Ironman Training, Race Reports, Triathlon

Ironman Canada Race Report Part 2

Here, it is, the second part. Read about the lead up to the race in Part 1

It felt as though I had barely crawled into bed as my alarm chirped its 4am wake up call. The morning was overcast and cold and the wet ground indicated it had already been raining. We had decided not to take the complimentary shuttles, opting to avoid the containers of nervous energy and rather, walk to the start. However the walk took us longer than we had anticipated leaving us rushing into transition with little time to spare. This was good and bad (at least for me). Bad, because I was now in a rush to return the food items to my bag and do any last minute checks on my equipment before my usual struggle to don my wetsuit. Good, because I had no time to worry about excessively about anything prior to stepping into the water. As a last minute decision I put a long sleeve top into my T1 bag, a decision that world prove fortuitous

We stepped into the cold water and stood looking out over the lake in silence. Presently, the National Anthem began playing over the loud speakers. As we listened, the rain began to fall. And that was to set the tone for the rest of the day.

The swim was a double loop, and the course was crowded. I tried to focus on keeping a consistent stroke. It felt like forever, but at last I made my final turn towards the beach and T1. I was being hit by waves coming at me from the side, I couldn’t figure out how I hadn’t noticed this choppiness before. Confused, I battled my way to the beach. (Later, spectators would confirm that the wind did indeed kick up, just before I exited the water). As I ran out of the water, I started to undo my wetsuit, the competitive sprinter in me taking over for a moment. Of course, the few seconds I was saving here would be a drop in the ocean compared to the 15 hours I expected to spend out on the course that day, but ‘old habits dies hard’. I had never been at a race with wetsuit strippers before and I didn’t know what I was missing! I sat on the ground and a second later they had yanked my wetsuit off and handed it back to me.

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“Wow, that was easy!” I thought as I jogged towards the change tent. (I know, I was supposed to be ‘walking with purpose’, what can I say? I was caught up in the moment…)

Inside the change tent, I found an empty spot, tipped out my bag and hurriedly got changed. I had opted to wear my bathing suit on the swim, and then change completely in T1. A helpful volunteer held out the late addition sweater and asked if I wanted to wear it, I gave it one more second of consideration and decided that yes, I would. I slipped it on, followed it with the waterproof jacket and headed out to my bike. I jogged past the sunscreen station, (not doing a roaring trade given the weather) and headed to the bike racks.

I almost ran right past my bike and had to crawl under the rack to get to it. I left T1 laughing to myself. The rain was really heavy as I mounted my bike and headed off towards Callaghan. I was passing a lot of people early on, it was almost impossible, with the bulk of riders to keep out of the draft zones, I just concentrated on making constant forward progress. I was concerned I might be going too fast, but a check of my heart rate confirmed that I was fine. I was cold, and very glad that I had worn the sweater after all.

This part of the course is a steep hill (and the location for the Olympic ski jumps, if confirmation of the gradient were required). I settled into my easiest gear and started the long grind uphill. Part way up, during a gear change, my chain came off and jammed my pedals. I wobbled alarmingly for a second as I desperately tried to unclip a foot and stand. This would not be a good time to have my first clipped in fall! Thankfully, just in the nick of time, I was able to put my foot down, climb off my bike and fix the situation.

Crisis averted. That would have been embarrassing!

Now I just had to get going again on this steep hill. A couple of false starts later and I was again on the move, albeit slowly. The remainder of the climb was uneventful and I reached the turnaround at the top feeling good. I had counted on taking advantage of a good dose of ‘free’ speed on the downhill, however, the rain had put paid to that idea. The water ran in rivulets across the road and the fabric of my jacket snapped in the wind, making the descent quite terrifying.

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The course then rejoined the highway and I continued on the long descent towards Pemberton. The monotony was broken by regular aid stations stocking water, Gatorade, energy gels and bananas. My nutrition plan called for me refilling my water and also eating bananas. Volunteers were lined up along the road with various offerings. I slowed a little and reached out to grab a water bottle as I rode by. Success.

My knees were aching – which I put down to the temperature, which I later found out was under 10 degrees Celsius. On top of that, all of the muscles in my neck and shoulders were screaming, probably also due to my tensing up in the cold. I finally made it to the Pemberton turn. This meant a 40km flat out and back before heading back up that long hill to Whistler. Just as we started the out and back, we passed our special needs bags. I made a snap decision that I would not stop. I hadn’t had a flat, so I didn’t need the spare tube, and I was feeling pretty good and thought I could manage without the extra nutrition items – even my beloved Ribena.

