Friday, August 31, 2007

Ironman Canada 2007

Wow- where do I start? I can't believe it's only been 5 days since the actual race since it feels like a distant memory at this point. I've really enjoyed DOING NOTHING the past couple of days and plan on easing back into the workouts very slowly. Although I didn't hit my goals for the race, I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to give it a go out there. Let me share my journey from race start to finish...

The day before it was all about shaking out pre-race nerves with a quick S/B/R workout. First we headed to the lake for a quick 15-20 minute swim. Steven and I met up with my friend Kevin and his girlfriend Sharon. They are a couple fast triathletes from the triathlon mecca of Colorado- definitely nice to have their company for the swim since Kevin is always the source of a few good laughs! Here we are pre-swim- not sure why I look so friggen skinny here but let me assure you it is an optical illusion! ;-)

We followed it up with a quick bike with a few race pace spin-ups. I then went for a 15 minute run around the block before shutting it down for the day.

We took it easy the rest of the day while getting the bike and race bags ready for drop-off. Afterwards, just a bit of sight-seeing/relaxing. Here's Deb and I posing for the obligatory Peach pic at the beach! Yes,I'm wearing a pink what! ;-)

Race Day Morning
4:15am jolted awake by my two alarms...yes, I am anal on race day and don't like taking any chances with a missed alarm! ;-) It's strange but I always count on Deb at this point to take over. Sensory overload with anticipation / dread of the rest of the day, I tend to move pretty darn slowly early on - almost as if I would rather just avoid the whole day. She is great and starts getting me in the right mindset...."you are going to have a great day out there", etc. With a quick attitude adjustment at the hands of my favorite cheerleader, I'm up soon enough and downing 3 chocolate Ensures (750 cal). I typically take in 4 Ensures pre-race;however, in light of stomach issues in the last 3 weeks, I didn't want to push the calorie count too high. My stomach didn't protest too much and before I knew it, it was time for us to meet Steven and Karen for the short drive to race central. It was good to have my wingman there- Steven and I had done the majority of the long stuff together so nice to have him there to share the day. We said our goodbyes to the girls and were off to T1.

Bodymarking was a clusterF%@!- note to self, bring my own marker next year so I don't have to deal with the crowds at bodymarking.

Quick check of the bike, drop off the special needs bags, and start thinking of getting into the wetsuit. It was nice running into my friend Kevin in transition- i've seen him up here the last 3-4 years. We wished each other well and were on our way. I sent Steven on his way as well assuming we'd run into each other out on the course.

147 / 393 AG (Age Group)
836 / 2588 OA (Overall)

With close to 2600 people out there, I knew the swim was going to be crowded. As in years past, I lined up on the far right closest to the buoy-line. It sounds nuts but this is actually the best place to line up to avoid the massive crowds at IMC since everyone seems to swing wide of the buoy line on the left-hand side of the swim start. I did a quick warm-up to make sure the goggles were nice and tight before getting back behind the start line. I made small talk with fellow racers to make sure I was self-seeding in the right group. I started asking several people what they planned on swimming for the day. I got a couple sub-hour answers so moved around till I got 1:05'ish answers.

For anyone following along on, here's us all waving to the IMlive helicopter cameras- hope you caught us out there!

At this point, time seems to stand still for me. Thoughts of all the long training days, sacrifice, fatigue blending into this moment. I couldn't wait for the cannon blast to start the race.

*Breathe Deep*

BOOM!! We were off and I immediately settled into a comfortable pace. I did not want to start hyperventilating early-on so I started very conservatively from an effort-level perspective. There was the typical thrashing to deal with at the start but I avoided the major beating everyone was taking further over in the middle / far left. After 200 / 300 yards I went hunting for some fast feet to pull me around the lake but was having a hard time settling into a rhythm. I kept latching on but couldn't find the right feet...either too slow...too fast...too erratic. In hindsight, I probably should have pushed the effort level here and focused on forward movement vs. just trying to find the right feet. With much more wetsuit time under my belt pre-race, as well as longer open-water swimming, I should have trusted my swim fitness and pushed it. My effort level was lacking so I pushed it a bit around the last houseboat when we headed for home. I started passing alot of swimmers at this point which never bodes well for your finish time. It only cemented the fact that I went out too easy. The wind started picking up at this point so we also had to deal with some chop. I kept pushing for shore and before I knew it, I was scraping knuckles on the bottom.

