Several years after getting into triathlon we had some discussions about the Ironman distance and whether we would ever want to train for that long of a race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run). We decided that if we ever did we wanted it to be a beautiful place with a great course that we could enjoy while spending the day outside in the elements. That eventually led us to Ironman Canada in Penticton, British Columbia in 2012. We had such an amazing experience for that race – the 9 months of training together, spectacular weather conditions and finishing within 2 minutes of each other over a 12 hour day. Many people finish their first Ironman and either never want to do another one again or want to sign up right away so they can improve upon the things that went wrong the first time. We knew we might do one again someday but we also knew that the day would be very hard to top and weren’t in a hurry to improve upon the experience.
Last year after some great training together and overall good health for both of us we decided that 2018 would be a good year to do another Ironman. After 2012 Ironman Canada was moved to Whistler and we had heard good things about the race and venue. We also had a few friends signing up so we decided that we would once again do Ironman Canada after a 6 year hiatus. We extended the invitation to several friends to join us and with the addition of a 70.3 (half ironman distance) event on the same day, Allison Miller signed up and we had roomies for the week. Stephanie Melkonian Linkus had already signed up with the encouragement of other tri friends so we knew that the entire experience of training, traveling and racing would be challenging, fun and rewarding.
Stephanie, Jane and Allison at the Olympic rings in Whistler Olympic Park
The Whistler bike course was known to be pretty challenging in the past. Shortly after signing up Ironman announced a change to the bike course that made it even MORE challenging! We would be climbing 8500 feet over the 112 mile course – the most of any Ironman race worldwide. And the run wouldn’t be easy with over 1000 ft of elevation gain, though not “hilly” or “hard” by general standards – running 26.2 miles after the bike course would be hard no matter what. We definitely felt like we would be at a great advantage coming from Albuquerque with our higher elevation, plenty of hills for training and hot days to prepare us for the big day.
Similar to the first experience we had a great time preparing for this race. We did a lot of our training together and ended up with plenty of quality time on the bike. We did lots of long hilly days in the saddle and had great friends and training partners to keep things fun and interesting. Our coach was always there to help through challenges, make adjustments where needed and assure us that we were right on track. It really helped also that Todd was not working full time during this training cycle so he was able to absorb some more training stress rather than absorbing lots of work stress!
One really interesting thing that we decided to do this summer was to get our sodium concentration levels tested. We found a place in Boulder, CO and set up an appointment at a time when we were going to be up there anyway. We met with Heidi Strickler of eNRG Performance and had the testing done. This test, in combination with a sweat rate test, will let you know not only how much fluid you need to replace hourly during exercise (modified based upon weather conditions), but also how much sodium you lose in your sweat and how much you need to supplement. This was really key for both of us. We discovered that Todd is a heavy sweater but doesn’t lose a lot of sodium in his sweat, and my sweat level isn’t as high but my overall sodium needs are much higher than I realized. We also worked with Heidi on our overall nutrition plans in coming up with fueling strategies for pre-race and during the race. After some trial and error over the summer we both felt that we had a great plan going forward and felt good about giving our bodies what they needed. If you are interested in finding out more about the sweat sodium concentration testing you can read about it here.
We flew to Seattle and drove to Whistler on Wednesday before the Sunday race. We stayed in a condo in the Upper Village, close enough to be able to walk to most things but also far enough removed that we weren’t among all of the chaos and people. The entire town was bustling with people and families on vacation as well as approximately 2500 athletes there to participate in the Ironman or 70.3 event. We had plenty of time to swim in the lake, drive the bike course, eat lots of good healthy food and relax before the big day. On Saturday we checked our bikes in to the transition area at the lake and dropped off our bike and run bags at the different transition areas. That night we had our typical pre-race meal of steak, sweet potato and veggies and were ready to go.
Alta Lake at sunrise on Friday. If you squint you can see us swimming!
Allison, Jane & Todd at bike drop-off on Saturday
The alarm went off at 3am on Sunday morning and we were both surprised that we got a good night’s rest. I definitely slept better this year than the night before our first Ironman! This race had two different transition areas so there were a few more logistics to consider. We drove the car down the road to a parking lot near transition 2 (the bike to run transition), dropped off our special needs bags (in Ironman you are allowed to have a special needs bag for both the bike and run that you can access at one point during each event. You can put anything you might want in the bag – oftentimes it is special food, or maybe something for weather conditions, a light for the run if you are out after dark, etc), and put our nutrition in the run bags we had dropped off the day before.
