Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Ironman Canada Whistler

This 2018 Ironman journey was one of the best yet. Not because I've been smashing PRs or winning. But because I am having fun. I've continued where 2016 and 2017 left off. I am enjoying the journey and all of the people I meet on that journey. I am also totally fine being a little slower than I have been in years past. This is where I am at this year. End of story. As a result, I have not dreaded one long run, long swim, or long ride. Sure there were a few times that I was tired, but as soon as I started moving I was excited to be training and playing triathlon.

As soon as we left Vancouver Airport we were greeted with spectacular mountains! Enormous mountains at the edge of the ocean and in the distance as far as one could see. I've not seen much of the West Coast or mid West for that matter and I am in awe of the beauty of the Whistler-Vancouver area. I am fairly certain that my mouth was gaped open for the first 8 hours that we were there.

Ironman teaches us how to adjust in life and in races. The Whistler Ironman Canada had several hiccups. Number One: No pedals. As Carole and I went to pick up our bikes from Tri Transport I discovered that I didn't have my pedals! WHAT!!! Now that I am home I've discovered that they must have been taken out of my bag somewhere along the journey. No idea why or when. They're not home and they were not in my bag. The important thing is that I could either buy a new pair OR borrow them. Carole took a chance and asked Tri Bike Transport if they had any I could rent or borrow. They DID!! Pedals put on bike. All is good. Minor freak out and crisis averted. We went for a little shake out run and I went for a little solo shake out ride.

Saturday was bike and gear bag drop off. This went very smoothly. And then I did a little shake out swim in Alta Lake. The lake was the absolute perfect temp, 69 degrees, and clear. It is surrounded by, yup you guessed it, stunning mountains with glacial ice and snow. The rest of the day I did my best to relax and do some dynamic stretching and foam rolling. And eat and hydrate.

I never got nervous for this race until the morning of. Carole and I trudged over to T2 to hop get body marked and take the shuttle bus at the wonderful hour of 4:30 am. BONUS: I've gotten up at 4 am nearly every week day (and some weekends) for months. I felt pretty good that morning. Some butterflies but super excited to play. As we drove into T1 the nerves got a tiny bit out of control, but then I remembered why I'm here. How lucky I am to do triathlon. At this moment in time I am healthy enough to put my body through a ridiculous amount of training and stress. Races are scary and shit can go wrong. But shit can go wrong walking across the street. I am not going to win. So there's no pressure. It was a fully supported long day in the hot sun with 1900 (plus the 70.3 athletes) friends. A sly smile crept over my whole body as I stood in line ready to jump in the lake. I was surrounded by beauty and a bunch of crazy driven people.

The race was self seated slow pile into the water. We were all in by 6:30. I think I entered the water about 6:15 am, about 55 degree air temp. Calm cool and collected. Until my face hit the water. Heart rate accelerated and my usual freak out moment happened. But I did a few breast stokes followed by free until I calmed down. By the time I crossed the second site buoy I was in the zone and swimming in a fairly tight line. I felt great! I tried very hard to draft, but couldn't find someone at the right speed. I need to work on swim drafting. Definitely a goal for next season. Nearly every breath revealed a gorgeous view. The swim course was two laps and then into the beach.

Amy was volunteering as a wetsuit stripper! She didn't take my wetsuit off, but I got to see and squeeze her in T1. It bumped my already good mood. One leg done. By this time it was starting to get warm, but still pleasant. I moved fairly quickly through transition and hopped on my bike. I felt absolutely fantastic on the first leg and 3/4 of the bike. I was thinking "I'm good at climbing, all that work really paid off, o hey look I'm on target for a 6 hr bike split, this is a tough course but doable!" And then the sun rose and was beating down on us and the road, and oooo my GAWD it was hot. I've ridden in some hot humid weather this year, but this was far worse. There was little to no shade on the bike course. Fortunately there were some very long fast descents to cool us down a bit.

