Troy's IMC 2005 Race Report
Posted November 17, 2005 11:24 AM
The following race report was written by Troy Lanigan
From Sparetireman to Ironman:
My Journey to the Finish Line
When the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000, I was 205 pounds and couldn't have told you the three sports in triathlon, let alone contemplate an Ironman. Soul searching after a divorce, I began running. With shoes not fit for my kids' school lockers, I would arrive each morning at the Field House in Regina to try to extend my continuous distance around a 225 meter indoor track. I still remember running my first kilometer without stopping, saying to myself if I really worked hard I could one day - one day - complete a 5-k road race. It was a fond reflection as my 150 pound frame stood on the shore of Lake Okanagan August 28, 2005, about to swim nearly that same distance.
Running into Triathlon
I don't think I'm unlike most other people who arrive at Ironman. We all ask what's next? You run a 5'k road race and you figure you can run a 10-k. Before you know it you're lining up to run your first marathon.
As a runner I met so many people who did this sport called triathlon. And unlike runners, whom it seem only talk about injuries, triathletes talk about all sorts of really different things: transitions, aero position, components, sighting, booties, bricks, drafting and even the skill of peeing on a bike without chaffing.
I figure I had to check this out, but I would first commit to breaking four hours in a marathon. It came in the summer of 2003: I ran a 3:48 in Edmonton and happily moved back to Victoria after four years in Regina. On the journey I stopped in Penticton to buy an entry level bike at the Bike Barn and also a bottle of wine which I labeled "Not To Be Opened Until Completing Ironman". Ever goal oriented, I figured I would one day come back to attempt the ultimate in one day endurance athletics.
The YMCA in Victoria offered a triathlon clinic for beginners, and for that reason alone I joined. However, there was one daunting obstacle: registration for the January 2004 program required that participants be able to swim a continuous 100 meters.
Not only could I not swim 100 meters, I couldn't swim at all. When I would later explain Ironman to my father, it was the swimming that he found the most remarkable. As a child I was terrified of water. So in the fall of 2003 I found another goal: swim 100 meters (4 lengths of the Y pool) without stopping. I approached it much like running: work at it every day until you get there.
I found learning to swim very humbling. Despite having run three marathons, each lap of that pool felt like I had just done a 500 meter sprint. But, with persistence and patient swim instructors at the Y, I eventually conquered a continuous four lengths.
The Tri Clinic was headed by Chris Grieve and set out to prepare participants for the Panorama Classic. The June event is a sprint distance triathlon consisting of a 500 meter swim, 30-k bike and 8-k run. But it wasn't long into the year that I figured I needed to challenge myself more and signed up to do the 2004 New Balance Half Iron.
My swimming endurance continued to build and I was absorbing everything I could from Y Club members who had been doing the sport for years. Ironman finisher and former clinic coordinator Deb Caudwell taught me a lot about bike safety and our rides together built my early confidence on highways and in city traffic.
Mentors like Deb are integral in the sport. Not only can they teach you, but often they're your main source of motivation when your friends and work colleagues think your new training regiment has landed you two fries short of a Happy Meal.
There's too many to mention, but I do want to name a few. In Regina, Deb Grauer was my first marathon clinic coach. Doug and Shelley MacKenzie coached me for my second marathon that took place in Honolulu. Doug and Shelley are repeat Ironman finishers and if Doug wasn't nodding through one of my political rants he was telling me all about "triathlon toys". He gave me good advice on buying my first bike!
It was also in Regina that I met Dave Reid running laps at the Field House. A 2:47 marathoner, he's not only a great athlete and inspiration, but a great Dad and incredible friend. Dave is what I miss most about Regina.
Back in Victoria I reacquainted myself with John Crouch. He was a long-time neighbour in the building I worked in and was shocked by my transformation when I returned from Regina. Although politically confused, John is a great guy, a fantastic massage therapist and a remarkable athlete who is an age group world champion in duathlon and was getting into triathlon the same time I was. He and I would do our first Ironman together - 64 years young, John would kick my ass by an hour!
