I originally planned to race Ironman Whistler as my 4th Ironman in an attempt to qualify for Kona 2013. Unfortunately the prior weekend held IM Sweden and IM Mont Tremblant. Performances from these two races pushed me out of the running for Kona this year. The big surprise to me was IM Sweden; there were two standout performances by pro women who were on the bubble of qualifying. I went through many emotions during the week after determining Kona was unattainable. I even debated doing IM Louisville in lieu of IM Whistler. I decided to stick to my plan of racing in Whistler with my fiancé Owen. After all this was our first opportunity to race together of the year. Besides, my bike was already on it’s way to the venue via TriBike Transport.
Once we arrived in Whistler my motivation was back and I was excited to race. We lucked out with an awesome homestay. The Deeks welcomed us into their parent’s 5 bedroom ski house just off the bike course. I had many friends racing from both Chicago and Boulder which always makes for a fun day seeing familiar faces on course.
Race morning was upon us and my pre-race prep went off without a hitch. As I headed into the water I had more confidence than any other pro-race. Especially in the swim, I was expecting to complete the swim course on my own with no help. It was a pleasant surprise that a few girls went out with me for the first 800 meters. There were 4 of us swimming side by side in a line, none of us wanting to take the lead and pull the others. I was careful not to pull ahead too far. I wanted to reserve my energy for the long day ahead. As we hit the first turn buoy Christina Jackson made a break. I had no idea who she was at the time but I saw she was wearing a sleeveless wetsuit in cold water, which was my sign this girl could swim. I quickly grabbed her feet and we dropped the rest of the group except for Keiko she latched onto my left side. We rounded the first loop and I was working pretty hard just to stay on Christina’s feet. She dictated our pace, I was just along for the ride. Unfortunately Keiko continued to swim directly to my left, rather than grabbing my feet, therefore our faces were nearly touching with each left breath. She never fought me for Christina’s feet so I really wondered why she choose to swim beside me rather than in my draft zone. As we rounded the second loop and headed into shore we caught the middle pack of pro men. I swam up beside Matt Russell (I could tell because I saw his shiny head in the water).
Exiting the water I was excited to see our swim split, I expected it to be around a 52 because I was swimming hard to stay in Christina’s draft compared to swimming on Heather Wurtele’s feet in Coeur d’Alene where I felt I was going way too easy. To my surprise the swim time was about the same at both races 55.1 in Whistler. Of course you can never compare courses but it may have been that first 800 meters where I held off on taking the lead.
Entering transition I called out my number but had to run back for my gear bag. I quickly slipped out of my wetsuit and grabbed my bike. I passed Christina in transition and was now the lead woman, therefore I enjoyed a lot of cheers as I hopped on my bike.
Ironman Canada kept the Timex bike Prime; a tradition from the Penticton race. The prime was located at mile 18 during the first big climb up Callaghan. I was instructed by Coach Curt NOT to go for the prime. I had to stay within my target watts, which is imperative during the first 20 minutes and first hour. This was difficult with all the media alongside me, I had my eyes glued on my SRM just trying to stay under my max watts.
As I approached the 10% grade saw no one behind me but I couldn’t get this close and not get the prime. I stood up and went for it. I won the $1K prime but it was an uneventful win, I was greeted by ~ 15 cameramen all snapping pictures. I quickly laid off my pedals and eased back into my IM pace. Soon enough Keiko came around to complete her pass around me. I decided to let her go, it was a long day ahead and I was determined to follow my race plan. I’ve learned the hard way this year (Coeur d’Alene) not to push too hard too early on the bike. I believed Keiko would pay for this later. Staying within my target watts I kept Keiko in my vision just wondering what her race plan was.
As I made the 1st turn around I got to see the rest of the field, Uli was already making up significant time on me. At about mile 40 she completed her pass which I expected by the way she’s been biking this season. The entire Whistler course was stunning we continued up through the mountains until we hit mile 50 out towards Pemberton. We only got a decreased 7 minute head start on the amateurs due to road closure rules; therefore I dealt with many amateur men passing me. I even had one amateur woman catch me which caught my eye. This was until I realized how she did it, sucking wheel. I choose to ignore it and concentrate on my own race. Next I saw the first penalty tent and it was filled with many of the amateurs including the woman I saw blatantly drafting.
Making the turn towards Pemberton Lisa Ribes and Gillian Moody caught me. We played cat and mouse for a bit. As we approached special needs I called out my number and unfortunately they were not prepared and were unable to hand off my bag. I contemplated riding past, but realized it was worth a short stop to get my additional 3 bottles. I hopped off my bike and grabbed my bag; frustrated at the situation. Meanwhile Lisa and Gillian were now far ahead. Throughout this whole stop I had some media with me capturing the event all on video.
Riding in Pemberton was the only flat section of the course (my specialty) so I really needed to take advantage. I first caught back and passed Lisa and Gillian, then Keiko who had completely bonked and was now soft pedaling. I could overhear the media driving beside me that I was making up significant time on Uli. At the turn around I calculated roughly 2 minutes back now.