I knew it wasn't a great swim but suprised that it was 1 friggen 12! Probably explains why my eyes are closed in this pic as I exit the water..I probably just saw the clock and closed my eyes hoping it would just go away!;-)

I swam 1:10 last year on very minimal swim training and swam 1:04 several times in previous IMC's so a bit disappointed initially but worked on removing any negative thoughts as I waddled out of the water. The swim is nothing but a warm-up for the real race...nothing more, nothing less.

**Note to self- start jumping into the masters swim program available at work! No surprise that the two years I swam 1:04 comfortably were while I was swimming masters in SoCal.

OA / AG Slow!! ;-)

Yes- I need to work on the sense of urgency during transition. I say that every year but I was probably still reeling from the long swim and trying to wrestle into my bike gear. I was moving out of transition soon enough running my bike to the bike mount area.

19.6 MPH
93 / 393 AG
460 / 2588 OA

I love the IM Canada bike course. Even though I wasn't happy with my bike stats this go around, it is still my favorite bike course among the several IM races I have completed. It is a one loop course with 2 major climbs - the 6 mile slog up Richter Pass at around mile 40 and the shorter / steeper climb up Yellow Lake at around mile 90. In addition to these big climbs, there are a series of 6-8 rollers beyond Richter that are a handful. I think the size of the "rollers" catch people by surprise, especially if they haven't seen the course since they have a different interpretation of what is considered a "roller" up in these parts! ;-)

Back to the start...I was moving thru the crazy crowds out of town and was able to spot Deb and Karen giving me a shout of encouragement along with the huge crowds lining both sides of main street *much appreciated*.

This was taken by my favorite photographer with her new fancy-schmancy Canon Digital Rebel camera as I headed out of town *Thanks Deb!*

I focused on taking it easy here since too many nutjobs were deadset on time-trialing dangerously thru the packs. Definitely not worth it with the crowds here. We were out of town soon enough and heading for our first climb up McClean Creek Road.

As we hit the bottom of McClean Creek, I was still going pretty easy from an effort level perspective. With all of my stomach issues of late, I also waited until I was 30 minutes into the bike before I took in any hydration or fuel. It seemed to work as I had no issues initially. I felt really good on the climb up McClean Creek...effort level felt very comfortable and I was passing people. I took it easy down the backside as the course turned toward Osoyoos. This was the flatter / faster portion of the course and also had a sense of familiarity as it looks very similar to my stomping grounds back home with all the vineyards / orchards. I didn't want any dehydration issues this go around so I was religious about taking in a swig of H20 along with every drink from my nutrition bottle. I mixed my fuel a bit lighter for the race this year...3 scoops of straight maltodextrin (53 grams carbs / 210 cal) per bottle flavored by a little crystal light based on several consults I had with Dave from my tri-club. My goal was to drink one bottle of fuel chased by close to another bottle of H20 per hour.

This flatter portion came with its own frustrations. 2588 people on the course meant crowded conditions and it was very evident here. I made it a point to ride legally and it involved a ton of slowing down / surging past people & packs to avoid drafting. Definitely not a way to pace an IM ride but I figured the climb up Richter Pass would break everything up soon enough. Before I knew it, I was climbing Richter Pass with a big smile on my face. I was moving smoothly thru the pack up the climb and feeling really good. All the long training rides were paying off at this point. Up and over the 3 steps in the Richter climb and then got hit with a healthy dose of reality in the form of a STRONG headwind. I don't mind headwind and can push against a solid wind but throw in long, fast mountain pass descents into the mix and I have a problem. My bike is already pretty "twitchy" to begin with and the gusty wind just made the situation much worse anytime the course headed downhill.

