Thursday, July 30, 2015

2015 IM Canada – Race Report (Chen’s version)

Posted by Chen

I am an IRONMAN!!!

Bananas, people. This Ironman thing is bananas.

I’m so happy that all of us finished (especially given the weather conditions – more on that later), and I’ll always look back on this whole training cycle and race experience with a huge sense of accomplishment. However, it’s extremely safe to say that I will never do an Ironman again. I had a wonderful experience with it – even more wonderful than I ever thought possible. But this is one of those things that I’m perfectly fine with doing once, and only once.

Backing up to the beginning…


I’ve never been this nervous before a race. Ever. With running races, even marathons, I can generally anticipate what might go wrong and what I would do in response to each situation, but with this IM – I HAD NO F-ING CLUE. Would I panic during the swim and have to pull out? Would I get a flat on the bike and spend an hour trying to change it? What if I got multiple flats and ran out of tubes? What if I got to the run and my stomach decided to revolt? What if my legs just decided to stop working all together? I’ve seen all of those YouTube videos of professional Ironman athletes literally crawling across the finish line – what if that happened to me???

No matter how much I tried to convince myself that I had trained for this and that I was physically and mentally ready, I just wasn’t having it. I remained a bundle of nerves for days and went to bed Saturday night feeling like this race might just take me out.

Despite my nervousness, though, I did manage to fall asleep relatively quickly and got some decent rest before my alarm went off at 3:30am. We all did our usual pre-race routine and then left the house around 4:55am to head to the shuttles. After body marking and a brief porta-potty stop, we boarded the buses to head to T1.

At this point, the weather was still cooperating – overcast with an occasional light drizzle, but nothing to write home about. Most of the forecasts that we’d stalked (and I do mean stalk) stated an 80% chance of rain, with the highest chance around 10-11am, but mainly in the form of showers. Seemed easy enough to deal with [foreshadowing: the science of meteorology still needs some work].

Once at T1, we made sure all of our gear was in the right places and then proceeded through our porta-potty rounds until it was time to get in the water to warm-up.

At 6:40ish, we headed in the direction of the three small buoys that marked the starting line for the swim. After a few warm-up strokes to test the chop (there wasn’t nearly as much as there had been on Friday – score!), Katie and I lined up behind the middle buoy but WAY to the back of the pack. And by that, I mean that there were literally only like three people further back than us. We met some other friendly athletes with a similar “I don’t want to get pummeled” mindset and made some small talk while we watched the pro men go off at 6:50am and the pro women at 6:55am.

While I was hoping that time would magically slow down via some sort of space-time expansion, the clock inevitably struck 7:00am, and the age group gun went off as scheduled. This was it. It was time to do an f-ing Ironman.

The swim

It took me a few dozen yards to actually reach the starting line itself since we had started so far back. While there was a little bit of congestion to get there, it wasn’t terrible, so I just put my head down and started swimming. I found myself surrounded by far more athletes than I had planned for (I guess it’s hard to avoid 1700+ other people all trying to get to the same buoy that you’re targeting), but I focused on staying calm and tried to think happy thoughts.

As I did at the Catfish Open Water Swim, I also focused on maintaining my usual pattern of bilateral breathing every three strokes in order to stick with what I was used to and remind myself that this was just like any other swim workout. My wetsuit was there to support me, and there was no need to freak out. Hear that? DON’T FREAK OUT, CHEN.

It probably took me until the first turn buoy to figure out how to continually navigate through people and get into a rhythm, but once I did, I felt good and knew that I would get through this swim without a panic attack. Thank the good lord. It helped that everyone around me was really considerate – every time someone accidentally hit me, they would immediately back off, and I would do the same. I like to think of us as the “oh sorry, you go,” “oh no you go, please” crowd.

I managed to get more towards the outside of the pack as we finished the first loop, which made me feel even more comfortable with my situation. As we made the turn to start the second loop, I glanced briefly at my Garmin to see how I was doing and saw that it wasn’t on the swim screen and just said “Triathlon.” Thanks, Garmin. I’m aware that I’m currently doing a triathlon. The screen did have a very small running clock, though, which read around 41 minutes, so I knew I was doing just fine.