John and I had a mutual friend in Kim Ward. Another massage therapist, I met Kim running in 2004. An Ironman finisher and one of the top female marathoners in the city, Kim is one of those rare people that is always upbeat and has nothing but encouraging words for everyone around her.
When the Panorama Classic finally arrived in June 2004 it became the first - and I'm sure the only - time my name was called during the awards ceremony to receive something other than a door prize. Somehow I had managed to finish third overall in the "novice category" granting me a small medal. Two weeks later came the Half Iron, my first open water swim and despite having bonked 13-k into the run, I loved the experience. I was hooked. I would do one more event in 2004 making a total of five triathlons in my first season. I also managed to fit in a marathon and a 10-k PR as well.
When I drove up to Penticton to watch Ironman in August 2004 I wasn't entirely sure I would register for the following year. Ironman Canada sells out a year in advance: you have to sign up the day after the race in order to participate the following year.
It's impressive to watch a 28 year old cross the line in 9 hours and change. But what moved me wasn't the elite athlete, but how ordinary many of the participants were that crossed the line that night. My son Matthew and I sat mesmerized by every age and every body type making their way down the carpet to the finish line. Many I'm sure had kids, a full time job and households that weren't always supportive. But somehow through that adversity, they managed to achieve this incredible thing in their life. They were touching the human spirit in ways I had never before seen. I knew I had to be there. So at 6:00 am the next morning I got into line and wrote a cheque for $550.
If you're going to do Ironman a few words of advice: have a supportive workplace, family and third, be prepared to spend a ton of cash. Ironman cost me about $11,000: a new bike (plus repairs and upkeep), food (not only the bars, gels and drinks for workouts, but the fact you will eat enough for three people!), supplements, coaching, road trips (including a Penticton training weekend), clothing (shoes, bike and swim gear), registration (plus event tickets will be around $600), the event itself (hotel for the week will run you $1,200 minimum), then there's what I call the guilt expenses: how many times you buy dinner for the kids because you're too tired or guilt ridden for having trained the entire day.
I booked many Fridays off work and did my long bike rides and bricks so that I could spend time with my three kids and girlfriend Sara on Saturday. I ALWAYS took Saturday off. My typical training week was: Monday: run hills and weights; Tuesday: 6:00 am swim and bike hills/brick; Wednesday: long run; Thursday: long swim; Friday: long bike/brick; Saturday: rest; Sunday: swim, bike hills/brick. Most of it - save the swimming - I did alone: happily accompanied by AC/DC blaring on my MP3.
A final piece of advice: find a coach. At least if you're doing it the first time. We're a bit spoiled in Victoria because there's a lot to choose from. I choose Carolyn Gebbie for three reasons. First, I knew her commitment and enthusiasm as a member of the Y Tri Club. Second, she does the sport. Carolyn's not a coach leaning over the rail at Thetis Lake barking stroke improvement; she's a repeat Ironman finisher who expects nothing of her clients that she wouldn't do herself. Finally, it was her first year of coaching. I believe you have to give people an opportunity and I knew she would work hard. She did! Carolyn - and her husband Bob - will be life-long mentors to me.
Carolyn told me at the outset that she considered it one of her goals as a coach to get her clients to the start line uninjured. Anyone with a running background understands the toll distance training puts on the body. Carolyn would have us do pool running and power hiking as a form of cross training to replicate - yet minimize - the impact of running. She took recovery very seriously: take traumeel tablets, soak your legs in cold water and drink protein enriched smoothies with lots of good antioxidants found in fruits like blueberries immediately after workouts. I also regularly went for massage, whether I felt like I needed it or not. And while I was not a fan of pool running and power hiking, I have to admit that 2005 was my most injury free season ever.
