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Home » Endurance » Triathlons » Ironman » Canada 2009 » The Run

Ironman Canada — The Run

I began placing one foot in front of the other, traveling the spectator lined streets of Penticton. I did not feel great during the opening mile kilometer or two, but not horrible either (and definitely better than my first Ironman). It usually takes a couple miles kilometers my running legs to emerge after a long bike anyway. That never happened though, and within short order my optimistic running goals (7 min/mile — I had 1:25 run splits at all my HIMs) quickly became a fleeting dream. I adapted to the realities at hand and curtailed my goals to eight minute miles, which would still produce a very respectable run split. Unfortunately, my sunglasses were still overly rosy-tinted at that point, not yet realizing how dangerously close to the edge I was.

When the Going Gets Tough

Before I blew up on the run

Before I blew up on the run

Besides my legs not cooperating, my stomach was not agreeable either. Voluminous blue Gatorade (I had been expecting Endurance Formula at the aid stations) consumed on the bike now sloshed ungratefully around my stomach. I could only stand water or ice at the run aid stations due to those GI issues, but that limited foot would not be enough to survive. I forced myself to sip Gatorade and take other items, with minimal success.

Between the GI issues and hardening legs, the run became very tough, very early. I struggled through though, knowing I may not be going fast, but at least it was still movement. Spotting elites and very fast age groupers walking the aid stations on their return loop was all the encouragement for me to do likewise on my way out. For the next several buffets I resumed running at their conclusion, but soon resorted to a long, slow walk the entire way along Skaha Lake.

With my stomach and legs not working as desired, I could barely muster any effort, just a stumble along the side of the road at an excruciating slow pace. Even among those walking, my pace was pathetic. Other walkers still passed me steadily, and I made ground on no one. My appearance looked as wretched as I felt because quite a few spectators and even other competitors asked if I would be alright, to which I always mumbled a truthiness “yes.”

In the past when my stomach had been very disagreeable during a race, expelling its contents usually went a long way to getting things back on course. Bulimia was not a habit, but I eventually left copious quantities of Gatorade along side the road. Unfortunately, this unpleasant act did nothing to improve my condition.

In addition to the aforementioned problems, I developed a headache as my march continued. My sunglasses and visor came off, surmising the removal of their slight pressure might alleviate the migraine, but to no avail. With everything going wrong and barely any energy, I conceded to even taking short sit breaks on the road barriers, desperately trying to bring my body under control. Nothing helped though as the afternoon dragged on and my race continued falling apart.

OK Falls

Somehow though, I finally reached the turn around in Okanagan Falls in a time that should have been my entire marathon split. I dreaded the way back, knowing how much distance and time remained in my broken state. Mental math calculated that ample time remained on the clock before midnight, but the hours left on the road back to Penticton did not sound fun.

Although I knew my run split would be amongst the slowest of all the competitors, would be no where near my personal goals, and many hours of pain lay ahead, dropping out was never an option — mainly due to my own stubbornness. I had not spent the past year training, traveled all the way from Iowa, and already put in ten hours of racing to quit.

I’d Rather Hurt Than Feel Nothing At All

I spent some time I will not describe in the porta potties at the turn around before climbing the hill out of Okanagan Falls. Although on my course preview a couple days prior I labeled the climb “difficult, but not too bad,” I now struggled even barely to walk up it. Short strides and a couple breaks were required to reach the top. As exhausted as I had been at the turnaround, things looked even worse by the hill’s crest.

Still before I bonked

Still before I bonked

I felt bad enough on my return trip to sit down and lay back on a retaining barrier to try to regain my senses. I stayed there catatonic at least five minutes, trying to keep my head from spinning, before an Ironman support vehicle stopped to check for a pulse. Although he was not a medic, other people’s horror stories of their chips being taken because of “health issues,” when the racer thought otherwise, made me leery of this intruder. Despite my miserable performance and pain, under no circumstance would this guy even have the possibility of stealing my chip.

This stimuli opened an otherwise unknown energy reserve, allowing me to sit up and politely mention I was still racing and for him to stay the hell away from my ankle. I resumed walking again soon afterwards, eager to flee from that evil force that wanted to steal my precious. Overall though, this guy stopping and unintentionally prodding me forward helped. Finding my own motivation to leave that bed would have been exceedingly difficult and taken a long time — who knows how long I would have otherwise stayed marooned on the side of the road.