Whistler is known for its large population of black bears. I personally didn’t see one this trip, but most of the people that we traveled with had at least one story of a bear encounter and Todd and I had a VERY close encounter with a black bear during our last visit here in 2011 (we were hiding in a bathroom for a while for safety!). With the bear population we were not allowed to place any nutritional items in our bags that we dropped off on Saturday – definitely a situation unique to Ironman Canada!
After we dropped off our special needs bag and run nutrition we got on a bus and headed to the lake. Once we arrived at the lake we went into transition and tended to our bikes – pumping up the tires, putting our nutrition on the bikes, going to the bathroom, any last minute preparations, etc. We thought we had given ourselves plenty of time, but we both felt very rushed for time.
The last time we did Ironman Canada it was a mass start. 2000 people starting in the water at the sound of the cannon. Over the last few years Ironman has instituted a rolling start where you line yourself up based upon estimated swim time and they let 4-6 people in the water every few seconds to spread out the crowds. This was to be our first experience with the rolling start and we were looking forward to it.
In our rush for time we did not get over to the start area early enough to get ourselves placed toward the front of the line with the swimmers who would match our pace. Our initial plan was to put ourselves toward the front of the 1:00-1:10 group. There was a huge bottleneck and we found ourselves standing in the 1:41-1:50 group with no place to go! We decided it would be fine and we would just end up passing a lot of people on the swim. We huddled for our pre-race prayer and right after that a staff person allowed those of us who were faster swimmers to jump the barricade to get up towards the front of the line. I was relieved that we were able to move ahead and really relieved to get over the fence without injuring myself before the day even started! We ended up in the 1:11-1:20 group and were thrilled to be there. As we were walking through we heard our coach Jaime yell our names. We were able to give him a huge hug and he took this picture.
Jane’s Swim – 1:04:22
In general Todd starts out faster than I do and then the longer we go the faster I get. We decided that we would try to stay with each other on the swim if we could. I would start out drafting off of Todd and then when I was ready to pass him I would let him know I was coming by so he could try to hold my feet. This can be very challenging when there are hundreds of other people in the lake – all wearing black wetsuits and either a green or pink cap! The water was very clear though which did make it easier to see the feet in front of you.
Our time started when we crossed the official start line at the edge of the lake. We walked into the water and I was right behind Todd. I yelled out to him “let’s do this!” and we started swimming. I managed to stay on his feet for probably 200 meters or so and then I lost him in the sea of other green caps.
It was a 2 loop swim with each loop resembling a rectangle. When we got to the first turn buoy I looked to my right and saw Todd! I recognized his wetsuit and his red goggles. I passed him going through the turn but I didn’t think he saw me and figured we would likely get separated again.
The official water temperature was 72.5. I wasn’t sure if I might get a little warm in my long sleeved wetsuit but that was not a problem. I was very comfortable temperature wise and the water felt amazing. There were times during the swim when there weren’t many people around me at all and other times where there would be little pockets of people. Overall I felt good. I was enjoying myself, felt like I was swimming pretty straight, had no problems seeing the buoys and was excited to be there.
I looked at my watch at the end of the first loop – 31 minutes! I really wanted to come in under 1:06 – my time from the last Ironman and I knew that I was on pace to do that. I kept up a consistent and steady effort. A couple of times I thought I saw Todd, but it was someone in a similar wetsuit but different goggles so I figured he was gone. On the last short stretch into the finish I picked up the pace, wanting to finish strong as I started to kick to get bloodflow into my legs for the bike and starting to picture my transition. I stood up and hit my watch but didn’t look at the time – I knew it was less than 1:06 but didn’t know exactly what it was. I started running over to the volunteers who were stripping the wetsuits and I heard the announcer call out “Todd Pilger is exiting the water!” and I thought wow – he was right behind me!
