IMC Whistler Race Report
Aug 25th 2013, 3.8k Swim, 180k Bike, 42.2k Run.
So… 2013 wasn’t supposed to be an Ironman year for me.
‘The Plan’ was to gain some good fitness, learn a few things about IM distance, prove a few things to myself in 2012, then return to short course and dominate the (local) age group rankings for sprint/Olympic distance for my last two years in this easier age group. But… plans change J.
Being part of ‘the last IM Penticton’, was a really weird feeling with a really sad/strange vibe in town. Subsequently, being involved in the ‘Bring IM to Vernon’ project then had me pretty pumped up and excited about the distance, and Ironman in general, so when they announced the new home of IMC in Whistler, I signed up without thinking twice. Cool! New venue, new course, no expectations, Fun! Also, I will admit, even though a long shot, the double Kona spots up for grabs were a selling point for me for sure. I felt guilty at first for not supporting Penticton and heading back to race there, but the 2012 event was seriously a downer, so on to new, fresh, bright and shiny. Talked a few others into joining me (or… Did they talk me into it??… Wait… Whose idea was this anyway!?!). Rented a house with the CRanBlairies (Craig/Randy/Blair) and families, awesome! Group road trip it is. Don’t forget the beer.
Whistler was AMAZING. I signed up for WTC, hyped up excitement, challenging course, mass start, competitive field, and that is EXACTLY what I got! (side note: WTC is the company that owns the brand Ironman, but this is the first Ironman Canada that the WTC has operated, previous IMC was operated by a third party contractor… or something like that. Anyway, my first WTC race).
From the Ironman backpacks to a bike course on a closed provincial highway, and village streets lined with spectators, to the massive hunk of a finishers medal around my neck, I feel completely satisfied that I got the full Ironman experience. My race result on the other hand… not as satisfied, but not unhappy either.
I really trained this year, I hired a phenomenal coach (huge thank you to Mel Spooner, Endurance Health & Fitness), did the work, I was fit (little bit overweight, but super fit in terms of endurance), and very strong. I was also mentally prepared to do the work, but also going in feeling light. I felt lighter this year in terms of pressure, expectations, worry, and mostly fear. I had a healthy respect for the task at hand, but was not fearful (like last year).
My goal on a perfect day is a sub 11hr finish. Which is high, and a full hour faster than my previous best. I know that on the right day, if the stars align, that my mind and body are capable of that result. But, I also know that anything can happen, and I didn’t really know the course that well, nor did anyone else. I went in with a firm plan to enjoy my day, keep it ‘light’, and execute a good nutrition plan, while riding patiently.
So the race:
Swim – Mass deep water start 2200 athletes = awesome! Started front and centre, which worked last year, I had clean water. Not this year! Had to fight for space for the first 2 buoys for sure, but that’s to be expected, and part of the fun. Ok, done that, bucket list item ticked off, now they can roll in the rolling starts. The rest of the swim was calm, clean, and I was able to settle into a good groove and do my thing. Smiled most of the way. I have this part of the race nailed in terms of how much effort I’m willing to put out for the time I want to achieve. Not willing to kick, the 3-5min I would get aren’t worth the effort, so, 1:02 it is. Passed a pro (who had a 10min head start), that was really cool. 25th woman, 5th in AG out of water.
Through T1, no troubles, easy to spot a yellow bike.
Bike – this is where it fell apart for me. Right from the start. Mounted my bike on the hill out of Rainbow park and felt heavy. Tired/sore/heavy legs. Uh oh. What the hell? I thought ok, it’ll pass, just keep it light, sit up, get to the highway and then settle in, it’ll pass. It’s about 3k from Rainbow Park to hwy 99. And it’s a climb, so I hadn’t intended to settle in until the highway anyway. No biggie.
Ok highway 99 plan is spin the legs, have a gel, smile for cameras, find a rhythm, be mindful of the climb ahead and don’t worry about being passed, it’s going to happen, allow it, race my own day.
I should mention here, because it’s a substantial thing for me, that being a good swimmer is a hard thing on the bike, so I had prepared myself with the idea that being passed is ok, and it didn’t mean that my day was going poorly. I knew logically that even if I had the ride of my life, (6hrs on this course), I would still get passed by hundreds, so I had to accept and let it be.
Turned out to be a good plan but executed in a detrimentally excessive way. Kept thinking ‘patience’/’pace’/’my own race’.
