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Hawaii 2018 – the journey ends

Hawaii, the big island, Kona, I can’t believe I am finally here. Having done my first Ironman under the watchful (and at times very concerned) eye of my dad in 1996 it has been 22 years of on and off dreaming about doing this race.

An island full of hot sun, beautiful sandy beaches, lava fields, warm ocean swimming whilst watching fishies. A dream come true – why is it that, two days in, I am lying in bed shivering in the middle of the afternoon?

Bottom line is I managed to catch some kind of bug in my last days in Canada, throw in a pretty stressful last week at work, add packing, last training and longish travel in a freezing airplane full of germ throwing tourists and you have the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of things that make you sick. So now 4 days out from the race I am popping Advil cold and sinus in combination with cold-Fx like a drug addict trying to keep that barking cough at bay and make it so that I can at least walk around without collapsing. Not how I had envisioned my race week. I cut pretty much all my course familiarization workouts down to the absolute necessary, swim only twice (the plan was to go every day to acclimatize to the ocean) bike once and don’t run at all. Not only am I sick, I also managed to spread the goodness around, so soon pretty much all my family (who has come to cheer) is a coughing and snotty group – only the kids seem to be immune. Fortunately, by Friday of race week I am enough in shape to do a mini test triathlon prior to dropping my bike off. Ten minutes of swim, bike and run around town and it doesn’t feel as bad as I had anticipated. Maybe I have this thing beat and I can actually race tomorrow? I’ll give it my best shot anyways, sick or not, I will get through this race and if I have to crawl on my hands and knees – Sian Welch and Wendy Ingraham style – so be it. I am here and so is the gang who supported me all the way. There is no germ in the world which can take this away from me!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARace morning has us get up at 4 am. I can actually breathe through my nose without drugs – so I must be ready to race …or at least this is as good as it gets. Quick breakfast and off we are down to Kona. I say my hasty farewells to the cheering squad and am off to body marking. This is the world championships and you can tell. The organization is impeccable: Despite the fact that there are 2500 athletes getting ready I get through body marking, a med weigh in and the sun lotion station in no time. There is an army of volunteers out there – down to the point where they have 20 or 30 folks standing there with illuminated M dot signs with the single purpose of indicating the pathway from body marking to transition.

I check my bike, fill up my nutrition bottles and find a pump right away as well. 10 minutes later and I am pretty much ready to rumble. Lots of time left, so I take some time to take in the atmosphere; the sun is just rising over the bay and there is already what looks like thousands of spectators along the sea wall. It is an impressive view. I also stroll by the pro athlete section and see all the big names getting ready. Even though these guys will perform like superhumans today right now they seem very human in preparation, just like us mortals they pump up their bikes, get things ready, seem slightly nervous and stand in line at the porta loo…This is one of the things that sets triathlon apart from other sports, here we compete with the professionals on the very same course at the very same time. Well, they do get a head start so the super keen amateurs don’t beat them to death during the swim, but that’s’ it.

Its time to go down to the water, the start line is about 200m out in the middle of the bay – one of the unique features of this race, a deep water start. I swim out and find myself a spot right smack in the middle of the field.  Quite a few people are lined up right along the imaginary start line between three markers, held back by a line of folks paddling on surfboards. These are the super keen age groupers in that first row, they are packed in like sardines.  I am not that keen, or at least I have a will to survive, so I try to hold a spot about 3 rows down, trying to keep just a bit of open water ahead of me, so I can actually start swimming without having to beat on someone right away. As the last minutes before the start go by though it gets ever tighter and I am squished in just like all the others. Well, at least I can draw from a fairly successful Judo career in my youth, so I am prepared for the full contact bit of that swim…I think.

The gun goes off – this is it. I am officially racing the Ironman in Hawaii – crazy. Also crazy is all the rotating arms and kicking legs around me. There is simply no bit of water that does not already have at least a part of a swimmer in it. I simply find a pair of feet and do my thing, no matter who I kick and who I beat with my arms – this is no place for Canadian politeness. After a few minutes I receive a solid kick to my left goggle which leaves it feeling like it is now embedded in my eye socket and some kind of contact that almost rips my watch off my arm I try to not be influenced by that, find a spot of relatively clear water and fall into a decent rhythm. After a while I notice that my watch hasn’t beeped yet (it is supposed to give me split times every 400m), weird, but nothing I can do. I am just here to have fun anyways, no need for split times…but I am curious really…I have no idea how I am doing…I pretty much get sucked along in a big mass of people up to the turn around point. I check my watch there – 30 minutes. I am actually doing great. The way back is a tad longer than the way there (because the swim goes past the start line all the way back to shore of course) but overall the involuntary drafting has provided me with a fairly decent first half of the swim. The second half is a little less crowded, at some point I find myself loosing my focus and sure enough I lose contact to the group I was in and have some open water to myself. Sounds like a good thing but it really isn’t – drafting in swimming is legal and a major advantage. So I zig-zag a bit and try to find the next pair of feet but never get back into a tight group like I had on the way up. I make it to shore though, super relaxed and in a (for me) acceptable time of one hour and 12 minutes. I rush to my bike to see the usual scenario – pretty much all bikes in my age groups section of the transition are gone – to be precise 1420 of the 2472 bikes are gone…time to do some catching up…

