was time to join one of the long queues for the porta-potties. Oh joy…we must have picked the slowest one in the transition area as we were very conscious of the minutes ticking away and very slow forward progress. Unfortunately it wasn’t a case of “oh well I won’t bother”, it was most definitely a very urgent requirement! Finally we were through the lineup and quickly donned our wetsuits to hear the announcers calling for everyone to come along towards the swim start area. This year the transition area was located on the far right side of the Lakeshore Hotel in contrast to previous years where it has been located on the far left side. In previous years the swim start and finish were the same area.
This year the swim start was in the old location but the swim exit was in the new transition area. The idea was to have bagpipers “pipe” the athletes from the transition area down the street into the swim start area. This was probably a great idea on paper but sucked in reality. There was a large backlog of athletes on Lakeshore Drive as the entrance to the beach was not wide enough to accommodate everyone. Consequently the athletes were trickling down to the waters edge. As we were standing up on the street we could hear Steve King announcing that all athletes should be in the water in preparation for the start which was only 3 minutes away!! Talk about stress. Finally the line began to move forward and we made it to the water with only 1 minute to spare. Forget about a warm up swim. Forget about getting the perfect start position. My concern was to get as far to the right, and as far to the front as possible as this is a much less congested area. We only made it in up to our knees when the cannon boomed. No one had any warning that it was about to go off. Usually after O’Canada is sung there is a countdown that everyone participates in. Apparently this year the cannon starter could not hear Steve King announcing and so went by the time on his own watch. When it said 7am he set the cannon off. Needless to say everyone was caught unawares. Suddenly we were surging forward – it was necessary to take giant steps as we were still too shallow to swim. We were also in a very rocky area and I remember hoping that I wouldn’t damage my feet before the day even began!
Before we actually started swimming Bob drew my attention to the left and we took a moment to take in the sheer enormity of all the swimmers starting their day. We’ve never actually been near the front before – the first year we hung back for a minute or two after the start to cut down on the potential for bumping and bashing. This year I experienced that in full force. It wasn’t too bad at the beginning, but by being on the far right of the crowd and by aiming for the buoys ahead it was necessary to swim a bit left to merge in with the crowd in order to pass each buoy and keep it on the right. It’s forbidden to go around the buoy with it on your left, though I did see one swimmer (a male – he was wearing a purple swim cap and the women were wearing yellow) who was near me for most of the race who went around nearly every buoy that way. Made me so mad! Everyone else who was swimming by the rules was getting beaten up in the congestion around the buoys. I could see the kayakers near the buoys steering this person back into line but at the last moment he would break away and swim on the clear side of the buoy. Grrrr!
After the first 5 or 6 buoys the swim settled down very nicely. I managed to get into a great rhythm and didn’t race it hard. I felt great throughout. I swam a little to the right of the main congestion of swimmers and just merged back in when going around the buoys. Swam a much straighter race than in previous years – my sighting has definitely improved. Not so much time wasted going off course and then recorrecting. The swim was broken into three legs, the first was about 1600m, the second was about 1500m and the final leg was a nice short one of approx 700m straight into the finish chute. It’s an amazing sensation when you can hear the crowds cheering madly and you’re still a few hundred metres from shore. It really energizes you!
As I swam close to shore I could see Jan and Ken standing thigh deep in the water. I swam near them and was able to wave so they could take a picture of me exiting. I looked at my watch as I went across the timing mat – 1:10! I was thrilled with my time as it was a 6 minute improvement over last year and 10 minutes over 2002. Then it was off to the side of the swim chute and down onto the grass for the wetsuit strippers to do their job. The suit is then flung over your arm as you head towards the transition bag area. There is one volunteer calling out race numbers and another who searches for your transition bag and hands it to you. What service!
