Before the race
It’s 3am on race morning so figured I’d start writing this events race report as I kill time until 4am when I’ll leave the room and head down to T2 to drop off nutrition in the run bag then take the shuttle to T1 to pump up tires, drop off bike nutrition and place a drink on the bike. You can’t leave nutrition over night for Canada because of the bears. If you leave food in bags the bears will come down and have a pic-a-nic as Yogi Bear would say.
I’ve been looking forward to IRONMAN Canada for a long time. I’ve always wanted to visit Canada and so my family has made this a vacation giving us 10 days in Whistler. We arrived on Wednesday to Vancouver where a quick shuttle got us to the Enterprise off-site parking (which was very efficient) got us into the SUV we hired for the trip. The 2 and a bit hour drive down was great. The Sea to Sky highway section has amazing scenery and time flies. We got a 2 bedroom suite at the Westin which is walking distance to the IRONMAN village but also gave us a bit of extra space since I typically get up very early and having a separate room for the kids in addition to a separate living area gives everyone the ability to operate at their own hours 🙂 A great hotel and the room has a decent kitchen will half-size fridge, microwave, dishwasher and even a stove top. Hotel also had an ATM so I could get out Canadian dollars at a great exchange rate compared to the terrible exchange rate they try and give you at the airport. I needed to keep getting cash as a lot of places including the IRONMAN store did not take American Express. The view from the room is amazing! Also although the fitness center was not advertised to open until 6am every day during my trip they unlocked it for me at 4am so I could get my training in.
I was surprised how busy Whistler was. When it’s not ski season its mountain bike season and the mountain bikers were everywhere but all friendly and Whistler is an amazing town. Because of the population of skiers and bikers most restaurants are pizza or some kind of draft house. There are a few others but it definitely seemed like the majority. Food actually seemed very cheap in Whistler which surprised me as well as I expected it to be overpriced as mainly a tourist town. There were also a number of grocery stores and many ice creams stores as my family quickly discovered. I was told the tap water is straight from the mountains so you don’t need bottled water.
Thursday I went and checked in at the IRONMAN registration (while my family did the VIP check-in) which was fast as always except no flag this event which was a bummer (post race edit – however you got it at the finish line instead). Also because of some customs issue none of the Canada merchandise was available yet in store. It wouldn’t be until Friday afternoon you could buy the race kit and it was by Santini this event. One cool difference was the names of all the athletes were on the tri-top (and bike shirt if you got that).
Friday was just a relax day. My family did a horse riding trip while I watched a movie in the car (horse riding hurts my knees, don’t ask me why!) Saturday was bike and gear drop off. The T1 was at Rainbow Park and you had two options. The first was to head over to T2 (a parking lot near the IRONMAN village and basically in the village) and drop off run gear then get a shuttle to T2 with your bike and bike gear OR they had labelled a trail from Whistler village to Rainbow Park. It was about 2.5 miles which is what I did. I rode the bike there using the backpack they provided to carry the gear along the paved trail, dropped off bike and bike gear bag then walked back. It was a nice little ride and walk. The walk back took about 45 minutes which really wasn’t bad. I then grabbed the family and the run bag, had lunch then dropped the run bag at T2.
Saturday night to sleep at 7pm and while I woke up a few times I managed to sleep till about 2am which is a record for me. I got up, put on a layer of sunscreen and then my timing chip, watch etc. It’s going to be about 50 degrees while I wait so bought a light sweatshirt to wear and the forecast shows about 75 high however in the sun it still feels pretty warm. At 4am I’ll head out to walk to T2 (about a mile walk from the Westin) where I’ll put my run nutrition in my run bag then catch the shuttle to T1 to pump up tires, check bike and put bike nutrition in bike bag. Transition opens at 4:30 for a 6am start time which is actually a fairly short amount of time. They start very early here I think for 2 reasons; 1, because the half is at the same time so they want all the full people swimming quickly so they can start the half once the fulls have started the second loop of the two loop swim and 2, to get us off the highway as soon as possible.
Well, I guess nothing more to say right now. I’ll finish this race report once the day is done 🙂 I’ve done quite a lot of cycling leading up to this one but once again barely any swimming or running because of injury. Plan is to as always easy on swim, go about 210 watts on the bike then try and 2 minute run-walk the marathon.
Today is Tuesday, 2 days after the toughest IRONMAN event I’ve done. They were not joking about the hilly bike ride but we’ll get to that!
I left the room at 4am and got to T2 at about 4:15 and they were already letting people in to drop off nutrition in their run bag which I did and also checking everything was still there. I didn’t need body marking as I applied tri-tats the night before. I hopped on a bus which was about a 15 minute ride where I put my bike nutrition in my bike bag, put a bottle of gatorade on my bike and pumped up my tires to 100 psi. As usual there were bike techs to pump your tires up in addition to pumps around the area you could use to pump the tires yourself (which is what I did). After that you hung around a bit. It was about 50 degrees so I had a sweatshirt on and held off putting on my wet suit until about 30 minutes before the start. The view was amazing and the picture below was posted by someone on Facebook.
The pro women started at 5:45 (if I remember correctly) and the age groupers at 6 (there were no pro men). It was rolling start and I put myself in the 90 minute group and they got you in fast. I was in the water by about 6:05 I think. For Canada the half IRONMAN is the same day and I think the half people start at 7:20 am so they try and ensure all the IRONMAN full participants are on the second loop before starting the half (its a two loop swim of a rectangle course).