I ended up riding that way for the entire 180k. I rode all the hills in my easiest gear, in the back of my mind remembering the heavy legs I started with, but also purposely riding conscious of the long climb ahead. Perhaps even riding fearful of the climb ahead? I rode in my comfort zone, I was not tough, I did not ‘race’ the bike. I am slightly disappointed with that for various reasons, still processing the why’s of that portion.
A bike course report from this race would not be complete without mention of the drafting on Pemberton Meadows Road. I get to see a lot of the bike course (because I start at the front and finish middle of pack), and I did not see one drafting card handed out, which is unusual, because I start the bike with the front of the pack Age Groupers, and often see lots of people getting carded. I was not the only one who noticed that the officials weren’t calling anything. Pemberton Meadows Road was a free for all! Pelotons of anywhere between 20-40 riders were the norm, with blatant drafting, wheel sucking, and team work happening on what is supposed to be a time trial, no drafting course. I won’t lie, and I will admit, that at one point I questioned whether hoping on one of the many trains that passed me was the right option, and the way to race on this particular course, on this particular day. I quickly came to my (moral) senses, and made a conscious choice to pull my own weight, and haul my slow sorry ass all by myself back to T2 no matter how long it took me. I also remember thinking, “well if this is what i have to do to go to Kona, then i don’t wanna go, and I’m NEVER racing WTC again!” I was trying to be proud of my decision, but that’s hard to do when you are still getting passed (now by the 10s of hundreds), and grumpy, and hot, and slow, and tired, and…. tried to pick it up a few times from my steady/comfy 28 kph to 30, but it felt kinda hard, so then I didn’t. (Side note: there were lots of people who were not drafting, and earned their podium/Kona places or finishers medal, and I don’t mean to imply that all WTC races are full of cheaters, or that all those who qualified were drafting, these are simply recollections of my glycogen depleted state. Turns out this was one of the first time event glitches, they were short about a dozen motorbike volunteers, and I am hopeful these issues will be resolved for next year. Also, the officials must have had a change in directive, because the penalty tents near the end of the course were full. Rumour also has it that officials were encouraged to give warnings only because it was a first year event. Something about wanting athletes to be happy and wanting to return, and if the course is too hard, or the times are too slow, they won’t. Rumours.)
Took my own sweet time back up to Whistler, ate lots of treats and enjoyed the scenery. Besides, it’s 35k uphill, and then I’m going to run a marathon, treats it is! Bike 6:44. Really?!? Yup, 6:44.
Alright the run, yayyyyy to run! Into T2 at 8hrs, alright I thought, I can still pull this together for at least a sub 12, PB day. Just run.
And Run I did. For the first 30k at least. Felt awesome, quick feet, light, happy, cool, caffeinated, yippee I’m running! Ran a mile with the 4th place woman as she was on her 2nd lap, but I decided it was in my best interest to let her go, saw a bear, saw Spiderman (great race Grant!), ran up hills, ran down hills, saw the big posters I made for the cranblairies, saw Hella/Kees/Angie/Warren – yayyy friendly faces! Then did it all again for loop 2. On the last 10k my legs started to tighten up, started to hurt, but it didn’t matter, because I was going to be an Ironman! On my birthday! And the body marking volunteer said I looked like Chrissy Wellington!
Run – 4:17, a PB by 18min.
Good for 12:10 race time, not a PB, but fairly close. Good enough for 15th in AG, moving on up the ranks.
So without regret or disappointment, but with learning and improving as the goal, I will spend some time working through the following questions:
-why did my legs feel heavy/sore at the start of the bike (will review taper and pre-race activities).
– how can I learn to take some more risks on the bike like I am willing to do in the swim/run
-was I truly mentally prepared, or had I talked myself out of a good bike split before I even started?
– how can I keep my run pace up while getting the nutrition I need (running really well but slowing/stopping a lot at aid stations.
– how do I find an internal focus on the bike, so that I can avoid distractions that are beyond my control? How can I train to be focused for 6hrs. (or 7 as the case may be)
So, at the end of the day, while I wanted to be faster, and know that my body is capable of being faster, I put it into perspective and think of all that I have accomplished over the past year:
– loved my kids and hubby Shayne and made a happy home (even if its not clean)
-race directed a XC running race for the first time,
-tried to bring IM to Vernon
-helped make a KOS race happen
– successfully grew my business
-held down 2 ‘real jobs’
-learned to pivot turn a SUP
-was a full season of ‘hockey mom’
-was a full season of ‘swim club mom’
-and was a 12:10 Ironman.
I’ll take it for now. But I’ll be back Whistler.
Thanks for reading my random thoughts.