Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ironman Canada - The Aftermath

The day after the race, I felt pretty good. My mom and I went down to the merchandize tent and I asked her to spot me some money so I could buy my finisher gear. That $300 that Budget had taken from me was starting to come back to haunt me. The sad part is that we had the money in our other account but I didn't have that Debit card with me and I wasn't able to successfully transfer the money into the account whose card I did have via the equipment I had with me.

Finishers Gear

We got to the Expo at 6:45 am for a 7:00 am opening. And the line was already out of the Expo. Some people in the line who do this race a lot were complaining that they had let in more racers yet hadn't increased the infrastructure to match. They pointed out that there only as many cashiers as last year as an example. It took us until 7:45 to get into the tent. I ran over to the finishers jerseys and grabbed my size. But I couldn't find any finishers bike shorts. I asked someone working the tent and they said there weren't any! We were just supposed to use the non-finisher version. That had been selling all week so that there were only 8 pairs left and only in sizes L and XL. Grrrrr.

I went off to find a Finishers jacket. I found a nice one and it was only $99. They had many styles to choose from, too, so that was good. Then we got in line to pay for them and I saw this other jacket hanging by the cashier station. It was amazing and I had to have it. This jacket had already sold out so they were taking orders for it. The sample was my size so I put the other jacket back and ordered that one. Of course it was $100 more!

Then we went back to the hotel and my mom packed and I took her to the airport. Which was much easier to find in the daylight.

I was still feeling pretty good at this point. I saw friends limping around town like they'd lifted weights all day the day before but I wasn't feeling any muscle soreness. Yet. I also wasn't feeling as queasy as I felt after the last one. Oh and The Prez was fine! She needed to bags of IV fluid, but nothing permanently horrible was going to happen, so that's good. Of course, she was bummed not to finish. It turns out her problems started on the bike and the volunteers made her stay at the Yellow Lake aid station until she stopped feeling dizzy. They wanted to give her an IV there but she wanted to finish the race and kept going.

I need to say something about Penticton. This town really gets behind this race. It's not just the mayor and businesses being happy about it. It's the whole town. As I'm walking down the street with my finishers shirt on, random people are congratulating me on doing the race. Plus a ton of people from this little town do the race too. You just don't see that in many places that put on an Ironman. It gives you a good feeling.

Awards Banquet

However, at the awards banquet, with all that sitting, I did start to get stiff. So did everyone else. We were all moaning about it! Two of our club members podiumed so that was good. The gal who won my age group was 45 minutes faster than the next person in the age group. Mostly you need to break 11:30 to get a Kona slot in my age group. Generally the top finishers are in the 11:20-11:30 finishing time range. But she finished in 10:45! I am so glad to be getting out of this age group!

Going Home

The next day, a bunch of us went out for breakfast, and I decided to buy some souvenirs. This was the beginning of a comedy of errors. First, my car was rejected at the souvenir shop. At this point, I had totally forgotten about having to put gas in the car and pay to check my bags. So I just put some souvenirs back instead of all of them.

Then I had to pay for my gas with a combination of Canadian money and debit card. I get to the airport and the rental car company releases my $300. But, of course, it doesn't immediately end up back on the card. So now I'm screwed. I can't check in my bags. I was finally able to scrounge up $22 US to pay the fee for one bag. I figure I'll go to the gate with the rest and borrow another $20 from friends. But the gate keeper lets me gate check my bags! Thank goodness.

I spend my last Canadian dollar on a bottle of water and I figure I'm golden. Except I forgot about dinner. By the time we get to Seattle, I'm starving and broke. Some friends buy me dinner and I limp home. The $300 gets back on my card two days later! Good grief.

Evaluating the Race

Once home, I start looking over my stats and figuring out my times. While I was faster on everything compared to IMAZ and the IMC course is supposed to be harder, I wasn't that much faster. So I start to be bummed. But, as I think about it, I realize that you can't really compare.

The swim was slow for everyone -- the pros came out of the water at least 5 minutes slower than the fastest swim times. I think this was due to some chop on the way back in.

