This past week Dana and I took the long trip to Ironman Canada. Dana was there to compete for the second time and I went to provide support and get a big training week leading up to Ironman Hawaii. We left on Tuesday the 21st and after three connecting flights, we arrived in Pentiction, Canada that evening 13 hrs after our departure. It was a long day.
If you have never been to Ironman Canada, it is unlike any other race you will experience. The Canadian Ironman has been in the same place, the same route, for 25 years. The race isn’t an inconvience, to the Canadians, as you may find at many other venues. The town really embraces the race and the athletes who come here. They go out of their way to make you feel welcome and the locals are very friendly. After noticing the spectacular scenery as you descend into the Penticton valley, when you first step off the plane the first thing you see are signs which say “Welcome to Ironman Country”. Everyone I came in contact with, from coffee shop worker to grocery store clerk, was volunteering or involved with Ironman in someway. It is really a big deal here. I can see why there is such a high demand to participate. Michael Yasko, a friend from California, whom I met in St. Croix, flew in just to sign up for next year’s race. We had an extra room in our condo so we let him stay with us. Hotel and camping options are completely full for miles in all directions.
Throughout the week I was able to do the entire course, including some portions several times, and I put in 21hrs of total training. The weather was much cooler and more comfortable than it has been back home, which allowed me to inject quite a bit more intensity in there too. While I was running out on Eastside road (the run course) the pace was sub 7 minutes per mile and some folks on easy spins on their bikes were giving me some strange looks “What is this idiot doing? He’s going to blow his race”. I rode and ran the entire course last year when we were here, so I feel I really know the terrain and one day I will be ready when I come here to race it.
While I was out having fun in the Canadian countryside, Dana was in the condo resting her legs and read several books. She got out daily to freshen her legs with the typical pre race taper workouts, but most of the time she was in an energy conservation mode.
Race morning came quickly and was pretty exciting. Dana was feeling good and ready to go. I spoke with Monica Byrn before the swim start. She reported that Gordo was fit and ready. I was pulling for him to win it this year. Dana found me and I gave her a quick “good bye and good luck” though the fence. It was entertaining to watch the competitors armed in neoprene and with latex helmets wave and smile to their family members as if they were headed off to war.
I managed to get down into the water once the swim had begun and had a front row seat of all the athletes exiting the swim. I got some great video shots too. Dana came out in 1:00 flat. She saw me, smiled and waved, and said “an hour! “. She looked so good. Now I know why my parents couldn’t hold the video camera still when I was swimming competitively as a kid. I was pretty excited and proud of her. The result was some pretty lousy shaky video footage. I tried to run to the bike corral and get some shots there but she was out of transition too fast.
After she got started on the 112 mile bike I went back to the condo and got some training in myself then checked out the results and video on Ironman live. This made the time fly by.
I made the quarter mile walk from our condo to the run turnaround to watch the pros come through. The wind was pretty strong. It was blowing boxes and the special needs bags all over the road. I worried about Dana, who chose to use a rear disc wheel.
When Dana came through at the half I gave her age group position. She looked good. She was in 8th at that point and said she really wanted to break 11 hrs. I saw the wind and her present time and thought “she is going to have to do something special to do that“. The conditions and headwind on the return would make that pretty tough. I thought if she did do it the Ironman Hawaii slot would take care of itself.
Michael and I drove back to the finish line to await her return. There was a traffic jam because of the cyclists coming in on the bike course, but we made it there in time. She had made up a good amount on her competitors and looked terrific. She did do something special. She ran a brilliant back half and breaking 11 hours was a good possibility. She managed to pass one competitor at the 25.5 mile mark and cruised to the finish in 11:01:02. She ended up 7th in the 35-39 age groups and 380 overall and 27th amateur women.
Unfortunately, there were only 4 Kona slots given in her age group and no one rolled them down. It is just so difficult for a woman to get into that race. Anyway, I am very proud of her. She ran a great race and it was executed perfectly. Overall, she was 8 minutes faster than last year, but her bike time was 15 minutes slower due to the windy conditions. She is satisfied with her race, and she signed up for Ironman Canada 2008 with no second thoughts.