In general, a good gauge of your fitness is the degree of awkwardness of your tan lines. I had some pretty weird tan lines going into Ironman Canada 2012.
I had a really great sleep the night before the race and woke up at 4am race morning ready to go. I had breakfast and relaxed and drank coffee and headed down to the site around 5:30. I bid farewell to my friends before body marking so I could focus on my own preparations. Despite having an hour and a half to get ready I still seemed to be rushing to get my wetsuit on but I made it into the water with a few minutes to spare. As I am not the strongest swimmer, I seeded myself a few back on the far right side of the beach. Annnd we are off….
I was swimming really relaxed and staying in the draft for the first few hundred meters. Eventually everyone spread out a bit more and I was swimming on my own. I felt the chop in the water pick up a bit and my goggles were starting to fog so I was having a hard time swimming straight and starting to get annoyed. I was probably also being a bit lazy with sighting. The first turn was relatively smooth for me and I zigged and zagged along to the second turn buoy. I decided to rinse out my foggy goggles. This helped me sight a lot better.
The water was pretty fast on the way back thanks to the current. My arms felt fine but my swim cap was starting to give me a headache and I was feeling a bit nauseous so I was anxious to get out of the water. Finally I was at shore – I came out of the water in 1:33:19. This was a few minutes slower than expected but it is still an ironman swim PB for me. I was slow and relaxed through T1 to let my stomach settle.
I was really excited once I got onto the bike and my power was a bit high as I rode through town. I tried to relax and ride easy after I saw my parents on Skaha Lake. I was passing lots of people even at a really relaxed wattage – that is the beauty of being a slow swimmer. Before I knew it I was at turnoff to climb McLean Creek. I held my wattage steady going up the hill - lots of people blew past me but I stayed controlled through this section. I felt really strong riding from OK Falls to Oliver and Osoyoos. I focused on getting in as many calories as I could. I was looking forward to the mini bottle of Red Bull that I was going to have at the base of Richters!
I rode steady up Richters and enjoyed the crowd support at each of the three plateaus and before I knew it was time to descend! I made it through the rollers and then it was time for my least favorite part of the course – the out and back. As I was coming up to this section I was trying to psych myself up and I gave myself permission to get out of aero as much as I wanted and I tried to focus on how awesome it was going to be to drink the red bull in my special needs bag.
When I finished the “back” part of the out and back I started to focus on looking forward to the crowds at Yellow Lake. The crowd support up Yellow Lake is amazing – it is hard not to feel like a rock star! It was so motivating to have friends (and strangers) cheering for me. At the top I was amazed by how fresh I felt and was glad to know basically all the hard work is done on the bike. I descended into town and tried to keep my cadence up and my power low to get my running legs ready. I looked down at my bike computer and saw my bike split was 6:29. I was extremely happy with this. I ran straight to my T2 bag, grabbed a volunteer I knew to spray me down with sunblock and got my shoes on.
I charged off on the run. I have never felt that fresh running off the bike…let alone after having as strong of a ride as I just had. I saw lots of friends cheering as I ran through town and this motivated me a lot more. The pro and top age group men were coming up for their finish as I was heading out. As I was nearing Skaha Lake I saw the second place age group male…..and then I realized it was Ryan Murray!! I was extremely excited for him to be having such a solid race! Minutes later I saw Sandra and Kristie on their bikes and this just added to my excitement. I told them how strong I was feeling and how happy I was with my bike. The miles were flying by heading to OK Falls – the out and back nature of the run course is great because you see friends ahead of you heading back to town.
When I hit the hills around Skaha Bluffs my pace dropped from 9-9:30 miles to about 11:30-12 miles - the hills are challenging and my toes were starting to blister…and I was starting to get tired. I ran down the final hill into OK Falls really strong - I was motivated by the can of Rockstar and candy in my special needs bag. I clocked 2:09 for my half marathon split. The miles weren’t flying by quite as fast on the way back but I was still running continuously. I was really struggling when I was running up the false flat between end of Skaha Lake and the Cherry Lane mall.
At mile marker 25 I saw Sandra and Kristie - I handed off my visor to Sandra so it didn’t ruin my finisher picture. She told me to run the last 1.2 miles hard and she would see me at the finish. I alternated between focusing on running strong and concentrating on my good finish photo. The crowd support along Lakeshore drive brought me in for a 4:32 marathon. I crossed the line (smiling for my finish picture) in 12:42:39 – roughly 65 minutes faster than my time in 2011.
I am so happy with the day I had at Ironman Canada. It was a completely amazing experience. I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to Sandra for keeping me motivated through a summer of hard work, for knowing when to push me and when to let me ease off and for generally putting me on a path to success! In the last few months I have become a little fitter, a little stronger and LOT mentally tougher.
In the weeks leading up to IMC I said it was going to be my last ironman ever….but by 10pm on Sunday night I revised that statement to be my last ironman for a few years. I had such a wonderful day and it really reminded me what I love about the sport.