The March Never Ends

Somewhere along the road back, I removed my heart rate monitor because of its slight constriction and its lack of useful data, even for postmortem analysis. Adding even a tiny bit of extra misery to later see my heart beat only marginally above its resting rate was unnecessary.

I reached the steep downhill on the way back around mile seventeen, and an attempt to run down it, which more resembled a waddle, left me spent at the bottom. I continued my slow, painful walk to Penticton, with all manner of competitors continually passing me. The miles kilometers ticked by at a dreadfully slow pace, and just the sheer amount of time already on the road, combined with all that still lie ahead, continually nagged at me.

At the aid stations each mile, I consumed anything available. From food, to water, to Gatorade, I needed any help possible. My stomach had been reigned in pretty well by this point, with the hours spent walking giving time for my system to process what it did not like. I tried refreshing the void with something that might help, or at least reduce my misery.

Change of Fortune

After several more miles kilometers of walking, my condition started to improve, regaining some composure and strength. I put in a walking “surge” and for the first time since about mile four, maintained pace with a competitor. This uptick, on top of more or less becoming bored from such a long walk, encouraged me to attempt running again. To my surprise and delight, at mile twenty I could once again keep both feet off the ground for short periods of time. A two hour break in the middle of the marathon and sucking down endless calories was an effective (although time consuming) method for my legs to recover and GI issues go away.

At the time I commenced jogging, Jerry from Calgary happened to be next to me, and we agreed to help each other back to Penticton. Running with someone else was a nice change. Most of my training is done alone and in very few races does my effort level permit meaningful conversation. At my degenerate pace though, we had ample time and ability to talk, which supported ourselves and distracted us from the pain at hand.

The marvelous crowds at the faraway finish

The marvelous crowds at the faraway finish

Surprisingly, I felt relatively decent in the latter stages, being able to keep my legs moving without excruciating exhaustion. Of course my pace was horribly slow by my own standards, but at least I was surviving. Even just a couple miles kilometers prior, I could not have imaged my race turning around so dramatically.

The miles kilometers ticked off much quicker than before, and I was grateful for the reduced time on my feet, as compared to walking the balance of the marathon. I probably could have even increased my pace slightly closing in on Penticton, or skipped walking aid stations at the end, but by this hour the couple minutes potentially saved would not have mattered. I did not want to lose my support companion or ditch him either. Besides, at a harder effort, I could have just fallen off the wagon again.

In these final miles kilometers, I actually passed people as well, which was very uplifting, especially after so many walkers surpassed me earlier. Even in the back of the field, overtaking racers was a boost.

Ever since the turn around in Okanagan Falls, spectators had been clamoring “almost there,” which all the athletes knew to be false, but still took the encouragement good heartedly. As we entered town though, these statements almost became true. Large crowds packed downtown, loudly encouraging the participants to the finish. The last out and back along Lake Shore Drive was excruciatingly long. After teasingly passing within 100m of the finish, participants had to run almost the entire way to the SS Sicamous, where the light and noise of the finish were completely absent. Only there, could we turn around for the final stretch home.

I eventually arrived back at the bright lights and crossed the mats in 13:21:13, about three hours over my predicted time, earning 1422nd place. My run split was 6:26, a whopping 14:44 mile, well over twice as along as my standalone marathon PR.


Finally crossing the line 3 hours late

Finally crossing the line 3 hours late

In the finish chute I felt relatively good. That ten mile walk break during the marathon really helped my post race demeanor. The catchers escorted me for a while anyway, towards food and a massage. I consumed large quantities of the delicious pizza and other sustenance, eager to fill my stomach. Still, other “real” food at the end besides just pizza would have been appreciated.

After recovering slightly and stowing my gear in my car, I perched on the course just past mile twenty-five, encouraging those still competing, remaining there until the sweep vehicle passed. After that I hopped over to the finish line to join the party. Sister Madonna set her age group world record; the final official finish was more or less dragged across the line just before midnight; and the last unofficial finisher crossed just a couple minutes into Monday morning. This elderly lady, who had been walking hunched over for miles kilometers due to excessive cramping, deserved all our support, regardless of what the clock read. With the party over, I drove back to Okanagan Lake Campground for some much needed sleep.


Why did I suck so much on the run, with the marathon talking longer than the entire bike? I am honestly not sure.

