First a quick summary of the Whistler IM Canada course: split transitions with mass transit to the swim for athletes (no cars for spectators). Deep-water, mass start, two loop lake swim. The bike course goes out of town, uphill, for 20 miles, then back downhill, thru Whistler and out (still downhill) the other direction. Turn in Pemberton for some super flat winding road until mile 75, U-turn, repeat flat section, then climb back to Whistler. The run course is also two loops, a third of which doubles as an out/back, mostly within the village.
The Swim – I loved the rolling start at Boulder so much that I was a bit concerned with the mass start. As it turned out, I was quickly reminded that mass starts don’t bother me. Things were pretty calm to first turn buoy, even then not too bad. I felt strong and straight until 2nd half of second lap, and then I could tell I was fading a bit. I wasn’t swimming as straight and other swimmers were coming past me. It seemed to get pretty crowded again in the home stretch as the swim exit really wasn’t that big. I had no idea how long my swim took, my Garmin lost satellite reception while we were treading water. So when I hit start, it was expecting something else. Needless to say, there really wasn’t a good time/place to try again.
The change tent in T1 was super busy, so I immediately started assuming I had a slow swim. I took a couple of extra seconds to get my Garmin right for the bike, I was going to need good data. Running in bike shoes through T1 turned out to be the worst part of the day for my ankle. T1 – 3:54
The Bike started off okay, it was pretty cool, but not enough for extra clothes. I just needed to dry off and then was pretty comfortable for the entire ride. There was plenty of rolling terrain leaving the lake, coming back through the Village, and out to the Callaghan valley. The a long climb up to the Olympic nordic skiing park. This was the first time I started to feel that the course was not ‘as advertised’. I’d worked pretty hard preparing for the climb a the end, but hadn’t done climbing like this early in my training rides. I just stared at the power meter, bumping into my wattage ceiling, and just grinding away. The descent was fast, but a bit crowded at times.
Then the long undulating slog on Hwy 99 began. I know this was generally down hill, but there were plenty of efforts involved and lots of back and forth with people who climbed short hills hard and coasted down. Somewhere along the way a guy recognized my tape job and told me he followed me the entire swim. I had to pass him back just to ask how fast we swam. 1:04 he said, not as bad as I was imagining and definitely good to know. Officially it was 1:04:31.
I found the course mentally challenging, lots of up and down. I don’t mind climbing, to get up and then coming back down. But it seemed like we climbed the same 100ft 15 times. It also didn’t seem to match my recollection of the profile and I was starting to wonder how the long climb back was going to feel.
The special needs bags arrived just in time. I was plowing through calories pretty quickly. Powerbars and Gel Blasts were going down easily, likely because it was cool and I was actually ahead of my fueling schedule with no signs of trouble. The flat section of the course finally arrived and it was a great road with beautiful scenery. It was probably my favorite part. After I saw the men’s leaders on their way back in I started getting pretty anxious to see how far back I was in the field. Then I saw two very large packs of guys riding together and it kind of got under my skin. At the 140K mark (there were no bike course markers in miles), I started pushing over my watt ceiling. There were some drafters catching me and I really let it get to me. As it turns out we were all catching at least one of the large packs I’d seen at the turnaround. I got caught in one of these groups as everyone let off the gas for a turny section through Pemberton, but I rode hard up the first hill outside of town just to get away from these guys. From then on (roughly the 92 mile mark) it was all climbing back to Whistler. I was still feeling strong and rode HARD all the way to T2. I was still ahead of my nutrition schedule, but had missed a few bottle hand ups. I may have been behind on my hydration schedule, but it was cool and I was peeing A LOT, so it didn’t seem like that big of a deal.
My bike split (5:18:41) was right in the range I’d expected, but I also knew I had given a greater effort than I planned. Generally speaking I rode according to plan, except there was more climbing early than I expected. I also started pushing hard at mile 85 instead of 92 and I rode a bit harder those last 30 miles than I’d anticipated. I was still feeling strong and always have confidence in my run.
T2 (1:56) was very easy and I remember very little except my feet hurting a little bit.
I left T2 with a group of guys that turned out to be some very stiff competition. My plan was to use the first 2-3 miles to settle into my goal pace and just try to get comfortable from there. I let them go, thinking I would get them back eventually, but I just never really got comfortable. I got to 7:30 pace right away, but the faster miles just never came. I was also getting passed by guys who looked like they were flying and getting dropped by guys running my pace. It was not something I’m used to and didn’t feel good. Around mile 4-5 I started battling the tingly ‘my feet are falling asleep’ feeling. It passed with some changes in terrain, but it didn’t do anything to help me feel comfortable.
I’m trying not to sound arrogant, but for comparison sake; I usually pass roughly 10 people for every one that passes me. This run I was lucky to get 3 for every 2. It was quite discouraging, many of them were in the 40-44 AG also. So there’s that to look forward to.
Things settled down for a while though, miles 6-12 were less painful, just not at the pace I wanted. Then just before the second lap, the pain in my quads started. I could tell right away that nothing was injured or seriously wrong. Just that typical ‘two days after a race’ muscle soreness, only I still had a half marathon to go. My pace fell off, but I was holding position. I was digging deep and trying to stave off the inevitable. For a while I was hopeful that the same thing was happening to everyone around me. It was false hope.
I knew I was going to make it to the finish. I did a little math and thought I could still scrape in under 10 hours. I just couldn’t respond to any of the guys who went past me. Its amazing how hopeless a 8:30 pace feels when a 7:30 pace goes by. I gutted it out and crossed the line with a smile and my arms in the air. 3:25:53.
Its really quite a testament to how much, how strongly you finish the race has to do with how you feel about it. I know that 3:25 isn’t that bad, it isn’t even that far off my goal pace. I even know how much its supposed to hurt, but the way it went down makes it feel a lot worse than finishing strong in 3:20 and feeling like you left a few minutes on the table.
I’m really proud of a 9:54:55, its a 15 minute PR and anything under 10hrs is beyond head hanging territory. I just don’t feel that it was THE race I’m capable of. I’ve been racking my brain for a week trying to figure out the hows and whys, but that’s for another post.
It feels like there are hundreds of thank yous in order. First to my wife for another 140.6 training season, race day and everything in between. None of us could do it without our support teams. To all my sponsors for the tools to train, recover, and race to the best of my ability. TeamRev3 thanks for all the Twitter and Facebook support during and leading up to the race. There just aren’t enough blue Rs in the Pacific Northwest! Powerbar for great race nutrition and fueling plan – this was definitely not the problem. Pearl Izumi for a super comfy kit and shoes, 140.6 with no blisters or chafing is quite a feat! BlueSeventy for outfitting one of my better swims. NormaTec and Compex for helping my through the travel and race recovery, I’ve needed them more than ever this week.