Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ironman Canada Race Report

The proof is in the pudding

The easy answers first

1. My "A" goal going into this race was to run sub-10. 1:10 swim/T1, 5:20 bike, sub 3:30 run. That's pretty much how the day panned out, and I couldn't be happier.

2. My "A+" goal was to chase 9:45 (by pulling out a miracle run) and chase down my age group competitors. Sunday ended up being a very hot, tough day, and my mental state wandered at times from "racing" to "get through it"

3. Many people have, in the past few days, said how much it sucks that I didn't get a rolldown Kona Slot. I ran 5km with the racer who ended up 2nd in my age group, and I let him go after Okanagan Falls. Don't feel bad for me - when I race for a Kona slot, you'll know

The Race by the Numbers

Thanks to Slowtwitch for crunching the numbers of all the athletes who raced Ironman Canada 2011 (you'll have to zoom in to read it)

And yes, I had the fastest T2 of the entire race. Transition clinics will begin again in the spring.

The Full Story

Race morning started quite calmly. I reached Transition early, as I always try to do. By 5:45 I was through Special Needs drop off, Body Marking, and had pumped my tires.

Note: I feel like a jerk whenever I refuse to loan my bike pump to a complete stranger, but please always bring your own pump to a race. Barely had I finished pumping when someone asked "can I have that when you're done ... what, it's not from the Bike Barn?"

The only moment of morning panic (Elizabeth was watching me and saw my eyes go wide) was when I was packing my nutrition in my Houndstooth Bento Box. I forgot my salt tabs, and it was going to be 30 degrees +. I knew I had some on my run race belt, but quickly discounted that option. Instead, I resounded to take some swigs of Ironman Perform on the bike course (I had afterall trained with it) to get extra sodium in. Problem solved.

Got in a quick warmup (short jog, leg swings, and a clearing of the head) at my favourite beach by Copper Cup Coffee ("Splash Fight" beach to those in the know). Then I got 5 minutes to sit with my bestest supporter before she left to find her spectating spot on the beach.

Once I was in my wetsuit, I walked across the beach to give Elizabeth another hug, then got back to the centre of the pack to watch the pros start. I don't think I embarrassed Rachel too much when I yelled for her to kick ass.

The Swim

Like last time racing IMC, I started on the far right of the swim beach. The plan was to keep the buoys on my left until the turn around point, leaving open water to the right if it started getting crowded. The swim went well in general: I know I need to focus more on my speed and keeping good form during harder efforts, but I didn't panic or get frustrated by swimmers around me.

Usually T1 is quite crowded, because I'm coming out of the water with hundreds of other athletes. But the key is to make eye contact with volunteers (in this case wetsuit strippers), find your open spot (this year on the other side of the Men's change tent), and when a volunteer offers to sunscreen your shoulders while you're putting on your cycling shoes, you say "Yes Please!"

Onto the Bike

If you do nothing else before your next race, learn how to mount your bike without crashing into other cyclists. Please!

The week before IMC, I had written a post about "Being that Voice." In it, I talked about how we might replace our internal dialogue (often negative) with the positive words from friends, role models, and other athletes. These are the words that went through my head while cycling; it pretty much sums up how my ride went

from Jordan Rapp: the bike race doesn't even start until after Richter Pass. Too many athletes go hard on McLean Creek hill, and pay for it at Yellow Lake.

from JonnyO: ride down the rollers, spin up, and keep your effort easy. The rollers are too long and steep to try and power your way over them (all said in Frenglish, BTW)

from Jordan Myers (he was officiating IMC and I spoke with him after my warmup): save it for the run!

Most of my friends know that I am focused and surly during a race, and getting a smile or a wave is pretty unlikely. Seeing as I gave some high fives to the Speed Theory team out at Yellow Lake, I guess I was doing pretty good!

Elizabeth had two cowbells ringing at Yellow Lake. Most awesome spectator ever? I think so!

At the top of Yellow Lake, we were struck my the headwinds. I took a look at my watch (I was chasing 1:30 pm to be back in Penticton) and knew that I could descend down those final hills. And it was fun!

