Monday, August 29, 2011

Ironman Canada RR: Swim & Bike

I started this blog at 4:30 a.m. Monday, but between all the eating, floating down a river and another mini wine tasting, I’m just getting to it again. That early morning wakeup was a result of post-Ironman insomnia and hunger. Yup, started the day with pasta, quinoa, eggs…. and shortly after a burger.

Onto IM Canada. What an amazing day! I loved it, the highs & lows -- all of it! On paper, you might think, “Oh man, that looks like it was a tough one.” But I’m glad everything didn’t go perfectly perfect. I learned a lot of lessons, and I’m definitely a stronger person because of it. No matter what happened, I carried on. I was determined to cross that finish line No. Matter. What. And I did, 12:45 after the gun went off. Man, was I a happy camper at the finish; although, it probably didn’t look like that… but more to come on that.

For now, just the swim and bike, the run portion will follow. And, sorry, no pics yet!

Swim -- 1:21
Surprisingly a highlight of the day! I really enjoyed the swim, honestly! I started middle back with Mike, and I probably started swimming close to a minute after the gun. (The mass start was insane and I had no place being more in the front.) The insanity remained that way until about 1,200 m. My goal was to stay calm and no freak despite getting beat up on in the sea of people. Goal achieved. I was able to keep my cool among the chaos, getting kicked, trampled on, punched, etc., probably because I was swimming with a HR of about 110 and was thinking happy thoughts lol.

About a mile in, I felt cramp potential in my calves. They were like ticking time bombs. I did everything I could to keep them from seizing, but at 1800, the left one cramped seized. It felt like a tennis ball in my calf and was debilitating. I had to stop and work on it. I thought of my grandma at that point, while I was wading out in the middle of the lake, and I felt a calmness. Soon after the cramp was gone. I worked through it, and was fine for the remainder of the swim! A first!!!

Overcoming the cramp was definitely motivating, and I was pumped to keep going. By 2k, I was pretty much alone in my area, and that’s when my shoulder started hurting. But it wasn’t that bad. Totally manageable. I think the trick to it feeling good on race day was lots of rest during taper, good pacing during the swim and positive thoughts.

I got out of the water happy to see 1:19 on my watch. With starting in the back, and lagging when I finally stood up and ran out, official time was 1:21.

T1 3:20
In and out pretty quickly. As I left on my bike I saw my family and John, along with thousands of others and I couldn’t help getting tears in my eyes, what a moment! I was thrilled!

Bike -- 6:39 official (6:05 of actual riding)
If there’s anything that could have killed my mojo for the day, it’s what I dealt with on the bike. That said, if there’s one thing I learned Sunday, it’s that Ironman will throw anything at you. It’s all about how you deal with it. In my case with the bike, I refused to let some bad blows get the best of me.

I actually had a great bike ride overall and enjoyed the course for all it had to offer (heat, hills, scenery, spectators, and all). But unfortunately, I was plagued with a reoccurring flat aka a tire that wouldn’t hold air. Without going into too much detail, I had a valve stem fiasco with my rear tire that caused major issues. Pre-race I had to go to bike tech because I couldn’t get it to fill. They fussed with it, and said they were pretty sure it’d be OK for the day. Unbeknownst to me, I would start the bike with very low pressure. It was flat by mile 10, right in the middle of the first hill. I saw a bike tech car and stopped to have them check it. They refilled it, air was holding, I left.

But then, next thing I know a race official was riding next to me giving me a penalty! Apparently, I didn’t merge back to the right lane quickly enough again. In my defense, I began riding after the tire got filled while still mid-hill (steep hill), so it wasn’t the easiest situation to maneuver, and my adrenaline was high so I wasn't working at my smoothest. Regardless, 4 minutes lost. Bust! That was frustrating, especially because the race official seemed to have an evil smirk on her face when she flashed the card at me, even when I told her my story. I said to myself, “I have two options: 1) whine and be a baby or 2) carry on with a smile.” I chose #2.

After that, the bike was going along fine, and I was pacing myself per everyone’s recommendations, yet still averaging 20 mph. That first part is fast! Around mile 20 I could sense the tire problem returning. Rear was flat again. No!!! That would be the theme for the first half of the ride: Rear tire went flat every 7-10 miles, at which point I’d stop and refill with CO2. I was still riding fast without too much effort in that first 40 or so, so I didn’t feel like I was losing too much time. But I was running low on CO2 (maybe 1/2 a cartridge left).

