Thursday, 8 September 2011

Ironman Canada 2012 - Part 1 of 3

Where to start?

Ironman Canada is such a big event in every sense of the word. The course, the number of entries, the volunteers, supporters, spectators. Perhaps most significantly it's a huge athletic endeavour for every one of us who signed up a year in advance and made the commitment to train in preparation for a single day in August that would last for only up to 17 hours. Along with 1100+ others I would start my first Ironman triathlon in Penticton, BC on August 28.
I won't attempt to document the history of this event. It's available from more knowledgeable sources than me. Nor will I describe my training leading up to the event. I'll just start by saying that when I went to bed on Saturday August 27 I felt that I was as physically and mentally ready as I knew how to be. After 17 years competing in triathlon I was prepared to start my first Ironman.
2054 Bike and Gear Bags - Almost Ready to Rock and Roll
As I expected, I woke up a few minutes before my 3:30am alarm. I had my breakfast, did what I needed to do, made one last neurotic check before grabing my special needs bags and left our apartment without waking Kate. From that point on much of the day seemed like a dream. I walked the approximate 1km down from the Lower Bench to body marking in the dark. As I walked I was joined by more and more athletes all converging on the same spot. I mused that it seemed a bit like lemmings but hoped that the similarity ended right there. Just like the videos from Hawaii, the sun starts to rise and the whole event setting seems to materialize from the blackness. Surreal.
It was great to meet up with teammates Paul and Scott in the transition area. Kevin from Tri-Factor was also with us and the four of us were keeping it light as the start approached. As is my habit, I made sure everything was in order and I had my wetsuit on well in advance. I hate to be rushed before a race.

I met Jenn and Fern from Tri-Factor on my way to the water. I had decided weeks (months?) prior that I was going to start to the extreme left, near the front. The two women agreed with me. Paul had his own plan so we shook hands, parted ways and agreed we would see each other on the run.
That's me on the left...Somewhere!
The national anthem was sung and I didn't get quite the emotional rush I had been fearing. Good. The inside of the goggles can stay dry. A horn sounded and I just started swimming. My swim experience was almost the exact opposite of what I expected. With my start on the far left my intention was to maintain a line about 25m to the left of the buoy line all the way to the first turn. In all honesty the first two legs of the swim were no more intimidating (in terms of contact) than a typical Olympic triathlon swim. Of course there was regular unintentional contact but nothing malicious. I kept to my strategy of keeping to the outside around the first two turns and had a very relaxed swim experience. After the second turn I and my 2800 new friends all aimed straight for the shore and from that point to the finish I was making quite a lot of contact. Good thing it only lasted 1800m!

I race without a watch and go by feel so I had no idea how good or bad my swim was but I felt good and deliberately had not pushed hard. I had a pretty good transition (benefits of a long background in short course!)  and as I was riding away on my bike I heard that the race was 74 minutes old. Very happy about that.

I had been warned the ride out of town along Main Street is a group ride. You leave town at about 8k and from then on I tried to ride as much as possible the way I do in any race. I was frustrated by a certain abount of blocking ("Make the pass already!"). and had to go harder than I intended a few times to pass two or more within my 15 seconds. Only once did I find myself in a position that I realized "I'm drafting!" and immediately backed out of the daft zone. Whenever I did get passed I used that opportunity to ease up and eat and drink.
Looking almost like a real triathlete
I was fortunate to hear eventual Pro Men's winner Jordan Rapp speak publicly twice before the race. He said a couple of things that stuck with me. Most important was "the race starts after the top of Richter Pass". So I kept to a dead easy pace until I reached that point at around 70k in. My nutrition was good throughout. I missed one or two bottle hand-ups and some of the sports drink bottle tops were leaking a lot so I made sure to supplement with Fig Newtons (my Plan B) and that seemed to work. I really enjoyed the crowd support on the bike, especially the cheering crowds near the bottom of the Yellow Lake climb. Think Alpe d'Huez. It was definitely single file through there. At no point during the ride did I get that "I really want off of this bike" feeling I remember from my first Half Ironman. Surprisingly, for a guy living in the flatlands for the past 14 years I didn't find either of the two major climbs or the seven (ten?) rollers in between them all that challenging.I was pretty risk averse on the downhills though, stayed mainly on the base bars and never exceeded 72km/hr (Inside joke for the folks back home).

Before I knew it we were wheeling our way back in to Penticton. I'm proud to say that after almost 6 hours I was still able to execute an acceptable flying dismount. Very cautiously though. Seconds don't mean quite as much in Ironman.

In Part 2: The marathon and the finish

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Tom - I'll be using this to help update the Ironman Canada guide on BeyondTransition later in the year BeyondTransition/IronmanCanada. Cheers Denis