Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ironman Canada

I don't even know how to begin this race report. I guess I should really start by saying that I never ever thought I would attempt an ironman. When I started racing triathlon in 2004, my goal was simply to finish a half ironman and call it good. I guess I got swept up in the madness last year after watching the 2007 race (not really a surprise) and signed myself up for 2008.

Leading up to this race, I had been plagued by injuries. I injured my hamstring in March which kept me from running for 2 or 3 weeks and then injured my foot in May which kept me from running for another 6 weeks. Needless to say, I went into this race a bit undertrained on my run. I have never run a marathon and my longest pre-race run was 16.5 miles ... last March. In the months leading up to the race, I had two runs that were longer than 13.1 miles.


My boyfriend Brandon and I headed up to Penticton on the Wednesday before the race. On the way up, we hooked up with my training partner, Gerry, in Chelan and then caravaned up to the border. After crossing the border, we stopped to take some pictures of me and Gerry looking tough in front of Richter Pass.

We continued on to Penticton and got all checked in at our lovely little studio in Summerland. The problem was, I was feeling really out of sorts. Not just nerves, but really really dizzy and nauseous. I made the executive decision to go see a doctor at the walk-in clinic in Summerland. She checked my ears, BP, temperature, etc. and said nothing was wrong. Then she had me lay on my back and turned my head quickly from side to side. This gave me the spins and made me feel like I had to throw up. She told me that I had "benign positional vertigo" and that I shouldn't do any strenuous activity for a couple of weeks until it goes away. I told her I was still going to race IMC and she just told me to take an extra minute in transition to get my bearings and make sure I'm not going to fall over.

The next few days leading up to the race, Gerry and I went swimming every morning. I would feel dizzy when I came out of the water but as long as I chilled for a minute and focused on a point, I was able to get moving again pretty quickly.

I tried to stay relaxed in these days, even taking a small hike up to the top of a mountain with Brandon. Here's me looking thrilled about going hiking.


Race morning I was up at 4:00 AM and we were on the road to Penticton by 5:00 (Summerland's about a 10 minute drive from Penticton). Brandon dropped me off near the transition area and I grabbed my stuff and headed out.

About 30 seconds after Brandon drove off, I realized that I had forgotten all of my nutrition in the back of the car. Brandon didn't have his phone on and I didn't know how I was going to find him. I went into full on panic mode and walked over to the beach to see if he was standing near where I knew my dad was going to be. He wasn't there. There were, however, some really nice spectators who saw me in a complete tizzy and asked what they could do to help. I told them what had happened and described Brandon to them. They told me that they would look for him and to stay calm. Amazingly, they found Brandon and sent him back to the car to get my bottles. When I came back to look for him again, he was just arriving with my bottles. He walked me back to the transition entrance and I went on my way.

I was a little short on time at this point so I quickly dropped off my special needs and finished getting everything ready before heading out to the beach.


On the beach, I was looking for Gerry but I couldn't find him. My plan had been to start with him and maybe sit on his feet for the first few hundred meters (not that there weren't 2200 other feet to sit on). I had also wanted to wish him luck and give him a hug before the race started. When it got down to 5 minutes before start time I knew that finding him was a lost cause so I just positioned myself way to the outside of the crowd about 3 rows back from the front.

Finally, the cannon went off and I was able to start swimming within 10 seconds. Amazingly, I had very little body contact. I mean, there were people everywhere, but I didn't get punched or kicked or beat up at all.

I didn't bother sighting much for the first 800 meters or so, I just kind of went with the crowd. Once it thinned out a little, I made sure I was on course (I was) and just kept concentrating on my rhythm and breathing.

Then, something amazing happened. I was swimming along and I looked to my right and there was Gerry! Swimming right next to me! I couldn't believe that after not being able to find him on the beach, I ended up swimming right next to him! I gave him a little smack on the head and he said something to me (I can't remember what). We then swam together for almost the entire rest of the swim.

The swim was much easier than I thought and when I came out of the water I was surprised how good I felt. I was also surprised that I managed to come out around the same time as Gerry since I had expected him to out-swim me by a good 5 minutes.

2.4 mile swim: 1:04:48/1:42 per 100m


I came out of the water a little dizzy but not too bad. I took off the top of my wetsuit and laid down for the wetsuit strippers. On the strippers' first attempt my suit got caught on my butt. I was like "yeah I got some booty!" which they thought was funny. The second try, it came right off.

I ran and grabbed my swim to bike bag and went into the changing tent.

My new buddy Michelle was working the change tent and was a total saint. She helped me load up all my pockets with food (I had decided to forgo the bento box) and got my shoes on and got me out the door. On my way out to my bike I got slathered in sunscreen and was then on my way.

T1: 4:07


I cannot describe how much I loved the bike. The crowds were amazing, the course was amazing, and my family was amazing.

The bike starts out fairly flat until you hit the first climb at McClean Creek Drive. I couldn't wait to get there since I knew I would see my family. Brandon and I had gone out to McClean Creek the day before to write some encouraging notes on the road, but they had rubbed off by the time I got there.

(I was #1831 and Gerry was #180)

McClean Creek is the steepest climb in the race but there was so much energy in the air, it seemed like a walk in the park. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face when I saw my family.