Todd’s Swim – 1:04:55
I was getting anxious right before the race with long porta john lines and the bottleneck of the swim start corrals. Jane did a great job of calming me down and recognizing that everything would work itself out. When we entered the water I walked a little slower than I normally would and pointed out rocks for my #ironflower’s delicate feet. Little did I know that she was ready to push through the tenderness and actually wanted me to walk faster. When she told me “let’s do this” I knew it was time to go for it.
I started off the swim with a nice smooth pace knowing that I wasn’t going to make a fast race by sprinting in the first 400 yards. The angle of the swim start allowed us to stay off to the side off the crowds a little without having to swim any extra distance. I was feeling really good but then realized Jane must be feeling even better when she came flying by me and straight into the pack at the first turn!
Jane’s wetsuit has some distinctive silver strips on the calves that made it easier to follow her and not get confused with other swimmers. She did a great job of navigating through traffic and I knew I just needed to concentrate on following her because she would find us a good route. Once we cleared the traffic of the first two turns I realized that I was going to have to work a little hard just to stay with her. I could swim smooth if I was right on her feet, but if I lost concentration she would gap me and I would have to put in some extra work to make sure I didn’t get dropped.
It was great to stay with her for the entire swim (even if she didn’t know it!). I had mental pictures of high-fiving her as we came out of the swim but then she surged to the finish and came out of the water about 10 yards in front of me. I looked at my watch as I stood up out of the water but before crossing the timing mat and was ecstatic to see a time under 1:05. I yelled out “great job Jane” but with all the noise around us she didn’t hear me.
Jane’s T1 – 4:50
One of the nice features of Ironman branded races is the volunteer position of “wetsuit stripper”. They do exactly that – help you peel the wetsuit off your body. They were positioned just past the timing mat and exit to the lake. The volunteers got my wetsuit off pretty quickly, helped me stand back up and I ran over to pick up my bike gear bag. In Ironman you do your transition inside a changing tent. This allows for plenty of space and privacy in the event you want to fully change clothes, etc. There are also volunteers who can help you if you want the assistance.
Initially a volunteer asked if I wanted help and I said no. Then as she walked off I thought “why did I say that? I could use the help!”. Fortunately another one came along and I asked for help. She pulled my bike shoes out of the bag and even opened up some chapstick for me so I could make sure my lips had sunscreen for the long bike ride! When I was all decked out in my socks, shoes, helmet and sunglasses she put my wetsuit, cap and goggles in the bag and I dropped the bag off as I left the tent. I decided to go ahead and hit the porta potty that was outside the transition tent before getting on the bike. As I left the porta potty area volunteers were applying sunscreen. I had them lather me up on my shoulders and legs (I was wearing arm coolers that covered most of my arms). Then I ran to my bike, grabbed it and ran the bike out of transition, up a little hill, over the railroad tracks and to the mount line. Overall I felt like I had a great transition with no wasted time.
Todd’s T1 – 6:15
My wetsuit strippers were very helpful but the volunteers in our tent weren’t quite as active in assisting. I was able to get all of my gear on and I knew it was going to be a little muggy to start when my sunglasses fogged up immediately. That made it a little harder to see my bag when I was trying to stuff my wetsuit inside and fortunately I didn’t run into anybody when I was running out of the tent! After a quick trip to the porta potty I went to grab my bike and it took me an extra moment to get my bike out of transition because my bike is so tall I had to get creative with the officials and strap my bike to a rack to keep it in place before the race so I had to undo the strap before I could take off with my bike. Then it was just a matter of running out of transition and hitting the road!
Jane’s Bike – 6:37:16
The bike course was 3+ loops with lots of rolling hills. There weren’t any that were particularly long or incredibly steep, but over the course of the day they all added up. There were a few pitches that were 10% but in general I would guess they were in the 6-8% range. Our coach had given us very specific numbers to follow in terms of heart rate and overall power averages. Admittedly when he first gave us our numbers I thought they seemed very low, but the goal was to get to the run without blowing up the legs.
The white stuff on my leg is sunscreen that hasn’t quite soaked in yet!
I reminded myself several times on the bike course to “stick with the plan, trust the training and trust the plan”. Overall I felt like I did that pretty well. We had driven the bike course so nothing was a surprise and we had ridden lots of hills leading up to the day. I definitely felt well prepared for the ride to come.