The rest of the second loop was pretty uneventful, but I did notice the rain pick up quite a bit. It clearly didn’t affect the swim at all since we were, you know, already covered in water, but when we made the final turn towards the shore, I realized just how much the weather conditions had worsened. While most of the swim had very little chop, this last leg into shore had straight up ocean-like waves. I felt like I was being tossed around like a rag doll and kept inhaling water when I tried to breathe or sight. This normally would have freaked me out, but I was so close to being done that I just kept pushing forward towards land.

Eventually, I started to see the ground come into view, and soon after that, it was time to stand up. Holy crap – my IM swim was over! Seven months of learning to swim properly and practicing over and over and over, and it all came down to this. And I couldn’t have been happier with how it went. My Garmin said that I swam well over 4600 yards – if that’s accurate, it meant that I swam waaaaaaay wide, but oh well. Better that than an elbow to the face.

Swim time: 1:25:43
(Official pace of 2:02/100yd, but 1:50/100yd according to Garmin; real pace probably somewhere in between)


After getting stripped of my wetsuit and grabbing my T1 bag, I headed into the changing tent, where a kind volunteer directed me towards an empty chair. I took my sweet @$$ time getting changed and making sure I had everything I needed for the bike. As I exited the tent and headed towards the porta-potties, I heard Brandon and Rachel’s family yell my name. I made sure they were aware of the fact that I was eating food as I walked into a porta-potty (no one ever said this sport was glamorous), took care of business, and then came back out and went over to them to chat for a minute or so before finally walking off to get Bert the Bike.

As I walked Bert out of transition, I noticed that it was raining pretty hard, but I was still warm from the swim, so I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. I walked past the mount line, hit the lap button on my Garmin, and I was off to do the longest outdoor ride of my life.

T1 time: 14:59
(Hahaha. Beat that.)

The bike

We exited Rainbow Park and turned right onto Alta Lake Road to begin our first mini-climb of the day. Despite the rain, I was feeling fine as we turned right onto 99 South and started our first of two large out and backs. This part was rolling down, and I started to get colder and colder with every descent. It was down pouring by this point, and I felt puzzled, as this rain felt much heavier than the forecasted “showers.”

At the half-hour mark, when I usually start to eat on a ride, I also discovered that I had forgotten to open my Ziploc bag full of prepared Clif Bars and tried to open it while on the move. However, I had sealed that thing SHUT to keep dry overnight, and this was also when I learned that I had very little use of my hands due to the cold. After trying for a couple minutes, including trying to open it with my mouth, I decided that it wasn’t going to happen.

I knew that under-fueling would be the end of me on the bike, so I decided to pull over and open the bag with both hands. It was hard for me to do even that, and then when I got to my Clif Bars, I realized they were all but frozen together. What the hell was happening?

As I pried a chunk from the brick ‘o chocolate chip Clif Bars, a spectator came over to see if I was OK, and I assured him that I was just trying to eat. At the same time, I heard another spectator behind him chuckle “oooohhh cookie monster… me want cookie...” I couldn’t decide if he was referring to me and if I should be offended, but then I decided it was pretty hilarious. After all, I WAS about to inhale 1680 calories of chocolate chip Clif Bars over the next 7.5 hours.

After making sure that I had access to food, I pulled onto the road again and continued to tackle the rolling descent. The jacket I was wearing was not at ALL waterproof, and I was already fully soaked. I remember thinking to myself “there’s no way I can finish this race if these conditions continue,” but I also remembered that the rain was supposed to die down towards the middle of the day, so I figured that I just had to suck it up, and I kept trudging on.

In retrospect, I don’t think I fully recognized just how bad the conditions were at the time, because I was doing my first Ironman, and I figured it was going to be hard. Me feeling somewhat bad didn’t seem like it was out of the ordinary for a 140.6-mile race, so I thought that maybe I was just being a wimp. However, reading through the online forums afterwards made it clear that this was one of the worst race days that even seasoned IM veterans had seen, and it turns out that well over 400 athletes (of the nearly 2000 registered) either didn’t start or didn’t finish.

Everyone handles weather differently, and fortunately for me, I deal with cold and rain much better than I deal with heat and humidity (when working out, that is), so I was able to get through without suffering from any major issues. Aside from feeling very cold and somewhat miserable, I don’t think I was actually ever at risk of hypothermia or anything more serious.