42db3095-b2f5-44e7-943e-a3756d014819I have only a few things to say about the bike ride. As usual, being a weaker swimmer, I pass a ton of people. As usual there is some drafting but I try to stay away from it as much as I can. The only unusual thing is that passing is slower than average I do not blast by any people like they are standing still which sometimes happens in races with stronger swimmers and weaker cyclist. Here lots of people are slower than me on the bike but just a tad. This is actually an advantage at the aid stations because everybody is going through at roughly the same speed. So as opposed to Whistler (where I had to avoid hitting people who had virtually stopped at aid stations and missed a few stations because of that) here I manage to grab something at every station and am super on top of my nutrition and my heat management. There is almost no wind either and the little bit of wind there is comes form the back…so I am winning on all levels…Well everybody is winning on al levels…and that becomes evident at the turn around point. Or shortly before when we get a first glimpse of the pro athletes blasting down the hill from Hawi – who was that in the lead? Where is Lionel? Lots of the pros are too fast for me to recognize them. The ladies I recognize, Daniela already in the lead…Lucy in hot pursuit…cool – I have a first-row seat to the pro race. Now to the amateurs…usually at this point of a longer race I have caught up to the better amateurs (in Whistler I biked the 4th fastest amateur time overall) not here though…I lose count at about 50some….there is a whackload of people still in front of me…clearly people are not only better swimmers but also better cyclists than me. Ah well…I am just here to enjoy the race and learn for possible future endeavours (maybe?). The turn around comes sooner than expected and down it goes – no trace of the feared crosswinds, no sun, and even the last 50km into town, famous for the headwinds…nothing…maybe even a bit of a tailwind…all the stories about this race are a lie…this is by far the fastest and easiest bike ride I have ever done in an IM. I average just under 38 km/h and roll into transition after 4 hours and 48 minutes in 668th position. If my math is correct I must have passed roughly 753 people on the bike. What I don’t know is that everybody else had a similar easy and fast day – both the male and female bike course records are shattered (by 20 minutes in the female world) the conditions were just THAT exceptional….

20181013_131530I change into my run gear and go to the sun lotion table. It is a bit of a battle there so I grab a handful for my head but ignore my arms and legs. After all the bike ride was almost completely cloudy, and even though Kona is in full sunlight right now the clouds have been moving down the hill in past years, so it can’t be an all sun run….at least that must have been my logic. I trudge off and find my goal pace. I aimed at a much lower pace than in Whistler, having learned from blowing up there and am quite positive, nutrition and heat management went much better on the bike than in Whistler and it can’t be much hotter than there either. My reasoning is solid…for the first 10 km. Once I leave town up Palani hill -despite my personal cheering squad being right there – all kinds of things happen. I feel spent, I have no power, my heart rate is higher than it should be, I feel a bit bloated and have to be careful with the nutrition I take on and I have to change to damage control mode…again, this feels like Whistler all over. This is also where the hard part of the run starts, out on the highway, there will be no shade or moral support for the next 30 km or so…just the lava fields and me (well and the constant stream of faster runners passing me…

I start drinking coke. The magical sugar drink that makes all athletes fast. But even that doesn’t really give me wings (maybe I am mixing up drinks here?) It just helps me maintain a constant but VERY slow forward movement. Somehow, I make I it to the energy lab turnoff, this is traditionally the hottest and most lonely part of the course – a dip down to the ocean with no wind and just scorching heat. My 2 brothers and one of their girlfriends are out there cheering for me – a super confidence booster. I promise myself to not get beat by this island and to not walk in the energy lab…and I am good to that promise…uhm on the downhill to the turn around anyways. On the way back up I understand why this thing is so famous. It is not a big hill and only a few km long, but the wind (if there is any) comes form the back, so it feels like there is no wind. It is hot, hot, hot, and this is not even a hot year by comparison. I can’t even imagine what it must be like in a when it’s actually really hot. Bottom line – the island beats me and I do have to walk stretches of the uphill after all. At the exit my cheering squad is still there and my brother made the math – If I keep up this “pace” I should be making it to the finish line before dark with no problems. That was my self set secondary goal (first one was to finish). So that gives me great confidence right there. It is only 12 km now…really not much in comparison. I can do this!

ede84716-c70f-4cef-975c-763d93cb9eadThe rest of the run is uneventful I jog from aid station to aid station walk through, take on coke, cool off with ice and water and soldier on. In what (correctly) feels like an eternity I am back in town and I can finally run down that famous Palani hill and turn onto Ali’i drive, running into the finish chute. It is still broad daylight – mission accomplished. Half way through the chute the whole family gang is there and cheers like crazy, Canada flag and all. I jog by, afraid that if I stop I might not get going again and make it through the finishers arch. I somehow hear the famous words of Mike Reilley “Holger Bohm you are an IRONMAN” but not really. I get snatched up by a support person (not only because I look bad – every finisher gets a volunteer to walk then from the finish line to the nutrition station – or to medical if needed) and get dropped of where the food is. This is it…. I did it…it’s over? Somehow this is all too uneventful right now. I am to flattened to be happy really. I just don’t think I can comprehend what just happened yet. It will come I am sure. I eat a bit, pick up my pre-race bag, get my finisher’s t-shirt and go find the family. I “ran” the marathon in 4 hours and 29 minutes – 10 minutes slower than in Whistler even. Officially the slowest marathon I ever ran. Ironically, I got passed by almost the same amount of people I passed on the bike and finished in 1139th position (out of 2472 starters) so a tad better than half way. Bit of a different story in my age group though. 193rd out of 285 starters….seems like those 40+ year old’s are not that slow…well there is room for improvement and maybe I have a reason to not give up triathlon after all and try this again some day 🙂

