Panorama Classic, June 5th 2005, starting out on the run
photo Greg Fox
For example, I remember that when I signed up, my stated goal at the introductory meeting was to not walk during the run component of the race. I was just thinking of making it through. I was confident about the bike segment—thirty kilometres, which I was going to complete on my mountain bike. I had swum the race distance of 500 metres—continuously!—one time, just to see if I could, and I was pretty sure that it had taken me at least twenty minutes, but at least I could do it. However, that eight kilometer run at the end loomed large as I hadn't ever done any significant amount of running.
But soon after I started running and swimming regularly it became apparent that completing the distances, at least on their own, wasn't that big a concern. In fact, those of us following the beginner run program found ourselves on schedule to be able to run 10 kilometres by the time of the Times-Colonist 10K race, so we signed up, and I ran my first race in the midst of 11 000 other people. Wow. Two kilometer swim workouts went by. I promoted myself to the middle swim lane and wasn't always the slowest. Amazing things happen when you do something consistently.
I succumbed to the lure of the road bike and boy was it worth it.
Having had a taste of racing both in the Y clinic's practice triathlon and the 10K, my run partner from the tri clinic who I'd been running with from the start (and who towed me along in the 10K race to a much faster time than I would have run on my own) registered for the Sooke Spring Sprint, and after coming out to check out the bike course, I decided I wanted to do it. The race was fun, although the run felt like almost all hill (as I re-read that it looked like “all hell”, which is true as well). I found my goal for the next race: to catch the 65+er who passed me just before the finish after trading leads through the bike and the run. I also learned that you need to bring really warm clothes and extra footwear for before and after the race, and that thin cotton socks stick to your feet when they're wet!
Finally, the day of the Panorama Classic arrived, and once again we got up at 5 in the morning. All went well: my socks went on straight this time, it didn't rain—much, no flat tires were had, no drafting penalties were incurred. In fact, although my swim time was pretty lacklustre—I know I can do better—I surpassed my best training times on the bike and run, although my legs felt about as bad as they ever have on the bike to run transition (I can't understand why I appear to be smiling in the photo above), for a total time that was better than I had dared hope for: I finished just under 2 hours, which was faster than I had considered possible during training.
About ten minutes after I finally convince myself to get out I'm running into the wind, sucking in big but comfortable lungfuls of fresh air. It occurs to me, running along in the half dark, that this is what I'd hoped running would eventually feel like. I was afraid it would always feel just as hard as it did in the beginning, just at a faster pace. After all, the fitter you get, the faster you go. And yet, something seems to be happening. Not just the increased power and speed providing a better payoff for my effort, but satisfaction in being able to put out more effort.
It was already dusk when I started so I can't see my watch to see how hard I'm running except when I'm directly underneath a street light. The run along Ross bay is dark, deserted, and really windy. It smells of ocean and small waves are breaking on the pebbles. The hill at the end, up to the 3 kilometer mark feels great. At the top I dodge around a few walkers as if I am invisible, as I might as well be. People walking look weird to me when I'm running: all those layers of cotton, collars, buttons, flapping jackets, leather shoes, wandering along looking totally unfocused.
Up to the 4k mark, the flagpole at Beacon Hill, and without thinking too much about it, I'm going on for five. I've been running on the sidewalk and this is normally the point where I'd step over on the path, but the path goes through some completely shrubbed-in sections here that I don't want to venture into in the dark, so I start running on the street since the sidewalk ends too. There's hardly any traffic so I only have to jump onto the grass a few times to let cars go by. I burn down to the 5k mark, still going strong, although I feel I've burned the excess energy out of my leg muscles. I'll have to work a little harder now.
I take the shady sidewalk back, hoping not to trip on some half-inch high bump and now I'm following my shadow. It's strange; I've run in the dark before, in the spring when the days were short, but I don't remember ever watching my shadow. My shadow looks a bit wimpy when it runs actually, because it's lengthened out in front of me and it looks like it's hardly moving, but at least my upper body looks quiet. This is where some of that mental focus comes in: I feel I have to constantly pay attention to my body position, to keep my movement along the correct planes.
