Becca Fall Down, Go Boom: My Ironman Canada 2012 Race Report
Welcome back, reader! It’s been a while, I know. I took a little hiatus after Ironman Canada to laze around and get fat, so now that I am sufficiently rested and newly-pudgy, it’s time for me to get back into the swing of things, and what better way to move forward than to recap a race I did a month and a half ago, right? If you’re all, “Pffft, this was forever ago, gimme some new material already!”, don’t worry, I’ve got some more timely stuff in the pipeline. But for the 12 of you who have been bugging me to bust out this bad boy, enjoy my ridiculously belated Ironman Canada 2012 race report (oh, and here’s 2010’s race report, aka The Longest Race Report in the History of Race Reports, if you care to revisit that one).
Jas and I left for Penticton the Wednesday before the race, stopping a couple (meaning hundreds) of times so I could pee and pick up some healthy, pre-race organic, gluten-free, paleo-friendly nourishment…
…just kidding, I had a gas station corn dog, a BBQ pulled pork sandwich, and about five pounds of potato chips.
Every time I sign up for these endurance races, I fill out all of the information so far in advance that I’ve forgotten what I’ve written until I have to review the forms before the event. This means that Present Me will usually be simultaneously amused and embarrassed by Past Me’s responses. Case in point: when I went to pick up all of my important race crap, I saw this:
The elderly volunteer who was going over my information with me did a double-take and laughed pretty hard, saying, “I haven’t seen that one before!” I took that as a sign to keep putting bullshit in my forms for future events. Thanks, lady!
With registration taken care of, I taper tantrum-ed my way through my final pre-race workouts (“Eeeeekkk, my foot is hurting during this bike ride! I knew I should have brought my old nasty cycling shoes instead of the new pair!”; “Holy shit, this water is so rough! Why is it so rough?! It’s going to be even worse on race day, I know it!!”), had my pre-race meeting with Coach T, and lounged around until race day. I was a little nervous but mostly anxious to get back on the course again and see what an additional two years of fitness would do for my finish time.
I sprang out of bed before my alarm went off, hopped up on nervous energy while Jason sleepily mumbled something and rolled over to catch some more zzz’s. After I showered and scarfed down breakfast and my token cup of race coffee (I only drink coffee the morning of a race, so thus far in 2012 I have had a whopping five cups of sludge), we all headed to transition so I could do my thang.
After the standard pre-race whatnots, I found several of my teammates who were also racing and hung out with them as the clock ticked down to 7 am. The mood was light and I was having a great time laughing and joking with everyone while other athletes moped around looking worrisome and miserable. The #1 reason I love being a part of TN Multisports: because my pre-race demeanor is this:
Apparently my pre-Ironman ritual now consists of peeing myself in transition before the race starts. Thankfully, my teammates were more amused than grossed out. (And the flower bed got a nice watering!)
I have no idea what Tom and I are laughing about here–probably my lack of shame after having just peed myself in front of a couple thousand people.
I’ll always be a hot mess when it comes to swimming.
Speaking of swimming, it was time to get this party started!
When the gun went off, I waded into the water and started swimming after about 30 seconds (in 2010 I waited a full minute). I was relieved that the water was smooth as glass compared to how horrible and choppy it had been leading up to the race, but I was still nervous about having a good swim. My Lake Meridian disaster swim was still in the back of my mind and I really wanted to redeem myself.
I started out right along the buoys since I breathe to my right and typically end up drifting right next to the course markers, but I was getting the shit kicked out of me by various flailing appendages, so after a while I said, “Eff this ess” and moved over to the left so that I was swimming more on the outside of the course. There was still a considerable amount of contact but it felt more manageable, so I stayed on the outside and tried to keep a strong, steady stroke.
Naturally, the turns were especially apocalyptic, but I kept my cool and chugged along. After a while, I thought to myself that I better have a decent swim time given how many friggin’ people were all up in my biznez throughout the entire swim. Slower swimmers tend to have more room around them and also avoid contact with others, but since I practically had a Siamese twin attached to my ass the whole way, I hoped that meant I was swimming a little faster than usual.
