Tuesday, February 2, 2016

March 2005 By Gordo Byrn

March 2005
By Gordo Byrn

Scott’s got a poster in his gym that’s signed by Rob De Castella. The autograph simply says, “never, ever, ever, ever, give up”. I thought about that out there yesterday. I also thought about what the Baron said to a reporter on Friday, “well, I’m in the race, so anything can happen”. There were times when I felt like I was so far out of contention, so far from my personal goals on the day, that I wondered “why bother ... why keep going?” Then, I’d regroup and simply keep moving forward. Keep moving, keep steady, stay relaxed.

We don’t fold in GordoWorld.

Here’s how it played out from my point of view…

The swim felt pretty easy for me. All the hard training that I’d done in the pool with Monica and Roly paid off. I can tolerate some very hard swimming now. I set a new PB, coming out of the water in just under 50 minutes. I tried to get over the timing mat under 50 but couldn’t quite make it – they made the chute too long! For those of you that don’t know my background, I started swimming when I was thirty years old. So no excuses for adult swimmers – we don’t need to have been childhood swimmers to become solid in the water. We do need extraordinary commitment!

I shuffled quickly through transition and got out on the bike. I’d made a decision to take it out hard on the bike to see if I could bridge up to Cam and the guys at the front. Early in the bike, I got a split that he was four minutes up the road. What happened to all those reports that Cam had forgotten how to swim?!

Coming into the first turnaround, I saw the lead vehicle coming back towards us with Andersson, Sheldrake, Doe and Cam riding together. They’d put a further 5 minutes into me and I was ten minutes down at the 40K mark! Cam had this ear-to-ear grin on his face. He was in control, he’d neutralized Bjorn and the g-man was now racing for second!

When we rolled through the turnaround, I saw that there was a TRAIN of athletes behind us (my buddy Chris McDonald had bridged up). At least 30 riders, it looked legal and legit to me. It’s pretty disheartening to be pulling that large a group around the course. Chris attacked a few times to try to get away but, with a group that size, you need to commit to riding threshold for 20-30 minutes to get away and we couldn’t shake them despite some very hard efforts. At least, we were, hopefully, fatiguing them (a bit) for the run.

I figured that I was the fastest runner in the bunch so I wasn’t all that concerned about the fact that it was a big group. However, group riding (even legal) isn’t what Ironman is about for me and I think that we need to address this issue in our sport. Athletes will always participate to the limits of the rules and officiating. What to do? With flatter courses, I think that we need separate AG and Elite starts as well as a minimum ten meter draft zone. There is no way that it would have changed the outcome of the race winners (Cam and Jo were super strong yesterday) but it makes things more fair, more legit.

Back to the race. After the first loop, I was now 15 minutes down! I’d opened with a 2:21 lap and ‘le group Andersson’ had cranked a 2:11 – phew! Not much you can do when guys are going that fast. I know that Bjorn can ride that quick and I figured that Cam can run three flat on his worst day. So now I was _really_ racing for second. Still, I tried to get away from my bunch – didn’t happen – and when I saw that was going to be the story with 40K left to ride, I backed off, stayed legal, started eating and got ready to run.

At 160K, Baron rolled up and enquired if I was enjoying riding in the peloton. I didn’t have the time (or energy) to explain the details and point out that we’d had a marshal alongside for the entire ride. I train with him so much that I could tell that his 160K solo effort had tired him out a bit. Still, he’s so strong, so tough that I figured that I was now racing for Top Five. There were at least eight guys a long way up the road from us and some of them are great runners.
Over the last 15K of the ride, Bryan Rhodes threw down the gauntlet and put a couple of minutes into us. Pretty bold move, but I wasn’t going to cover that effort as I figured that I could run a little quicker than him. To be honest, I’m not even sure that I could have covered it … he was smoking up Centennial Hill. I figured that he was blowing his race, but Rhodesy is full of surprises, as we’d see later.

Coming off the bike, I was well down and not even in the top ten. I knew that my only hope was to have a fast marathon, so I started my run very easy and gave myself the first 5K to relax and find my groove. I was losing time to most everyone around me – not exactly what I expected! However, my K splits were reasonable and my heart rate was low.

Man my back was tight though – it took 12K to loosen up and, by then, I’d moved into the top ten. OK, I was at least going to get up on stage. Coming back into town, I saw that the wheels were starting to come off the guys in second and third. I clocked them and saw that I was five minutes down with 22K left to go. I knew that if I could just continue to click out 4 minute Ks then I’d likely catch them close to the finish.

One of the bits of info that I didn’t place in my pre-race report was a tip that Baron gave me about running in Ironman. He told me that the secret to running well is going fast from 20-30K. Right about that time, I started to feel strong and lifted my pace to sub-4 minute Ks. I was taking 30-45 seconds per K out of the leaders (not Cam, but he was in a different zip code and race!). By the time I ran through the 30K mark, I was in second.

Being in second this time was different from Penticton. I had no chance to catch Cam so it was all about protecting my overall placing in the race. In a sense, it was a relief not to have to punish myself all the way to the line. However, when I got to the turnaround the final time, I saw that Rhodesy was on fire and closing the gap. Fortunately, I managed to take a split on him and saw that he was going to have to run 3:50K pace to run me down.

All the way back to town, people were giving me splits to Cam… “twenty minutes down, hang in there!” I kind of wished someone would tell me where Bryan was! In the end, I was able to relax a bit (but not too much) and run it in for second.

Yesterday was a valuable lesson in the benefit of sticking with it and keeping hope alive. After the press conference was finished on Friday, I wasn’t a factor in this race until the final hour of the day. A clear lesson on how pre-race expectations can impact our overall mental state. With Ironman, it’s always best to stay humble.

All-in-all a solid day for me – and the other half of the family. Miss M finished second in the women’s race. Cameron showed his class by breaking his own course record and backing himself to drill the swim and ride hard out for the first two-thirds of the bike. A nice guy and a true champion.

Next up, a bit of recovery and some hugs from Miss M. I’ll spend the spring and summer laying the foundations to survive Dave Scott’s “ten weeks to a sub-8:20” plan for Ironman Canada. Oh yeah, I’ll keep swimming lots – if we don’t change the drafting rules then I’ve got three minutes that need to come out of my swim.

No easy way.