Jim's IMC 2007 Race Report
Posted September 15, 2007 02:44 PM
The following race report was written by Jim Kerr
IMC 2007 RACE REPORT
Amazingly, as a habitual pre-race insomniac extraordinaire, I managed to get 3 plus hours sleep the night before. Getting up at 4am to start my pre-race breakfast, it felt wonderful that the big day had finally arrived. I felt alert and poised. While driving from Summerland to downtown Penticton by the swim course on Okanagan Lake, the water appeared reassuringly calm under the moonlight. I remember the thrill of waiting in line to get body marked in the floodlights on Main Street and then entering the transition area to prep my bike and get changed into my wetsuit. My nutrition plan called for sipping on my sports drink the whole time and having a gel with water 10 minutes before the swim start. So far, so good, I thought.
After passing through the transition chute to the beach I found my wife Barb along the crowd fence for some last words of encouragement and headed into the water for a short warmup swim. I noticed then my heart rate monitor was already around 115-120 (nearing my zone 3) and I hadn't started exercising! Along with several other Tri-Stars, I next positioned myself at the extreme right side of the start line.
The cannon went boom. I remember walking through the shallow water on slippery rocks for awhile before launching into swim mode. During the initial melee my primary focus was on getting adequate air so I started breathing each stroke on my right side rather than my normal bilateral method. It was incredibly congested and twice in the first 100 meters I had to rotate onto my back to reseal my goggles which had been dislodged in contact with other swimmers. I was really glad I had followed Coach Carolyn's advice and put my swim cap over my goggles to prevent them from coming off.
The pre-race briefing had clearly spelled out the need to swim past the left side of all buoys on the clockwise course, yet as I sighted towards the first buoy, I could see some swimmers passing it to the right. Now somewhat confused, I continued directly towards the first buoy, angling across what seemed like the main traffic flow. I looked up just before the buoy and suddenly realized my breathing had become anaerobic, something that I'd never experienced before while open water swimming. After treading water briefly while the pack streamed by me, I tried to continue swimming but it was impossibly hard. It was then that I spotted a volunteer in a kayak about 30 feet to the right and remembered the general triathlon rule about being able to hang on to a vessel to seek temporary relief so long as no forward progress is made. I made a beeline for the kayak, spoke with the volunteer, and held on for several minutes to bring my heart rate back down. She also confirmed that swimmers could pass on either side of the buoys except for those at the houseboat (turn) locations. She didn't let on, but secretly she must have wondered if I was really prepared for this event given I needed to take a rest after 200 meters...
I did get my breathing and heart rate back down and eventually swam off, slowly at first, then building into a nice rhythm. By now there were fewer swimmers around and some open water to enjoy. I passed quite a few folks on the shoreward leg, waved to Coach Carolyn standing in the water at the beach exit, and went through the timing chute into T1. One down, two to go.
One of the little IMC perks is the table next to the swim exit where you can pick up eyeglasses. I put mine on and for the first time could clearly see my way through transition! Yes, I was trying to take in every little moment on this day. Unlike other tri events I'd experienced, the IM transition area was huge and the flow more complicated, but it all worked out as it was supposed to. After munching down a banana, I headed out on my bike.
The sensation moving up Main Street through the huge crowd was awesome. Lots of cheering, cowbells and chalk on the road. I also recall the impression that the weather was really cooperating at this point, sunny and warm but not hot. My heart rate was still down and I felt strong and relaxed.
Although the swim is my strongest suit, I always knew that Ironman would be mainly about the bike and the run. While pushing the bike long and hard in training, my approach to the bike on race day was to focus on being patient and steady rather than fast. I would try and stay in the aero position as much as possible, spin up the hills and, when there was a choice between two close gears, to always pick the easier one. The other checkpoint was my heart rate monitor, which I had been tracking carefully during training. My target heart rate would be generally upper Zone 2 with some Zone 3 on the uphill sections. This is about one zone lower than it would be for an Olympic or sprint event bike leg. Together with sticking closely to my nutrition and hydration plan, I'm happy to say things worked out well.
The slightly downhill (on average) and downwind section to Osoyoos went by very quickly and comfortably, as it had during training. With the turn uphill to Richter Pass came the realization that there was also now a headwind to deal with. I caught up with fellow Tri-Star Jon Kerr on the uphill section and we stopped for a pleasant pee break beside the road (I never have learned to do it on the go). The views and the crowds along Richter were again an inspiration. Once over the pass, I soon set a new personal speed record of 75kph going down the first of the "rollers". At the same time I remember being passed by another cyclist screaming at the top of his lungs "on yer left" who must have been going 10kph faster. This was exhilarating but not as scary as it would have been in training because an entire lane was closed to regular traffic on the bike route on this and most other downhill sections.
