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Thursday, 7 June 2018

2018 Ironman 70.3 Victoria



With the wedding drawing closer and closer, it was time to get one last big race in the books. So on June 3rd, 2018 did just that at the Ironman 70.3 Victoria.

Jen and I decided to make the weekend a bit of a family visit as well since her brother, sister-in-law, aunt, uncle, and cousins all live on Vancouver Island.

On Saturday, after athlete check in and bike drop off, we spent the day visiting. I'll admit I ate and drank much more than I usually do the day before a race, but this race was not for any set time. It was a "get out there and do what you can do" type race for me.

The next morning, Jen and I woke up very early. It was a 40 minute drive to the race from her brother's house. We had a bit of a late start and I was freaking out a bit. One thing I hate is rushing, especially before a race.

Jen dropped me off and went to go park. I made my way to transition to begin setting up. Apologies for my lack of transition photo, I was in a hurry and forgot to take one.

I found my bike, setup my transition, and aired up my tires. I found Jen and started to put on my wetsuit.

It was 5:30am. Warm up swim ended at 5:45am for the pro start. The biggest decision of the day loomed ahead of me. Do I poop one more time or get my warm up swim in? As mentioned before I always poop twice before a race. But I also needed my warm up swim. I don't use the swim as a warm up per se, but more to get used to the water temperature. Being inside a tight wetsuit, in cold water, with anxiety makes it a bit difficult to breathe. I use the warm up swim to relax and acclimatize.

I decided to opt for the warm up swim. I put on my wetsuit and made my way to the water. It felt great. Just warm enough to be comfortable, but cold enough not to overheat in the westuit. I swam out about 50 meters and then just floated. I took deep breathes and relaxed.

After my warm up swim, I thought I could use the washroom, but after taking one arm out of the wetsuit, I realized that if I took the whole thing off, I'd never get it back on. My theory was proven correct when I had a difficult time putting my arm back in the wetsuit.

Soon it was time to line up for the swim. Once again it was a self seeded wave start. I made my way to the 40-45 minute section.

The canon sounded for the male pro start, then the female pro start shortly after. Then began the slow march down to the start.

I made sure to position myself on the side so I could get a good start position and so I could see Jen.


Soon I was in the start chute and ready to rock!

The buzzer sounded and I was on my way

The Swim


I waded into the water, gave my goggles a quick splash, put them back on, then was on my way.


I could feel my anxiety start to rise, so I slowed down. It felt like I was going too slow, but I knew once the nerves passed I could pick up the pace.

I kept a good line using the sighting patterns I practice with SeaHiker. It was a lake swim with calm water, but I still sighted to make sure I was swimming straight.

There was one athlete who I could tell had no idea how to sight. He would be to the right of me then suddenly shoot off to the left cutting me off. He would swim about 10-15 meters, stop, then suddenly shoot off the opposite direction cutting me off again. This kept happening for a good 100 meters before he swam way to the far to the right and I could get away. He swam so far to the right, a volunteer on a SUP had to stop him.

I continued to keep my pace all the way to the first turn.

After the first turn, it became very crowded. At one point, 2 swimmers pinched in on either side of me and kind of trapped me in the middle of them. I slowed and let them both swim ahead of me. While the two of them battled it out, I drafted behind them.

Soon we were at turn 2. It was still crowded but not as crowded at before. All of the sudden, someone cut me off. It was the return of the Zig-Zag Swimmer! He did the same thing be did before. Now it was just annoying.

I kept my sight timing, my pace, and my calm all the way to the exit. As usual, many people were wading through the water. I kept with my swim exit strategy and swam past all of them waiting until the last possible moment to pop up,

I popped up, took 2 big steps, and was out of the water. I put my goggles on my forehead, lapped my watch, and began to unzip my wetsuit.



As I made my way up the bank, I saw Jen, then heard/saw Andrew (my coach) and Brenda (a fellow teammate).

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I looked at my watch and was happy with the time. It was not my best, but not my worst.

T1

I made my way into transition only to find it was not setup the way I had thought. We all ran by the relay section before making into our area.

