Ironman Canada is held in Penticton, British Columbia. The 2009 race was the 27th Anniversary of the race. Penticton is a great site for an Ironman, the whole town gets involved. It is a city of about 40,000 located in the southern interior of British Columbia. Penticton is bordered on the north by Okanagan Lake and to the south by Skaha Lake. The climate is similar to Bend, a semi-arid climate. I was really looking forward to this race. The course is a 1 loop course for all three disciplines. While this may not be the best viewing for supporters, it sounded great for me as a racer. The swim is held in Okanagan Lake. It is clear and warm; I would love to have a lake like this in Bend. The bike course heads south out of Penticton along the east shore of Skaha Lake. There is one climb followed by a mostly flat section south to Osoyoos. The course then turns west and goes up over the first of two mountain passes. The first is Richter Pass and the second is Yellow Lake. In between there are some large rolling hills and a short out and back section. After Yellow Lake the road descends back into Penticton to T2 and the start of the run. The run course follows the beginning portion of the bike course and is an out and back section along Skaha Lake. The finish is held just steps from where the start is along the shore of Okanagan Lake.
For the race I had a bunch of family come up to support me. We rented a house in town for 5 days and were able to make a bit of a vacation out of it. Melissa and I got up to Penticton on Wednesday evening after a 9 hour drive from Bend. On Thursday and Friday we went for morning swims, afternoon runs, checked out the town, and relaxed around the house. On Saturday after the morning swim, I had to check my bike into the transition area and prepare all of my bags for the race. If you have never done an Ironman Race, there are a lot of bags to get ready. 5 in fact, a Dry Clothes bag for stuff you wear to and after the race. Gear Bags for the transition from swim to bike and form bike to run. And Special Needs bags for the bike and the run. You are able to go back to your bike on race morning in case you forgot something or to top off the tires and water bottles. Saturday night I was able to get a decent night’s sleep even with the loud house. I brought ear plugs for just this reason.
Race morning started early like it always does for these races. Race start is at 7am and there is a bunch to do before the start. I woke up and was out of the house on time and down to the transition area before the sun was up. I had to get body marked and drop of my gear bags. After getting all my stuff in order, I unfortunately had some time to kill before the start of the race. After a while I decided to get my wetsuit on and headed down to the water about 15 minutes before race start. I started about 2/3 of the way back this time as I felt more confident in my swim than I did at Ironman CdA. Race morning was perfect weather, calm and sunny. The swim started off uneventful. I have heard stories of the melee that happens at the front of the pack that is why I start near the back. During the swim I felt good, slowly working my way up through the field during the first 2/3 of the course. At that point I started to tire and slowed slightly on my way to the finish. During the return section of the swim we also had to swim directly into the sun which made sighting much more difficult. Many swimmers were swimming crooked; I did my best to sight often so I would not be swimming extra like I did in CdA. My swim time ended up being 1:21:57, over 40 minutes better than my last Ironman swim!
After running up off the beach and getting my wetsuit stripped, I was into the changing tent. I wear my tri suit under my wetsuit so it does not take me as long in transition. My family was waiting near my bike and cheered me on as I grabbed it and started the bike portion of the race. I started the ride strong and just like the swim, slowly made my way through the field. The first part of the bike course is slightly downhill. There is one hill around mile 12-15 but other than that the big hills don’t start until mile 40. I was trying to ride hard but not too hard and taking in my nutrition as needed. At mile 40 the course turns to the west and the ascent of Richter Pass begins. Besides Richter Pass being steep, there also began a headwind to climb into. I worked on just spinning up the pass and was passing a lot of riders. I might have been going a bit too hard but I was in my easiest gear. After getting over Richter there is a group of 7 rollers. These were not as bad as I expected them to be. There was a little headwind but you could carry a lot of speed from the previous downhill to help you up the next roller.
After getting through the rollers, there is a slight climb to Keremeos and then the out and back section. It was this point in the race that I started to feel it. I was beginning to get tired and having trouble keeping up on my nutrition. I picked up my special needs bag along the out and back and took a quick break to pull out my food and use the restroom. In Keremeos we started the climb to Yellow Lake. The climb to Yellow Lake is not as steep as Richter is but the last section is pretty close. Pair this with being later in the ride and having a headwind, this climb is difficult. At this point in the race we started to experience some smoke in the air from the nearby forest fires. All week the smoke had been blown away from Penticton but on race day it was being blown into town. (This had an impact on the rest of my race as I will explain later.) The climb to Yellow Lake was not too bad. Once again I passed some people along the way and was not too exhausted until the last kick up to the top. At the top of the climb several of my family members were there to cheer me over the top and back to T2.
The descent from Yellow Lake into town is mostly downhill, we had a bit of a headwind but on the downhill sections I did not mind it too much. These last 20 miles though were difficult. My legs were beginning to cramp up and my stomach was revolting as well. It was all I could do to finish out the ride in 6:19:36. This was an hour and 20 minute improvement over CdA. I was really excited about my performance thus far but knew I was not feeling it for the start of the run. I transitioned into my running gear and tried to start running. The run course first does and out and back section along the lake before heading through town. I was able to run the first mile before I needed to mix in a walking break. This continued until mile 3 where I saw some of my family again. I walked for a minute with my brother explaining my troubles and getting encouragement from him. After that I had to mainly walk the next 6 miles. My stomach was not doing well and I was struggling mentally as well. At mile 11 I was able to start running again. It was cool to see my family volunteering and they cheered me on when I ran through there. My mom and aunt volunteered at the 12 mile aid station. The run course is an out and back and I was able to continue running on my way back through their aid station. At that point I was not feeling too good. I made it about another mile and then had to start walking again.
As I went I was keeping a decent pace until mile 20 came. I am not exactly sure what happened there but my energy levels dropped and I was a little short on breath. I struggled through the next mile and decided to stop at an ambulance along the side of the road. Talking with the paramedics they checked me out and before I knew it my race was over. My legs were feeling good but my stomach did not like me and I was having shortness of breath. They gave me oxygen to help me get back to breathing normal. I got to ride in the ambulance back to the transition area and was in the medical tent for a while taking in chicken broth to settle my stomach. It was not long after that that I started to feel like myself again. I had to find my family in the crowd and let them know that I had to DNF. My brother was out wandering around for hours wondering where I was on the course; we were not able to get a hold of him. He did eventually make it back to the house. I did really like Ironman Canada; it was a great course with a community that supported it. I can see why it sells out so fast every year. I know Melissa wants to do this race and I have some demons to conquer. Hopefully we can get back up there soon to test our mettle.
- Newton Distance Shoes – Comfortable shoes but I did not get to run much. Maybe 5 miles total.