I really wanted to make up some time here, but more importantly at that moment I really wanted to use the bathroom! At the next aid station (which typically took forever to arrive) I stopped my bike and joined the queue (of course). I took the opportunity to stretch a little, which elicited a very satisfying crack from my neck. A few minutes later, I was on my way again. The ride now seemed to be going quite well and I was enjoying it. Until, that is, I reached the turnaround.

“That’s why it felt so good!” I thought to myself, as I pedalled against the headwind on the return journey. I was feeling very sleepy by this time, struggling to keep my eyes open. Luckily I had experienced this in Oliver, had had come to Whistler prepared, so now I ripped open the tiny bag that I had stashed on my bike which contained some Tylenol and a caffeine pill.

Soon, I began to feel better, and as I left Pemberton behind, I finally managed to snag a banana from the aid station. Now, I just had to conquer that 30km climb back to Whistler (and then the little matter of a marathon, but let’s not think about that right now). The climb was long and slow, but I already knew I could do it, and I could see looking at my watch that I would be well within the cut-off.

The climb felt like forever, finally, to my great relief, I saw the sign for the village and the course veered off to the side. I had tears in my eyes when I finally saw the arch to T2. The bike cut-off had been my biggest fear throughout the year of training and this moment was arguably the biggest achievement of the day.

As I entered the change tent, Kay hailed me. I was briefly confused, as I expected her to be further ahead. Unfortunately, her race was not going to plan, mostly owing to the cold. I will forever be grateful for her enthusiastic encouragement, particularly given the difficulties she was facing.

Another wonderful volunteer came to help me change in T2. Unfortunately, though she was very patient and helpful, my mind was not in the right place to receive help. She was handing me things from my bag, but everything was in the wrong order. I couldn’t quite compute this change. Unfortunately, in the end, I ended up leaving transition without my water bottle.

“Never mind, there’s plenty of water stations on course”

Famous last words.

The first 5km of the run is a loop around Lost Lake, and it started very well. I was surprised how tight all of my muscles felt, probably a result of being tense on the bike. Even my biceps ached. Around 10km, I switched to a run-walk strategy. I ran between the aid stations, eating what I felt like from the selections available.

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Then, it happened. My ankle started hurting.

Ironically, not the ankle that less than a year ago had healed from a stress fracture. My left ankle had never given me trouble before, but now there was a stabbing pain.

If only I had some Tylenol. But it had been carefully stashed in the pocket of my water bottle. The same water bottle that I had accidentally left in T2.

I kept walking, but I was barely holding things together. Thank goodness, no-one was nice to me or I might have burst into tears. I couldn’t understand it. Yes, this was Ironman, I suppose I could be forgiven for being a bit emotional, but really? This just didn’t happen to me!

I marched on. I needed to keep moving as fast as I could. The kilometres ticked by so slowly. It seemed like an eternity before I reached the special needs bags and the long awaited painkillers. I stopped this time and drank the emergency bottle of Ribena. I closed my eyes. I could hear the voice of the announcer calling in finishers nearby. I felt so jealous of those athletes, already done for the day. I was at about 25km here, so there were another 17 to go. I had to keep moving – away from the finish.

I knew I could finish now, all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other. Actually I felt quite good, considering.

One foot in front of the other. That’s what I did for about the next three hours. Aid station to aid station. Kilometre marker to kilometre marker. Never in my life have kilometre markers seemed so far apart.

There was a blister on my foot now, I was sure. I didn’t look, how would that have helped? My ankle actually felt quite a bit better now, and I no longer felt like bursting into tears, so things were looking up.

I was hugely disappointed though as I realised that I could not make my goal of finishing in less than 15 hours. I really hadn’t been that invested in doing so before the race. It was more of a case of “wouldn’t it be amazing if I could”. As the day had gone on, however, it had become clear that I was capable of achieving that, though perhaps on a different day.

The sign said 5km to go.

“Great, I usually take about 30 minutes to do 5km”

This 5km took 41:24.

4km to go.

“Seriously? I’ve only covered 1km?”

I kept walking through the darkness.

3km. “3km is nothing”

2km. “Will this ever end”

I was striding along with another girl (whose name I don’t recall). We passed a sign saying 41km.

“1km to go” she commented.

1.2km, I corrected. We laughed about the 0.2km being our undoing.

Finally, the finish chute came into sight…and the course lead us on a small (was that 0.2km?) loop away into the village! Oh the cruelty!

Be strong!

Now we were heading for the finish.

The music was blaring, the lights were so bright. Suddenly this was it. The moment I had been training for all year…and waiting for all day!