I served my penalty just before Richter Pass, where I chit-chatted with the officials, not acting like a whiner. Then I started the infamous climb, and it was scorching hot at that point, but no different than a hot day climbing the mountains where I live. Meanwhile, rear tire wasn’t doing well. When I was finally nearing top of Richter I waved down bike tech driving by because I knew I'd never last with the CO2 refill plan, and at that point I was riding on a virtually flat tire up a significant climb. Not good. So bike tech guys decided we had to fix it right or I’d be done for the day — they had to rip off my tubular and put a new one on. Took foreva! Probably over 20 min. I was determined to keep a smile on my face. I borrowed their phone and texted John to tell him my situation and that I was OK and ready to keep having fun. I can’t state it enough: The bike course was legit, and I wanted to enjoy it all.

That was the end of my bike issues. All in all it cost me about 35-40 min of being stopped on the side of the road. All things considered, I’m OK with that because that means I was pretty close to my planned bike split of 6 hours.

After Richter, we got the seven bitches, which I thought were hard but fun. They reminded me of some hills I do on PCH at home. Plus, at that point, the course had thinned out a lot and I was on my own. I was enjoying moving along through Canada country and my pace was decent. Part of me wanted to go faster to make up for lost time, but I had to stick to my plan to make it through the whole race. I knew Yellow Lake would be a toughie with the climbing.

The wind started to get bad, but that was the least of my worries. My tummy was starting to act up. At mile 80, I literally became ill. Could no longer take in and hold down calories; everything just kept coming up. It was gross. What was I having? Various gels, Clif bars (which I now realize were the culprit for the GI issues) and secret drink mix. I couldn’t stomach anything, not to mention the sweetness and sugary nature of everything I had was freaking terrible! And I was pissed! So I went without nutrition for the last 32 miles of the bike, only having water and endurolytes. That put me in a caloric deficit from which I was never able to fully recover. Bonk town USA. Dang it. *Update* Looking back I did some experimenting and realized I cannot handle many of the ingredients in Clif bars - those things cause me bloating, gas and clearly I don't digest them well. A little Clif bar here and there is fine, but taking them in like I was in Ironman and for that duration/intensity made my tummy a ticking time bomb. Mostly I think it's the soy.... yuck. I practiced/trained with Clif bars, but I was done with them after IMC.

I kept wondering when Yellow Lake was going to come because I knew that meant one more big climb then home free with descents lol. Finally I was nearing it. I think that may have been the hottest part of the day. I wasn’t really that amped to climb because I felt so sick and more depleted by the minute, but I was pretending that I was normal and this was just another training ride. That kinda helped. Then I got a surge of energy when I started Yellow Lake because *surprise* my crew was out there to cheer me on. It was great seeing them, as well as all the other peeps making it for a very Tour-de-France-like climb :) THe spectators at IMC really know how to do a good job throughout the whole course!

After that the rest of the climbing was a blur. I was bonky. Yellow Lake actually looked kind of yellow. Was that just me being crazy? As I approached mile 100, I won’t lie, I was ready to be off the bike so I could find some non-sweet, non-clif calories in T2. That said, it probably was not good that I bombed the downhills in a delirious state lol ;)

Last note on the bike: I wore my Garmin during the ride, which automatically stops at a certain speed. So I know that my real bike ride time was just over 6:00, and I was stoked on that! Officially my split was 6:39.

T2 9:50ish
I had to take my time to try and refuel so I could do a freakin marathon not completely depleted. There were non-sweet snacks in the changing tent, so I had some. Saltiness was good and what I needed. I was hoping that’d help bring me back from being without calories for so long. While I sat in T2, I had the demons in my head challenging my ability to go out and do 26.2, and part of me didn’t think it was possible. I was getting a little teary-eyed and unsure. I didn’t want to go there with my thoughts, but I couldn’t help it. I felt weak and emotional.... but not about to quit. No way.


OK, that's all for now... stay tuned for the run and finish! Thanks for reading :)


  1. I missed the turkey sandwiches - smart call!!!!

  2. wow--helluva bike. Looking forward to the run

  3. Killer race report so far - very smart call with with sandwiches! There is only so much sugary goodness one can take! Can't wait to hear about your run!!

  4. Great report so far. That is a lot to go through, glad you got through with a smile. :)

  5. Great report so far. I am sorry about the tire issue but your attitude is admirable and one I will try and emulate.

  6. Sounds like Ironman to me!! :) Something ALWAYS goes wrong and you handled it beautifully... that's half the battle of IM. P.S. your nutrition fiasco sounds eerily similar to my first. By mile 80ish I was DONE wanting anything sweet - bleh. STOKED for you Tawn!!!

  7. You and I have had our issues on the bike in an IM. Good on ya for sticking with it and persevering!

    Looking forward to the run report.

    Turkey sandwich?!! Damn!