As I ran by the relay section, I began to retch. I tried to stay calm and was feeling better until I saw the Porta-Johns. It was at that moment that my body said, "Look, a place to throw up! You have 5 seconds. 4. 3. 2. . ."

I flung the door open and vomited up some lake water. Once done, I went to find my bike.

Although entering from a different spot, I could still use the landmarks I scouted the day before.

I stripped off the rest of my wetsuit and started prepping for the bike.  I had set out a cycling shirt and arm warmers but opted not to use them.  This was a good decision as I did get pretty warm on the bike.

After a quick transition, my bike and I were on our way out of transition.  I made my way to the mount the line and was off!



The Bike


At the start of the bike course I pulled over the check my back tire.  I've been having trouble with the valve and wanted to make sure the tire had not lost pressure.  It was good so I carried on. 

It was hard to remember all the little details of the bike course.  It was one large loop and although I looked at the course map, it was hard to tell where I was.

The start of the bike course had a few uphills.  Soon the uphills turned into windy, rolling hills.  I gathered enough speed on the downhills to get most of the way up the next hill. 

My heart rate was pretty high, but I knew that would come down.


A group of us played leap from for quite some time.  They would pass me on an uphill, I would go zooming past them on the downhill. I am not a climber.  I like to think of myself as a flat, slight downhill, and downhill specialist. 

The course was not closed to automobile traffic and there were times where we were forced to ride on the shoulder.  Some shoulders were littered with rocks and debris and a bit unsafe.  

I treated it as a large group ride.  I would constantly call "CAR BACK!" when cars where approaching and "CLEAR!" when they had all passed.  Many athletes were very appreciative of this.



With the streets being open, it was also very important to signal when you were passing.  A simple "On your left" is all it takes, but not all cyclists are that courteous it seems. 

On some of the faster descents, I was screaming at cyclists to move over.  They would ride in the middle of the road not giving anyone a chance to pass. This is called Blocking and is a time penalty offense.  Plus, it was dangerous!  

Jen, Andrew, and Brenda were at the 25k mark and cheered me on as I was passing a few other riders. 


At the 30K mark, I was 1 hour and 5 minutes in.  A decent pace. If I kept that pace, I'd finish in 3:15.  At 60k, I was at 2 hours and 10 minutes.  I had managed to keep my pace!  But then I realized, I was going to fast.  I knew the last 30k was even more hilly the past 60.

I slowed my pace to save energy for the last 30k, but I felt the damage had already been done. I was also starting to get a pain in my left knee, but figured it would work itself out.

I continued to have fun on the downhills and use them to aid in the following uphills.  A few times, I was able to use my downhill speed to make it all the way the next uphill, no pedaling required!




A little over 75k in and it was time for "the hill."  Everyone kept talking about this hill as the hill to end all hills.  When I took the right turn and was faced with this ascent, I remember what Andrew had said.  He told me that the hill looks bad because it is long, and it's not as steep as it looked.  I got into my easiest gear and began to climb.

The hill was indeed not bad, just long.  I stayed relaxed and focused on lifting my knees.

Halfway up the hill, a spectator was blaring Push It on a portable speaker.  He was singing along and encouraging us up the climb.  It brought a much needed smile to our faces as well as some extra energy.



At the top of the hill, after the turn around, I stopped for a second.  My feet were numb and I did not want to go bombing down that hill with no feeling in them. I know! I know!  No reward at the top, only recovery.  I was 80k in, I could take a short break. 

I bombed down the hill at a very decent speed.  I think it is safe to say that after a year of trying to build it back up mentally,  I am back to my old descent speeds. 

As soon as the hill was over, we turned right, then left, and then. . . Another hill!

A rider behind me asked if this was the last hill.  I responded, "I always assume there is one more hill."

The rest of the course was more rolling hills and soon I found myself closing in on the dismount line.  It was at the bottom of a long gradual hill.  I took the opportunity to make up a little time before my ride was over. 

As I approached the dismount line, spectators where cheering and the volunteers were screaming "Slow Down!"  I could see the line and knew when to slow down, but I knew they were just doing their job.

I made it to the line, dismounted and walked into T2 as Jen took some photos. She asked me how it was and I said, "The first 60k was fun! The last 30k was brutal!"


