Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Muskoka

After doing Barrelman last year and seeing that I could actually cover the 70.3 distance and live to tell the tale I wanted to tackle an Ironman™ branded race because, Ironman™!! I was unable to register for Mont Tremblant 70.3 in time with Mari (which in hindsight was probably for the best, the weather was awful) I decided to sign up for Muskoka. I knew it was hard but how hard could it be? *insert pompus laughter here*

My family came up to Huntsville for the weekend with me and apart from being trapped inside the hotel for most of Saturday because of the rain we had a really great time. It's always fun to get away. We arrived Friday afternoon and after checking into the hotel we went to registration (where they still had me in the first wave with the 30-34 year olds!) and got my kit and hit the Ironman store. I'm cheap and only bought a water bottle. I knew I would be getting a finishers shirt & hat and had just gotten a backpack so what was the point in buying more? We quickly met up with Emma and her family to say hello and then made our way to downtown Hunstville. We ate dinner on the lakeside patio at Boston Pizza (beautiful!) and then drove around checking out the sights (and locals) and even found the town crack house. 

We're here!!

Best patio ever! Seats right on the water.

Saturday I met up with Irina and Zin and went to the athlete briefing. It was still pouring rain so I left my bike at the hotel room and figured I'd bring it back later in the afternoon. After the meeting I texted Derek to come and get me and he suggested that it had stopped raining so why don't they bring my bike over. Ok, good plan I thought and went up to the road to meet them. Once they arrived I found my bike IN the trunk rather than on the bike rack that Emma had lent me for the weekend and was a little worried. I quickly rode it around the parking lot and things seemed ok so I took it to transition, covered it in a garbage bag and said goodbye to go do a little geocaching. 
Geocaching on the Trans Canada Trail

Race morning finally came and I was tired. I didn't sleep well Friday night and the power went out Saturday night and the noise of the microwave losing power in our room had woken me out of a deep sleep. Then of course when the power came back on that woke me up too. Add in Derek's snoring and it's a recipe for a restless night. I met Irina and Zin in the lobby at 5:25 and we made our way to the shuttle bus where Irina secured my timing chip with a safety pin. To be honest I wasn't 100% sure why she did this. I did figure it out later though. I was feeling pretty nervous now, I was really scared about the bike course. You can do it everyone assured me, but could I? I got myself set up in transition, hit the porta potty and made my way down to the swim start with Mellen who I found in the transition area. Once again she gave me assurance that I could do this bike. I wondered did she know that I'm not a strong cyclist and only really had 8 weeks training under my belt after my marathon training? 
Obvs I didn't get the memo that we were supposed to "vogue"

Oh well, too late for second thoughts now. I saw instagrammer @piperb123 in the swim wave corral (I had just introduced myself to her in transition) and we chatted until it was time to get into the water. It was nice to have something to take my mind off of things. The water was nice and warm but it took me a little more time than usual to get my breathing controlled. I was so scared so I wasn't surprised. I lined myself up at the back of the pack just so that I wouldn't need to worry about people swimming over me for a while. I knew the relay wave was 5 minutes behind mine and that the fast ones would catch me by the halfway point but for now I could just swim and be happy. So the horn sounded the start and that's what I did. The swim was beautiful. I caught some people in the wave ahead of mine pretty early, I hoped that they made the swim cut off time. My sighting wasn't too bad. At first we were swimming into the sun so I just followed the crowd and hoped for the best because I couldn't see a single buoy for a while. After the turnaround the fast relay swimmers had caught up but they didn't bother me too much. I was in a sea of baby blue caps, green caps, dark blue caps and a couple of pink caps (two waves ahead of mine!!) just all trying to make it out of the water. I had a hard time after the final turn figuring out where the swim exit was so my line was not straight. Mental note to self, look and see where the swim exit is next time before the start. With about 200m left to go I felt someone grab my foot so I started kicking. Then I felt them grab at my timing chip and the velcro go lose! WTF?! I thought to myself. This idiot is trying to rip off my timing chip. Thank God Irina had put that safety pin on there! As buddy went to swim past me I grabbed his leg and squeezed just to let him know I was not impressed. Who the hell did this dick weed think he was trying to ruin my race like that?! I can ruin my race all on my own, thank you very much!! I made it to the exit where a man helped me out of the water and then a girl helped me off with my wetsuit and I started my way up the long hill back to transition. I think that maybe you were supposed to run this but nah. I got back to transition, fixed my timing chip and got my bike and left.

Where's that guy that tried to rip off my chip?! Lemme at him! 

