1. PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION:
it has been one week since race day, i have had some time to reflect, some time to be happy, some time to rip my race apart in my head and then put it back together. i have run the full gamut of emotion, not everything what i would have expected. i have felt happy, exultant, disappointed, challenged, fulfilled, motivated and various other emotions.
in case anyone who has followed my blog hasn't noticed, i sort of like my own words and fancy myself, at times, a decent writer, well, literate, at least. however, in searching for a philosophical, literary, reflection on the inner how's and why's of doing ironman i find myself completely satisfied by jordan rapp's winner's speech at this years ironman canada. he says it all, and better, frankly than i could hope for. i am glad he won, because if he hadn't, the world would have had to wait for that speech! here is a link to that full text:
the only point in rappstar's speech i verge from slightly is that he juxtaposes frankl's search for meaning with the bhudda's first noble truth; whereas i see no real difference in the two worldviews. the search for meaning, and the acceptance of the inevitability of suffering are, at least for me, the same thing. and probably a big part of the inner game of ironman.
2. GENERAL COMMENTS ON THE RACE:
i.) the place
once, when i was on a long run in the summer of 2010, i met an ironman athlete who told me that if you only do one ironman, it should be ironman canada. boy, she was right.
if you want to race in a place that is as epic as the ironman itself, then ironman canada is it. penticton is, quite simply, a stunning place. if you like mountains, arid desert, fruit orchards, vineyards, finger lakes and warm, dry air, then this is your place. a more grand and inspiring setting for an ironman cannot be imagined.
penticton is on fire with ironman and the level of enthusiasm and support from everyone in town, for the whole week, is simply fantastic. it is also a small town, with manageable distances, easy access to the race site, and to training sites. our house was 3 minutes from lake skaha, 10 minutes from race site, even on race morning, and less than 5 minutes from grocery stores, walmart, pharmacies, starbucks; basically everything you could possibly need was within very easy, hassle free access all week long. and it was laid back. i actually relaxed and it felt like a holiday for my family. we went to the beach every day. it was amazing.
|our backyard in penticton|
|the beach at lake skaha|
|is there a more beautiful setting for an ironman?|
next year is the 30th anniversary of ironman canada, and it feels like it. they have been doing this for 3 decades, and it shows. the kinks are sorted out. this race is not a rush-job put on by the wtc to make more money, it has history, it is one of the grand ironman races in the world, and everything about the way race week unfolds, reflects that status.
i did hear that there were some issues with water supply late in the bike course this year, but i had no issues myself. the only possible criticism i can make is that the medals this year were a tad on the small side. i did get an email from the race director this week apologizing for that and explaining it was an issue with the supplier. oh well, my ego will have to make up for the small medal size...
what makes this race exceptional, is the level of support from volunteers. they make everything easy, from checking in, to checking your bike, to transition, claiming your gear at the end, finishing, you name it, there is always a friendly volunteer right at your side giving you personal service. it is very very cool.
on the course, the aid stations are more than frequent enough on bike and run, and well stocked with whatever you want or need. they even have chicken soup broth on the run as the day wears on.
a race this size, has the potential to be an organizational nightmare. ironman canada is a pleasure to race in because it is so well organized. there is a high level of support all week, everything is clear, and all you need to do is focus on your race. what more could you ask for?
iii) race day atmosphere
i have alluded to this already. but imagine swimming and as you breath you see sun kissed mountains everywhere...you emerge from the lake to thousands of cheering people, music playing, your wetsuit stripped. you have personal assistance in the change tent.
out on the bike course you pass right beside a lake, then go inland and pass vineyards, mountain ranges, valleys filled with fruit farms and vineyards, small towns. on richter pass it is like the tour de france. there is writing on the road and a passageway of people cheering on either side of you. even dudes in wigs and speedos running with you. there is also a station at the top, with an announcer, music, fans, and they call your name as you crest the pass. pretty amazing.
i found myself getting out of the aero position many times, not to stretch, but to just take in the astounding views.
further on the course, as i was getting a bit tired, and fried in the heat, i passed a huge ranch style house and the owner was sitting on the front yard, drinking beer and blasting ac/dc which was echoing off the mountains...lifted my spirits.
the most boring part of the bike course is the out and back, by that point, about 120k, you are getting a bit tired and it is hot.
|at the turn around on the out and back|
the run begins in town and once again, you feel like a star. people are lining the streets cheering. the whole downtown is buzzing with the race. the run course is anything but flat, but the fact that you are running beside a lake for most of it, kind've eases the pain. there are tons of people sitting on their lawns cheering you on. there are bikini clad girls offering you a spray of water. there are people in their boats having a party next to shore and cheering the runners on. in okanagan falls, when you get to the turnaround, there are tons of people there and a festival atmosphere that lifts your spirits.
but when you come back into town, it really gets magical. for the last 2k, you are running through streets lined with people on either side cheering you on. i can't recall how many people called my name, "go john", it really helped and the support from the crowd was almost overwhelming and moved me to tears at one point.
all i can say about the finish line, is that it was everything i imagined an ironman finish line to be. crowded, loud, exciting, emotional and very very cool. it would have been nice to hear the announcer saying "you are an ironman", but i don't know, maybe he even did. you run through the shoot and people are cheering you on, giving you high fives. it was incredible.
