Ironman Canada was a hard day. It was downright miserable for several of the ten hours it took me to finish the race. However, I honestly don't even like to describe a triathlon experience as miserable. It seems almost selfish - there are so many things that are much, much worse. This is what I kept in mind throughout the day. You've all probably heard about how cold (I was shocked race morning when I converted 7C to F...) and rainy and about the 15 miles of descending into the wind. Yes, it sucked. Here's some of the mental dialogue that got me to the finish line in 9th place: People would kill to be leading an Ironman - you can't stop. How about those that aren't able to race, Amy Marsh, one of my competitors who is fighting leukemia, came to mind - fight on for them! You are still in the top 5 - how is that even possible? - you have to keep going. You will get points for Kona and a paycheck - keep pedaling even if it's slow. Stopping would be great, you could get warm and dry, you could use your hands again - no f'ing way, that's temporary, I'll have to live with no $ and no points. The day was a theme of, "This is bad, really bad. BUT it's a gift to be here at all, don't waste it".
So, that's how I got through it. Cold weather is a problem for me. I am small to begin with, but before this race I weighed in at my lightest weight in years (probably due to increasing my running volume). I get cold easily and I have a hard time warming up and going fast. My swimming lanemates have witnessed this!! It's something I have been working on - I did a few winter bike rides this year and have forced myself into some cold pools. Perhaps this also helped me get through the day. While I am disappointed with my overall place, finishing a very cold race was a victory for me.
The day started with a swim in a beautiful lake - Whistler is a gorgeous place!! I had no idea we were starting in the middle of the lake. I'm too short to see over the crowds and didn't realize until the last second that the women were already line up 400m or so away. That's one way to get a swim warm up!! I led the swim, following a stand up paddleboarder around the two laps with Karen T. on my feet. With about 50m to go Karen sprinted around me. I wasn't ready for a swim race so got out a few seconds behind. (She apologized later!). I got on my bike first and never looked back until I got to the top of the first climb at about mile 21. There was a $1000 bonus for the first person across. I climbed medium hard and loved that I was climbing in a race, since most races don't contain 6 mile climbs. I was medium cold at that point. It was raining hard and once I hit the descent it was where the fight started. A few moments into the downhill, Melanie flew by me. I wanted to follow but the though of going any faster made me think I'd get that much colder. I was very happy to get down the hill in one piece. It was 1:30 into the race and my top bottle was empty. I thought I'd grab the one in the cage but my hands were so frozen I couldn't get it back in, no matter how hard I tried! I was trying to navigate the rain and twisty roads holding the bottle in one hand. I finally got it back in and never touched it for the remainder of the race! Fortunately, there was some more up, but then, the long downhill started again...that's when I almost lost it. I got passed by a group - how were they not frozen?? -but was still in 5th. The rest of the bike was about staying upright and trying to get fluids and calories. I got to T2 in 6th and had lost tons of time, but I made it!
I knew I hadn't gotten enough to drink or eat, but started the run at the pace I practiced and trained for. I figured maybe I'd run a fast time and find the podium. That worked for 12k...then everything turned. Sore quads, bathroom breaks, walking, getting passed. I was still cold and my feet were frozen but I kept plugging away. Eventually, a bit too late, at 35k I got back to normal and was able to finish the race strong and feeling ok. The crowds along the course were amazing and kept me going. I could tell so many people were pulling for me - thank you!!
Congrats to Danielle, Mel (almost won her first Ironman!!) and the rest of the women who toughed out top performances. And to anyone who was out there, be proud of yourself for completing that race!
I didn't get my automatic Kona spot, but I have a strong chance of qualifying. So, cross your fingers that I'll be in Hawaii!
I'm cleaning my bike and resting now, and will decided on my next race soon. Thank you to my team of superfans, sponsors and supporters who made this weekend possible. I need to write another post just about Whistler and Vancouver!