Ironman Canada was my 3rd Ironman Triathlon, I had suffered through the first two because of cramps during the run, but the thought of quitting had never crossed my mind, especially not during the bike. Ironman Canada was different, I can recall at least 4 different times on the bike when I simply wanted to stop, go to my hotel room, take a warm bath, eat something warm and go to sleep. Ironman Canada almost broke me, I am happy that it didn’t and I was able to fight through the pain.
The reason I had signed up with Ironman Canada in Whistler, BC was because of the idea that I was not going to be competing in 90+ degree weather, it was supposed to be cooler, maybe in the 70s or 80s. When I realized that I was most likely going to be starting the bike in the 40s, I was actually happy, not knowing how it was going to affect my
My alarm went off 10 minutes before 4am, I hadn’t slept well. I woke up several times throughout the night, but as soon as I was up I was ready to go. Prepared breakfast, made sure I had everything in my bag, kissed Christelle good-bye and walked 10 minutes to the Olympic rings, where I was going to meet Kenny Withrow.
Kenny and his girlfriend Sasha documented pretty much my whole journey, they wanted to also document the race, so they made the trip from Boulder, CO. to be there with us. Once we exchanged a couple of words we started walking to T2, where I was going to put some things in the run bag before taking the 15 minute bus ride to the swim start/T1.
The bus ride was fairly quiet, the morning was cloudy, not too cold but it hadn’t started to rain. As soon as we arrived to T1 I went to my bike, got everything ready and went to check my bike bag, making sure that my shoes, helmet, arm warmers and gloves were in there. I was ready before 6am, which gave me over 1 hour to think about the race and hang out. I went outside the transition area and just sat at one of the tables by myself for a while. I really enjoyed that moment by myself, other than the announcer’s voice coming from the loud speakers there was not much noise, it was nice. Christelle and the girls, Emma and Sophie, got to the swim start on their bike at about 6:30am. I spent the next 5-10 minutes with the girls; all they wanted was to sit on my lap, so we did that.
Ironman Canada Race Report
I put my wetsuit on and headed to the swim start. There were so many people just standing at the edge of where the water gets deeper and you can’t touch the ground anymore. All of them waiting for the pro start, I went around them and warmed up a little, the water felt amazing. Once the male pros left I started getting closer to the swim start. As soon as the poor women started, I started making my way to the farthest buoy, the one on the straightest line possible. Around me was a teammate, Liz West, and many other girls, one of them was determined to be one of the first ones. As soon as someone tried to place themselves in front of her, she would move. I knew she’d be fast if she was making that much of an effort to get in front of the pack.
The wait for the mass start was 5 minutes after the pro women left, these are usually the longest 5 minutes, it seems to take forever. I always try to relax as much as possible, after all I am wearing a wetsuit, which makes me float with no effort. Finally the announcer said 10 seconds, then everything got quiet and the gun went off.
I started swimming pretty hard to try to get in front. Surprisingly it was easy to swim away this time, without too much fighting, 100 meters in I had about 4 people around me. The girl that was fighting to get herself in position was in front of me and a guy in between us. As we got to the 200 meter buoy, everyone else had gotten behind me to draft, I still had the guy in between me and the girl leading the swim. All of a sudden I saw another guy swimming from the outside, merging towards us pretty quickly. I knew, if he kept that pace he would swim under 50 minutes, so I simply let him go and
continued to draft of the guy in front of me. As I checked where we were going I noticed he had drifted a little but the worst part was that he had let the girl go and now she was 10 meters in front of us. I made an effort to pass him, but I was going to have to spend too much energy to catch back up to her and I didn’t want to do that. Someone else noticed the same thing he swam around us, he seemed to have a good pace, so I just let him pass me and I got right on his feet, passing the first guy. I knew that drafting him would make my swim much easier.
