Some days you come out on top. Other days leave you hungry for what you know you are capable of. They give you a reason to keep fighting. For me, Ironman Canada 2015 was the latter. I missed out on a 2015 Kona spot by 2 seconds but I’m getting ahead of myself so lets back up a bit.
After months of hot weather in BC and dry conditions, with forest fires blazing across the province, we finally got what we so desperately needed. Rain, glorious rain, in large quantities. Everyone knew we needed rain, no one wanted it to come on race weekend. Yet that’s exactly what happened. After weeks of training with salt pills and practicing my hydration strategy I was left packing my T1 bag with a jacket, arm warmers and shoes with toe covers on them. Is this really July??? I hummed and hawwwed about which rain coat to put in. Should I put in the Gore Tex fully waterproof coat or the Hydrolite which if I got sunny and dry out I could chuck and not miss too too much next Fall. Back and forth I went about which jacket. A lingering side affect of my accident last June is difficulty with decision making. I just couldn’t decide on one and accept the choice. I was stuck in limbo like how I used to get stuck in the grocery store trying to decide which cereal to get or how many apples to buy. Eventually I went with what I’d told Noa I was going to wear during our pre race Skype chat and told myself to stop thinking about it.
Race morning went perfectly for me. I was up on time, had my breakfast of eggs, yams, and rice ready to go, and was out at the line ups for the bus to T1 2.5hrs before race start. I planned to arrive at T1 with 2 hours to spare, plenty of time to check over my bike, load my nutrition on board, use the bathroom and not panic or stress. It had yet to start raining and everyone seemed optimistically hopeful. However, it started to spit while I was in the water for my warm up swim and by about half way through the swim I could tell it was a full on torrential downpour. My swim was going well though, I was feeling strong, and after things thinned out about 800m in I found some feet to sit on and carried on finishing in 1:04:45, a personal best for me. Swimming a gazillion meters a week both in the pool and at the beach is clearly paying off!!
The volunteers in T1 were fantastic!! Lindsey helped me get my wetsuit off, shoes on, arm warmers on, jacket on top and out I went. Despite the clothing additions I still had a great transition time of under 3min.
My first thought starting the bike was, “ok, it’s slippery out here, take it slow, its a long day and we don’t want to crash”. That was closely followed by “it’s freezing why aren’t I wearing more clothes. Ok calm down, we just have to get to Callahagn and then we can warm up climbing”. I’ll leave it at that for the bike description. If you have the time Elliot Rushton’s race report is hilarious and very accurately describes the thoughts that went on for the next 3 hours as I made my way up and down Callahagn and then on to Pemberton. As I descended into Pemberton I could feel the air temperature getting ever so slightly warmer and it was such a blessing. I was still freezing with barely working fingers (don’t ask how hard it was to get gels out of my bento box never mind get them open) but I knew warmer air was on its way.
Down in Pemberton I stopped at special needs for the first time in my life. The volunteers were rather confused because all I had in my bag was a tube and CO2. I told them through chattering teeth that I didn’t want the tube, I wanted the bag like a blanket around my chest under my coat. I was desperate for anything that might help me retain more body heat. By the turn around at the end of Pemberton Meadows I could see I had lost about 15min on the girls I was trying to pace with. The good news though was I could feel my fingers again and there was only climbing to come, no more descending. I knew I was off my pace times but focused on the positive which was my time didn’t matter my place in my age group and overall for female amateurs mattered. I passed a fair number of people climbing back to Whistler, the sun came out, the roads dried, and I even ditched the plastic bag and jacket I was wearing.
Coming into T2 I knew I had a lot of ground to make up but told myself not to panic and simply focus on the task at hand. In and out of T2 like lightning and off on the run, my favourite part of any race.
I passed Robert after the first Lost Lake loop and he said I was in 3rd but gaining on 2nd. I think he was trying to be nice and therefore excluded the fact I was about 25min down from 2nd place (which I didn’t know at the time). I told myself if Beth Gerdes could run down 17min on Mary Beth Ellis at Ironman Switzerland I could run my way up to second. I passed so many people I knew cheering as I went through the stretch beside and just after the Village it was awesome. I kept up a steady pace and focused on eating and drinking as I had planned. As I got closer towards Green Lake I saw the lead Female Pro come past and started to count the women. One of my goals going into the race was to be in the top 5 female amateurs. I saw my friends Steph and Fawn as I approached the turn around and knew I was in 16th (ish because maybe I missed someone) place. Right, focus on the task at hand, run like you know how and keep up the rhythm. I passed one or two females coming back from Green Lake to the Village but once on my second loop I had no idea if the people I was passing were on their first or second lap.
It was around 21km that I was stopped by a mother bear as she was on one side of the path and her cubs up a tree on the other. I waited for about 2min with a growing collection of people behind me as we gave the cubs time to come down from the tree and cross over to Mum. I hated waiting there as I knew I was loosing valuable time in my quest to catch 2nd but there was nothing I could do. I went past my parents a second time and my Dad told me I was 12minutes back but running 2min faster. This didn’t quite make sense to me in my foggy brain, how could I be running 2min faster per km then someone, they must be walking, that can’t be right. But with no mental energy to try and figure it out I just kept on trucking and kept telling myself I could make up the time. Back out to Green Lake I went, turned around, and now all I had to do was run home. Back past my cheering friends and family who yelled I could still catch 2nd with a mile to go(again they neglected to say I was 1:20 behind). Regardless it didn’t really register with me and I just kept running.
As I turned the corner to the finishing stretch I saw 2nd place ahead of me. My brain said no way can you catch her now, you’ve got like 200m, but my body went for it because what did I have to loose. I gave everything I had in those final few meters but alas I came up 2seconds to late to achieve my goal of racing at Kona this year. While there are many things to be said for how it felt to be so close and yet so far from the goal I had been preparing for and chasing all summer I’ll save that for another post.
The race was what it was and I gave what I had to give on that day in each of those moments in time. Without the support of my coach Noa, my family, and Robert I might have never even got to the start line. Thanks also go out to Graham at La Bicicletta for the super awesome and amazing Zipp 808’s he let me borrow for the race. Dan for making sure my bike was tuned to perfection. Jeremy for the knowledge on what tire pressure to run with the Zipp’s in the rain and how to save a few extra watt’s here and there on my bike set up. Jenna, Dylan, Travis and all the other amazing cheer squads that lined the course despite the weather to encourage and motivate everyone throughout the day. My training partners, those who I desperately try to keep up with swimming, those who’s wheels I hang onto for as long as I can biking, and those who run step for step with me at the track and across Vancouver.
A big thank you also goes out to Coeur Sports not only for the awesome kit and most comfortable tri shorts I’ve ever worn, period, but also for the community of support they surround myself and all of the other ambassadors with. They really went above and beyond earlier this summer to get me a second pair of tri shorts to wear training and I was mega grateful!! What’s so awesome to see is they go the extra mile like this for each and every one of their customers, day in and day out, spreading heart and courage along the way.
Stay tuned for part two, reflections on Ironman Canada and whats up next 🙂