Monday, 23 September 2013

Mighty Niagara - Race Report

Took Friday afternoon off work so we could leave on good time to make it for packet pickup.  Brought the passports for the border crossing.  Welcome to the USA!  We made it with enough time to go to the motel first.  Then to the mall for our bibs.  The shirts are orange.  The next morning having breakfast at Dunkin Donuts I noticed that their company colours matched the race shirts.  They're not even a sponsor.  Mile 6 was presented by Tim Hortons cafe and bake shop. We didn't know our way around town well enough to be able to find one of those. Tim Hortons is the best! A common theme amongst runners we chatted with was a dislike of the new colours.  Maybe the medal will be blue.  That's why we signed up, for the blue medal that's shaped like a guitar pick.   

The alarm went off at 7.  I opened the curtains and just froze.  It was raining.  A solid drizzle enough to soak you in minutes, and light enough to be able to continue all day.  The last item on their FAQ was, "What if it rains". Answer: "You run in the rain".  Here we go. Running is the best!
Shirt with built-in mittens
Return of the ninja
I anticipated this, and had packed the ninja gear. I had the tights, but Jen was wearing shorts, so I wore my shorts too. Someone commented, "nice optimism with the sunglases".  Well, the idea was for the sunglasses to ward off the rain.  The hat works nicely for that too. I don't like the feeling of raindrops bouncing off my head or running down my face.  I've run in the rain before.  We were both at the porta-pottie when the starting horn sounded.  There's over a thousand people, so they were still streaming through the gate by the time we got over to the starting line.  

The volunteers were dressed for the rain

Fund raising for the hospice

It was quite a surprise to find myself warm and taking off my jacket after a couple miles.  We saw a "trample the weak" shirt, like at the Toronto marathon, so we struck up a conversation.  Turns out the shirt is from the Zombie Run.  This was her first half, as it was Jen's.  It was warm enough that the rain wasn't a problem at all.  Everyone was happy and running and we all had a good time.  By mile 6 I felt the pace dragging, and coaxed Jen into stepping the speed up a bit.  

The rain let up after an hour or so

Lake Ontario

She did well, and maintained a run right to the end.  Most of the run was along the river, with a view across the gorge to Canada.  Then we went through the old fort and past a lookout to Lake Ontario.  It's hard to imaging looking out at that, not seeing the other side, and thinking, "I could swim across this".  People do crazy things like run marathons, race Ironmans, and swim Lake Ontario. 

Mud on the legs
They had beer for us at race end!  The server asked Jen, "are you legal?"  "Sure" Jen responds.  "Are you legal here?" she then asks.  but no, Jen is 4 months young from the cut-off and gets passed over.  She gets a Dr Pepper and a water. and 2 chocolate milks.  Love that chocolate milk.  That's definitely my first choice of drink after a race. Chocolate milk is the best! Then beer. 

It looks like a guitar pick

The medal is orange. At a distance, it looked to me like it said, "Are you naughty?".

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Mont Tremblant 2013 - Race Report

Saturday had no group activities planned.  It was rest-and-eat day. As much rice and I can manage.  The kids each had an activity card for the resort, but decided to stay in and argue instead.  I therefore went out to find a restful place.  I took the gondola to the top of the mountain and sat in a Muskoka chair for 2 hours listening to dance music. After more food, I applied the temporary tattoos to my arms and leg then got to bed just after sunset.  I slept an hour or so, to be awakened by the kids still at it. The tattoos remained tacky and got stuck to the bed sheets.  I didn't really sleep again all night. No matter.  When the sun was back, I was rested and ready and wonderfully excited.

Where's the pictures?  The rules this year said no cameras allowed by racers without permission, so I didn't use my bike cam.  Maybe I'd have gotten permission, but I didn't ask.  It's one less thing to worry about.

