Melting and Cheering at Ironman Canada 2011

A good teammate pays it forward when her crew comes up to support and cheer for her as she’s dragging her tired legs 140.6 miles, so that’s exactly what I did the last Sunday in August in Penticton for my TN peeps. My Becca Sense had been tingling all summer thinking that the Ironman Canada athletes would have a hot race day since I got lucky last year with the weather (minus the pockets of rain and wind on the bike), and I was right. Of the five days I was up in Canada, the “coldest” day was in the mid-80s and race day crept up to the mid-90s.

I tried to do some workouts while I was up there, so I flailed around in the lake for about 15-20 minutes and called it a swim, and I ran with Teresa a couple days. (And by “with” I mean “behind,” as even in her weakened state she’s still faster than me. Sigh.) One day we ran along an old railroad track that’s been converted into a trail, and although it was hot, the run was pretty nice.

Enjoy the nice scenery and ignore my horrible run form

At one point we ran by a cottage on the trail that was advertising the following:

This is just cruel

I would have sold my soul for a slushie at this point on the run, but we didn’t have any money so I had to soldier on with my stupid unflavored water like a chump.

The next day we did another shorter run along the run course, and it was so freaking hot that I was running slower than usual at a higher heart rate. I started whining to myself about how hot and shitty it was before remembering that I was running slower than this pace last year and had traveled 135 miles further, and that my teammates would have to run an entire marathon in this heat tomorrow so shut up and finish your stupid little run. Sometimes you’re not allowed to complain no matter how crummy you feel, because you know that other folks will have it worse and that you yourself have been in worse situations.

The morning of the race eventually rolled around and I sprang out of bed, giddy with excitement and adrenaline (Jason said I was over-stimulated). I had volunteered to be a sherpa for two of my teammates and friends who were racing with no family support, so I wanted to make sure they were taken care of before and after the race. We packed up our racers and Jason and I cranked “Welcome to the Jungle” for them because it’s the song that played last year for us when we were driving to the race start.

Naturally, the day was long and hot and the race was tough. Although bike splits were faster than last year, runs were obviously slower due to the heat. Our team did the best they could under the conditions. One had to drop out due to injury, one dropped out because of a bike malfunction, one got pulled with heat stroke, and one missed the bike cutoff. They all battled hard and gave it an admirable effort, and the athletes who did finish did great, too.

Instead of a full recap, I thought I’d give out some “awards” via photos that my teammates and I snapped throughout the day. Enjoy!

The “Bad-Ass with Braids” Award goes to Kylee. She battled the barfies all day (from the swim to the bike to throughout the run) and still managed to become an Ironman. I remember how awful I felt for five miles during the Rev 3 run and can’t imagine throwing up for 15 hours while racing. That takes some toughness for sure.

And she has gorgeous hair

The “Unfinished Business” Award goes to Mike, who has lost a metric butt-ton of weight and improved his health and quality of life through diet and exercise. Unfortunately the heat took a toll on him and he didn’t make the bike cutoff, but he’s coming back to Canada in 2012 to exact some revenge.

Mike with a phantom third arm

“Best Swim Split” Award goes to Nicole, who didn’t have the fastest swim split of our group, but it was an impressive time for her. Great job, Nicole! Unfortunately the heat got the best of her and she got pulled on the bike course. You’ve got it in you to become an Ironman next time!

Way to battle it out on the swim!

The “Battled It Out” Award goes to Jeff, who sat in T2 for 45 minutes with leg pain and attempted to conquer the run course for about six miles before injury forced him to drop out. Great effort and way to stay positive!

Jeff attacking the run

“Best Swim Exit” Award without a doubt goes to Amanda, who heeded our coach’s advice and swam aaaaaaallllllll the way to the shore and then some. She even busted out one last dolphin dive in a few inches of water before running up the beach to T1.

One last dive for good measure

The “Goldilocks” Award goes to Jeff Wagner, who last year couldn’t finish Ironman Canada due to stomach issues that were too large, and this year his bike’s rear derailleur broke and he finished the bike leg on a loaner road bike that was several sizes too small but pulled out before the run because his knee was hurting too much. Hopefully next time his race will go “just right.”

Yeah, it's just a wee bit too small...

The “BAMF” Award goes to Vicki, who finished her first Ironman in 11:26. She was all smiles throughout the day and will continue to kick ass in this sport.

Looking fresh with most of a marathon left to go--what an asshole ;)

The “Life Sentence” Award goes to Mr. Canada himself, Steve, who has raced Canada four years in a row (next year will be #5 on the race’s 30th anniversary). He had a big PR this year, so way to go, Steve!

Steve on the run, probably already thinking about where his bike will be racked next year

The “Age Group Ass Kicker” Award goes to Sheri, who took 13th in her age group. If I ever placed that high in an Ironman, I’d celebrate with a month-long party.

Dominating her age group (photo taken by Alley Kloba)

The “Bromantic Photo Finish” Award go to Mike and John, two buddies who caught up with each other and finished seconds apart. Awwwww…

Band of Brothers

The “Moment Like This” Award goes to Derek for one of the best “nearing the finish” photos I’ve ever seen (thanks Alley for taking such a kick-ass pic).