Everyone was cheering. I closed my eyes; I wanted to remember this moment. I ran the last 100m down the chute, high-fiving total strangers as the words

“Alison, You Arrrrrrrre an IRONMAN!!” rang through the speakers.

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I almost couldn’t believe it.

Someone hung a medal around my neck and a volunteer steered me to pick up my finisher t-shirt and cap and pose for a picture.

Then, like a mirage, Kay appeared… with a slice of pizza!

Having completed her own race, she had waited for me at the finish line. We went to collect my bike and gear bags; I ate the pizza and I thought it was the best I’ve ever tasted in my life! As we walked back to the hotel I was in a daze.

My finishing time of 15:42 had been a little disappointing…on the other hand, I had just completed an Ironman. I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. When I got back, I checked my phone and was truly humbled to see the number of messages from friends. So many of them had been live tracking my progress online throughout the day and had already sent their congratulations.

So there it is. Done.

I’m at the end of my year long journey, or could that be the start of something new?

I used to say I would never attempt an Ironman. Then I said I’d only ever do one. During the marathon in Whistler, I was sure I would never do this again.

But I know I can do better…next time?

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Cycling, Ironman Training, Race Reports, Triathlon

Building Milage: Okanagan Shuswap Century Ride and Oliver Half Iron

As June came around and my mileage was increasing in preparation for Ironman Canada, two events were scheduled a week apart.

Okanagan Shuswap Century Ride

Mt first century ride (100km) was the Guardian Century Ride last September. Back then, 100km was further than I had ever ridden and the ride was a bit of a struggle for me. I knew that my fitness had improved substantially since then, so my hope was that this would be a good confidence booster. I also intended to use it as a test, a trial run for the bike portion of the Oliver Half Iron the following week.

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I woke up to a hot, sunny day and with some friends, drove out to Armstrong, where the ride started and ended.  I got everything set up for my nutrition plan (1 gel every 30 minutes) and lots of water. Then after a brief speech we rolled out…. Straight onto a hill!

OK, let’s start slowly then!”

Everyone was passing me, which by now you might think I should be used to, and I guess I am, but it never really stops being disappointing. There were still enough people around me though, as I pedaled onward. The scenery was beautiful and the range of people doing the ride inspiring.

Soon enough I reached the first aid station – about 25km in. This was also the turnaround point for those riders signed up for the shorter 56km event. Trying not to think about how nice it would be to just join the shorter ride, I hopped off my bike to refill my water bottles…which weren’t empty.

Probably need to drink a bit more then.

I made sure not to stop long and continued on my way. It was much quieter now, since many of the riders had turned around.

The route took us out through deserted farmland with rolling hills. I took the opportunity to test out my new aero bars on the empty roads, which kept me amused for some time. Eventually, we entered the not so bustling metropolis of Salmon Arm.

This was significant for two reasons:

  1. It contained a hill that by all accounts (and apparently exaggeration was unnecessary) was so big and steep as to rival Mt Everest.
  2. Atop this fabled hill, sat aid station 2.

As the hill in question loomed before me, with a little trepidation, I dropped into my lowest gear and began to slowly grind upwards.

“Keep pedaling, Keep pedaling, Keep pedaling”

Suddenly, I was at the top.

Am I allowed to say that the hill was an anticlimax?

That’s not to say it was easy by any means, just not as hard as I had been lead to believe.

That over, I stopped at the oasis that was aid station 2 and refilled my water bottles before getting underway again.

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Everything seemed to be going well until suddenly I began to feel quite sick.

My legs lost power – I didn’t know what to do. I settled for eating another gel and willed my legs to keep pedaling. Another rider informed me that the final 10km were largely downhill and that we were almost at that point.

I hoped he was correct.

It seemed like forever, but finally we began to descend. I began to feel better immediately as I sensed the nearing of the finish. My GPS indicated four hours and eight minutes, far faster than I had dared to hope for, and definitely a good sign for the upcoming Half Iron.

I felt strong, my confidence high….and hungry!

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Oliver Half Iron

Two months out from Ironman is a good time to test a long distance race. This was to be my longest race to date, and a chance to test the logistics that would be key at Ironman.

The race in question was a couple of hours away, luckily, my wonderful friend Lenora offered me a ride, accommodation plus her excellent company for the weekend. Thanks Lenora I couldn’t have done it without you!

Oliver half iron LW (10)

Photo Credit: Luke Way

Check in for this race was the day before so we arrived early in Oliver, picked up our packages and racked our bikes in transition. Also in attendance at the race was Coach Luke of Balance point Racing. He offered some valuable tips on racing in the heat and helped me install a new water bottle to the aero bars on my bike.