But what I lacked in injuries I made up for - at least in part - with health problems. I was twice sidelined with severe bronchitis. Something I'd never had before. My family doctor suggests heavy training weakens the immune system and I consulted a naturopath on supplements which cost a fortune, but kept me healthy through July and August.
I've heard many people say how much they love training: I don't. It's not that I dislike it, it's just that I consider it what you need to do in order to get to race day. Race day is what I work toward. Race day is what I visualize over and over and over again while I'm training. Race day is what motivates me.
When that one amazing day finally arrives I visualize training. Whatever pain I might be in on race day I think of the coldest morning I got up at 5:30 am to swim in Thetis Lake, or of running one more 10-k loop around Elk and Beaver Lake when I didn't feel like taking another step. I think about the coldest, windiest, winter morning Saskatchewan could throw at me: but I still made it to the gym!
On May 20th I cycled out toward Port Renfrew on a training ride only to be caught in what felt like nothing short of a monsoon. So cold, my fingers couldn't depress the brakes. When I finally found refuge in a restaurant in Jordan River, a waitress had to unsnap my helmet. You tap into these experiences on race day...they give you the mental toughness and resolve to continue on no matter what you might be going through.
Training is also a time to do what Coach Carolyn calls your "B Race". In this year it would be the New Balance Half Iron - 2005 host to the Canadian National Long Course Championships. Last year I had bonked 13-k into the run and had to shuffle my sorry ass from there on in. I finished in 6:06. Well, it's a good indicator that the longer rides, runs and hours Carolyn patiently coached me in the water was paying off. I took six minutes off my swim time breaking 36 minutes for 2-k, almost 11 minutes off my bike and 8 minutes off my run for a total half hour improvement 5:39. Not exactly stellar for overall placement, but a marked improvement that was a huge mental lift to my training!
We also had a fun trip up to Penticton to train. Along with myself, Carolyn had two other IMC athletes she was coaching: Jan Frith and Alison Keighan. While I regularly met Jan and Carolyn for swims at Thetis Lake, this would be the first time all three of Carolyn's IMC "Tri-Stars" would train together.
On July 16th we experienced almost every kind of weather save snow: rain, hail, hot sun through the mountain passes and wind stronger than anything I've ever biked in. Cycling into Keremeos on the flat I remember pumping for all I'm worth, not able to top 18-kph! It took me more than 7 hours to get through the 180-k bike course.
The next day we ran from OK Falls back to Penticton - taking in half of the marathon route. I ran with Alison's sister Jan Wales who joined us for the weekend.
We also took in a seminar one night that included 2001 IMC champion Gillian Bakker and 2004 champion Tom Evans. Tom kept repeating the simple wisdom that Ironman is "a long day": in other words, pace yourself and be patient! As I would later learn, they're words far more appreciated after having done one.
But the most important lesson for me that July weekend was to appreciate the selfless support of our Sherpas. Sherpas are family and loved ones who support athletes in their journey toward the Ironman finish line. Ken Frith and Bob Gebbie are really amazing guys, who - along with Sara - cheerfully followed us around that weekend with drinks, food, clothing, gear, you name it. But of course it's never just one weekend.
I can't imagine that Sara and the kids had any concept of what they were signing up for when I explained I was doing this thing called Ironman. It requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice from the people around you. After I would bike to Nanaimo and back, then run a 5-k brick, I was in the mood for little other than sleep. Seldom did I have the time, energy or money to do anything but Ironman - especially in July and the first two weeks of August. In many ways, Sherpas give as much as athletes do in getting to the finish line. Sara forwent many things we would have done together in the summer of 2005 so I might fulfill this self-indulgent desire. I'll never forget it.
The Day Arrives
Taking my three kids to Penticton to spectate at the race (Christina 13, Matthew 11, and Zachary 7) seemed a good idea in theory, but in practice it was something else. There was never a time I wasn't filled with guilt. Even once we got to Penticton I was as concerned about their holiday as I was my race. So instead of putting the old legs up before the race, I probably clocked 10 miles running around town with them. Through it all, they were great. Not once did they complain!
