Los Angeles Triathlon Club
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Club Member: Fred Winter
Race: Ironman Canada
Distance: Ironman
Race Date: 08/30/09
Submit Date: 09/05/09

It was not the best of days, nor was it the worst of days at Ironman Canada. It was a civilised day. My overall time was significantly slower than my first IM in Florida on November 1, 2009. I expected that would be the case because the course is much more challenging, but overall, I am proud of completing my second Ironman and especially because I did not let myself become overconfident in approaching this event. In Florida, I had already heard those words, "Fred Winter, you are an Ironman!" In fact those words are not even spoken at the finish line in Canada. Penticton, British Columbia, the site of now 27 annual Ironman events, is a true jewel and should be on anyone's short list for a visit if not for a triathlon. The setting is not unlike the Napa Valley with over 100 wineries growing grapes on rolling hillsides nestled among three natural lakes and towering mountains. Being on the eastern side of the Cascade mountains, it is the northern end of the Sonoran desert climatic zone; and the low humidity, vegetation, and sunshine remind me of my home in Northern New Mexico, however, the altitude here is only about 2,000 feet compared to 7,000 feet at home. CRUISING-The Swim-Goal: 1:25 Actual:1:18 Race morning started out with perfectly clear skies and temperatures in the high 60's. The transition area is situated at a park adjacent to the sixty mile long Okanagan Lake. I had been warned to expect cold water, but frankly it was not an issue for me. In fact, it could not have been better at 68 degrees. The swim course is a long, stretched out triangle with the start at a narrow corner of the lake. I had talked to a couple of people at the kick-off dinner, who confirmed my decision to place myself at the left side away from the direct line up the buoys from the right side. One person said that it was perfectly acceptable to start from the left side and aim for the first turn, which was marked by a tall sailboat. That way, I could avoid the straight out course and the crowd. That was an incorrect assumption as a lot of other people had figured this out, too. Historically, the swim course turns have been marked by two, two-story houseboats, but the announcer said that someone did not show up that morning with their boat so there was only one house boat at the second turn. After the singing of "Oh Canada" by a promising local opera singer, the starting horn sounded, and everyone was off in the water. The depth of the water was shallower than I had planned even after swimming in the lake for two prior mornings. My first dive and swim start was thwarted by people still walking in front of me. I stood up and walked with them and dove a second time to restart the swim. There were a lot of people swarming around me at first and then following the words of Paula Newby Fraser, who counseled us at a breakfast meeting, I "found my place." As usual, people piled up at the two major turns on the course. The final return to the swim finish was really enjoyable, and I felt like I had really found my place as I was cruising until it came time to start thinking about the exit ahead. Then it became quite frothy with people squeezing into the narrow exit and whacking each other. "My place" became much more confined. Anyway, I kept swimming as long as I could despite seeing other people standing around me. This was good, as I exited the swim in virtually the same time as I had done at IM FL, where virtually everyone had cheated by not rounding a buoy on the start of a second loop. I much preferred this one loop course despite the narrow exit. I have learned that I can now sense my overall position by the number of people in the changing tents. When it is really crowded and chaotic in the changing tent, then I know I am up with the faster people. This only seems to be the case, however, at T-1 for me. For IM CA, I was bound and determined not to chew up time at T-1 as I had at IM FL. I wore a one-piece tri-suit under my wet suit and continued to wear it under my bike jersey. I brought arm warmers thinking that I might need them as I had done in FL, but decided they were not at all necessary. In retrospect, I might have done without my jersey as the dry heat was much more comfortable than at IM FL, but the bike jersey was my friend as I wanted to be with more food and bike supplies than I ultimately needed. I knew all too well that I can never be too prepared for the unexpected during the IM day. At FL, I had stripped the screws holding my bike cleats to my shoes, which lead to lost time. I was bound not to let that happen again and carried an extra set of cleats. PUSHING-Biking-Goal:7:45 Actual 7:38 Now, I headed out on the bike course, which I knew would be my most challenging leg of the event. The course is so much more hilly and mountainous than pancake-flat Florida. In Florida, you head out on roads surrounded by pine forests. In Canada, you are riding first in the town of Penticton, then beside lakes, and rolling hills covered with orchards and vineyard. Then before long, I was focusing on the formidable mountains. As I headed