Since so many of you sign up for Ironman Canada 2012 I am going to write a blog especially just for the racing part. I'll leave my reflection in another entry.
Going to Penticton
I decided to drive with my teammate Jame' and we left LA Monday (8/22) night around 11pm. We got to Seattle (8/23) around 7pm. We left for Penticton Wed (8/24) and got there around 9pm. Driving from LA to Seattle took around 20 hours (we stopped at Portland for a bit). From Seattle to Penticton took around 6 hours.
Thur (Packet Pick Up)
We picked up our packets and went shopping. This Ironman Expo is a little different than the other two that I been to. There is no Race Wheel rental, there is no other stores that you can buy anything else that you may need. It's either in the Ironman Store or you are out of luck. However there is a place called Peach City Runners & Adveture Sports that offer most of what you can't find at the Ironman Store. I found my sportshield powder there. I also find it kind of strange that there is no basket or bag for you to put your purchase at the Ironman Store. If you are planning to buy a lot of stuff, bring a bag and put you stuff in there so you don't have to hold all your stuff while waiting in line. No US cash or American Express. You'll find out that a lot of store does not accept American Express in Penticton.
The plan for Thu is to swim, bike, and drive the bike course. Because I needed to finish my work I did none of those. Jame' went for a bike and a run.
Fri (Drove the Course, Bike Check)
I got up early to work and I finally got everything done around 11:30am. I think Jame' went to swim in the morning. After lunch we took my Subaru and drove the course.
Now that I done the course, here is my breakdown from station to station
Bike Start to Station 1: Flat
Station 1 to Station 2: Station 1 is on a hill. After you climb this little hill it's downhill and flat to station 2.
Station 2 to Station 3: flat
Station 3 to Station 4: flat
Station 4 to Station 5: Start of Richter Pass. You go up, and down a little (use that to rest), and up again, and a few rollers. You don't want to go all out. Save your energy for the later part of the course. It's like Encinal Canyon. It's a good grade climb but nothing like Beach Hill and Nasty Grade from Wildflower. This 'pass' has nothing on the Ironteam.
Station 5 to Station 6: Long downhill and rollers.
Station 6 to Station 7: rollers and flat out near 3/4 of the way
Station 7 to Station 8: flat and a slide downhill to Station 8.
Station 8 to Station 9: slight uphill but flat. Use this to catch time
Station 9 to Station 10: rollers and uphill with break in between
Station 10 to Station 11: flat with a few small uphills
Station 11 to Finish: all down except 2 rollers but you can roller thru them.
Overall it's a very very nice course. It has lakes, vines...etc. It's like Vineman with lakes.
Weather is kind of hot but it is what it is. We just need to drink more water and keep our core temperature down.
Fri night we went to the athlete meeting. The food is horrible! I repeat, horrible. I did not want to eat it just by looking at it. (no protein). It's salad, potato with tomato sauce, bread, and pad thai with tofu in it. OMG, After 3 Ironman banquet I don't expect the food to be good anymore. But this one is the worst. Unlike Ironman CDA and Vineman (which actually give you a lot of great info about the coach), the athlete meeting has nothing to offer. Jame' and I went to the night street fair after the athlete meeting. The town of Penticton host a street fair on Fri night for the athletes and it's a little fun fair. There are food (Thanks god there are food!), live music, and stuff for kids. People decorated the main street with chalk and sign. I encourage you to go.
Sat (Gear Drop Day)
I met up with Anna and Tyler and went for a swim at 7:00 am. It's important for me to swim at the start time to get a sense of the lake condition. The water is nice and there is no wave. The lake is very clear and shallow. After the swim I walked pass the farmer market and got mysef some bread and cupcakes. I finished packing my 'Bike Gear', 'Run Gear' bags, cleaned/prepared my bike, and drop it off at the transition area. I pumped my tire Sat and just left it alone.
After I got back I prepare my morning clothes bag, run special need and bike special need.
Jame' and I went to this pizza place for dinner and sign our name on the 2011 board. Find us next year. I set my alarm at 3:30am and went to sleep.