On the way back from the first turn around on the first lap I noticed that my legs were pretty tired. That made me a bit nervous as there was still a lot of riding to do. I was wondering if I had gone out too hard, if we didn’t get the taper right, if I didn’t have enough sodium, etc. Then I reminded myself to trust the training and to trust the plan. As we got back to the hilly area around the lake (where we swam that morning) I started trading places back and forth with another woman in my age group. She would pass me going downhill and I would pass her going uphill. She was super nice and we chatted a bit when one of us would pass the other. Her name was Amanda and we spent the next full lap trading places. She loved going downhill and I felt like she really helped me remember to keep the pressure and pace up on the downhills to make up for any time lost on the climbs. This is also something I really worked on in training with Todd.
With two turn around areas on the bike and multiple loops, there were plenty of opportunities to see other athletes on the course. On the first turnaround of the first lap I was interested to see how close Todd would be to me. I figured that we would have come out of transition around the same time and guessed that he would ride faster than I did. By the end of the second lap I could tell that I was gaining some time on him and that he wouldn’t pass me on the bike.
After the first loop on the bike I realized my legs felt much better and the reason for the pain earlier was that it was following a section of some significant climbing and some false flats. Then I realized that it would feel that way each lap but there were other parts of the course for it to recover and come back together. Nothing was ruined or going wrong, despite my mind’s attempting to convince me otherwise!
On the second loop I saw a woman up ahead wearing a Team Wattie Ink kit who was on the side of the road changing a flat tire. I thought it was my good friend and training partner Stephanie. I was SO relieved to get closer and see that it wasn’t her after all. Shortly after that, climbing up one of the hills toward the lake I DID see Stephanie on the side of the road. I stopped to see what was going on and what she needed and was so sad to see her struggling with feeling dizzy. I would later learn that she nearly rode off the side of the road – praise God it happened while she was going uphill and not down. I didn’t want to leave her but there was nothing I could do as medical was already with her so I continued on. When I came back from that out and back section and she told me she had been pulled from the race by medical I was determined to channel my inner chipmunk in her honor as I finished the race. She had trained so hard for this and I was devastated for her.
It was a very hot day. Apparently the high for the day was 97 degrees – exceptionally warm for Whistler. I paid a lot of attention to my hydration and took in more fluids and more sodium than usual to account for the extra heat.
I stopped at the special needs area around mile 72 on the bike. By this time I needed to go to the bathroom but I didn’t want to wait in line. Many people actually pee on their bike so they don’t have to stop, but I haven’t managed to learn this skill yet. I tried at one point but it just wasn’t happening! There was only one porta potty at the special needs area. I had decided that I would go there if there was nobody in it but I wouldn’t wait (you never know how long someone might be in a PP during a race!). A guy stopped right in front of me and was about to go in and I asked him if he was going to be fast. He clearly wasn’t in a hurry and told me to go ahead while he went ahead and stretched. I was very appreciative of that! I did my business, got my extra bottles of nutrition from my bag, applied more chapstick and put my extra salt pills in my bento box (I brought extra just in case my others fell out or I gave them away but I ended up needing almost all of them!).
The half ironman distance event started approximately 1.5 hours after our race and shared a lot of the same bike course. The 2nd loop of the bike was very crowded with 70.3 athletes as well as Ironman athletes on their first lap. By the 3rd loop it was much more open and while it was harder with the cumulative fatigue and extreme heat, it was much more pleasant with fewer bikes on the road.
I knew this would not be a fast bike course. I managed my efforts, kept my numbers right in line with our plan, fueling was right in line with my plan, and was perfectly content with my time. The next big question would be what would the run feel like?
Todd’s Bike – 6:58:22
As I started the bike I knew that it would be a challenging but fun course. The first part had several steep ups and downs with lots of curves where my bike handling would be of benefit. I had to be careful to balance my fun and speed with the amount of other bike traffic. Once I got out onto the main road I knew I could just get into a rhythm.
I felt that on the climbs I was keeping my effort in about the range that my coach had recommended but as I went over the tops of hills and down the other side I may have been too aggressive because I struggled to get my heart rate down and my average power on the first lap was a bit higher than planned.
On the second lap I still felt good and it was interesting to see just how many bikes they could squeeze onto that course! I ended up leap-frogging with a lot of the same people who would go harder than me up the hills but then would stop pedaling as they went over the top.