The next morning we were up early to head to the start. I finished setting up my transition and waited nervously. I was unsure of how I would handle the distance and whether I could beat the cutoff times. It was already warm and it promised to be a very hot day – another thing to worry about.

After a short delay, we lined up for the start. The water temperature was only just wetsuit legal, not that this fact mattered hugely to me as a non-wetsuit owner. I was one of only a few ‘naked’ swimmers.

Thanks to the person who offered to loan me a wetsuit, I hope I didn’t seem too rude in declining! I hadn’t trained in a wetsuit, so adding one at this late stage didn’t seem like a good plan.

Right from the start, this race was uncomfortable.

I was struggling to breathe smoothly during the 2km swim, and strangely for me, I was cold! Predictably, most people passed me in the water, and I definitely had no trouble locating my bike when I got to T1 – it was still there, patiently waiting for me on it’s own.

The bike course in Oliver is rather pretty for the most part; a double loop that has only one serious climb. I was feeling sick right from the start. I tried to keep drinking and eating (following the same plan as I had used the week before in Armstrong); as well as swallowing salt capsules at regular intervals.

I kept riding, but the nausea didn’t go away.

Photo Credit: Luke Way

Photo Credit: Luke Way

The first 30km or so weren’t so bad, riding past vineyards and admiring the views. Then we turned onto the highway.

“Right, we stay on the highway until Road 6”

Functional if not creative naming from the city of Oliver.

“Road 21 – OK”

I kept riding, the highway not quite so pleasing, but still surrounded by vineyards, and a rather mean rumble strip a foot to my left.

“Must be nearly there by now…Road 18, Dammit!”

More pedaling.

Road 11

“OH come on!”

After what seemed like forever, Road 6 appeared all of a sudden and we turned off in to a more rural road (read: bumpy).

A friend passed me (Yes, he was a full lap ahead of me, underscoring my feelings of inadequacy). He helpfully pointed out a pothole as he passed it, which I certainly would have hit as my focus was beginning to drift. I had been concerned that this could be a problem in longer races – and I still had another lap to go.

The second lap was more challenging than the first. I still felt sick and now I was tired as well. With around 20km to go I could barely keep my eyes open.

“This is not good.201D

My mind was wandering all over the pace as I tried to focus.

I tried to work out what was wrong. Was I not drinking enough? Eating enough? Taking enough salt? Could I mitigate this problem? I tried to drink more, but I was already feeling sick and it felt like I was drinking all the time anyway, how could I drink more? To make matters worse, this was all happening in slow motion whilst I was trying to maintain a passable speed on the bike course.

“Just keep going”

I wondered if I would make the cut-off (my notoriously bad in race maths indicated I should), I then pondered the merits of missing the cut-off. Wouldn’t that be nice? I’d be removed from the race, wouldn’t have to continue…

What was I thinking?

I pedalled onward and finally reached transition. An official informed me that I had indeed made the cut-off, so on to the run it was.

I headed out onto the run course.

“It’s only a half marathon, I’ve done this before”

But not after a 2km swim and a 84km bike and it was hot, so hot, over 35 degrees, and the course had little shade.

I tried to run, but had no energy. I didn’t know what to do…except keep plodding forward.

I decided that if I wasn’t going to quit (and I wasn’t!), then I had to throw all of my resources at this problem.

I began to focus on getting from one aid station to the next. I became *that* person at the buffet, pillaging each aid station. I ate, I drank water and Gatorade, I took salt tablets and used ice to try to cool myself. Normally I prefer to be a little more analytical in my problem solving, but I was short on time and facing a very long and very miserable 21.1km, so the shotgun approach was my only option and still I trudged on, not feeling any better.

At the far end of the run course, the organiser had set up a sprinkler. As I stepped into the spray, the cold took my breath away. I stood for a moment, letting the cold water run over me.

My head clearer, I ran on slowly, I was able to keep running, things were looking up. Aid station: Gatorade, water, ice salt, gel, run on. Soon though, I started to overheat again (damn you quick drying fabrics!), then like a mirage, a woman appeared, holding a hose and spraying passing athletes.

Photo Credit: Luke Way

Photo Credit: Luke Way

I continued running from sprinkler to sprinkler, from aid station to aid station, I dared not look at my watch lest it told me I would miss the cut-off despite all of my best efforts. I was able to run the majority of the second lap (hooray for the shotgun approach and the wonderful citizens of Oliver and their hosepipes!).

As I finally crossed the line in 8:01:15 (seriously, it couldn’t have been just under 8 hours!?) all I wanted to do was curl up and sleep. The run portion of the race had taken me 3:18, much slower than my plan and a huge disappointment. I was happy to have finished (or was that relieved), but the race definitely hadn’t been a good one for me.