Sun (Race Day)
Well I got up at aroud 4am because I was so tired from working. I got everything ready and left the place at around 5am. (Transition opens at 5am). Because this is a self support race I bought my small backpack. I put my wetsuit and all my liquid in the backpack so I don't have to carry them (and that I have a backpack to carry some of my stuff when I finish the race). The main athlete entrance is on Main and Westminster, which is long block away from the transition area. I am glad I hit it instead of walking an extra block.
I entered the area (which is all fence off), drop off by Bike/Race Special Need, then get body mark. Body Marking is only available at this area. Since this is my last Ironman (for a long long long time) I wanted to get a girl to mark me. But sometime life doesn't go the way you wanted and some random guy marked me. Saving time is more important than finding a cute girl that does the same thing.
I found my bike, put 4 bottles of liquid on it. Then I attached my GPS watch on my bike. I turned it on to make sure I have the GPS signal, then I turned it off. I found Helen from NCAL Ironteam and gave her my Panda Hoodie. I found Bad Ass Anna and Tyler. I found my 1st marathon teammate Patrick. I even found Wongstar's teammates but I didn't want to bother them as they are preparing for the race. I hung out with the NCAL Ironteam for a bit, took a picture with Pacman Jenny (story from last year Vineman's blog), and put on my wetsuit.
Swim (one loop)
I got to the swim start area at 6:40. I did a warm up swim and I felt fine. The water is very shallow and I position myself somewhere near the back. I am surprised to find a lot of people staying on dry land. Do I go back further? No, I am standing my ground. Before I know it the gun went off and I started swimming like everyone else.
Unlike the swim at Ironman CDA the water temperature is perfect for swimming, a little warm actually if you ask me. I kept at my own pace so I don't get winded. Soon I came to the first buoy and I noticed people were passing the buoy on both side. Since I only breath on my right side I swim left of the buoy so I have an easier time sighting (Yes, I did 5 Ironman and I only breath on my right side. There is no excuse for you. And yes, I don't know how to tread water. Although I do recommend you to learn how to breath both side and tread water).
I swam the 1612m with no problem. I will occasionally pull the wetsuit near my neck to let cold water to come in to my wetsuit to cool myself down. When I make it to the turn buoy the water is so shallow I can see a scuba diver under the water. As soon as I make that turn around I started to feel seasick! I guess now I am facing the wave in a different direction, but that alone should of be ok. Remember I told you the lake floor got shallow and you can see the bottom. I think it's the combination of the wave and lakefloor pattern (which is tilted and pointing away from the buoy) that made me sick. So now I am struggling. I try to swim 'straight' to the buoy but I kept on pulling left. I try to swim with my eye close for a while (so I don't see the lakefloor) and that didn't really help. The situation did not improve at the second turn around. I want to vomit! But then one of my friend saved me. Few months ago I went drinking one night and I wanted to vomit. My friend told me it's all mental... and I end up not vomiting. So I reminded myself of what she said and just kept swimming, that telling myself the thought of vomiting is just all mental. I never really got over the seasick but I didn't vomit. I was still passing people but I can't focus my form like I did at Ironman CDA (because I was swimming everywhere). I think Ogopogo just want to say hi to me at the swim so he accidentally created some wave. I either quit or keep swimming. I picked the later. I think the last 800 meters got easier but it's still a struggle. After what it seem like an eternity I got out of the water. As I hit the timing mat I saw Helen from the NCAL Ironteam and said hi to her.
As I am running to the changing tent the volunteer yell out my race number (501) to other volunteers and hand me my bike gear bag (It helps if you tell them your number so they don't have to look for it on your arm. Make sure you yell out the correct number thru). I continue my run to the changing tent (while holding to my gear bag). Once I am in the tent a volunteer come up to me and offer his assistant (you want to have one person dedicated to you... helping you with anything you need). I seat down and told him I am going to take my time. I told him I got seasick and he told me a lot of people got sick from the swim as well. Anyway, he took everything out from my bag and lay them out for me. I took my small towel and just kind of dry myself a little. I took off my TNT tri top and put on my heart rate monitor, I then put on my TNT cycling jersey, my sock, my shoe, my glove, my helmet, and my sunglasses, I put Hello Panda in my back pocket and I sprayed myself with sunscreen. At one point I told the volunteer I needed water and he ran off trying to find a bottle for me. Then another volunteer came up to me and said Go Team. I talked to him and found out he is from Hong Kong and that he is part of Team In Training in the Seattle chapter (there is no Ironteam in Seattle =( ), and that he is planning to register for his first Half Ironman somewhere in Canada. I told him that he can do the full and I want to see him do Ironman Canada next year...etc. Then he started asking me a few questions. Eventually I am done with my stuff so I answer his last question as I was running out of the tent. It's nice to talk to someone that's in Team In Training. Especially people from Hong Kong =)
Anyway, I ran out of the tent and started running toward to my rack (row 22). I can see my bike from far far away because there are just not that many bikes around. As I was making my way to row 22 a volunteer came up to me and try to help me find my bike. As we were running together I noticed there is a full-on tri bike on the rack, with a rear disk wheel and like a ZIPP 808 as the front. I bust out laughing and told the volunteer that if you have a bike like that you better swim faster than me. The volunteer maintain his cool and didn't said anything. But as I was unracking my bike I can heard that they are talking amount each other about my comment and started laughing. Yes Coach Paul, I am funnier in Canada.
