Race Report: Whistler Ironman 70.3 Canada
So here I was again, about to embark on yet another Ironman. This was my second time!
The weather was looking good – perhaps a little hotter than I would like but not too hot. I finished my first Ironman in 2015, also in Whistler . We had this freakishly cold day in the middle of a very hot Summer (7°C at the start of the bike).
It was a tough bike but I did have a great run in 16 to 17°C temperature.
I felt well-trained, and not over-trained, for the race. My biking had improved quite a bit, and my swimming had improved a little too. I wasn’t injured during training and I had a good taper, so there was no reason I couldn’t have a good race on the right day. I have been sensible with reasonably regular physio and RMT to sort out any doubts.
I really believe it’s important not to wait until you are injured before seeing a specialist.
The swim went really well for me! I am a relatively poor swimmer in the sport of Triathlon, but I had spent some time earlier in the year to focus on my swimming. I was hoping for a slightly improved swim time.
I had a really good swim and managed to do some great drafting for most of the second leg. I have no doubt it helped my overall time as well, meaning I wasn’t tired coming out of the swim. The swim had been nice and calm until the last 300 metres or so. It became really choppy which was a bit of a surprise. But, I was heading to the finish, so it was okay. I was delighted to get out of the water in 1h29m – more than five minutes quicker than last time.
I didn’t have the best transition – I really do have to work on this (I have said this before but I really need to follow through on this now). Rookie mistakes of not having wetsuit half off as soon I was coming out of the water, leaving my wetsuit with the volunteer who had helped pull it off – she had to run after me! I did take a bathroom break here too though as figured it was better than having to stop on my bike. But I was soon on my bike and off onto the ride.
I love the Whistler bike ride! Yes, it is tough but the scenery is just incredible. It’s nice to have such a varied terrain to ride. I knew some of my tri-club would be cheering at Creekside, so it was great to see them there!
The Callaghan Climb was good – it’s not too steep and I made sure not to go so hard as it’s very early on in the race. I’d been practising my downhills so did my best to go as fast as I could whilst still feeling safe. There was a cross wind so it was a little scary in parts but all good. Back onto the main road to Whistler saw us joining back in with the half iron and a lot of bikes on the road. Always great to pass back through the village and see all of the spectators out of course before heading down the Pemberton.
At Pemberton – just over half way you pick up your special needs bag where you can put anything you think you might need along the way. I’d only put extra bottles of fuel and some potato chips. Last time I’d had sweet potatoes. Some people have a burger, sandwiches, a friend even had an espresso one time (that was the cold year!) Then off on the out and back flat farmlands.
This is a great place to see your team mates who are ahead as you see them on their way back and if you know your competitors you can figure out roughly how far ahead they are too. I didn’t find there was too much headwind on the way back as there can be sometimes. I was about to find out I would feel it shortly on the way back from Pemberton. So I had a good steady section here – about 90 minutes of totally flat riding, averaging 31 kilometres an hour.
The last 30k or so is mainly uphill from Pemberton to Whistler (well at least until you see Green Lake) It was a little more challenging this time due to the headwinds but I found it tough but okay. I was a little concerned I had not needed to pee on the bike and looking back I should have had more to drink but at the time I thought I was drinking enough. I never felt too hot on the bike, it might have been due to the wind – it was a fairly warm day.
My bike goal was 6.15 and I made it in at 6.24 so I was happy with that! Saw my friends at T2 who had come up to cheer me on and off into the change tent to get ready for the run. I heard someone call my name from behind as I was getting off my bike, it was my training buddy Ivan who had just finished his bike too so great to see him. I changed my shorts, top and socks – really doesn’t take long and so nice to run in fresh clothes so worth the little bit of time.
Then it was off to the run. Now I will start by saying, the run is normally my strongest event. Of course, I was hoping to have a good marathon. I felt totally fine coming off the bike. Yes, the last part was a little hard, but it’s known to be the toughest part of the course. I figured it was just that and the headwinds. I set off running and I know it takes a little while to get going.
But a couple of kilometres in, I knew I wasn’t feeling how I should be. I thought maybe it’s just taking me a while to get going but by four or five kilometres (can’t even remember) I thought to myself, “I can’t do this. I don’t need to do this. Why am I doing this? I should just stop now.”