I don't believe you train 9 months for something without some expectations. The Ironman is a 3.8-km swim, a 180-km bike and a 42.2-km run. At each stage you must meet cut-offs. You start at 7:00am and the course closes at midnight. I told myself I would be thrilled with anything under 13 hours and disappointed with anything over 14 hours - subject of course to whether I was attacked by a pack of wolves or some other unexpected malady. Allowing myself 7 minutes in each of the two transitions: I needed to swim 1:20, bike 6:36 and run 4:49 to break 13 hours. It was the bike time that concerned me most going in.
As for nutrition, I would set my clock to chime every 15 minutes - eating pieces of homemade granola bar (thanks for the addiction Carolyn and Debi Wood!). At the top of every hour I would take a gel. For electrolyte replacement I would sip Endurlyte and take Gatorade at the aid stations along with water. For the run I would replace granola bars with sharkies. These are the products that worked best for me in training.
Of course it goes without saying that you don-t sleep the night before. I was up at 4:30 am and had a cab drive me down to the transition area. I had to leave Sara and the kids as I was nervous enough without the added fluster of organizing them. I had a little check list and must have gone through every transition and special needs bag 10 times. I kept visualizing my shoes not being in my T2 bag.
Nonetheless, adventure would strike before the canon blasted at 7am. My son Matthew noticed that his normally detail-obsessed father was numbered incorrectly. I was athlete number "676", but on both my arms and legs was "767" written in bold felt pen. I knew how strict rules were so the first thought that raced through my head was disqualification. Thankfully, the ever calming presence of Bob Gebbie assured me that I would get through the day without incident.
I love the nervous energy before a race: people pacing, hugging one another, praying, searching inward. Standing on that beach that morning it was everything I visualized it would be, and more. I was here. I was about to do Ironman.
Full Contact Swimming
At 2,244 athletes IMC 2005 was the largest mass swim start ever. As the athletes made their way toward the water I wasn't really sure what "strategy" one would employ under this scenario. There really was no "outside lane" or "inside lane". In fact, the middle seemed as good a spot as any.
There was NO point during the swim in which I avoided contact for any extended period. You might manage a 100 or even 150 meters getting comfortable in your stroke but soon enough you're on top of someone or someone is on top of you. At the first turn someone managed to get their hand right up the side of my head such that my goggles got dislodged. Of course I simply could not get them resealed and swam the last 2,300 meters with one eye. There was only one thought during the entire swim: when will this end?
The last 500 meters yet another disaster: I lost one of my earplugs. I cannot swim without earplugs. I get vertigo very easily. Coach Carolyn had given me a very key piece of advice during training: you're more susceptible to vertigo with one ear plug in than two. Getting water in one ear, but not the other, will offset your balance more than simply allowing water to get into both ears. So I pulled out and tossed the other plug with 500 meters left in the swim.
When I finally got to the beach I had two issues: I was a bit dizzy, but more important I was concerned that my wrong numbering would result in being handed the wrong transition bag. So I adopted this brilliant strategy: I would hide my numbering identity so as to not confuse the volunteers. When I dropped down for the strippers most of my wetsuit was still on. Note to self: you can't bike with a wetsuit. Once my wetsuit came off, sure enough someone was announcing that my transition bag was gone. Indeed, like most of the field, the real 767 is a better swimmer than I. I ran down one of the rows, grabbed my proper transition bag and headed into the change tent.
I took a gel, a bit of water and set my watch to chime every 15 minutes. My swim was 1:25:20 and despite the chaos, I managed a 6:28 transition. What a relief to finally have my bike in hand.
Leaving Penticton on the bike is a real treat. The crowds - especially along Main Street - are incredible. The first 65 kilometers are relatively flat and fast, save MacLean Creek which is the steepest hill, but also the shortest.