Also, reading through Rachel’s race report made me realize that those who had swum faster were forced to face these terrible conditions for a much longer period of time. The rain had picked up while I was still swimming, but thanks to the water being 67 degrees, the swim portion ended up being the warmest leg of the day, so I was only affected by biting downpours for maybe an hour or so on the bike. Moral of the story: it pays to suck at swimming sometimes!

Anyway, despite being generally OK, I was very much looking forward to our first climb up Callaghan, because it was an opportunity for me to generate some body heat. Aside from a few steep stretches, the climb was pretty reasonable, and it was the first time that I thought that maybe this bike course wouldn’t be as beastly as I’d made it out to be in my mind. That said, I knew that Callaghan was supposed to be considerably easier than the final climb from Pemberton back to Whistler at mile 90, so I continued on with my hyper-conservative pacing plan.

It was great to see Rachel, Travers, and Matt coming back down Callaghan as I was climbing (I somehow missed Mark), and the turnaround point came along relatively quickly. While I normally look forward to the end of a climb, I was actually kind of sad when it was over, as the rain still hadn’t let up, and I was genuinely concerned for my safety as I made my way back down the hills. I could see sheets of water flowing over the road, and like Rachel, I wondered if hydroplaning on a road bike was a thing.

This was actually my first time biking in any sort of precipitation, so I just played it super safe with my speed, and I managed to make it back down without any issues. At some point during the descent, I heard someone singing “Eye of the Tiger,” and I looked over to see Katie smiling and looking super strong (“Eye of the Tiger” was the song that Matt and I played to pump ourselves up before our first marathon back in 2009). I yelled out a “woot!” and wished her a great ride, though it turns out that we would stay with one another for the next 40 miles or so, which was awesome.

After descending, we turned left onto 99 North and rolled back upwards towards the Olympic Village in Whistler. This stretch was pretty uneventful, aside from the fact that the lane they had marked off for us included the middle divider of the road, which had some slippery yellow lines and divots for the reflectors. I’m terrible at bike handling, so this made for some tricky passing conditions, but I made it through without falling on my face or causing someone else to fall on his/her face, so, #winning.

Once we passed by the village, we had the whole driving lane of the road to ourselves, and we soon started the descent into Pemberton. By this point, the rain had let up; I was starting to dry out, and things were starting to look up. Having Katie there with me made it feel more like any other training ride rather than an intense Ironman race, and I was able to relax a bit, chat with Katie, and take in the scenery around us.

At the bottom of the descent was the special needs station, where I picked up my precious bag of sour cream and onion chips and savored in its delicious, oniony saltiness. I didn’t want to spend too much time standing still and getting cold, so I shoved the bag into my jacket pocket and continued to eat chips in between bites of Clif Bar for the next hour or so. Mmmmm salt.

The next 30+ miles were completely flat, with the first half having a tailwind and the second half having a pretty nasty headwind (nasty for us, anyway – sounds like it was lighter earlier on for the faster athletes). However, I didn’t actually know that we had a tailwind on the way out, and I was wondering why 17-18mph felt so easy. I knew I needed to play it conservative here in order to have enough energy for the final climb, so the speeds we were hitting were making me a little nervous. It felt OK, though, so I went with it. Everything became clear when we turned around and I immediately struggled to hit 14-15mph. Ballsack.

While I had acquired aerobars several weeks prior to race day (admittedly way too late), I never actually got to test them out thanks to my bike fall during our last long ride. This flat stretch would have been the perfect time to go into aero, but I felt too nervous and didn’t think it would be a good idea to test things out for the first time in the middle of an Ironman, so I would end up just carting those things around for 112 miles. Brilliant.

I lost Katie at some point during this return stretch, and I realized that I would have to face the final climb back into Whistler alone. I had no idea what to expect, but as we started to ascend, I once again learned that it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as I’d made it out to be. There were certainly some steep stretches, but most grades were fine, and they were also broken up by nice stretches of downhills. At this point, I thought about all of our training rides in the Bay Area and was SO thankful that we had prepared ourselves properly for this course.

