Sunday, September 2, 2012

Right to Play Ironman Canada Race Report.

Friends and family,

August 26th was leg one of my three event Right to Play Charity Challenge. I decided to get involved with Right to Play because I am learning as I get a bit older that the nonsense that is triathlon is actually quite a gift. A gift both in the physical ability to compete, and the mental capacity to do the work and get the job done. It is a gift to have the financial ability to fly out to Canada's most beautiful place and spend a week plus with family. And these gifts are given because we are first world adults and kids that have so much opportunity. Right to Play help the too many that can't do that and Right to Play does everything it can to create access, to build social skills, to give kids who otherwise have no chance a chance, to succeed in life.

Sport can change lives. I am witness. It changed mine.

If you haven't, please donate to this great cause by clicking this link!

swim start. Just 2600 friends!
Swim: 58:09 - 11th in age group and 72nd overall.
calm before the storm!
I spent a lot of time since last fall building swim fitness with the Kim Lumsdon swim and tri club here in Toronto. My goal was not to get necessarily faster in the water per se, but more efficient such that I use less energy on Ironman day. I had a bit of a shocker start and after about 1KM in began to find a good groove. As we came closer to the buoy at the far side of the swim course the swells felt like they were pushing me around a bit. Sharp right for a few hundred meters and then a right to come home I felt really good but for some reason felt like I couldn't keep a straight line in the swells. My pack put distance into me as I regrouped. From there I led the next group with one other gent. I figured we were doing ok because he was on my left and I breath left so could see his very, very solid swim form! Looking at his form and after putting in a surge or two I realized this was our pace. I was not dropping this group so stayed efficient and calm. Overall I am happy with the swim. Many asked if the swim was long but I think the swells really slowed us down about a minute or two. I am happy with the swim progress.

Big sis, nephew Bryan, and niece Sarah!
Bike: 5:03:14 - 5th in age group and 32nd overall.

After fiddling around in transition deciding what to wear and if my watch was working (it wasn't) I finally got going to my bike. I instantly felt great on the road. Riding out of town I rode through a few athletes along the Skaha Lake to McLean Creek Road.

 Once up and over the steep pitch on McLean Creek a few athletes came by and I decided to let them go. It wasn't too hard of a pace but I was worried my heart rate was 10 beats above where it usually is at the 225-230 watt sweet spot. I didn't want to wreck my race in the first 30KM's of the bike ride. As we dropped down into Okanagan Falls and turned left on highway 97 to head to Osoyoos and the fame Richter's Pass I was curious: "WHERE IS EVERYBODY?" Usually when I do IMC there is a train of riders by this stage but I was solo. I had one rider I could see up in the distance that I used as a carrot but along this road no one was ahead or behind. It was odd but I just stayed to the plan of 225-230 average watts that I reset every 30 minutes. Get the gels, Salt Sticks, and fluids into me and take deep breaths.

Once arriving to Richter's Pass I could see a pack up ahead climbing the pitches of the pass that I assumed was the lead swim pack. One by one I picked them off staying very close to 290-300 watts on the 7% grades and back down to 225 along the flatter sections. My legs just felt so great!! I was praying for stiff headwinds once up and over the pass I felt that good and with great legs in triathlon you want wind. Wind hurts. The more wind, the better for my bike legs to try and create distance between me and the others. Up and over the descent was a thrilling bomb ride to the bottom and from there its seven rollers, a flat section, and then the out and back. It is this part that is usually viciously windy. Today there was no wind! Like ZERO wind in this section!

Some of the riders from Richter's descended well and we formed a group of about 6 along the rollers. As we moved through this section we picked up a few of the women pro's that start 15 minutes ahead of the amateurs. One was Janelle Morrison who frankly is lucky to be alive never mind racing Ironman.
Click that link there and take a read, it is an amazing story; truly.

Once upon the flat section toward the out and back I put my head down and conserved as much energy as possible because my experience with the out and back always sucks. It saps the life out of me. I don't know why so I was preparing for the mental strain that was ahead.

I saw Nigel Gray on the turn into the out and back section. His cheers gave me strength as I headed along the patch that usually strains me. I kept a very acute eye for bees as that has ruined a race. Wild turkeys as I have seen that out there. Riders ahead and behind at the turn. Surprisingly I got through the section pretty good and headed off to Yellow Lake climb. It is here I struggled slightly. My legs started to become tired and the wind up top was picking up. The good news once on top of Yellow Lake there is pretty much descending all the way home. Put the head down, and roll with it!

