(click for race report) when the announcement came that Whistler, BC was the new venue for Ironman Canada, and the event would carry 100 slots to the Ironman World Championship in Kona, HI. I planned the trip to Mexico hoping to qualify, my math said Canada would get several more slots, 6-7 slots based on the typical percentage of male 30-34 year olds that comprise the total number of athletes at the usual Ironman event. Having just scored a 9th place in my age group at Ironman Florida (click for race report) with a scarce 3 slots, I was confident I could trim some ticks off the clock and perhaps climb a few rungs on the slot ladder.
I'm sure most readers are looking for a course review, so I'll begin there. Then I'll transition into a truly epic race report, and finally wrap it up with a short little section of highlights of the whole Whistler experience from commuting from the airport, to restaurants, activities, and entertainment.
The 2013 IRONMAN Canada, Whistler course:
Overall, its a very scenic and fun course. If the goal is to do an amazing Ironman, Canada will exceed all expectations.
Alta lake is clean and clear, relatively warm (mid-upper 60F) and shallow. It's a deep water start, but due to the layout, a lot of athletes elected to wade most of the first quarter lap along the shore line.
|spectators watch as the athletes make their way to the deep water start at Alta Lake|
Transition 1 is a short run, but its setup is a bit biased. Athletes closest to swim exit have to push their bike a pretty dang long way to get to bike out. And the changing tents are small, crowded, and you are forced through them with no way to avoid the crowd.
The bike course is beautiful, fast, smooth, and really quite fun. The crowd support is tremendous. There were people everywhere. Even the long straight outside of Pemberton had locals roadside cheering us on.
There are 4 big negatives on the bike course:
2) there is an aid station on the long descent to Pemberton in what is maybe the fastest part of the course. Its a bad place to bleed of speed as it hurts you for a several minutes.
3) drafting is a real issue. There are lots of places where guys get sucked in on the descents; I can forgive that though. The real issue is the flat section out to Pemberton. I'm not new to draft packs and pacelines. These were pelotons. The real gripe is that most athletes don't understand or refuse to ride legal. It would be easy and fast to stay legal and roll a long rotating pace line, but instead it looks like the local century. Guys are wheel to wheel just cruising along. It really hurts the strong cyclist, the aero weenie, and the rule stickler. Then worst part was the moto crew was doing a fantastic job harassing guys on the climbs, but the area of the course where there was a significant gain to be had was void of officials.
4) the bike finishes up rolling through Whistler Village. It's a convoluted web. It's hard to tell where to go, and its challenging to stay on the gas there.
Its pretty straightforward, honestly. It seemed like a long run getting out of transition, but they included that in the distance of the marathon. Really I've got nothing on T2.
Again, what a beautiful course. The entire run is along paved, gravel, and dirt paths. There is a covered wooden bridge over the creek and an open wooden bridge along the marsh area of the Green Lake. A lot of the course is shaded and there is tremendous crowd support. The finish is awesome running through the village as the crowd gets dense.
|1,348 ft of elevation gain as recorded by my 910xt.|
Note the shallow ascents and steep descents.
|View from the run course|
the race report.
I registered for Ironman Canada right when it opened. 100 slots for the World Championship meant lots of chum in the water. My math said there would be 7 slots M30-34, and I had a good guess that sub-10hrs would score me a top 7 finish. Going into race day, little was known about the course. But we "knew" the bike was 4200ft gain in elevation and the run was 700ft as advertised by the Ironman.com homepage. Course recon from the locals had the bike course some where around 6500' measured by various Garmins with barometric altimeters. There want a whole lot of info on the run course, though.
From my history on similar courses, my projection was a PRing 68-70min swim split, ~5:20 bike on 220W, and crush the run with something less than a 3:20.
I knew I needed every last incentive to push myself on race day, so I'd told basically anyone that would listen that I was planning to KQ at Whistler. I was feeling a lot of pressure not to disappoint my friends and family, so sleeping was out of the question.
At 2:30am, after a sporadic 4hrs of sleep, I was knocking back my double Ensure Plus and a pair of hotel room cups of coffee. I've gotten really good at preparing the night before, and I was out the door with little fuss.
