This was not only a fun race to do with the cycling leg on the closed Gardiner Expressway, but it was the first one I have done with both my daughters Tara and Kerri in the same race. And I ran across the finish line with both of them together. Absolutely thrilling and gratifying for and old Papa.
I arrived in Whistler exactly one week prior to IM Canada, to acclimatize myself with the elevation and with the course, as I had never had the opportunity to train on this course. I had never actually been out to British Columbia in the summer, so was just excited to experience a whole new adventure. This was the first race I was doing without any TCoB members, and especially without Deb and Helene there with me, my training partners for the past 2 years. I felt excited, anxious, uneasy, energetic, sad, positive…..just a whirlwind of emotions as I settled into my residence for the week.
I spent the week working each day from 5am to 2pm (BC Time which was 8am to 5pm Ontario time) and then would go out for little work outs after my day of work. I biked the Callaghan hills to understand the climb ( ran into two bears) , I ran the run course, to get a feel for that, and I swam twice in Alta lake to get use to the current and the water temperature ( again another bear sighting).
It was now Saturday, I had my race package, I had checked in my bike, and I had dropped off my transition bags (without any nutrition as there was fear that bears would get into our bags if they could smell any food). I made sure that all of Team Eric had arrived and were situated in their hotels and airbnb locations, and was listening to Zach brown band, and just getting my head ready for the day that was ahead of me.
My alarm was set for 4am, however my eyes were wide open at 335am and I was ready to go, I packed all my nutrition, double checked my bags, then triple checked my bags. Gave my legs one last shave, and headed out to the T2 to drop off my nutrition, my running shoes and my Bike and run special needs bags (peanut butter sandwiches, peaches, gum and extra socks). I then loaded onto the school bus with 35 other competitors and made our way to swim start and T1 to check on our bikes, pump the tires, add my nutrition and get ready for the day!
The swim start was based on time waves, and was a two loop swim, which meant there would be feet and bodies in front, behind and around me at all times. Very different than the other two IM’s I had done in the past, however the day was beautiful the water temp was perfect and on every other breath you would look to see the sun rising over the mountains. It was breath taking, and almost made me forget I was in a competition. As I turned the corner to start my second lap of the lake, I felt relaxed, calm and very in control, I just enjoyed every minute of the swim and eventually excited the water feeling really pumped and confident! I got ready for the bike, had some sunscreen applied and was off, to spend the majority of the day sitting on my bike.
The bike was the hardest bike course I have ever ridden, there was the 15 km bike up the Callaghan which was tough but fair and led to a great 15 km descent where I saved my legs, and really just bombed it. Now, I made my way back to whistler and then started the 30 km descent into Pemberton, the roads were freshly paved, the volunteers and fans were everywhere and the mountains set the perfect back drop to now settle into the bike. Once we arrived in Pemberton, there is a 40 K or so out and back that is flat and all around you are mountains with snowcapped glaciers, it was stunning, the winds were in our face on the way out and with our back coming back from the meadows. I felt great at this point, nutrition was on point, was in a happy place in my mind and was just enjoying the whole experience, but let me tell you that all changed when the 30Km hill back to whistler approached, literally zero breaks and relief just climb, climb, climb, but as Robin Barker always says “we love to climb”. I put myself in my easiest gear, starred at the front of my wheel and just peddled for what seemed like an eternity, but was really just 1hr and 22 minutes of straight climbing.
As I got off my bike, my legs were jello, I was soaked in sweat, but I felt accomplished, as the bike had been my biggest worry. I went into the tent, ate my peanut butter sandwich, enjoyed some Gatorade and re applied sunscreen, there was now just 42.2km between me and my 3rd Ironman.
The run started off well, I felt strong in my legs and in my mind, but I slowly started to slip into a dark place, with the heat, the wet socks from the sweating and just fatigue. I started to think about my TCoB team mates, and not wanting to quit for them, I started to think about my friends who had flown out to BC to cheer me on and I started to think about my sister who has battled a very difficult year, that I was not going to quit and I just pushed on. It was at about the 17km mark that I snapped out of the funk, found my rhythm and actually felt like a runner again. And run I did, I just started picking up speed with ever 5Km split, not great speed, but speed, and with the speed came confidence. Team Eric had also started to appear all over the course, and with that constant spurt of energy and excitement I ran as hard as I could all the way around the course one more time, and down the final stretch with such determination and energy, that I think people were caught off guard.
