Triathlon – and Ironman for that matter is, in my mind, an every-person’s sport. In Vancouver, Canada certainly – it’s not an anomaly. I acknowledge most people don’t consider Ironman to be an ice hockey equivalent in Canada, but triathlon really doesn’t have to be that big of a stretch for the middle-Canada types who grew up with Red Cross swim lessons, a mountain bike from Canadian tire, and a few years of cross-country/track experience in high school. Or even much less.
It really is the greatest thing about a seemingly inaccessible adventure.
While I hope to not be as long-winded as my Ironblogger father, I do hope there’s a few of you out there who can identify with the ‘commonality’ of our multi-sport experiences (or dreams) – and might find this blog useful. What you will most certainly get from my dad is the research; he’s relentless in the pursuit of the best. Not necessarily in the monetary sense – but certainly in the information; and although his opinion might be biased to his experience, you likely won’t find anything better researched outside of a paid-venture.
I – am not that a-typical.
I work full’er’-time; and earn a Vancouver-relative modest income. Triathlon can be VERY expensive.. but it can also be done on-the-cheap… and I’m going to try to figure out how to do that over the next year (with a new condo on the horizon.. I need to prioritize).
My triathlon history goes something like this:
- With 2 older brothers, my family-life demanded that I be ‘sporty’. From a triathlon-future perspective, my one big advantage was the swimming; I was never competitive… but I lifeguarded for a number of years and therefore never feared water
- My dad, naturally, inspired me towards triathlon while I was in University – a backhanded way to encourage me to stay in shape, but as it turns out, not such a bad motive
- My first race was at my university – a ‘short’ distance (less than a sprint) – inclusive of a pool swim. It was a great introduction to the dynamics of a triathlon; what’s involved in a transition, and how it feels to do 3 sports back-to-back
- For approximately (this is where my dad and I differ) 4 years I have dabbled in sprint and Olympic-distance races… with 6 races probably being my peak season – all on my own.. no coach.. no club… just ‘getting out there’ (on a hybrid/mountain bike). Mostly back-of-the-pack results – with one 3rd place finish in the Athena division at the Toronto triathlon (out of 4).
In 2008 at Christmas, my dad (having just completed his 2nd Ironman and with another backhanded comment) suggested I should consider racing with him the following season. Since I was laying on the wine pretty heavy at that point, I agreed without hesitation – and here the real story starts.
I had (less than) a year to become an Ironman.
I had some racing experience under my belt, but nowhere near the level of training that I thought was involved in even hoping I could last all day in an Ironman distance.
I – like most women – had some pounds to lose, and some motivation to gain before I even began.
Not to mention I was working in a job that was closer to 60 hours a week than it was 40, and our project deadline (the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games) was a mere 90 days after I would cross that finish line.
I did it because – if at 26 years old, I could not find the time or the energy to put towards achieving a healthy lifestyle, it would forever be an uphill battle. We all know how important our jobs are to our livelihoods; but as a financial advisor once reminded me – your ability to work is your most valuable asset (who soon after sold me disability and critial health insurance). But the point definitely hit home none-the-less.
At the time a personal coach was my best option given my work schedule. I had started off early season (IM Florida is in November) training with a club – which was, and continues to be, a great social option. It also taught me some great fundamentals of training; particularly in the swim where I find it very helpful to have a critical eye. Plus it got me tuned into a real training schedule, which I hadn’t quite abided by in previous seasons.
By June of 2009, I had hired a coach online – who happened to also live in Vancouver which was a big bonus – she (D’arcey Musselman) helped me navigate the struggles of my work schedule, and really helped me fit it all in. But the REAL benefit D’arcey brought me was the accountability. My dad is pretty self-driven at the worst of times; I on the other hand really need a good kick in the butt. Knowing D’arcey was on the other end of my Training Peaks was all the motivation I had to wake up with my alarm clock for a 5:30am swim before work.
I’m still deciding how I want to venture this year; socializing is starting to weigh out heavier than performance in my world… so this is yet to be determined.
2009. Well my race season was really light. I started off with a sprint early in the season, then did my first 1/2 ironman in Vancouver (finished around 6.5 hours – which really seems quite reasonable… but that put me at the back of the pack in this gloriously fit-city).
I was ampd to race IM Florida. I had no idea really what to expect. I was more concerned with the vacation time from work, and how to ship my bike down (Tri Bike Transport turned out to be GOLDEN)….then I was with the finish time.
In a nutshell:
I barely made it in before cut-off. At 16:35:37 you’re not leaving a lot of room to spare.
Apart from under 17 hours, my one other goal was to beat my dad in the swim (which theoretically shouldn’t be a problem.. but you never know). That I did. I didn’t see my dad on the bike until an hour in – where he pulled up behind me and said “you look somewhat like my daughter” – at which point I was relieved I had at least beat him out of the water, but knew he’d smoke me from now on.
Bike – not awful. It was a first Ironman kinda bike. I didn’t rush, I used the porta-potties, and stopped to eat bananas. It was flat – but tough – and it was definitely longer than I thought… but no big crashes; literally or nutritionally. A ‘cooler’ day – I’m guessing this is where the dehydration started; I definitely didn’t take in enough on the bike to prepare me for (my first) marathon.
The marathon was pretty damn awful. The first 1/2 was as planned – 10 min run/1 min walk – plus or minus. It started to get dark, I had to pass the finish line to go out for my 2nd loop, and I started to tank. I luckily wan’t cramping, but my energy levels were near nothing, my stomach couldn’t keep anything down and my mind was ‘going’. I had seen my dad on course a couple of times already (going the other way); and he and his Garmin had my time well tuned – he had almost predicted to the minute what time I would finish barring major disaster.
Ironman can be a lonely sport. Not like hockey, or baseball, or even swimming like I had grown up with. Pitch black St. Andrew’s park in the midst of an Ironman marathon is nothing I want to remember.
But the best part – despite the lonliness – is the commraderie. You really get to know others, and most importantly yourself, in those moments. A friend of mine reminded me before I left for Ironman to ‘dig deep’ – and that became my mantra. Under no other circumstances would I have put my body through that – but knowing my journey to date, and the friends and family figuratively and literally waiting for me at the finish line – I knew I couldn’t give up.
I guess that thought transends Ironman in many cases.
So I made it. Less than 25 minutes to spare, having walked a 1/2 marathon (which took me near 7.5 hours), losing I’m guessing at least 10 pounds in the process (did I mention nothing stayed down?). I made it. I got the t-shirt, and the medal, and the pride.
But I’m back – again for another year. Dad is slowing down (towards my advantage) with a bad knee and age working against him. My goal is to complete without the agony of my first ‘marathon’ – and hopefully without the $1400 re-hydrating hospital visit .
I have the bike, and the gear, and at least one Ironman under my belt – so I might as well use it all!
Hope to see you ‘out there’ – swim, bike, run, triathlon, ironman, healthier you – whatever it may be.