Staying right in the resort, we can sleep until dawn.  I had three of those travel boxes of Rice Krispies for breakfast.  Meghan was already gone for her volunteer duty on the bike course.  I went down the hill to transition with my bicycle pump.  The tires were still good, so all I had to do was crack open the packs of Rice Krispie squares in my Bento box.  I had decided to put a face cloth into my bike transition bag for wiping my feet dry, plus a pack of Gu.  I went to bag staging area, found my bag, and stuffed them in.  The bag was now tied really tightly at the neck.  I had just let gravity cinch it closed, and wondered whether the volunteers had gone around tying them.  Jen met me outside transition, and asked, "what's that?" pointing at the pump.  Oh no. It's someone else's pump.  I went back, and mine wasn't there, so I abandoned the pump by the bikes and shrugged it off.  Maybe he would get his pump back, maybe he won't.  I checked at lost and found the next day, and no pumps were there, so now I need a new one.  

Feeling nauseous from what must have been too much milk, we headed off to swim start, with daughter Jen carrying the wet suit just as she did last year.  Luckily she reminded me to bring the morning drop-off bag, since she was going directly to her volunteer duty in T1 working the women's change tent.  When we arrived at the beach, I thought about having a third trip to the bathroom, but the whole area was too crowded. Third trips are always just nerves anyway. I was putting on my wetsuit as the gun went off for the pro start at 6:35.  

I hugged Jen goodbye, dropped the clothes bag in the bin, and went to water's edge.  With the wave start, there's plenty of beach available to have a prep swim, so I did that.  The minutes went by quickly until my group was off.  My Ironman race was underway!

I eased quickly into a calm rhythm.  My peers largely headed away from me.  By second buoy, the 50-year old men had caught up already.  This seemed a better fit for me, and I was surrounded by their blue caps for some time.  My cap was white.  I was moving well, remaining calm and within my limits, then I turned and gasped a mouthful of water.  A massive coughing and choking fit ensued.  A girl on a surfboard sidled over and I paused for a moment with one hand on her board. There would be no more problems for me.  At the turn buoys, I changed to side stroke to better see the others, since it became quite crowded there.  I checked my watch for the one and only time.  7:35 am -- 45 minutes in, and about halfway.  Nicely on schedule.  Coming around the second turn buoy, I was bumped by a guy doing breast stroke.  Really?  Isn't that about the absolute most inefficient means of swimming there is?  Maybe it's good because you can sight so easily.  Then there's the guy in the green cap just treading water, looking backwards.  like he's waiting for someone.  I was passed by a girl in yellow cap, just inches to my left.  Her stroke was so smooth and clean it was like she wasn't working at all.  She glided by as swiftly as if she was being pulled by a rope.  Her hands just magically folded the water, allowing her body to sail on like the shadow of a passing cloud. 
It's more like peeling than stripping

There would be no clouds today.  The sky was blue and sunny and lovely.  Out of the water, I let them strip off my wetsuit.  I tried a few steps of running, but even with the lovely red carpet, the pavement was too hard and my sore right foot complained.  I wasn't going to create a problem, so settled for walking, and ate the Gu I had secreted in the pocket on the back of my tri suit. 

No sign of Jen as I pass through the change tent.  I found a chair, and dumped out my bag on the floor.  Where's the cloth I put here two hours ago?  and the Gu?  Not here.  No wonder the strings were so tight.  It was someone else's bag.  No problem.  I set about stuffing my wetsuit into the bag, when a volunteer came along and waved that off.  he would do it.  I stripped off the tri suit and put on my bib shorts, biking shirt (the official Mont Tremblant 70.3 shirt!), socks... Fiddled with my shoes a bit. Ate the Zantac.  On my long rides I found that after 8 hours of liquid sugar I ended up with some rot gut and needed antacids and would take one of these at the outset.  Even the Clif bars, which are my principal food, dissolve into sugar. The volunteer is trying to be patient.  "Anything else to go in this bag?" he says.  I pulled out the stick of lip balm.  We're supposed to be in a hurry, and his athlete is putting on lip balm. I hate that feeling of my lips sticking to my teeth when I get dehydrated and they're dry.  Finally I toss that into the bag, and he's done.  

