Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ironman 70.3 Muskoka

It seems as though I've managed to once again resurrect this blog after many months of neglect. I really appreciated all the positive comments from my Welland Long Course race report, so for those who still enjoy the art of the written race report in the age of vlogs and Instagram stories, I'll keep doing my thing. Maybe eventually I'll invest in a half decent camera and some editing software to get in the 21st century, but for now I still want to share my experience at Muskoka 70.3. So thanks for the read and I hope you enjoy!

I had been anxiously awaiting Muskoka for a number of reasons...

1... It would serve as my primary tune-up and test for Tremblant in six weeks
2(a)... Amanda's dad Kevin was doing his first 70.3!
2(b)... My Hurdle Project bro Jack Laundry's dad Brian was also racing
2(c)... When Kevin and Brian get together, its guaranteed to be entertaining
3... I had fond memories from the old course in 2013 where I qualified for 70.3 Worlds
4... Coach James has been beating the crap out of me. Doing a race would mean getting out of a weekend of hard training :)

To be completely honest, after one of my best races ever in Welland I was initially a bit worried about Muskoka, wondering if I could meet or exceed that performance just two weeks later (with some BIG training miles sandwiched in between). But similar to Welland I changed my focus to my process goal, which for Muskoka was quite simple: execute a good Ironman prep and go even deeper than I did in Welland. Oh, and set a new 70.3 run PB.

Amanda, my mom, the dogs and I all piled in the car and made our way up to the Switzer cottage in Bala on Thursday night for a fun and relaxing couple days to kick off the weekend. I was laser focused on my goals but was equally excited for Kevin to take on his first half and I enjoyed the opportunity to share some of my long course experience with him before going to battle together on Sunday. Race morning came at 4:10AM and Kevin, Brian and I made the drive to Huntsville with our loyal band of supporters following a few hours later.

Swim:

Unlike virtually every 70.3s that I've ever done, I wasn't in the last wave this time! In fact I was in the first wave so I was looking forward to having a little more space out there than I've gotten used to. For comparison, when I did Muncie 70.3 in 2015 I estimated that I made over 2000 passes on the 2-loop bike course (passing some people twice) as I started in the last wave and was within the first 50 across the line.

In the short turnaround after Welland I worked diligently on my open water skills and increasing my turnover so I was interested to see if there would be any progression. I started fairly aggressively to get on some fast feet through the first 400, but in frustratingly similar fashion to Welland I found myself in no man's land for most of the swim, struggling to relax and settle into an efficient stroke. And while it's always a treat to swim in the fresh waters of Muskoka, the race crew definitely borrowed the Ontario "magic thermometer" to get a wetsuit-legal temperature reading.

I got out of the water 8th in my age group in a time of 30:50, not my best swim but far from my worst.  I spent a little more energy than I needed to in the water but I didn't let it affect my mindset and looked forward to getting to work on the bike.


Bike:

After a relatively quick transition I was sixth onto the bike and took the first few k's to settle into my target power range of ~245W (250-255W NP). No hero rides today, the bike was all about pacing and nutritional execution, testing my Ironman gear and position...and enjoying the scenic ride!

A bit more aggressive than my old IM bike position, but I'm more comfortable than I've ever been in aero and felt great through the whole 90k

The first 10-15k is the most challenging section of the course and a few riders went flying past me on the climbs, but I forced myself to stick to my guns and not get too excited. By the time I got to Baysville at 23k I had caught up to a group of four riders who had gone past me earlier, then promptly dropped them on the first climb out of town. Then it was a long and lonely slog down Hwy 117 to the turnaround.


Around 30k I could see a group of three riders up the road, which I later found out included 1st and 2nd place in my age group. I could see that I was making up time on them but I just focused on sticking to my target power and not doing anything stupid trying to bridge up. I passed one more rider right at the 45k turnaround then saw absolutely nobody ahead or behind me for the second half of the ride (aside from everyone on their way out to the turnaround). But I do all my 6+ hour long rides solo so I didn't have much trouble staying focused on the task at hand, enjoying the rolling roads through cottage country as the perfect Tremblant simulation. I ended up just a few watts shy of my best 70.3 power output with a 2:25 split (37.1km/h) but I executed well and couldn't wait to throw down on the run course.


Looking at the splits afterwards it was a bit painful to see that I reduced the gap to the leaders in my age group from over 2:00 at 24k to just 55 seconds at the turnaround, but then it blew out to 4+ minutes by T2. Interestingly though I held almost perfect pacing from start to finish with only a 2 watt difference in my average power between the first and second half of my ride. So either the leaders were sandbagging from 20-45k, or they dropped the Hammer of Thor on me after the turnaround.

