My Iron-Journey Several years ago I decided that I wanted to complete the Canadian Ironman before I turned 40 in 2010. The Ironman race was conceived by a group of guys sitting around drinking beers in Hawaii who dreamed up a competition to see who was the fittest, the Ironman consists of 3.8km, bike 180km, and run 42.2k. Seeing as this is also my preferred method of setting goals, with beer in hand, I though that this was the event for me.
To enter the Ironman you have to sign up a year in advance so on Aug. 26, 2007 my good friend Aly Leith (who I blame for talking me into doing this a few years early) and I made our way up to Penticton to watch the race and sign up for 2008. When we arrived in Pentincton we were welcomed by the complete frenzy that is the Ironman. Thousands of people were lining the streets to watch the over 2400 athletes competing. Standing at the finish line was one of the most inspiring experiences I have had. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes were arriving into the finish chute. You could see the overwhelming sense of accomplishment each competitor felt as they cross the line.
On the way home from Penticton I started to think on the challenge I had just committed to. What I came up with was a bit disturbing. One – I have not really trained for anything in several years, two- I am 40lbs overweight, three- I have a bad knee, and the most disrupting thought was this – I don't really know how to swim! What the hell am I doing? Is this is going to kill me?
I needed a plan so I started some research. I was happy to find out that most Ironman training programs were 20-24 weeks long and I would not need to start the intense portion of the training till February or March. This being said all the programs that I found clearly stated that you need to be in good condition before you start. I decided that I would commit the fall and winter to developing some base fitness and then hit the ground running (literally) in March.
February 2008. 233lbs, 56min 10k run, swim 100m (with 3 breaks), and knee still not 100% - it bothered me on every ride to date.
I think this says it all, the fall training did not go very well. Liz decided that she wanted to join a tri club to help her prepare for the world triathlon championships and I felt this would be good for me as well. In March we joined the Leading Edge Triathlon Club (LETC). I can still remember the first session with the group. The coaches, Alan and Andrew, looked us over and I could tell that in Liz they saw an elite athlete they were excited to work with and in me a former athlete who has a lot of work ahead. (a few months later Alan admitted to me that they both thought I was crazy to choose the Ironman as my introduction to the sport). The real training began.
August 2008. 195lbs, 44min 10k run, swim 4000m (no breaks), 16km bike time trial average 40kmph, knee 80%.
Phase 2 of my training was coming together. The LETC training program had worked wonders and my conditioning improved dramatically. I felt that I was prepared to take on the Ironman and I finally was confident that I was not going to drown, crash, or collapse on the racecourse.
Saturday August 16 we packed up all our gear and hit the road for Kelowna. Almost the second we hit the highway my body decided that it would fall apart. When we arrived in Kelowna we went to the hospital and I was diagnosed with a strep like virus. The doctor felt that if I were to take the antibiotics needed to clear it up I would suffer side affects that would further prevent me from racing. He suggested that if we let the virus take its own course it may clear my system by the following weekend. Not great news. The week leading up to the Ironman, the final taper, I spent bouncing off the walls in anticipation. My health was slowly improving but I was still not 100%. I realized that all I could do at this point was to show up on race day ready to go and hope for the best.
The Ironman race: 6:30am I make my final wetsuit adjustment and headed to the water. It all hit me at once. Over 2200 wetsuit clad racers surrounded by thousands of screaming fans, a helicopter flying overhead, and media everywhere. Although I had always understood the scope of the event it really did not sink in till then. The atmosphere was amazing. Just before 7 we made our way into the lake, I think the water level must have gone up at lease a bit as we waded to the start line. The cannon shot and we were off . 80min later I trooped back onto the shore having completed the best 3.8km swim in my life. I felt great and made my way to the transition area where I was meet by three wetsuit strippers that literally stripped my suit off in about 2 seconds. A few minutes later I was off on my bike to complete the challenging 180km course. As I am not much of a hill climber I decided that my race plan would be to pedal as controlled and efficiently as I could on the flats and attempt to attack the climbs aggressively. For the first 90km the strategy worked well and I was on my goal pace. Shortly after this point things fell apart. My knee was not happy and I was not able to keep fluids in. I realized that if I was going to finish I was going to have to slow my pace and reset my goal. This really sucked the wind out of my sail but I decided to carry on and try to enjoy the day. 90km of riding in pain followed by hobbling through a marathon may not be everyone's idea of a holiday but it was great.
Making my way around the marathon route I realize what a major, and positive, impact this event has on the Penticton community. People were sitting at the end of their driveway or on their front lawn, in the rain, cheering for every person that raced by. It took me what seemed like forever to get through it but I'm pretty sure I had a smile on my face the whole way. What made the expierience rewarding was the sight of all the familiar faces along the race course who showed up to cheer me on. I would not have kept going without you guys there. Although I was not able to finish in the time I felt capable of and barring the fact that I threw up then collapsed about 10m past the finish line I did finish and I am proud to say that I am now an Ironman.
I really want to thank everyone for all of the amazing support leading up to and on race day. My loving wife Liz, the best training partner ever. Aly for the initial push and the inspiration to race. Kristina, Toby, Ben, Julia (J-Mac), Paige, Kristen (KK), Claire, Michelle, Jack, Nicky, The Leith's, and The LETC peeps for making the journey to Penticton to watch the race (nothing is more inspiring that a familiar face in the crowd). And a big thank you to everyone who sent me texts, emails, followed the race online, or were just thinking of me on race day. Last but not least I want to thank Alan and Andrew for their coaching support, I would not have the progress I did without you.