A little over a week ago, I raced at the 31st Edition of Ironman Canada, which for the first time was held at Whistler, B.C. I can’t get too far into my race report without saying what an amazing event this was. From the race organization, course location, volunteers and local support, this event was absolutely spectacular in every aspect. It needs to be on the “must-do” list of Ironman races within North America. Now with that out of the way, back to my race.
|The Swim Course at Alta Lake|
Fast-forward to race day, and race morning was the standard routine on timing: up at 3:15 AM (I don’t think I’ll ever get used to getting up so early!), out the door at 4:15 and arrive at T2 / shuttle bus pick-up at 4:30. After dropping off my T2 bag with my running gear, I was on the shuttle by 4:45 and right on schedule to arrive at the Swim Start / T1 a little after 5:00. Once I arrived at T1, I continued my pre-race routine in loading up my T1 bag and prepping my bike. About 6:00 AM everything was ready, and it was time to drink my bottle of First Endurance Ultragen. After that, it was time to lube up, put on my SLS3 Tri Top, wetsuit and head to the swim timing mat.
At 6:30 we were called to the Swim start and as I slowly made my way out 250m to the swim buoy line, I couldn’t help but look around and take in the amazing scenery. The mountains at sunrise were absolutely stunning. There were hardly any clouds in the sky and the everything looked peaceful and calm….in complete contrast once the race begins. The water temperature was perfect for wetsuit legal (about 66F). The swim course is a 2-loop rectangle with an in-water start and we stay in the water for the start of the second loop. The first straight is about 750m, then 250m between turns 1 and 2, then about 800m back to turn 3, and finally about 100m back to turn 4 (the start line). After the second loop, there was about a 250m swim back to shore.
There were 17 starters in the Men’s Pro Field, so there was plenty of room for us to spread out and I lined up about 15’ off the buoy line. Once the horn sounded, my plan was simple: find a pair of feet and hang on. I settled into a nice rhythm and found a pair of feet I could draft off of. I was able to stay in the draft around Turn 1 and just before Turn 2, about 900m into the race, a gap developed and they started to slightly pull away. After Turn 2, I was passed by 3 others, and swam the back stretch back to Turn 3 alone. As I started Lap 2, I was still leading the pack behind me, and as we neared Turn 1 for the second time, I was passed. I was able to stay in the draft for a couple hundred meters as we rounded Turn 1, then lost them as I was blinded by the sun rising over the mountains. For this loop we were swimming directly into the sun and I could not see anything at all. After a few minutes blindly swimming and hoping I was not veering too far off course, I was at Turn 2 and back on track on the final long straight, where I was able to find a draft for a few moments and I rounded Turn 3 and headed to shore. Since I was not wearing a watch I had no idea on my time at this point and I was pleasantly surprised to see 1:01:19 as I ran up the beach. This was a personal best by over 5-minutes and I was right on target with my expectation, and I was in 14th Place.
As I ran up the beach I was already thinking about my routine in the change tent, so I forgot about the wetsuit strippers. I almost ran by them before I hit the ground, and I probably lost a couple of seconds by not being ready. Besides that, I was quickly out of the change tent, on off to my bike. Given the air temperature of low 50s, I decided to wear arm warmers to start the bike, but this time I did not spend the time putting them on in Transition. I got them over my wrist, the finished pulling them up while riding. This was a huge time saver over last time I wore them in a race! Out of T1 in 2:47, and still in 14th Place
The easiest way to describe the bike course in Whistler is Spectacular! Big mountains, big climbs, fast descents, grades over 10%, flat aero sections, head winds….the bike course has it all, and with the glacier covered peaks in the background, the setting is just magnificent! This is definitely one of the most scenic and beautiful areas I have even seen (not that I was paying attention during the race, but it was nice in the days before and after!). The course is a one-loop format with 6,600’ of climbing (according to my Garmin 500) and logically breaks down into several key sections. In general the course is constantly rolling with the exception of 3 distinct sections: Callaghan Mountain (7.8 miles sustained climbing with 4 sections at 10%), the flats on Pemberton Meadows Road (approx. Miles 60 – 90) and the climb from Pemberton back to Whistler (20 miles of rolling roads with 2,100’ of climbing). With the constant transition from climbing to descending, I was glad to have Ultegra Ui2 on my BMC TM01. The ability to shift from the base bar was a huge advantage and no doubt saved me more than a few seconds with 112 miles of nearly constant shifting.