For now the family takes me home forces me to clean up and somewhat prepared so we can get back to the finish line for the midnight party – and most importantly Finn’s 10th birthday at midnight and then the actual vacation part of the trip can start…

 

A week later…I am back in Kimberley unpacking after a long trip home. It is finally sinking in. I have the towel, I have the medal, the hat and the finishers T-shirt. I also have a thousand plus images of Hawaii and the race to chose from and I have to wear a long sleeve shirt because a)it is really cold here and b) my arms are peeling so badly that it looks like I have some kind of skin disease (I should have taken that extra minute in T2 after all and taken some lotion).

All this happened way to fast, even the days after were somehow jam packed with activities, recovery and battling the cold bug that was still going around and I never really got a chance to reflect.

I can’t believe I raced Hawaii…after 22 years of dreaming. With all of my family there supplying the best support one can wish for. On top of all things it was the 40th anniversary of the race, Finns birthday and the best conditions in 40 years.

And just to close the loop….I did my first Ironman in Roth in 1996 at the tender age of 21 which was the year when Lothar Leder was the first guy to brake 8 hours in Ironman history. And here I am 22 years later racing Hawaii for the first time and Patrick Lange breaks 8 hours for the first time in Hawaii Ironman history…it must have something to do with me 🙂

What better than to close this journey with Mike Reilley’s words: “Holger Bohm – you ARE an ironman!”

I think my dad would have been proud.

Ups and downs

Exactly 4 weeks till race day in Kona, 3 weeks until we depart. This has become much bigger than originally anticipated. Turns out my complete family is flying in from Germany to be with us in Hawaii. So all of a sudden I have a support team of 7 people around me. I am super stoked, haven’t seen my brothers in 3 years I think. So, it will be a great family reunion, throw in Finns birthday on the 14th (midnight at the end of race day – so we will be celebrating his birthday by welcoming the last finishers) and it will be a party for 2 weeks straight 😊

Thanks to the heart and stroke foundation folks we will be all dressed in matching T-shirts and caps (well not all the time, but for the important events for sure) and the kids are already signed up for the kids splash and dash

With all the fun coming up I have to remind myself that there is such a thing as a race to be done on that particular Saturday. I have heard how easy it is to get completely side tracked once in Kona and I am starting to see why.

Truth be told: Looking back to pre-Whistler times I already knew there is no way for me to podium in Kona, or even play any kind of challenger role in my AG given the depth of the field at the world championship. So, prior to Whistler I said, and I think I have the right to quote myself here: “If I make it to Kona, I just want to go there to take it all in and enjoy, hell, I’ll take a camera and stop during the swim bike and run to take scenic pictures.”
Well then came Whistler, and I did indeed qualify, but given the challenging conditions I was much, much slower than I had hoped for. So, knowing in what kind of shape I was and how (relatively) poorly I did (In all fairness I still came 54th overall and 3rd in my AG) these thoughts came up in me…well if I can work on my run some more in the weeks leading up to Kona and pace it right, I should be able to do much better, at least stay in the 9 hour realm…somehow the thought of being a tourist on race day had all but disappeared. I can go and kick some ass in Kona, right? So I made my plans and started training…only 8 weeks to go…
But then life provided a reality check that I really didn’t need. For some freak reason I developed pain in my left heel after a mid-length run. I never had anything like this before and my training was greatly reduced at the time this happened. I am not sure why my body decided to pull the brake right then and there. Anyhow, I took a week off but it did not go away, actually became worse. A few physio appointments and doctor’s visits later turns out I most likely have a small tear in my plantar fascia (the tendon that forms the bottom of the foot). Nothing threatening but rather painful because that is the very part of the body that has to stop my heel from crashing into the pavement with 3 times my body weight around 20 – 30,000 times in a marathon. As a result my running has been extremely limited in the past few weeks, I can only jog 6-7 km max with a heavily taped foot at the moment, spend a lot of time with the foot on ice and doing all kind of stretches etc. and my main diet consists of anti inflammatory drugs… The shittiest of all timings really given that running was really the one thing I wanted to focus on and improve upon prior to Kona. After a few weeks of deep depression, I started to see the silver lining. I know now (for sure) that I will not be able to run well in Kona – as a matter of fact I may not be able to run at all beyond 10 or 12 km if this thing doesn’t heal up until then. But somehow this takes the pressure away a bit, I have the perfect excuse to go back to the original plan, go to the island, enjoy being with my family and enjoy the race, taking it all in and celebrate the fact that this lifelong dream of both myself and my dad is finally coming true – 22 years after I did my very first Ironman and 21 years after my dad and I did the first one together.