I hustled into the change tent determined to improve upon my transition time from last year – which I did, but only by about a minute. I’ll have to work on that for next year – don’t know where I waste all my time but obviously I’m taking too long. At my first Ironman I wore my bathing suit under the wetsuit which necessitated a complete removal in the change tent after the swim portion of the race and redressing in the clothes I was wearing on the bike. That year I also completely changed from my bike outfit to a different outfit on the run. Last year I wore my bike shorts and sports bra under the wetsuit and then changed into running shorts after the bike. However chafing issues with that particular sports bra and running shorts made me steer clear of them this year. So we both decided to wear our Frontrunners tri tops and Y Tri Club biking shorts under our wetsuits and to just change our bike shorts for the run portion. This worked very well as it saved lots of time in the transitions, plus the tri tops are very close fitting and did not “ride up” or need any adjustment while biking or running.
As it turns out Bob exited the water 4 minutes after me. He had a much faster transition though. I exited onto the bike course one minute ahead of him (a first for me in any race!) but he must have passed me within the next couple of minutes – we didn’t see each other unfortunately. That would have been great. The bike course was slightly changed from previous years in that they had the cyclists exit from the new transition area and then head down Lakeshore Drive for about 2 minutes cycling past the SS Sicamous where there was a turnaround. Then it was back down the other side of Lakeshore Drive before heading up Main Street as per normal. This was great for the spectators who lined both sides of Lakeshore Drive (it felt like our own mini Tour de France stage!), but was a bit congested for the cyclists. I kept far right as many of the testosterone powered bikes were coming through at a great clip and jockeying for position. I kept thinking “we’re only 1 minute into the bike portion, what’s the panic? Chill out boys…” Anyway, I guess one of the “boys” was Bob!
Two and half weeks before Ironman I had taken my bike for an intensive bike fit with Barry Lycett (see the Referral section, under Triathlon Coaching, on my website for more details). Throughout the year, with working towards my personal training certificate and also taking the aerobics instructor course I felt quite pressed for time to adequately train on my bike. If any workout was sacrificed due to time constraints it was usually the bike one. Consequently I’d felt quite flat on my long rides throughout June and July and really was not confident that I would have an enjoyable ride at IMC this year. I had imagined that a significantly slower ride would be the result of the lack of training. However, Barry was highly recommended to me just a couple of weeks out from IMC. Thinking that while it might not be the smartest thing to play around with the setup on my bike so close to the race, I felt that I probably couldn’t be any slower on the bike as a result so it was worth the risk. I went to see Barry and had a 2.5 hour bike fit – this man is meticulous! We changed just about any and everything that could be changed on the bike – seat height, handlebar height, aerobar placement, and made multiple adjustments to my bike cleats. My final long ride was 21 minutes shorter than the previous identical ride the week before, an increase of 1 kph faster. I was very impressed and felt that if I could even have a 10 minute faster bike ride at IMC after imagining for so long that it would be a slower one, that I’d be very satisfied. Well as it turned out the entire 180km bike ride was an absolute joy. My most favourite ride I have ever had in the 6 years we’ve been doing triathlons. It felt effortless the entire time. I was very conscious to not go out hard on the first 60kms (which I had done unintentionally last year and which came back to “bite me” later in the race). Just as I hit Osoyoos I checked what my average speed had been to that point and it was 29.1 km/h. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Throughout the ride I listened to my breathing and monitored my perceived rate of exertion and always kept it on the easy side. However I found myself passing rider after rider, especially as I got onto Richter’s Pass which is an 11km hill section. I didn’t need to use my easiest gear nor resort to standing up to get extra power. In fact I only stood up during the bike portion to stretch out my legs from time to time, never to assist me on the hills. After Richter’s Pass my average speed had only dropped to 27.2km/h. The boost to my confidence was immense. The ride seemed to go by so quickly and suddenly I was in the dreaded “out and back” which is 15kms long heading in the opposite direction from Penticton. The bike special needs is at the end of the out and back, and then you finally start going back in the proper direction. In previous years this had been a hard section mentally but it seemed to pass by very quickly this year and was not a problem. About 10 minutes away from the turnaround point I finally spotted Bob on the other side of the road heading towards Penticton. We were so happy to have finally seen each other. He was only 20 minutes ahead of me at that point, so I knew I was having the ride of my life.