into Osoyoos, the southernmost leg of the bike course, I could see to my right the tall rise of Richter Pass, which was parallel to my entry into Osoyoos. In all of my studying of the bike course, I had focused on Yellow Lake pass as being the most challenging. I have to say that Richter was an equal challenge to Yellow Lake as it has a false flat that leads you on to another and yet another summit. Despite the rigors of the ascent, there were people lining the roadside-lots of people cheering all of us onto the summit. While there are over 4,000 official volunteers for the event, there were more than enough people left over for crowd support. This turnout was unexpected and a delight to keep me pushing ahead. Once Richter was behind me, I descended into a less populated valley that was filled with rollers. Another cyclist asked me if one of these rollers was the third mountain pass, thanks to my homework, I knew to tell him, "No, far from it." I wish that I had been that certain when I actually thought I was summiting Yellow Pass. Beyond the rollers is the out and back stretch near Cawton. While this was mostly flat, it seemed never ending. At the end of the out and back, approximately 75 miles into the course, is the special needs bike stop. I was happy to have my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but I sure did not need two of them. I also did not need my two extra tire tubes and CO2 cartridges. There was that overabundance of caution again. I bid good-bye to these surplus supplies and headed off. In July, I had had a horrendous series of flat tires that had sapped my mechanical confidence. After following George Gage's suggestion, I replaced my rim seals and all was good, no more flats in New Mexico. Through the services of Tri-Bike Transport, my bike arrived in Penticton sporting the same tires and tubes from Taos. I debated about practicing tire replacement in Canada, but decided to leave well enough alone. My tires and tubes had only about 145 miles on them before the start of the race. As it turned out, I did not need any of the two tubes in by saddle bag, let alone those two in my special needs bag. I would not have wanted any less for the race as I saw many cyclists with flats on the roadside. One story that made me cringe was that in prior years, perverse people had put tacks out on the road looking to prey on unsuspecting bike tires. One rider did tell me that she had flatted on a staple, which sounds like an equally sorry variation of the tack attack. I was starting to fatigue by the time I made it to the special needs bag pick-up, and my food stop was welcome despite its overabundance. I now realize that I spent way too much time eating compared to the others around me, but I was reinvigorated and ready to tackle Yellow Lake. There was not any significant headwind on the ascent. In not too much time, I thought I was near the summit and a road leading to the Apex ski area. Soon, I saw my wife, Marcia, on the roadside cheering me on along with many other people. I was about to cry with joy on the thought of summiting the dreaded Yellow Lake, when a rider behind me said, "The worst is yet to come." Indeed, I was not there yet so I pushed on for another 1.5 miles to the real summit. That false sense of summiting was probably the most difficult point in the race for me. I had been obsessing about Yellow Lake for weeks. I was taunting myself with questions about why am I doing yet another Iron distance event within twelve months of the first? Wasn't I already an Ironman? Why didn't I learn from doing my second marathon in less than three months after completing my first run? That event had turned into a slower and painful experience with an injured IT band. Why am I making myself crazed with all of this training? And now I am not at the top of Yellow Lake either! OK, I had to dig down and make it to the true summit with Yellow Lake nearby. I had driven to this summit on Thursday as I wanted to experience the descent into Penticton before the race. The elevation map for the course had me living in fear of a descent similar to Holman Hill near Taos. I am a not one who is fearless in a descent, and Holman Hill has had me paralyzed from vertigo. After Thursday afternoon's ride back into Penticton, I was looking forward to this final leg. It would be fun and fast. The road was wider than Holman Hill. There was no guardrail falsely protecting me from tumbling off the side of the road. This descent would be a cake walk. Well, Sunday was not Thursday, and the headwind/crosswind was fierce by the time of my descent. I could not pick-up speed. I was not going to make my goal time for the bike. Overconfidence had reared its ugly head again, plus my right quad was cramping on me. For several minutes, I thought what if I can't run? Could I walk the distance and make the midnight cut-off? That was the beginning of some bad negative self-talk. Plodding Lackadaisical-The Run-Goal: 5:15 Actual:6:11 Once back into town, I made it to the transition area, and the T-2 changing tent was much more quiet than T-1. I knew that I was back further than I had hoped to be. I saw someone from Kansas City that I had met earlier in the week. He was complaining to someone else about his bike time and