The last buoy before the swim exit was the worst–it was as if everyone saw that they only had a couple hundred yards to go and decided to start a riot in the lake. People were clawing at each other and swimming over one another to get out of the water as if some sort of piranha-shark hybrid that spits acid were chasing them. It was at this point during the swim that I got kicked in the calf by some butthole, which promptly caused the muscle to seize up and cramp. It reminded me of the Lake Meridian swim all over again, but since I was so close to being out of the water, I gritted my teeth and flail-kicked my way to the exit.
Goal swim time: 1:25-1:29
Actual swim time: 1:23:44
When I stood up and looked at my watch to see my swim split, I reacted like this:
WHAT! WHATTTT!!! I couldn’t believe it. I had never swum that fast before! Not only was it my fastest 2.4 mile swim ever, it was my fastest 1.2 mile swim if you cut the time in half, and it was one of my fastest swim paces for any distance (that is how terrible a swimmer I typically am). Sure, it’s not a great swim time compared to the field, but it was a huge milestone for me and had me in a fantastic mood.
I was so jazzed about my swim time that this is basically how I made my way into transition:
I give full credit to both Teresa for putting up with my stubbornness and hatred towards swimming for the past five years and her patience in slowly chipping away at my atrocious swim times, and my corset-tight TYR Cat 5 Hurricane (which I bought from Teresa, so thanks again, Coach) for keeping me buoyant and flexible. Maybe, if I keep practicing this silly swim sport, I’ll be able to break 1:20 next time!
I danced my way into transition and was verbally assaulted by Alley, my friend and pie supplier who was volunteering as a wetsuit stripper. As I struggled to get the tight-as-hell wetsuit off my wrists, she yelled something along the lines of, “Rebecca, ya dweeb!” and yanked it off me, then practically shoved me to the ground so she and her volunteer buddy could strip me down in roughly 0.5 seconds. I grabbed the wetsuit from her, blurted out a happy “ThanksIloveyou!,” and ran to grab my transition bag as she smacked me on the butt and screamed various words of encouragement at me.
Once I got inside the tent, I dodged a bunch of women, some of whom were in various stages of undress, to find a clear spot to dump my bag. After shaking the image of a naked woman who somehow had her race number stuck between her buttcheeks (shudder), I grabbed Jason’s Garmin 310XT (which he let me borrow for the race since it had a longer battery life than my ghetto old Garmin), strapped it onto my wrist, and hit the power button.
Nothing happened. Irritated, I held the button down. Nothing. I fussed with it a bit longer, knowing I was wasting time in transition, before saying “Screw it” and running out of the tent to grab my bike. Teresa always tells us that you should expect three things to go wrong on race day, so I guess Thing #1 was the fact that Jason’s Garmin wouldn’t turn on, so I was going to be racing with no heart rate data. Oh well, nothing left to do but adjust and move on.
T1 time: 3:43. I could have shaved it down more if I hadn’t gotten frustrated with the watch, but it was still decent.
I rode out along Main Street with a huge grin on my face, still reeling from my awesome-for-me swim split. My spectating teammates and Jason spotted me and started cheering like crazy, which made me want to excitedly blurt out “Iswama1:23!!” as I rode by.
As I rode, I came across Aimee and Bill, two teammates who I’d see throughout the entire bike leg. I was “riding blind” without any heart rate information and just went by feel, but I’ve gotten comfortable enough on the bike to get a decent idea of what pace to push, so I was feeling great and humming songs to myself as I kept motoring along…
…and then I came up to the 2nd aid station at mile 30. I needed a bottle of Powerbar Perform, so I slowed down and pointed at an available volunteer who was holding one out. She looked at me and nodded, so I reached out to take the bottle. Once I wrapped my fingers around it, however, the volunteer decided to fuse her hand to the bottle, cackled, and said, “Oh you want this bottle, eh? You’ll wrestle it from my cold, dead hands! MWUAHHAHHAHAH!!!” (Okay, she didn’t say that, but she didn’t let go of it. Come on, volunteer. YOU HAD ONE JOB. ONE JOB!)
