I’m running along Hwy 60 going from Deerhurst to Huntsville early in the second loop of the marathon with about 16 km to go and these are the thoughts going through my head;
- The rest of this is going to be really hard
- Do whatever you can so that you don’t blow up. You CAN DO THIS! You are catching a lot of people but if you end up walking a lot (a possibility at any moment) then what you’ve done to this point will be wasted.
- Breathe, relax, just get to the next aid station and take it from there
When considering all the things that can happen in a race of this distance and all the things we worry about when thinking about the race, it’s nice to get to this point in the race and still be in relatively good shape and in position for a good overall result…but I still had to keep moving and finish it off.
How did I get to this point?
When I signed up for the Muskoka Ironman I knew that I was going to have to get beyond my negative attitude about the bike course. Thinking about the bike course did not bring confident thoughts to mind and the thought of doing the half Ironman bike course twice followed by a marathon certainly brought some fear. There was a lot of work to be done. As much mental as physical.
By the time race week arrived I was in a completely different place. I was looking forward to riding the course and although I wasn’t naïve about the challenge ahead of me, I wasn’t intimidated by it. A marathon to follow? Yep, I’m ready for that. Bring it on!
A huge part of it was doing some challenging training sessions on the course. I did an early June training weekend with friends and clients. That involved a 130 km ride on the course followed by a run off the bike. Next day a long run on the run course. In early July I raced the Muskoka 70.3 race. A few weeks later I was back up in Muskoka for a 180 km training ride that ended up being in the pouring rain and 15 degrees (freezing for me). Next day a long run on the run course. Late July another 190 km training ride in 30+ degrees with a lot of humidity. Miserable 60 min run/walk after the bike in 34 degrees.
All of this training and racing was hard, but by getting through it in one piece it gave me a lot of confidence. I love racing Ironman but I love the process of preparing even more. Incremental improvements from consistent training, starting in October, until one of those final big training sessions when I knew I was ready.
As you can see from all the training, this simply does not happen without a huge amount of support from my family, especially Carm. Riding pretty much every Saturday morning since October and numerous nights away in Muskoka for training. Thank you Carm, Olivia and Norah!! I love you and appreciate the sacrifices that get made to allow me to train and race.
A good pre-race swim warm-up plus a rolling swim start provided the ideal conditions for the calmest Ironman swim start I’ve had. I had zero contact with other swimmers, other than people touching my feet as they were drafting me. I had my own water very quickly and settled into a good groove. I was calm and positive and wasn’t even bothered by the fact that someone was drafting me and frequently touching my feet. Whatever. I was relaxed yet moving well so if someone was getting a draft, then fine. I was very comfortable in the water, my mind rarely wandered and I was confident. The time passed quickly. It was a good start to the day.
Swim time = 1:03.21 (1:40/100m). 137 overall and 22/166 in my age group.
Transition was fun with a lot of people lining the run up from the swim exit to Deerhurst where we went inside to get ready for the bike. I saw Carm, the kids and other people but honestly it was all kind of a blur.
Coach Miranda is smart and I trust her advice. I tend to ride conservative (too conservative at times) and was planning an easy start but she suggested that it would be fine to immediately get into my suggested power zones, rather than starting easier. This worked out very well. I felt really good on the bike immediately. I was having fun and relaxed; thanking the people cheering on the course and having small exchanges with other athletes. Ultimately for the first 30 km of the bike I was slightly above my overall power target, yet felt great. This was a good strong start to the bike. At times I was concerned about the impact of this later in the day but it never became an issue.
It was fun to see people I knew along the course, in Dorset, Baysville, at some aid stations and other places along the route.
At about the 60 km mark I was passed by a few guys that I know and wanted to be competitive with. I very nearly did some chasing but I thought better of it and checked my ego and said to myself ‘it’s still very early in this day…get them later’. I did think a few of them might be pushing too hard, too early and if so I’d see them later on the bike or on the run. I was riding at the level I needed to and I was going to stick with it.
Loop one done in 2hr 50 min. Average speed 31.7 km/hr, average power 174 watts, 184 watts normalized. Average HR 148 bpm. Pretty much right on what I was planning for.
Early in the second loop we went through the village of Dwight and the road along the beach was lined with people screaming. The first time through it was pretty quiet so this was unexpected. In all the screaming I heard someone call out my name but I still don’t know who it was. All the noise gave me chills and a huge boost of energy starting the last 80 km.
The second loop went very well. Better than expected, given the difficulty of the course. This is where I feel the benefit of the hard training on this course paid off. The wind had picked up on the second loop so I knew I was going slower but it didn’t bother me. I could see that other people were fading and I was still feeling quite good with plenty of energy. I chose (before the race) a 10 km stretch between Dorset and Baysville (from 130-140 km) to ride above my power target, if I could. I thought it would be a nice boost to my state of mind and it worked. I was able to hold 190 watts through this section without killing myself and it really gave me a confidence boost that I carried through for the remainder of the ride. The last 9 km of the bike is a very hilly section and given that it is at the very end of the ride I expected it to be brutal, but ultimately it wasn’t too bad, and soon I was done the bike.