Run:

I was very confident in my running after Welland...maybe a little too confident. So when I dropped my bike off in T2 I also left behind my sensible pacing strategy. I saw Amanda and my whole cheering section starting run down the main drag in Huntsville and casually rolled through the first 2k around 3:39/km. I holstered my sh*t a little after that but still went through 5k under 19 minutes.

Image result for bad choice gif

All of a sudden at 7-8k it was no longer an option to just ease off a bit and settle back into my actual goal pace of 4:00-4:03/km. I was in a world of hurt. Legs were tying up, stomach was testy (ugh!), I barely made it over a couple small hills...and I wasn't even half way through yet. I thought I'd be reduced to walking at any minute but as I finished lap 1 I took in as much energy as I possibly could from Amanda, James and the moms all cheering. I got a bit of fueling in, ran under the misting station that I skipped on lap 1 (to keep my feet dry) and tried to clear my mind starting lap 2.


I was digging really deep already but managed to get things back under control a bit from 12-15k. I hit 15k in 1:01 and realized that despite how terrible I felt I was still moving pretty well. More importantly I still had a good shot at taking down my four year-old 70.3 run PB of 1:28:39. I did my best to keep my turnover as high as possible and knew that the pain would be worth it for a new PB!

Out to the far turnaround I focused everything I had on trying not to slow down too much and I stayed on track for a 1:26:XX through each k marker all the way to the final turnaround at 18.5k. From there it got really ugly but I wasn't going to let that damn PB slip at that point.

I mean REALLY ugly - but isn't Amanda the best cheerleader ever?!

I hauled myself over the line for a 1:26:26 run and 4:26 overall time, which was good enough for 3rd in my age group and 18th overall. I was really proud of myself that I fought so hard for that run time when I could have easily slipped into damage control mode, but I stayed focused and knocked a solid 2 minutes off my PB. Looking at the results there were some smoking fast times for an age-group only event, but I was stoked with a sub 4:30 on a challenging course.

Even more impressive, Kevin smashed his first half finishing 4th in his age group in 5:17. Kevin is a legend of the 60-64 category in short course and I've been hinting to him for a couple years now that he should give long course a go. So I was pretty fired up to see him slug it out on a tough and hot course and finish strong. Not to mention Brian also nailed down a solid PB and the 20-strong contingent of LPCers took the Division V Club crown! All in all, a pretty awesome day.

Muskoka turned out to be everything I could have asked for six weeks out from Tremblant. I learned some valuable lessons after taking a few more risks than I typically would in a half. I am also confident now that I can run even faster since that run was FAR from perfect, so I'll look forward to having another crack at that next season. So overall a few things to iron out over the next couple weeks but it looks like everything is on track for an epic day on August 19th.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

MSC Welland LC: 2:52:16, 2nd OA (1st AG)

Holy crap, that was awesome!

Before I get into the specifics of my kickoff to the 2018 tri season I want to share my pre-race mindset and goals for Welland as I feel that they were critical for setting me up for a great result.

I was confident in my training leading into this race after a strong winter on the trainer and some well executed IM simulations already in my legs this year. I've felt good on the bike all year but in recent weeks my running has really started to come around after some forced time off in March-April. I guess a side benefit of Ironman training is the 2k-56k-15k "long course" distance really felt more like a short course race for me, so I decided that I was going to race aggressively and with confidence...or at least optimism, that my body would respond well to the first race of the season.

There was a pretty darn impressive field assembled for the start of the Multisport Canada Series - and Provincial Long Course Championships - but I was firmly focused on my process goals for the race, which where:

1. Race with a clear mind, completely tuned into my own effort
2. Run harder than I ever have in a mid/long distance race

With that in mind, I made the annual road trip to Welland to signify the official start of summer in Ontario! This time though, with some recent life changes Amanda stayed home with the doggos while I went up solo and crashed at her little apartment in Brantford that she is renting while working out of town during the week.

Amanda has been working through a frustrating string of injuries that started when she was hit by a car on her bike a number of years ago. It's been a tough go for her the last couple seasons with more than her fair share of setbacks. But she is making progress this year and her dedication is a huge source of inspiration for me. She will be on a start line soon and I can't wait to see her out there smiling again. I'm hoping really soon because these race weekend road trips are a lot more fun with her!

Swim: 31:46
As is typical for me, I didn't really have any specific time goals in mind for the swim. My goal is always to focus on form and efficiency in the open water as I sometimes struggle to find my feel for the water in a wetsuit, especially in my first couple races.