Since she didn’t let go when I grabbed it, I ended up getting strong-armed and thrown off-balance by the momentum shift. I crashed hard on my left side as a couple of volunteers murmured “Oh!” Bionic Grip Volunteer wandered off like an asshole as I watched the friggin’ Powerbar Perform bottle roll across the street and into the ditch. FML. I was counting this crash as Thing #2 and #3 that would go wrong on race day.
I instinctively stopped my watch once I crashed, presumably because my stubborn brain was like, “Time out, crashes don’t count in your overall bike split!” Another volunteer ran over and asked if I was okay. He held my bike while I got up and quickly surveyed the damage:
- The bottom portion of my aero helmet had broken off and was laying in the street
- My left temple was throbbing
- My left ribcage was hurting
- I had road rash on my left shoulder, random cuts on my left forearm, and two scraped knuckles on my right hand
- The Garmin 310XT I borrowed from Jason was completely shattered (if it wasn’t turning on before, it definitely was broken now)
I patted my head to make sure the rest of the helmet was okay and, figuring that since I didn’t feel woozy or nauseous, I had escaped any mega-redonk head trauma (thanks, Rudy Project!). I wasn’t sure what the protocol was once you crashed–do they pull you from the course, especially if a piece of your helmet is in the middle of the road? Not wanting to DNF unless it was absolutely unavoidable (e.g., my leg broke off my body, but even then I’d probably try to hop along as far as I could), I asked for another bottle of Perform and then got the hell out of Dodge. (I later looked at my watch and realized that the delay only cost me about a minute–guess my “fight or flight” reaction was in full-on “Fly the eff out of there, you goober!” mode.)
I was pretty rattled and my wounds were stinging, but I needed to regain focus so I just started talking out loud to calm myself down. My self-pep talk basically consisted of “You’re alright, you’re fine, it’ll be okay, just stay focused, focus focus focus, keep your eyes on the road, just get to transition.” Unfortunately, transition was 82 miles away and I still had to run a damn marathon, but I was intent on getting as far as I could before my body would give out.
My adrenaline pushed me for a while, but my head still felt tender and the pain in my ribs would flare up sharply every so often, which made for a very uncomfortable ride, especially when I was in aero. At one point, however, when I was pouting and feeling miserable (and after I dropped my chain for the first time in a couple years, which resulted in another minute or so delay), a guy on a bright yellow TT bike rode up next to me. He recognized me as “the Mediocre Athlete” and chatted with me for a brief bit, which made me feel a little better and helped take my mind away from the world of hurt I was experiencing. Eventually he puttered away, chirping, “See you on the run!” So if you’re reading this, Dude Who Raced Ironman Canada on the Bright Yellow TT Bike, thank you for cheering me up for a short while. You really helped me out when my spirits were low!
I made it through the out-and-back, stopping only to grab some extra chamois cream in my special needs bag and slather that sumbitch all over my ladybits. (I used my scraped-up hand to do it, so now my right hand was cut, bloody, and covered in chamois cream, crotch sweat, and Powerbar Perform residue. It was starting to resemble Patient Zero in a zombie film.)
When I got to Yellow Lake, my ribs were hurting pretty bad and I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some teammates to boost my spirits. I saw my friend Carly, who ran alongside me like a maniac while I aired my grievances to her and encouraged me to push through the pain and go go go. As I kept climbing Yellow Lake, I spotted two teammates, Vicki and Paul, and I smiled when I saw them as they cheered frantically…at my teammate Bill, who was two lengths behind me. They were so focused on screaming for Bill that they totally missed me, so I just chuckled to myself and kept climbing.
