My 2007 Ironman Canada race report took a while to write. After the race, I contemplated walking away from Ironman, and it took about one week for me to reflect on my race experiences. Below are the cold hard facts about one day of my life in 2007.
Side note: The 2007 Ironman Canada was my 8th Ironman, BUT it was the first one I felt like I could race. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could race my previous Ironmans, I simply hadn’t built the base to push it for 8+ hours. In 2007, I had the base. And the speed. And the build-up. And I was ready to show it off!
Back to the race report. This was written in early September, 2007.
I have had over one week to process the IM Canada experience and, I guess, with time, comes clarity. My emotions about he race have touched on happiness, frustration, anger, questioning, gratefulness, uncaring, and all-consuming thought.
Immediately after the race, I believed I was retiring from Ironman competitions. I was just too tired of putting forth so much effort, time, and emotion into one day – a day where the body may or may not respond optimally. I trained as better than I ever have and still couldn’t execute on race day. But those emotions were soon transformed into wanting to capitalize on the fitness I have and try again. I’m doing IM Florida on November 3.
Anyway, with all that out of the way, I will report a bit on the race although the most interesting stuff is what happened in my mind rather than the events of the race.
Days before the race: I flew to Seattle and met up with my good friend Max. He was generous enough to accompany me to Penticton and serve as my escort. We arrived in Penticton around noon on Friday, just in time to pick up my packet and attend the pro meeting. The pro meetings are always interesting. There is a lot of tension in the room – I suppose that is bound to happen when all of the possible race winners are sitting in the same room quietly sizing each other up. The realization of that occurred when the head race official was explaining the course and said, “one of you will be in the lead so pay attention…”
Max and I drove the race course Saturday. Penticton and the Okanagon valley is BEAUTIFUL. I could definitely settle there. We stopped at a winery and a fruit stand, and had the most delicious plums ever. The rest of the day-before-the-race stuff was uneventful.
Pre-race: I got up around 3 am and ate, then sat around and watched TV. Max took me to the race site around 5 which gave me plenty of time to get body marked and my transition bags set up. I did two silly things that somebody who has done seven Ironmans shouldn’t have done. The first thing was that I put all of my run stuff in the “swim to bike” bag and my bike stuff in the “bike to run” bag. I caught this mistake and fixed it, but, sheeesh, I shouldn’t have done that… The second thing was that I left the bottle with most of my calories for the bike at the hotel. Fortunately, I had two bottles of the same calorie source in my special needs bike bag so I grabbed one of those bottles and used it during most of the bike. I used the bathroom one last time, but didn’t feel like I was able to “totally empty myself.” There really is nothing you can do about this unless the beginning of the race is delayed, so you just hope that most of the stuff has passed. I was able to get to the water around 6:25 so I could do a good swim warm-up before we took off at 6:45.
Swim: The start of the swim went very well. I was able to sit in a nice group for the first ~500m. I was on the feet of some guy and we were cruising in a nice group of people. I decided to stick on his feet and ride the current. After about 5 minutes, I started to bump into his feet. I decided to go around him and get with somebody else in the group, but as I passed him, I realized that the group had gapped us by about 15-20m. By the first turn (1600m), I was by myself and ended up swimming the remainder of the swim solo. This was not ideal and was very frustrating because I started in the group that eventually went 57 min. As I approached the finish of the swim, I saw that I would be getting out by myself AND there were about 2000 people at the finish. I was rather self-conscious the last 100m as I stood up and tried to walk/run out of the shallow water and tried not to trip. Some of my friends were watching on Ironmanlive and said that the announcer needed to fill time so, while I was getting out of the lake, the camera was on me only and he read my biography! That was neat, but I would have rather been an anonymous face in a group that went 57 minutes. I got out of the water in 1:01:30. Quite a bit slower than I felt that I was capable of going, but onward…
Bike: The majority of the first 25 miles was flat-to-downhill. I immediately knew that I was blocked (in terms of digestion). Everything I took in sat in my stomach, plus I was burping (which means that things are wanting to go up, not down – we want the food to go down to be absorbed). I tried to ease up on the pace and sit up as much as I could to try to relax the digestive system, but it didn’t work too well. Finally about 2 hours into the bike, I started to feel stuff emptying out of my stomach, but the damage was already done – it is not a good idea to go ~3 hours without absorbing calories in a 9-hour race. The bike was fun, and would have been more fun if I had people to ride with, but I rode most of it solo. Richter Pass and Yellow Lake (the two major climbs) were a blast – there were people lined up on either side of the road. They were very encouraging and made the climbs rather enjoyable. I never felt great on the bike ride and my watts showed it – I only managed 236 watt average for the ride and a 5:16 bike split. This was very disappointing because I came in to the race ready to hold a 260-280W average and hopefully get a bike split around 4:45-4:50.
Run: I got off the bike and the legs felt pretty bad – sort of like I just rode 112 miles hard (or without adequate calorie consumption?). The run was 13.1 miles out and 13.1 miles back along a lake – it was a really beautiful run. I began the run at about 7:0x pace and a mellow HR – both pretty good signs. The first 3 miles wound through Penticton where hundreds of people lined the road and cheered. After a few miles, the legs loosened up and I relaxed into a low 7 pace at a good HR. But, like my last few IM marathons, about mile 11, the legs started to get heavy and each step became painful. My pace slowed as I walked the aid stations to get in more calories and water. My pace between walks was good, but walking each aid station killed the average pace. This is something I cannot do if I want a good marathon split. At the turn-around I hit the split on my watch and saw that all I had to do was run a 1:50 half-marathon and I’d be under 10 hours. This was a far cry from my original goal of going under 9 hours, but you when presented with the current situation, adjusting the goal is necessary. A 1:50 1/2 marathon seemed pretty doable, so I made “sub-10” my new goal. As the last half progressed and the pain in the legs worsened, the motivation to go under 10 hours lessened, but each time I got a split, sub-10 was still in my reach. Somewhere around mile 22, I just decided to run and not stop so I could get the run done sooner and finally rest. I made it under 10 hours with a 3:33 marathon. Again, quite disappointing as I felt I was ready to go under 3:00 for the marathon. That’s Ironman racing…
Post race: The volunteers at IM Canada were amazing. At the finish line I was greeted by two folks who didn’t leave my side until I was at the food tent and talking in complete sentences. I saw Max and told them my plans for retirement. I looked around the finish area and saw that everyone was hobbling around, top-10 guys, Lisa Bentley (the female champ), everyone. I had this small moment of enlightenment that the IM marathon never feels good, but a champion is able to keep it rolling. I was already thinking about a comeback from retirement…
Follow-up thoughts: It basically comes down to execution. I was super-fit and just didn’t execute the race that I was capable of. I don’t really know if it was just that day, or if I wasn’t ready to go as fast as I believed I was, or if I had some sort of mental block. Whatever the cause, the effect was that I had a-less-than-optimal race.
One of the great things about Ironman is that the mind is stripped naked and we are able to see what we really are. Sometimes there is amazing strength, other times there is weakness. Both of these are ever-present, it is just a matter of which we answer to.
Ironman gives us the chance to see the Truth – to see how we really respond. I approach experiences as a mystic, and every event I’m engrossed in serves as a vessel to deep understanding. Ironman was the vessel last Sunday. I saw everything, and I left disappointed.
I’m always grateful when I am able to complete an Ironman. It is no small feat. To go under 10 hours on a “day that I didn’t feel that good and go as fast as I thought I could have” is pretty good. I remember when breaking 10 hours was my goal. I suppose that being disappointed with 9:58 shows how far I have come in the Ironman journey. But it is more than the time; it is more than the placing…