I also need to confess this: It also gives me a reason to keep training after Hawaii 2018. To become a better (and less injured) runner in the next few years and come back, with all the information I will have from my reconnaissance trip this year I should be perfectly prepared for a future race 😊 This year I’ll simply swim and bike as best as I can and will hopefully jog the marathon home without doing any further damage and with the least amount of pain possible.

But for now I am simply looking forward to hanging out there with my family, especially the kids taking in the craziness of race week in and actually getting a real vacation and an opportunity to explore the island after the race – Hawaii here we come…

Ironman Canada – the data side of things

For those who are interested in data (and partially for me as recap and learning experience) here a more technical review of my Race in Whistler:

The Swim:

Time: 1:03:38

Position: 145 in total, 132 excluding Pro athletes, 12 in AG

Super happy – I did everything right – stayed calm at the start, jumped on feet whenever I could and didn’t panic when I found no feet for bits. I felt strong the whole way and my splits were super consistent. This was a perfect swim for me – there is a lot of room for improvement still as far as the overall time goes and I’ll keep working but for now I am stoked.

I took 400m splits with my watch, so these are the min/100m pace times for each 400m split. A few comments:

About 3 quarters of the way through we started lapping slower swimmers, so there were some slight delays here and there.

The first split includes probably 50 or so meters of shallow water running, so that split is a tad faster than it should be.

Also, according to my watch I swam 175 too much, the GPS map doesn’t show any big big deviations from the course, so I attribute that to GPS error?

Distance (meters) Average Time (min per 100m)
400 1:29
800 1:35
1200 1:35
1600 1:37
2000 1:36
2400 1:36
2800 1:36
3200 1:43
3600 1:42
3975 1:42

T1

Time: 2:58
I had done my homework, memorized my lanes with the bags well and found my stuff in no time. Thanks to Ironman’s….hum..interesting… rule of not letting us keep shoes on the bike and the long path out to the mount line on pavement I decided to carry my shoes to the mount line, parked the bike there for a minute and off I went. All worked well. Turns out the pros are about 1 minute faster in transition than I was. But then I had to push my bike all the way though the transition zone because I was parked at the very end, vs. them having the bikes right the front (same distance to run, but no bike pushing)…combine that with them getting to keep their shoes on the bike. I am sure that should make a 1-minute difference, at least lets just assume it is close. The fact that I have the exact same T1 time as the first two overall amateurs supports this theory. Not much to improve here.

 

The Bike:

Time: 5:18:46

Position: 18 overall, 5 excluding Pro athletes, 1 in my AG

What I felt and eluded to in my other post does get confirmed by the raw data. I went a tad hard on the first lap – although fully within my (optimistic) race plan for the first lap. I stuck to my nutrition plan as far as calories goes but definitely did not drink enough in the last two laps when the temperatures rose in a hurry. My average heart rate was super constant but my wattage declined substantially throughout the second and third lap. The 2-minute stop to fix my chain will have something to do with that but really, I made that up pretty quickly – the difference between average and normalized power in the second lap shows this. Overall, I biked well, stayed within my planned Power but my HR was higher than planned – I anticipated I should be able to hold a HR under 140 at ~280W. A good reality check for Kona.

As for as nutrition goes, pre-mixing a fuel bottle with high dose Infinit was brilliant and thanks goes to Antje who insisted that I mix an extra hours worth of nutrition into that one bottle. Because (just as she predicted) I lost one of my pre- mix bottles and was super glad to have the highly concentrated bottle with an extra hours worth of fuel handy. So, I only took after at the aid stations and dilute my 5 hours worth of pre- mix.

I did miss an extra bottle of water at a couple of stations in the 2nd and 3rd loop. Always got enough to mix my fuel, but didn’t get enough to top myself up with water and only had very limited extra to pour over my body. I definitely can not allow myself that in Hawaii. Given that it is only a 1 lap course there I hope it will not be quite as chaotic at the aid stations as it was in lap 2 and 3 in Whistler.

I also felt the back of my head getting really hot, a spot I can not cool down due to the aero helmet not having any ventilation holes there. This in combination with the fact that my helmet (and I was shocked to discover that) is at least 12 years old tell me I should probably invest in a new helmet for Kona – both to keep my head cool – and safe.

  Average Power (Watt) Normalized Power (Watt) Average Heart Rate (bpm) Average Speed (km/h) Average Temperature (degrees C)
Lap 1 258 W 277 W 143 34.6 19
Lap 2 235 W 264 W 142 34.0 26
Lap 3 222 249 143 33.3 31
Rainbow to town 229 256 149 32.7 31
TOTAL 238 264 143 33.9 26

(Average Watts per kg = 2.76)

TP file bike

T2

Time: 2:43

Nothing to report here – took a minute to put shoes on, have a bit of water and get sun lotion on my head. I spend about a minute longer than the pros – which I don’t have an excuse for this time. I remember there being water on the table in front of the changing chairs, but can not remember at all if there was a full aid station at the run exit? If there was and I blasted by that – this was a huge mistake. I really should have spent another minute or even two, to recover and refuel which could have made the run a completely different experience.