Bike (one loop)
The downtown area is nice. It's all fenced off and a lot of people were cheering. I saw my friend Kate and she took a picture of me. After like 2 minutes I noticed the distance of my computer hasn't move so I stopped and play around with it. Another volunteer ran up to me and check on me. I told her I am fine and I was just adjusting my computer. I decided to just stop and restart my time again and move on. I kept on riding on the Main St and I saw what I thought was a Germany Flag so I yelled Go Germany but then I realized there is a big eagle on the flag so that's not Germany. After 2 mi into the bike, I am now on Main St approaching Galt Ave. The road is empty but I notice a car is driving near me. Next thing I know he cut me off, blocked my path and just stopped in front of me on Galt Ave. I yelled 'Watch OUT!' and managed to go around him (on the back). I didn't say anything but the people that were cheering were yelling at the driver (I think it's an older man with his wife who doesn't know where to go with all these road closure). F!#3 I almost got hit by a car and WOW... everyone saw it! As I was riding I told the spectators in front of me (who saw what happened) I almost ended my day early and they said they were glad that I am still alive. The traffic controllers at Green Ave made similar comments.
The next 10 mi is very flat. I know it was hot and I finished my first bottle within 35 minutes. My plan is to drink some water at the first aid station and pour some over me so I can ride faster. Learning from Ironman CDA I don't want to get overheat ever again. When I got to the first aid station they told me they ran out of the water! Are you kidding me? Of course I didn't get angry at the volunteer (you should never get upset at a volunteer) but I am frustrated. Now that means I need to ride 20 miles with no water to cool myself down. The volunteer offer to fill my empty water bottle with ice and she told me I can use it when it melt... I didn't think much about what she said and just let her put ice in this empty bottle. After a few minutes I realized that the ice bottle I have is just sitting there in the rear cage and not doing anything. An idea came. Why don't I put the bottle inside my jersey so I can cool myself down. I put it in the front and I didn't feel much improvement so I put it on my back and that helps. So for the next few miles I rode as if I am a Ninja carrying a sword (except I have a water bottle).
I kept up with my speed and just focus on getting to the second aid station. Since the course is flat I was going over 20 mph but I did not want to push it too much. Sometime during the ride I also decided that if they ran out of water in aid station 2 I am going to start buying my own water at the next 7-11 (Yes, I have my ID, money and credit card on me). They can DQ me all they want but I need water.
Luckily there are water at both 2nd and 3rd aid station so I can finally speed up without over heating. By the time I got to the 4th aid station I realized I can put ice in my jersey (the BIB belt hold the ice in place) and that's what I did. I also have the volunteer to put some ice in my nurtition to make them more drinkable. I try to put ice on my helmet but that didn't really work. Wow now I can really feel the different. I rode up to Richter Pass with no problem and I managed to pass a lot of people. After I passed the timing mat I caught up to one of the NCAL Ironteam girl and started talking to her. I also saw the NCAL Ironteam cheering on the side of the road. When I got to Aid Station number 5 I put ice on myself and in my drink. A volunteer asked me if I want sunscreen and I go sure. I don't know what's the deal with this sunscreen but it's foamy. I felt like putting shaving cream all over me! It felt weird!!!
From Aid Station 5 to 6 is just a super long descent and some roller. I kept my focus there and kept going.