After turning on the second buoy (900 meters), we passed the first pro woman, by the time we finished the first loop we had passed 3-4 other ones. I stayed on his draft the whole time, I do recall thinking that this had been the easiest Ironman swim, I really wasn’t putting any effort to stay with him. I didn’t know how fast we were going, but I really didn’t care because I knew we were 3rd and 4th on the swim. We also started passing age groupers still on their first lap. As we made the last turn, to the swim exit, the person I was drafting did a wide turn. I thought I could cut a little distance by staying close to the buoy but as I looked up one age groupers was right in front of me, I didn’t want to swim over her, so I pulled my legs backwards to stop myself. As soon as I did that my right hamstring cramped. I was so painful, I couldn’t move, all I could do was relax and try to get rid of the cramp, as I was doing that I got swam over by the 5-6 people that were drafting behind me. It wasn’t a fun minute or so as so many people passed
me and there was nothing I could do about it. As soon as the pain subsided I started swimming again, trying to get back on pace, but I was now boxed in. In retrospect I think not being able to pass anyone was a good thing, as I couldn’t try to make up time. During the last 100 meters I started to hope that the cramp had just happened because of the jerk movement I had done, I was so worried that I was going to continue to cramp during the rest of the race, it would have been a very long race. As I came up to the beach, I tried not to think about it. Got out of the water, ran to get my bike bag, didn’t stop by the wetsuit strippers and went into the changing tent.
I could see 8-10 other people already in the changing tent. Usually I’m the one of the first ones. So I went for the closest chair to the exit and sat down, as soon as I did that my hamstring cramped again. A volunteer started to help me get all my stuff out, he saw that I was frustrated and started to ask me where I was from, my name and other questions to take my mind off of the frustration. He also helped me strip the rest of my wetsuit off. While we were swimming it had started to rain, and it had gotten very cold. I grabbed my arm warmers and gloves. Even though I thought I had dried my arms off, it was so hard to put the arm warmers and gloves on, so I just decided only to put the arm warmers on, up to my wrists and the gloves half way on. As I came out of the tent, I noticed that everyone that had been in there didn’t come out before me. Ran to my bike, saw Kenny, who had an all access media pass, grabbed my bike and ran to the mounting area.
As I came to the mounting area, I realized that my cramp had completely gone away, smiled, got on the bike and started pedaling. During the first couple of pedal strokes, I noticed that it was raining pretty hard. I only noticed it because my visor on my helmet was completely fogged up. I could barely see out of it, I had to tilt my head sideways to make out where I was going. Eventually with the speed the wind un-fogged the visor and I could concentrate on trying to roll my arm warmers up. It was really coming down at this time and it had also gotten very cold. As usual I got passed by 2-3 pro males on the bike in the first 5 miles, also by a couple of pro females. I had never seen so many volunteers on the bike course telling people to slow down as it was very sleek. During the first big climb I was thankful for the cold weather, as I got to the top I immediately regretted thinking that as I was freezing. My whole body was shivering as I was descending.
Not only was it freezing but I simply was terrified of sliding out with the bike so I was trying to be careful and not descend too fast. As usual on the way up I got passed by 20-30 people, but this time coming down I was able to pass at least half of them back, which made me pretty happy. Once I got back on the main road I saw a motorcycle slow down next to me, as I turned my head I noticed it was Kenny, I had no idea he would have a motorbike and my first reaction was to just say hi, so I said: “Hey Buddy, how did you get a bike?” He shrugged and said something back, didn’t make out what he said though. Not before long I heard Christelle cheering, I was so glad to see her, I smiled and waved, I think, she was able to take a picture while I still could manage to smile on the bike.
