Transplant Athlete
Thursday, September 01, 2005
  Coach Jason's Ironman Canada Report

Thank you everyone for all the well wishes and luck you sent because I needed it out there on race day! Let me just start by saying thank you to my friends Amy Jo Clark and Colin Mcfayden for being wonderful hosts at their comfy ranch and vineyard in Penticton. It is a beautiful city and and area. I had no idea how many wineries, vineyards, apple orchards, and other fruit flourished the Okanangan Valley. The view on the bike and run was something I'll never forget. It is a beautiful, beautiful area. The town and Canadians are just so friendly. The residents of Penticton and those volunteers that traveled to assist with the race could not have done one more thing to make the athletes and their respective families feel at home. I can understand why people camp out in line the night before for next year's registration.

We fully expected rain on race day. Earlier in the week they were calling for 75% chance of rain on Ironman Sunday. You wouldn't have guessed it the days leading up to the race. Air temperature was in the low 80's all week with about ZERO humidity. I was absolutely glad to get out of the hundred degree heat index we've suffered in the DC area. As race day came closer the chance for rain diminished to 30% and come race day it was absolutely gorgeous outside.

2245 athletes toed the line at the crystal clear waters of Okanagan Lake. Water temperature, approximately a comfortable 69 degrees. The swim was an absolute melee. Canadians might be friendly on land but man was it brutal in the water. Everyone was knocking around into each other with arms and limbs flailing about you left and right. Even Hawaii, the World Championship, was not this brutal I thought. Most of the time, faster competitors will swim around you. That did not feel like the case at Canada where I had people constantly slapping my feet, legs, and arms. I was feeling good though and moving at a good pace. With two-thirds of the swim done, I was suddenly hit by an elbow or forearm on my left calf. My calf immediately seized up and cramped with the charlie horse. Damnit! I thought to myself. I swam with my head up for a few strokes and looked to see if I could pull off to the side a bit and try to get my muscle to relax. I started swimming at an angle to try and get to the side and suddenly people started running into me . Screw it, I said to myself and put my head down and just started to swim on with my leg still cramping. Little by little, it worked itself out as I flexed and pointed my toe as I swam. With all that chaos, I was still on target as I got out of the water in 1:08 by my count. I spent as little time as possible in transition as I mounted my bike for the 112 mile ride.

I immediately felt good on the bike and started hammering through the town. The streets of Penticton were littered with fans and families 2 to 3 people deep. It added to that initial surge of adrenaline following a transition. I saw my family and modestly large cheering section as I rode out of town. The first 1/4 of the ride was very fast. We had a little to no wind and I was constantly looking down to see speeds of 23-27 mph on the bike. I was reeling in a lot of people on the bike and feeling strong. The first major climb comes in the form of an 11 kilometer steady climb known as Richter Pass. The grade isn't overwhelming, it's the length. Fortunately, tons of fans lined the streets of Richter and cheered loudly as we rode by. For a moment, I get a glimpse of what it must feel like to ride in the Tour De France as fans stand close enough to touch. I manage to climb strong but feel a slight cramp coming on in my hamstrings. They subside though with a good dose of Endurolytes and a fast descent to recover the legs.

At about mile 50, my lower back starts to ache pretty bad from the swim and being tucked in on the bike for so long. I start to ask myself: "why the hell do I do this?" and "I should have done more swim/bike bricks." Then I look up to see signs of encouragement posted for all the athletes on the powerline posts, reading: "Dream big" and a funny one like "Ride Rasta, go Fasta." I also remember Ryan Bolton's advice to eat when you're feeling sorry for yourself during Ironman.

Despite the pain, I am moving at a good pace and averaging 21 mph over a series of flats, rollers and small climbs.

Then as if this race wasn't hard enough, I get overtaken on a short climb and the rider pulls in front of me. I keep my pace and look down for a second. I look up to see the rider and I on a collision course as he slows down his pace. We touch wheels and I go down on my left side. Then some knucklehead that was drafting me on the hill rams me from behind. It was a soft fall and I quickly get up off the ground, check my shifters and brakes really quick and immediately get going. My aerobars are now pointed inward much more than before. I can no longer wrap my hands around the aerobar extensions but I don't want to waste any more time getting off to adjust them. It doesn't bother me too much the rest of the ride. One more thing of note, I have never seen more flats than I have at Ironman Canada. I think I saw at least one person that had flatted at every mile of the bike. The road was rather smooth and the roads clean however, so go figure. The bike ride was so amazing and scenic. The 2nd place German pro joked later that he took a little more time on the bike than everyone else becausing he was enjoying the view.