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I started in the second wave, 1 minute behind the pro/elite age group wave. I started comfortably and managed to find the tail end of a decent sized lead group. I stuck with them for about the first 800 meters, then as we ran into swimmers from the elite wave I lost touch with the group a bit. I was still feeling good though and caught new LPCer/camper/super strong long course athlete Sean Henderson, who had started in the elite wave, at the far end of the course. I managed to find another good set of feet to follow for about the next 400m, but once again lost touch after a brief lapse in focus and ended up swimming the final 400 on my own.

The lead group from my wave came in around 30:30, and there's really no reason that I shouldn't have been in there comfortably. I don't mean that in a negative way...I just know what I have to work on to swim to my potential in open water. It seems that every year I have a couple average swims to start the season but over the summer I find my feel for the open water and manage to put together good swims for my big races later in the year. So now it's back to the pool (and lake) to work on keeping a high turnover and strong catch - both of which I seem to lose in a wetsuit - so I can stay on feet better and not lose touch. And I also need to work on my focus and awareness in the second half of longer swims to continue holding the paces I am capable of.


Bike: 1:22:54
Nerd stats:
If you can't see the tiny writing: 40.7 km/h - 265W AP (3.73W/kg), 270W NP, VI 1.02

As mentioned earlier, my only concrete goal for this race was a strong run, so I started the ride wanting to focus on efficiency and feeling really good getting off the bike. Well that changed quickly.

After taking the first few k's to settle in (and get my power meter re-paired with my computer) I had a couple athletes ahead that I focused on catching. Around 10k I caught my LPC teammate Lee Rantala...to be honest I was surprised that I caught him as he is a beast on the bike. But that gave me a boost in confidence that I was moving well. I tried to roll past him but he didn't let me get away so we started working together...or maybe just taking turns beating up on each other...and my average speed crept up close to 41 km/h.

Side note: Prior to the start they announced that the draft zone for this race would be 10 meters (Tri Ontario's rule is generally 5 meters for AGers). But on a flat course with little wind I found that not only is there still an advantage sitting 10-12 meters back, but it was also very difficult to open up a gap on similar-strength athletes. I can see why the pro's do it...and why the best riders prefer 20 meters. I was also happy that an official came past on a motorbike when I was behind Lee and I confirmed with him that I was legal at what I thought was a safe distance. I certainly had no intention of trying to push the boundaries.

Around 30k I looked back to see an orange helmet in the distance behind us, and I immediately knew it was Sean coming back to us. As I mentioned, he's a strong IM guy and was definitely on my list of "guys who will probably kick my ass in this race." At 40k Sean along with another top AG athlete Luke Ehgoetz caught Lee and I, but I quickly responded to the increase in pace. Luke was riding really well and from that point on it was a full on pro-style pain train as the four of us took turns trying to push the pace and/or break things up. It was really fun and a bit tactical - something pretty uncommon in age group racing, but on a completely flat course with guys of similar ability, not terribly surprising.

At 45k I gave it one more try to get away heading into T2 but we just couldn't shake each other. Luke came back past me just after 50k with Sean close behind him, but we managed to put some time into Lee who was also a big threat on the run. At that point I stopped playing tactics, I was a little worried that I pushed the bike a fair bit harder than I had initially intended so I got some final nutrition in and hoped that I still had something left for the run.

I didn't actually look at my power output during the ride, in part because I sometimes find staring at numbers to be a negative distraction, and partly because I wasn't holding anything back anyway. But I was really happy with my numbers afterwards - my goal over the same distance in Kingston later this summer was to push the bike and get through the run on trashed legs...and I exceeded that power target. I believe it was also my fastest average speed (on a legit course) in a triathlon ever, regardless of distance.

Run: 55:16 (~14.5k, 3:49/km on my Garmin)

Coming out of T2 I was shoulder to shoulder with Sean and one other athlete, with Luke a few seconds back and Lee not far behind him. I was confident in my running and extremely motivated to see what I was capable of, so I decided to open up a gap quickly and then settle into my pace.

Round 3...FIGHT!

The two-loop course had two out-and-backs each, so there were plenty of opportunities to see who was around. At the first turnaround I was in 6th with 4 athletes fairly close together (all of whom had started a minute ahead of me), and a bunch of fast dudes still close behind. I could feel the hard ride in my legs and was fighting a bit of cramping in the first few k's, but I let my internal pacing guide me and went through 5k averaging 3:40/km while my legs loosened up. My optimistic goal for this race was to even split 19:00 5k's so it was a little rich, but I knew the pain would come!