T2

As I entered T2, I could feel my knee hurting and both my hamstrings were pretty tight. 


I made a quick bike-to-run transition before making a pit stop at a Porta-John.  When I was finished, I noticed I still had my cycling gloves on.  My bike was nearby, so I went back and dropped  them off.

I then hobbled out of the main transition area and past the relay transition area.  

"You are the smart ones!" I called as I went past.  We all had a good laugh and then I was off. 

The Run  


As I came out of T2, I began to run. It was not as painful as I thought.

I saw Jen, Andrew, Brenda, and a whole host of cheering spectators.  This was where the run began, the second lap began, and the entrance to the finish line.



As I ran past, a few spectators gave me some high fives. Then an athlete passed me and headed to the finish.  Man he was fast.

The start of the run was crowded.  There were lots of athletes on their second lap and still going strong.  As they passed, they were extremely supportive.  I received several back slaps and even a fist bump.  This definitely made me feel good.  

It felt like I had been running for hours when I looked up to see a distance marker.  It read 3k.  At that moment, I knew that this would be a very long run.

At one point, I heard heavy breathing approach from behind me.  That's Diana.  And sure enough, it was!  She ran by in the speed that can only be described as "Diana's Pace" full of encouragement. 

Shortly after, another one of my teammates passed me.  I told her that Diana was not that far ahead. "Oh really!? I'm gonna catcher her!" And then she was gone. 

At this point it was raining, but since we were under tree cover, I could hear it, but never felt it. 

There was a long stretch of the run that was just under trees with the lake on the left.  This would not be good for my second lap.  There would be no landmarks to break it up, just a long section of tree cover.

I soon saw an open area and a park. I got excited because I thought it was the park Jen and I had parked at the day before.  I was almost done!

It was not that park.  It was a different one.  I still had about 5k to go on my first lap.

I went through an aid station and was excited to grab some cola. I downed it fast only to find out that it was not flat.

I was soon at the small out-and-back section.  The 'out' was all uphill.  I walked it.  There was a split timer at the top but it was not working. 

Turns out that because the split timer was broken, I disappeared from the tracking app.  This freaked Jen out.  

I was soon back into a long wooded section.  To keep my moral up, I kept repeating to myself, "My mind is strong, my legs are strong, my will is Iron. My mind is strong, my legs are strong, my will is Iron. My mind is strong, my legs are strong, my will is Iron."

This got me to the park, the correct park this time. I knew I was almost done with lap 1, but the thought of having to do it again was torture.  I was exhausted, the course was not broken up with landmarks for mental splitting, and my knee was killing me. 

I passed the 20k sign (not for first lappers) and thought, "Just keep thinking, I'll be here soon!"

The trees opened up and I could see and hear the finish area. I was soon running by the spot were earlier in the day I was starting my swim.

The course began to fill with spectators as I ran closer to the end of the first lap. Jen had walked out from her earlier spot to look for me.  She was still worried because I had disappeared from the tracking app. 

Andrew and Brenda were still there and cheered me as I passed the finish line to continue the run on lap 2. 

Lap 2 was far less crowded.  Everyone out there was on their second lap. 

I tried to pick up the pace but always ended up burning out and having to walk. 

My knee was killing me at this point, but I had come too far to quit now.


I ran by an aid station as they offered cola once again.  I asked if it was flat and they said yes!  I was so excited!

I met a guy visiting from Alabama.  He and his wife had traveled to BC to race here, then go mountain biking in Whistler. We played leap from all the way to kilometer 19.

I looked at my pace and time.  Did some match in my head and thought it was possible to beat my Tremblant time.  I began to run faster only to crash again.  I looked at my watch and scrolled up to 'Overall Time.'  My math was way off.  I was not gong to beat my Tremblant time.  The pressure was off. 

I passed the "wrong park" as a military band was warming up. I heard a bulge play a Calvary Charge and looked back to see a huge smile on the Alabamian's face.


I was soon at the out-and-back hill. I stopped at the aid station and poured cold water over my knee.  A volunteer saw me and asked if I wanted ice.  She gave me a hand full of ice and I put it under my tri suit just above my knee.  It felt fantastic. 