In hindsight, I probably picked the wrong wheel (disk) based on the strong winds but didn't have a backup anyway. Don't get me a wrong, a disk is probably the best wheel in light to steady winds coming at you from all angles but when it gets really strong and gusty, the pendulum swings the other way in favor of an aero-spoked wheel. Thank god, I chose to borrow a friend's 404 front because it was even a handful out there. My deep 808 front would have killed me out there!

Back to the descent down the backside of Richter, it was frustrating to see everyone who I had just passed on the climb rocket past me on the descent. I was forced to take it a bit conservatively based on the previously mentioned issues with the handling of my bike. This cycle was repeated through the rollers on the way out to Cawston as well. Pass people on the flats & climbing / get passed on the descents, repeat...repeat ...repeat. Not a fun section for me but just dug in and did what I could. I continued to focus on the nutrition and hydration and things were going well. I felt a slight twinge here and there in my gut but no major issues.

We then hit the out and back in Cawston which has been a tough section in years past but I felt surprisingly good here. Even though I was riding slower this year due to the issues with the wind, my overall bike fitness was pretty solid and I had no issues with fading. Cawston can be very cruel because you turn back around and get a nice tailwind for around 10 miles before turning back around to face the wind again! I grabbed my special needs bag at the turnaround here- nothing much to speak of. I just took a ziploc bag of japanese rice crackers...solid source of sodium / carbs and salty! Nice break after all the sweet stuff for a couple hours out there. Just pass the special needs, I caught my friend Kevin on the bike just as he was shoving massive quantities of fig newtons and assorted other goodies down his gullet. It was good for a few laughs from the both of us and I was really glad to see him looking strong and in good spirits. I wished him well and continued to push toward Yellow Lake. At this point, my stomach was acting up a bit so I took it a bit easy on my liquid fuel and resorted to bananas / water at the aid stations along with the odd gel thrown in. It seemed to help.

Once you leave Cawston and make the turn toward Yellow Lake, you hit a loong section of false flats. This section always seems to drag on forever and in past years has been tough mentally for me when I pushed too hard early on. No such issues today, I continued to keep it steady thru this section and was passing people so kept the effort level up. I was climbing Yellow Lake soon enough and LOVING IT!! This is the "Tour De France" climb section of the course as people line both sides of the climb here creating a tunnel for you to climb through. You can definitely feel their positive energy as they are screaming encouragement and making noise in many other forms (cowbells, etc) all the way up the incline as you spin by. One of my favorite sections of the whole bike course- the support couldn't come at a better time because if you didn't pace your ride correctly, you are DYING at this point in the ride. One of those "hurts so good" kinda moments, eh! ;-)

Here I am cresting the climb at Yellow Lake. I don't look too bad even though I had to hold my head up carrying around that big helmet all day!;-)

I knew there were additional climbs to the true "top" of Yellow Lake so continued to push beyond the first summit until I hit the LOOOOOONG descent back into Penticton. Again, frustrating here as I had to watch the speed with the gusty winds on the descent back into town. I was not happy getting passed again multiple times here but also wasn't going to risk crashing in the last 10 miles of the race. I took it very conservatively until I hit the flats into Penticton and then pushed it back into town passing several people until i hit the crazy throngs back on Main Street. Again, got a nice jolt of adrenaline from the screaming crowds lining the streets as I rounded the last corner into T2.

It was really nice to get off the bike! Major frustrations all day out there whenever I was descending since I had to slow way down. It definitely felt like a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders to hand the steed over to the T2 volunteer. I do feel lucky that I was able to finish the 112 miles without any crashes, mechanical issues or flats on the bike but frustrated nonetheless! I did not spend countless training hours on the bike to come cruising in at 5:43! Evil friggen wind!


Sheez...had some issues in the tent getting on my socks / run gear. Then further issues waiting for a porta-potty to open up in the transition area. I finally decided not to wait any longer since I had already waited for what seemed to be a ridiculous amount of time. Still not sure what the guy was doing in there but I'm sure it wasn't pretty.