While the overall climb was pretty long (13-14 miles), it actually passed by pretty quickly (the whole ride did, actually), and soon it was time for the final rolling uphill stretch back to the Olympic Village. Right at the end of the ride, I saw Brandon and Rachel’s family cheering from an overpass, and I gave them a big smile as I went underneath. BECAUSE IT WAS FINALLY TIME FOR THE BEST SPORT EVER!!!

Going under the final underpass

Bike time: 7:28:04
(15.0 mph)


After dismounting my bike and placing my Garmin back on my wrist, I gladly handed Bert over to another super awesome volunteer (the volunteers were truly the best). I grabbed my T2 bag and headed into the changing tent, where another volunteer found some open space for me. While I had originally planned on wearing my tri kit for the full race, nothing sounded better than fresh, dry running clothes at that point, so I made a full change. I took my time once again, made another porta-potty stop (I had been holding it in for the entire bike ride), and got sunscreened up.

I couldn’t believe I had actually gotten through both the swim and the bike without facing any major obstacles, and now all I had to do was run a marathon! I know marathons; I can DO marathons. It was on.

T2 time: 9:23

The run

I had no idea how my legs would feel at the start of the run, as I had never run off of a super long bike ride before. Not surprisingly, they felt extremely tight and heavy, but I just focused on keeping the effort easy. The course started with a couple pretty nasty hills, but once we got past those, the rest was manageable. Still hilly, but manageable.

While my legs started to loosen up over the first few miles, I noticed that my stomach was doing some serious flip turns. Having consumed over 150% of my daily fiber earlier in the day, this came as no surprise, but it was also something I wasn’t used to dealing with on a run. Usually, if my stomach ever feels like that, I just stop running and live to fight another day.

I couldn’t exactly stop running here, though, so I instead slowed my pace a bit and tried to breathe deeply. While this helped, I would ultimately end up stopping for porta-potty breaks maybe 3-4 times over the course of the run. That would be the worst of my issues that I would face, though, so no complaints there.

Throughout the run, I was generally able to maintain a 9:15-9:25 pace pretty easily while running, which of course averaged out to a slower pace when you fold in my water and bathroom stops. A little slower than anticipated, but the effort felt surprisingly great, and I was so happy that I was able to truly enjoy the entire run leg.

After making the first loop around Lost Lake, we made our way north towards Green Lake. It was here that I got to see Matt, Travers, and Rachel, and I laughed when Rachel ran by me and said, “you’re on the best sport!” (I once yelled this while cheering at a tri; the athletes, many of whom were struggling on the run, did not seem to appreciate it).

It was here that I was actually able to take in the beauty of my surroundings (I’m always staring straight at the ground on the bike), and I felt myself break into a $h!t-eating grin as I relished in the fact that I was finally on the run. Finally on MY sport. A sport that didn’t make me want to poop my pants just thinking about it. It wasn’t until this point that I knew I would actually become an Ironman that day, and I started to get really excited. I saw Katie and Mark as I made my way back towards the village to start my second loop, and they both looked strong and happy. Awesome. We were all doing this!

I wasn't lying about the $h!t-eating grin

Around mile 13, I noticed that my Garmin kept beeping “low battery,” which I thought was odd, as the 920 is supposed to have a 17-hour battery life. I would later learn that this likely happened because my Bluetooth setting was on, so my watch was constantly searching for a signal all day, which ended up draining it much more quickly. It managed to stay with me until after mile 19, though, which was helpful so that I could monitor my pace and make sure I wasn’t doing anything stupid.

After mile 20 is when I was planning on just giving the race what I had left anyway, so I wasn’t too upset when the screen finally went blank around mile 19.5. I’m usually not a fan of running “blind,” but in this case, it allowed me to focus more of my energy on the amazeball crowds that were lining our running path. While I always appreciate crowd support in any race, this was the first time that spectator cheering actually had an effect on my mental state and pace. I got a serious boost of energy anytime someone yelled my name, and I made sure to smile and thank everyone for coming out.

At this point, I noticed that I was one of the few people in my cohort of racers who was still running the entire time. I saw many athletes struggling out there, though many of them still offered generous words of encouragement as I ran by – lots of “looking good!,” “nice pace!” and my favorite: “you have way too much energy for the end of an Ironman!” I was grateful that my conservative pacing strategy had paid off once again, and I was also grateful that this epic journey would conclude with my strongest sport.