From aid station 6 to 7 the road started to flat out and I made some good time. Caught up to Sister Madonna (wait I think she caught up to me). Stopped at aid station #7 and they just got resupplied with ice. Since the sport bottle are cooked they gave me capped water bottle.
From aid station 7 to aid station 8 (Special Need at mi 70) is supposedly an easy ride but I struggled. I saw Patrick and a few TNTers on the returning leg so that was nice. I saw a lady and a guy standing under a tree and they told me they are only resting. As I expected Special Need doesn't have water so I just replaced my drink and go. I also found out that they don't return special need bag!. Well so much about my extra CO2, tubes, sunscreen *cough* Kristi can I get another bottle *cough* along with other stuff.
On my way back I saw the same woman standing under the same tree. I gave her most of my water and tell her to make it to the special need. I stopped at the Medical Station to get some ice and get mist. Station 8 to Station 9 went by extremely fast. I noticed a super fast looking girl was on the other side of the road and I suspected she is a victim of heat exhaustion. Knowing I have Yellow Lake up ahead I loaded up with ice and water.
The most challenging section of the course (mentally) is from Station 9 to Station 10. The are flat with small hills leading to yellow lake. It just beat you up mentally and physically. It was also like the hottest time of the day with no shade. Kate told me it was actually the hottest day of the year. I didn't know it then but Jame' told me afterward that it was 105-106 on the pavement, and that she actually jumped into the yellow lake to cool herself down as Station 10 ran out of water. When I got to the aid station I resupply myself with water/ice and move on (they fixed the problem). By then I realized that if I don't go faster there is a chance that I may not make the cut off. Off I go. I was doing the last section in 20 something mph. This ride was actually a double edge sword. During one of my training ride before the race I rode up to Mulholland twice and I had a very bad cramp on the second loop so one of the goal of this race is to make sure I don't push too hard and keep my core temperature down. But because I took my sweet ass time stopping at every aid stations I took much longer on my ride. Anyway, I tend to be on the safe side and I am still learning to get out of my safety zone (during triathlon). However I will however never get out of my safety zone when I hike/backpack/trail running because you are miles away from help.
From aid station 11 on it's basically all down hill (except two rollers). Anyway when I hit 100.9mi my computer stopped working. The time still work but it does not tell me how far I travel. And this point I definitely don't want to stop and mess with my computer so I just kept on going. Before I know it I was back in town. Jame' saw me on her run and she told me to hurry the hell up. I think with 1 1/2 mi left my chain fell off (coming off to the right) and I was like are you kidding me. I managed to get it back in by shifting around (Yay!). I saw Kate in downtown and she managed to took a picture of me. Everyone was cheering me in because it was close to the cut off. I stopped before the mount line, dismount, took a bottle and my watch off my bike and off I go to T2.
You do the same thing as T1. They yelled out your number and your run gear will magically appear in front of you. I went in to the tent and I think only one or two more men came after me. As I was changing I notice there were two people that were laid down with their feet on the chair (Jame' later told me they were overheated and need to get blood back to their heart). I put on my TNT shirt, resupply myself and off to the run.