8:38/Mile Pace
35 / 393 AG
220 / 2588 OA

The run was truly the x-factor for me this year. My plantar fasciitis injury really limited my run mileage so I was hoping things would go well. Maybe going easier on the bike helped the legs a bit because they felt pretty good right out of the gate. Also, vs. last year, I wasn't starting the run dehydrated. Kev's Sharon gave me a shout right outta transition which gave me a little boost. Once I turned the corner and headed for the little out and back toward the Sicamous, I saw Deb and Karen which was a welcome sight at this point. While overall crowd support is a plus, the support of a loved one out on the course is an added bonus! I couldn't help smiling and pushed around the corner while working out the stiffness from the bike. Based on my time out of T2, I figured I'd be seeing Steven soon out there but didn't expect to see him so soon! Aaah! We know how that boy can run so I figure I had about an 8 minute lead on him since he was entering the out and back toward the Sicamous as I was about to run by the girls again. I remember shouting "Incoming, Fast!! Behind me!!" referring to Steven as I ran by Deb and Karen. No time to stop and chat at that point!;-)

Here's me right before I made the above comment- I had seen Steven a few minutes back around that corner.

I just worked on maintaining good run form and not pushing too hard. I couldn't risk blowing up at this point since this run course gets VERY DIFFICULT as you hit the major hills out by the run turnaround not to mention the rollers before that point. I was suprised at how good I was feeling. I was religiously drinking water at each aid station, throwing ice down my hat and shorts, and eating bananas at every other aid station. All this WITHOUT ANY STOMACH ISSUES this go around. How great is that!?! I was so happy! A totally opposite experience vs. the death march I had on the run last year! I kept expecting Steven to run past me but fought the urge to look behind me in case he had me locked on target. Any runner knows that if you see someone ahead of you looking behind, it is a sign of weakness. Steven would have come in for the kill seeing that so kept my focus on moving forward.

I just kept clicking off the miles and my feet were hanging in there. I was focusing on forefoot striking which I think was key to helping me get thru the 26.2 without any serious leg fatigue typical with heel-striking. Nice and smooooth was my mantra. Here are assorted pics Deb took out on the run- she was quite the photographer out there that day (THANKS DEB!!)

I love this picture. Not because it is a particularly great action shot but because it is a reminder of how truly blessed we are with the gifts we are even have the ability to walk, let alone run. The smile on the face of the guy in the green shirt says it all. Thanks for the encouragement brother - much appreciated!

I feel violated...there is a head on these shoulders lady!! ;-) Too funny!

Back to the action, I was getting closer to the run turnaround which only meant one thing. Major HILLS! If you are feeling good here, you can put the hurt on your fellow racers here. Major carnage as you start seeing the distance take its toll on people when the road turns up. I gave out words of encouragement as I passed all the people forced to walk as I was all to familiar with the pain last year. I continued to push running all the hills and never being forced to walk. Soon enough, I was descending the big hill into the 13.1 mile turnaround at OK Falls dreading the thought of climbing it on the way out!

As I hit the turnaround at 13.1, I timed myself because I wanted to see what kind of time cushion I had on Steven. Well, guess who was my ONE minute man...friggen Steven was right there! I gave him a high-five as we ran by each other. About 50 yards past this exchange I ran by Jessi and Tom . It was good to see more friendly faces out on the course but I couldn't stop and chat with Steven right behind me. They probably thought I was nuts since I could only let out a "aaaargh..aaaaah" with my tongue out as I passed fatigued translation, that meant "Hey Tom / Jess- nice to see you out here- thanks for the support!! ;-)

I pushed it on the climbs out of OK Falls- I wasn't going to give up that minute too easily. I figured I'd try and make Steven work for it while I was still feeling good! ;-) I kept clicking off the miles out of the turnaround and was able to keep Steven's vision of me limited to this view until mile 18/19.

Aaah, the inevitable pass...Steven was a true gentlemen this time vs. the jaws theme he was belting out when he passed me at Pac Crest last year. See the bottle hanging out my rear pocket in the above pic? It fell out of my pocket at this point and as I started to turn back for the bottle, I saw a runner right behind me. Not sure why but the sight of the runner caused me to whip back around and keep running - I decided I didn't need the nutrition at this late stage in the race. The runner behind me picked it up and ran up beside me and asked "Did you need this?" I turned to him and said "Hey, thanks man" then registering it was Steven...the only thing that followed out of my mouth was "Aaah, you bastard!!". Good times provided some good laughs between us. We ran side by side for awhile which felt good. The whole chase out of OK Falls was a good thing mentally for the both of us. It helped us "forget" or at least took our mind off all the hills on the way back as well as the stiff headwind we had running back into town. Definitely cruel out there that day with winds on the bike and run!