Soon I was at the "right park" and was passed by a runner built like me, but a foot taller.  He stopped to walk with me and said, "Keep it up! It's hard doing this and being so big."

I came to revelation at this point.  In so many races, I have people encouraging me.  And I always feel they are encouraging me because they see me as a bigger athlete.  This always frustrated me.  But now I realize they are encouraging me not because I'm a big guy struggling. They are encouraging me because they know just how hard I am working.

Then there was just under 2k left. I tried my best to run the final 2k, but still had to walk a bit to rest my knee. 

At the point where the trees opened up and I could see the finish, I picked it up.


I once again passed the swim start to the sound of roaring encouragement from spectators.  I smiled as I remembered my earlier revelation as more than one person yelled "You're killing it big guy!"



Andrew, Brenda, and Jen screamed as I passed. I took a right to the finish and ran down the carpet.  It was very uneven and I was careful not to trip.  What a finish photo that would be!


I crossed the finish line, elated that it was done



The medal was hung around my neck and I immediately asked for ice.  A first aid volunteer asked why.  I told him that my knee was hurting.  Once he realized it was not a reoccurring injury he told me that it was protocol to take me to the medical tent.


At the medical tent they did several test and concluded I had not done any permanent damage.  They suggested lots of rest and ice.  


After being discharged from the medical tent, I met with Jen, Andrew, and Brenda.  We talked about the race before I gathered my gear and Jen and I left.

We parked at the "right park" so had to walk along the last section of the run.  We mad sure to cheer for those still out on the run.  Turns out we cheered in the last few people on the course.  The sweeper bikes rode by just as we made our way to the car.

Thank you for taking time to read this entry.  There will not be many entries until the fall as Jen and I are in full wedding planning mode.

Just a reminder that all my 2018 races are benefiting The Alzheimer's Society of BC.

The donation page can be found here. As of right now, we have raised $520!

Friday, 25 May 2018

2018 BMO Vancouver Half Marathon

When you need to get in a 2 and a half hour training run, why not do it and get a medal for it?

That is exactly what I did on May 6th when I ran the 2018 BMO Vancouver Half Marathon.
I had set out my gear the night before so in the morning I could get ready, grab my gear, and head to the train. 

Every year the masses walk the long way from the train station to the start line.  While this leads right to bag check, it is (to me) a waste of time and energy. With no bag to check, I walked the quicker route to the start line. 

This next section may get a bit graphic, but if you an endurance athlete you will understand.  Before every race I usually poop twice, once first thing in the morning and again before the race start.  One look at the line ups for the washrooms and I knew I was not going to get my second poop done in time.  I thought I would be OK, but more on that later. 

As I walked back to the start line, I saw my friend Karen and stopped for a photo.
I made my way back to the last start corral (I was not placed here based on estimated time, but because I registered late).  I stretched and did my warm up routine.

As the first corral started, we all packed in, patiently waiting our turn. 

A few of us began chatting about the race, our goals for that day, and our goals for future races.  I made a comment about how I was built more for distance than speed and a gentleman replied, "Like a steamroller! Powerful and slow but you get the job done!" 

I smiled and said, "Or like a bulldozer."
Soon it was our turn to start.  I made sure to place myself on the edge to ensure I was not trampled by those starting out to fast.

I crossed the line and started my watch.

The start of the race is an immediate climb, I knew better than to start out too fast.  On my slow and steady climb, I saw Debra. It would not be a race in Vancouver if Debra was not there with her camera. 
The course took us to Cambie Street, where we turned right and started the long downhill into downtown.  I knew from last year that it is very easy to run this section to fast.  I stuck to my pace as others flew past me.  I made note of a few of them telling myself I'd pass them in Stanley Park.

On my way down Cambie, I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I turned to see the fellow triathlete from the UBC triathlon and Cultus Lake Triathlon.  It's always good to see familiar faces out on the race course. 

As we approached Cambie Bridge, a boy (dressed as Lego Batman) and his father were out cheering. They were holding a sign that read, "Smile, Run Happy."
Just before the bridge was the first aid station.  I grabbed some water and took a salt pill and was on my way across the bridge.