 

The Run:

Time: 4:20:19
Position 55 overall, 42 excluding Pro athletes, 3 in my AG

The run data are the most interesting to me. I definitely felt like I died in the first 10 k. But it turns out the first 10 k were the fastest and the HR was full on target. I was definitely overheated from the bike still though and somewhat under nutritioned as well. Once I had my pattern figured out (walk the aid stations) my times for the other 30km were fairly consistent and the heart rates as well. A bit lower though which shows me that I probably would have been able to ignore the pain and aching and push a bit harder. Again, good learning for the big one in Hawaii. The graph shows my cadence (average cadence is pretty useless here because of all the walk breaks), I usually run at 172-174 which indicates pretty decent run form. I only held that cadence for the first 20 minutes of the run and then I defaulted to a heel strike prone 160 ish steps per minute. Very interesting too that my quads were sore next day. Quad heavy running indicates a weak core, low cadence and bad form running….so yeah, I really must force myself even when I am struggling to keep my form together. I think in combination with allowing myself a higher heart rate and ignoring the pain a bit more I could have shaved of quite some time of this run.
I do find it encouraging though that even after feeling really poor the first quarter or so of the run I was able to pull it together and default to a system that allowed me to “run” a half-decent-for-operating-in-survival -mode type run.

 

  Average speed (min / km) Average Heart Rate (bpm) Average Temperature (degrees C)
10 km 5:44 153 31
20 km 6:15 148 34
30 km 6:22 147 34
40 km 6:23 151 33
42 km 5:48 158 33
TOTAL 6:10 150 33

TP file run

Conclusion:

Swam well, over-biked a bit (may need to adjust my power goals) and paid for it on the run. Mad a few mistakes but fought well to get it done in the end. There is (always) a lot of room for improvement on the run. I will have to pack in a bunch of longer runs in the Hawaii prep to teach myself to maintain good form even when I am tired. Definitely keep watching nutrition – maybe start drinking coke earlier (need to do some research on how early in the run one should start living of pure sugar). Other than that, I feel like this was a good test for Hawaii. Only 8 weeks of training to go – if any of you data nerds out here would like to discuss or see actual files let me know, I am happy to share and happy to get input and advice.

 

Full Results can be found here:

http://www.ironman.com/ca-es/triathlon/events/americas/ironman/canada/results.aspx#axzz5O0ZnwJTy

Ironman Canada – it’s a team effort!

In my blogs I usually write about how my race went, how training went how I felt how I suffered how I prevailed. Me, me, me….sure enough I am the one pushing rotating those arms in the water, pushing that pedal around in circles and moving those legs up and down on the run. But nothing of this would happen without the amazing support team that is my family. Antje and the kids, Finn and Mia, have been amazing along the way.

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First they are the most amazing cheering squad out there; chasing from location to location, making the most noise of all, so that even when I can’t see them on the side of the road, I can definitely hear them. They make me keep running when the going gets tough. Those long days of cheering during an Ironman (I have only ever watched one myself) are harder than running the darn thing – so my hat is off to them for that!

IMG_4728
The true and invisible support happens during preparation though – the list is endless but here are a few highlights that come to mind:

They let me disappear for those long long hours on the weekends, after work or before breakfast.

They are ready with chocolate milk after my hard training units, and with extra sugar loaded treats on those days when I took it one step too far.

They accept me dripping, yelling and screaming on my bike during those indoor rides, not to mention the humming and vibration in the house for up to 5 hours while that trainer is in action.

They deal with the fact that our vacation schedule and destination evolves around races.

They are my safety paddleboard on some of those long swims.

They have to deal with my mood swings, all the way from super high after those great races or training days to super low on the tough days where nothing goes.

They also let me drag them into volunteering at events such as the Wasa triathlon where they ran a complete water station (They even had their friends come out  to that water station and help cheer on and hydrate the runners – and donated the proceeds of that back to the cause).

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Thank you so much for all the support and understanding – you are amazing! I can’t wait to go to Kona with you guys and I promise (uhm….after the race) it will be a real vacation with no mention of anything triathlon related 😉

cheering squad

Ironman Canada 2018

The big day is finally here: Ironman Canada in Whistler, the event in which I will try to qualify for the World Championships in Kona. I feel ready…

Hmmmm…let me correct that. I felt ready until exactly 2 weeks out from the race when I finally (after a full season of healthiness) caught the nasty cough that had been going around the office. The timing was good though, all hard training was done and I was going into my taper anyways. So I lived on a combination of vitamins, cold FX and Siris’s secret soup for a week and got the cough mostly beat.

Travel to Whistler, and all of a sudden it is race week. A short moment of panic in the final week arises when the water in Alta Lake jumps up in temperature and rumours start making rounds that it would be too warm for wetsuits on race day. For me as a notoriously weaker swimmer a heavy blow. But I manage to keep fairly calm (although the family may have to offer a totally different observation) and get ready for race day with some light training in Whistler.

Race day is here; the weather is amazing….except – and I cannot believe I would ever say that…it is actually borderline hot…at least I don’t have to worry about keeping warm on the bike this time 🙂

The gun goes off, I find a pair of feet and hang on for dear life like usual (for explanation drafting in the water is allowed and gives one a huge advantage – literally hanging on to someone’s feet is not :-).