I was feeling cold at this point, but still fairly good, until right before the first hour on the bike, when I got such an urge to pee. In my previous 2 Ironmans I had never peed on the bike, so this was new to me. Now I had to before the first hour? I thought it must have been because I was very cold. Didn’t think much of it but was so glad after managing to pee, I felt so much better, but the bike ride started to feel miserable. The course is a rolling course and all of a sudden it starts to descend, with some really steep hills that made you get off your saddle and push hard on your easiest gear to just get up the hill. The descends were absolutely miserable. I had never dreaded going downhill before, but this time on the bike I just hated it. Then I really started to get frustrated, because even before getting to the bottom of the descend, before starting about 30 miles of flat course
I had to pee twice more. I was in shock, as this had never happened to me before. At the end of the descend, I looked at my computer and I knew at this point that my bike time was going to be terrible; I was at 2:50 at this point. I only had a long flat segment and then uphill again until getting back to T2. The flat out and back was my favorite part of the whole bike course. I was able to finally relax, control my watts and just pedal without people passing me. During these 30 miles I peed 2 more times, I was just mad at myself at this point for having no bladder control, at least that is what I was telling myself. The last 30 miles is basically uphill, these 30 miles were so terrible I thought about quitting several times. It had stopped raining and I was so hot, I think my body had been working so hard to warm itself up that now that it finally could it just got a little too hot. So hot that I was fogging my visor up again, but this time because I was sweating so much. I started thinking that I was going to hand my bike to the bike grabbers and just go to the exit and not even try to run. Not only because of how I had felt through the bike portion, but mainly because I had started to get some cramps also, nothing too bad though but enough to think about quitting. If I was cramping now, what was I going to do for the marathon? I also thought how I was going to explain to everyone that I hadn’t finished. I also told myself this was going to be the last Ironman I ever do, what is the point to going through such misery, why? My head was simply not it the right place. After what it seemed forever, I finally saw the pro runners on the run course, and I knew I was close, this gave me hope.
The course takes you through the village; hearing and seeing so many people really lifted my spirit. Finally I had gotten to T2. I handed my bike over, I think I ran to get my bike, don’t really remember at this point, I think I was in too much pain for my brain to store any information. It also helped that Kenny was at T2 and he asked me how I was doing, I said: “Not good” he responded “Come on!!!” then I do
remember going into the tent, taking my bike shoes, helmet, arm warmers and gloves off. Changing my socks that were completely soaked, putting my running shoes, sunglasses and visor on and started the marathon.
All of a sudden I felt great; I think all of the people cheering around me simply lifted me. I was expecting to cramp before getting to the first aid station as it had happened at Boulder, but this time I popped 2 salt stick tablets in my mouth took some nutrition in and just hoped I wouldn’t cramp. I also saw Christelle and the girls, which really helped.
The first 4 miles of the run are absolutely beautiful, you go around Lost Lake on a trail. While on the trail I caught 1 runner ahead of me, his name is Sean and we chatted for a little bit. I was really feeling good that I wasn’t breathing hard and was able to hold a conversation while still holding 8 minute mile pace. My day had turned from a miserable day to having hope again that I would be able to run the whole marathon, which was my #1 goal for the run. As you come out of the trail, the course takes you on a bike path for a while. At every aid station I would grab some water drink and dunk a little over my head. The turnaround for the course is closer to mile 9 and it borders Alta Lake, it is really beautiful out there, I was enjoying myself still to this point. I started to feel a little pinch on my quads, so I decided to take another salt stick tablet. After taking that one, I only had 3 left and they had to last me
for the rest of the run. I waited until mile 12 to take the 4th one. As I was getting close to the halfway point I saw Christelle again, I was very excited as I knew I only had 13 miles to go. Being on the second loop of a 2 loop marathon is simply liberating, at least mentally for me as I know that I have done this many times before. I can’t run a full marathon during training, but I can certainly run half marathons and I had done them. It was at this point when I knew I would finish no matter what happened, even if I had to crawl.
I had never run that far before without cramping or having to walk so I was vert happy about that, although I didn’t
think running around the lake the second time was as pretty as my legs had started to complain a little, not of cramping but simply of being tired. There were a lot more people on the course this time around, which made it also a little more challenging. There is about 1KM that you run through this really dense forest of trees, as I was
running through it, I saw a guy running in the opposite direction with a scared look on his face, all he said to me was: “BEAR, BEAR 50 meters back!” I was so out of it that I ran a little faster to try to see it. I would have never tried to do that during a normal day, the things that pain make you do! I didn’t get to see the bear though, so I was a little disappointed, but at the same time relieved as I started to realize what I had done to try to see a bear. After the race I found out that it was a mama bear trying to find her cubs, actually a scary thought now, but in the heat of the moment I wanted to say I had seen a bear during my Ironman. A mile or so after that, I saw Sasha and Kenny, it was really good to see them, they of course were taking pictures and filming, this is one of my favorite shots of Sasha running next to me.