It's a short stroll to T2 for special needs drops and the shuttle to Swim Start. By 5:30am, I was pumping up my tires in transition 1. I'd brought a spare swim cap and draped it over my aerobars to make my bike really stand out. It wasn't long, and I was headed out for my warm up swim.
2.4 miles of Alta Lake
It's a deep water start, so we are treading water in silence awaiting the cannon when an athlete shouts, "I don't think I told you guys, but I'm doing an ironman today." Everyone chuckled. I thought, sure we are all giggles and chummy now, but an MMA match is about to breakout. I seeded myself 2 rows back and before long there was a distinctive BOOM! followed by a very deliberate surge as everyone decided my spot was the very best one in the lake.
|Moments after the cannon fire. Notice the athletes still along the shore wading towards the first turn buoy.|
|The Alta course as seen from Gene Simmons of KISS' lake lot.|
Glad the little one didn't get picked up for trespassing!
- 1:10:44 officially, 71st M30-34 & 553rd overall
Transition 1 - 3:34
Exiting the water, I snagged my T1 bag and headed toward the way-too-small and crowded changing tent. Some over achieving volunteer stepped in front of me and directed me to lie down to be wetsuit stripped. I've never been stripped; I don't have time. But this guy was insistent, at least right to the moment I yelled at him to get out of my way just before plowing into him (sorry, Mr. Volunteer. You guys do a great job, thanks.) The changing tent was a mad house, and there wasn't room to get through. It was like navigating the dance floor at a night club. I finally found an unoccupied volunteer and handing him my sac, I asked that he pull my shoes and helmet out. While he was doing that I shed my Huub, exchanged it for my bike kit, and asked that he put my wetsuit up as I headed off to my bike. I ran straight past my bike, a few times actually. Someone had snagged my swim cap, so it took me longer than I like to locate the QR. After a short jaunt, I was across the mounting line, headed up out of transition, and onto the bike course.
|You cant underestimate the power of seeing lots of bikes on racks. This is new for me!|
I had expected to be chilled with a 49F morning heading down to the base of Callaghan. Thankfully, I never even noticed it. I had stuffed a garbage bag under my TYR suit to serve as a disposable wind gillet and taped my vents shut on the Giro A2 to keep my noggin nice and cozy until I got warm on the climbs. Most of the bike course was just as expected. It was crowded early, lots of bunching up on the climbs, and way-to-cautious descenders made for some sketchy fast closing speeds.
|Heading down to Callaghan|
For the most part, the ride was a mix of just a few things.
|My 910xt record 6798 ft of elevation gain.|
That's pretty sporty considering ~35 miles is pancake flat!
The descents were dodging rolling chicanes of riders that were gingerly noodling down the grade. All
to often, I would then arrive at the bottom and realize I'd picked up a trailing train of hitch hikers in my draft.
|Emily caught this joker snapping a picture of her!|
She always manages to steal the spot light!
|Note the parade formed on the descent.|
It's a welcome sight rolling back into Whistler, but its ever so annoying to have to noodle through town. The end of the course is convoluted and riddled with little catastrophe opportunities around the gutters, drain, grates, manhole covers, and spectators darting across the road.
Official Time : 5:13:06 - 21.43mph average - 20th M30-34 & 110th Overall
Transition 2 - 1:55
I was surprised to roll into T2 so ast and only got out of one shoe. Awesome. I rolled in with one shoe on the bike, one shoe on me. Then, for the first time ever, I rolled pass the dismount line. The volunteer yelled "oh no!"
I said, "oh no, what?"
He said "oh, nothing."
I thought I'd just earned a nap in the penalty tent or something. I scampered through T2 snatching my bag, handing my helmet to a volunteer and dumping out my goodies before handing him the bag. I snatched on my shoes and nabbed my race belt. He said, "is that it?" I guess he was expecting a headdress and war paint. I saw Emily coming out of T2 and to my disappointment, she informed me there were a LOT of guys ahead of me, and I really had to put some work in. She said she counted eight M30-34 ahead of me.