Both Bob and I were trying a different nutrition plan this year. We were relying on bottles of Boost to provide the calories and protein needed to sustain us. Bob was using a sports drink as well, while I was using Endurolyte which had been recommended by my naturopathic doctor. This product is mixed with water and basically contains no calories. What it does have is lots of minerals and electrolytes. I alternated drinking the Endurolyte, with the Boost, every 15 minutes and then having a powergel every ½ hour. I actually never ate anything solid this year, though I had provisions on the bike and in my special needs bags. I never felt hungry for anything solid. The Boost and powergels kept my energy levels constant – I didn’t feel any energy surges or dips which I’ve experienced in the past.
Bob had also advised me to try something new on the bike course – skip ahead to the next paragraph if you’re faint of heart or easily grossed out!! I usually spend/waste so much time at aid stations going pee at the porta potties. This is time spent in preparing to stop, stopping, using the porta potty, remounting the bike and then resuming speed. Bob suggested trying the “peeing on the bike” routine which he uses when racing. He has actually attributed the fact that he doesn’t lose time stopping on the bike to some of his racing victories where the winning margin was very close! Sooo I thought what the heck, I might as well give it a try. The whole bike ride I only stopped for 5 minutes at the special needs area to access my frozen (now thawed but still beautifully chilled) extra bottle of Boost. In previous years I have dismounted my bike at this point of the race and had a good 10 – 15 minute sit by the side of the road to recharge the batteries. This year I was not tired and it was easy to just keep going.
After the turnaround on the out and back I had a little mantra playing in my head as I pedalled – “gonna see Jan and Ken, gonna see Jan and Ken!” We had prearranged that they would be waiting across the street from the Bear fruit stand in Keremeos which the cyclists pass just as they exit the out and back. Knowing that they were waiting was a super incentive to pedal quickly to see them that much sooner! I spotted them up ahead and waved madly so they’d see me – then was past them in an instant heading towards Yellow Lake. This was the only portion of the bike course that proved challenging. Even though I’ve cycled it before I had forgotten just how long the actual approach to the Yellow Lake climb is. It seemed much longer than in past years, but finally the 4km ascent was upon me. Luckily it was overcast at this point of the day so it wasn’t too hot – not like ascending Richter’s when it was 31 degrees and very hot. We really lucked in though, as the portion through Richter’s and a couple of sections of the run were the only “hot” parts of the day. For the most part the weather conditions were absolutely ideal – no wind, no rain, no heat (as 31 is certainly not as hot as it can potentially be!) The aid stations along the bike course are spaced every 10 miles and at each one I’d taken an icy cold bottle of water to pour down the front and back of my tri top. I know this really helped to keep my core temperature steady throughout the ride. Last year I was seriously overheating by the summit of Yellow Lake, but this year I felt so much better.
Once over past Yellow Lake there are only a couple of insignificant hills and the rest of the way (approx 20kms) is pretty much downhill right into Penticton. Coming down the last major hill and seeing Shaka Lake beach approaching was a very emotional moment. Then as I cycled past the rental house I realized that Jan and Ken had hung a banner on the sundeck balcony which read “Irongebbies Rock!” This gave me such a chuckle and a boost of energy to cycle the last 4 or 5 miles down Main Street. As I was approaching the race site I checked my average speed one more time – 27.3 km/h. My bike time was 6:39 – 50 minutes faster than last year. The average miles per hour was 16.8, up 1.9 miles per hour from last year (almost 3km per hour faster). Needless to say I attribute my incredible improvement to the awesome bike fit by Barry Lycett.
Before I knew it I was entering the transition area and handing off my bike to one of the fabulous volunteers. Then I took off my bike shoes and commenced running to the transition bag area. As this was located a far distance away I regretted running with only my socks on. A volunteer handed me my bike to run bag and into the change tent I went to change my bike shorts for running shorts and put on my runners. I spent over 8 minutes in transition #2 and can’t quite figure out where I frittered away my time. It should have been a really quick transition. Will have to reanalyze that one at a quieter time!