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Somewhere between "optimistic" and "suicide pace" (photo cred: Maddy McMillan)

I passed three athletes in quick succession at the second turn-around leaving just two guys ahead of me...my LPC Hurdle Project bro David Hopton - who was crushing his first long course race! - and Nigel Gray, whose old man strength (and race resume) is the stuff of legend.

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Just another LPC domination day (Maddy McMillan)

I passed Dave at the end of the first lap to move into second and Coach James gave me some false hope that I was putting time into Nigel. But he was still well up the road and the pain was starting to set in. So I shut my mind off, kept my focus on a quick turnover and hit 10k still under 3:45/km average pace.

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8.5-ish K in (Maddy McMillan)

At the third turnaround I realized my hopes of catching Nigel were pretty slim as he was about 4 minutes up and I was only gaining by a matter of seconds. My slightly front-loaded pacing strategy was starting to hit me and by 11-12k I was in a total body world of pain, but part of my goal for this race was to see how deep I could go. I pushed it right to the line and was really fired up knowing that I gave it absolutely everything and came away with one of my best executed races ever.

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As a rough goal, going sub-3 hours at this unique middle-distance is a pretty solid time, and often good enough for a top age group finish. So I was pretty stoked when I saw my final time of 2:52 and change, even after considering the slightly short run course I was really happy with my pace and overall time. It was also good enough for 2nd overall in a solid field and I won my age group by 13 minutes.

It sounds ironic, but its a great feeling when you can really push yourself to the limit, successfully avoiding the variables like mechanicals, stomach issues (!!) and all the other million things that can go wrong in long course. When you push past what you thought you were capable of and realize those limits are only in your mind, well that makes for a pretty memorable race.

After working harder than ever over the winter months and suffering through some big workouts the last few weeks, it felt great to express that in my first race of the 2018 season. There's also no question that I'm benefiting from a new level of mental resilience and self-belief that I forged in Whistler last year. But there are definitely some things I can and will improve upon. I'm extremely motivated to continue the forward progress and hit Muskoka 70.3 in a couple weeks, then a final tune-up at K-Town before my big race of the year, Ironman Mont Tremblant.

As always thanks for the read and your support!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Paris to Ancaster 2018

Like a bad superhero movie that just keeps making more sequels...

I told myself I wasn't going to do this again. But once again its the first week of May and I'm still picking dirt out of my eyes from the weekend, having suffered through yet another round of Paris to Ancaster.


Last year I felt I had made my peace with P2A. Over the years I've learned this race the hard way, qualified for the elite wave and survived some of the toughest conditions in the history of the event. It's not that I didn't enjoy the race or the challenge, it just really wasn't on my radar this year. Most of my race goals this year are focused on my running so I planned a few spring run races for some early season benchmarks.

I was rounding into some good form when this happened a couple weeks before training camp...

Broken? Or bitten by a zombie?

Sadly I don't even have a cool story about it, I just jammed my foot and broke my toe. Fortunately after a few days it didn't cause too much discomfort on the bike, so while my running was limited at camp I put in over 30 hours of riding including 180k on the infamous Sugarloaf ride. While I was disappointed that I wouldn't be healthy in time to run Around the Bay 30k, I started thinking about what else I could do to kick off my race season.

photo: Maddy McMillan

I also jumped on the Zwift bandwagon over the winter and was instantly hooked. No, its not some magical world that instantly makes you a better cyclist (unless you are faking your numbers, as many people do). But I became moderately obsessed with the virtual races and did about a dozen from Christmas to mid-April and was hitting some of my best ever power numbers.

Knowing that I was on some decent early season form, and in need of a kick in the ass to stay motivated post-camp, I impulsively decided to register for P2A just before the deadline to get back in the elite wave.

I seem to say this every year that I do this race, but man, our spring weather SUCKED! Historically sucky in fact; last I checked we were on pace for the coldest April on record. Honestly if I didn't have this race looming over me I likely would still be glued to the trainer in the basement. Given that we still had snow on the ground within a week of the race I figured it would be a pretty soggy race course this year, and it certainly was.

At least the weather on race day was much more favorable than last year...a bit chilly but sunny and primarily a cross/tail wind.


For the tech geeks out there my gear setup was the following:
  • Giant TCX SLR02 - aluminum frame, hydraulic disc brakes, F+R thru axles
  • Shimano 105 drivetrain with 46/36 x 11-32 gearing
  • DT Swiss wheels with 140mm Ultegra rotors
  • Specialized Trigger 700x38 tubeless tires with 34/36PSI
This is primarily worth noting because I felt that I nailed my gear choice. It was my first time running tubeless tires for cross and first time using file treads...actually my first ever ride on those wheels and tires...but it was hands-down the best setup I've had for this race. And my weekend warrior alloy bike and 105 drivetrain was flawless through some pretty gnarly mud this year.