As I hit the incline I was shocked by the number of cyclists with flats. The ditch was littered with dozens and dozens of athletes changing tires. I kept looking at my tire almost assuming I would be getting a flat at any minute and calculating in my head how long it would take to change. We would later learn that tacks had been thrown on the road.
And then, it happened: I came face-to-face with the real "767". Changing a tire aside the road he yelled, "Hey, you can't be 767!" I yelled back that I was marked wrong. Puzzled, he looked down at his tire, shook his head and fading away I could hear him mumble, "I wish I could be the 767 without a flat".
That wasn't the end of adventure at MacLean Creek. On the descent, volunteers were running up the hill waving frantically to slow down as there was an accident. Coming around the corner we were regrettably witness to an awful sight. His one shoe off, flung far into the ditch along with his bike, and covered in road rash, a rider lay sprawled across the road, a steady flow of blood from his head making its way down the slope. Volunteers surrounded him to avoid contact with the cyclists coming around the corner. It wasn't the only awful scene of the day: but it was the worst.
I wasn't two hours into the bike when I made my first error of the day: I abandoned a key part of my nutrition strategy. The hot weather made my Endurlyte drink - mixed with a cup of orange juice and water - nothing short of disgusting. So I tossed it and opted to drink the ice cold Gatorade they were handing out at the aid stations. Bad nutrition decisions don't catch up with you right away.
One of my favourite training workouts was doing hill repeats up to the observatory in Victoria. Each week I would sprint at least one of those repeats. In 2004 I was unable to climb the 2.4-k rise in under ten minutes. This year however, I steadily brought my time down to 7:45 and improved my strength on the bike tremendously. When you turn at Osoyoos and make your way up the 11-k Richter Pass, the real work of the IMC bike leg begins. All those hill repeats paid off: I was never passed once on any of the three climbs. Of the 530 cyclists I passed on the bike, almost all of them were in the hills.
On top of Richter I saw Sherpas Bob and Ken along with Y-Tri Club member and soon-to-be-neighbour Debi Wood. Debi was in Penticton to spectate and to sign up for next year's event. John Crouch's significant other (what's the politically correct term these days if you're not married?) Laurinda was there as well. Familiar faces give you a great boost of energy.
Following Richter are a series of hills called "The Rollers". On this day I managed to hit a maximum speed of 79.2...the fastest I'd ever been on a bike. Yeeee Haaaa. I also had my first unscheduled stop when my chain fell off gearing up too quickly on one of the inclines.
On the flat heading into Keremeos I remembered pedaling into the wind during my training weekend and getting nowhere. On this day I was averaging over 30-k and felt fantastic. Sherpa Bob pulled up beside me in the car and warned me to "save some for the run". But hey, why listen to him? He's only an 11:35 Ironman. What was it that that Tom Evans guy was saying about patience?
Next is the "Out and Back", a mind-numbing stretch of road in which momentum is impossible. At the turnaround - the 120-k mark - is the bike special needs area. If I made an error earlier with my nutrition, I was about to make a critical error. I grabbed some more food but not my second Endurlyte bottle. Instead, I figured I would "just stick to Gatorade" - like a university student convinced sticking to the same liquor would minimize a hangover the next day.
Shortly after I passed Jan, and then Coach Carolyn. Turning the corner away from the Out and Back is "The Bear", a fruit stand famous for peach milkshakes. Mmmmm peach milkshakes. I saw the kids and Sara there and headed toward Yellow Lake.
The 4-k climb over Yellow Lake was simply the pinnacle of the day for me. I was tired but I still felt great. Next to the transition area, Yellow Lake is the most spectator packed area: it's mid to high 30s, sun beating down on chalked roads, yelling spectators with bells and whistles intensifying as you reach the crest of the hill. I'm drenched in sweat climbing this long steep grade. I don't know how long it took exactly but it was for me one of the most incredible experiences of my life. To say I loved every second of that climb would be an understatement.
