Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Gordo's IM Canada Race Report By Gordo Byrn

Gordo's IM Canada Race Report
By Gordo Byrn

I have been kicking around what to write for the last couple of weeks. This was my 16th Ironman and my 9th start in Penticton. Over the years, I have written a lot of swim/bike/run reports so I was looking for something different this time. Hopefully, you will find this interesting.

My preparations this year were excellent. While I wasn’t able to achieve every session I wanted, I was able to train very close to my potential and took a lot of comfort from knowing that I gave things my best shot.

At the end of most seasons there are lessons learned and areas that I would change going forward. However, in terms of being able to execute my December to August strategy, this year came close to ideal.

I had a bit of a “hiccup” the night before the race when I passed blood in my urine (!). I have had runner’s hematuria (twice) in the last four years but had never passed clotted blood until that night. It wasn’t exactly an ideal situation for a restful sleep but I did benefit from an extended reflection on my own mortality.

[Sidenote: we haven’t sorted the cause yet but my blood/urine tests are all normal]

I woke up with everything normal and felt fantastic, if a bit melodramatic (with thoughts of my _final_ Ironman in my head). I figured that I was certain to regret not starting, and unlikely to kill myself by racing, so I headed down to the start area.

Having had a look through the start list, I figured that a dozen speedy swimmers would go off the front. My game plan was to start controlled and end up at the back of the group behind the “speedy dozen”.

My swim was controlled and I missed the group behind the speedy-dozen. I worked my way up to the front of my chase group. If you read Belinda’s report on XTri then you will see that she really went for it during the swim. I was right there and it was pretty entertaining to watch her. After 3K of the swim, she cranked the pace up and tried to come around the two guys that we were drafting. It was a great strategy because one of the guys responded and picked the pace way up. A bit of a gap opened and I bridged Belinda (and myself) back onto their feet. As it happened, the bulk of the elite field was with us and we exited in good company.

I swam in the mid-50s and someone yelled that I was a minute down. On reflection, the spectator was probably yelling to Belinda about the gap to the lead woman. I knew that Marky V and Rhodesy would have to be far, far up the road.

I heard that many athletes observed drafting on the bike. Here’s my take on what I saw…

There are two types of drafting in a triathlon: strategic and deliberate.

Deliberate is the straight-up “cheating” sort of drafting. I saw some of that but it didn’t change the outcome of the athletes that were around me.

Strategic drafting is using conditions, competitors and vehicles to your maximum legal advantage. I saw a lot of these smart tactics on race day. Specifically, most of the first 60km of the bike was into a headwind that was slightly off to the left. Given that we ride on the right hand side of the road, there was a huge advantage to any athlete that was able to ride alongside a line of 10-20 cars that were backed up behind a lead vehicle.

I saw this opportunity with the lead female vehicle. However, before I could capitalize… Belinda dropped me (!); torched the descent into OK Falls; and disappeared towards Richter Pass. The lesson being that if you want the legal benefits available on an open course, you gotta be able to hang! Hats off to Belinda for lifting her cycling game.

As for the deliberate drafting, I am not surprised when a few elite triathletes (trying to live on $40 per day) cut things close to gain an advantage. Similar to the non-athletic world, many people live to the limit of law enforcement, not the law. A ten-meter draft zone accompanied by an obligation to pass whenever entered & no slipstream passing… that leaves little requirement for judgment and I heard penalties were handed out.

Had I solo’d behind the group for 180KM then passed most of the them on the run… I may have had a different opinion! As it was, I flatted twice on Richter and that put me over 20 minutes behind Marky V (powering along with a grin on his face).

I should have changed out my tubular on the first flat but elected to use Vittoria Pit-Stop to try to seal the hole. I think that the puncture was caused by a small nail because Pit-Stop didn’t work and I wasted a bunch more time with a (futile) top-up then a (successful) change.

For the second year running, I found myself having invested 800 hours into a race where my best outcome was finishing it off. I was disappointed and had a low that lasted for about an hour.

While I was feeling sorry for myself, a couple of guys rode past me and I tagged onto to the second one. At that stage, I realized that these guys were out there, doing their best, trying to maximize their performance on the day. None of us had a shot at personal glory but they were still there, racing and hanging tough. Frankly, that is what triathlon is all about, especially an Ironman. So my day was set on extra crispy but I decided to keep on trucking.

Through the out and back, I saw a set of gleaming white teeth coming towards me. Seeing Lisa Bentley’s smile was motivating. Not least because I had better get moving or she was going to have a good shot at running me down!

For the data inclined I rode (5:00:22 net of flat tires, 220 AP, 249 NP, 139 bpm). For a course with a lot of climbing, I believe that a decent ride will show a reasonable “VI” due to lifting power on the climbs and resting (a lot) when speed is high. As it was, I didn’t pace evenly, so there is upside for those of you that wonder what it takes for a 75kg guy to ride 5-flat in Canada.

The highlight of my marathon was seeing Peter Reid commentating at the far end of the course. It was great to see him out there and I hope he continues to share his experience with us. He has given so much to our sport.

Early in the marathon, a spectator told me that I was WAY DOWN on Belinda but I figured that I had a shot at bridging back. At that stage, I didn’t really care about finishing 13th, 23rd, or 33rd. However, with Monica watching at home, I did care about getting myself back in front of the ladies.

I managed to achieve my run goal but not a whole lot more in terms of performance (19th overall in 9:13, my slowest result since 2000).

Still, even more than last year, I am glad that I gave it one more shot.

See you at the races,