Ironman Canada 2004 has come & gone. Though the weather was just about ideal on race day, and the organization and volunteers were super as usual, the event was a greater physical struggle for me than I anticipated. I have a new appreciation for the gutsiness of those who finish in the last hour before the 17hr deadline, as I was out on the run course with them this time!
The short version of this report is that I finished in 16:17, and was second in my age group (70-74). I had been predicting that I could finish in 14 hours if nothing went wrong. If you read the rest of this report, you'll see that some things went wrong, but the main problem was either that I had an off day, or was not as ready for the climbing as I thought, or a little of both.
Here's the long version:
The days leading up to race day (29 Aug.) were cool and wet, but race day was as good as could be hoped for: Cloudy and calm in the morning, sunny in late afternoon, and "room temperature" in the late evening for those of us out on the run course after dark.
The water was smooth for the swim start at 7AM, and the water was a comfortable temperature, but there were too many people in the water! Of course I expected a pommelling near the mass start of about 2300 swimmers, but it continued intermittently through the entire swim. I would be in a bit of open water one second, and the next there were swimmers contacting me on all sides (and occasionally on top). I was having a fairly good swim, tho', and the only real problem was that my left shoulder started hurting after about a kilometer, and just kept getting worse. But I knew I wouldn't need it much after the swim, so just kept pulling with it. I finished the swim in 1:22; just two min.longer than I had hoped (and my shoulder hasn't bothered me since).
My time in T1 (transition to bike leg) was 15 min, as I took time to change to cycling gear, use the portable pot, put swim gear in a numbered bag, etc.
I felt good starting the bike leg, but was a bit disappointed to see a guy in my age group pass me after only 10 mi. I thought I saw the only other guy in my age group pass me a couple of miles later (I was mistaken, I learned later), and thought "Only 12 mi. into the bike, and I'm already in last place!". I just kept repeating to myself the advice I had heard from several people: "Take it easy. It's a long day." When we hit some short but steep climbs early in the race (the bike course leaves Skaha Lake Rd. and takes a more difficult route to Okanagan Falls) I realized that I was going to have a much tougher day than expected, despite all the training. I felt the hill more than usual, and my bike was not shifting properly (I found out later that the cassette was loose), so that I could not use the lowest gear at all, and sometimes not even the next-lowest. I stopped several times to try to adjust the derailleur cable, but without improvement. So I did most of the climbing standing and pulling on the bars (I like to stand while climbing, but it would have been better on the day if I could have alternated positions more while climbing). After about 3 hours on the bike, I began to feel pain in the muscle just inside of my left knee. This is a place where I have had problems on long rides in the past, and I feared it would get so painful that I could not continue. Fortunately it never got to that point, tho' it was an additional aggravation and probably slowed my progress on the bike.
After about 60mi (on the "out & back detour" portion of the bike course), I came upon an official race assistance vehicle and asked if they could adjust my derailleur. The Bike Barn mechanic tried to, then told me the trouble was a loose cassette. He had the necessary tool and tightened it. After that it shifted normally, and was much appreciated as I struggled up the last difficult climbs by Yellow Lake. (The third guy in my age group appeared shortly before the last climb after one of my many pit stops, but I left him behind on the climb and subsequent downhill into Penticton.) As it turned out, I was less than a half hour ahead of the bike cut-off time.
I really didn't want to start the run leg. I was already shot from the ride, and the prospects of covering 26.2 mi. on foot seemed almost impossible. (As I passed my wife Patty on the road coming into town on the bike, I had said "Mommy, can I come home now?") But I'm always bragging that I have never DNF'd, so I had no choice. I was able to run in shortspurts, anywhere from 30 sec. to 2 min., with walks of 15 sec. to 1 min. interspersed. So it was just a matter of enduring the pain (mostly in my feet) with patience. It was dark by the time I got to the turnaround at Okanagan Falls. I stopped under a street light to take a look at my toes and perhaps add some Moleskin that I was carrying in my waist pack, and a volunteer brought someone to examine them. He putsomething called Compeez (he wasn't sure of the spelling either) on four toes and smeared my feet with Bodyglide. They gave me some clean socks and I continued on in much less pain. I enjoyed walking (and some running) with a girl from Manhattan (NYC) part of the way back, then felt good enough to increase the proportion of running for the last 5 mi. I could have made it in before the midnight cutoff without running during the last 8 mi., but wanted to get it over with as soon as possible!
People often ask me what I eat during such an event. During the ride,I used two water bottles full of Perpetuem in a concentration thatwould provide about 200 calories per hour if I emptied them over a 7 hour period. I took a couple of swallows out of these every 10 or 15min., followed by water from a third bottle which I was able to refill three times with water handed out along the way. This worked great. On the run, I carried HammerGel and took a small amount at each aid station, followed by water. I resisted taking any of the other stuff they handed out (Gatorade, Power Bars, Pepsi, cookies, fruit) until I had just a few miles to go, and then took only some grapes and watermellon. I was also taking some other Hammer and E-caps products hourly, including Race Caps Supreme, Mito-R, and (most important) Endurolytes. All seemed to work well.
As you may know, there was one qualifying spot in my age group for the Hawaii Ironman. It would have been very difficult for me to get to Kona for the race, and extremely hard to finish that race only 6 weeks after IMC. I prayed that if God intended me to do the Hawaii event, the qualifying spot would be available. The man who finished first in my age group took the spot, so I am satisfied not to be going. (This is the second time I have missed qualifying for Hawaii by one place. The first time was at a 1/2 IM in Texas when I was 60.) And I guess it's doing something to complete an IM at any age, let alone 70. So I'm not ashamed at how long it took me. Those who finish latest have suffered the longest!
You can see the race
results by going to http://www.ironman.ca/results/index.php