I'm off for the bike.  Where's the potty?  I don't see any, so I head out to the course with the bike.  Oh, there they are.  I cross the mount line instead of getting on I hand my bike to another volunteer, and take a short break, my last pee until about midnight.

What's the matter with my helmet?  It feels too small.  I should adjust the straps, but I don't know how long that will take, so I carry on riding. None of the triathlon guides said to practice adjusting your helmet in case it's all messed up on race day. Tomorrow, I will find that the quick-adjust was compressed from being in the bag with the other gear. It just needed popped out.  

What a great bike ride this is.  The pavement is smooth.  It's sunny but not too hot or humid.  Daughter Meghan is on her volunteer duty at the on-ramp for the 117 highway.  I shout and ring my bell at her. They don't have us going through the McDonalds parking lot like last year.  
On my road bike

We have the full northbound side of the divided highway.  Traffic is diverted to the other side.  At the athlete briefing and in the manual, they insisted that we ride on the road, not the shoulder.  Most everyone is riding on the shoulder. Even the staff motorbikes are using the middle of the road, not the shoulder.  They should just tell us to use the shoulder so at least everyone is consistent and the middle is free.  I brake a bit on the big downhill section.  Arriving at downtown St. Jovite, the sidewalks are mostly empty.  One of the bars has music playing for us which is nice.  There's some woman with a squeaky toy, which is annoying.  

It's a lot more windy out on Hwy 117 than last year (in the 70.3 that I raced).  It's kind of a cross wind which makes it feel like riding into the wind both ways. Really, really glad to have the aerobars.  It was with some satisfaction that I found myself at one point riding on the bars, downhill, doing 45 kph, still pedalling.

Then there's the guy with the squeaky bike.  It gives a creak with every pedal stroke.  Mine used to do that, which I diagnosed as having the seat post too high.  My post was right at the max-marker, but still made the frame creak.  I bought an extended post so it would have more insertion, and it doesn't do that any more.  I was going to tell him this, but he's pulled ahead, and I'm not going to chase him down.
Dream ride

I was sure that the pros wouldn't catch me, but with it being 3.5 hours that I took on lap 1, they do.  Luke Bell blows past me about 5 minutes out from transition.  He's off to run, and I'm out for my second lap of the bike course.  Meghan's still there at the on ramp.  She asks how I'm doing, so I say that I thought it would be fun to do the bike course again.  It is fun.  I still love the bike course.  I brake a bit on the big Hwy 117 descent this time too. Woman with the squeaky toy is still there downtown and it's still annoying.  Coming around the bend into town, my right leg seizes up. The outside of my thigh has gone into a spasm and turned my leg into a post.  I can't pedal, but I can't sit down either.  I decelerate and almost fall off my bike before it lets up. Afterwards someone tells me that this is from lack of salt.  I'm a little dehydrated, but didn't think it was that bad yet. I'm saving my best dehydration for the run.  I've taken to getting a bottle of Perform at the aid stations, plus a bottle of water which drink some and pour the rest over my head.  The water bottles don't fit into my half-clip holster, so I empty them right out and pitch it by the end of the aid station. It's not that the bottles are smaller, but they aren't as hard as regular sport drink bottles, and the holster can't grip the sides like it is designed to.  The bottle just squishes and falls out.
Must be early. My original blue bottle is still on board

There's a girl laid out on the road on Hwy 117. The crowd around her is muttering something about hydration.  There's a guy I saw drop over onto the road coming up the big Duplessis hill as I'm going down.  I can understand that.  You click the gears down and down and down, and then there's no further to go but it's just not low enough.  and I saw someone not take that risk, and get off to walk up the hill. Second time down the big Duplessis hill, and the trial runs last Friday have proven useful.  I fly down freewheeling and it's great.  I want to do that hill a few more times.