I’ll also never forget a lady I passed around mile 23 who was cheering so joyfully and heartily. I gave her a big smile as I ran by, and she looked at me and just kept repeating “Wow. Wow. Wow.” She made me feel like what I was doing was awe-inspiring, and I thought, “you know what? This IS f-ing awesome.” Once upon a time, I thought I could never finish a marathon, and here I was, throwing down an 8:30 pace in the final 5K of a marathon AT THE END OF AN IRONMAN, all with a smile on my face. I never want to forget that feeling.

The last part of the course wound its way through the Olympic village itself, and it was lined with crazy spectators yelling their heads off. Just after the final turn, I saw Brandon and Rachel’s family, and I ran over to give them high fives before sprinting my way to the finish. I threw my arms up as I ran through the finisher’s arch, and finally, after so many months of hard training and struggles, I heard Mike Reilly* say my name. I had become an Ironman.

*[edited to add: 3 weeks later, and I've learned that Mike Reilly was actually at Ironman Lake Placid that day, and he did not, in fact, say my name. Sad face frown. But I'm still an Ironman, g'damnit!]

A cool running shot captured by Brandon (I'm in there, I swear) 

Run time: 4:15:04
(9:44 pace)

Overall time: 13:33:13

We are Ironmen!!!

Part of me can’t believe that we actually did this thing and that it’s actually over. After reading the online forums, I also can’t believe that we weren’t more affected by the conditions out there (and that I didn’t really comprehend what was happening at the time).

I mentioned in my last post that I didn’t have a time goal aside from finishing within the 17-hour cutoff, which is true. However, in the back of my mind, I did think that I was capable of finishing within 14 hours if I played it safe and smart and if nothing went drastically wrong. Finishing in 13:33 felt amazing, and doing so in the conditions we faced was just icing on the cake.

I’m so grateful to our entire cheering squad for braving the storm and coming out to watch us swim, bike, and run for an ungodly amount of time. Brandon, Becky, Kristen, Mrs. Marullo, Mr. Marullo, Alison, and Paul – you are all saints.

I also have to thank the rest of my friends and family for putting up with me over the last seven months. While the Ironman is a very individual sport, Ironman training is anything but. Training required a ridiculous amount of support and patience from those around me, and I’m frankly not sure how everyone was able to deal with me. All of my whining about training and constantly declining invites to do fun things in the name of a long bike ride or run must have been frustrating at best. So thank you for not giving up and abandoning our relationships :-).

And now – I’m back! I’m ready to do all of the fun things! I’m ready to talk about anything other than triathlon training! And this transition back to real life is off to a very strong start as I enjoy our two-week road trip vacation down to the Bay. Cheers!

Hiking in Vancouver yesterday

Double-fisting post-hike

Sunsets in Bellingham, WA are not too shabby

Whatcom Falls Park hiking

Dinner at the pier in Bellingham

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rachel's 2015 Ironman Canada race report

Posted by Rachel

After months of stalking other people’s blogs, trying to figure out what the IM Canada course is like and what the experience of a first time Ironman is like, it’s finally our turn. So I’m going to attempt to articulate to family, friends, and random internet stalkers what the experience was like for me. It’s going to be a long one, so I hope you have time (and a drink). And if you’re reading this because you’ve signed up for your first Ironman- just know that it’s different for everyone. Be prepared for anything.

There were a lot of Ironman-related logistics leading up to the race which probably aren’t that interesting to read about, so I’ll just glaze over those. I will note that Whistler is a beautiful place. Despite the clouds and scattered showers in the days leading up to the event, we were able to relax and enjoy the village, lakes, and bike paths. The day before the race, my family joined us in Whistler and we rode the ski lifts around for fun (Peak2Peak). I highly recommend this as you get time off your feet while still getting to experience the area. 

View of Whistler from the lifts

I’ll pause here to say how much I appreciate my family coming to cheer us on and help us out. So to Mom, Dad, Kristen, and Becky- words cannot express my gratitude. And to Paige, Paul, and Alison, who were also there in the cold rain cheering for us, and everyone else who supported us by watching online, you guys are wonderful. Thank you.

So without further ado… the Ironman.


The swim was a 2 loop swim in Alta Lake, which can be slightly choppy when there is wind (as there was during our practice swim on Friday) but wasn’t too bad on race day. 