It was my slowest IM yet, however, the one that has left me feeling the most confident and excited about my next one (In Tremblant on August 21st of this year). So my bike has been put back together, all my laundry is done and I am back to training as hard as I can for a few weeks, before I go and compete again. In a sport that takes so much from you at some points, it is also so refreshing to feel how much it gives back to you in other points.
Thank you to all of my TCoB team mates, and I look forward to seeing you at practice…………Stay Strong and roll on!
On Becoming a “Certain Age”
Nothing is more disconcerting to an athlete than the sudden realization that we’ve reached a “Certain Age”. And it’s not gradual. One day it’s all about going faster and faster, the continual quest for personal bests. And then it’s not. It’s OMG! OMG! I‘ve become one of them.
For years we ignored it and frankly, it just didn’t interest us. When older friends of a Certain Age talked about it, we were like “Whatever…”
And we never like to admit we’ve reached a Certain Age. Certainly not to our fellow athletes. But once we’re there, we know it. Oh do we know it!
But we still like to think we can hang with everyone. And for a while we can. We just pay a bigger price. Recovery is now spelled “r-e-c-o-v-e-r-r-r-y”. We research all the science behind rest and how muscles recover. But why does it have to take so long? We know all the benefits. But it still pisses us off!
Apparently “muscle memory” is just like regular memory. We have to “jog it”. So we don’t fret when the first open water swim of the season feels like the first open water swim ever! We just go about our business and eventually it all kicks back in.
Sometimes a nerve just stops firing. Just stops. For no good reason. Other than it wants to retire and drink pina coladas by the pool. And the muscle it used to talk to? It stops working too. And we wonder why we have a certain pain. Once our team of therapists figures out the problem, we do exercises to get the scumbags back to work. And they fight us…every. step. of. the. way.
Gradually we readjust our goals. Before, we sort of tolerated injury and we healed fast enough. Now it’s a process in and of itself… with it’s own set of goals and ambitions. Getting to the start line relatively injury free is more satisfying than ever.
But even after we’ve reached that Certain Age, on occasion, we get to do a couple of things we’ve always liked to do. And they give us real joy, more so in their rarity. So when we’ve been good, and we’re feeling young and frisky, and all the conditions are right, the stars and planets are all aligned, for a few precious minutes….we get to run really fast!! As for the other thing… pretty much “ditto”.
And after a Certain Age, we develop new heroes. Like the 83 year old who was doing laps beside me when I was re-learning how to swim and going anaerobic in less than one lap. And wanting to quit. But she kicked my ego’s ass.
Or my mother’s friend who, in her eighties, still took to the streets on her rollerblades. And all the others who, even after that Certain Age, are still kicking and rocking it, pushing boundaries, refusing to go gently, and just doing it.
We remind ourselves “it’s all good”. Because it really is!!
As Many of you know from my last Blog, I just competed a 6 stage(day) cycling race in Sardegna Italy. I have had many of you send me notes of encouragement and as well asking how the race went. I can honestly say, it was the most physically and mentally demanding race I have ever, ever done. Most races last a portion of a day and although Marathons or Triathlons are difficult, it is a different event to race every single day for an average of 3-6 hours full out and typically climbing mountains. Having said that, it was an amazing week and one I will cherish forever as I am sure my friends from Milton will attest. I struggled with how to report on the race as there were so many amazing moments that was tough to fit into one blog. I hope you enjoy the format I have chosen:
1. Saddle Sores Are Real!
I had heard about saddle sores before but never experienced them firsthand. Mine were so sore that I couldnt even sit on my seat my last few days of racing without exrutiating pain but I had to finish. Mine were infected and I am still nursing them 4 days after the race(thank goodness for polysporin!). As you can see from the picture below, Barb went out and bought me some of her “home remedies” for Saddle Sores!
2. The Importance of Family and Friends
When I signed up for the race, I had asked Barb to join me during the race week. Initially she wasn’t going to come as she knew I was going to be busy racing, recovering etc. I managed to convince her to join me and I must say, it was great to have her there for moral support of me and our team. She was there every day to see us cross the finish line and also provided great support of me during the week(including nursing my injuries!). In addition, I had notes of encouragement all week long from our children – Tim, Matt and Lauren which was amazing. I also had notes from many friends and many of you offering your support which I truly appreciated.
3. Nothing beats being prepared.
I trained for this race as much as possible based on my schedule. And although I felt that I was in shape, there were tons of amazing racers that were definitely at another level(Pros). I raced for a total of over 18 hours and although it was gruelling, I had good energy levels each day as I had put in the necessary training.
