Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ironman Canada

The gorgeous city of Penticton plays host to one of the best Ironman events in the world, and I was excited to not only compete in a race I've always wanted to be part of, but also to see my new acquaintance Bryan Rhodes try for some redemption after pulling out of Coeur D' Alene with a calf injury.

While we're talking about things we find exciting, I was also excited to drive a 34 foot RV (courtesy sponsor Markham Homes) to Penticton from Spokane.

Excited! Excited! Excited!

Filling aforementioned RV with gasoline. Not excited!

Getting to poop while the transport vehicle is still moving. Excited!

Wife trying to breastfeed while vehicle is still moving. Still trying to interpret!

I approached Canada with an entirely different philosophy that previous Ironmen. I just wanted to have fun. Since I've already qualified for the Big Momma down in Hawaii, I wasn't too concerned about staring at people's calves for their age. Mostly, I just wanted to enjoy the day.

And I say "Mostly" because...DUDE! IT'S AN FREAKING IRONMAN. You can't just clip your heels together, give a little whistle, and skip merrily along. You have to take these races pretty seriously.

The race started at 7am, and I woke a bit late (5am) and didn't eat my sweet potatoes until almost quarter to 6. Typically, I eat two hours prior, but was just lollygagging. As it was, I also came out onto the beach very late, and didn't warm-up at all. But I was very calm and relaxed as I waded to the front of the pack prior to the start. Even after the cannon, I didn't experience the usual racing heartbeat and fleeting breath. Aside from an couple elbows to the face, I found my rhythm early, and just sat on the feet of a pack of 4 swimmers until buoy 12, which I think is about 70% in.

At that point, I felt some extra steam and pulled away from this group, swimming solo for the remainder of the swim, which turned out to be 56 minutes and change.

Despite only a one and a half week taper (another way to make sure I didn't lose fitness for Hawaii), I felt very strong, stronger than usual. My dinner the night before was a glass of merlot, lettuce/yogurt wraps, and Souvlakia, a traditional Greek meal of lamb, rice, and potato. Perhaps that did the trick.

Or perhaps it was just the fact that I was relaxed...

Or was those fins I was wearing...or the snorkel...or the giant submarine attached to me with a rope that quietly and effectively pulled me along. Gotta love those submarines.

Transition was smooth, and I mounted my trusty steed and headed down main street in Penticton. About two blocks down, I freaked out and realized I was riding a horse and galloped back to transition to get my Specialized Transition Pro. Trusty steeds can't get carrots at the aid station, so they're useless after a couple hours.

The bike felt very nice, until about mile 75, when my hamstring started to feel slightly achy, especially around the knee and IT band. I didn't think much of it. Prior to this point, I was amazed at how good I felt. Richter Pass, a difficult climb, simply flew by, and I kept wanting more gears on my bike! At this point, I had ridden up to 4th place (age grouper). I had *absolutely* no plan for this race, so I was just riding hard and loving life.

My fuel was a bit different than usual. Although I *love* my new Avia race kit, I realized the day prior to the race that is has no pockets. So my fueling plan, which worked very well, went as follows:

-One Powerbar taped to the side of my bike frame. Not a huge fan of Powerbars, but I followed a Peter Reid trick and ate it as I ride out of transition. This keeps me from going too fast or getting my heart rate too high. You ever try to exercise hard and simultaneously eat a Powerbar?

-One GU every 20 minutes. These are alternated between GU Plain and GU Roctane (branched chain amino acids and caffeine). The GU is kept in a sawed-off water bottle on my downtube, and in a ziplock bag in special needs.

-One half bottle of water at each 10 mile spaced aid station (for the equivalent of just over 24oz/hr if traveling over 20mph)

-2 Hammer Gel E-caps every 30 minutes

-One handful (approximately 75 calories) of Sharkees (kinda like Clif Bloks) whenever I reach a special mark, like top of Richter Pass, turnaround at Keremoes, top of Twin Lakes. These were literally stuffed up my shorts!

And that was it. I sailed up Twin Lakes, again barely feeling any burn, and cruised at a breakneck speed back into town, pulling into Penticton and dismounting with a bike split of 4:55 and feeling fantastic.

However, my hamstring still felt funny. Really funny, and not ha-ha funny. As soon as my feet hit solid ground, the pain radiated down into my lateral knee, and I couldn't run, much less hobble to my special needs bag. Hell, I couldn't freaking *breathe* without it hurting a little bit. Cleats and pedals are vastly different than running shoes and ground, apparently.

After stretching for 5 minutes, I tried to run. No dice.

Hit the massage tent for another 10 minutes. Tried to run. Not happening.

Iced, saw the doc, and wrapped it. Tried to run again. Nope.

So an hour later, after 3 attempts, I decided it wasn't worth it, and enjoyed the rest of Ironman Canada with wine, pizza, and tasty banana frozen yogurt from the Beach Store!

Final thoughts:

-Great swim/bike confidence booster for Hawaii, and ultimately DNF'ing was probably good for my body, my life, and the rest of my season, which still includes US National Olympic Distance Age Group Championships on September 20th.

-Realized I could take in close to 375 calories on the bike and still feel great. Better than usual, actually. My body must be getting better at absorbing calories during exercise as the season progresses.

-48 hours out, my knee is nearly pain-free. Dr. PZ Pearce suggest possible cortisone injection when I return from Poland (where I'm currently headed), but we'll see. The injury was probably just too much time on the bike, too soon after my races. In other words, I need to stay off my feet a bit more after these shorter races I've been throwing down. It appears to be inflammation of the lateral hamstring.

-On that same note, I swam 3000m yesterday and felt faster than ever (hey, I said stay off your feet, not your shoulders!).

-I'll be giving updates from Poland via my twitter page at Twitter is not porn, you pervert. But it does sound a little dirty.

Cheers, or as they say in Poland, Qzwxdyjnvcfxkllh!

Ben Greenfield

P.S. Vowels are a rare commodity in old Poland, or as they call it here, Plnd.

P.P.S. Bryan won the race! Nice work, Rhodesy! Check out my interview with him in the podcast section of
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