The headwind became more noticeable through the rollers and into Cawston, but I never found it really hard (unlike so many training rides on the Saanich peninsula). I stayed mostly in the aero position all the way to the out and back where I picked up my special needs bag. There I had another pee and ate a second banana and half a bag of Miss Vickies salt 'n lime potato chips. I also picked up my nicely chilled third bottle of Perpetuem which would last me back to T2.
I could feel my bike nutrition plan was working well, just as it had during our very hot training ride in July on the same course. With a previous history of stomach issues during triathlon races, this was a huge relief. My bike intake consisted of three 2 hour bottles of Perpetuem, a sports drink containing electrolytes, plenty of carbohydrate calories and some protein which is mixed from powder form at various strengths. I drank this at 15 minute intervals and chased it with water, which I picked up at every aid station and put in my aero bottle. I also carried a small bottle of ELETE concentrated electrolyte fluid which I added bartender style to the water with each refill (I remember Lisa Bentley and Peter Reid advising a year ago at the IMC Expo that they stayed away from electrolyte capsules and used salt tablets instead so they could taste and therefore gauge the amount of salt intake - I find using ELETE to be similar). Finally, I had one gel with water each hour. I think I had around 2400 calories during the bike leg.
By now, just past noon, it was apparent that today would never get hot. The forecast for a high of 23 seemed right on, much to my delight. On my climb up to Yellow Lake, it would actually get cloudy and drizzle a little bit. No need for ice or water sponges during today's ride. Nonetheless, I drank water steadily, as the wind kept one feeling dry and creating the illusion of little or no perspiration. The climb to Yellow Lake and beyond was still right into the wind, but the crowds here made it hard to feel anything other than elated. Finally, the hard work on the bike seemed done and the descent into Penticton and back Main Street was soon upon us. In T2 I heeded someone's advice and avoided sitting on a chair, made a third bathroom stop and headed out on the run.
I expected it would take a while to "find my legs" during the run but was amazed to find they were available right from the start. Having never run a full marathon before in my life, it was one of my stated goals to try and achieve this today. I had run up to 3 hours in training (roughly 32K) but never any longer. I wasn't sure if my legs or my gut, let alone my will, could endure it. This would be an act of faith. My pacing strategy was, just like the bike ride, to be conservative and steady. My plan was to walk the back portion of each aid station for 10-15 seconds while grabbing a drink or gel before resuming running. Again, it all worked to perfection. Running downwind to OK Falls, I saw and yelled out to fellow Y Tri Clubber Adrian, who was having an outstanding race but looked pained during his run. I also saw Adam and Aynsley well ahead on the homeward leg. Meantime, I was having a blast soaking up the energy from crowds and volunteers along the way. At the turnaround, Coach Carolyn ran beside me for a ways asking questions and giving me words of encouragement. Based on what I had read and heard, this is where the real Ironman begins, I thought.
Well, the return leg was straight into the wind, which now seemed much stronger than it had earlier in the day. It was also pleasantly sunny and warm. My nutrition on the run consisted of a cup of Gatorade every third aid station and a half gel with water at the other two. I had ELETE with me as well, but never felt the need to take any. I had also thought I might switch over to cola later in the run, but what I was doing up to now was working so well that I just stuck with it. I remember running up and down the hills near OK Falls feeling strong, even passing a few people. I highfived Troy and shared encouraging words with other Tri-Stars going the other way. The toughest part, no surprise, came after 35K on the uphill incline back into Penticton. Here I finally found my knees and quads to be complaining. It was a great relief to reach the crest of the hill and come down Main Street towards the finish. I found the final out and back along Lakeshore Drive surprisingly long but a Victoria friend saw me closing in on the finish chute and egged me on. I heard my name called out, something about being an Ironman, and it was into the hands of my catcher. Excellent!
POST RACE THOUGHTS
I had no real idea of my time (12:05:59) until I crossed the finish line. I just had not been watching the clock all day. This means I wasn't putting any added pressure on myself to perform and could enjoy the event much more. Of course, if I do an IM race again, it won't be so easy.
I was ready for this race. Coach Carolyn and experienced Ironman types tell you this but it's hard to believe when you're an IM virgin waiting for race day. But it does make sense, after all. After swimming 250K, riding 5000K and running 1000K since January according to a detailed training plan prepared by a coach, and assuming no injuries, why wouldn't you be?
For me, once it started, the race was psychologically easier than the training. Way easier, actually.
I'd like to thank my Achilles tendon for healing and staying quiet since last summer, my lower back (which I always thought would bother me on long bike rides but didn't once) and my gut (once again), allowing me to smile frequently on race day.
Thanks also to my Tri-Star training partners and to both Carolyn and Bob Gebbie, for hanging out and having fun in this journey together
Thanks especially to my wife Barb for putting up with this extreme indulgence over the past 8 months.
I liked IMC so much I might actually try to do it again one day. It was unforgettably good.
Oh yeah, thanks to that kayaker, too.