Once you pass Yellow Lake there are a few ascents, but for the most part you are cycling downhill back into Penticton. On this day we had a tail wind which contributed to eventual race winner Chris Leito setting a bike course record of - wait for it - 4:25! I had a record of sorts myself - or at least exceeded my expectations. My 6:18:54 bike split was almost 20 minutes faster than I had budgeted. Not only was I back on schedule, I was ahead of schedule!
I had told myself leading up to the race that if I could clear T2 in 8 hours that I would break 13 hours on the day - meeting my highest expectation for a first Ironman.
The Run - Goodbye Arrogance, Hello Ignorance
Almost immediately coming off the bike my stomach started to bother me. I stopped to pee - something I was only able to do once on the bike - and took my time in transition, allowing 9:14 to elapse. But hey, what did it matter, I was ahead of schedule and it would be impossible not to down the 42.2-kilomters in front of me in under 5 hours.
But something was wrong, really wrong. In fact, I was still on Lakeshore Drive, not a mile out of the transition area and I was walking. My legs felt fine, but I was impeded by a sharp pain in my stomach that I simply could not shake. The day before Coach Carolyn had given me a roll of Tums suggesting I might need them in the event of upset stomach. Good call. I had half in T2 and the second half I would pick up in my run special needs bag at the half way point of the marathon.
John Crouch finally passed me and then Jan. In fact, everyone was passing me. That's what happens when you walk. I felt ridiculous not even being able to run out of the city. And once I got to the outskirts a new dilemma: wind. Strong wind off Skaha Lake right in our face. Not only was it an impediment to run in, but in reflection it kept the bodies of runners artificially cool meaning many - myself included - not taking enough liquids.
The aid stations were excellent. They are set up every mile. Each had a variety of cookies, pretzels, gels, power bars, Gatorade, coke, and chicken soup along with friendly volunteers. In fact the aid stations - many sponsored by local businesses - competed with one another to be deemed the best. Wal-Mart had an archway with some guy on a loud speaker welcoming athletes - sometimes by name - to the Wal-Mart aid station and a shower to boot!
The Tums seemed to settle my stomach somewhat and I was slowly able to shuffle between aid stations. And although I felt I needed to eat something, the sight of gels and power bars immediately made me gag. I did however crave salt and was able to get down some pretzels and chicken soup broth. Along with water, I shuffled through the entire marathon on these three things alone.
As at the time of this writing, I'm still not sure I understand what went wrong. I probably did go too hard on the bike, but the main problem was one of nutrition. I was certainly depleted of electrolytes because of my decision to forgo endurlyte on the bike. Plus, frankly, I'm not sure what homemade bars provide in terms of carbohydrate etc and therefore wasn't able to properly measure my nutrition needs for the day.
At the half way point of the marathon I saw Coach Carolyn. Unfortunately, she was in street clothes standing next to Bob. I knew instantly what had happened. She'd been fighting a painful foot condition called Morton's Neuroma throughout her training. She pulled out in T2. I didn't say a word. I simply gave her a hug and told her I was so sorry but that she did the right thing by not risking further injury. She simply told me to bring it home for the Tri-Stars.
And for the first time that day I got to talk to Sara and the kids! Zach and Sara shuffled with me for a few hundred meters and Matt ran ahead with the video camera to capture the moment. My neighbour and Y swim coach Rob Townsend - another 2006 registree - was working the special needs area and retrieved my bag - and more Tums!!
I was off. I managed to catch Jan shortly after the half way point. But it was more an issue of her slowing down than it was of my speeding up. Incredibly, I managed to run fairly even splits. I was only 10 minutes slower on the back half, than I was on the front. Even more incredibly was the statistic that I would be passed by only 66 athletes on the marathon: testimony that everyone struggles through those last 42.2-kilometers!