Usually I run out of steam after the frantic sprint at the start. But this time I feel surprisingly good. My watch gives me my first 400m split time – under 6 minutes. The fastest time I have ever swam 400m in, like ever! I am a bit worried, this is too fast for me, but I feel just fine. And much to my surprise I cruise through the swim at decent speed (even though my splits drop a bit when we started lapping the slower athletes) but I come out of the water in 1 hour and 3 minutes, which for me is unbelievable. All that hard work and all that patient coaching by the amazing Jen has paid off…I am finally a mid of the pack swimmer 🙂

Off to the bike, nothing new here, biking is my strength and I feel good…that is until I drop my chain shifting from the big to the small ring in front on a short climb. Crazy – this has not happened to me all season….now there is a little thingamajig attached to my front derailleur called a chain catcher that should a) stop the chain from dropping and b) if it must drop it will not get jammed between the chain ring and the frame. Somehow however my chain manages to slip by that little device and is not only jammed between the ring and the frame but also hooked BELOW that chain catcher. I am off the bike, grabbing the chain with both hands applying full force trying to yank that chain out of there but it is not moving a millimeter. Finally – after what feels like an eternity (and turns out to be 2 minutes after reviewing my data) I find the right angle and get that chain whopped back on the ring. Off I go, with completely black and greasy hands and two bleeding cuts on my fingers to boot. It takes me about 10 kilometers to catch the guys whose vicinity I was riding in again.

im canada bike

 

At least I got my customary technical glitch out of the way, I think. But as I feel the heat building up towards the end of the bike course (it is now approaching noon and my computer reads up to 36 degrees) I feel how my front tire seems a bit out of whack, there is just a slight bump every rotation. Without any other options I chose to ignore it until at the 175km mark – about 5km from the end of the bike course the bumpiness gets much more pronounced and goes along with a grind and a rubbery burning smell. The side wall of my tire starts separating and is now rubbing on the brakes. This has NEVER ever happened to me and I have no tools to fix this should the tire blow. I start calculating how far I can run pushing my bike to transition…it is only 4km now, I can tag that on to my marathon, right? I pull my water bottle and start spraying water on my tire, maybe cooling it down and making it wet and slippery will help a bit. At least it takes the burning smell away so it must do something. Long story short, I miraculously make it to the transition zone with an intact tire (when I pick up the bike in the evening after the race it is flat – so I literally must have rolled in on the last thread of side wall).IMG_4825

Only the run left. So far I am doing pretty well time wise. It is now legitimately hot (Canada weather service says it was between 34.1 – 35.4 degrees during the time I was on the run). I get a good handful of sun lotion on my oh so bald head and run off onto the run course. The plan has me hold a 5 minute per km pace. I am at 5:08 for the first km, not bad considering the usual stiffness after the 180km bike ride. I am in agony, but that’s normal for the first km – trying to convince the legs, which just pushed the pedals around in circles for 5 hours and change, to go up and down and bear weight all of a sudden.

The second kilometer has a substantial climb in it and I still feel a lot of pain. I shake it off because after all it is an uphill…but it is not getting better. I think I did overheat on the bike and my body is slowly shutting down. So I take a longer rest at the next aid station, ice, ice and more ice to get that body temperature down but it is not helping. I start shutting down completely and am just trudging along at snail pace. At that point – sure enough – the first competitor with my age group indicated on his calf runs by me, ah here we go…I am mentally preparing for being passed by hundreds of people. By km 5 I am sure my race is done, every step hurts, it is not getting better and I can’t even imagine “running” another 37 km feeling like this. At km 7 I run right by our campsite, Antje and the kids are cheering like crazy, in their shouts I hear something like second place? I guess I am doing pretty well as far as placement goes? I am not sure I understand exactly what they are yelling at me, but it makes me go on, I can do that out and back, and I will drop out on my way back, next time I go by the campsite – or latest when 7 competitors of my age group have passed me. Surprisingly soon I pass the guy from my age group again- he is fading much worse than I am it seems (in fact after the race I see him being taken to the medical tent in a wheelchair – hope he recovered well). Somehow this triggers a memory of what I have heard in different podcasts and interviews. When you out there suffering, remind yourself everybody else is suffering just as much as you are. And true, today seems to be one of those exact days – everybody is walking at some point or other today. I find myself passing and being passed by the same people again and again, we are simply choosing to walk at different spots of the course…IM Canada run

Eventually I fall into a rhythm, zombielike, the same movements: -shuffle to the next aid station – water over head – stuff ice into suit – a gel every second one – water over head again – more ice and start shuffling again. By km 20 I start drinking coke (the magical drink of pure sugar based energy) and somehow without realizing I am at km 25. The fog starts lifting. I start tricking my poor zombie brain – it is only 15 km (and a 2 km victory lap though town). That is like running our local 5k run with the kids 3 times…and a 2k victory lap – I can do this!

Eventually I make it to the finish chute and am horrified at the time the clock shows. 10:58. Another 11 hour race, after all that work, I can’t believe it. But at least it is done, and I don’t have to do it (ever) again because clearly with that time – a good hour and change slower than my anticipated qualifying time – there is no trip to Hawaii here. As I am being led to the medical tent (I guess my legs are kinda giving in on me a bit, and the medical guys wanted to avoid having to pick all 6 foot 7 off the ground sooner than later) I can hear the kids cheering in the background which makes me smile…but…little do they understand how slow I was….I am sad to disappoint them, but right now all I want to do is lie down in the cool medical tent.