My plan for the race was to properly pace the climbs so that I had the legs left for a strong run. To address this, I came up with a power range for the flats, short climbs and long sustained climbs / headwinds. I used a similar strategy at IM Coeur d’Alene which seems to compliment my style of racing. Once I had my power numbers I was confident that as long as I stuck to my plan, my run would be there. However, this is always the hardest part. In the early miles you often feel good and rested from a nice taper, plus with other people deciding to be the “hero” hammering up every hill, the temptation is always there to chase. However, lose your composure on this course and the day could easily turn into a long ride followed by a REALLY LONG run. So in summary: I planned my race, now I needed to race my plan. It’s just a matter of execution.
Back to my race…shortly after I left T1, Matt Sheeks passed me on an early climb and continued to pull away as we went through the first few miles of rollers. Once we got to the Callaghan Mountain climb, I settled into my target power and maintained a steady pace to the top. This was the hardest section to hold back, since I was passed by Jim Lubinski about half-way up and the leading age groupers started to catch and pass me near the top. After convincing my self to stick to my plan, I stayed where I was and got ready for the downhill. The downhill returns directly back down the mountain we just climbed. This section was a blast with steep sections, fast curves and awesome views of the Black Tusk across the valley. Part of the reason the descent was so much fun was due to my BMC TM01. The bike is not only aero, but handles very stable for a tri bike. The frame dampens the road vibrations, and the stability while carving around the turns was more like a road bike than a typical “twitchy” tri-bike. In this section I topped out at 42.9 mph.
|Callaghan Mountain with the Black Tusk in the Background|
|Leaving Whistler by Green Lake...I guess I had an Itch!|
As with all race plans, they seem good in practice, but often need to be adjusted on race day. I start with 2 bottles of First Endurance EFS Drink on standard cages so I could refill on-course with Perform, and the Specialized Virtue Aero Bottle with 2 First Endurance Liquid Shot Flasks (10 oz of gel) mixed with 10 oz of water so it is easier to drink and dose. I also carried 2 Salt Stick Dispensers: 1 with 6 Salt Stick tabs and 1 with 6 First Endurance Pre-Race Capsules. My plan was the same as my past 5 Ironman races, 1 bottle of sports drink and 2 oz of my 50/50 Liquid Shot mixture per hour. I then supplement with plain water based on thirst and add salt tabs as needed.
Everything was going to plan until mile 35 when I began to feel like I was drinking too much and I knew I had to modify my nutrition plan or I would likely have GI issues on the run. I figures this was due to the cooler temperatures than I was used to (it was low 60s at this point). So I cut back a bit on the sports drinks and more of my Liquid Shot Mixture to keep the correct number of calories with less fluid volume. In the end, I don’t know how many bottles of sport drink I had since I often had to swap a bottle that was only half gone, but I drank 1.5 bottles (40 oz ) of First Endurance EFS and about 4 bottles (80 oz) of Perform, and I ended up drinking nearly my entire bottle of Liquid Shot. This gave me a total of about 1,800 calories during the bike and averaged out to 340 cal/hr. My energy level felt stable throughout the ride so I chose to avoid taking any caffeine during the bike segment and save it for the run.
In general T2 went well, with the exception of putting on my SLS3 Compression socks. I practice doing this off the bike and typically I don’t lose more than a 30 seconds compared to standard running socks, but today was different. I was having trouble getting them over my heels, and I probably lost over 2-minutes in doing this. I thought about skipping them, but given the amount of hills on the run course, I knew the benefit would outweigh the time penalty with the added comfort in the late miles of the marathon would end up being faster. After finally getting my socks on I slipped on my Zoot Ovwa’s and headed off on the run.
The run course is a 2 -Loop course, with the first 3 miles rolling hills with a net elevation gain, mostly on a gravel path through the woods, then it flattens out around Green Lake on an asphalt path next to the road for about 3 miles to the turnaround point. After the turnaround, the course back tracks along the lake for about 3 miles, where it splits and heads back towards Whistler Village with a net elevation gain.