As I started the third loop I could really feel the fatigue starting to build. I had some technical issues with my aerobar hydration system that made it hard for me to drink as much water as I would have liked, especially on the first lap, so I got behind. On the third lap I was really starting to feel the heat and I knew I was slowing down but I knew that with some work I would still keep it under 7 hours, which was the outside goal I had set for myself.
When I was wrapping up the bike and going to transition I knew the big question was going to be how was it going to feel when I got off the bike?
Jane’s T2 – 4:15
Another unique feature of Ironman races is the volunteer position of “bike catcher”. Their job is to take your bike from you as soon as you get off of it. By that point you are perfectly content for someone to take it away! I handed off my bike and started to run towards the area where our run bags were located and I quickly discovered that movement didn’t feel very good. I decided to take off my bike shoes and see if I could run in my socks, but that only felt marginally better so I opted for a brisk walk in my socks. A volunteer pointed out which row to take to find my gear bag and I headed into the women’s changing tent.
I definitely hit the lottery with my T2 volunteer. When I came into the tent she took my bag, and asked me what I needed. My plan was to take a pouch of concentrated electrolytes in T2 (The Right Stuff) so she got me water so I could get it in. She pulled out my shoes and socks and I told her that I needed the tube of Chafex to put on my feet. She pulled it out and I realized that I hadn’t pulled off the silver tab as it was a fresh bottle. She pulled it off for me and I applied it to my heels and under my toes. Then she put my socks and shoes on my feet! I told her how amazing she was and she told me that she was there volunteering because she had such an incredible T2 volunteer during her own Ironman race. She pulled my running belt out of the bag and noticed that my number was only attached on one side, so she fixed that for me and put the belt around my waist and attached it. She handed me my hat and my handheld water bottle, put all of my bike stuff in the bag and sent me on my way. I gave her a huge hug and told her she was my favorite!
Todd’s T2 – 6:51
When I got off my bike and handed it to the volunteer I knew right away that the run was going to be a challenge because just standing up straight and trying to walk hurt a lot! I waddled my way to the run bags and into the changing tent. There wasn’t a volunteer available to help me out so I had to put on my own shoes and deal with my own number having been torn on one side so I had to adjust how I attached it to my run belt. I didn’t know what I was missing with the volunteer experience, but I was probably too delirious to have appreciated it anyway!
I grabbed a cup of water on the way out of the tent and got some fresh sunscreen on my shoulders and neck from the nice volunteers outside. My legs were still so tight that I decided to walk for a bit so I at least walked to the end of transition before starting the run.
Jane’s Run – 4:55:07
As I started the run I immediately saw our friend Katie Tommila. Her husband Chris raced (and qualified for Kona!) and she is a badass athlete herself. She was super encouraging, ran next to me for a bit and reminded me to put ice in my hat and down my pants at every aid station. As she said that I remember thinking “I’m not doing that” because I worry about my feet getting wet and getting blisters. I have very sensitive skin and chafe and blister easily (hence the term “ironflower”) and I didn’t want to make anything worse.
The run course was beautiful. We passed by two different lakes along a combination of roads, paved and dirt trails with some rolling hills, some nice shady sections and a few very hot and exposed sections. It was a two loop course with a couple of out and back sections, so there were lots of opportunities to see other athletes and by the end of the first loop you knew exactly what to expect for the second loop.
The aid stations were approximately 1.2-1.3 miles apart. I knew this might feel a bit long for me so I opted to bring an insulated handheld bottle to carry with me on the run. I don’t usually like to carry something when I run (I prefer to wear a vest) but I was SO glad for this decision as I ended up filling it with ice water at every single aid station and it was gone by the time I got to the next one.
My original plan was to run to each aid station and walk for 30-45 seconds at each aid station while I took in fluids, etc. After the second aid station I felt like I was in trouble. It felt SO long between aid stations and I just had to walk. It was hot and my legs hurt and I started feeling pretty bad physically and emotionally. I was thinking that I had blown it on the bike, that I had gone too hard, etc. Shortly after this I saw Jaime on the run course. He was on his mountain bike and talked to me for a bit. He assured me that I had followed the plan, that the swim was excellent, the bike was very steady and that the day was going to be all about who was able to keep it together. He said that nobody would have any speed and encouraged me to just get to the next aid station. He most definitely was there at the right time with the right words of encouragement.