Photo Credit: Luke Way

Photo Credit: Luke Way

Luckily, I have some great friends to bring everything into perspective.

Photo Credit: Luke Way

Photo Credit: Luke Way

As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and a few days later, I was able to see this as the achievement it was and the learning experience it could be. A triumph over adversity and a successful comeback on the run. I had gathered vital information that I could use to tweak my race plan for the future, hopefully slightly more analytically now.

  • What I learned from a really bad race:

  • Drink more early on
  • Increase calories consumed per hour
  • Add a source of caffeine to maintain alertness
  • My friends are awesome
  • The power to keep going cannot be understated
  • Have a backup plan
  • My friends are awesome
  • The power to keep going cannot be understated
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Race Reports

My First Olympic Distance – UBC

Wanting to get my season started earlier this year, I decided to sign up for the UBC race in Vancouver. My friend, Kay, agreed and we decided to make a weekend of it.

After some discussion of the relative merits of sprint vs Olympic distance, as well as the relative competitiveness of each category, I signed up for the Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run). Kay, with her own goals in mind, signed up for the sprint.

In th days prior to the race  we eagerly watched the weather forecasts – it looked like being a cold day. There followed much angst (and googling) regarding how to dress on the day.

Soon the big day arrived and we packed up our gear and made the five hour drive down to Vancouver. Once there we quickly mobilised our bikes to go and check out the course before it got dark.

UBC tri KS (7)

Photo credit Seekaytri

The course looked simple enough, but the run from the pool to transition was incredibly long. We discussed the merits of having shoes at the swim exit. The temperature was also a concern, it was cold! Again, I wondered if I had an appropriate clothing plan.

The next morning I was up early as I had to get my bike safety-checked and my transition set up before my allotted heat time of 8:20, plus I was still on the fence over what to wear. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not nearly as cold as I had feared (though, be assured it definitely was very cold).

I chatted to some of my fellow competitors, and still no consensus. I don’t really own a lot of cold weather tri gear, with most of my events taking place in the sunny Okanagan, so the options open to me were somewhat limited.

I knew I didn’t want to spend a lot of time changing. I might not be in with a chance of winning (in fact might, does not really describe my nonexistent odds of winning very adequately at all), but nevertheless, my time is important to me and I didn’t want to waste it unnecessarily; this was a race after all. I left my fleece on my bike, just in case, and headed down to the pool.

At the poolside we were given a ‘dry bag’ which would be handed to us as we exited the pool. In it I put my shoes, (switch into bike shoes and leave them in transition awaiting my return for the run) and a towel. At the last second I threw in the thin long sleeve top that I had put on when I woke up that morning; not really triathlon attire, but…just in case.

The swim was 1500m and snaked up and down the 50m pool: up and back in each lane, duck under the lane rope and repeat. After eight lanes, get out, return to the start and do it again. The start was delayed by about an hour, I waited nervously. When we were finally called, we were instructed to line up based on our expected finish time, then, one at a time, at ten second intervals, we were started.

Immediately I missed having had a warm up, there had been spare space in the pool for a warmup lane. I had attempted to do a dry land warmup, but it clearly had not been adequate: I was struggling. It took me nearly 400m to settle into a rhythm, during which time around ten people passed me. All I could think was that I must have really overestimated my abilities! (Of course, in reality it could just have easily been their underestimations).

The walk back to the start was a welcome reprieve before more mind-numbing laps. People were still passing me and I had no idea of how fast I was (or wasn’t) going. It certainly didn’t feel fast.

When I finally got out of the water we had to walk (Walk! Not run, this is a pool!) – walk really quickly – almost all of the way around the pool to the door and out into the sting of the six-degree air. We were handed our dry bags and there were tents available for changing.

I stayed with my semi-minimalist strategy; I towelled off the worst of the water, put on the shirt over my tri top and pulled on my shoes. I jogged up the lengthy hill to transition, switched shoes, grabbed my helmet and bike and headed for the mount line.

The bike course consisted of four fairly flat loops. By the first turnaround, I was really regretting not putting my gloves on.

Should I stop and put them on?

No, that’s a waste of time – tough it out!

The route was shaded by trees on the way out, but shards of sunlight pierced through for the return trip. They felt so nice; the temptation to stop and stretch out like a cat in the sunbeam was almost impossible to resist.

I kept going.

I focussed on my breathing and my heart rate (both good)

…and how damn cold it was. My mind was really starting to wander in the second half.