said that he was going to head off with his Ironman shuffle. That was probably the wrong thing for me to hear. In retrospect, I needed to be around someone who was going to inspire me to push me harder on the run. The run course leaves the transition area and loops back into the town along the lakeshore before heading south. At that point, I overheard someone tell a runner that he should expect to run a six hour marathon. The lackadaisical Fred took over then during the run, and I do not particularly like him, but I did meet up with some interesting and slower people. France Cokan is 78 years young, and I hope to have his confidence and vigor when I am that age. At the third aid station situated near Skaha Lake, he came up to me thinking that he knew me. After talking a while, he realized that I was not who he thought, but I wanted to know more about him. How did he have the confidence to be wearing only Speedos and a tank top at his age? Perhaps it is only fitting to become larger than life at his age. He had been introduced at the Friday night dinner as the oldest male participant and the next oldest participant to Sister Madonna Buder, who is 79. I realized that I was uniquely positioned to ask him about his training secrets. Right there at the aid station, in front of a startled volunteer, he demonstrated one of those secrets as he pulled open his Speedos and dumped a cup of ice in his junk drawer. He let me know that it invigorated him as there are big blood vessels down there. He then ran off ahead of me, but only for a while. I kept on plodding along and caught up with him. He probably came up with race/walking before Jeff Galloway. His pattern of bursting ahead and walking finally slowed down to the point that I did not see him on the return leg of the run. Thankfully by then, I was ahead of the oldest man on the course, but it was getting dark at night as I headed back into Penticton. What was a pleasant downhill coming into the turnaround in Okanagan Falls turned into a significant hill on the way back. At the special needs bag, I once again realized that I had erred on the side of too much food and too much concern about a cold run back into town. I definitely benefitted from a long sleeve shirt in the second half of the run at IM FL, but here in Penticton, that same shirt became a distraction. I could not leave that shirt behind as it had also seen me to the finish line at the New York City Marathon. It was part of me and some great experiences so I tied it to my waist and headed towards town and the finish line in the dark. While IM FL used diesel generators to power flood lights, the course in Penticton had none. There were the occasional cars driving the road and the aid stations to divert my attention from my plodding way, but not enough to help spur a faster pace. If my nemesises, the Three Swimming Amazons, had been there running, I might have found the inspiration to pick it up, but they were back in Taos waiting for another day of swimming-at which they excel. I made it to the street lights and commercial area of Penticton at about 10:00 PM knowing that I would be at the finish line well in advance of midnight. The crowds grew, but not quite as robust as I had expected, especially after a runner asked me if I had been here before. When I said that this was my first IM Canada, he said, "You will not believe the crowds in town." It wasn't until I left Main Street and headed for the Lakeshore Drive loop that the crowds increased in number and in volume. By that time, I had seen Marcia once again. Fortunately, I knew that she was no where near the actual finish line this time. I turned onto Lakeshore Drive and finally kicked into overdrive. The lights, the music and the crowds were all there motivating everyone. I think that the bike rider from Kansas City at T-2 was the person in front of me. I wanted to pick him off, but he had the same idea of pushing ahead. Then the finish line was behind me. As I approached the finish area, I had been able to deduce that the announcer was not saying, "You are an Ironman." No Hollywood moment? Nope, in Canada, I have come to learn, they seem much more civilised than in the US. You can't even order a medium rare hamburger. It is against the law. But despite the lack of theatrics, there was a true sense of interest in each and every participant. Each runner has a designated greeter to accompany you from the finish line. My greeter was Ron from Edmonton, who was about my age and could not have been nicer. While he made it known that he was volunteering to gain an entry slot in next years event, he spent more than ten minutes with me escorting me to have a final picture taken, to have some food, and to show me where the Ironmates (your wife, family or friends) were waiting for your arrival. Canada is different than the US. I am not quite sure how to explain it. The people do not seem as in your face as home. While they seem all too civilised, they have an innate desire to stretch and push themselves, which is a quality of life that I admire. The IM Canada course and the community of Penticton certainly exemplify these qualities. Now the question is, can I bring these qualities back home?

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