Ironman Canada 2014 Race Report
Last Sunday’s Ironman Canada marked my fourth race at the distance and I can honestly say it was my toughest yet and also one of my most rewarding. I don’t know if any other race can match the feelings I felt crossing the finish line of my first Ironman in Penticton back in 2012, this race would be a close second though.
Whether it’s your first or your tenth Ironman there’s so much unknown going in. For me this year it was how would all my hard work in the pool be reflected in the swim, would my legs show up on the bike and how was I going to run after that nasty climb back from Pemberton.
The mass start in an Ironman is always pure chaos. Lucky for me I can swim fast enough to start at the front where the swimmers start to space out a bit earlier in. I know for my wife who is more of a mid-pack swimmer, it stays very congested for the entire swim and I would find that extremely uncomfortable.
I did a good job of drafting in the swim and kept things steady to conserve energy for the rest of the day. I was stoked to come out of the water and see 56:22 on the clock verifying that all of those long, arduous, early morning swim sessions are paying off.
I ran through T1 like a bull in a china shop trying to take advantage of the lollygaggers. I came out somewhere along the lines of 10th amateur. I started pedalling away, looked down at my power numbers and realized I better dial it down a notch. This was good, my legs felt great, I was confident I was about to have a great ride.
Out to the Callaghan I kept a strong steady pace consciously holding back. It was awesome seeing so many friends and family fired up and cheering along the sides of the road. I caught my training partner Ryan part way back down the climb from Whistler Olympic Park who had laid down a crazy swim going 51:15. He was in the lead at that point and graciously let me know when I asked, team work!! He’d go on to break 10 hours in his first Ironman, very stoked for him! I rolled on ahead back to Whistler and on to Pemberton. All I was thinking at this point is I wanted to build a gap. I’m a good runner but far from a great runner right now. There’s often amateurs that can run a 3:00 marathon off the bike and that was sitting in the back of my mind.
Once I got to Pemberton my quads and glutes felt pretty tight, I was quickly reminded what I was in store for the rest of the day, I was competing in an Ironman. The meadows past Pemberton are beautiful, fast, flat and often very windy. I found this to be the most difficult part of the ride for me. We had a headwind riding out, I rode well though and by the turnaround I had 5 minutes on the next amateur and put some time into a couple of the pros.
By the time I was back to Pemberton I welcomed the climbs so that I could sit up for a bit, get out of the saddle and stretch a little. I climbed back faster than I ever have in training and wrapped up the ride in 4:56:27, my slowest ever Ironman bike split but by far my best to date. My average power was 10% higher than I have ridden in any other Ironman which really highlights how much more difficult this bike course is versus CdA or Penticton. Not to mention the last 30-40k of the ride you’re climbing. I’m stoked to see how much progress I’ve made on the bike this year and look forward to seeing how hard I can ride at this time next year.
Another fast transition in T2 and I was out onto the marathon course. My legs felt like garbage immediately and I knew I was in for a long day. “Ah yes, now I remember how much these hurt.” The first 5k of the run course does absolutely nothing to help you find your legs. It’s littered with rolling hills, some steady climbs, gravel trails and even tourists! I found my legs for a brief stint 7-8k in but it felt short lived.
At the turnaround at Green Lake I had a 14 minute lead on the amateur chase pack. At this point it looked like there was 4 or 5 of them tightly bunched. I felt confident if I could hold things together I could take the overall amateur win. Easier said than done with 27k to go. I just kept throwing one leg in front of the other, it was probably ugly as hell but I was getting it done. It’s a very difficult run course with lots of twists and turns, but it makes up for it with the changes in scenery and all the different spots spectators can hang out and cheer. All day along the run I was seeing people I knew, yelling and cheering for me getting me through it. I can never give anything back at the time as all energy must be used for moving closer and closer to that finish line but it makes SUCH a big difference. So thank you to all of those that cheered us through it.
With a little over 10k to go my coach Noa let me know someone was taking time out of me and I better pick it up. Not what I wanted to hear but what I needed to hear. I did my best to pick it up a little even though everything in my body was screaming to stop, sit down and crack open a beer. I walked a couple aid stations where I needed to get in a tonne of fluids as it was getting hot and I gave it everything I had running the last 2k. There was a big relief when I looked behind me, saw an empty road and realized I had accomplished what I had set out to do at the beginning of the year. All the sacrifices I made, my wife has made, my family has made to help me chase this dream has paid off. I wanted to take the amateur win here, place in the top 10 and obtain a Kona slot… I accomplished all of those and couldn’t be happier.
Running down the finishing chute of an Ironman is like nothing else. There’s people lined all along it wanting to throw you high fives, you can’t even hear the announcer calling you in because the crowd is so loud. You don’t realize it at the time but momentarily your legs stop hurting and you’re able to run faster than you have all day. It’s something pretty spectacular and very hard to describe. I think it’s a big reason why people sign up for these again and again and again.
I’d finish the day in 9:13:59, a PB by 7 minutes. If you had asked me 3 months ago if I would be happy with that time I would have probably said mildly. After training on the course a fair amount and actually doing the race I’m very happy with that time. I was unsure if I would even be able to break 5 hours on the bike after riding the course a couple times in training. It’s a damn hard course and I love it. I’m looking forward to racing in Whistler again in the years to come.
I want to take the opportunity again to thank my wife for supporting me in so many ways and continuing to believe that I can catch the dreams I continue to want to chase. She also raced in Whistler on the weekend having a great swim in her first mass start, absolutely laying the smack down on the bike before having to tough it out on the run course with her foot cramping and her stomach turning up everything she tried to put down. She’s one tough woman and it was super inspiring for me seeing her and so many others tough it out on a long hot day. She’d finish in under 13 hours with the biggest smile on her face with her hands in the air, it was awesome and something I’ll never forget!!
A big thank you to my parents Bill and Cindy, Jan and Pete for all of their support, to my coach Noa Deutsch and the Pacific Tri-Works squad that keep pushing me week in and out. I can’t wait to see what we can all accomplish in the next 12 months. I’m super lucky to also have some amazing sponsors: Sugoi Performance Apparel, North Shore Road Bike, North Shore Athletics, Main Street Automotive, Pacifica Naturopathic, Brooks Running and blueseventy, all of your support has been amazing. I also can’t thank enough everyone that came out to cheer and everyone that volunteered to help make the race possible, you guys are remarkable.
The focus now switches to recovery which shouldn’t be a problem, I’m good at that! It feels great to get a little downtime to recharge before building back up for the big dance in October. As I looked up at the incredibly talented Pro podium at the awards on Monday I realized we have A LOT of work to do…. so better get to it.