OK enough with the preamble, onto the race itself...


Start is at 50 seconds

My goal this year was to beat my personal best placing of 71st in 2016, but knowing how close I was last year to getting in the group that finished 30-50th I was willing to take a risk to try to get in that group off the start. I was 5-6 rows back in the start corral and knew that I would have to take it out VERY hard to try to get in the top 30-ish before the rail trail where it becomes very difficult to change position.

Fail

I had scoped out my lines before the start and went far-right to try to get on the inside for the first two corners. Despite an all-out sprint up the right shoulder I was no better than 50-60th place before the bottleneck of the rail trail. I didn't have my power meter on my bike for this race, but for reference my sprint is 1420-1460W and I likely wasn't far off that right from the gun.

Onto the rail trail I spent the next 5-6k just trying to recover from that effort as things settled down a bit. With the elite group so tightly bunched there is virtually no room to move up - it would take an extended sprint through the grass up the outside, which frankly isn't worth the effort or risk. So I sat in and prepared for another big effort up Sharp's Lane, which is about a 2.5-3 minute stair-step gravel climb up to the first road section.

I'm back there somewhere! (Canadian Cyclist)

I hit the turn well and got about half way up the loose gravel before getting stuck behind a few riders unclipping, so I unclipped and ran hard up to where I could start pedaling again. I tried to hang onto a few riders that I recognized who finished in the top 40 last year but as we got up towards the road I simply couldn't hold on and catch the group, and off they went. I hit my max heart rate for the whole race at this point, and actually the third highest I have ever recorded on the bike (behind two 20 minute time trials). But it still wasn't enough to get in the group.

So I was once again in an all too familiar spot of P2A...20 minutes into the race, just missed the train and dangerously close to being completely blown up already. But I knew there was still a long way to go to get back into a rhythm and start bringing people back. There was a small group hanging onto my wheel and I got a few riders organized to work together on the first long gravel road section.

I led the way through the first off-road section which includes a jump over a ditch then some muddy singletrack. It was awesome to have daylight ahead of me and dismount at 30km/h, hop the ditch and hit the trail at full speed as this is typically a brutal bottleneck getting stuck behind cyclists who don't know how to run :)

When we hit the orchard farm I first noticed that my tire choice and pressure were good as I effortlessly gapped my whole group on the loose gravel corners and was starting to make up ground on the big group ahead. I did my best to rail the corners and as I was exiting the orchard farm I had gotten painfully close to bridging the gap, probably within 5 seconds. But as I got back onto the road I just couldn't get there on my own so I eased back into a tempo effort and let the group behind catch up to me again, which was now down to only 4-5 riders. I knew I wanted some company for the long gravel stretch heading north into the wind.

Once again on the next farm laneway I gapped my group on the first corner. I wasn't trying to intentionally lose any good allies just yet, but I also wasn't going to wait for anyone who couldn't hold my wheel. I had dropped my group but was losing time to the group ahead, so I had to just settle into my own tempo for a while. I put my head down and rode completely solo for about the next 10k.

P2A, solo TT style.  tire pressure on point!

From a placing standpoint I wasn't sure if it was a good or bad thing that I was on my own for so long. Actually I've never been on my own like that in my previous 3 years of this race...usually I'm driving a 20+ person pack. But it was really nice to get into my own rhythm and hit the trail sections at full speed rather than the constant bottlenecks and spikes when riding in a group. It was probably the most fun I've had in four years of this race feeling like I was on my own against the clock on this epic course.

Finally around 40k in I managed to catch a group of 3 riders who seemed to be working pretty well together. I thought I might blow by them and keep rolling solo but it seemed that having me join them motivated the group to pick up the pace. So we started working well together rolling through some individual riders including one that latched on and worked really hard with us. 45-60k was pretty windy with a new section of the course that went over the 403 then back under, and as we got back on the Hamilton-Brantford rail trail around 60k I was starting to feel the fatigue build. I had to skip a few pulls to make sure I wasn't completely trashed for the final climbs (as I was last year), but still pulled my weight the best I could.

Once we were off the rail trail our group split up as we navigated the tough gravel climbs and mud chutes. I certainly appreciated having the slightly wider gearing and hydraulic brakes compared to my old cross bike and got through both mud chutes cleanly (figuratively speaking, definitely not literally).

