The big day
You really don't appreciate the magnitude of a 1/2 ironman until you've done one. I'd done a lot of training to get here so I was prepared for the challenge but being ready and actually doing something are entirely different things. I'd told myself that if I couldn't do it due to the sickness I'd been fighting, I'd still be the same guy. And I would have been... but the struggle to complete this event has changed me.
Three things really set this race apart from any other race I've ever done. The distance, how much I enjoyed it and the overwhelming amount of support from all my friends and family who came to cheer me on.
I've never been a fan of open water swims because I've never been a fan of getting bashed around by all the other swimmers who are also eager to get a good time. Today, I got the thrill of the open water and also the benefit of everyone spreading out far enough that I could relax and think about my stroke. Coming out of the water, I was greated by several friends who's only connection to the sport was me. I don't think I've ever experienced that before (and may not again) but it was great!
On the bike for 5 minutes and passing people already... nice! About 10 minutes into the ride, my leg started to cramp up, hard. I'd given myself so many outs leading up to the race that I considered pulling out but I've trained too hard for that and I had friends come all the way from Vancouver to cheer me on. No excuses. I put a pedal down, stretched my hams as best I could and kept moving. (I had to keep doing this for the rest of the ride!)
The first loop was tough. It was a very hilly course and I was feeling the lack of hill training but I started catching people on the flats and downhills. Ok, that's how I'm going to stay in this. Near the end of the second lap, a guy started to catch me on a hill and I wasn't going to make it easy for him. To my surprise, I beat him. I think I like this sport. The best part of the whole ride was all the friends who were cheering on the course. My buddy Jim and friend Lara (independently) kept popping up at different spots on the course to keep things fresh. Man, did that ever help! My mom, Lynn, Amaya and Vytes were also all stationed on the course, thanks guys!
I kept loading up on gels at the aid stations and would also replenish the water in my aero bottle. It was a real treat to have water available when you're getting sick of the constant taste of sugar in your mouth (from all the goo that keeps you going.) I didn't bother with my clif bars, preferring to stick with gels. That seemed to work fine, at least until I had a stubborn gel that wouldn't open and then covered my hands, jersey and aero bars. It's something trying to change gears when your arms are glued to your bars. Once again, I was happy for the water that I could spit on my bars to clean them off.
Geez, I might actually finish! Out of the chute, I saw Jim again and it wasn't long until Jarhead showed up to keep me company on the run. Sweet!
They say you should never do anything on a race that you haven't done in training but all the same, I had forgone my trusty running water bottle in the hopes that I could avoid the discomfort of having the strap dig into my stomach. That and it's still in my bad books for the loose water bottle incedent on the Oak Bay 1/2 marathon.
Whatever the case, I was just hoping there'd be enough aid stations to keep me moving. I only got water at the first station because I was so thirsty and tired of the sugary beverages. Jarhead reminded me that it's probably the sugary beverages that are keeping me moving. Good point. That and they're probably my best protection against hyponatraemia. I think my race plan called for me to stop at every second aid station but I needed all the help I could get and stopped at all them (for gatorade) and had a gel every 5k, which I figured was about every 30-40 minutes.
I finished the first lap and was thinking, "hey, this is actually quite manageable." Then things started to get really tough around the 14k marker. I took a couple ibuprofen and was getting a little dopey from exhaustion. Jarhead suggested I break it up in my mind and just think that I have 2 3k's to go. I was falling apart but somehow, I was enjoying how hard it was. Made it feel like I was really earning this.
I reached the 17, one down, one to go. About the time I thought I should find the 18k marker, I found the 19 instead! Yippee! I kept a steady pace but as I came into the main area (with masses of friends cheering for me) I kicked it up a few notches and gave it everything I had.
And I was done.
Special thanks to Jim for popping up absolutely everywhere on the race course, to Jarhead for keeping me moving on the run, to Adam, Pom-star and Kevy for coming over from Vancouver and to everyone else who came out to cheer me on. Your smiling faces and cheers gave me incredible amounts of energy.
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way