This tale starts 6 weeks ago. Three girls in a Suburban with questionable brakes hit the road and arrive in the Idaho town of Coeur D’Alene. The plan: swimbikerun 140.6 miles in scorching heat with 2000 other complete strangers that also though this was a good idea about 8 months ago. If you are going to race on the surface of the sun they say it’s best to pre-hydrate, get lots of rest and eat all the things. My body had a different plan. It figured expelling all food and fluid and disallowing new food and fluid would work better. Instant race weight?
I got up at 4am on race morning and set up my transition with all the would-be Ironmen that morning. I stuffed myself into my wetsuit and sauntered down to the water. It was a nice swim. I thought about getting out after one loop, but I didn’t want to look stupid to the crowd no, no dummy, you have to do two loops. So I kept swimming. Turns out I can breast stroke as fast as some people can free style and volunteers on kayaks are super surprised when you stop to say thanks. I got back to shore, walked to transition and turned in my timing chip.
I spent the rest of the day either in the sports themed bedroom of an 8 year old boy or out cheering for my friends that conquered an Ironman in seriously tough conditions.
Now that I was an IronQuitter, I needed a new plan. It was obvious: Ironman Canada. Pretty much my hometown race with free accommodation. Boom. In (with huge thanks to Forerunners North Shore for being an expo partner). Now I just needed to recover, stuff in 2 weeks of training and re-taper. Ugh.
Out of the frying pan into the freezer?
I try not to be one of those athletes that obsessively checks the weather forecast every hour for three weeks leading up to the race. The fact is you can’t control it unless you are Storm from Marvel comics and if you are we should talk about some well planted tornadoes out on the course that maybe delay the rest of the 35-39 age group. There was no denying that this weekend wasn’t going to have the 30 some-odd temperatures we’d all been training in this year. I wasn’t that worried though. I’m tough. I’m Canadian (other than that half British whinge-at-a-drop-of-rain thing.)
Before the start, it was nice out. No real threat of rain, just some clouds. I waded out to the lake during the national anthem and continued out to the start line with a small attempt to freak people out by throwing in some fly. I love a deep water start. It’s fun treading out there, looking around, getting psyched. I started just on the left of the start buoy with a perfect sight of the line. A few somersaults to get ride of jitters and BOOM off we go!
After a few jabs and kicks, I found clear water right along the buoy line and stayed there. I don’t worry about finding feet. With that many people the current is strong and it always seems that the feet you choose go the wrong way. It must have been about ¾ through the first loop when I notice you could see the rain hitting the water. Awwww maaaan. Brrrr. The wind was also picking up, the chop was noticeable. I had taken a calculated risk in not swimming much between my ill fated CDA swim and IMC to give my shoulder a break, in fact I hadn’t swam at all since the Tuesday before the race. I exited the water in 1:04 feeling great.
On my way to the change tent I saw my parents in transition. They had been there since 4am sorting clothes bags. That’s when I really noticed the weather. They were soaked. Ick. I put on everything I had in my bag, grabbed my bike and headed out past my sister and the crowds.
I rode cautiously or like one of those little old lady’s you see in a boat of a Cadillac with just the cotton top visible from the street. I was thankful for some of the climbs, but what goes up must come down in rapid apparent wind chilling you to the bone. I tried to stick to my plan of eating every 20 min, but the mechanics of getting food in became increasingly difficult. I didn’t even occur to me to take an open waffle package from the aid stations; it does now of course. Finally, even the bottles were too hard to get out of the cages and I had to come up with some creative ways to shift my bike other than using my fingers. Maybe I can use my head
Coming back through Whistler was fun and I wasn’t even that bothered by the cold. I did notice, however, that I couldn’t really feel anything below my waist. Maybe that’ll be a new technique for childbirth: natural freezing.
Just past Whistler I stopped at the porta-potty because damn if I still haven’t figured out how to pee on my bike. Why not eh? I was raining, who would notice. Ooooh, the warmth of the plastic closet. I continued on down to Pemberton on what at times looked like my own private road. No one in sight. Stopping at special needs now seems pointless. I hadn’t made much of a dent in my three bottles on my bike and I still had a bunch of food to get through. I had the volunteer throw my Mars bar in my jersey pocket as my hands didn’t have the dexterity.