Ah the run. My foot is fine. My legs are good.  No problems with the knees.  I can run.  I walk the hills heading to the village.  They sap the last of my strength.  I'm breathing hard, almost panting, but the air is of no use. There's just not enough oxygen to sustain the run.  I switch to a run-walk for the rest of the first lap.
While that last morsel of run power was still available

Uh-oh, what's that pain in my heel?  I changed into these mini-socks, which should be cooler than my usual cotton sport socks.  The left one has slipped down into the shoe, and I'm rubbing a massive blister at the back of the shoe.  I pull the sock up, but it's too late.  That's going to be painful for the rest of the day.  I struggle to put out the occasional burst of running until I get back to the resort for my second lap, at about 6:15 pm. After that, I have no worry of missing cut off. Nothing can stop me. I decide to just walk it. I make a couple half-hearted attempts at conversation with others, but it's no good.  I'm not thinking clearly enough.  Just slog it out and be done.  There's no more swift runners going past us any more. All that's left is wreckage.  We are all of us on our second lap, steadily finishing our day.  Walking or running a slow shuffle. Tired, but absolutely will not stop.  

I tried a handful of pretzels, and they turned to dust that clumped in my mouth.  I'm so

Still happy to be here
dehydrated I'm not producing saliva.  It's a kilometre to the next aid station for water, so I just spit it out.  Next station, a kid offers me a cookie.  It's chocolate, and I'm delirious, so I take it.  It does the same as the pretzels.  But it's chocolate, so I carry on.  I'm taking lots of Coke.  Love the Coke.  Mostly it's warm, so I get Coke, and then get ice, and mix them to make the Coke cold. After dark, soup broth shows up.  It's warm and salty.  It's the salt that makes it attractive.

At station 11, the northbound turnaround, Jen is there doing her 2nd volunteer duty.  She hands me a cup.  It's Perform.  I ditch that and find some Coke. It's late, and been a long day, but Jen is still bouncy and upbeat and happy. Seeing her picks up my spirits, but my pace is a swift walk. 

Nearing the resort and the glorious finish, I see the last few people coming from it, just starting their second lap. There's a girl (Eve) young and moving well with a strong run. I hope she keeps that up.  A few steps past, is another woman, barely shuffling a walk. We can tell that she isn't going to make it. 
Made it

At last the finish!  I jumped up and down.  Yes!  I've done it.  Mike Reilly announces me as an Ironman.  Then Meghan is there, with my medal.  She used her volunteer shirt to get into the chute to catch me.  Another gives me a blanket.  She leads me to tables for a shirt and a cap.  I tell her that I need to keep walking.  To underscore the point, my leg seizes up again, and I pound on it.  She suggests a nice massage, but on the way there I smell the pizza.  This is the most awesome finishing area ever.  Most races have health food, like bagels, fruit, and yogurt. After a long day I want salty.  I want greasy.  I beg off the massage, and go for the food, wishing my support volunteer goodbye.  and there's beer.  Michelob Ultra.  I admire the can, so he gives me a second one.  I take the pizza and settle in.  There's a cafe area with lots of tables and chairs.  Someone comes by and insists that we need to have some poutine.  Fries with salty cheese and gravy.  It's the perfect post-race food, and is luscious. My clothes are damp, so I wrap into the blanket which is surprisingly warm for a thin sheet of plastic. I glory in the beer and food. I savour the honour of being an Ironman.  

Life is good.  Time to go, I fetch my bike.  It's good to lean on it while walking up the hill to the condo.  I shower then change into the finisher shirt.  Down to the finish area, I find there's plenty of room to squeeze into the bleachers.  Getting there at about 11 pm, I get to see the last finishers of the day.  The 70 year olds make it in and we cheer like crazy.  Mike is in fine form.  We love everyone for finishing.

And then there was Eve; making her cut-off with just 2 minutes to spare before her 17-hour cut off at 11:57.  Oh how we cheered. In unison we announce her as an Ironman.  She's done it, as have we all.
Joyful and triumphant

Total time 14:31
227th out of 291 in the age group