4. Cycling Pals – Work Hard/Play Hard
I was invited to this event by John Norris and attended with some other members of
the Milton Cycling Club who took me in as one of their own. They were an amazing group of people and provided amazing motivation and fun during the week. The best part was although they all treated the race very seriously, we had a blast the rest of the time and had more fun than anything. A huge shout out to John,Jane,Ron, Pat, Karl and his twin John who came in from Ottawa. Also to our new found friends – Dennis(has completed 9 Tour Sardegna races), Paul, Dominic, Paul and Christine – all great people that we truly enjoyed!.
5. It is as much Mental as it is Physical
Although the race was extremely physically demanding each day, it was even more important to have the Mental focus to stay with it. Many days were very long and taxing, and each day I found I needed to re focus mentally prior to the race in order to maximize my racing. Even while racing it was easy to “ease off “however it was important to stay focused on giving every stage and every mile maximum effort. I can honestly say that I didn’t leave anything out there on any given day.
6. Now I truly understand what a Peloton is:
Although I had seen the Peloton on various races on TV, I had never experienced riding in one before. When racing at speeds over 40 +km hour and less than 1′′ from the cyclists in front and around you, it takes mental focus to stay out of danger. The Peloton provided amazing benefits in terms of reducing wind resistance however on the other hand was mentally taxing as you needed to be on your game 100% of the time. The best was one day I raced with the Peloton the entire race(120km) as it was relatively flat and the end was amazing. The momentum continued to build toward the end of the race and the final km was a full out sprint to the finish. Was amazing and my Adrenaline was going full blast!
7. Cycling Racing is Dangerous
Most of the time you are riding within inches of fellow riders while moving very fast. Add to this riding in large groups(Peloton), crazy speed and racing up and down mountains is a recipe for danger. Every day there were numerous riders being taken off the course by ambulance. My thoughts and prayers went out to these riders daily.
8. Cycling is a “brotherhood”.
Most of the other cyclists did not speak a word of English. Even with this barrier, it was amazing how close I felt to other cyclists in the race. There were many moments during the week where I found myself racing, climbing or descending with the same people. Although we couldn’t communicate through language, we did through expression, laughter, pats on the back as we rode past each other. It was amazing to feel the connection to riders from around the world.
9. Sustaining Energy Over The 6 Days.
I found the most important component was to maintain a steady level of energy over the course of the 6 days. I had met with Naturopath Dr. Callum Cowan(http://phenomhpm.com) prior to my race and he provided me with advice and supplements for pre race preparation as well as during the event itself. Following each day of racing I would eat massive amounts of food and try to replenish my glycogen stores that had been depleted(particularly from the Grand Fondo which was 172 km long and almost 6 hours of racing). The Pre and Post recovery powders that Dr.Callum recommended I feel were instrumental in me maintaining my energy levels throughout the week. Besides my Saddle Sores(couldn’t sit) and my aggravated Archillies, I had the same energy level on Day 6 that I did on Day 1.
10. HRV Readings Don’t Matter When Racing
I must say that I have never had my HRV readings so low as when I raced last week. It is an obvious sign of the crazy stress I was putting my body through each day and was reflective of my Sympathetic Nervous System. Most days it was either “Yellow” Or “Red” readings which therefore meant I should have been doing zero excretes those days. Even with those readings, I believe that is where the “Mental” component came through and took over to ensure I still went maximum. In fact one of my very fastest days of racing was on a day when my HRV was the lowest score I had ever logged
– Red 42(which means don’t do any excercsie!
11. The Importance of Enjoying Every Moment Of the Experience(I know I said 10 however I needed to include this one)
I must say that I truly enjoyed every moment of the race. The views were amazing, the sound of the birds that surrounded us, the sunlight, the ocean views – was all amazing. I felt truly connected to the beautiful world around me during this event. Our son Tim reminded me during the event to “Enjoy the Journey” which was a great reminder to me.
I also had my phone with me and played Music(typically Cold Play) on a few of those lonely climbs. Other cyclists loved it(I think) as when I went by them they would comment “Musica”! All of this was in an effort to maximize the enjoyment of the experience.
Yours In Good Health from Sardegna, Kev
TT101 Triathlon Training for beginners
What: a coached 10 week program by TCoB NCCP triathlon coaches.
When: Program runs April 18-June 24th. – Target race :Welland June 25/26.
To sign up click HERE
Participating in Tcob is something I dont think i could do without. It offers a hugely supportive environment creating a team atmosphere for what most people would think is an individual sport. The feeling of community at any TCOB event is so strong I think of the group as my other family... My super fit family! I am not just a better athlete for being a member but a better version of me.