"No I Don't!"
A fast transition takes a lot of mental and physical prep. You're faster on the bike than you ever will be running, so letting up at the end of the bike (to me at least) makes no sense.

Speeding into T2, I removed my sunglasses and stashed them in my bento box. This would make removing my helmet easier, and I had a second set of glasses (my Orange Jawbones) in my T2 bag. Yes, I'm that vain.

It works like this:

Flying dismount
Pass Ordu off to volunteer (make sure he catches it!)
Remove helmet while running
Grab Bike-to-Run bag
Make eye contact with volunteer. "Can you follow me please?"
Give him helmet
Run to the chair at the end of the change tent
Rip open bag
Put on shoes
Grab hat (it has sunnies and 2nd race belt (with gels and stuff) pre-loaded)
Run out of change tent
Reach down and unclip your bike race belt

When the volunteers start yelling out "YOUR RACE BELT, YOU NEED THAT!"

You reply: "No I don't!"

and that, my friends, is how you perform the fastest T2 in the race

Be that Voice

2 miles into the Ironman Canada Run, you start up Main Street. And you get to see racers finishing their bike rides. In this case, I got a friendly wave from friend Rachel. I'll leave the story of how she ended up behind me to her, if she wants to tell it.

Needless to say, the wave, the smile, and the "You're awesome Doug" was just what I needed to hear as I started my marathon.

"You've got 12 minutes!"

#272 on the run!

I knew that my Ironman marathon was going to have to be absolutely fantastic if I was going to meet my sub 10 goal. My previous best was 3:35 - when you can run a 2:55 open marathon seeing an average pace of 5 min/km can be pretty disappointing.

So I planned. I knew when I had to be where I had to be. I set my watch to display Time of Day. I set my watch to AutoLap every 5 km. And I marked my race bib with what Time of Day I had to be at 5 km, 10 km, 15 km, etc.

It was a bit confusing, and I think my math was wrong for the first few checkpoints. But when I made the OK Falls turnaround at 3:08 (I had planned for 3:05) I knew that sub 10 was a possibility.

Then I turned around. And ran the hills out of OK Falls. Well, ran is a relative term. Walking might have been faster, or at least it felt that way.

But I made new friends on the run. Brendan from UBC Tri Club, Fiona NRG Performance Training, Adam from Quebec (who KQ'd on his first Ironman!) became fellow sufferers, fellow racers out on that course, and I wouldn't have had the run that I did if not for their energy when I was feeling low.

Or, as one observer noted, "glazed over"

About 10 km to go, finally passing by the housing on the north end of Skaha Lake, and my adoring fans (I think from the SAA - can anyone confirm this!?!) started yelling "Way to go Doug, sub 10 for sure!"

I looked at my watch: 4:15 pm. "I don't think so" I said.

Then it came. Fiona Whitby, pro triathlete running beside me, whom I had just met on the run course, saved my race.

"Sure you can" she said. As I've said before, in training, in racing, in recovery, be that voice. So I ran.

Up the hill to Cherry Lane Mall, down the hill. Through the aid stations, grabbing whatever water, ice, fruit, and coke I could.

I round the corner at Lakeshore Drive, knowing that just up ahead would be cheering crowds. Elizabeth is there yelling "You've got 12 minutes to get there!"

I check my watch - yep, 12 minutes to run the final out-and-back. Does anyone know how long it is? Hey, why is the turn-around farther than the first one? Why do I need to run all the way to Salty's???

Okay, that only took 4 and a half minutes. I can do this. Start sprinting. Hey, that's Jordan announcing ... "and with 30 seconds to go..." 30 seconds! Holy crap! Gotta go faster ... nope, hamstring is going to cramp.

What does the sign say ... 9:56:something something. Okay, we're good!

I tip my cap to Steve, Jordan, and Mic - the best race announcing team out there.

9:57:14 - I'll take that any day.

Thanks for reading

~ liquid


  1. Well done Doug, you are inspiring!

  2. I've just downloaded iStripper, and now I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my desktop.