I wore a sleeveless wetsuit and I think the water was around 65 degrees but I wasn’t cold and it felt fine. The visibility was good and sighting the buoys was actually pretty easy except for a short part on loop 2 where the sun was directly in your eyes. I had some cramping issues which was odd and for portions of the swim I either wasn’t kicking at all and just dragging my legs or had to straighten my feet down which acted like a break. Apart from that I actually felt like I was swimming well. I did get caught by the half-IRONMAN participants on the second half of the second loop which I was expecting since I’m a slower swimmer and that knocked you around a little as their pace is obviously faster since they are doing half the distance and the people catching you are the people at the front anyway. It wasn’t too bad though as I stay on the outside. As mentioned its a rectangle swim and you don’t get out the water for the second loop, you just turn left again at the T4 red buoy to start the second loop and when you are finished the second loop you just swim forwards at the T4 buoy to exit. During the swim I felt like it had been a good steady swim however I was actually pretty slow, 1:35 which is 5 minutes slower than my normal 90 minutes. I hadn’t done much swimming as I’ve injured my right shoulder and it hurt to swim (and still did a little) so the lack of training may have been the cause or the cramps in my legs but still I got out feeling good and hadn’t drained myself.
Into the transition training tent after the awesome volunteers handed me my T1 bag where I quickly dried off, put on my tri shirt (I wore the same shirt for bike and run), applied some anti-chafe and put on some sunscreen (which they also apply as you exit the tent, the sunscreen, not anti-chafe, that would be awkward 🙂 ) . As I was walking to my bike I turned on my bike computer (don’t leave it on your bike, there were reports some were stolen during this event :-(, also people had stuff stolen like glasses from their bags) so it had GPS by the time I started the actual ride. Hopped on the bike and off I went. For some reason my transition was super slow as well, 15 minutes!!!! No idea where the time went other than I had to pee really badly which took a while 😀
The bike course is two loops and to sum it up its brutal. The weather was great. Sunny but only about 75 degrees high temp but we did have some wind on second loop but didn’t seem to impact much except it seemed to try and blow you over when going fast downhill. I’m not exaggerating when I say there is no flat on the course. You are going up or you are going down. There is one part in particular, Callaghan Valley Road, oh boy. I had heard people say the name with dread and I now know why. I think it was about 10 miles of just hard up hill riding. There were large amounts of time I was going about 7 mph. It was amusing that there was a sign near the start of the road saying watch out for bears the next 10 km. I wasn’t sure if this was just to try and get you to peddle faster up the hills :-). I was actually bummed that I never saw a bear during the event.
The good part of all the hills was you got to go down them. 10 miles of basically zooming downhill with only a few turns was pretty awesome. I got above 40 mph for a number of segments as my bike computer showed. My plan of 210 watts went out the window as there were times you were going much harder then times you were doing nothing (downhill).
Because of the low temperature I was not sweating as much as usual but I was still drinking a lot so I had to pee about once an hour which actually lost me about 15 minutes overall stopping. Every hour I consumed 1.5 bottles along with a waffle and Roctane Gu (which I carried with me). The scenery during the bike was breath taking and the miles went fast (except when you were going up hill). The first loop was pretty busy as you shared the course with the half-IRONMAN participants but was much quieter on the second loop.
There were aid stations roughly every 10 miles and like everywhere else on the course the volunteers were amazing. One thing different from other IRONMAN events was the drink was Base Hydro instead of Gatorade Endurance. It was OK from a nutrient perspective but I didn’t like the peach mango flavor they had but that’s just personal preference. I do find it a little harder on my stomach but not by much but definitely added to the time of one of my breaks 😀 They had bananas, bars and gels at the aid stations in addition to the base and water bottles.
Bike total time was 6:30 but moving time was 6:15. Given how hard the course was I felt good with that time and beat the 7 hours that Lake Placid took me. I got to see my family once on the bike course so that was nice and was towards the end so that kept me going. I actually felt good during the bike and got off the bike feeling OK. This was expected since I’d done a lot of cycling due to being unable to run or swim much.
T2 was pretty quick. Grabbed my nutrition and off onto the run. My plan was to run for 2 minutes then walk for 2 minutes. This kind of worked out for the first half where I averaged 5mph but definitely slowed down on the second half which turned into walk up hill and run downhill 🙂 My knees were hurting as was my little toe on right foot which I had sliced open the day before on a chair. It took me a while to work out how far a marathon was in kilometers as I tried to work out half way (21km as I now know).
The run route had some rolling hills but wasn’t that bad. It was mostly paved with a few miles of gravel trail. Aid stations were every mile that were stocked with all the usual stuff. My run was pretty slow, 5:37:40 which gave me a total time of 14:05:16 but overall I’m happy. I beat my Boulder and Lake Placid times which were easier than Canada!
At the finish time you got the great medal, t-shirt, hat and flag. Then you got your pizza and fries.
That night I didn’t sleep a wink (as usual) so at 5:30 headed to the store where I was second in line. I bought the athletic finisher t-shirt, finisher polo shirt and the finisher puffer jacket (which I planned on not getting but when I saw the puffer style jacket I couldn’t resist).
IRONMAN Canada was the toughest IRONMAN event I’ve ever done but also one of the best and I highly recommend it. Whistler is a great host town and I’m sad this was the last year IRONMAN Canada will be in Whistler but I’m sure it will still be great in the new (old) host city of Penticton. Now IRONMAN Maryland in 2 months time.