I thought about the upcoming run, my cats and sunbeams (did I mention how cold it was?), last nights dinner, todays lunch, this blog entry…How much farther 40km is than my usual 20km (and how much longer Ironman would be than this). I seemed to be going so slowly.

Am I on lap two or three?

Finally, I completed my last lap – I could not have been happier, and turned back to transition.

I couldn’t really feel my toes, and my fingers refused to co-operate in changing gear or braking, but I made it to transition, changed into my running shoes and headed out.

At the start of the run I focussed on going slowly to allow the blood to return to my extremities. As I ran I suddenly realised that I was actually going to do this – my first Olympic tri – I knew I could finish! It really is quite new for me to be able to line up the start of events such as this, safe in the knowledge that I am capable of completion.

I ran on.

I should have taken off my sweater at transition, it’s too hot now. I felt jealous of the athletes that had started later, just for a minute. I tied my shirt around my shoulders and carried on.

As I came to the last couple of kilometres I gave my body the command to speed up – just like I always do.

Nothing.

OK…This speed is probably good.

I saw the finish.

How about a sprint?

No.

I crossed the line solidly (and at the speed I had been maintaining throughout the run). People commented that I was still smiling. Of course I was – I had just finished my first Olympic distance triathlon!

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Finish Line – Photo credit UBC Recreation

My friend appeared at my side and told me that my finish time was around 3:20. I had hoped to complete in under 3:30. Honestly the race had felt subpar the entire time, so I am thrilled that I could have beaten my goal and done so with such a solid performance.

3:19:13

I’m pretty sure there’s scope for improving that substantially in the future, but that’s for another day – hopefully a warmer one.

All that’s was left now was to cheer our friend Kay across the line in the sprint event – which I failed to achieve, she was just too fast, even winning her age group!

UBC tri KS (25)

Photo credit Seekaytri

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Musings

Building Up Racing Karma

The other week, I spent the day volunteering at our local marathon.

Five hours handing out water to athletes as they ran past.

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Each year I try to volunteer for at least one for every two events in which I participate; sometimes I am left with the dilemma of whether to volunteer or run in a race.

Races don’t go ahead without volunteers. They setup, tear down, direct athletes and man aid stations.

Since I tend to race a lot, I use volunteers a lot.

I’m thankful to each and every one of those volunteers, giving up their weekend to allow me to do something I love. Often they spend longer out on the course than the runners, and at this time of year, that can get cold. Sometimes after a long volunteer shift, I wonder if it wouldn’t have been easier to have run the race.

A great volunteer can really make your day, they help everything go smoothly and offer encouragement. Yes, they cheer! (some of them dance as well) At some races they are the only ones doing that. I know it always gives me a bit of a buzz to hear someone cheering for me, even if we have never met, and very probably never will.

I always try to thank volunteers on the course, though honestly, oftentimes all I can mange is an exhausted smile and nod. I hope they get the message.

This year, since I was unable to run, I had lots of opportunity for karma building.

Here’s my top five reasons to volunteer:

it, sometimes it just makes me feel totally inadequate as well.

1. To give back.

Yeah, you can’t beat that warm fuzzy feeling of helping in your community!

I choose to be a part of an athletic community, so I should be a part of sustaining it. If no-one volunteers, I can’t race either, so I help out so others can race.

Pay it forward.

 

2. Get Inspired.

How can you not feel good watching 5 year olds going all out in their first triathlon?

Or seeing people achieve goals that they thought impossible?

 

Ok, I admit that the guy who consistently finishes first on a local cross country course, in half the time I do, pushing his daughter in a stroller, does make me feel rather inadequate.

And volunteering at Challenge Penticton, not long after signing up for Ironman, both inspired and terrified me in equal measures!

But on the whole I leave motivated to achieve new things. Every time.

 

3. Spending time with friends.

Or meet some brand new ones!

It’s great to spend time with friends when you aren’t both running as fast as you can during a hard workout.

Volunteering on the course also leaves you perfectly positioned to give a few words of encouragement to friends competing that day, this was the highlight of my day at Challenge Penticton.

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Karis and I volunteering at the Apple Tri

 

4. Check out the race.

Volunteering offers a great opportunity to check out a new race or course.

Before entering my first triathlon, I volunteered at the event, I got involved and decide that, yes, this was something I wanted to try.

Try it today – you might never look back, like me!

 

5. Swag.

Some races give out volunteer swag, draw prizes or appreciation events.

Ok, so it’s not really an altruistic reason to volunteer, but if it gets people out of the door and makes them feel appreciated, then it can’t be that bad.