When I got to the top, my ribs were throbbing so much that I was visibly wincing every few minutes from the pain. I was starting to worry about whether I’d even be able to get through the marathon in my current state.
Ultimately I confessed to Bill that I wasn’t in great shape:
Me: “I’m hurtin’, Bill.”
Bill: “Yeah, me too! Although I felt better climbing up Yellow Lake than I did at our training camp.”
Me: “No, I mean I’m hurtin‘. I crashed earlier and am starting to wonder if I cracked some ribs.”
Bill: “OHHHH…..well that’s not good.”
Then he shot down the hill like a bullet while I death-gripped and kept bargaining with myself to focus for just a little bit longer until I finally got my ass to transition. I took the descents very cautiously because I really, really didn’t want to crash again and because I was worried that the pain would distract me into doing something sloppy or reckless.
Eventually I made my way onto Main Street, and I kept my eyes peeled for my teammates and for Jason so I could get a little bit of an emotional boost to finish the bike. When I saw Jason, I grinned and waved…and he didn’t see me. Irritated, I waved some more, then started flailing like a total spazz before he finally spotted me and went crazy. Apparently the entire team had missed me throughout the bike leg, which wasn’t surprising given how invisible I was on Yellow Lake, so Jason and Teresa were getting worried that something had happened to me since nobody had seen me all day (they weren’t wrong–something did happen to me, but it was only a brief delay). I rode by them a bit happier and thrilled to be done with 30 miles of strong cycling and 82 miles of painful cycling.
Goal bike time: Under 6 hours to 6:10
Actual bike time: 6:04:20
I can’t say for certain how I would have ridden had I not crashed, but I’d like to think I could have gone under 6 hours or about 6 on the dot. The crash and dropped chain cost me about two minutes, so Injured Becca went about a 6:02 and I would hope that Healthy Becca could have gone a couple minutes faster than that. Nonetheless, I was happy with the bike PR and thankful to have made it through the bike leg in one piece after eating pavement early on. Plus, Injured Becca still had the 14th best bike split in my age group, so that’s pretty cool.
I handed my bike off to a volunteer, then took off my cycling shoes so I could run barefoot to grab my transition bag. When I got to the tent, another volunteer helped me sort through my things and pull out what I needed (I dumped the broken Garmin and heart rate monitor since they were dead weight at this point). She noticed my road rash and asked what happened, but I didn’t really want to get into it so I just muttered “I crashed” and then took off.
T2 time: 2:36. Not bad for an Ironman transition! I’ll take it.
I was so happy to be off the bike that I forgot about my rib pain for the first few miles. When I spotted my teammate Aimee early on in the run, I settled behind her and we ran together for a while. Her gung-ho presence and my adrenaline muted the hurtiness for a while.
We ran by the TN tent and everyone was awesomely supportive. Nobody noticed my injuries until the ever-perceptive Mark said, “Hey, what’s wrong with her shoulder? Jason, look at her shoulder!” Can’t sneak anything by you, Mark-o.
Jason ran alongside me and asked how I felt:
Me: “I’m…okay.” Then, somewhat sheepishly: “I crashed at mile 30.”
Jason: “Are you okay?”
Me: “Well, worst-case scenario my ribs are cracked. Best-case scenario they’re bruised.”
Jason: “So your ribs might be cracked, no big deal, you’re tough!”
I laughed, then confessed that I had broken his Garmin. He said it was okay, that we can replace it, then told me to stay strong on the run. His and the team’s’s encouragement continued to push me along for the next several miles until the pain caught up with me at about mile 8. I started to slow down and Aimee pulled ahead of me. I still felt alright through the turnaround, but when I hit mile 14 my ribs were killing me again. My breaths became noisy and shallow, and I started seeing black spots and was nauseous and feeling generally miserable. I kept glancing at my watch and saw my sub-12 hour goal start to slip away second by second, but I was hurting so bad that there wasn’t much I could do about it.