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I am released after 15 minutes and eventually find the family around the athletes’ food station. There is cheers and yelling and somehow they tell me I got third in my age group and 55th overall?? I am very sceptical of that Ironman live tracker app, I have seen results change on there before and don’t really want to believe it. We keep checking the app all evening but the result seems to be solid…I still will not allow me to believe it though until I actually get called onto stage tomorrow….just to be sure and avoid bitter disappointment.

A few hours later two friends come in, both have done their first ironman in the most brutal conditions ever – kudos to them!! Any other race they will ever enter will feel like a piece of cake after this one.

Shortly before midnight we return to the finish line (an ironman tradition) to greet the last competitors coming in. One of them is Gerry from Kimberley (age group 65-69), finishing his first Ironman with 6 minutes to spare in these conditions – what an inspiring achievement!

Next day we go to the awards ceremony (just in case the tracker was actually right) and I am a tad nervous all the way until they finally call my name. First for the awards and then for the Hawaii spot. It is true! I somehow died less than everybody else and did it!! We – are – going – to – Hawaii!!!!!

That also means I get to do this all again – ironically- in probably slightly cooler conditions but with much greater humidity. That also means another 10 weeks of training and (well mostly) laying off ice cream and cookies…But for now I will allow myself a week of sin – Dairy queen here we come, and yes, make that blizzard extra large please :-))IMG_4816

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Calgary Marathon

I know I know, one is not supposed to run a full marathon in Ironman training. The beating a body takes during a marathon is considered to be too much and the gain too little to come out on top training wise after the event…

However…..I just couldn’t stop myself. For good reasons (me thinks): I simply wanted to run a marathon to have it in the bag for my mental preparation. Turns out somehow along the way I turned much older than I thought and it turns out the last time I ran a marathon (without swimming and biking before the run) was in 2002…yikes!!! The last marathon I ran with a bit of biking and running before was in 2010 when I did the Penticton Ironman. Back then it was a bit of a stunt and I jogged most of the marathon. This time in Whistler I will actually have to run it to make the top three and guarantee my Hawaii qualification.

Long story short. I thought I had a good reason to run this thing so that I know this old body can actually do it.

So off to Calgary I went, dropped the kids off with a good friend on the way; because despite all their support kids are more interested in spending a weekend on the farm with their godmother, riding horses and having bonfires than hanging in Calgary for 3 to 4 hours waiting for a destroyed dad to come back – I don’t blame them :-). I stayed with some old University colleagues I hadn’t talked to in waaaay too long, which was super nice and a great opportunity to catch up on things. The Calgary marathon starts early (7:00 am) so off I went for a good nights sleep after a dinner of the most amazing pizza made by man (thanks again guys!).

Race morning had me at the start line at 5:30 not realizing that this is not a triathlon, no bike to be set up, no wetsuit to be put on…seems like everybody else got the memo because I was literally the only one there, so accompanied by some good old Calgary tumbleweed I hunkered down and relaxed a bit waiting for my fellow runners to show up. 

Finally, the place filled and with 30 minutes to spare I start my warmup, jog 2km along the creek and do some leg swings and drills…clearly I am race ready.

Shortly before 7 I assume my position and am starting to look for the 3 hour and 15 minute pace bunny – most bigger city marathons provide marked runners who hold a certain pace giving runners an opportunity to latch on and (if all goes well) achieve the pre-set goal. My intention was to run with the 3:15 bunny for about half of the race and then take it easy for the rest of it, monitoring my heart rate and staying within the comfort zone (at a comfortably uncomfortable pace) through the end of the race. I see all pace bunnies 3:30, 4:00 and so on, but the 3:15 is nowhere to be seen. Ah well, I can keep my own pace, and off we go.

I trudge along with the masses (half marathon, marathon and 50K runners star in the same wave) and keep a nice relaxed but solid pace at around 4:35 per km for the first few kilometers. I get talking to another runner who tells me that the 3:15 bunny is just behind us. Okay, I can deal with that, keep trudging away and by about 9km the bunny and a group of about 6 or 7 runners catches me. I understand why I hadn’t seen the pace bunny before, the gentlemen is 5 feet max and looks like he is out for a Sunday morning walk, which I am sure for him he actually is….complete with baggy shorts, an old fanny pack and, well… pace bunny ears.

So I join the group and enjoy the convenience of not having to watch my own pace. But Mr. Bunny has no mercy, he clocks 4:35 minute kilometers very solidly, he is not slowing down for any of the (what feels like) 2 million bridges we have to go up and down and not for the bigger climb around km 12 either. I start feeling how the sum of small climbs and the longer one start driving my heart rate up. Fortunately, after every climb there is a bit of relaxation again (coming down the bridge) but overall my heart rate is on average 10 beats higher than I had planned.