Sometimes, they even feed you! When I was a penniless student, volunteer meals got me through many a weekend.

 

…And if you are in need of another garishly coloured T-shirt to add to your collection, this is the place to be!

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So, get out there and build up some running karma. Hope to see you out there soon.!

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Race Reports

An Abbreviated Triathlon Season

Having missed the majority of the 2014 triathlon season due to injury, as soon as I was cleared to return to try running again I was thinking about how many tri’s were remaining.

I managed to take part in three races during the final month of the season. I stuck with Sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run), partly because my training had obviously not been as effective as I would have liked and partly because I was still very much in the recovery phase and wasn’t sure of being able to run. I reasoned that a 5km walk was something I could definitely achieve if I had to.

 

Apple Triathlon

This was the site of my very first triathlon in 2012, so it will always be a bit special. I really love racing so close to home and this race is large and well supported.

The swim went off without a hitch, all of the practice of the summer paying off. I came out of the water feeling great.

I had made the slight miscalculation of having my bike fit changed (radically as it turned out) in the week before the race. For the record, I don’t recommend doing this, but I thought I would get away with it, especially since this race had gone from being my season goal ‘A race’ to more of a fun participation/test event.

Now I found myself riding an unfamiliar machine, and recruiting muscles that, judging by their protestations, had never been used to cycle before

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Never mind, I was still having fun!

Perhaps predictably, my ankle hadn’t healed enough to run, so I was forced to walk for most of the run portion. Although disappointing, it was somewhat expected, so I had planned for it when considering my goals for the race.

I just remember thinking “Wow, a 5k walk is so much longer than a 5k run”

In the end I completed in 1:42:39, around a minute slower than last year, despite a five minute increase in my run split. I took 90 seconds off the swim and a full two minutes off on the bike – quite encouraging considering the limitations of my training this season. Looking back it was really too early injury wise, however I am still really glad I joined my friends and had fun that weekend.

 

Summerland Sprint

Two weeks after the Apple, I entered Summerland sprint, a much smaller race with a Kids of Steel event on the same day.

This was both my worst tri ever and my fastest.

The swim didn’t go perfectly, and I got a bit off course in the current, a bit slow but not too bad. The run into T1 was very short, leaving me feeling very dizzy as I switched to the bike. Slow down, deep breath….and go again.

The bike course is mostly flat and generally considered fast. But it felt like I really overdid things here, it felt awful, and I considered quitting, more than once.

Well. I may at times be untalented, unfit or unmotivated, but one thing I usually am is STUBBORN, and I was not going to record a DNF without a damned good reason (death in the family, preferably my own?). So on I went.

I started the run feeling sick and exhausted.

Luckily I had a plan. My gradual return to running was up to 3 minutes walking/3 minutes running and this was what I intended to do for this run.

“Just keep to the plan.

This gave me something to focus on. People I knew – and a few I didn’t – shouted encouragement as they passed on the return leg of the run loop.

“I’m keeping to the plan….”

And then, as if by magic, on my third run interval, I just kept running.

“Keep to the plan” my brain screamed

“This is really cool, let’s see how far I can go” a totally academic discussion was going on in my head on the merits of running, walking and defining pain or discomfort (well that gave me something to focus on!), whilst my lungs questioned whether I had ever run a step before in my life.

As I ran through the finish line I couldn’t stop smiling.

“I just ran 4k – just don’t tell my doctor”

I ended up with a best ever time of 1:34:18.

Maybe that bike wasn’t so bad after all…

Cultus Lake

The last race of the season was at Cultus Lake, an interesting little race with rather loose organization. I’m going to be polite and not get into a discussion of how the organisers dropped pretty much every ball they had at this one…

Cultus Lake is out of town for me, so I was staying with some family friends, always nicer than a hotel. Also, it came with my own personal cheer squad, though for some reason, they were reluctant to accompany me to setup at 530am and opted to come in time for the 8am start….

After a cold, delayed start, the swim seemed to be going well – it just seemed to be lasting forever – I couldn’t understand it, it felt like I was swimming well. Eventually I saw the final turn and headed for the swim exit and ran across the rocky ground to T1. I felt good as I headed out on the bike. The course had been described to me as pretty flat. I guess everything is relative, but flat wasn’t the word that leapt to my mind. I had not had a chance to fully scope out this course before the event and I regretted it now. I had no idea what to expect and therefore couldn’t plan a strategy for it, that was a silly mistake, I should have known better.

I did know better.

However, by the time I was climbing back up to the lake, I was feeling good. Coming into T2 I got held up by slower riders (YES Slower than me! Painfully slow and in a no passing zone)

Cultus 3 (1)

A whole stream of less than polite phrases came to mind which I won’t detail here, lest I lose my PG rating – how could they actually ride this slowly without falling off?