The next challenge comes at Yellow Lake where the climb is shorter than Richter Pass but at 90 miles into the bike, brutal nonetheless. The comfort comes in knowing once at the top it is all downhill and flat back into Penticton and T3. Once again, the roads are line with fans and spectators. I see a big group of supporters cheering for one of their friends in red t-shirts. A bunch of guys are wearing grass skirts and coconut bikini tops rocking out to some AC/DC. I grin through the pain. At the top I tuck in for the long descent into town. I pass Amy Jo and Colin's Ranch in Kaleeden and see Colin with their renters, Tyler, Aleisha and my new favorite hound, Samson cheering. I give them a hoot as I fly by. We are flying down the mountain and I look at my speedometer hitting 40-43 mph on the way down. Back into town I see my family again cheering loudly. I have only one worry going into T3, I still have yet to go pee: (...more on that later. Bike time: 5:35, just under 21 mph even with my back brake rubbing, which I discovered later.

T3: I waste no time at all in transition and leave seeing the official time at 6:36? Holy crap I'm thinking! Is that right? All I have to do is run a 4:00 marathon and I'm at my goal time! In the end, that must have been the official time for the pros, who had a 15 min head start.

I feel solid at the start of the marathon. Legs a little rubbery but am moving at a good pace as I clock my first mile at 8:09. I am moving well as we head out of town and then I start to feel that headwind. Then nausea sets in. The food I ingested on the bike is not going down and sitting in the upper part of my stomach. Several times I stop because I feel I am about to puke. Approaching mile three, I finally feel I have to pee. I feel better but it burns the cut on my knee from the bike crash.

The headwind going south along Skaha Lake is brutal. It robs not only me but many of the other athletes of energy. I see a lot of athletes walking, throwing up, and simply not feeling well. My pace slowed down and my nausea was getting worse. I tried everything including skipping a few aid stations to get my food to digest. I see Chris Lieto in the lead at mile 5 for me and Simon Lessing in second place looking to be in bad shape. I make a few friends with some other athletes going my pace and share a smile through the pain. I see the female leader, Karen Holloway (from Richmond, VA) in the lead at about mile 9 for me. I recognize Lisa Bentley somewhere in the chase group. Then I see Desiree Ficker in 5th place somewhere along that stretch and cheer loudly for her. She doesn't look too good and fails to respond.

I hit the turn around at Okanagan Falls and am glad to have a tailwind behind me. Hold on...first, let me get over this big hill immediately after the turn-around. Finally, 13.1 miles left to go. I tell myself to start running through the aid stations and no more walking. Walking is like a cancerous disease during Ironman. At first you think you'll just walk a few seconds, then it turns to minutes, then you're walking whenever you feel like crap. You have to remind yourself that it's going to hurt. Everyone is hurting. You have to hurt if you want it bad. Despite my humbling half marathon, I pull myself up by the boot straps and lumber on. I see my friend, Cindy Carlisle, at about mile 15-16 and we both yell encouragement to each other.

I start moving with purpose and continue to make some friends along the course, cheering, and patting other athletes on the back as I pass them and make my way. Finally, the last hill. Written on chalk on the sidewalk is: "last hill! You call this a hill?!" I grin and tell myself to resist walking. Past the hill, I can see and hear the lights and sounds of town. The cheers are getting louder and the crowds thicken up once again. The last 4 miles feel long and I begin to wonder myself if Canadians know how to measure a mile accurately.

Finally, the last mile and I soak it in. I'm going to finish under 11.5 hours and I'll take it! I see my family at the finish chute and high five everyone on the right hand side, family or not. I hit the line, exhausted but happy to be an Ironman once again.

The Day After: What a fun day! We did two wine tasting tours, hit some fruit stands, saw some big horn sheep, and simply relished in the beauty of British Columbia.

My friend Amy Jo, even bought a wine that needs to age so I'd come back for another Ironman. 2007? Maybe: )

Talk to you all soon...it's miller time,


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I've gone through kidney failure twice. The first time in 2000, my mother donated a kidney; and again in 2008, I'm on dialysis waiting for a breakthrough in immuno-suppression medicines before seeking a new kidney.

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