I was at my lowest point on the run when my teammate Laura rode by (she volunteered as a bike marshall earlier in the day and was now acting as a run volunteer, riding up and down the course on her bike to check in on athletes). She pulled up next to me for the most excruciating conversation ever. It wasn’t that I was pissed to see her, it was that it was painful to even produce words, so Laura practically monologued to me while I weakly grunted responses. Our conversation went something like this:
Laura: “Hey! How’s it going?”
Laura: “Bill behind you?”
Me: “Yeah, somewhere.”
Laura: “Ooh, what happened to your shoulder?”
Me: “Crashed. Mile 30.”
Laura: “Ouch…well, all of our teammates have made it off the bike, so we packed up the tent and are moving closer to the finish.”
At this point Laura had noticed that she would have had a more productive conversation with a feral dog, so she took the hint and wrapped things up.
Laura: “Welp, I’m going to go find Bill…”
And then she said the worst and most hilarious thing anyone has ever said to me during an Ironman.
Laura: “Enjoy the rest of your run!”
She rode off while I shot her this look:
I still had 11 miles to go, I was in so much pain I was seeing spots, and my jagged, breathy grunts made it seem as if I were going to drop dead at any given moment. But yeah, I’ll enjoy the rest of my run! Laura, I both loved and hated you with a passion at that moment.
When I got to about mile 23, I saw that I could maybe possibly still crack 12, but I had to get my ass in gear. I picked up the pace and was breathing so offensively and with such a murderous look on my face, that a spectator who was cheering for everyone saw me, frowned and just said, “Uh, she’s got a fierce look in her eyes.”
I kept hauling ass. When I saw my teammates lined up at mile 25ish, I lost it and squeaked out a few loud, gulping sobs, because I knew that I was so close to being done and that my body had done everything that it could to get me home.
When I turned left to tackle the final out-and-back before the finish line, I heard the announcer say, “Athletes, you have four minutes left to break 12 hours!”, and I knew at that moment that I wasn’t going to be able to hit my goal. Once it hit me, I accepted it and relaxed, slowing my pace so I could somewhat enjoy my last few minutes on the course.
Goal run time: Under 4 hours to 4:20
Actual run time: 4:30:37. I was about 7 minutes faster than 2010’s run, but I was still disappointed that I didn’t PR more, especially since I had been running better this season. I’m guessing that if I hadn’t been in pain from my bike crash, I could have run a little bit better. Oh well, I did my best.
Goal finish time: Under 12 hours
Actual finish time: 12:05:00
I have mixed emotions about the race. On one hand, I was thrilled with my performance, especially my swim and given the fact that I crashed early on in the bike leg, so to come within five minutes and one second of my goal time under the circumstances is pretty dope. On the other hand, I was sooooooo close to hitting my goal. So close! I feel as if I have unfinished business, that I could have definitely gone under 12 hours if it weren’t for Volunteery McStickyHand.
But that’s the thing about this sport–you’re never going to have a “perfect” day out there, so you have to roll with the punches and do the best you can with the hand you’re dealt. I was not dealt an ideal hand on race day, but I pulled through and persevered as best as I could, and I’m proud of myself for toughing it out and finishing (plus, I finished 17th in my age group out of 75 females, which is a better placement than I finished two years ago, so I’m making progress). And I got a somewhat bad-ass story out of the experience, so that’s kind of cool.
When I finished the race, I was riding high from having dragged my ass 140.6 miles, so the pain died down a bit (minus me dodging death grip hugs around my ribs and hearty pats on the shoulder from over-zealous teammates). I rewarded myself with another corn dog, then hung around for a while with my teammates before Jason made me go home to get cleaned up and scarf down an unhealthy amount of pizza.
I have a bunch of awesomely gnarly images of my various injuries that I’ll save for the next post, but after the race I was able to make a better assessment of my condition:
- According to Vicki and John, two of my teammates who are a nurse and an ER doctor, I had most likely gotten a concussion from the fall and ended up experiencing post-concussive syndrom for a month after the race, meaning the point of impact was tender and prone to throbbing pain and headaches. My helmet was also dented and scratched in that spot.
