Friday, 16 September 2011

Ironman Canada 2011 Part 3 of 3

Parts 1 and 2 dealt with the mechanics of the race. Just the facts ma’am.  But the Ironman Journey is so much more than a series of discrete events leading to the finish line. The third part of my report as I planned it in my head was the “touchy-feely” portion. How did it “feel”? Real Men can feel free to stop reading right now.

I've been in triathlon for 17 years. On some level I knew that I would compete in an Ironman race one day. And I knew that the one race I wanted to do as my first was Ironman Canada. Having reached a stage in life where we have a little more discretionary time I was open to the idea of entering the 2011 event. The idea became a reality when the Monday after the 2010 there were actually spots available on line. Kate and I talked it over and with her support I pulled the trigger. My Ironman Journey started that night.

Photos by Kate...

2011 IMC Tweet Up. she's not in any of them!
When I set off on this adventure I knew I wanted to document and communicate it somehow. Maybe it was only so that I could articulate my own thoughts to myself but a part of me hoped some other people might be interested in what I was thinking. So I decided to open a Twitter account. I figured no matter how busy, tired or fed up I got I could always tap out 140 characters or less every couple of days.  And I did. A lot of times it was just mind numbing stats on the day’s workouts but sometimes a little of my personality and what I was thinking would show through.  To me the biggest benefit of Twitter and one I never expected was the virtual community that built up over the months leading to the event. The virtual community became real when many of us attended the “First Annual Ironman Canada Tweetup”, a dinner at a Penticton restaurant on the Thursday night before the race. Suddenly we weren’t disembodied virtual acquaintances in cyberspace. We were real flesh and blood friends eagerly looking forward to supporting each other from that point up until the finish of the race. And support each other we did. Thank you to all of the IMC Tweeps, those who raced, volunteered, spectated or just kept supporting us throughout. You truly enriched my Ironman experience.


So how did it feel? Well, I’ll start at the end.
I did my preparation.
I made a plan.
I trusted my preparation.
I executed my plan.
And I got the results I was hoping for.
I can’t think of many things more satisfying than that.

As far as emotions go it was all very interesting.  Training for IMC was not that different than training in years leading up to it. Just more.  And with more structure. Living in a cold climate, early season training took place in some pretty horrible weather.  Other years I would have blown some workouts off. This year I didn't. I knew this would make me mentally stronger and it did. In later stages of training when it got tough I told myself I had not gone out in the snow the rain the wind and the cold for months only to let up when conditions were not perfect. I carried these thoughts all the way through the race.

To my great surprise the most emotional I got in the 10 month journey was at the end of my last short brick the day before the race. I had done all the workouts, There was no more training to be done. It had been such a big part of my life for over ten months. I was happy and sad at the same time.
When is a smile not a smile?

As I said in Part 1, much of race day went by like a dream. There are parts I now remember very vividly but there were large parts where the details seem blurry. I set off with the intention to enjoy every moment of the day and I did almost that. I swear I raced all day with a smile on my face. The bike pictures tell a different story. But the smile from mile 21 on was real and I think the pictures back that up. From about 5km out I felt like I was flying. No, not running fast. Flying. I’m a little disappointed to see in my finishing video that what I felt was a full on sprint was actually more of a shuffle. Oh well.

In the days following the race I heard a lot of people say “Best Day Ever”. So was it so for me? No. Sorry. I have to save that for the day I got married, the births of my children and some of their amazing accomplishments.  But as far as selfish “ME!” events go? Yes, this may have been my best day.  And frankly in my view Ironman, at least the way I approach it, is a pretty selfish pursuit. The athlete asks a lot of friends and family who surround him. For that reason I don’t intend to do Ironman more often than once every other year.  I chose to make the sacrifices I deemed necessary to have the Ironman result I wanted. My friends and family did not. I would not ask them to do so continually.

Relaxing with Kate-Quail's Gate, Kelowna
So that really brings me to the Thank You’s. There are so many. Kate, obviously. Her support throughout was unwavering and there is no way I could have done it without her. Sons Rob and Mark put up with a lot of crankiness, maybe even more than usual. They kept me grounded. The rest of my family each of whom supports me in their own unique way.  My teammates who always inspire and encourage me. It was amazing having so many follow us on Ironmanlive till well after midnight local time when our last member finished. Next year I hope to help many of you to do great things. The Tweeps I already mentioned.  Gale Bernhardt whose book that I purchased for $22 gave me a rock solid training plan. And I join all 2800 athletes in thanking the community of Penticton and especially the volunteers. This is such a special event and would not be possible without them.

Thanks so much for reading

A satisfied Ironmanman and his wine... Waiting for a taxi


  1. Keep writing Tom! I loved reading all of your race reports and look forward to many more! :)

  2. Fantastic race report. Thanks for sharing!