Jillian Chaney’s Ironman Canada Race Report
August 28, 2011
From the time I got into Ironman Canada, which I wasn’t even sure I would be able to do since it sells out so quickly, my life has revolved around this race. At points it felt like race day was never going to come and then as the day approached, I had no idea where the year had gone. I will say that training for this race has been a truly amazing journey.
Prerace: This was so different than any other race because the majority of our gear and bikes were delivered the day before. Despite this, I was still hauling a nearly full tri bag on my back. Seriously, I don’t even know what I had in it. Thank you Adrienne for the sticky note on the front door or I would not have had any eGel to put on my bike as it was in the refrigerator. Surprisingly, I was less nervous than I normally am at a race. I think I was just a deer in the headlights. Handed our bags off to Paul and off to the water we went. This is when I actually got nervous. Suddenly, it all seemed real.
Swim: Roughly 2,841 people started Ironman Canada and we all stood there, together on the beach that morning. This was intimidating. We lined up toward the front but left of the buoy line as Joby recommended to hopefully minimize the trampling while also giving us good field position. When the gun went off I expected everyone to rush into the water, but with over 1100 first time Ironmen there, the majority of people, including us, just started to walk deeper into the water. After about 15 seconds I thought screw it, let’s get this day started. The first few minutes were not that bad, not too many arms and legs flying. That soon ended and the stampede began. I felt like a human wac-a-mole for the majority of the swim. Rounding buoy one was the worst of it. I got cramps in both calves as I rounded it and just tried to swim it out. Luckily, I was able to get in a handful of good strokes every once in a while. At one point I did totally clench a guys neck from behind. He had his head out of the water and my hand connected with it as I was taking a stroke. I apologized, but got the feeling I was not the first one who grabbed him. Finally, I hit the red buoys which signaled that the shore was close. As I approached the shore and could see people exiting, I was still amazed by the number of race participants. It was seriously breathtaking. I swam as long as I could and the water got shallow quick. As always, I immediately looked at my watch and fully expected a horrible time because I felt like I was just getting tossed around like a beach ball for a lot of the swim. To my surprise, it was my best swim time for this distance yet, who would have thunk it. I escaped the swim with just a few scrapes; I’ll take it. Swim Time: 1:20:41
T1: Wetsuit strippers, never used them before. Wow, they are quick. I like it! Grabbed my swim-to-bike bag and headed into the women’s changing tent. I did not have a designated “handler” at this point, but I really did not need one. Put on my helmet, glasses, and cycling shoes and handed my bag off to a volunteer who had just finished dressing someone else. I wasn’t doing a full wardrobe change (this is like the Emmy’s), so I didn’t really need a dedicated volunteer. Found my bike quickly and headed out to the bike course. T1 Time: 3:58
Bike: When I signed up for this race, I was really intimidated by the bike course. I like hill riding, but I am not necessarily a great climber. I bought a CompuTrainer so I could ride the course before the actual race and the course DVD is still in shrink wrap. Joby analyzed the course and had us training on comparable (if not harder) hills all season. So, going into this race, I actually felt pretty confident about tackling the bike course. It also helped that our lead sherpa, Paul, drove us on a guided tour of the bike course a couple days before the race. It just makes me feel better to see a course before I ride it.
Heading out of T1, I took my time and started to pop some Endurolytes. It was going to be a long day and I wanted to take some time and settle in. Per my race plan the first 24 miles was supposed to be chill, so that is exactly what I did. Saw Joby on the return from his 20 mile run and waved hello. The first 56 miles or so of the bike actually went by pretty quickly. After this point, I started to feel a little off and kind of woozy. This happened during Vineman Aquabike as well. I was taking in plenty of nutrition and water so I was not sure what was causing it. I started to think about how Joby mentioned that the Ironman race really began at mile 80 and at this point I would know whether I had set myself up for great success or would have made the next 32 miles on the bike and 26 miles running a near impossibility. At this point, I was feeling the latter. Shortly after that a flash of lightening known better as Adrienne flew by me. It was nice to see a familiar face, or rather backside at this point as she whizzed past. I kept taking in nutrition and tried to work myself out of the funk. By about mile 70, I was feeling much better. Stopped around mile 82 for a quick bathroom break because there was no line and I knew I would not make it to T2. I have never done this in a race and was hesitant that if I got off my bike my legs may seize up or something. It was actually quite the opposite. After my little pit stop I caught up to and passed a bunch of people who had passed me when I was feeling woozy between miles 56-70. Felt the wind picking up as I approached the last hills at yellow lake, but still enjoyed the downhill back into town. Thinking of Laura, I screamed wheeee while descending, which is what she did when we drove the course. Saw my family and friends as I headed into town and was ready to be on the run course. For this course and it being my first Ironman, I was really happy with my ride. Bike Time: 6:44:58