Then it was onto the Meadows. If you had asked me before the race what part I was least looking forward to, it was the Meadows. Living in Whistler for 7 years and learning to ride there meant many, many trips out the dead flat Meadows Road. Oddly, I rather enjoyed it. I rode steady watching the roads dry out and feeling my body temperature rise. I tried to get back in the calories I had missed in the past few hours and started to pass a few people out there. New issue: with my body temperature coming back up, I was getting sleepy. I’ll just close one eye for a sec…maybe both just for a second… I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to get off my bike, lie down in the clover and take a nap.
It was about here that I noticed just what a pleasure cruise I had been taking. Average speed was more like a recovery ride. Whoops. The ride back to Whistler is tough, but I was ready for it. There’s where I was going to make some gains….orrr get frustrated with my speed and the stupid sign that said 155km when I’m sure I had already past 160. I made it back to Whistler with what I consider an almost embarrassing 6:12 bike split. Mother Nature:1. Liz: 0.
Getting off the bike at an Ironman is always amazing. Seeing your mom and sister on the fence cheering makes it even better. I made my quick transition into running shoes and headed out.
I felt good. I had a little stitch from needing to pee, but my legs felt good. Another sister was on the road and gave me the news I was sitting in 3rd in my AG and running better than they were. No problem, I felt great, I’d catch them. I ran well for 15k. Then that feeling came back. The I need to lie down on this gravel path and close my eyes feeling. It was like someone had changed the label of my morning espresso and I drank….DECAF! Oh, the horror. I was trying whatever I could to find some energy: caffeine GU, Pepsi, Red Bull. It wasn’t until the special needs area that I could get my 5 hour energy shot. New lesson: 5 Hour Energy Shot goes in T2 bag. So I plodded along with legs that felt fine and one eye open.
I don’t know if you guys realize this, but 42.2km is a long way. Also, 11+ hours is a long time to spend with your own thoughts. I’m not nearly as funny with me as my only audience. I don’t recall much of what I thought about. I am the triple treat. Ooh, look! toads! Running is stupid. I have 26k to go, ugh. I feel a bit more awake. Ooh, ok, go time! And off I went! And there I stopped. Cold riding leaves quads and calves far too vulnerable to cramping. So now I had some energy and legs that shout “If you run even a teeny bit harder, I’ll make you regret it” Back to my shuffle. I did eventually pass those two women in front of me…but only after I was passed by two others. Looks like 3rd is where I’ll stay.
Eventually, after those 42k, I get to run that little bit into the village. Both sisters, their husbands, my dad and my own little person were there welcoming me back to town. I enjoyed every second of running down Blackcomb Way towards that finish line. I embraced finishing my third Ironman and was greeted at the line by my partner-in-training-crime SMO. Then, there was my mom with tears rolling down her face. And finally, standing just behind them was my wonderful husband who had driven up from Vancouver in the middle of the busiest week of his life to watch me cross that line. I can’t thank my friends and family enough for coming out to support me and on my road to these races. Matt, SMO, Mum, Beryl, Dad, Laura, Ginny, Damian, Jer, Chrissy, Laurel, all the BRITE Coaching peeps and so many others including the great crew at Coeur Sports and Ken and Jerry at Forerunners North Shore. You are all part of my team.
So there it is: Ironman 2015. Hindsight has no place in Ironman in my opinion. If I had looked at the results for this race I would have been sure I would win my AG. I came third with two Kona slots allotted. Honestly, I’m not upset about my narrow miss. Financially it doesn’t make sense right now and I know when I’m ready to go I’ll get my chance. My last Ironman was August 2012. I finished in 11:26:45. This year I finished in 11:26:50. Three years apart, 5 seconds difference. But 5 seconds is a lot. In 5 seconds I became a wife, started a new career path, moved three times and…became a mom. It’s been a great 5 seconds.