Heading out on the run we were once again directed along Lakeshore Drive to a turnaround point just before the SS Sicamous. We then headed back along Lakeshore Drive before carrying on up Main Street. I really liked that the bike and the run routes each had this completely flat section in them at the very beginning. While Main Street looks flat it has a slight uphill grade on the outward bound portion and in the past, when immediately commencing the bike or run portions on this incline, it made the first few minutes feel tougher than they should be. The flat first portion of the new courses allowed for the heart rate spike to settle down before heading out. Just as I was heading along Lakeshore Drive toward Main St the lead male, and winner of the race, (Tom Evans) rounded the corner and headed along for his final 1.5 miles. His day was over. My marathon was just beginning!
I felt so much better heading out on the run than in previous years where I think I had pretty much “left it all out on the bike course”. Consequently I felt extremely nauseous and had low energy on the run. This year, while I was experiencing some nausea for the first ½ of the run, I definitely felt better than I had in the past. At about the 5 mile portion of the race I heard my name called out. It was Dan Dunaway from the Y Tri Club. He and I joined up and ran side by side for the next 10 miles. He was feeling under the weather as well and we encouraged each other to run from aid station to aid station (located at 1 mile intervals along the course). I began to feel progressively better and stronger. Unfortunately Dan was feeling worse. At one point he said that he was really cold and shivery and I began to get very worried. I had brought electrolyte tablets with me and was able to give Dan a couple to swallow on the run. I thought that there would be a medical tent at the ½ way point and encouraged him to keep going until then where he could be checked out. I believe that you’re only disqualified on the run if you seek medical attention and actually require an IV, not if you just check in with them. At the turnaround we grabbed our special needs bags and sat on the grass at Christie Park in Okanogan Falls. My original intention was to have not stopped at the special needs area (where in the past I had needed to recharge my mental and physical batteries). However, as there was only an ambulance at the ½ way point, and not the expected medical tent, I decided to stay with Dan to make sure that he was on the road to recovery. His socks were soaked and luckily I had a spare pair of dry ones in my bag so was able to give them to him. I had some solid food available in my special needs bag but nothing appealed and I decided to just stick with the powergels along the course. The night before, when preparing my special needs bag, I had cut up a Mars bar into 13 chunks – this was going to be the “carrot” for the return leg. I imagined having one chunk at each mile marker on the way back into town. However I opened the baggie, stuck my nose inside, took a deep breath and smelled – nothing. No yummy chocolate scent – nothing to entice me. After nearly 9 months of virtually no chocolate that was quite a disappointment!! I dumped the bag in the garbage…
Dan and I set out together on the return leg. As we exited the turnaround area one of the other Tri Club members, Troy Lanigan, ran along beside of us for ½ a mile or so. His excitement and enthusiasm was a huge energy boost for me. It just totally pumped me up. Immediately after exiting Okanogan Falls are a series of fairly substantial hills. Dan and I walked a couple together, but after the third one I felt like I had the energy to go at a faster pace and so checked with Dan that he was recovered enough for me to go on ahead solo. I had hoped that I might achieve a personal best this year. Last year’s race, at 14:27, was 35 minutes faster than the first year. This year I had hoped to improve by at least 27 minutes and achieve a sub 14 hour time. I told this to Dan and he gave me encouragement to go on ahead.