After that, at the next aid station I decided to start using ice. I could keep myself cool and not risk wet feet by putting ice down my sports bra and also putting it under my hat. I would do that at every aid station for the rest of the run and it made a huge difference! I also stopped looking at my watch. It would buzz at me every mile, but after the first 3 miles I didn’t look. I didn’t want to know. I knew I was doing what I could and that was all I could ask of myself and didn’t want to risk feeling upset or discouraged by my pace. Since we were in Canada everything was in km (3.8 km swim, 180 km bike, 42 km run) and that was actually super helpful because I didn’t have the mental capacity to convert km to miles so I really didn’t know how far I had gone or how long I had left. I kept it to smaller more manageable sections and didn’t think about the bigger picture.
Along the paved bike/run trails several friends and family had written messages of support and encouragement to their loved ones with chalk. Kind of like you see in the Tour de France. It was really fun to see the encouraging words as you ran along, and our coach and his family had written our names on a little hill (that didn’t feel little at all at the time!) so it was really fun to see that.
It was hot. Really hot. Not much wind to speak of. There were a lot of people suffering on the run course. Big, strong looking guys walking. I probably saw 10 people puking on the side of the trail and 2 or 3 lying down. Jaime saw several people on golf carts being taken to the medical tent, throwing up off the side. I heard lots of people talking about how much fun they had on the first 2 loops of the bike. I think the hard bike course and the excessive heat really took it out of a lot of people.
My overall energy, fatigue and pain ebbed and flowed. Sometimes I felt pretty terrible and sometimes I felt “okay”. The second turn around was on a path that paralleled the highway and it was beautiful because it was along Green Lake, but it was so hot and exposed. I went to the bathroom at a porta potty out on that segment and it felt like a sauna in there! I immediately could feel the sweat just pouring from my body.
I saw Todd out on the course a few times. Between seeing him and hearing from Jaime I knew that he was walking and would have a bit longer of a day but I also knew he was in good spirits so I was happy about that. Every time I saw him I told him I loved him and he told me that I looked great and how proud he was of me. I’m not sure that I really looked all that great but I do know for sure that he was proud and happy that I was moving faster than he was!
Overall I stuck with my nutrition plan pretty well. I ended up taking in a little extra food, a lot of extra sodium and a ton of extra water for the heat. One product that I discovered while working Heidi is The Right Stuff. It is basically a concentrated electrolyte/sodium shot. It turned out to be a great way for me to get a large amount of sodium in without filling my gut with salt pills. I ended up consuming 1 pouch on the run plus the 1 from T2 and supplemented with some additional salt pills due to the excessive heat. I am now a huge fan of this product!
When things were really hard I would pray for others to keep my attention off of any pain and discomfort. I also took in my surroundings and appreciated the beauty of Whistler and the mountains, lakes and valleys.
At the end of the first lap coming back into the village the crowds started to pick up. That always helps a lot with overall energy and motivation. I saw our whole support crew and it was so encouraging to hear them cheering me on.
I started to feel better on the second lap. The temperature was starting to come down a bit and I knew what to expect of the course and where the aid stations would be located. I reminded myself that this is where I excel. The longer I go, the better I get. I knew my time wouldn’t be what I was hoping for or expected, but I wanted to know that I gave it all I had. I actually passed quite a few people in the last 4-5 miles of the run. People that had been running and looking strong earlier in the day but simply had nothing left. I wanted to make sure I had nothing left at the finish. I started to pick it up toward the end and really pushed it the last 2km. There is a pretty challenging hill in the last kilometer and as I was running up it a spectator called out to me “is that a smile or a grimace?” and I replied “BOTH!”. A friend sent me this photo after so you can see for yourself:
As I got closer to the finish line I welled up with pride. I had done it. I don’t really remember what the announcer said but I remember coming down the finishing chute, holding my arms up in the sky and crying. It was simply amazing.
Another volunteer “catcher” was there to help me get to my support and she escorted me to the back of the chute where the crew was waiting. My coach Jaime, Stephanie and Jeff and Allison and Chris. It was so great to see them all and give them big hugs. Then my next question was “where is Todd”?