Like Forrest Gump when he broke free from the leg braces (photo taken by Alley Kloba)

The “How the Hell Do You Always Manage to Know Where the Camera Is” Award goes to Kirsten, who has never taken a bad photo while racing. I don’t know how she does it. It’s sickening.

I bet her cheeks hurt more than anything else from smiling all the time (photo taken by Alley Kloba)

The “At This Rate I’ll Be World Champion in Four Years” Award goes to Lisa, who manages to shave like 1-3 hours off her finish time every time she does one of these things. She had a killer bike split too and may have molested a fair number of athletes during the full-contact swim portion…

Lisa busting out a bad-ass bike split

The “Yeah Yeah I PR’d Now Where the Hell is My Beer” Award goes to Brent, whose gut never seems to remember that he just did a freakin’ Ironman because it’s always able to suck down a cold one as if he’s at a Fourth of July barbecue.

Better than Powerbar Perform

The “Screw Technology” Award goes to Tom, who got his Garmin kicked and broken during the swim and raced 2/3rd of an Ironman without a watch until Coach Bridget coughed up an extra for him as he started the run. Maybe he should race without a Garmin next time too since he had a great Ironman debut. :)

"I don't know how fast to go so I'll just hammer it"

Great jobs also to Jawn, Erik, and John H., who I don’t know very well but all had awesome first Ironman races given the extreme heat. Way to go, guys!

The “I Better Call Rhonda and See How Her Day’s Going” Award goes to this lady who busted out a cell phone and was chatting on it during the run portion of the race.

"Oh not much, what are you up to?"

The “Nurser/Nurturer” Award goes to Bridget, who was always either nursing a bag (or two) of ketchup potato chips…

I'm surprised her skin didn't turn red from excessive ketchup chip consumption

…or nurturing athletes, even if they weren’t on our team. Case in point, I saw this dude heaving chunks during the run course:

"So hot. Race was a bad choice."

I looked around to see who would be the least offensive person to send to check on the guy and settled on Bridget. She sprang up and said, “Should I bring him some water?” One of my teammates who is a run coach responded, “No, bring him some pop! He probably has an upset stomach!” So Bridget rifled through our cooler and emerged with a half-empty 20-oz bottle of Diet Dr Pepper. She ran over to him and coddled him a bit until he felt decent enough to resume racing.

"Are you sure? It tastes just like regular Dr Pepper!"

Spectathlete MVP Awards go to Kim (for always being awesome at every race she spectates) and Alyssa (for getting every male athlete to fall in love with her by shouting words of encouragement to all of them as they soldiered past the tent).

And they wore matching outfits!

And, of course, the Coachiest Couple Award goes to Mark and Teresa, who were up all day keeping track of athletes, cheering, and managing to not kill each other.


My favorite quotes from the Ironman Canada weekend:

1. At Canadian grocery stores you have to stick a quarter into the shopping cart to unlock it from the other carts. When you return the cart and re-lock it, your quarter gets pushed out (this method is employed to deter theft). A bunch of us went shopping with Bridget and she deposited an American quarter into the cart so we could use it to get groceries. After we loaded up the car, I said, “I’m going to return the cart and get your quarter back,” at which point she wrinkled her nose.

Bridget: “But it’ll come back Canadian!”

In Bridget’s mind, the cart is a magical currency swapping change machine.

2. Laura, who volunteered as a penalty enforcer during the bike portion of the race, was all riled up because she gave a warning to one cyclist and he sneered at her and said she was mean.

Laura: “He said I was mean! I’m like, ‘Fuck you, I’m nice!'”

Damn right she is!

3. Bill and Alley were volunteering at one of the bike aid stations. It was a real scorcher out there and volunteers were giving out ice for athletes to put in their jerseys. One volunteer got a little insistent with where the athletes should administer the ice…

Volunteer: “Ice?”

Female athlete: “Yes!”

Volunteer: “Do you want it in your bra?”

Female athlete: “Uh…no thanks.”

Volunteer: “Trust me, you’ll want it in your BRA.” *shoves ice down athlete’s shirt*

Never underestimate the power of ice boobies.

4. Sister Madonna, the “Iron Nun,” was racing that day but didn’t make the bike cutoff. Her appearance got us all thinking about the mixed blessing of having the 80-something year old show up at a race.

Me: “I bet race directors are both excited that she’s there to draw some publicity and terrified that this will be the race where she’ll drop dead.”

Jason: “I wonder if they hire people to run ahead of her and fan her/spritz her with water so she won’t dehydrate and die.”

Someone (I forget who): “Well, at least she’ll go doing something she loves.”

Me: “Ehhh, even so, you don’t want the stigma of being the race that Sister Madonna died at.”

Sara: “Yeah, you never want to hear ‘Boy, I hear that race is a real nun killer.'”

Prune skin from both the water and old age

I’m proud of all my teammates who raced Ironman Canada. Whether or not they finished or hit their goals, they all fought hard and gave it their best shot. I had a blast hanging out with my friends and running around cheering and screaming like a maniac. The best thing I can do as a fellow teammate and friend is to pay it forward, and I hope I did a good job of that because next year it’s their turn again… :)