Run (one loop)
So now basically I am like the last one that started the marathon as everyone that I passed on the bike did not make the cut off =( On one hand I made the cut off (which should of happened like half an hour agin) but on the other hand I told myself f!@# now I need to run. I know I have 6 1/2 hours to finish the run and that's plenty of time. I decided to build a cushion at the first half so I can chill on the second half. I think this is actually kind of fun because I am on a mission to catch people. After a few minutes someone tap my shoulder and it was Tyler Olson. He is finishing his marathon and is on his way to becoming an Ironman. I said congrats to him and keep my 4-1 (Run 4 mins walk 1 mins). Just like almost every ironman I done, I went to pee at every aid station (still learning about water intake). I went by the flag I saw during the bikeand the people told me it is a Germany Flag =P. Before I know it I was running along side Skaha Lake. There are people cheering on the side, there is a boat here and there to cheer. I saw bad ass Anna Willis on the other side of the route and she gave me a big smile as she always does. By this time I feel very good so instead of doing my run/walk I run til I catch the next person, talk to them, and move on to the next person. I think most people are suffering from the heat so I have an easy time catching people. Even a lot of people on the returning trip are walking! I then saw Patrick and Jame'. Patrick looks strong and I know he will finish in a good time. He has been putting a lot of training in and it show. And from the way it looks Jame was an hour ahead of me so I know I will not be able to catch up. A while after I said Jenny the Miss Pacman and she looked very strong as well. At around mile 11.5 the sun started to go down so I took my headlamp out and put it on my Mountain Hardwear Cap (I always want a piece of hiking with me when I do triathlon so most of the time I wear this hiking cap). There are rollers near the turn around of the run. When I got to the turn around I notice the special need is placed before the timing mat (what the heck??) so I picked up my special need and ran across the timing mat. Knowing I won't get my special need back I just picked up a few things and move on. I decided to put a Big Katsu in there as the 'lift my spirit food'. It did the job. I now know that I have around 3:30 to make it back to the finish line. That's plenty of time. I keep on running and I started to catch some TNT people. I gave them my encouragement and keep going. The run is good. I never run this much doing an Ironman and I felt good. I felt like I can even go faster but I decided to just keep my pace and finish the race. After a few hour I am at the last 0.5 mile. Helen spotted me and ask me if I want my Panda hoodie. I told her to hold on to it until I finished the out and back. A few minutes she helped me with my hoodie and now I am running toward the finish line... as panda. I did not zip up the hoodie because I want people to know that I am part of Team In Training. I started my first marathon (LA Marathon 2008) with Team In Training and I am now ending my last Ironman (for a long time) with Team In Training. People were crazy about a dude crossing the finish line as a Panda. At 16:42:58, I finished my 5 Ironman. I completed what I set out for. 4 Ironman in 13 months.
I saw Jenny the Miss Pacman and she asked me if I saw her husband. I told her he is coming within a few minutes and her face turned wild. Then I saw Jame' and she gave me a hug. We hung out until the last finisher finished. We picked up our stuff and headed home.
After I got back to the apartment I decided to let Jame' shower first so I just laid on the floor because I didn't want to get the furniture dirty. She was a little concern because I was doing a semi fetal position. I told her I am ok. It's just that this position feel good lol. I am OK! I fell asleep, got back up and see if she finished the shower. OMG I discovered her in her room sleeping in fetal position LOL. I took a shower and went to sleep... on my bed.
Tip for bike
- pendal on the downhill!
- cool yourself down.
- Don't go out too fast
- If I were to do this again. Below will be my recommendation. Of course you listen to your coach for what you need to do.
Bike Start to Station 1: Flat.
Station 1 to Station 2: Flat.
Station 2 to Station 3: flat.
Station 3 to Station 4: flat
Station 4 to Station 5: Richter Pass. Don't kill yourself
Station 5 to Station 6: Stay focus. Maintain your speed
Station 6 to Station 7: Stay focus. Maintain your speed
Station 7 to Station 8: Stay focus. Maintain your speed
Station 8 to Station 9: Stay focus. Maintain your speed. Get ready for the next section.
Station 9 to Station 10: Most challenging section of the course. It's not steep and there are no big hill, but it drain on you. Stay focus and get to Yellow Lake.
Station 10 to Station 11: You are almost home free. Go fast.
Station 11 to Finish: Fast and Furious! give it all you got.
Reflection of the Race
I like the race. The water is clean and clear. More importantly, it's not cold.
The bike has great views and it's flat in many places. Richter Pass is overrated while the climb to Yellow Lake is more a mental challenge than the physical one. Don't burn yourself from start to station 4. Take your time on Ritchter Pass, Focus on getting thru the roller thru Station 7. Stay focus from Station 9 to Station 10. Then you are home free.
As for the run. It's very flat until you hit the last 1.5 or 2 mi before the turn around.
Spectators are very friendly and supportive. Out of the 3 Official Ironman races that I did I like this one the most.
Race director sent out an email explaining the water situation so this won't be an issue in the future.
I see that some of my friends are consider doing a Half Ironman. Consider doing Vineman or Ironman Canada. Like I always said, training for an full Ironman only takes 3 more months of training. And hey, if this Chubby Chinese guy that can barely swim can do it (5x... so it's not luck), you can do it too! For Ironman, you are the one that place your own limit. Organization such as Team In Training or Team Square One help you break your own barrier.
What I learned outside of racing.
This is be in my next blog