My stomach pain dissipated somewhat, but never disappeared. By the 32-k mark, even pretzels weren't doing so good. At one point I got half a pretzel down only to bring it right back up. But I kept my sense of humour: I asked a couple of spectators who had the pleasure of watching this spectacle if they could believe I paid $600 to do this to myself?
Frankly the whole thing begins to look like a bit of train wreck: pained expressions, people puking, ambulances coming and going. Quitting never crossed my mind once: I only thought about how I might shake the stomach cramps and what went wrong. That amazing climb over Yellow Lake seemed eons ago. Remember: "It's a long day"!
Still on the outward portion of the run, Alison came running toward me for a hug. I thought while she had further to go, she looked a lot better than I did. Alison is a remarkable woman with an incredible work ethic and optimistic attitude. Not too far behind her was Sister Madonna Buder, who, at age 75, would later that night become the oldest woman ever to complete an Ironman: one of the many inspirational stories that unfold at these events.
I also ran briefly with Susan Tinker who I met through work of all places. A Vancouver resident - but soon to be Victoria resident - her folks live on the Saanich Peninsula. We did an early season ride together and kept in touch by e-mail. She's a repeat Ironman finisher and consistently places in the Clydesdale division.
Then there's Tim. My friend Tim Gagne who I first met running in the summer of 2003 enthusiastically told me about the many triathlon events and opportunities in Victoria. We pace pretty similarly and I like to think we were competitive. And although I have beaten him, I've never beaten him in a race when he's healthy.
Tim loves the sport and can talk about it for hours: many of us do. Sara used to think I was intense about triathlon. That is until she met Tim. Tim had done Ironman in 2004, but running related injuries have largely kept him sidelined since.
Tim must have spent the better part of a couple hours riding his bike along side me on the return leg of the marathon back into Penticton. It was great because it was a distraction from how I felt: now, not only with severe stomach cramps, but also lightheaded.
At around the 24 mile mark of the marathon I stopped in at a porta-potty when I heard a commotion outside the door. A woman had collapsed. Volunteers surrounded her as she lay huddled in the fetal position shaking intensely. As was the case earlier that day at MacLean Creek, an ambulance was there in minutes. So close to the finish, yet her day was over.
Main Street had finally arrived. It's remarkable how the smell of the finish line can energize you. I could hear Steve King's voice as darkness was beginning to set in. Incredibly, I saw Sara and the kids in the crowd as I was turning onto to Lakeshore Drive. She yelled at me that the boys would be there for the finish line.
Heading down Lakeshore Drive I again saw Carolyn, Bob and Ken. I gave Carolyn another hug and thanked her for touching my life in such an amazing way.
There was really only one thing on my mind as I headed toward the finish line: despite how I felt, suck it up and look good for the photo! A woman yelled out to take off my reflective tape (a requirement when you leave T2) so that the bright reflections would not be captured by the camera flash. I planned to cross the finish line with Matthew and Zachary, but of course the family pick-up area was moved to the other side of Lakeshore Drive from where it was last year. After aimlessly walking around for two minutes I finally saw them emerge from the crowd with one of the volunteers. And with that, we held our arms up, hand in hand and made our way down the carpet toward the finish line crossing under 13:34:08 on the clock. "Look up boys, look up"!
T3: The Medical Tent
Sara and Christina had it figured out. Within minutes of crossing the line they had found the family holding area and I was able to hand the boys off. The whole thing is a bit of a blur frankly. An amazing volunteer walked with me through the transition area but I was feeling more and more lightheaded. The last thing I had to eat was a pretzel nearly two hours earlier and I was simply not with it.
I was checked into the medical tent thereafter and went to what I affectionately refer to as the "Upset Tummy Bench". Everyone on that bench had stomach cramps/lightheadedness. I was able, in fairly short order, to get some chicken broth down followed by a cup of ice cubes. After about a half hour I managed a slice a pizza. Until that day I had never thought of pizza as medicinal: but on that occasion it was!