3. MY RACE:
first and most important: i finished. and i have exceeded my fundraising goals for the leukemia and lymphoma society. so, a success all round. and thanks to everyone who donated. amazing people.
it was 34 degrees celcius. it was windy. it was a tough day. the carnage i witnessed on the marathon was a testament to that. yet, i make no excuses about my time, it was what it was. was it what i was hoping for? no. might i have finished faster on a different day, or if i executed differently? probably. who knows. i am famous for telling people in my life that they must accept the crunchy with the smooth. cause life always has both.
well for me, the smooth was that i finished my first ironman! it was a feat just to get there, and to finish alone is a gargantuan task. i will feel proud for the rest of my life about it. i now have bragging rights as an ironman finisher. no small thing. so what is the crunchy part? my time. over one hour slower than my slowest projected time based on my training. oh well, you never know what is going to happen in ironman, especially your first one. crunch, crunch. i should stop being such a type A asshole, crunch, crunch, crunch...
this was the most fun i have ever had in a triathlon swim. i must be honest, i was filled with a sense of dread the few days before the race, as i contemplated what the hell i had gotten myself into, and i made up my mind to take all the pressure off, to just enjoy, pace very conservatively and finish.
i started out wide, to the west, and found some of the more clear water that way. still, there were lots of people, but one nice thing about a mass start is you can seed yourself so you don't get swam over by elite chicks younger than you 10 minutes into the swim.
the water was warm. it was pretty calm. the swim just sped by. i was mellow in my head and emerged from the water feeling really good and had to just sober myself with the thought that it was still a very long day ahead.
|exiting the swim in a mellow mood|
180 k is just a long bike ride. no two ways about it. add in two mountain passes, 34 degree heat and high winds, and you have a tough day.
the first 70 k are net downhill and with a tailwind. so i rode 40k in 1:08 with very little effort.
then we turned into the hills and things heated up a bit. i felt incredible for the first 70 k, but just kept telling myself to hold back. my power numbers were less than i expected, but i told myself this was just the day i was having and it would be stupid to chase a number. i kept it within myself and rode steady.
everyone talks about richter pass, but i actually found yellow lake the harder of the two mountain passes. it comes at 150k into the bike. it is hotter. it is longer. it is higher (at least according to my garmin). by yellow lake, i was a bit fed up, tired, and in survival mode. i had fought off a couple of bonk feelings earlier on, and also some stomach cramps. i was feeling smart. but a bit toasted. and i really could not imagine that my day was not over when i descended into penticton, i still had to run a marathon....
so, a very non-spectacular day on the bike. i may have under-paced myself slightly, but i preferred to be conservative. i was there to finish and enjoy myself and used those ideas as my guiding principle.
i started off running quite strong, and had to think consciously to hold back. i was on a 3:45 marathon pace, which was my most conservative scenario, but i thought that was fine. i was prepared to keep myself in check until the turnaround at okanagan falls. at that point i would let it go if i had anything left in the tank.
|the run had its fair share of joy and suffering|
well, that was not the way it worked out. i ran pretty well for just over 10 k and then i felt my body slowing down. mental and physical fatigue took hold. i was soon running 6 minute k's and i really did not feel to push any harder. i walked a couple big hills. by the 15 k mark, i knew that the run would be slow and had revised my goals to anything sub 4. by the 20 k mark, i knew i was in survival mode, with more than half the marathon still to go and i set a new goal, to finish before i was forced to wear a glow necklace...i am proud to say i met that goal.
things were very ugly out on the course on the way back into town. people were walking right, left and center. there were athletes bent over, sitting down, puking. it was like the road to perdition. one athlete even took off his shoes and went for a dip in lake skaha. that is how hot it was. i was very, very tempted to join him.
but i just soldiered on, and relinquished my pride, and ran what i could and just kept going, and the kilometers kept disappearing, slowly but surely. before i knew it, i was in town again, and things picked up mentally, although by that point, i was quite fatigued and really had nothing much to give in terms of a kick over the last few k's.
so that was it, i brought it home, and there at the finish line, my family were there to greet me. it was an amazing feeling.
as tweety bird so aptly commented "that's all folks". that's it. 8 memorable months. ironman canada has come and gone. i am still a bit in limbo. still a bit in post-ironman glow. that will all change when i get back to work in two days. life goes on. i have really enjoyed this whole experience. it has been valuable in more ways than one. was it all worth it? hell ya! what next? i don't know, i need some time to digest.
i thank anyone who read any part of this blog. and i thank all my sponsors and supporters.
my road to penticton is officially in the books. thanks again for traveling with me.