I caught one more rider with about a mile left, and just before the start of the final climb to the finish I almost got taken out by a bunch of kids crossing the trail. But fortunately I managed not to run anyone over and gritted my teeth to fight up the hill.

Hoping my bike computer is telling me it's over soon
(Photography by Chyla)

Ultimately I finished 73rd overall in a time of 2:27 - the course was about 5k longer than my best time here (2:13 in 2016) and almost 10k longer than last year when I rode 2:26. Definitely a better ride and faster day than last year as I just about equalled my best ever placing, but I still fell slightly short of my race goal. Once again it was painful, it was muddy, it was tons of fun, but mostly painful.

I am realizing that as my training becomes more and more focused on Ironman and 70.3 riding I sometimes struggle with the high end "pop" that I had when I raced short course and road races. I thought I would be able to get into that main group up the first climb but frankly I just didn't have the fitness for a 500 watt 2-3 minute effort, shortly after a full on sprint at the start. I could tell that my overall fitness is good as I was able to recover and find a good rhythm to roll through a big chunk of the race on my own. I think I'm just starting to become more of a diesel engine time trial guy than a snappy sprinter. I guess that's a good thing given what I'm actually focusing on :)

So let's be real. No matter what I say its virtually inevitable that I'll be back on the start line again next year. I am still very determined to finish higher in this race as I know I have a top-50 in me, maybe a top 30. But depending on how it fits in the grand scheme of my year I will either have to adjust my race schedule, or my spring training, if I want to better my result at this race. But for this year it once again has served as a super fun and hard first hit out of the season. It's gotten me through winter and spring weather in good form and I can't wait to tackle plenty more big goals in 2018!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ironman Canada

In some ways the build up to an Ironman and the months or years it takes to prepare for such a crazy event is the real story. Race day is just the "fun" part. When I signed up for the race I wrote down three goals and hung them in my pain cave:

My build for IM Canada went about as well as I could have possibly hoped for. After a string of frustrating injuries in 2016, with a renewed focus on strength, mobility and recovery things finally started falling into place in early spring. As with any Ironman build I had my share of super hero workouts and painful miserable workouts, but I got through them all and if my early season races were any indication things were moving in the right direction.

At times the progression in volume felt a little compressed especially in the 4 weeks after Syracuse 70.3, whether it was the circumstances of coming back from injury or the reality of squeezing training and some prep races in before a mid-summer full. But my body responded well to the volume and I arrived in BC healthy and fit. Goal #1 accomplished.

I had absolutely no outcome goals for the race at all. I had a number of friends ask what my time goal was or if I was gunning for a Kona spot, but I know first hand how unpredictable Ironman racing can be. Putting a time or placing goal on my race would only serve as a negative distraction if things didn't go to plan. I knew that if I got through the race without any major issues I had the fitness to be very competitive - I was fitter and fresher than my 12th place overall in Syracuse. But I can honestly say I didn't care what my time was, I just wanted to accomplish my last two goals...in whatever context race day provided.

Race Week:
I landed in Vancouver on the Wednesday before the race...got hooked up with a sweet free upgrade on my rental car, and rolled up the Sea to Sky Highway in style. I stayed with my cousin in Pemberton for a few days which was an awesome low key place to hang out and recon parts of the bike course away from the hectic race site in Whistler village.

My parents, aunt and uncle drove from Alberta to join in the fun and arrived on Friday and I stayed with them in the village for the rest of the weekend. I was missing my travel partner in crime Amanda, but she was holding down the fort (fur children) back home for the week, and was the best long distance cheerleader EVER!

I checked into the race on Friday afternoon and got most of my gear sorted, then did my final race prep and gear bag check in Saturday morning. One interesting logistical wrinkle with this race is we could not leave any nutrition on our bikes or in gear bags overnight before the race, because of the bears! So I had to make absolute sure I wouldn't forget it on race morning!

Throughout the week we also drove the full bike course which was really valuable. The bike course is extremely challenging, not only with over 8000ft of climbing, but where the climbs are on the course. The final 45km is almost entirely uphill, with nearly 2500ft of climbing in the final 30k. But the entire course was unbelievably scenic and I was nervously excited to take on the challenge.

Race Day started at 4 am with a quick breakfast and coffee before heading down to T2 to put my nutrition in my run gear bag and catch the bus to the swim/T1 which is about 5 km away. I set up my bike nutrition, did a final walk through of transition and had a few moments of reflection watching the sun rise over the mountains before it was time to get my wetsuit on. I was about to take on Ironman Canada, the race I have dreamed about since I got into the sport 10 years ago.