Unfortunately, not everyone appreciated my enthusiasm. The site of my eating sent another fellow on the "Upset Tummy Bench" into a puking frenzy which triggered a chain reaction and the nurse scrambling to find more buckets. For the first time that day I discovered benefit in having been numbered wrong!
The medical tent was awful. There were too many in and out to count. Many arriving and leaving on stretchers. Some with intravenous, other shaking uncontrollably. Many were grasping finisher's medals. Many others were not. Fully 10% of those that started the day did not finish! Whatever disappointment I may have had during the marathon, I was reminded that at least I finished!
I've taken a lot of time to reflect on Ironman and am very conflicted. I set out to finish between 13 and 14 hours and I did. I learned to swim. I had the bike ride of my life. When I thanked Coach Carolyn at the finish line for touching my life in such an amazing way, I meant it.
So why then am I so conflicted? Because I remain disappointed with my marathon and being so ill prepared and callous with my nutrition. Worse, it's not like a round of golf where you can replay that poor back nine the next week or even the next day; in this instance, I will be waiting two years to get that marathon back.
Outside observers and most first timers - myself included - see only the physicality of Ironman. And that's certainly a big part of it. I obsessed over getting as many of my workouts in as I could. Between January 1, 2005 and crossing the finish line I logged 112-km swimming, 4,081 km biking and 832 km running and power hiking for a total of 5,025 kms!
But there's so much more to it!
Ironman great Lisa Bentley describes nutrition as the "fourth sport of triathlon". What you might be able to get away with in a short distance triathlon or running event, you will NOT be able to get away with in an Ironman. You've got to have a detailed understanding and plan going into the event, and stick to it!
Another great insight comes from the sport's most decorated competitor, Paula Newby-Fraser, who says the longest distance in an Ironman is the one between your ears. In other words: think about what you're doing and be prepared for the mental aspect of what's before you. Think through your pacing, your nutrition, your pain, the unpredictability and adversity of what that one day will hand you and how you will deal with it!
That's what makes Ironman so amazing. Its appeal rests in the challenge of pushing mind, body and spirit to its limit.
After the event I shared my nutrition frustration with my friend Susan Tinker who told me that it's tough: you can never fully understand your nutrition needs as a first timer because you will have never replicated a training session as long as Ironman.
That's true. Without exception - for one reason or another - I've left the finish line of every first time event wanting. And in every instance I learned from that experience such that I was able to return and complete that same event or distance with much greater satisfaction. My Half Iron in June was a case in point.
I said when I broke four hours in a marathon I would get a tattoo to symbolize not - obviously - an outstanding athletic feat, but a permanent commitment to a new lifestyle, the importance of goal setting and a reminder that endurance athletics helped me through a very difficult period in my life. So now a second tattoo waits for my left calf - hopefully in 2007 - along with another bottle of Okanagan wine, this time labeled: "Do Not Open Until Breaking 13 Hours at IMC!" I will be back Penticton, I will be back...
Victoria, British Columbia
Golf as an Ironman by Troy Lanigan
I used to play a lot of golf and like to draw an analogy between the two sports. Imagine you are going to play a round of golf on one day in August. It will be your only round of the entire year. You will hit thousands of golf balls in preparation. You will hit from the rough, from bunkers, off the tee and around the green. You will hit a thousand 8-irons from the 150 yard marker in every kind of weather conditions. You will try all sorts of different clubs, balls and even experiment with what foods make you feel and play to your potential. You will play up to 15 holes in preparation, but you will never play 18, except for that one day in August. And when that day finally arrives should you be sick, tired or run over by a golf cart: too bad. If the weather is cold, raining or unseasonably hot: too bad. The day has arrived and you must play otherwise all your work and preparation for the entire year is for naught. The day has come for you to step up to the plate. If you have a bad round you'll have lots of time to reflect because you're not likely to play another 18 holes for a year...possibly two.