The girls at Alta Lake before race day. Just prior to this, I had tried to take a photo when some man's dog jumped up right in front of my camera. The owner scolded his dog, "no photobombing!" The Canadians seem to have a good sense of humor. I digress.... back to the race report.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (or if you know me), you know I grew up swimming. I felt fortunate to have my most “comfortable” sport first. For a while I had a goal of breaking an hour in the Ironman swim, but I decided to let that one go in exchange for swimming very easy and comfortably. I figured I would waste WAY more than a few minutes later in the race (which I did), and it just wasn’t worth the extra effort to have an ambitious swim goal of any sort.

When I got in the lake I wanted to stay to the outside of the rectangle, favoring swimming extra distance over being in the middle of hundreds or thousands of aggressive triathletes. I’ve done many open water swims before but never with more than 300 or so people at the start. I got in the water early and tried to line up on the outside around people who were saying that they swim a 1:05. However, as athletes were piling into the water, I somehow found myself in a tight crowd getting pushed toward the main swim aisle (picture getting pushed toward the stage at a concert when the headliner comes on).

My timing and positioning turned out to be a major tactical error. For the first 500+ meters of the swim, I got the shit kicked out of me. I couldn’t move and there were people everywhere, blocking me in front of me and swimming over me from behind. I got my goggles knocked off twice and had to kick and flip onto my back to put them on, and in the 5-10 seconds it took to do this everyone wanted to swim right over me. I found myself feeling thankful for all my childhood coaches who let us play water polo on Fridays because I didn't actually feel panicked in this situation. My feeling was more one of annoyance- I’m doing this sport which I absolutely love, except it’s not supposed to be a contact sport! Luckily, after the second turn (about 1 km) it had thinned out and contact afterward was much less frequent. I felt really good in the water considering the level of effort I was putting in. When we had about 1 km left I contemplated picking up the pace but decided not to, thinking to myself, “take it easy, you have a long day ahead”. Boy, was I right. I finished the swim easy feeling great and was very pleased with the time all things considered.

Official swim time 1:01:09

The volunteers in the changing tent (as well as everywhere else) were amazing. My volunteer was working quickly and basically doing everything for me- putting on my arm warmers, socks, etc. I told her, “Don’t worry, I’m not in a hurry” but she didn’t let up on getting me out of T1 as quickly as possible. On the way out of the porta potty I saw our cheering squad and grabbed my bike, and that’s when it really began.


Before the race I told myself that I would almost certainly face unexpected challenges at some point during the Ironman, and I tried to get as mentally prepared as possible for this. Of course, these challenges presented themselves during my worst sport- the bike.

In all fairness, we knew the weather report before the race. It’s just so difficult to know how to handle a condition that you have never trained in. California is drought-ridden and had beautiful 70+ sunny days all winter for our training rides, with temps creeping into the 90s for the past couple of months. We were ready for the heat they faced in 2014, no doubt about it. This year was a different story. In Whistler it was somewhere between 42 and 48 degrees with a solid bit of rain for the first 2+ hours of the bike. I didn’t have a jacket (I should have), so I just layered up a bit with regular clothes and got on the bike.

I practiced my nutrition every single week- about half my calories would be from liquid (Infiint) and the other half solid. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. The beginning of the bike ride is rolling net downhill from Whistler to Callaghan, and it was VERY cold and rainy. I noticed that I was struggling to get my water bottle because my hands were so cold and decided to hold out on fueling until mile 13 when we began the climb, figuring I’d warm up. I was wrong. I didn’t warm up. My fingers literally did not work at all, and I couldn’t function them enough to drink and barely enough to shift gears. I feel like I have partial amnesia about this part of the race. I remember thinking the climb was not that bad compared to the Bay area hills. On the way down, I was so cold that my whole entire body was shaking. All I kept thinking about was surviving the weather while simultaneously wondering if bikes can hydroplane. At the bottom of the hill there was an aid station and I ended up pulling over/stopping to try to drink something or take in calories. My hands were so cold that even while I was stopped I could not manage to grab my water bottle. This is where Travers passed me and I saw him for only a split second. Instead of being super happy I was just confused, mostly about why he just passed right by me without stopping to check on me! I guess he was also really struggling with his gearing and braking, so no hard feelings :)

This was also the point where I saw a lot of people dropping out of the race, and I felt devastated for them. I hope they were able to get back out on the course after getting warm, or at least that they are in good health right now. As I did the rolling climb back to Whistler there was a lot of internal motivational pep-talking going on. At some point I saw our friend (and fellow blogger) Matt as he passed me and I remember telling him “my hands don’t work!” He casually replied with something along the lines of “bummer, I hope they warm up soon”. Sooo unsympathetic! 