Next I was surprised with a pat on my bum by teammate Roger Thompson. We chatted and laughed about some of the drafting going on around us. I got caught in a small pack of 3 men who just grabbed my wheel when I tried to pass them, I attempted the pass 3 times at which point I decided to sit 10 meters behind them pushing lower watts than my target average but I was unwilling to battle with them for the remainder of the bike.
Heading back into the mountains is where I really got stuck in the men’s amateur race. The final 15 miles were literally all climbing, in preparation for the looming marathon I held back and stuck to my target watts. I was really hoping for a solid run in this Ironman. Unfortunately this meant I was letting many, many men pass me. I stuck to the rules of leaving 10 meters between our wheels but the problem was; men behind me were dropping into my draft zone. Overall this meant I had to soft pedal each time a man passed and dropped in. I tried to explain the rule to a few of them; that they needed to pass all of us and couldn’t drop in. But there was no use, this should have been a penalty each time, but the officials were doing their best, they can’t get them all. I did have an official driving beside me for a while, during which he was attempting to protect me. Telling the men if they can’t complete the entire pass they needed to drop back. He was also handing out red cards, lots of them. In fact when I passed the second penalty tent it was packed to the brim.
I finally reached the top of the final climb followed by a short decent into transition 2, greeted by screaming fans. I was second off the bike but had lost significant time up the final 15 miles to Uli. I was now 7 minutes back. I called out my number and was informed again I needed to run back and grab my own bag (should have learned by now). I quickly changed and was heading out on the run course. After a quick wave and smile to the crowds I was down to business. I felt I had set myself up perfectly for this marathon (nutrition and pacing) and was excited to see what my body could do. The first few miles ticked off quickly and I was getting into a rhythm (usually takes me about 3 miles to start feeling good). At this point I felt like I was running well ~ low 7 min/miles but my GPS watch was telling me differently. I was running high 7-8:00 min/miles. This is bad, if I’m already running 8’s what would I run during the 2nd half? I continued on. The course included countless turns and all different kinds of terrain. We ran through the woods on crushed limestone but, this included grape sized rockss. This was hard on my previously injured left foot. I hobbled through the rocky section at a slower pace and to no surprise Lisa came through completing her pass, and then Gillian. We finally made it back onto paved trail and I picked it back up. I enjoyed the section along Alta Lake it was flat, straight and in the sunshine. At the turn around I got to view the field and the front three women were putting time into me.
As I made my way back I saw Christine Fletcher was not far behind, I was confident that I could hold her off, she seemed to be holding a similar pace. We were now running parallel to the bike course, I heard a Chicago friend call out my name from her bike. Just as I looked up to wave I saw a bear running across the street. He must have heard all the commotion and wanted to check out what all these crazy people were doing in his forest. It was a baby bear. I pointed him out to the guy who had been running on my heels the entire course as well as others around me. We all had a little chuckle and then it was back to business.
As I began lap 2 Owen and Wylie caught and passed me on the rocky section. Next Christine Fletcher passed me as well. We stayed together for a while going back and forth but after some time she began to pull away. It was the weirdest feeling; I didn’t hurt badly at all I just couldn’t go any faster. I’m told this is a sign of being tired and not fully recovered. Could have something to do with all the Ironman’s I’ve raced this year. At this point I wasn’t in a place where I could catch anyone and nobody was close behind me so I just jogged in the last few miles. I now regret this decision. I should have pushed harder and seen what my body could have given but isn’t that the name of the game in triathlon. There’s always time you can find within the race and strive to go faster/harder/smarter in the next one. Well that’s what I’m going to do. My season includes one more Ironman, Florida. I’m changing up my strength routine and heading into a run focus during this next training block.
Overall I enjoyed Ironman Whistler, it is a beautiful venue (we desperately want to plan a ski trip there this winter). It was so fun to see Owen execute an awesome race taking 4th in his age group, qualifying for Kona. I ended up 5th which is still great for me plus winning the prime. But I’m still looking for that race where I can piece the Swim, Bike AND Run together.
Brian and I taking the Swim/Bike Prime
Huge thank you to the Deeks for hosting us in Whistler and of course my sponsors for your relentless support; Timex, Quintana Roo, Shimano, Blue Seventy, PowerBar, Rudy Project, Headsweats, K-Swiss, and Champion System. I am so lucky to have you all in my corner as I continue to strive for success. And thanks as always to coach Curt Chesney for sharing his infinite wisdom of IM training/racing. I owe Curt all credit for my bike improvement this year.
Congrats to John Wiberg, Wylie Belasik, and Jen Mason some of my training partners who qualified for Kona in Whistler. Congratulations to friend and training buddy Uli Bromme for taking her first IM win and teammate/friend Matt Russell for fighting through the end taking 2nd place in the pro men.