Swim:
As I've mentioned in my previous race reports this year, my primary goal for my swims has been to simply get through them pain free and without wasting too much energy. I only had about 3 months of twice-per-week swim workouts in before this race, but in the final weeks of my build I was surprised with where my fitness was. I was prepared to swim anywhere from 1:00-1:05, the latter being more likely.

With a self-seeded rolling start I was able to line up near the front of the race, unlike in Louisville where I was right near the back of 2500+ athletes starting in single file. At the cannon I was within the first 30 athletes into the water and after a few dolphin dives I quickly settled into my pace. For the opening 800 I simply focused on not getting too excited and staying relaxed, and I found myself drafting at the back of the lead pack. Woohoo, this is easy so far!

Coming around the far end of the first loop I reminded myself that this is an Ironman, and I don't need to push my luck sticking with the pack! I started to get gapped around 1500m in and after 50 hard strokes I decided it wasn't worth the energy to catch back on. I finished the first loop still feeling great and started my second loop with clean water all around me. I was able to bring my focus back to my stroke thinking about efficient rolling and strong core. I was sighting well and felt in control of my effort and stroke.

With about 800m to go I hitched onto a small pack that came past me as we began working our way through swimmers still on their first lap. I reminded myself to keep a quick turnover and strong catch to stay in the draft and I followed the small group all the way back to the swim exit. Through T1...grab gear bag, jersey/helmet/socks and shoes on, and out onto the bike! I checked my garmin and saw the time was 7:54, meaning that my swim + T1 was just over an hour...AWESOME!! I ended up with a swim time of 59:10...only 20 seconds off my current-aided time from Louisville. Let that be a lesson kids - don't skip your swim drills!

Bike:
It took three or four conscious efforts to bring my power down to my target range of 210-215W (220-230W NP) as we headed through Whistler Village for the first time. I knew my family would be standing on the road about 10k into the bike and I gave them a quick wave on my way by.

The first 20k of the bike is rolling terrain before the 15k climb up Callaghan Valley Road to the 2010 Olympic nordic/ski jump venue. I knew that it would be critical to keep things in check on this climb with a LONG way to go after. I saw a few athletes blow past me in the first couple k's up the climb and thought to myself "see you in a few hours :)". In fact the first 90k of the course was all about conserving energy wherever possible and I stayed on track up the Callaghan then back down over the rolling net-downhill terrain all the way to Pemberton.

Into Pemberton it was like I was racing an Ironman in my home town with my cousin and her friends cheering like crazy before heading out to the section of the course I had been riding most of the week. From 90-140k the course is stunningly beautiful and mostly flat heading through the Pemberton valley. I was still feeling fresh but once again I told myself to keep things in check and hold back from the urge of letting it rip on the fastest section of the course.

At the far turnaround at ~115k I saw that I was in the top 30 ish athletes, but again I told myself not to get too excited. After all I was not at all concerned about my results or placing...I was focused entirely on executing MY race, and so far I had given myself a 10/10 score on execution. At 140k I got back through town and this is what I was holding back for. The final 40k is nearly a constant uphill back to Whistler. I had ridden much of that section and driven it multiple times before the race so I knew this was where the race really began.

Despite that, and sticking to the low end of my power target, I hit my first really rough patch at about 155k. It was a huge mental struggle to watch the time tick by on my Garmin while grinding away in my smallest gear for miles at a time. There were 3 or 4 times I wanted to stop and just take a break for a minute, but I managed to hold it together...barely. I listened to my body and brought my power down to make sure I wasn't digging a hole for the run. After what seemed like an eternity I was finally back in Whistler and got a boost of energy riding through the village to the dismount line. I was happy that I had held it together enough to end up with a 5:30 split on that beast of a course.

Run:
I did a full change in T2 and felt comfortable and refreshed hitting the run course. I knew that I had managed the ups and downs of the bike (both literally and figuratively) well. I saw my support crew again and settled in through the first 5k of challenging trails around Lost Lake. When I went back past transition again I gave my parents a thumbs up as I headed off to the long out-and-back section to finish off the first lap. As I did in Syracuse I decided not to wear a watch for the run so I could tune in to my internal pacing without any distractions. Out to the far turnaround at 13k I was feeling good and my legs were still solid.