My cheering squad were there shouting my name, which never fails to give me a kick and make me smile. They had no idea how annoyed I was or that my bike leg hadn’t gone as well as I would have liked, they were just excited for what I was achieving in that moment – maybe I could learn something from that.

I was frustrated at the time, but later realised that only a few months ago I had never been held up by anyone, in fact it was probably me doing the holding.

Yes, there’s DEFINETLY something to be learned from that!

At least I was fired up for the run. This time I ran the whole 5km. It went out along the beach (just touch the sign at the end and come back!), I was taking care not to stress my ankle. The sand had the advantage of being a little softer to run on, but also made it harder. The course then took a small detour into a residential area before heading back to the finish, still I held back a little, scared to run hard in case I felt the familiar twinge, but I kept moving and finished pretty strong.

But when I looked at my time, my mood dropped… 1:45:17.

When I saw them at the finish, my friends told me that they thought the swim was long. A quick check of my time and those around me seemed to back this up – 24:08 for 750m! Around seven minutes longer than usual. I don’t recall any crazy currents à la Across the Lake, so I really hope that was mis-measured. One guy said his GPS recorded 990m. If that’s the case, then my time wasn’t so bad.

So all in all, not my best race, not my worst. A learning experience.

So now the season is over, it ended fairly well, just a few things to improve for next year:

  • Continue to improve efficiency on my swim stroke.
  • Cycling is still my weak link – must try harder.
  • Crack that 30 minute goal for a 5km run – Train smart to avoid injury.
  • Practice more efficient mount/dismount at transition.

So… that’s just about everything then, let’s get to it.

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Ironman Training

What have I done?

I did it.

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I signed up for Ironman Canada 2015.

Don’t laugh. Please.

IRONMAN.

3.8km swim, 180km bike and a marathon run (42.2km) in under 17 hours.

11 months from now!

Never mind that the reason I did my first triathlon was that running for longer than 30 minutes bored me to the point of giving up; that I have the concentration span of a goldfish with ADD; that I have never attempted a triathlon longer than a sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike, 5k run), and even then my times could at best only be described as mediocre; that I can’t even conceive an 8 hour bike ride, let alone be nervous of it; that I have recurring shin splints or even that I have been unable to run at all this summer due to a stress fracture in my right fibula, that hasn’t even healed yet.

Why let any of those reasons stop me?

I blame Karis. I met Karis at the 2012 Apple Triathlon, the first for both of us. What a relief it was to see another person with a mountain bike that day. We were pretty even, I was faster in the water, and she was faster on the bike. In 2013 we both upgraded our trusty mountain bikes to road bikes and did it again, both a little bit faster. A mere eight months later, Karis completed Ironman Lanzarote – considered one of the hardest in the world. (See more about Karis’ adventures here).

If she could do it, I reasoned, why couldn’t I?

Karis agreed, pointing out that I only needed to maintain a speed of 20kph on the bike. Surely I can do that? Surely.

And so, with all of these thoughts dancing round my head, I filled out the online registration for Ironman Canada.

And then I closed the window. This is ridiculous!

And again. What are you thinking??

And again. I’m not good enough

I needed another opinion. So at my next physio appointment (remember I’m going to physio because my ankle is fractured and I can’t run) after engaging in small talk (mostly centred on how I can’t run and the fact that the doctor actually advised I quit running altogether) for a while I bit the bullet:

“Sooooooooo, how worried would you be if I signed up for *cough* Ironman?”

I saw him hesitate. Oh no, this was such a stupid idea, what do I say now? why did I bring this up?

“I don’t plan to run the marathon”

“No-one runs the marathon”

“but, I don’t even plan to try” It sounded feeble even to my own ears.

Long pause

“I think you can do it” and breathe.

He rallied then, reasoning that I could already do the swim and with a little bit of training should be able to do the bike, and I ought to even be able to run part of the marathon by then, perhaps 10k? He even managed to say all of this with a straight face and without the cartoon dollar signs taking over his eyes.  Thanks Greg! I don’t want to know what you said to your colleagues after I left that day.

That enthusiastic if not quite ringing endorsement of my abilities was all I needed to actually click the submit button on my next visit to the IMC website.

Wow this thing is real now. $725 is quite the commitment.

My mother always used to tell me that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. I’m sure she wished I’d put my mind to a few more things back then, and I doubt she had a 17 hour triathlon in mind at the time. And everyone knows that mother is always right. Right?

So here it is, time to prove it.

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