Ah well, I feel great and relaxed and I stay with the group until about km 28. At that point, on one of the shorter hills I let them go but keep them in about 100m distance head of me. They are still going the exact same pace as me…all good 🙂
Up to roughly km 34 that is….I realize my heart rate gets higher even and some pain and weakness sets in. I am secretly happy because I have already made it beyond the 30km mark which is so often referred to as the spot where ‘The Wall’ is that many people hit full on and crumble – indicating really where the most difficult part of the race begins. I have to do an internal self check and realize that somehow, I didn’t follow my carefully thought through nutrition plan. I have way too much gel left in my flask. I am instantly mad, because testing nutrition was one of the tasks for this race… darn it! It had also gotten quite warm and even though I took on water at almost every aid station (every 3km) I don’t think I had gotten enough liquid in….rookie mistake.

I feel energy dwindling and make the decision to walk for the first time at an aid station around km 38, spend a good 30 seconds, take a big shot of gel and wash it down with two big cups of nuun and off I go again. This gives me the boost I need to make it to the finish line in a respectable (for me) 3 hours and 20 minutes.

Overall I think the test went quite well. It turns out that this old body can run a marathon 23 minutes faster than the much younger body did in 2002. I negotiated the pain over the last 10 km of the run and found the exact spot of scratching along ‘The Wall’ without hitting it. I also learned I have to focus even more on nutrition and to trust myself when I realize I need a quick break.

I did not negative split the marathon – which I attribute to the many short climbs on the course, which hurt my legs (and my heart rate) much more than I anticipated. As a result I ran at higher intensity and heart rate than I had planned. I definitely need a few more solid longer runs in my training.  I now have 8 weeks to fix that before I start tapering for the big race on July 29th.

In the end I am pretty darn positive and glad I did this little experiment. I know with 8 weeks of training I will be able to run a solid marathon off the bike – Whistler here I come!

Kootenay Fun 5 with Mia

Spring time – time for the annual local fun run – the Kootenay Fun 5. Unfortunately Finn had to tap out sick and Antje had to work that weekend but Mia and I tackled the 5k race on a super beautiful morning with lots of sunshine and a ton of motivated people from Cranbrook and surroundings. It is always great and encouraging to see so many people come out to a local event like this!

In short, Mia’s fall (and a little bit of spring) training has payed off and she ran the 5k at a solid pace without ever struggling. She also improved form last years time by a huge margin, and felt much better during the race to boot.

I really enjoy running with her and hope I can look forward to a lot of runs yet. I also can’t wait for the first time she will beat me, although I’ll try everything in my power to push that date as far back as I can.

Finn, this goes for you just the same – you’ll have that cold beat soon and we’ll race together at the next opportunity!

I promise a huge tub of ice cream to the first of you two to beat me (running that is – you are too close in swimming already 🙂

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Farewell dear Garmin

It finally happened – after years and years of heavy use my reliable old Garmin has finally given in to constant abuse.

It started with a crack in the screen which happened when I (extremely gracefully) exited a lake swim last fall, making (completely planned) contact with a rock under water. A full flooding of the watches interior and a good two days locked up in a bowl of rice the watch jumped back into service. The crack was professionally tended to (proof – the tiny blob of gorilla glue in the top left corner) and the watch lasted almost all winter until it started acting up – my guess is that the remaining moisture in the system in combination with runs at -20C was eventually enough.

Farewell dear suitcase on my wrist. You were the first high tech piece of equipment I ever bought and you have been my friend and my enemy, notoriously showing pace times and power data away lower that I thought you should show but, by doing so, keeping me honest and well prepared. I have yelled at you, left you in the rain hooked up to my bike in transition, buried you under my bathing cap in open water swims and did pretty much everything to you to push you to the edge of your performance – just as you pushed me.  We were a great team!

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Time flies

How did this happen? It is May already…seems like I am no better than about half the people who signed up for a gym membership in January and have only gone a few times.

I had great intentions of a monthly update blog in January and here we are in May….shame!

I’ll blame it on winter though…my standard excuse for just about everything…it has been a long one and we have been battling the old snow well into April. Finally the last weeks of April and the beginning of may have proven to be somewhat spring-esque. And believe it or not I have been able to do some of my long bikes outside.

In a nutshell training is going really well, I feel stronger than ever and am all positive for the season to come.  Last weekend I got a good sunburn on my legs and the tan lines will be maintained razor-sharp (as per the rule #7 (http://www.velominati.com/the-rules/) from now on.

It is only 11 weeks to go until Whistler and only 2 to the first test at the Calgary Marathon. I am excited and feel confident – I definitely have put the work in (increased my weekly mileage steadily since January and just put two weeks of running with just under 90km in). Despite the high (for me) weekly mileage I have stayed injury free so far and plan on keeping it that way.

I am missing the long long runs necessary for an actual Marathon preparation yet, a function of my preparation being all targeted towards the end of July. I will be going into the Calgary Marathon at the end of a pretty heavy 2 week workout block, so I am definitely not expecting a best time here. Goal is to run relaxed and get the mental check that I can do a decently paced Marathon (with some hills) without hitting heart rates that are too high and without really hurting myself.

Naturally, if a good time or placement comes out of this as a by-product I will not be complaining 😉

I am in a recovery week right now and in the mindset of recovering just as hard as I train I am thoroughly enjoying all the extra time I suddenly have to do things around the house or play some street hockey with the kids.

The Kootenay Fun5  race in Cranbrook is next on the weekend. Both kids will run there and I will stay with one of them – unless they tell me to pound sand and let them do their own thing.

Hope the weather will hold up for that and see you out there!

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