Once over the bridge, we were met with a large cheer section.  The clear leader of this group encouraged us in such way that I could not tell if she was a head cheerleader or a Preschool teacher.  The tone of her voice made me feel like I just finished my juice box. 
The course then took us past BC Place to a short out and back. At the turn around, a volunteer holding a sign with a picture of Homer Simpson holding a sign that read, "The end is Beer!"

The course then took us into Chinatown and up a hill into Gastown before turning again into Yaletown. 
Once in Yaletown, I heard a voice in the back of my head telling me that I better poop, and soon.  I told myself I would at the next opportunity.  A few blocks later I was in line. 

After my pit stop, I continued through Yaletown, eventually following the same route at the Pacific First Half.  I saw Lego Batman again, gave him a high five, and thanked him. 
As the course took us down onto the Seawall, I took in the sights.  We are very fortunate to have such a beautiful city to call home and run in. 

Somewhere between 10 and 11k, was a very large video screen.  As runners passed, individualized videos of friends and family cheering flashed up on the screen.  They must have had a booth at the expo to pre-record words of encouragement to specific runners.  As the runner's timing chip was read, the messages would be played.  I found this to be a fantastic idea and will remember to look for the booth next year. 
At about 11.5k, I saw Andrew and Brenda out on a run. They cheered me on as they passed.

At 12k we passed the 8k runners as they awaited their start time.  As they cheered us on I jokingly called out to them, "You are the smart ones!"

As we ran toward Second Beach Pool, I saw Alison, a fellow Team Powell Athlete, on her bike cheering me on. 
The course took us past Second Beach Pool, to a quick out and back, and back near the pool.  I saw Alison again as she tried to get video of me. 


The course then took us along Lost Lagoon before heading under Georgia Street and into Stanley Park.  

As we ran up a small hill near the rose garden, I noticed that most people around me were walking.  I then realized that I has only walked the aid stations.  Normally, I would need to take a few walk breaks during a race but not today.  My new goal: No walk breaks except aid stations.

 As I ran thought Stanley Park, I took some time to look up.  I mean, how often do you just look up?  I looked a the tops of the trees as they reached for the sky and was once again reminded of how fortunate we are to live and run in such a beautiful city. 

At 15k, there was a split timing mat and a very encouraging volunteer.  I did not know it at the time, but there was video being taken.


As we made our way out of Stanley Park, there was a band playing this song:


After singing along past the live band, I began to see alot of the race shirts for the half marathon.  I thought to myself, "Is it genius of torture that they put the course map on the back of of the shirts?"

Soon after, I saw my friend Patty.  We caught up on life and races and even manages to get a great picture together.  She was helping to pace a few friends and soon dropped back to help them. 
There were a few more hills as we made our way around the Seawall to Coal Harbour.  Once again, there were lots of people walking.  I kept with my goal and kept running.

At about this time, I began to notice some familiar people.  It was all the people I saw running to fast down Cambie Street.  My strategy had paid off!

The course evened out as we passed the lighthouse.  This was were I hit the wall last year.  Not this year, I was actually picking up the pace!

At 19k, I was spurred on by a group of Japanese drummers.  At this point, you could look across the water and see and hear the finish line.  I always thought it would easier to just swim across the water than run around it. 

As we reached Devonian Harbour Park, the course narrowed and became very crowded with walkers.

I kept pushing my pace as I navigated my way around the walkers.  I knew I only had less than a kilometer left.

The course took us up Georgia and then to Pender.  Now the finish line was in sight. I found the fine line between pushing the pace and keeping my heart rate down as I ran ever closer to the finish.


Then I crossed and the race was over.  I looked at my watch and realized I was under my time from last year by quite a bit (would have been more if not for that poop break). I had not set any goal, so beating last years time was a great bonus.
I saw Karen again and we snapped a few more photos.
I met up with Jen, grabbed some food, then headed home.  All in all, a great day!


Just a reminder that all my 2018 races are benefiting The Alzheimer's Society of BC.

The donation page can be found here. As of right now, we have raised $520!
The next race will be Ironman 70.3 Victoria!