From mile 19 to maybe 22/23, we were running pretty darn close to each other. Steven would get a lead on me and I would catch and pass as he stopped at the aid stations only to have him repeat the process until we hit town and could hear the finish line. We were both feeling good at this point and wished each other well as we headed for the finish. I worked on keeping Steven on the radar as we hit the heavy crowds along main street and then for the out and back along Lakeshore. The crowd was going nuts at this point and I loved it! I can always pinpoint Deb's voice among the crowd and it was nice to have her there for me as she and Karen gave some of the biggest cheers as I passed by *thanks!!*. Steven went thru first and I was in hot pursuit...this was at around mile 25 as you are cruelly directed away from the finish before turning around for the last kilometer into the finish.

Steven looking strong headed around the final stretch!

Me pushing to keep him on the radar! Action sequence with me throwing out a subtle shaka sign in shot 2! ;-)

It was a great feeling to get back my mojo and finish the run leg actually feeling strong at the end of the race. I ended up finishing 11 seconds behind Steven. It was definitely nice to have him pushing me the second half as I negative split the marathon. Even with the stiff headwind and hills, I was able to run the second half 5:49 faster then the first half. A total surprise based on my limited running leading up the race.

Finish Stats
10:50:46 Time
54 / 393 AG
304 / 2588 OA

Post-race, not sure what the deal is but again started feeling nauseous when I stopped moving. I tried to keep walking but it wasn't helping so I hit the med tent again. 2 for 2 the last two years- not good! My blood pressure was dropping too much as I sat in a chair so they moved me to a prone position which helped tons...i laid for a bit and was finally able to get in some fruit. I hated having to make the gang wait outside but I was out there soon enough and we called it a day!

Da boyz post-race...Steven, Kevin, Me, and more notch on the iron-belt all around!

Post-race Thoughts
I consider each ironman race a learning experience and this was no exception. I don't think my finish time was a true reflection of my fitness level going into the race but it's a long day out there and you have to roll with the punches in its many forms. I love racing the ironman distance race though and truly feel that I have a magic race in where everything comes together. I am convinced it will happen and I'll keep banging my head against the wall until I make it a reality. Believe that!

I couldn't have done the race without all the people in my corner this year.
Steven and Karen- thanks for your support this past year...Steven, it has been great training with you thru all the good times and bad. It was always easier heading out in the crap weather knowing you were going to be out there sharing the misery! ;-) Also, I knew I couldn't let up one minute because you wouldn't let me. Thank you for that. Karen, thanks for letting me borrow your husband for all the extended training time...much appreciated along with the meals and treats coming out of your kitchen along the way! ;-)

Dave C and Jonathan P from the Ironheads for their time and help with my nutrition and bike fit issues, respectively. They were a major help in this area!

Bob & Athlete's Lounge for being the coolest bike shop around- thanks guys!

Big thanks to everyone that has followed along via my blog this past year. My friends, family and my fellow bloggers- major props to all of you. I have appreciated each and every comment along the way- you all were definitely part of my journey....mahalo!

Finally, thank you to my swee'pea Deb. She has always been there for me with her emotional support and unconditional love. Ironman racing is a selfish endeavor, no doubt, and she has been VERY understanding in this regard not only this year but the last one and the last on and the last one and the last one, etc etc...time for me to give back big time! :-) I love you sweetheart!

We'll have to spend more time relaxing like this in the near future! *Please note, Steven is to thank for getting the plastic chair in our picture. Sheez- put the camera down and stick to the running nancy!! ;-)

Not sure what the rest of the year holds for me. I want to give my feet a real chance to heal so will keep the running light through the month of September. RIght now I just want to do a whole lotta of nothing though! Sorry this ended up being so looong but if you are still reading, thanks for pushing thru to the end! I appreciate it.