The return leg was difficult. My energy level kept improving and I was trying to only stop at every other aid station for cool sponges, water or Gatorade. However, my left Achilles which had been giving me grief on the outbound leg continued to hurt on the return leg. In addition I had an enormous hot spot under my right arch. I had tried taping it at the ½ way point but this, in retrospect, was a big mistake as it was already past the point of no return. So the run towards town was plagued by my left Achilles tendon hurting like heck and the blister under my right arch becoming more and more pronounced. Once I finished running along Skaha Lake and hit South Main (approx 5 miles from town) I resolved to not stop at any more aid stations, as the restarting was more painful than just continuing to run. It was still light as I was running along Main Street (a first for me at this point of the race) and as I headed down the final decline I could see the pink glow of the sunset over Okanogan Lake. Thoughts of finishing in the daylight tempted me! As I came down the last section before turning onto Lakeshore – where you run for approx 1km away from the finish line before turning around and heading “home” – the sunset was just glorious but the light was quickly fading. Running the final couple of hundred metres to the finish line is the most amazing experience. It’s so emotional – you realize what you’ve accomplished, and you can hear the absolute deafening roar of the crowd all around you. The incredibly bright klieg lights beckon you into the finish chute. Once again I was able to take my time approaching and gave high fives to each side of the crowd. When the finish line tape was only a few metres ahead of me I saw out of my peripheral vision Jan and Ken cheering me on. Having completely missed seeing Bob, Eileen and Jeff last year I didn’t want the same thing to happen again, so I doubled back for a great big hug and then an admonishment from Jan to “get across that finish line!!” A quick shoulder check to make sure that there was no other runner approaching the line to spoil the finish line photo, and I was across with the biggest smile on my face imaginable. I had improved on my run time by 21 minutes. My finishing time was 13:10:07 – beyond my wildest expectations. One hour and 17 minutes faster than my 2003 finishing time.
I was presented with my finisher’s medal by one of the volunteers – unfortunately this year Bob was not standing by ready to present it to me. I had told him before the race that the absolute best case scenario would be a finish time of 13:30 onwards, but more realistically my finish time would probably be sometime after 13:45. So he was just relaxing behind the scenes waiting for closer to that time! Apparently he was quite stunned when told that I had already finished. Bob also had a personal best, shaving 50 minutes off his 2002 time to finish in 11:35. What a superb athlete!! I am so proud of him.
I made my way to the grandstand to Jan and Ken who had my after race nutrition and recovery drink ready for me. Bob joined me there and we were so happy to see one another! After congratulatory hugs and words of amazement we made our way to the massage tent. Bob had already had a massage but waited while I had a quick one. Then we headed to the hottub together and were joined a few minutes later by Dan who had finished approximately 22 minutes after me. So we all soaked away and gabbed about our races. It was a great finish to the race.
After the hottub we went to get our dry, clean clothes and then rejoined Jan and Ken in the grandstand. The next couple of hours were spent cheering on other members of the Tri Club coming across the finish line. There were 12 of us from the Club doing the race.
After the last finisher crossed the line there were fireworks at midnight. Unfortunately from where we were standing it was difficult to see them, but at least it was a very nice ending to the day. We then grabbed all our gear and bikes and headed off (very slowly) to Jan and Ken’s car which was parked close enough to walk to, but too far to hobble to! I had gone to the medical tent, after getting cleaned up, for some attention for my blister which ended up being about 3” long by 1.5” wide – and completely filled with fluid. It was determined that the best thing was just to cover it with gauze but not to pop it. It was really gross looking to say the least and hurt like heck.
We arrived back at the house were in bed at about 2 am. Unfortunately my body thought it was still racing and my internal thermostat was roaring so I only ended up with a couple of hours of actual sleep. However I felt great the next morning. We had a super breakfast with Jan and Ken and then headed down at about 10:45am to the race site so that Jan and I could register for 2005. We timed it very well and only had to wait in line for about 10 minutes. We’ve learned over the years that it is not necessary to spend 10 hours + in line to ensure a spot for the next year!
