IRONMAN CANADA JULY 27, 2014, WHISTLER B.C.
Brenda and I arrived in Whistler on the Wednesday prior to race day. Weather was cool and rainy and they were predicting rain for the next couple of days. We settled into our condo which was only 5 minutes from the finish line and a one minute stroll to the Olympic Plaza where registration and the expo was being held. Since we were going to travel to Vancouver Island after the race, I elected to use Tribike Transport to ship my bike to the venue. I would have to wait until noon Thursday to pick up my bike, so I decided to shake my travel legs and went for a short run. I had run the course when I was there in October (that’s when I decided to sign up for the race), so I was familiar with some of the trails in the area. Later on we met up with Gary Belanger and his family where we had a great dinner prepared by the wives.
Gary had rented a vehicle so we decided to drive the bike course from Whistler to Pemberton. Going out too Pemberton didn’t seem that bad, however on the way back we really noticed the engine really working to climb the hills back to Whistler. I realized come race day we would have our work cut out for us!
Picked up my bike, and Gary and I decided to ride the first leg from Whistler down to Olympic Park. The Sea-to-Sky highway is a very busy highway during the week and fairly hilly. Once we turned onto Callaghan Valley rd. we hit 3 hills all of them 10% grades. Once we hit the park we made our way back down to the highway which made for some very fast descents!!!
Mt. Tremblant was my first Ironman back in 2012 and of course my goal was simply to finish. I accomplished that with an 11:22:40 finish. For Whistler my goal was now to try and come in under 11 hours. I knew it was a tougher course but Matt got me to the race injury free and in very good shape, I was ready for the challenge ahead!
Woke up around 4:30 AM and began my pre-race rituals. Usually have Oatmeal, banana and some Gatorade. This race has two separate transition areas which meant we needed to take a shuttle to the swim start. Gary with bike pump in hand and I made our way to the buses. We arrived at T1 and I wanted to make sure that the bears hadn’t had their way with my bike nutrition! Located my bike bag and orientated myself with the swim exit. Last minute checks and I was ready to get my day started. Brenda and Irene, Garrett and Abi had made their way to T1. It was great seeing our support team all ready to cheer us on! The sun was starting to rise and with the water temperature at 66 deg. F, there was a light fog over the water. Brenda would tell me later that the race start was very picturesque with the mountains in the background, the sun coming up and the fog over the water.
This was my first in water start so I wasn’t sure where to place myself, so I decided to stay back a bit since swimming is not my strong suit. The Cannon went off and my race had begun. I started off steady and soon found myself surrounded by my fellow swimmers. There were several times throughout the swim where I found myself simply putting my arms out to protect myself from getting kicked in the face and not swimming at all. I thought this would subside on the second lap but I was wrong! I can never seem to find feet and stay on them, something I definitely need to try and figure out. Even though the water was a cool 66, I was beginning to heat up on the second loop. I was so relieved to get out of the water I forgot to look at the clock. I swam a 1:23 in Tremblant and was hoping for a sub. 1:20 for this race. I didn’t think I swam that well but I was glad to be on Terra Firma!
Grabbed my bike bag and headed to the tent where it was difficult finding a place to change. Drank my bottle of Accelerate while changing (didn’t do that in Tremblant) and went out to conquer the Rockies!
As I jumped on bike I could hear the race announcer giving a time split of 1:32 to one of the racers, so I knew I was well over my 1:20 goal and I tried not to let it get to me. The rider in front of me blew his tire, so I was somewhat relieved it was not me. The start was a bit of a climb before we headed out to the Sea to Sky Highway. Today it was great riding the highway since it was closed off to traffic. I settled into my pace and tried to keep my HR in ZN 3 for the most part. Since it was early in the race the 10% climbs to Olympic Park didn’t seem that bad, the descents on the way back were appreciated. Heading back into Whistler we saw a series of climbs and at one point I needed to stop and secure my tool bag which had come loose. Since we had not ridden the route from Whistler to Pemberton, I started to make a mental note of the number and lengths of descents that we were riding through. I lost track after about 5 or 6 and I tried to prepare myself for the long climbs back to Whistler. Grabbed my special needs bag in Pemberton and began the long 60 KM out and back section that is relatively flat. Took advantage of this section, enjoyed the scenery but tried not to go to hard knowing what lied ahead of me. Was averaging a comfortable 35.5 KM/hr until I made the right turn out of Pemberton back to Whistler. Stopped counting the number of riders I saw either walking their bikes up or simply just stopped on the side of the road, exhausted. Glad I was able to persevere though I was now averaging 22.5KM/hr in this section. I had clocked a 6:03 in Tremblant on a hilly course and though this was definitely the harder of the two, I was able to break the 6 hour mark but I was wondering if I had spent too much on the bike.
Was relieved to hand my bike over to the volunteer and to get out of my cycling gear! Made sure this time I made a pit stop before exiting transition. Didn’t get any sunscreen, but made sure I drank some perform before I headed out onto the run
As I headed out I was feeling pretty good and since running is my strong leg, I was feeling confident that I could achieve my goal! As I headed downhill to the first water station I could feel my left hamstring cramp up. I recalled my coach’s last words to me before I left Windsor; “Stop and stretch if you need to but DON’T WALK” it will kill your pace. So I stopped at the water station took in some fluids and stretched my hamstring. It seemed to help as I ran my first 6.5 KM at a 5:03 pace. My next 6.5 KM found me stretching more often and my paced slowed. I couldn’t get rid of the cramps. By the time I finished the first loop I was averaging a 5:44 pace and I knew my goals were not going to happen. As I passed Brenda she gave me some encouragement, I kissed her and set off to finish the race. Being back in the village I had to fight the demons in my head who were telling to pack it in there will be other races. I thought about it briefly but reminded myself, I didn’t train all this time not to finish; besides there was no reason for me not to continue. I knew I would be disappointed in my results and not achieving my goals but here I was in this beautiful setting and all I had to do was go another 21 KM! After I left the village area, I began stopping more often. A fellow athlete stopped and gave me some salt tablets but by now it was too late. My pace really fell off and by the 35KM mark I had enough, I was going against my coach’s advice and I began to WALK. At this point it was the only way in mind I was going to finish this race. Not sure if it was the salt tablets the cheering of the crowds but I managed to run the last 3 KM at a 4:34 KM pace, where was that pace for the last 30 KM?? 12 and a half hours after I started my race in Rainbow Park I had finally crossed the finish line. So glad to see my AWESOME wife at the finish line still cheering me on! I did manage to see Gary and Will complete their journey and was glad to be at the finish line cheering on the last of the athletes at Midnight.