When I finally get back home and stop my watch I expend some battery on the light function. I know this will be a pretty quick run from a glance I took back at 8k, but I am very pleased to find that I've done my unplanned 10k in 55:49. I've surpassed my 10k race time from the spring by more than 30 seconds, although on a different (and not very accurately measured) route maybe that doesn't mean much. Perhaps only to be expected, since that was two months ago and I've been running steadily. What's really encouraging though, is that I managed it with significantly less effort: my heart rate seems to have averaged about 9 beats per minute less, and I feel much better.
Afterwards it struck me that I might as well have done the Canada Day 10k, which was happening the next morning, and yet, that would have been a completely different experience. This was all the more special for being unplanned and totally private.
At any rate, this was my first olympic-length race, the longest to date and it took me just under three hours. The breakdown was almost exactly half the time on the bike, a third of the time running and a sixth swimming. I'm still using a surfing wetsuit, rather than a dedicated triathlon wetsuit, and it's not too bad. A proper triathlon wetsuit would be smooth neoprene rather than cloth-covered rubber with knee pads like this one and would have insets of extra-stretchy rubber under the arms. These are probably features worth having, but it wasn't worth it this season.
I'm still thinking about the reasons why I'm doing this. The main thing is that it's an adventure, and a journey. I want to find out what it feels like, and I want to find out what I'm capable of. Plus, I have a certain need to do things that are hard. Do we all have this impulse?
Ironman Canada is so popular that all the spots fill up the day registration opens, which is the day after the race. So unless you're fast enough to win a spot in a qualifying race, you need to show up in person and stand in line to register a full year ahead. Having paid my money in Penticton, I came home and finished the registration process online, waiting to see when I'd show up on the list. It's both exciting and unnerving to see my name up there on the list of participants. (I notice lots of people were much more creative with the profession field: apparently between all the health and I.T. industry people in the race I'll also be sharing the road with a kangaroo whisperer, a secret agent, a wmd thief, a cow tipper, a bank robber and a fat bastard, to name a few.)
The weather was very good: cool (predicted high of 14) and overcast with a little sun coming through at the end, and just a little bit of a breeze. My run partner from the triathlon clinic and I set out together, and amazingly we ran together for the whole race. We stuck to our goal pace of 6:30 per kilometre for the whole race and finished in 4:34:47, taking only about a minute and a half longer for the second half than the first half. I was thrilled that I was able to run the whole way because that was a goal in itself.
I got pretty sore and achy in the legs along the way, which I think is inevitable when you hit the pavement that many times, but other than that it really wasn't too bad. Bit of a bad patch at 30k, but that cleared up again. I ate five gels (for the non-race-nutrition initiated, those are packets of semi-liquid carbohydrate), and I don't think I drank nearly enough, but I got away with it.
Today, the day after, I feel better than the stories had led me to expect. I'm sore, but I'm able to walk down stairs.
“Before me is not a puddle, not even a pond. It is the deepest, dirtiest, and certainly the coldest water hazard I've even seen. Again, the pack bunches, like a flock of nervous penguins afraid to leave the (comparative) warmth of their cracking ice flow for the uncertain perils of the rolling Antarctic Sea.”Well, I didn't see anyone hesitate yesterday. By the time we reached the famous water hazard (and we were warned before we saw it by the swampy smell) we were pumped on adrenaline and competitive instinct and plunged right in. This wasn't a big rain year so the puddle wasn't that big, but it was still thigh deep and when I ventured off to the side to pass some people I nearly fell into what felt like a ditch off to the side. The terrain was mostly up and down with mud in between and rocks all through, but I didn't see anyone get hurt and overall it was a pretty good time.
“There are some things nobody needs in this world, and a flame-painted, steep-angle, aero-tubed, warp-speed Guru racing bicycle is one of them—but I want one anyway, and on some days I actually believe I need one. That is why they are dangerous . . .Here is a picture of my new Fine Machinery, although it doesn't do it justice. It's a 2002 Guru Crono.
Not everybody who buys a high-dollar aero-brute yearns to crawl across the finish line in Kona. Some of us are decent people who want to stay out of the medical tent, but still finish before midnight in Penticton . . . For that we need Fine Machinery.”
With apologies to Hunter S. Thompson
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