We then checked out the finisher’s merchandise and decided to go for a great, big, greasy lunch of burgers and fries at the restaurant on the outdoor terrace at the Lakeshore Hotel. It was great! Jan and Ken were heading back to Victoria so we saw them off and then headed back down to the registration tent to see what was going on around there before we headed home. As it turns out the roll down for Hawaii registration was taking place. Having never seen the process we decided to hang around and watch. There are spots available in each age group for the Ironman world championships in October. The number of spots depends on how many participants are in each group. In the more populous groups (i.e. M30-34) there can be as many as 12 spots. In some other groups (W55-59) there are only 2. As we arrived the organizers were just calling out the roll down list for the M30-34 group and, for some reason, the spots did not automatically go to the first 12 finishers as would have been expected. The age groupers have from 9am – 12 to check out the list and if they’re one of the allocated spots (i.e. finished in 1 – 12th spot) they can automatically accept it. Any spots not taken at that time are up for grabs in the roll down that begins at noon. The M30-34 group had only the first 4 spots taken prior to the roll down so the remaining 8 spots were up for grabs. The organizer started calling out places from 5th to 6th to 7th etc. The occasional finisher was at the roll down and would accept the spot, but many finishers were not there. It took a long time for the remaining 8 spots to go. In fact the remaining spot was awarded to the person who finished in 31st spot in that age group. At this point I started to freak out – I looked at Bob and asked what we would do if a similar situation occurred in our age groups. Bob had placed 15/123 in M50-54 and I’d placed 21/61 in F45-49. We laughed and said “what the heck, let’s go for it if it happens”. Luckily (or unluckily!) there were 5 spots in Bob’s age group, and the first five finishers took those spots. In my age group there were 3 spots. The first one went to the 2nd place finisher. The two remaining spots rolled down to the 5th and 6th place finishers. Well it was a little bit of excitement while it lasted!
So then we headed home for a brief nap before heading out to the Awards Banquet at the Conference Centre. This is quite a long evening as there are many thank you speeches plus the presentation of awards to the first five finishers in each age group. Also, of course, the presentations to the winning pros plus their comments. We did know 4 or 5 people from Victoria who placed in their age groups so that was very exciting to see them up on stage. After dinner we drove home to get changed and then headed down to Elements Nightclub for our annual post-race dancing. It was fabulous this year as about 10 Club members showed up. We were able to take over one end of the dance floor and boogie ourselves silly! It’s always amazing to look around and realize that just over 24 hours beforehand (and in some cases less than 24 hours) we were slogging along the marathon course.
Finally we went home to crash, exhausted, into bed. Unfortunately the next morning was garbage day in the neighbourhood and the darn trucks were banging and clanging at 7:30am. So much for a lovely sleep-in! We packed up the car and headed to Vancouver where we spent the night celebrating with our good friends, Monique and Bill, at their condo. Finally, the next morning, it was time to head off, catch the ferry, and come home. We were away for nearly two weeks. Luckily Eileen had been staying with us this summer so she looked after the house and the dogs. We arrived home before Eileen had returned from work, so the dogs were doubly glad to see us and to have some company.
So that’s it for another great year of training. IMC’04 was an amazing experience – we couldn’t have asked for a better day (well maybe I could have done without the nausea and the honkin’ big blister…!)
I am so grateful to the following people:
Kate Whitaker – my pool running companion this summer. We logged countless hours at Crystal Pool. I never would have lasted the longest session of 2 straight hours without you by my side! Also thanks for the incentive to bust my butt trying to keep in your draft while swimming all those times at Thetis Lake. The couple of occasions I managed to hang on were huge confidence builders.
Heather Christie – my hiking companion during the fall, winter and spring months. Thank you so much for providing a great reason to get up early on rainy Sunday mornings to power hike at Mt. Work.
Jan and Ken Frith – for being terrific friends and a constant source support and of positive reinforcement throughout the long training year. I’m so looking forward to having Jan as my training partner again for 2005.
Dan Dunaway – for providing the encouragement and incentive to keep running through the difficult, early miles of the marathon.
Troy Lanigan – for providing, with his encouragement and enthusiasm, a much needed jolt of energy into the return leg of the marathon.
Barry Lycett – bike fit expert extraordinaire.
And of course, to my wonderful husband Bob. For being such an amazing role model, incredible athlete, and my #1 fan!