Todd’s Run – 6:08:53
I told myself to go ahead and walk through transition to loosen up my legs after the bike, but even after I crossed over the timing mat to start the run, I realized “uh oh, I’m going need to walk a little while longer because I just can’t run yet!”. The good news is I knew that I had lots and lots of time so that even if I had to walk the entire way I could make the 17 hour cut off. I was hopeful that after some walking and maybe taking in some water and nutrition I could start at least some running. That turned out to be true and as I went along over the first 5-6 miles I was able to do a little more running and a little less walking so my mile splits were getting a little faster each time. That only lasted about 6 miles, but at least I knew that I had some running in me and would just need to manage my energy, my fluid intake and my electrolytes to get out what I could.
Even once I started running my legs hurt a whole lot, but in general I was mentally in good spirits and kept my sense of humor so I could thank the volunteers and joke around with spectators. I even photobombed some volunteers who were taking a selfie! I was really happy to see Jane coming back from one of the out and back sections and while I could tell that she was suffering a bit that she was doing so to give it her all and that she was going to have a great race. I did not bring my own handheld water bottle like Jane did, and while I drank a couple of cups of water from each aid station, I don’t think it was enough to make up for starting the run dehydrated and the high temps on the day. One clue that I was dehydrated was that I didn’t have a lot of sweat running down my face when I normally sweat a whole lot, especially when running.
Jane likes to say that I’m cute when I get a little dopey when I’m tired so I think I got extra cute by about half way through the run. At special needs I picked up my spare fuel and electrolytes, but even though my legs were screaming in pain I forgot to take the Tylenol that I had in my bag for just this purpose. I realized it about ¼ mile after I had gone past, but there was nothing I could do at that point but forge on.
I had a rougher patch for a little while after that point where I was doing more walking than running. The good news is that I could continue to listen to my body and was able to figure out when it was ready to try some running again. This helped me to look for some new little goals to help with momentum such as running to a certain point and aiming to finish before a certain time of the day.
After I got beyond 15 or 16 miles I knew that since walking hurt almost as much as running I would be able to just keep on pushing. At that point I was able to mostly limit my walking to aid stations, some of the steeper hills, or when my legs would cramp a little extra. Fortunately they never locked up entirely like I saw with some other people, so some walking with long strides tended to loosen me up enough to run again after a minute or two. When I had less than a mile to finish I remembered a term that we use to help us finish strong in races – I can do anything for 10 minutes! It still wasn’t fast but I gave myself a final hard push to the finish so I knew I gave it everything I had.
The look of pain as I was coming through the finish chute was proof that I did my best. I was very happy to have done it and I was also very happy to have it over with. It was great to have Jane and all of my friends greeting me after the finish line.
Jane’s Summary – 12:45:37 (14th out of 61 AG)
I never thought I wouldn’t finish. I never tried to add up my time or figure out where or when I might finish. I took things one sport at a time and within that sport one segment at a time. I had some vague time goals in mind going in, but as soon as the run started I knew it would be about giving it my absolute best. I wanted to finish the race knowing that I had given it everything, had no regrets, and left it all out on the course and I absolutely did that. This was such an amazing experience – the race day itself and all of the training leading up to the race. My body is definitely in recovery mode now, but I’m already starting to think about what’s next and looking forward to future chapters and what this body is capable of! Huge shout out to our coach Jaime Dispenza of Laughing Dog Tri. We have been working with Jaime for several years now and the way he works with us and tailors our workouts to our individual needs is incredible. He is also a lot of fun and helps us keep the important things in mind. We couldn’t have done this without him and having him out on the run course was incredible!
Todd’s Summary – 14:24:40 (69th out of 130 AG)
I also knew that finishing would happen. Brief thoughts of quitting had popped up at certain points when I was tired and the course took me close to the finish area, but those thoughts never stuck and I continued to forge on. I still looked at the time just to help me reset my goals so I could keep pushing even if my time was slower than if everything had gone perfectly. The challenge was even tougher than I had expected but that just enhances my satisfaction for having completed it.
FYI – ice cream is an excellent recovery fuel. I’m sure we read it online somewhere…
If you look closely, you can just make out the image of the cow behind us…