Swim time 44:48 (40/51 AG)
T1 including the long run  walk up the hill 8:18

The first part of the bike course after the mount line was downhill and I was all "weeeeee" this is going to be fun. Then the uphills came and I found my bike harder and harder to ride. My heart rate was through the roof and as my watch beeped the first 5k split I seriously wondered if I would be able to ride another 89k of this. It felt SO hard. Around 8k I cursed myself for not bringing my phone because I might need to call Derek to come and pick me up. Sure that would mean that I would never be able to do another race like this again because it would always get brought up ("You're not signing up for that, remember I had to come and get you last time?") but at this point I didn't care. People were whizzing by me and I was barely pushing 15km/hr! As I climbed a hill just before 10k I realized that I could hear my back brakes rubbing so once I got to the top of the hill I hopped off of my bike and opened them up. A woman rode by and asked if I had everything that I needed and I thanked her. Things felt a lot easier after that but I was still never able to get my speed up. I made it to the first aid station but declined anything that they were offering with a thank you. People were still passing me and I wondered to myself if I would eventually be the only one out here. I played leap frog with a man for a while out here. I would pass him on the hills and say something funny and he would pass me on the straight aways and say something encouraging. I guess humour wasn't his strong suit. "Come on. push push push" he'd say. Eventually I dropped him so at least I knew I wouldn't be DFL out there. Silver linings. At the second aid station I took a bottle of water and like a pro filled up the aero bottle that Emma had given me (I'm everyone's little sister with the hand me downs, which I am not above taking). I saw Tracy (@piperb123) here and played leap frog with her and another girl until the third and last water station when I didn't see either of them again. There was an annoying headwind during this stretch that I wasn't too keen on. When my watch beeped 50k I realized that I would be out here for 4.5 hours and it was seriously the most defeated that I would feel all day. I had figured I would be about 3:45 and knew that my family would be worrying about me back at Deerhurst. Ok, maybe not my whole family because I had bought the boys passes to use the lake facilities for the day but Derek would be. I tried my hardest to speed up to get back as quick as possible but it just was not happening so I tried to push it all out of my mind and just enjoy the scenery and not focus on the rest. With the exception of that first 10k the ride was honestly not that bad the first 75k so I do not know what happened to me out there. I was stronger than what was showing but some days you're the dog and some days you're the hydrant. Today I was the hydrant. At 75k I came to the first of a string of challenging hills. As I was climbing it I passed a couple on the phone looking for something in the woods and could hear the man saying that people had flagged him down and told him someone was in trouble. I saw a water bottle on the road but that was it. Hopefully whoever it was would be ok. I made it to the top of this hill completely winded and saw 2 people getting on their bikes. "That sucked" I said. "Just think about the beer at the finish" the guy said to me. While that hill was hard I knew that the biggest challenge was going to be around 80k thanks to Emma's recon ride a few weeks ago. No walking your bike up the hills I reminded myself. As I came up to the dreaded hill I saw three people walking their bikes up it. "NOPE!" I yelled to myself and passed them. My reward for pushing up that hill was an amazing downhill. Finally something fun out here! And so went the rest of that uphill ride. Me pushing myself up those hills while I passed others walking their bikes. "This sucks, eh?" I'd grunt at all of them while they'd look at me wondering what I had to prove. Just get off and walk I could read their thought bubbles. I'd be damned if I was walking up a single hill. I needed something to be proud of myself for out here. At 88k I knew that I was going to make it but I was so not down with running after all this. I just wanted to go home. Just get it done I thought to myself. You won't get your medal if you don't run. I'm never doing this race again I thought to myself. Well maybe the relay but I'm not doing the bike! Finally I made it to the final hill and I'll be honest. I really really really wanted to join the man walking his bike but I pushed through and made it to the top. Buddy passed me after that but we ended up at the dismount line together. As I was riding down that final stretch I could see people walking by with their medals and that made me feel really down. I still had another 21k to run and they were done? Boo. I walked my bike into transition because my legs were fried, got my running stuff on and hit the porta potty. I texted Derek that I was finally done the bike and it would probably take me about 2.5 hours to finish the run. I found out later that Derek had no service on his phone and never got my text. He had somehow missed me riding in and running out and was seriously wondering if I was laying on the road somewhere. It didn't help that Noah told him that he had heard someone had died out there. Apparently at this point in the conversation Kyle asked if anyone else was hungry and if they'd be going to eat soon. LMAO 