My dad is on the left here.

And some more pictures from McClean

This was also the first time I got to see the "Ironman Canada 2008 Go Jess!" t-shirts that my sister had made everyone. I did not, however, get to see the back of them until after the race.

From McClean Creek we continued South almost to the U.S. Border before turning and heading over Richter Pass, a roughly 7 mile climb. Until we hit Richter, I was really holding back. Letting people pass me and just conserving my energy for the hard part of the course.

Again, even though Richter is a long and tough climb, the energy from the crowds made it seem like a little bump in the road. A guy near me kept asking everyone "is this the top of Richter?" I wonder how he did at Yellow Lake!

Just after summiting Richter I caught Gerry on one of the descents. He was having some stomach problems, which is too bad. I wished him luck and pushed on.

After Richter is a series of rollers which were not too bad. It was a little windy but not close to as windy as the last two times I had pre-rode the course.

At around mile 85 I hit the bottom of the last big climb, Yellow Lake. I was excited since I knew that Brandon and my family would be at the top. Climbing the last part of Yellow Lake is like being in the Tour. there are people lining both sides of the street just going crazy. There were people in costumes and drunk people. It was nuts. I saw my dad at the top and he ran alongside me for a minute and let me know that I was the 14th amateur "WHAT?!?" I knew it wouldn't last through the run, but it was pretty cool for the moment.

Unfortunately (I guess), I came through Yellow Lake 45 minutes earlier than I had predicted so Brandon didn't have the camera ready to take a picture of me and my big dumb smile.

After Yellow Lake and a couple other small climbs I took the long descent into town and took some time to stretch my legs out and get ready for the run.

112 mile Bike: 5:34:53/20.07 mph


T2 did not go as smoothly as T1. My volunteer was great but I was just was a little flustered and thinking "@(#&$ I have to run a marathon, I've never run a marathon." I tried to stay calm and just take my time and make sure I didn't forget anything before heading out.

T2: 4:33


I knew the run was going to be tough, but really, I had no idea. I started off slow and shuffled through the first 2 or 3 miles. My stomach was feeling really full and I had to pee like every 3 minutes. I didn't want to eat or drink at the aid stations but I made myself do it.

I started by alternating water/coke at each aid station. I also decided to walk the aid stations to make sure I was putting something in my stomach no matter how much I didn't want to.

At the north end of Skaha Lake, around mile 5, I saw my family. I smiled and gave them all high fives. This was the last time I smiled before the finish.

After seeing them, the run got really lonely. There were very few fans and it got really windy. By the turnaround, my stomach was starting to revolt. It also didn't help that it started raining. I continued trying to run as much as I could but I had to stop at every porta potty along the way.

I also was having an increasingly difficult time putting anything into my stomach. I had to try so hard to not get into a negative cycle of self-talk. I wanted, more than once, to just throw in the towel and get a ride back to the start. I pushed on, even though it hurt.

Finally, after what seemed like days, I hit the 23 mile mark. It was all downhill (literally) from there. I hit mile 25 and saw my family. I almost started crying, I couldn't believe, after that run, that I was going to make it. After a 25 mile shuffle/jog, I broke into my regular run pace for the last mile.

Then, the best thing ever happened. I don't wear a watch when I race. I don't even have a cyclometer on my bike. I just race by how I feel. I know it may not be the best thing, but it works for me and keeps me relaxed throughout the day. When I got to the finish, I was expecting to see something over my goal time of 12:00:00. Then I saw, 11:54:xx, THEN I looked closer and saw that it was actually 11:24:xx. HOLY CRAP! I thought my best possible everything went right day would be sub 11:30:00. I couldn't believe it. It was really hard not to start crying.

Run: 4:36:08/10:33 minute mile

TOTAL TIME: 11:24:29

9/67 women 25-29
49th amateur woman

I may have more thoughts on the race at a later time, but for now, I'm just so glad I did it and I'm so glad I toughed it out through that run. I can't wait to do IMCdA in 2010!


endurancegirl said...

Jessica, you did awesome! I am so glad you were able to get your fuel bottles. I had some major bike mechanicals out there, but it was still an AWESOME day and so much fun! Anyway, great job! Hopefully you're psyched for Clearwater, you're going to rock it!

Jessi said...

Awesome race Jess!! Way to kill it on your first IM!

RawTriGirl said...

Congrats Jess! You are an IRONMAN! Yahoo!

BreeWee said...

I LOVE this post... what fun!!!! Oh man, those photos make me totally want back on that bike course! LOVE it.

You are an Ironman :)

D said...

I can't wait to have a race report like that one! You better come up next year and volunteer in the tents... Michelle, Erin and I will need you! :)

trimum said...

Wow. Way to go Jess!!!! Your family is amazing and I can't believe the spectator found Brandon! And you found Gerry during the swim!!!! Freaky.

You are so freakin fast......Incredible. Loved watching you (and you DID smile again before the finish. I saw it. Or maybe that was you gritting your teeth in pain...)

Congrats to you girl!!!


Maggs said...

Great race report! You look like you had so much fun out there!

CharPopp said...

Jess, you were amazing out there. And you were smiling when you ran past us in the last mile - we've got the pictures to prove it! You totally rocked that race - you are an IRONMAN!