The aid stations on the bike and the run were phenomenal. Each time I rolled into one the volunteers were right there to fill my bottle, put ice down my back, squirt me with cold water, put sunscreen on, or hold my bike while I used the port-a-potty. I was in very good spirits on the bike until the last 1/2 of the last lap. I was so hot that my arms were dripping with sweat and it felt like I had a hot pack on my back. Water was warm and even hot very quickly. I was starting to get nauseous. I stopped caring about a time goal (not that I had a huge one anyway). I stopped at every aid station and filled my bottles with ice cold water. I stuffed ice in all the places to cool my core. I stopped at the bottom of one hill because I needed to. Because it seemed too much to conquer. I stopped at a turn around because I felt like stopping. Each time I kept going. I kept going because I don't give up. Because I could still pedal and I may not be able to tomorrow. I thought about all my friends and family who helped me get to the start line on Sunday. I thought about all the kids I treat who never had the opportunity to play triathlon. I thought of Amy who supports me 2000% even tho I am a pain in the ass because she knows triathlon makes me tick. I kept going and made it to T2.

Part of me hoped they'd cancelled the run cause it was so damn hot. The other 99% of me didn't because I came all the way to Whistler to a damn Ironman, not skip a marathon. So I did what I'm supposed to. I cried a little walking into the changing tent. I slowly put on my run gear. My stomach churned. I started running out of T2, stumbling, dizzy, and nauseous. I walked. I tried running. I got to the first aid station and drank some Pepsi. Within 60 seconds I threw up. I sat on a stump and again, for what seemed like an hour, thought about giving up. Then I stood up. I had 7 hours to complete a marathon. I could walk it if I had to. It was at that moment that I decided I was going to finish. Even if I had to give the officials my chip and bib. I was walking across the line.

I met some fantastic people in that 26.2 miles. We small talked. We laughed at the heat. Strangers cheered for me like I was a rock star. I kept taking in small amounts of Pepsi, water, and chips. Slowly I felt better. I could run from one telephone pole to the other. Then two, then three. Then for a quarter of a mile. Eventually I was able to run for almost a mile before walking. My legs felt pretty damn good but by the time I reached mile 6 or so on the run I was so behind on nutrition that I was weak. But I kept going. Sometimes I ran for longer than I thought that I could.

When I came through town heading into my second loop I found a new wind. I started picking up the pace when I ran. I knew at this point that I'd finish legitimately. Only problem was I left my timing chip in T2. I realized this fairly early on and did notify officials. I'm still waiting to see if my official time will change from a DNF to a finish time. I saw Carole and Kristof each twice on the run. Both KILLING it and looking strong!

When it got dark, for me a bit past the final turn around with roughly 6 miles to go that it became magical. We all had lights and glow somethings on us. There were lanterns every bit for sighting, but you couldn't see much. Far ahead you'd see bobbling heads and tiny lights. Suddenly a fellow runner would appear and we'd cheer for each other. Suddenly there'd be cheers in the near distant and spectators were cheering for you. I kept smiling and shouting "Best Day Ever". Best Day Ever not because it was a PR, but because I pushed so far past the limits I thought I had so many times. I reassessed and found a new plan more times than I ever h
ad. I climbed more feet in hotter weather than I've ever done.

When I ran through town at my final turn onto the path my arms spread out to my sides and if I'd not been so dehydrated I would have cried. A mere mile from the finish, if that. They loop-de-looped us through town. At one point myself another racer thought we were there. We reached out for each others hands and both said I'm going to cry. It was a tease, just a few more turns-damn Ironman. And there it was. Ironman finishers shoot. Still lined with spectators. Families. Friends. Maybe locals. Cheering. I flew down the shoot, taking in every last high five. I crossed the line and stumbled into someones arms. That someone was my badass, gorgeous, kind, supportive rock star of a girlfriend. She'd been there since 2 pm at the finish line. Volunteering since 6:30 at T1. This Ironman was special for so many reasons. And that was one of them.

Ironman number three is in the books. There will be more. But for now I'm still on cloud 9.