The bike course was not just harder in elevation, but it was hot. Also, I spent about 10-15 minutes stopping to get water when at IMAZ, I was able to ride through all the aid stations. On the other hand, IMAZ was windy. So in some ways, the course was easier here but in other ways it was harder.

For the run, I liked this run better. IMAZ seems easier on paper but you are constantly going up and down, up and down these steep little overpasses.

The other thing I have learned is that I can trust my body to tell me what it needs. I wasn't sure this would happen in the extreme heat. It definitely does when it's cooler. But I drank and ate to my body's thirst and hunger messages and I was fine. The only times I didn't feel fine were when I didn't trust my body and put too much in it. I will remember that for next time.

I also do fairly well in the heat. Now the heat slows me down. But not like it does some people. I'm okay as long as the sun isn't beating down on me with no shade or breeze. I also know how to cool off my body on the run better than I did before. This is all good news.

Finally, I think I have to start thinking of myself as a runner. I say this a lot, but I just don't think of myself that way. But here I am injured, not able to train like I wanted, and I my run finish time was hundreds of places better than my bike and run times overall. I finished 82nd in my age group overall, but 71st for the run compared to 83 for the swim and 85 for the bike. So, obviously, I'm a runner.

For next  year, I have decided that I will not sign up for an Ironman until I get a new job and figure out what my training will be like. I will probably do Vineman, but I don't have to decide until a month or two before and I can always do Barb's Race or one of the AquaBikes, if I can't train like I need to to do a full Ironman. I am also going to work on being faster on the bike. I still think that's my weak spot. And I'm plotting new ways to get even faster in transition. Why not? Maybe I can be first in my age group next time instead of only third (for total T1&T2 time)!

My stats

Overall Time: 16:37:46 (almost 15 min. faster than IMAZ)
Overall Place: 2559 out of 2598 finishers, 2832 starters
Gender Place: 778 out of 792
Age Group Place: 82 out of 84

Swim:
Overall Time: 1:44:48 (about 2 min slower than IMAZ with much nicer conditions. Grr.)
Overall Place: 2690
Gender Place: 810
AG Place: 83

T1:
Overall Time: 3:32 (3:15 faster than IMAZ)
Overall Place: 422
Gender Place: 120
AG Place: 5

Bike:
Overall Time: 8:21:43 (4:30 faster than IMAZ; would have been at least 14 faster if the aid stations had water)
Overall Place: 2697
Gender Place: 807
AG Place: 85

T2:
Overall Time: 3:39 (25 seconds faster than IMAZ)
Overall Place: 361
Gender Place: 76
AG Place: 4

Run:
Overall Time: 6:24:06 (8:33 faster than IMAZ)
Overall Place: 2296
Gender Place: 702
AG Place: 71

Email from the Race Organizers

A final note. About a week after the race, I get this email from the Race Director. He is apologizing for the lack of water on the bike course and the crappy finishers medal. (It was definitely not up to normal Ironman standards.) He is adamant that these mistakes were not due to him trying to cut corners. (Remember they messed up the HST tax for the race entries and lost a lot of money that way.) 

So I don't know what to think. I was sure some of the snafus were due to them trying to cut corners. But they say No. So what does that leave us with? Incompetence, basically. Or disorganization, which is just a specific type of incompetence.

Because it wasn't just the water -- which they blame on the fact that water to sports drink ratios changed when they switched to Ironman Perform from Gatorade. And it wasn't just the cheap medal. It was the lack of signs for several hundred racers. It was the long lines everywhere. It was running out of water at aid stations and then not telling people until they had thrown their water bottles away. It was not being prepared for the heat even though hot temps were being predicted for weeks beforehand. It was the tacks on McLean for four years and them not going out ahead of time to police the course and sweep up the tacks before the races get there. It was running out pizza at the finish line. It was not not having enough different kinds of food on the run course. It was running out of bananas on the bike course. It was ambulances taking 45 minutes to get to people who needed them.

It was all these things that made me think this organization isn't getting any of my money ever again. Though I will stop short of saying I'll never do this race again. Never is a long time. But I have no plans to do it again even though it's a great course and Penticton is a great town. It's going to take a while to forget the lack of organization and maybe even a change in who puts the race on.
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