Once I got to the last turn around, which meant I only had 5 miles to go I took the last 2 salt stick tablets. My legs were really complaining at this point, my pace started to drop significantly. People had started to pass me, I had no idea if they were on the first or second lap, so I tried for it not to affect me too much. As I got closer where the course splits, either to go on the second lap or to finish I was really hurting. Every kilometer marker seems to be farther and farther apart. I came to where everyone had been cheering before, but nobody was there anymore. I figured they had all gone to the finish line. I finally turned to head to the finish line. Everybody around me disappeared. I was completely alone, looked back there was nobody there. Got to KM41, which meant 1 more to go. This kilometer was so hard, uphill for half of it, then you go into town but they also make you go up and down a bridge. All I wanted was to see the finishing chute. Finally I came to the last turn and there it was. There was a girl on the side of the road cheering. I didn’t want to turn around so I asked her: “Is there anyone behind me?” She responded: “No, there’s n…” and she stopped. I knew that mean that someone was. I tried to get my legs going again, but they didn’t respond. Mentally I was on a high, physically I was on the lowest low. As I ran the last 100 meters or so I gave a couple of high fives to people then I started to hear the crowd really get loud. I didn’t look back, I didn’t have anything else to give, as I crossed the finish line I was just relieved.
Two guys sprinted passed me, I beat them by 2 and 4 seconds respectively. How do you have that much energy to sprint at the end of an Ironman? I had nothing left in the tank. My body started to shiver again and one someone from the medical team came to see me. She gave me fluids, which I couldn’t take in, she made me sit down. Sasha and Kenny were there, you can see Sasha taking my pulse. I was not in a good place.
Told me I was freezing and that I had to go into the medical tent. Before that I saw that Christelle was behind me so I went over and gave her a hug. I have never been emotional at the end of races. This was the first one that I simply broke down, I was so glad to see her, so glad to have finished, so glad to be able to hug her.
After that I went into the medical tent, spent about 20 minutes in there, or at least that’s what it felt like. They used blowdryers to warm me up. I was finally able to stand up and get some fluids in me.
Ironman Canada really tested me, it has been by far the hardest race I have ever done. I posted a 52:47 2.4 mile swim, 5:51:40 112 mile bike and a 3:48:56 marathon for a combined time of 10:39:20, which is about a 15 minute personal record (PR) from my previous Ironman in Boulder. I was 15th in my age group and 76th overall. I also found out that this Ironman has the highest DNF (did not finish) rate since Ironman St. George in 2012, which doesn’t exist anymore.
People ask me what my next Ironman will be, I am not sure. I definitely know I can do better, but I do need some time to reflect on everything that happened. I would have never been able to get through that finish line without the help of so many people. Starting with my wife, Christelle and all the support she gives me. I truly believe she is super-mom and super-wife. It is amazing to come home to someone like her, I am very lucky. Kenny and Sasha, who were there for me during this whole process. They both helped me so much, and just having them on the course was simply amazing, it gave the course a home feeling. My coach of course, Eric Kenney, from EK Endurance coaching who has really been able to make me faster with my crazy schedule. Traveling over 150,000 miles in 2015 alone and still be able to adjust my training is huge. My team mates, who made the trip with us, Liz West and Audra Kammerer. My team Competitive Edge and all of the companies that support me in one way or another: Roka my wetsuit is absolutely amazing. Newton Running, Perky Jerky if you haven’t tried this brand of jerky you must. It’s absolutely delicious, last but not least Tritats they make me look like a pro with their temporary tattoos. Finding a body marker and making sure they write the correct numbers, is one less thing I have to worry about race morning.
Next race for me will be in beautiful Austria for 70.3 Worlds, I am so excited to go there and compete with all the amazing athletes one more time. I will see you soon and thank you for reading.