26.2 mile run through the Whistler trails - Garmin Data Link
|This is the last time I felt good enough to even fake it.|
The first mile was mostly ascending, and when the watch beeped, I was amazed at how much it had taken out of me. I wasn't feeling very comfy at all. I was working. I double checked my watch, sure enough I was on the money, 6:45. So I kept clicking along trusting my strategy and knowing I would come around.
Just into the 2nd mile, I had a revelation. I looked back at my watch and double checked my time. Sure enough, I was running a 6:45 average pace. Unfortunately, I had actually planned to run a 7:45! My goal average pace on the day was a 7:20-:30. I had just buried myself. I was approaching a short climb, so I stopped and walked. As I walked, five runners trotted ahead of me, four were in my age group.
|You can spy the female 4th Pro escort just behind me. |
I felt pretty good running with the ladies!
|This is the last we have of me still holding it together.|
It gets ugly. Send the kids to bed.
My stomach wasn't feeling super, so I ditched the regular game plan and switched to coke. I've heard lots of good stuff about athletes surviving the closing miles on just coke. Well, its not for this guy. I made it through 3 doses at a couple aid stations before I started puking. It wasn't enough to stop me, but it was a very inconvenient time to have a tummy ache. I was surprised to be able to keep the wheels turning despite making little fizzy fountains.
Heading back into Whistler Hell was just barely bearable way too early. The temps had climbed, the run surface had made hamburger of my feet, and the hills had somehow grown. I started seeing more and more M30-34 runners and that was a bit encouraging. I had two friends on the course, Paul and Guido from IMLC. They were both having PR-type days and encouraging me to hammer. I really thought the last 10k was the bottom though. Heading down to Green Lake, I saw Ben Greenfield decked out in his Timex kit running like a machine with 2 guys in my category just behind him. One of the guys said, "Timex is in 11th."
No way I was going to close that gap.
"Quit now, quitter. It'll hurt less."
In retrospect, heading down to Green Lake was a great time to see the competition, and they looked amazing. Both times I felt like I was way out of my league, and they were out of reach. Crazy enough, I managed to catch several of those guys that were so intimidating looking. Unfortunately, passing them wasn't nearly as uplifting as my initial assessment was crushing. Further diving into my mentality, it never occurred to me that Timex guy was actually in 11th Over All!
|Can't Walk. |
She has camera.
Official Run time: 3:20:46 - 7:40 min/mi avg pace
After a few minutes on the other side of the bad place, Emily had collected me. I had managed to gather 2 shirts, 2 hats, a medal, a golf towel, and a Chocolate Milk space blanket. I couldn't wait to
get some chocolate milk, but it was an evil trick. No chocolate milk to be had; they sponsored the blankets, not the recovery food.
|Official Finish Time: 9:50:09 - 8th M30-34 - 51st Overall|
If I hadn't missed the bike in T1.
If I hadn't walked that last hill.
If hadn't screwed up my dismount in T2.
Then I realized tiny things over a ten hour day would matter.
What if I'd shaved my head. I'd be more hydro & aerodynamic, and I'd have cooled better.
What if I'd shaved my legs! Heck I just needed seconds.
That's when I started pouting a little. It was odd though. I wanted the KQ, but I was relieved too. Since I've been in the sport, I have chased Kona. After this last build, I knew how much I could improve. I have always said if I make it to the big island, I'm done with ironman. After having fallen whiskers short, I was a little excited about the future.
|That's a real smile right there, folks.|
Big thanks to Brian @ Accelerate3.com He's a map maker.
Maybe I could've found my way without one,
but there are a lot of roads that don't lead to Kona
One constant I've found with athletes is setting benchmark goals. The popular ones seem to be breaking a 20 min 5k, a 5hr century, 90' for a 13.1, qualifying for Boston, sub-5hrs for a 70.3, then the 10hr Ironman. I always remind my friends to enjoy the process; the finish lines never seem to quench my thirst. Oddly, before I had wrapped up registration, the sweetness had already begun to fade. Stay thirsty, my friends.
|That's what it looks like. Everyone north of line gets a KQ-slot.|
|I'm not sure what this thing is, but it seems to be important.|
Its all over the place.