At 15k I was feeling a bit low on blood sugar so I backed off the pace a little, then with virtually no warning signs I threw up everything in my stomach. It seemed as though my stomach had not absorbed or emptied anything since the start of the run. My very first thought of course was Louisville where I had the exact same issue and I couldn't believe this was happening again. I had been so meticulous with my nutrition, I knew exactly my carb, fluid and sodium (not to mention protein, fat, fiber, caffeine etc.) intake ranges, spent months testing and dialing in my plan, reading journals on carb uptake and gastric emptying, and never had a single issue in any of my 6+ hour workouts in training.

Looking back on Louisville my only regret was not walking sooner in hopes of salvaging a finish...instead I tried to soldier on running and ended up in the back of an ambulance. There was absolutely no way I was going to have the same result. My only option was to walk, and walk, and walk some more. I tried anything at the aid stations but nothing was staying down. So I kept walking. The best I can describe it is trying to run a marathon hung over out of your mind.

I finished the first loop of the run having walked for nearly an hour. I started thinking about how long it would take to walk a marathon (I figured about 7 hours) and I knew I needed to keep some fluid or carbs down or I wouldn't make it through the rest of the course. I saw my family and told them what was going on, and kept on walking.

I got my special needs bag, tried some pretzels and had another epic barf on someone's front lawn. I wasn't sweating anymore and was in pretty rough shape physically and mentally. But I thought of Amanda glued to the live tracking at home, my family standing outside all day supporting me, and all my friends in the sport who have inspired me over the years. I hit the aid station around 23k and tried everything...redbull, orange slices, ice etc. I managed to hold it down for a few minutes and I started to change my mindset, took in the scenery, and told myself "it's like I'm taking my dogs for the world's longest walk!"

I saw my parents again at 25k and of course they saw I was still walking. I told them to go hang out at the hotel cuz I was gonna be a while! I took some ice at the next aid station and was starting to sweat again, and I started to get a sense of urgency to my steps. I still couldn't fathom the thought of walking for 3 more hours, but somewhere deep down inside I had the burning feeling that I had to finish this damn thing. It may not have been the Ironman I was hoping for but it had become the essence of what Ironman is all about...doing whatever it takes to get to that f@cking finish line.

Around 28k I tried jogging 20 steps...and I didn't barf! How about 50 steps...oops almost barfed. Ok 30 seconds jog, 1 minute walk. At first it was more about just trying to get to the aid station faster than actually trying to run. But I got to the next aid station, tried a couple things, walked for a minute to make sure it would stay down then jogged again. I got to 30k and pushed my luck with what I could stomach and threw up again. I walked some more, then got back to 1 minute jog, 1 minute walk.

I got to the timing point at the far turnaround and had a small moment of pride thinking of Amanda seeing my splits, knowing that she'd realize I'm starting to jog a little again. For the first time in about 3 hours I started to believe I could finish. I started jogging 2-3 minutes then power walking for a minute. I was able to stomach half a banana and felt a boost of energy so I kept pushing on. I still felt like absolute shit but I was making progress.

I continued my strategy of running whenever I could, then walking the aid stations and for about 100 meters past to make sure whatever I took stayed down. At 36k I finally allowed myself to start thinking about how amazing it would feel to finish and that drove me forward. As I got back into the village I told myself "I don't care if I barf or pass out...I am running this in!" With 400 meters to go I almost did barf and pass out simultaneously, but I made it to the finish chute and took it all in. I couldn't believe that I made it. I finished.

I got my medal and finisher's shirt and hobbled over to the closest patch of grass and immediately lied down. Some random super nice Hispanic lady gave me an orange and a blanket and told me how proud she was of me - I wasn't sure if I was hallucinating the whole thing until my family found me and asked who gave me the orange. After 4 hours of begging for the pain to be over I was finally finished...and I still felt just as terrible for the next 3 hours!

After finishing I didn't have a single thought of frustration or disappointment over my final time. In a funny way having things go so far off the rails and being out there for so long gave me the most fulfilling Ironman experience I could have asked for. As cliche as it is, I learned a lot about myself over those final 28 k's.

I've had so many messages of support and congrats over the past few days I don't know if I've even gotten through them all. So all I can say if you've read this or followed along on race day at all is a huge THANK YOU. I was thinking about all the Ironman war stories I've heard over the years from my friends and teammates, and having so many people following along virtually helped immensely in getting me to the finish.

I haven't given much thought to what's next for me. At this point all I know is I'm ready for some much needed R&R and enjoy a little more free time again. I would like to try to figure out the cause of my consistent GI issues in long course...I thought I had done everything in my power to prevent it from happening again. But to be honest I don't know if I will ever want to try my luck at another one of these. It's time to get my life back after dedicating so much time and energy to finally finding the Ironman finish line.