Photo interlude- if you don’t believe me about my hands- here’s a picture of them the next day. I still have no idea what I did to myself on this ride. I knew it couldn't be good to be doing this to my body, but there was no way in hell I wasn't finishing the race as long as I was physically capable.

Cue the jokes about my Nutty Professor right hand. Try shifting gears with a balloon hand and fingers that don't bend!

After passing through Whistler we began the long undulating descent to Pemberton. I also feel like I have a lot of amnesia about this part as well. I stopped 3-4 times, including at an aid station, to try to drink something. Every single time I was unsuccessful and just could not grab onto my water bottle. My hands were getting worse instead of better. In order to fuel I had to stop and just scoop soggy Bonk Breaker out of my bento box and shove them into my mouth. Yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds. I couldn’t shift gears literally at all, so I was just cruising down the descents in a super low gear that enabled me to climb when we hit the up-rollers.

We hit special needs just after the halfway point and another great volunteer helped me out. Luckily I had packed extra solid foods in there, and since I had missed about 500 planned liquid calories I decided to pick up some of the solids. I couldn’t open the bars and waffles (of course), so I told the volunteer that my fingers weren’t working and could he please help me open the food. He was great and did everything I asked and I was off.

There are about 30 miles of flat in Pemberton with a tailwind out and headwind back (slight). It was warmer here and I got into my aero and starting pedaling and something miraculous happened here- I regained function in my hands!! I was finally shifting gears, and soon after that I was able to drink water. In hindsight, I can’t believe I rode 60 miles of an Ironman barely drinking or shifting gears. It’s absurd. I was so excited about being able to drink water that I chugged 2 full bottles and immediately regretted it- I had to pee at the following two aid stations- including waiting in line for several minutes at one. Oh well. Pemberton was a nice place, and I think with better weather it would have been absolutely beautiful. I got to see Matt, Travers, V, and Mark on the out and back (which was great) but I missed Chen and Katie while I was in the bathroom line.

After Pemberton comes the famous uphill into Whistler. There was so much anticipation coming into this, and even other bikers around me were grumbling about the impending climb. For about 14 miles, there were a few miles of uphill at a time broken up by short spurts of downhill. The first short hill was probably the steepest, but I just put it in granny gear and spun. I found myself really enjoying this section of the course. I had trained for this, and there were a lot of other triathletes around that I was able to chat with. I think I was so ecstatic to be able to shift and drink that nothing could bring me down! My watch randomly stopped at one point at mile 94.68 (it did this once during a long training ride as well) and so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out we were on mile 98 instead of 94! I’m not sure why it took me over 20 minutes to realize I wasn’t progressing according to my watch, but oh well. The hill did seem to fly by. Once we reached the top it was mild rolling uphill back into Whistler and all the people I was chatting with pulled away. They were all better flat-rolling riders (I’m relatively stronger at climbing) and I found mile 104 through the finish to be the longest part. Riding alone, I was ready to be off the bike. I tried to thank all of the spectators I saw for standing out there in the rain. And then finally, after seeing our cheering squad, I was back in the village in T2 and onto a sport I enjoy a lot more.

Official bike time 7:25:41 (15.08 mph)

Overall, I could’ve had a much better bike split. I could have dressed warmer, I could have not stopped so many times, I could have not waited in line to pee, I could have gotten one of those fancy water bottles that goes between your aerobars with a straw so that I didn’t need functioning hands to hydrate. But I am happy with my time. I am also very happy with my training- no regrets. I put in hill work every single week and found my preparation to be solid for the course. Future IM Canada participants- as for the last climb, if you’re training hard in the hills of the Bay area and you don’t go out too fast on the bike, you are 100% ready.


