Ironman Canada 2011
Part relief, part happy, part satisfied, part admiration for my competitors- part everything really after last weekend. After taking a year off from IM racing in 2010 for health reasons it was good to be back in Penticton racing. Ironman Canada is a special race for me, started my IM career there in 2000 and have raced 8 times in the last 11 years. As a Canadian I’ve always felt it’s the most important race outside of Kona but that might be just me. I’ve always prepared almost exclusively for that event and this year was no different.
I knew going in that it would go well, the build up was good and I was recovering and feeling normal for the first time in years. I executed well- honestly I’m not sure I could have done anything differently to have a better day. I ran myself from 14th to 5th on a very hot and windy day- toughest conditions i think I’ve ever raced in there. The head winds on the bike really exposed my biggest weakness and I lost a ton of time. But I stayed within the effort I knew I could do- something I tell everyone to do but is often tough when you are in the thick of it. I was counting on guys going too hard on the bike and coming back to me on the run- with the exception of 4 guys that’s basically what happened and I finished 5th.
I was reminded how tough Ironman is, it is a real test of human spirit. I was reminded how much I love being in that position, how much I love the challenge and the hurt locker- always believed that it’s a choice- you either shy away from the effort or stare it in the face- it’s fun to stare it in the face and punch it a few times- anyone who does this sport or anything that requires extreme human effort knows that there is a sense of calm, focused peace in those tough moments you just have to see it that way and chose to go deeper into it- we are the lucky ones to have such an experience.
I’d love to write that on a different day I would have won but the reality is Jordan showed that he’s a step up- solid all round with a massive weapon on the bike so my hats off to that performance and a remarkable comeback after near tragedy in 2010. Mary Beth Ellis on the womens side was nothing short of jaw dropping- 3rd ironman in 8 weeks, wins all 3 and basically competed with the men-bloody awesome. Male pride would tell me to not even mention it but my human admiration for such incredible athleticism has to tip my hat and applaud her effort- broke an age old course record by 2 minutes that nobody thought would ever go down and simply crushed the womens field.
As usual with Ironman there are some other really great stories and moments that come from it- stories that don’t always make the headlines but are incredibly inspiring and should be shared- here are a few from last weekend:
Mike Neill- has raced as a pro for almost 20 years, this is his last year and he wanted to finish in Kona- He placed 13th- his 3rd ironman in 12 weeks and secured the last guaranteed spot to the World Championships for pros- true grit!
Milos Kostic- Beat the 70-75 age group record by 1 hour and 54 minutes going 11:14 (he rode 5:33)….he’s in his 70’s!!!!
Scott Curry- Finished the race only to learn he had a torn soleus muscle that was bleeding internally so bad he ended up in hospital for 3 days post race and had to be operated on- tough as nails to get through that- crazy outcome
Sarah Gross- 9 months after having her first baby she is back racing and competing
Sister Madonna Buder always the most gracious presence and inspiring woman- didn’t make the bike cut off this time around but who cares, she’s 81 years old and still showing up- Bravo!
David Lee- First ever paraplegic wheelchair athlete to complete IM Canada- can you imagine doing that entire race with basically just your arms? The human spirit is truly remarkable!
The last picture sums up Ironman to me- we are all out there to do our best and as a pro the goal is ultimately to win but when you are in the thick of it sometimes it’s just nice to have some company for the sufferfest.