- My ribs were bruised but not broken (but they still gave me major grief for about a week after the race).
- My left knee, shoulder, and hip were road rash-tastic.
- Two knuckles on my right hand were scraped up as well.
- I had a big-ass angry-looking contusion on my right quad that was hard and lumpy and is taking forever to completely disappear.
- Jason’s Garmin was destroyed.
- My bike handlebars got chewed up a bit.
- My brand-new cycling shoes (the left one) that were a birthday present from Jas got torn the eff up. (The crash scraped a hole in my shoe. WTF!)
Here’s a picture of the Garmin that I decimated:
Jason wasn’t thrilled that I destroyed it (at first it wouldn’t even turn on, but now it turns on but doesn’t do anything, and it’s definitely not waterproof any more), but he pointed out that it actually did a great job of protecting my wrist and that if I hadn’t been wearing it, I could have very well broken my wrist or seriously damaged it when I fell. An amusing “look on the bright side” thing to ponder.
Anyway, time to wrap this sumbitch up! Huge, megatastic thanks to the following people:
- TN Multisports, for being such awesome and supportive teammates, whether they were training with me or cheering for me on the sidelines
- Coaches Mark, Bridget, Vicki and John for giving me advice and guidance throughout the training season
- Dr. Perry from the Institute of New Medicine for helping me with any little aches and pains that popped up
- Rudy Project for protecting my noggin when I crashed (bummer that I have to replace my aero helmet after only a few uses this season, but I’ll definitely be getting a new one through you guys)
- BASE Performance Nutrition and PowerBar for nutritiony goodness
- TYR for a wetsuit that helped me pull off a semi-respectable swim split
- The Ironman Canada volunteers (minus the poolicker who took me out at the aid station) for being so helpful and selfless leading up to and during the race
- My family (and Jason’s family) and friends for being supportive, encouraging, and understanding when I’d ignore them to go do a workout instead
- Beth for being insanely generous and giving Jason her old Garmin 310XT to replace the one I broke (she saved me a couple hundred dollars, and Jason is happy to have a Garmin again)
- Alley for supplying me with delicious pies all season long (post to come chronicling all of the ridiculously tasty treats I got from her over the past year)
- My Korean mom for providing her amusing, often confused opinion about my silly multisport hobby
- My blog readers and fans (it feels weird to type that!) for laughing at my crotch woes, my rants about naked locker room strangers, and my other oddball posts about training, eating, being lazy and unmotivated, and everything in between. I’m so very appreciative of your support and encouragement and will continue blogging as long as I’m subjecting myself to these often crazy feats of endurance and absurdity.
- My beloved coach and one of my best friends, Teresa, for giving me guidance, support, encouragement, hugs, and laughs. Thank you for getting me through another training season. All of my gains and improvements as an athlete are because of you. (Also, I’ll try to swim more in 2013.)
- My Big Friendly Giant and #1 fan Jason for being there for me at my highest and lowest points. I am so proud of you for how much you’ve improved this season (mofo did a 10:50 in Coeur d’Alene and ran a 2:57 marathon in Portland!), and I’m very thankful that you encourage me every day to do my best while making sure I’m having fun.
I’ll leave you with this little gem from Jason after I finished the race:
Jas: “I am never watching you do an Ironman ever again. It was just. Too. Stressful. I see you more on the course when we’re both racing! I worried about you all day!”
Aww. You’re adorable. Love you. Can’t wait for some R&R in Maui next month!
I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing next season–right now I’m pondering the idea of doing either Ironman Arizona or Ironman Cozumel so that I can shoot for my sub-12 goal and hopefully hit it this time. Whatever I decide, I’ll be sure to chronicle every miserable, funny, sweaty, chlorinated, chafe-filled step of it on the blog.