What a hassle. With no direct commercial flights into Whistler, athletes fly into Vancouver. From there, you have 4 options to get into Whistler, a rental, a train, a bus, or a cab. It's a 2-2.5hr commute which doesn't particularly matter getting there, but returning means that it really narrows down the flight options. We went into Whistler on the bus, Pacific Coach. It was nice enough with free Wi-Fi and the driver gave us some occasional commentary as we passed major landmarks. At $120 one way for me and Emily, I thought it was the economy choice. After arriving in Whistler, we were split up and shuttled to our hotel.
Our flight was bumped up on the return and we were forced to taxi back to Vancouver. We shared a cab for a total of $250. Having known that, I would have found a buddy earlier and planned to share a cab. It's quicker, more comfortable, and curb side service is nice.
I don't know much about the train, but the cabby said it was the least convenient way into Whistler. The front desk said the rental car was ~$60/day and $15/day parking. Given that everything is within walking distance, I wouldn't elect to rent a car.
|View from the gondola of the Village|
We stayed in the Cascade Lodge. It was economical, relatively. The pluses, free wifi and they didn't sweat us about having the bike in the room. Wifi is paramount unless you want to get raped with international data and text fees from your cellphone company. The bikes in the room thing seems to be hit&miss across a lot of the hotels. Most of hotels waived the bike exclusion policy, but some were still enforcing it. The location was great, close to T2, the expo, the T1 shuttle, and Whistler Village. The only draw back for some may be they only do new towels and linens every few days. Overall, I was happy with the choice. It would be handy to stay directly in the Village just to be able to walk straight out of the hotel into the village for entertainment and food, but Cascade is barely an extra block walk. It also had the added bonus of a handy washer/dryer and kitchenette. Regardless of where you stay, make sure its not in the upper village, that's a bit farther of a hike.
The Village is basically a giant outdoor mall. There are reportedly 163 restaurants, several bike shops, lots of shopping, a playground for the kiddos, and a amphitheater type area. Most hotels adjoin the Village. It's a bit of a walk to the Upper Village, but there was a small amusement park there and a mini carnival type atmosphere. The whole setup is very pedestrian/cycle oriented with a network of cart path trails. It seemed much more inconvenient to have a car.
|View from the gondola of us. :)|
We didn't do much, but we did take the Gondola to the mountain top and ride the Peak2Peak across the way and took the ski lift down. I suppose its worth a look, but there is absolutely no reason to wait the extra 30' for the glass bottom ride.
|This was taken from the top of the 3 tiered spa resort. |
You can see the pool/spas below and the cooled water fall on the far left.
|at the top of the gondola|
Jacuzzi - cold pool - Jacuzzi - cold shower - sauna - cold pool - comfy temp room for a quick nap-Hot waterfall Jacuzzi - cold waterfall - steam room - cold waterfall - outdoor hammock cocoon nap.
There's no talking and lots of relaxing. Honestly it sounded lame, but it really was just what I wanted.
Corner Mexican - very bland Mexican food, small serving size, skip it
Element-tapas and breakfast. Diner was good, breakfast was great, go early or prepare to wait.
Wildwood bistro. This was a little off the path, but within walking range. We had breakfast here, and it was the best breakfast we ate.
Crepes Montague, good stuff. Small little trendy shop, lots of crepes of course.
21 steps pre-race meal yummy. Its a little snazzy, but good food again. Not my favorite, but not bad.
The old spaghetti factory-Pre-race pasta. It was pasta. meh.
Sushi village-I am a sushi lover. This place rocked!
El furniture warehouse-all the food is $5. And they make a fantastic burger.
|Is it odd that we came all the way up here to take pictures of ourselves?|
|I couldn't love this little cheerleader more, but I am absolutely positive I will try!|
|Ray Aderholt, fellow North Alabama native & A3 athlete wrapping up his first IRONMAN!!!!!|
Ray is still running well during the closing miles of the marathon.
Way to show out Ray!