Loop two done in 2hr 55 min. Average speed 30.8 km/hr, average power 173 watts, 181 watts normalized, average HR 158 bpm. Other than the drop in speed due to the wind this was very close to the first half and indicates that I did a good job of pacing the bike and taking in my nutrition.
Bike time = 5:44.30 (31.2 km/hr). 174 average power, 182 normalized. HR avg 153 bpm. Overall position down to 143 overall and 24th in my age group. I’d lost a little ground as expected by not a lot, and now it was onto my strength…catching people on the run!
As with the bike course I’d done a lot of running on this run course so I knew it very well.
My focus of the first 10 km (running from Deerhurst into Huntsville) was to get settled in and make sure my heart rate didn’t get too high. My stomach wasn’t great starting the run but within a few km things had settled and I felt good. Legs and energy pretty good, considering a 180 km bike ride. My heart rate was not as low as I would have hoped, but that wasn’t a big surprise. I set a slightly higher target and stayed pretty close to that. I had asked Carm if she could let me know what position I was in (in my age group) starting the run. I thought that would provide me some motivation when things got tough on the run. She relayed to Miranda that I was 24th coming off the bike. Honestly I was surprised I was that far back, expecting to be top 20. Pre-race my goal for the run was to run as close to 3:20 as I could. Very quickly it became obvious that this wasn’t going to happen. However I wasn’t discouraged by that. I could see the carnage on the run and I knew if I could just keep plugging away that I’d move way up in the field. Maybe I could get top 15 in my AG.
It took me about 5 km until I started catching a few guys in my AG and once that started it was hugely motivating. It was hot on the run, especially coming back towards Deerhurst when the sun is directly behind, and people were hurting. I felt controlled and in minimal discomfort (relatively!) for the first 25 km. At that point things started to really hurt and it was a grind. My whole mindset at that point became to just keep myself from blowing up. That meant being careful not to go so fast that I would need to walk to recover and VERY important to keep drinking water, cola, Redbull, and my flask with Eload and salt. I was passing a lot of guys in my AG (a few who had passed me on the bike; the long awaited reward for my patience!) and I knew if I could avoid a blow-up that I would continue to move up the field. It helped a lot to see Carm, Mike, Heather and other friends all over the course. The benefit of an Ironman relatively close to home. Coach Miranda was all over the course too, on her bike, providing words of encouragement and reminding me to eat/drink and stay cool.
The last 10 km was tough. I was counting off the kilometres and pretty much running from aid station to aid station where I would walk while I put water over my head and drink water and cola. I left just enough in the tank to speed up a bit for the last km (4:50/km). As usual hugely satisfying to get to the finish line. My finish line catcher was Rob Wright who I know from WattsUp, and it was nice to have a familiar person take care of me until he handed me off to Carm and the kids. It was great to have Carm, Olivia, Norah, Mike, Heather and Miranda at the finish.
According to my Garmin the run course was a little over 41 km
First 10 km in 50:10
Second 10 in 49:57
Third 10 km in 51:17
Fourth 10 km in 52:51
Overall a pretty good job of pacing the run. As always happens in the days after a race, once my destroyed legs stop hurting I think ‘maybe I could have gone faster than that’, but in reality I was at my limit on the run, and on that particular day I don’t think I could have run 1 minute faster.
Overall run time of 3:30.30 (5:05/km). Average HR 160 bpm.
Final finish 10:26:40. 60th overall and 8th in the M40-44 AG. Passed 83 people on the run and 16 in my AG.
There were 5 Hawaii spots in my AG so I thought I had an outside chance to get a spot but no such luck! The 5 spots were taken by the top 5 finishers. 3 spots seems close but in reality it was over 25 minutes from me to the 5th place finisher. Ultimately Hawaii is not the reason I do this, but one day it would be pretty cool to qualify and it does provide some motivation.
Post-race I hung around the finish line to wait for a few of my athletes and friends to finish, to soak up the atmosphere, and managed to limp my way into Deerhurst for some food and a shower. As usual I managed to get back to the finish line for midnight to see the final finishers. Always a highlight of the day.
– To all the people who were on the course cheering, including many friends; that was amazing and a huge lift! Plus all those that couldn’t make it but sent notes of encouragement.
– To Dieter for being a great training partner and joining me for those epic training sessions.
– To coach Miranda who got me to the start line very well trained, yet fresh and uninjured. To Christine McLean whose weekly sessions contributed a lot to keeping me uninjured and able to handle to workload.
– To my family for the constant support so I can race and train and basically act like a kid!
Thanks for reading!