"I'm fuckin' dying!" I yelled to the photographer

Bike time 4:29:16 (45/51 AG) 
T2 including porta potty and getting lost 5:20

As I left the porta potty I got totally disorientated in the transition area and couldn't remember where the run out was. I finally saw it but there was a volunteer standing in the way. "Am I supposed to be going this way?" I asked her. Apparently I was. Guess she wasn't expecting any more runners coming out of there. At the first uphill I stopped to walk and pulled out a zantac before my tummy started giving me any trouble. Then I walked the next up hill and the next one and oh, is that a bit of an incline? Better walk that too. I saw Emma on her way to the finish about 2k in and yelled at her "No walking". Thankfully I was running at that moment so I didn't look like a total hypocrite. I did the math and realized I was 2+ hours behind her. Yep, another low point in my day. And then the next one was when I could not see a single other runner ahead of me running out, but hundreds running in. This was going to be a long lonely suckfest. Last man on earth. Because I didn't see my family at the transition area (or them me) I wondered if they might be waiting to cheer for me in town and I started to get weepy thinking about them. I was just so tired, I wanted to go home. This was the longest I'd ever been out for a race and it was an awful feeling. It's hard to run and cry and I started to have troubles breathing so I had to push my loved ones out of my mind and get on with the run. As I got into town though a glorious thing happened. I was catching up to other runners going my way and passing them. I was not the only one out here any longer. I had people that I could commiserate with and laugh at the absurdity of it all. As I walked up a hill I said to the man walking beside me "the way back better have as many downhills as the way out has had uphills!". "I don't know who designed this course but they need to have their head examined!!" he said back to me. We chatted a bit and he asked me if we'd make the cutoff. We have lots of time I assured him. We may be pulling an entire work shift out here but we'll make it. Then someone pointed out the halfway mat to us and I said goodbye to him while I sang Bon Jovi in my head and started my internal countdown. I was passing lots of runners now and made the same stupid jokes to them as I ran by but they all laughed. I passed the retirement home where 3 ladies had been out cheering before and got a thumbs up and a "You go girl" from an elderly lady on a scooter. "Thanks, Mrs!" I yelled back to her. I was starting to chafe under my arms now and frantically asked every aid station if they had vaseline while running with my arms flapping like wings so they wouldn't rub. Finally I found a station with a fresh jar and the lady handed it to me. "Uh, I don't mind sticking my fingers in there but do you maybe have a stick?" The lady found one and pulled out the hugest blob of Vaseline for me which eventually melted and ran all down my arms. I could feel blisters on the balls of my feet now too and wondered if I should put some Vaseline on those but figured that would just feel gross so just dealt with the burning going on down there. This run was really starting to suck but I was on the homestretch. Around 16k I was really starting to run out of gas and was long out of my Infinit drink so I took a chance at the aid station and took one of their gels. I had actually said aloud "I don't think I can make it" while realizing that I was now one of those people who I usually drive past on my way home, feeling sorry for them still being out there. Low point number I've lost count of the day. Thankfully I had a gingin in my handheld pocket and that helped the gel stay settled. I walked a bit until the gel did it's job and then it was all business. Just get to the finish. I walked the last sucky hill with about 5 other people and said "I'm so glad that I did all of that hill training for this because I haven't run a single hill!" God, I was killing it out there with my jokes! At the top I started running again and left all of those people behind. I passed a man with a Pace Performance top on and I asked him if he was from Burlington. He was! "Me too" I said. And then over my shoulder added "It was your top that gave it away, I'm not creepy!". He laughed and said that he knew. I could see Deerhurst in the distance now and a guy with a medal around his neck cheered me on. "Is the medal worth it?" I asked. "Oh yeah, go get yours!" he said. I could hear the finish line and booted down Deerhurst Dr. I heard Noah yell to me and he ran in the crowd beside me to join the rest of my family cheering. I ran through the run area that surrounds the transition and people with their finishers shirts on were all cheering for me. I was SO happy. I ran down the finishing chute and heard them say my name and that I was looking for adventure. Did I write that? I don't remember if I did but I sure got it today. I saw Irina standing on the other side of the finish line and ran through the tape right into her arms and cried. "That was SO hard" I bawled. "I know" she said to me with tears in her eyes. "I was out there SO long. Everyone must have been worried". They were but they knew I'd get there eventually. And I did. Yay me. 

Look who's smiling now

Fuck me right?!

If you ever need a hug this is the girl to go to. She gives the best ones ever #freehugs

Run time 2:26:55 (40/51 AG)
Total 7:54:37 (40/51)

There it is in all of it's horrible glory. Perhaps I'll go back for redemption one day. 


  1. I think you did so great! Your first IM and the course is challenging. I'm sure it was warm too. Way to go! You are mentally tough, you finished and that's what counts, pushing through till the end. You will do it again, as you'll only remember the good parts, and you'll keep getting better! Congrats to you.

  2. You pushed through and you finished with a smile! So proud of you! Congrats!

  3. Congratulations, Sam, outstanding work!!!

  4. Google ate my comment, but it was saying that I was eating in a crappy Korean restaurant when I read this post and I started bawling and the server came to bring me spicy sauce and I could not even pretend that I squirted spicy sauce in my eyes. Didn't care though, you are worth all the tears and hugs in the world. I am always amazed at your grit. You are so much tougher than you give yourself credit for. Love you, my little pink friend!

  5. Thanks for the write up! Look forward to doing a 70.3 someday as well - but you have just scared the shit out of me a little. Congratulations for riding up those hills, I'm sure your chip grabber will get what's coming to him someday!

  6. You are ALL HEART. I'm so sorry it was a rough day but you inspire me so much. No quit in you, girl!

  7. Amazing and entertaining as always. Congrats sam

  8. Amazing and entertaining as always. Congrats sam

  9. Such a great post, such an accomplishment, Sam!

  10. Congrats Sam! You should be PROUD! That is one bloody hard course. My hubby says he's never doing it again ever. Even in a relay.

  11. Thank you for sharing this. It takes so much guts to finish a race like that. So many opportunities to quit, and so much strength to push past them. Love your story. Also like your photo captions, they're fun.