Ironman Canada 2018 – The Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

There are few school classes I remember from high school and college.  Mr. Bartel’s high school English class vividly sticks out in my memory as he made us think “outside the box” quite a bit.  I recall him having each of us memorize and recite Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, in front of the classroom. 17 years later, I can still recite this poem by heart.

The Road Not Taken is all about what did not happen.  This person, faced with an important conscious decision, chose the least popular, and the path of most resistance. He was destined to go down one, regretted not being able to take both, so he sacrificed one for the other.  Ultimately the reader is left to make up their own mind: follow the same stable, safe path most people take; or live your life and live a little dangerously. I chose the dangerous route.

2018 can be marked as a year with tons of changes in my life.

I got married (skipped the engagement shenanigans entirely and went straight to courthouse).  Marriage only takes 15 minutes people… stop milking it out for years.

I got promoted. A week after marriage, I got promoted!

I got two new pups. Meet Red (Becca’s dog) and Brownlee (my ugly, scruffy-looking Olympic champion).

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I managed to complete another Ironman despite very limited training (read below).

And most recently, MOVED to our dream lakefront home in Washington!

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So yah, I’d say things are getting pretty serious.

As far as triathlon and endurance sports, 2018 did not pan out well as far as results.  However it’s given me time to rewind and think about the reasons I’ve been in the sport for a decade.  That’s right, 2019 marks a decade in triathlon.

Triathlon, for me, is not about social media presence/attention and sponsorship logos on my race kit. As an age grouper,  it’s about being fit, living and promoting a healthy lifestyle, inspiring others, competing to the best of my abilities, and, most importantly, having fun.  I love suffering alone during training sessions and hurting on the race course.  For me, that’s true living.

Training for Ironman Canada was nothing less than a sh*tshow.  Training was very spotty.  In the past, I was single, had all the time in the world, and trained on my own terms.  Being married and having more work responsibilities, I still managed to get some training in but felt like I was “going through the motions” half the time.  Instead of training after work, I’d opt to snuggle, watch Netflix, and binge eat popcorn.

Two weeks before the race I told Becca I was pulling the plug on Canada.  I like to reminisce  on the number of *quality* Ironman races I do, not just participate in them. We decided to do this as a team.  This was Becca’s first Ironman and I was going to be there for her no matter what to support. My family was also signed up to do the 70.3 relay.  Although nervous for reasons I’ve never felt before (being unprepared), we made the trek up to Whistler.

I’d lie if the pre-race nerves and jitters didn’t test our relationship.  Becca was nervous because it was her first Ironman; I was nervous because, well, I’m always nervous for these. Ironman is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Race day:

Unlike other Ironman mornings, I was more nervous and anxious for someone else (my wife).  Yes, I was focused, but I knew how hard and well-prepared she was for this race.  I also felt very responsible for her performance, as she leaned on me for guidance and coaching for this event.

I made my way to the front of the starting corral and ran into my long-time triathlon acquaintance Sam Mazer.  I primarily know her through mutual friends and we started this sport around the same time.  I know her from her funny, often times ridiculous Facebook posts about everyday triathlon life.  It helped me relax shootin’ the shit as the race clock ticked down to start.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_555b.jpgI managed to hold onto a pack for the majority the swim and got out of the water in 59 minutes.

The Canada bike course changed in 2018.  Instead of riding into Pemberton like prior years, the course consisted of three loops along Alta Lake, Highway 99, and partial climbs up Callaghan.  Compared to prior years, it was approximately the same amount of climbing, but the style of climbing was much different.  Instead of long, sustained hills, this new course was much choppier and rolling, which made it tougher for me to get in a good groove.  I was constantly shifting gears and in-and-out of the saddle.  That, and we were mixed in with 70.3 racers so the course was heavily congested and dangerous. Thanks WTC.

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Since the bike course consisted of all out-and-backs, I had my eye on Becca all day long.  I monitored where she was compared to the other women in the field.  Not surprising at all, she was holding her own and I could tell she was following her plan and setting herself up for a solid run.

I got to T2 with bike split of 5:45, 11th in my age group, and felt confident I had the run legs to make some moves.  I rode fairly conservatively and wanted to set myself up for a fast run.  Handing off my bike to a volunteer, I was feeling very peppy and still had lots of life in my legs.

I could not find my run gear bag.  I began frantically looking around the the entire area looking for bag #968. I saw #967 and #969. WTF?! I know I put my bags in the correct spot that morning. In a tizzy, I began yelling for help from volunteers.

Frustrated, I threw my helmet on the ground.  Spectators saw me visibly upset and I remember one of them even offered their shoes to run in. Ten minutes passed as a volunteer finally found my shoes in the change tent, removed from my bag.  Looking back, it was *only* 10 minutes but it took a huge blow to my mental game.  In a highly competitive 30-34 age group, I need every single second and I had mentally given up.  I know I can’t control everything on race day but this was completely uncalled and unplanned for.  My heart just was not in it anymore.  I had tears in my eyes as I ran out of transition onto the run course.

I saw my friend and teammate Dylan, and he witnessed me visibly shaken up.  I recall him asking me, “What can I do for you?”  I had no words other than, “I don’t wanna be out here.”

I threw a pity party for the first few miles, pondering what I should do, and hoping a bear would attack me.  I was 68th position off the bike overall, so the course was still pretty empty.  Around 5K I saw Uncle Derek and my cousins, and stopped.  I asked where Becca was and she was finishing up the last few miles of her bike.  I made the decision to wait and run with her.

I had about an hour to freshen up, hydrate, eat, and stretch.  Becca was having a great race and I had to be ready.

Becca was 12th off the bike in her age group.  I saw her in the distance. My family gave us a cheer as we headed off for war. She was happy as a hippo.

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I told Becca where she was at and gave her instructions on what to do.  The rules were: no wasted talking, save energy, quick feet, focus on being relaxed, run directly behind me, and tell me exactly what you want at each aid station.

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We picked her competition one-by-one and dropped them like hot potatoes.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_559e.jpgShe was running a 7:30-7:45 mile pace for a good chunk of the first half of the marathon.  I stored cups, sponges, and ice in my jersey for her, supplied her Coke at aid stations, and yelled at the walkers to get out of our way. Mr. Kawaoka the Domestique at your service!  I was having a blast.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_55ad.jpgMy Uncle told me her positioning each time we saw passed. Becca was making up incredible ground on her competition.  By the halfway point she was already in podium position.  Becca ran herself into 2nd place around mile 18!

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The gap between her and first place was quite substantial, with just over 10K to go.  I tried picking up the pace but could sense she was beginning to tire.  I kept reminding her to “keep shuffling and you won’t regret it!”

My mom and Becca high-fiving!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_55c5.jpgBecca’s grunts of exhaustion turned into bellows and tears of agony, as she was giving it her all the last few miles.  Her fight and drive in this race, especially for an Ironman rookie, was epic.  Although she didn’t catch first place, she showed me qualities not many racers have… the ability to dig deep down into your soul and give absolutely everything you possibly have.  That’s my type of girl.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_5583.jpgWe crossed the finish line together, hand-in-hand.

I’ve done many of these, but this Ironman felt the most special.  I grew up and learned a lot about myself during this race.  Triathlon can often times be a very selfish sport.  Witnessing my wife’s glory and helping her along the way gave me more satisfaction than any of my own personal accomplishments.

They say you experience so many emotional levels on the race course during Ironman.  To this date, I’ve never experienced them to this extreme.  I turned an unfortunate day into a memory that I’ll cherish forever.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

 

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Categories: Race Report, Races

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