As I headed out on the run, I felt surprisingly good. My bike-pacing plan worked perfectly and my legs were feeling good on the first 3 mile uphill section of dirt trails. As good as I was feeling, I was passed (again) by Jim Lubinski and he quickly pulled away. Once the course leveled, I knew I had to start pushing right away if I wanted to catch anyone ahead of me. As I neared Green Lake, I settled into a steady pace of 6:45 min/mile for miles 3-8. During this section I was able to see the time gaps to those in front of me. First I saw Matt Russell (in 2nd) about 40 minutes ahead, then Matt Lieto in 3rd. I lost track of who was next, but the next 5-6 guys were all spaced a few minutes apart. This left about 4 competitors with about 5-15 minutes ahead of me. Not real close, but considering how good I felt and with nearly 20 miles to go, a top-10 finish was still a real possibility. First I passed Jonathon Caron at about mile 7, and kept focus on maintaining my pace, which I did all the way back to Whistler, and I hit the 13 mile mark and just over the 1:30 mark. Going into the race, I felt if I could run close to a 3:00 marathon, I would be able to make up positions on the run, and I seemed on track at that point.
As I started the second loop, I decided to dial my pace back slightly to about 20s/mile compaed to the first lap as I entered the gravel / hilly section. I wsa still feeling good, but general fatigue was starting to set in and I didn’t want blow up by charging up 3 miles of undulating hills. Just before we left the woods around mile 17, I passed Bryan Rhodes for another position. At this point, my legs were starting to tighten up and I could tell my stride was getting shorter. I was holding a steady 7:50 pace, not exactly fast but I knew I had to be careful with any effort faster than this. As I started along the lake I was keeping close eye on who was heading back to finish. I noticed 8 and 9th place running close together and looking strong, and with a lead of about 15 minutes with less than 6 miles to go, I knew they would be hard to catch. Then finally about 40 seconds before the turnaround, I saw 10th place, Dan Litwora. As with the rest of my day, I kept a steady pace and made the pass at about mile 21. I noticed on the return along Green Lake, somewhere I passed Jim Lubinski, so I moved up another position, and was pretty confident my count was correct and I was up to 10th. By now I had little to gain in terms of position, so I simply maintained my pace to the finish. As I split off to head towards the finish I turned around and saw Dan Litwora not more than a couple of hundred yards behind me. Not real close, but close enough for me to pick up the pace for about ½ mile. After the final few turns I ended up the finish straight, and without anyone in sight, I slowed to enjoy the support of the crowds and take in the moment. Finally I crossed the line with a run split of 3:11:25 and a total time of 9:36:27 as 10th Male Professional.
It’s hard to put into words how I feel about my day, but overall I am really happy with my performance and progress over the past year. Not only was this my second Top-10 Pro Ironman Finish in as many races, I also set personal bests for my Ironman swim by over 5 minutes, more than 10w higher than my previous IM “best” and I had my fastest first half of the marathon split and second fastest IM run (only 2 minutes off my 3:09 at IM Lou 2012). Quite simply I executed the best race of my ability and I know I left it all out on the course. This is all anyone can ask for and it is very satisfying. Even though my plan required adjustments along the way, I walk away knowing I executed the perfect race for me. You never know who will show up on race day and how they will race, but since I gave my full effort on the course, then I can’t have any regrets. Again, I also learned a lot about my own personal fitness and once again I have a clear direction on where to focus during the upcoming off-season.
|After the Finish with Nolan!|
I also need to thank my partners for their continued support through 2013.
Thanks to Paul Rogers, Ron Schmid, David, Chris, Taylor and Melissa from Fraser Bicycle (www.fraserbicycle.com) for their continued help and support in getting my bike race ready and once again, helping me resolve a last minute adjustment to my race bike.
Ron Tew from BMC Bicycles (www.bmc-racing.com) for your continued support and the opportunity to train and race on a BMC TM01 for another season. The bike is a work of art and an absolute joy to ride!
Robert Kunz from First Endurance (www.firstendurance.com) for making the best in nutrition products, and I regularly use them all to train and race at my best!
Sebastian and Sylvie Linke from SLS3 (www.slstri.com). I’m still loving the tri top, shorts and compression socks!
NormaTec (www.normatecrecovery.com): Thanks for setting me up with the ultimate recovery tool. With being time limited in my training and needing to make every session count, adding this to my recovery arsenal has been essential to consistently train at my best. Thanks Cat!
Also thanks to Spy Optics (www.spyoptic.com) and X-1 Audio (www.x-1.com).
Lastly, thanks to Jake and Tom from Zoot Sports (www.zootsports.com). I’m absolutely loving my Zoot Ovwa and Kiawe’s this year. Great shoes!
For the rest of 2013, I am still undecided if I have any more races on the schedule. For now I need to focus on my recovery, but I’ll be looking to see what will fit. Thanks for reading my report and happy training!
|Another Race Day Highlight: I developed a fan club!|