I replied to myself, “Because you can’t. Friends have made the effort to support you, you’ve been training for months, it’s not what you do,” (I’ve never DNF’d a race.)
“You are not just letting yourself down but lots of other people too. However tough this might be, you have to finish this race and you can walk if you need to you but you have to keep going!”
So keep going I did. I was constantly drinking from my hand held water bottle which I filled up many times. I took my gels every 25 minutes and kept on going.
I would run for a while, then walk, initially trying to run for a timed amount and then getting to the point of running for as long as I could and then walking. But I tried to keep my walk breaks to a maximum of one minute. I would stop at almost every aid station – the volunteers, as always, were amazing.
I took the ice for under my hat, down my top and kept filling my bottle as it was very hot by now. I passed my friends and said, “I’m having a tough one!” to which their reply was “We know!” as they cheered me on! The joys of technology and being able to check running splits. I heard one of my tri-club coaches should ‘station to station’ so I knew he too knew I was struggling (and this was very early on in the run!)
When you want to quit with practically a whole marathon to go, you know it’s not good but on a positive note that was the only time I thought about it. Once I’d kept going and hit 10 kilometres, then 20 kilometres, I knew I was finishing – it was just a matter of how long it was going to take.
I knew where my friends and tri-club mates would be, so that helped. “Okay, just try and run for at least long enough to go past them!” You know they’ll be cheering hard for you.
Kim from my Tri-Club had made signs for some of the club members as mine was, “Way to go, Polly Pocket!” (That’s her nickname for me). This made me smile and I am grateful for things like this as well as all of the amazing volunteers and everyone out there cheering for you. It all really helps in an event like this, especially if you are having a tough time.
My neighbour Jason was doing his first full Ironman and I saw him ahead at about the 30 kilometres mark – easy to spot as he has a great shirt with a British flag on the right shoulder. We spend the next several kilometres passing each other as we both ran/walked, egging each other on which was nice as we were both struggling. The last few kilometres the walk breaks were getting longer but I told myself the more I ran the quicker I’d be finished so that helped. Once I was almost at the village with less than two kilometres to go I finally managed to keep running.
I was delighted to know that I was nearly done and that I had made it. The last kilometre is through the village so it was nice to be able to run this section. My run time was 4hrs39 mins (almost an hour slower than my run 2 years ago which was 3hr48mins) and a completely different experience.
The finish line chute was actually fun, though! Those delightful words “Janette Purdham, you are an Ironman!” were a pleasure to hear.
Looking back, I am sure I was dehydrated and under-fuelled – all controllable things so disappointing that I had not managed this better. Bigger breakfast for sure, way more water, more fuel and maybe I just don’t perform as well in the heat. But it was a great lesson how much you can push yourself when you don’t want to. I told myself it’s an Ironman, it’s meant to be tough. I had said to a friend at the end of the race “well that was character building and it certainly was!
My goals for this race were to finish sub-12 (nowhere near with a time of 12hrs45mins) and to finish Top-5 in my age group. During the run, I had thought, ‘Well, no Top-5 finish for you!’, so I was delighted when I was told after the race I had finished fourth in my age group. To be honest that made my day, after being so disappointed in my run performance! But it is such an amazing and challenging event it was worth any pain and struggle I went through to be able to finish and enjoy it for the most part.
Oh, and I did actually finish six minutes faster than two years ago too!
I had said before the race that I wasn’t doing another one and thought during it there is no way I am going this again. But, surprise, surprise: I am now thinking – maybe just one more. Well, I’ve not achieved that sub 12hr goal yet and I am certain it’s achievable on the right day.
Thanks so much to Kintec who have continued to support me over several years now – I truly appreciate this.
To my amazing physio, David Terlicher, my wonderful RMT, Dave Watt, my Tri-club coaches Andrew Tuovinen and Paul Cross and all of my tri-club training buddies. Last but not least to my friends, supporters out on the course and the incredible volunteers.
Kintec Race Team
Want to learn more about an upcoming race in your area? Read race reports from fellow runners and learn more about the course!