Did I push the bike too hard?
Maybe. I was definitely weaker climbing to Yellow Lake than Richter, but not so much to have completely died within four miles of running. Although remembering specifics is difficult, I felt better off the bike here than at Wisconsin, but my run was still over an hour slower.
Took in two PowerBars, flask of hammer gel, lots of water and Gatorade, and some salt tablets, so I kept the tank relatively full. I had expected and trained with Gatorade Endurance, rather than the regular Gatorade the aid stations served. The less sweet former concoction would have sat better in my stomach, but I cannot blame my pathetic run entirely on that.
The heat?
Probably not. I had prepared for the possibility of extreme weather by wearing my dorky winter baseball hat and long sleeves most of the summer. Besides, the day was hazy and never excruciatingly hot on the pavement.
I did tons of training, using the more is better philosophy. I could have employed a more scientific regime, but even my haphazard training should have built my strength and endurance better than my performance indicated.

Maybe my body is just not designed for such long distances. I compete relatively well at Half Ironman’s, even substituting a hard workout the day before instead of a taper, but is the step up too much?

Or maybe Ironman is just freaking hard. This race was only my second attempt at the distance, and I need to gain more experience and expand my education before mastering the event. After all, I violated the first rule of being a good athlete — have good parents. Not insulting my own, since they are better than I deserve and did a great job raising me, but by their own admission, they were not a good source of genes for going fast over long distances.


Ironman Canada 2009 Splits
Finish140.6 mi.13:21:13
Swim2.4 mi1:06:231:34/100 yd.
T1 3:00
Bike112 mi5:44:0419.5 m.p.h.
T2 1:49
Run26.2 mi.6:26:0014:44 min/mile


Place vs. Event

Place vs. Event


Detailed Splits
Swim2.4 mi1:06:231:34/100 yd.2.4 mi2.4 mi1:06:23
T1 3:00N/A 1:09:23
Bike10 mi28:4020.9 mph10 mi12.4 mi1:38:03
10 mi26:1422.9 mph20 mi22.4 mi2:04:17
10 mi26:4922.4 mph30 mi32.4 mi2:31:06
10 mi27:2521.9 mph40 mi42.4 mi2:58:31
10 mi38:1515.7 mph50 mi52.4 mi3:36:46Richter Pass Climb
10 mi31:3819.0 mph60 mi62.4 mi4:08:24
10 mi31:3918.9 mph70 mi72.4 mi4:40:03
10 mi31:2319.1 mph80 mi82.4 mi5:11:26
10 mi31:4218.9 mph90 mi92.4 mi5:43:08
10 mi36:4816.3 mph100 mi102.4 mi6:19:56Yellow Lake Climb
12 mi33:2321.6 mph112 mi114.4 mi6:53:19
T2 1:49N/A 6:55:08
Run1 mi7:101 mi115.4 mi7:02:18
1 mi7:222 mi116.4 mi7:09:40
1 mi7:383 mi117.4 mi7:17:18
1 mi7:414 mi118.4 mi7:24:59
1 mi7:485 mi119.4 mi7:32:47
1 mi8:496 mi120.4 mi7:41:36
1 mi8:397 mi121.4 mi7:50:15
1 mi10:098 mi122.4 mi8:00:24Began walking aid stations
1 mi10:279 mi123.4 mi8:10:51
1 mi13:0410 mi124.4 mi8:23:55Began walking everything
1 mi17:2111 mi125.4 mi8:41:16
1 mi27:3012 mi126.4 mi9:08:46
1 mi26:0713 mi127.4 mi9:34:53
1 mi33:0514 mi128.4 mi10:07:58Porta potty badness
1 mi29:2115 mi129.4 mi10:37:19
1 mi24:5116 mi130.4 mi11:02:10
1 mi19:5917 mi131.4 mi11:22:09
1 mi21:0918 mi132.4 mi11:43:18
1 mi17:0019 mi133.4 mi12:00:18
1 mi11:1420 mi134.4 mi12:11:32Started jogging again
1 mi11:1921 mi135.4 mi12:22:51
1 mi11:2322 mi136.4 mi12:34:14
1 mi10:2123 mi137.4 mi12:44:35
1 mi10:5924 mi138.4 mi12:55:34
1 mi10:4325 mi139.4 mi13:06:17
1.2 mi14:5626.2 mi140.6 mi13:21:13Finish