Having only been to the athlete dinner in Kona (I know, what an amazing and unforgettable one to begin with!) I was really looking forward to attending the opening ceremonies in Whistler. Ironman Canada decided to do something different and instead of hosting a dinner, gave each athlete a $25 voucher good at a number of higher-end establishments in Whistler. I personally LOVED this as then I wasn't forced to eat food I couldn't/didn't like, and it also gave you time to catch up with friends and family.
Shaun and I headed to the village and enjoyed the hour-long opening ceremonies. There was entertainment from a First Nations group, some fun facts about Ironman Canada participants, and of course, everyone's favorite stories of those overcoming some of life's greatest obstacles to compete in Ironman Canada. Remember: no matter how bad your life may seem, someone is always fighting a greater battle.
On Friday evening, we met Rich, Steph and two other friends from the shop who were in town for the race, Jan and Briggita, for dinner at the Wild Wood Pacific Bistro. The restaurant was not crowded and we were able to enjoy a great meal and even better company. Again, I am so blessed to have found my Edmonton friends-now-family. After heading back to the room, I clocked another nine hours of sleep and was really feeling good about my rest.
On Saturday, I woke up and dove into my bags. Let me tell you: the Ironman most certainly suits the Type-A individual. With run gear, bike gear, and run and bike special needs bags, I had my work cut out for me. (Seriously, it took me and my paranoia a couple hours to finish these bad boys.)
On race morning, my alarm went off at 4 am. Shaun grabbed me some coffee from the lobby and I drank that (you have to get things moving on race morning, if you know what I mean) along with a G2. I also ate a piece of gluten-free toast with peanut butter and honey and one chocolate PowerBar. At 5 am, I kissed Shaun goodbye and made my way to drop off my special needs bags and catch the shuttle to the swim start at Alta Lake from T2.
Once arriving at T1, I added my nutrition to my bike, Rich pumped my tires, and I threw on my wetsuit and tossed my clothes into my morning clothes bag. With the drop of the bag, I was headed to the water as the race was about to begin. I wasn't too nervous and my stomach was not tossing and turning, which I was beyond thankful for.
Overall, I would describe the swim in one word: PHYSICAL. Wowzers, these athletes were not holding anything back in the water. I was kicked in the chest, kicked in the jaw, toppled over, clawed and had my goggles kicked off, but what really frustrated me was when a man held my head under water. Literally, he took his hand, put it on my cap, and held me under for a solid 15 seconds. I couldn't believe that happened. But rather than fight back and waste precious energy, I just swam past him and kept with my pack. Thank goodness that happened to me and not someone who wasn't a strong swimmer; it would have easily (and unfortunately) ended their race.
I felt that my swim could have been faster, at least by five minutes, but the lake was so crowded that there was no where to go. Even if I had been swimming my fastest, it wouldn't have gotten me much further. But it was still a strong swim, and one that I was happy to leave behind!
Total swim time: 1:12.05 (15th in division, 120th in females, 647th overall)
The bike course was not a walk in the park. And actually, I liked it that way. With 180km of hills (6600 feet of elevation gained; apparently this is now the hardest bike course in North America) and false flats, the course was very easy to break up into sections which really helped me to pace myself. Alta Lake - Callaghan Valley. Up Callaghan. Down Callaghan. Callaghan Valley to Whistler Village. Whistler Village to Pemberton. Pemberton out. Pemberton back. And finally, Pemberton back to Whistler Village.
I'll admit the first 40km did not feel great. I was getting adjusted and for some reason, my legs always take forever to warm up on rides. But by the time I was coming back down Callaghan, I was relieved and feeling strong. I was keeping my cadence high and settling into my aerobars really well. I was riding up hills in my bars, enjoying that power source moreso than sitting up, and for me, taking the downhills at a quick pace. I hit 90km at 3:30 and was very pleased.
The final 90km of the bike included 60km of flats and 30km of climbing back to Whistler Village. I settled into my bars for the Pemberton flats and was pleasantly surprised to be passing a lot of people. It was this road that made me feel like I was meant to be here. Meant to be pushing it on the bike, meant to be struggling, meant to be pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I saved a bit in my legs for the hills back to town (which were pretty brutal - I passed many grown men walking their bikes) and rolled into the Village with a huge smile on my face. The bike was done, and now it was up to my own two feet to finish the race for me.
Total bike time: 7:12.57 (52nd in division, 328th in females, 1497 overall)
Bike-to-run total transition time: 8:54 (SF swimmers, that one's for you!!)
The first five or so miles of the run had me a bit worried that it was going to be a long marathon. My legs were struggling to comprehend that we had to run following that bike and took a while to get into a groove. But after that, they did, and it made the race a lot more fun.
Knowing I'm no speed demon, I decided to walk each aid station (which I did at each 70.3 this year) and I was really happy with my decision. At each aid station, I had a cup of water, a few sips of a sports drink, and a cup of potato chips. I also added in chicken broth towards the end and took one gel for each 13.1 mile loop. Knock on wood, my stomach was on my side and I had zero cramping and stomach issues. This may have been the greatest accomplishment of the day, to be honest!
Throughout the run, I did my best to maintain a steady pace without pushing things too much. I wanted to finish strong and I wanted to enjoy myself. I was smiling the entire run and thanking all of the volunteers and spectators. After all, without them, we couldn't have been out there racing! In fact, a few women commented to me that I was having so much fun that I didn't even look tired or sweaty. Let me assure you, I was sweating. My black tank was caked in salt. But I was going off nutritional energy and adrenaline, and it was pretty awesome.
I saw Shaun at mile 12 and he ran with me for 100 yards or so. I told him I was doing well and he told me that he had talked to my mom, best friend Erin and some others, and that everyone was pulling for me on Facebook! That was really so cool to hear and to know that so many people genuinely cared about what I was doing. I told him I'd see him again in 12 miles and off I went!
As soon as I crossed the finish line, a volunteer was there to 'catch' me and make sure I was OK. I assured him I was, so he led me to my race medal, finishers hat, finishers shirt, insulated wrap, a bottle of water and post-race photos. I also found Steph and Shaun waiting for me and was SO happy to seem them as an Ironman!
The next morning, we met Rich and Steph for breakfast (bacon has never tasted better) and went to the roll down ceremony. Unfortunately for Steph, there were four Kona spots in our age group and she came in fifth and there were no roll-downs. But she still had an epic race (10:54!) and is destined to make Kona in 2014, I just know it!
There are so many people to thank for making this race possible that I will most certainly need to dedicate another blog post to them! I was beyond overwhelmed by the support and encouragement that so many of you shared with me throughout my training, leading up to race day, on race day and following the completion of the event. I am inspired by each and every one of you for many different reasons as I hope I helped you tell yourself that no dream is ever too big.
As I said on Facebook, exactly one year previous to the date as I crossed the Ironman finish line, I started my new life in Canada. I had no friends here, no family in the country and no job. But I had dreams. Don't EVER lose sight of your dreams. You can do ANYTHING you put your mind to!