T2: So nice to have your bike taken from you and not have to worry about weaving in and out of crowded racks. A volunteer grabbed my bag and headed into the changing tent with me. Like T1, I did not do a full change so I made it in and out of the tent quickly. Got lathered up with sunscreen and headed toward the run course. T2 Time: 5:47
Run: I like running and am generally happy whenever I get to the run part of any tri; it is where I am most comfortable (typically). The temperature was in the 90s when I hit the run course and I knew this most probably would be a problem for me. I am not good in the heat. Leaving town I saw all of our spectators who were in full force and I felt really good. However, as soon as I started to take in my first piece of nutrition, GU chomps, which I use frequently, I knew something was not right. I started dry heaving immediately. I figured it was probably just a fluke. At every aid station I made sure to squeeze the sponges over my head and arms and take ice to keep cool. This was working well and I was not feeling too overheated, no dry, cotton mouth or anything like that. I did realize quickly that my original run pacing plan was not going to happen because of the heat. I was OK with this and just focused on running/jogging at a comfortable pace and staying cool. After the first 10K or so, I saw Adrienne and she looked great. I was starting to slow down at this point. She offered to stay with me, but I did not want to slow her race down. I could not take in any nutrition. Every time I tried, I started to dry heave and finally what little I had taken in came back up. Well, this was something that has never happened to me before. I was at about mile 9 at this point and knew it was going to be a long day. I talked to a lot of Ironmen before this race and most of them told me that if you have trained properly for the race, which I had, executing your race plan is not the hard part it is dealing with the unexpected during the race and making adjustments along the way. After I hit the 10 mile mark and continued to heave, I realized I could not keep jogging, at least not for the moment. I have never walked in a race before and it was really hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I was going to have to do so. My new plan was to walk the up hills and some of the flats and jog/run the rest. I would only allow myself to walk if I could still make around 13 minute miles, which I did. I was actually surprised at how quickly (I use this term loosely) the miles went by using the run/walk strategy. I was still not able to take in any significant nutrition and this was getting really frustrating because I was starting to feel very depleted. With about 4 miles left I tried to minimize walking as much as I could, but I had nothing left in the tank. All I had taken in was a few pieces of fruit and water since mile 10. Then, I saw the mile 24 sign and knew I was almost done. At this point the streets were lined with spectators and I could see the end in sight (not literally, but I knew it was out there). However, my stomach had decided that the little bit of food I had taken in over the last 14 miles no longer wished to be in my belly. In front of all sorts of spectators I totally launched on the side of the street. I felt so bad and just started apologizing to the people for making a mess of their street. Then, I kept running. Only in Ironman is this considered normal behavior. It was getting dark and I wanted to make it in before I had to wear a glow stick necklace. Thankfully, I accomplished this goal. Barely, but I accomplished it. While it was not the run I had planned, I was about to become an Ironman and that was a great feeling. Crossed the finish line and for those of you who watched the live feed, you know I took my time here. Everyone I talked to said to savor this moment and I did. You never get your first Ironman back. However, I realized I may have ruined the finish line photo of the guy who finished after me. I tracked him down on Facebook and sent an apology message. He congratulated me on my finish and said that he just has to be faster than me next time. While the announcer did not say “Jillian Chaney from San Clemente, CA, you are an Ironman” which still bugs me a little, I was an Ironman. Run Time: 5:08:39
Final Race Result: 13:24:03
I am very happy that Ironman Canada was my first Ironman. Adrienne and Laura were troopers for letting me persuade them into it. Let’s be honest, I did not have to pull their arms that much. It was a beautiful course and the volunteers and local spectators were amazing. The people were so kind and welcoming. I met a couple the day before the race at lunch and they tracked me the entire race and I saw them 3 times out on the course. Who does that?
I can honestly say that training for this race and has been so much fun. And, doing it with Laura, Adrienne, Katie, and all of our Team FC crew that have joined in on many of our workouts has made it that much better. Joby, thank you for getting me ready for this race and you and Mia traveling all the way to Canada to watch us race it. Paul, thank you for being there, everyday supporting and encouraging my lunacy. For me, you have made your live revolve around this race as well. I cannot thank enough all our spectators and sherpas – Paul, Yen, Yas, Joby, Mia, my mom, dad, and stepmom. It was so great to have you there and see you out on the course. Friends, colleagues, Team FC, and TriLaVie peeps who watched and cheered from home, thank you for all the support and congratulations! I am an Ironman, Ironperson, however you want to describe it! When I did my first triathlon in 2008, in Disneyland, I never imagined I would ever be an Ironman.