Back into town I pushed the false flats and gained a bit of time before one last gel 5K from transition and prepared for the run. I was ready and damn excited to get going.

First mile was 7:30. Felt great!
Run: 4:28:54 - 107th in age group and 677th overall

I came out of transition thinking, 'WHOA I FEEL INCREDIBLE!" My legs have never felt better starting an Ironman run! I ran a 7:30 to start that included a quick stop to kiss Meredith and another to hug nephew Bryan. I wish I knew why, once taking the turnaround to head back along Lakeshore Rd. my right soas muscle felt a twinge. 500M later my right ab felt cramping. Exactly the same spot it did in Hawaii. I had no stomach cramps or distention so my nutrition was getting absorbed. I slowed the pace to 8 minute miles and the pain was manageable. But it never went away. I just persevered and played math games from that moment all the way to the 10 mile marker. Just a game within my head to try and keep pace for a 3:30 - 3:40 marathon. Just keep going, keep going. Suck it up. This is a gift. This pace easily beats your PB. You can still do a 9:50 flat Ironman and that is HUGE if you just keep this pace. Shut up Mr. Negative brain; wake up Mr. Positive brain. YOU CAN DO THIS. Look up. Straight ahead. Still on track. You ROCK.

Last mile was 14:00. Felt TERRIBLE!
Then at mile 10 the soas really pulled. The pain sharp as a knife went from the soas up to the diaphragm. One big giant rip along my right side. Bloody hell that hurt! WALK. Stop. SHIT. Regroup. Stretch. Breathe deep.

I went from 3:40 marathon pace to 4:00 hour pace in 3 miles. Run/walk/run/walk to the turn around. I just wanted to get there and get my special needs bag to grab my Tums and chew away. I crushed 5 of them to try and release some gas in my stomach hoping that would alleviate some pain. It worked, for a mile. Things were not good. My brain went in many different directions. As I jogged out of OK Falls up the mile long climb I just thought of Meredith, Dad, Big Sis, Bryan and Sarah. I had to keep going. The disappointment I was feeling was draining away and I reminded myself the gift that is DOING THIS.

I played math games all the way home. Can I beat a 11 minute mile? No. Ok, 11:30? No. OK, 12? YES! Ok, keep going...literally, all I remember for the 2.5 hours it took to run the final 13 miles was the white line. The bloody white line on the road. Head down. Slow jog is faster than walking. White line. I only had the one thought at the turn around re: quitting; the rest was all self talk to keep going and be positive and enjoy life because I CAN. Others, they cannot. This is a gift.

The math became painful with 10KM to go. Initially I thought, 10K is easy. I do this every day. Then I did the math. 6 miles * 12minutes per mile = 1 hour and 12 minutes???? O-M-G! Just keep going. The final mile is easy with the crowd and you will see your family so its an hour. One more hour. Just keep going!

Meredith, Bryan, Dad, me, Sarah, Joanne
Finish: 10:39:01 - 34th in age group and 350th overall

The final mile took my 14 minutes. I was done. I saw Meredith, Dad, Joanne, Bryan, and Sarah and just couldn't look at them. The disappointment was just too much after staying so darn focused just to finish the past 2 hours. As I passed I just covered my face and started crying. Emotions come in different forms for different reasons when you are putting yourself to the test. I felt the test was a fail at that moment. Not to them, to me. 8 months of work, hard miles, quite a bit of money and I just didn't have it.

Big Daddy reminds me stand tall, shoulders back, be proud
I ran the finish shoot and a great girl sprinted past. She was so HAPPY! Once I crossed the line and was caught by the volounteers I walked by her and she said aloud, "OMG. That is SUCH A GREAT FEELING. OMG. I LOVE THIS!" She was on the moon!! I loved it. I turned around and said, "thank you. You're awesome. Thank you." I was thanking her because she reminded me there is no better feeling than finishing an Ironman. Its just you and the test and the ultimate test is the finish line. My mood changed. My tears turned to smiles. I got my photo taken. Chugged back a cola, sat beside Nigel Gray and Steve Fleck and stared out to space. Ironman; whether a great personal performance or a dud, is still the single greatest moment you can bring yourself and test 'what's possible'. Today, 10:39:01 was possible and bottoms up to that!

Epilogue: When thanks is due....

Product support that needs to be called out. They do help me and provide a great service. 
More importantly, none of this is possible without Meredith; period. Thank you. And of course to big sis Joanne and her kids for coming out from Atikokan to Penticton and Dad who came all the way from the UK. It really made for a special experience and when desperately needed, for great motivation to get 'er done! Family makes it all worth *it*. Thank you.