Last but not least, Steven and Karen's sweet girls made us signs. Definitely put a big smile on our faces rolling up to this welcome in his driveway....thanks Jen / Kelsey!
Steven's was aaah-ite!

My super cool sign...maybe I'm biased but I think my sign is much cooler then Steven's! Uuhh, see the reference to the "Iron BFF's"? Don't ask! ;-)

I mean come on man...check out the detail on the signage...Kelsey even got the detail on my aero-ness on the bike- cool! ;-)

Good times indeed...what a great end to the racing season!

How lucky am I? Counting my blessings and always keeping in mind that the glass is half full!



Blogger Spokane Al said...

Congratulations on a great race and an excellent race report. You continue to set the standard for training, racing and honest commentary.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Steven said...

Excellent report, my friend! I loved ALL it's entirety.

As for the race day fun - I can't wait to push you again next time I get to race Canada.

As for the chair in the pic - It was such a lovely chair, I thought you'd want something to remember it by.

And the signs - Thoese were great, weren't they? I'll keep mine proudly.

Here's looking to a great race season in 2008 and another group attack on Canada in 2009!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Great report Mike! I really enjoyed reading your recount of the day.
Ps. I think that I saw you at the Pre-race dinner. No?

9:06 AM  
Blogger robtherunner said...

Excellent report, Mike! You alays have a knack for focusing on the positive. It sounds like having Steven chase you on the run really helped motivate you. The magic race will come. I DO believe that!

9:49 AM  
Blogger don said...

So that was you I saw at the IMC Pre-race dinner. I too was sitting outside in the overflow. Six degrees of separation dude!

1:33 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Love the report Mike. There is nothing but focus on your face in those photos. You had me bumming a little over the swim and bike, but it all came together on the run. I'm real happy that the feet held up for ya.

It's so cool that you got to race this thing with the guy you trained with. Also have to agree with the point about having Deb there. I love having my wife along and love that she enjoys coming along.

Enjoy the little break from training, you deserve it.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Cliff Tam said...

Hey Mike,

What a great report and a great race. The butt shots were hilarious ;)

Deb is definitely a good catch. The signs must have made a difference between night and day.

Yeah, i am roller balding and boy is it brutal :)...i was hanging from tree to tree going down a slope this morning.

Get some good R &R..u defintely deserve it.

7:57 PM  
Blogger JeffM said...

Outstanding report and fantastic race!!! You give me hope for a couple weeks from now.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Donald said...

Holy cow ... this is too long. I'll have to print it and read it in the next few days. I'll catch up with you then, but for now, about the shark thing ...

Heck, yeah. Very scary. I think the guy will survive, but ... holy crap. Afterwards, there were a lot of references to the Lew Boren case you mentioned. I'd be totally freaked out to go in the water right away - but in today's paper, they showed a group of open water swimmers doing their usual Friday evening swim from the Monterey Wharf. I think I need to wait a while longer before I join them.

Congrats on your time and I'll get to this report soon.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Lora said...

Congrats! Congrats! Congrats! I loved the report (I read every word). Loved the pics! Totally loving the attitude!

Your appreciation of your journey is so admirable. Thanks for taking us all along for the ride.

Onto the next one!

6:32 AM  
Blogger qcmier said...

Great job at IMC. Great report too.

How much of a difference was the Darth helmet?

7:14 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Congrats again, Mike. Terrific race report! Rest up and enjoy the down time!

5:54 AM  
Blogger Donald said...

OK, I'm finished. Excellent report, dude! Too bad you couldn't hammer the bike split you wanted, but that might have helped you have a strong run.

And I loved the picture of the wheelchair guy, too. Great insight with your comment there.

Congratulations again for a job well done. If we're ever in the same race, I'm going to try pacing off of you. Don't say you weren't warned.

10:05 PM  
Blogger triguyjt said...

one of the best blog reports of a race I have yet to read. Yes, the butt shots were hilarious.
enjoy your "down" time..and crank up for 08.
congrats again.

5:15 PM  

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