Running is a much better sport for me than biking, but the terrifying thing about the Ironman marathon is that you just have no idea what is going to happen. I also knew that I had messed up hydration/fueling on the bike and I didn’t know what do about it for the run. I was feeling slightly nauseous as I began to run and wasn’t sure how to remedy this, so I decided to go with the “take in as many calories as possible” approach in hopes it would save my run.

The run course has two short but nasty uphills within the first couple of miles in the loop around Lost Lake, but after that is all very gentle/gradual climbs and descents. During those first few climbs I knew my heart rate was way too high/unsustainable and decided then I would settle into a pace that felt very comfortable regardless of what the numbers on my watch said. This pace ended up being 9:20ish (including time stopped at every single aid station), which seemed ok to me. As I got out onto the run course through the shaded woods out to Green Lake, I was really enjoying myself. Green Lake is stunning and there were awesome spectators lining almost the whole entire course. I was sticking to my plan of calories at every aid station and holding steady around 9:20/mile pace. I really felt better than I anticipated at this point. The out-and-back was great because I got to see all of my training buddies- Matt, Travers, Chen, Katie, and Mark- and they all looked so happy and awesome!

The run was pretty uneventful and I was just holding pace waiting for the marathon to get very difficult, which it eventually did- around mile 18. Here I really focused on just moving forward and the spectators were really uplifting. My pace got slower but not by too much- I was between 9:40 and 10:00 including still stopping to shove my face with calories at every aid station. It was this point where I felt that having about 5 years of marathon experience was really helpful. I don’t think you need to be a runner to do this by any means, but I thought that it helped my pace not drop off too much. 

After about 45 more minutes of convincing myself to just keep moving forward, and eating massive  quantities of honey and potato chips, I was finally coming up to the finish. It’s a great feeling at the fork in the path to head toward ‘finish’ instead of ‘2nd loop’. When I had about 0.3 miles left I found my legs and ran in strong. I tried to remember what I had read in other blogs- give people space and take your time in the finisher’s chute, which I did. My family was there and I slowed to high-five and thank them, then finished the race with a huge smile.

Official run time 4:09:44 (9:31/mile)

Photo credit to Justin, who somehow got a perfectly clear screen shot from the live video feed over the internet

Official overall time 12:50:31

If you had asked me before the race if I thought I could break 13 hours I would have told you it was “highly unlikely”. Even though I knew it was a possibility during the run, I was so happy to actually see this result after 6+ months of hard training!


My volunteer catcher was also great, and Travers came and rescued my catcher from having to deal with me for too long.  I started violently shivering about 2 minutes after finishing. Luckily Travers had been done with his race for about 25 min and seemed to be doing just fine, so he dragged me over to the food and wrapped himself around me to keep me warm while I force-fed myself one slice of pizza. Frankly, I felt absolutely terrible. I kept standing because I didn’t want to sit, fearing I might pass out, and it ended up taking me an entire hour to eat that one slice of pizza. I staggered slowly over to my family (still holding my pizza) and my mom was concerned about my shivering, so I went to go change into dry clothes with Travers’ help while she got me a giant hot chocolate (yay). I heard the announcer tell Chen she was an Ironman while I was in the changing tent and I felt awful for missing her finish, but I was in really bad shape. Changing into dry clothes made a world of difference and I was able to cheer Katie and Mark and a bunch of others in.

The next day we woke up and got our finisher’s gear. Most of us had already decided this is our only IM, so we figured we might as well get the swag. 

We did it! 

The best training buddies and crew to celebrate with!

Besides my weird hand, really sore legs, and having issues breathing deeply for a day (lung/chest muscle pain), the recovery is going fine. It’s now Tuesday and all three of those ailments are improving from yesterday. We even went on a bike ride in Vancouver (sort of). I’ll give my final thoughts about why I will not do another Ironman in a separate post, but I’m glad I had the experience and an awesome crew of people to share it with!

Went for a casual 5 mph rental bike ride in Vancouver with our race numbers still on our helmets

But this bike ride was NOT a training ride :)

I realize this post is really long and it’s all about me. There’s nothing I can really do about the latter- the Ironman is a very personal experience. You’re inside your own head for hours, constantly evaluating and adapting. It’s quite an experience and I’m looking forward to recovering and not having regimented training for the rest of 2015. Thanks again for all the support from everyone, near and far. It’s time for my two week vacation!