Thursday, August 16, 2012

38 things you should know about Ironman Canada

Why 38 reasons?  Well, I'm number 38 this year, so it just seemed like the right thing to do!

1. Ironically, I think it was 38 C last year.  It also hailed for 38 minutes the year before.  Be prepared to not be prepared for weather.

2. The swim is straight and easy.  The water is warm.  There are two huge targets to swim to, one mountain on the out, one solitary tall hotel on the return.

3. There may be scuba divers in the water around the big buoy turns - they're friendly and might be waving.  Do not freak out these are nice people :)

4. Rumours are true - tacks are often thrown out on course in the morning in the section after Maclean Creek hill to the highway stretch to Oosoyos.  I saw a lot of age groupers with flats in this section last year, but not as much the year before, so it can vary.  This is really unfortunate but try to stick to some heads up riding and scan the road for debris and avoid it.  You shouldn't have your head down into MC Hammertime yet anyways.  This is one of the most beautiful sections of the course.

5. You need to feed yourself on the hills of the bike course.  Don't wait to eat because the hills can go on for much longer than a food/drink interval should be.

6. This out-and-back section that you do in Cawston is not the mind f#%^ everyone says it is.  It's actually a lovely place to cycle, and you get to make some turns, which is nice after riding straight for most of the course.  You get to stretch out a bit, grab your special needs, and break up the last section of the course.

7. There will be a guy with a 'smile if you peed your pants today' sign.  Always smile :)

8. Get excited for the climb up to Yellow Lake.  People surround you both sides Tour de France style.  It is such a boost.  Smile and show your thanks for all these awesome friends and family of Ironman Canada.  They love to make people happy!

9. The last 20k of the ride is all essentially downhill.  If you need anything nutrition wise, make sure you know where the last aid station is before the descent.  After that you're on your own, and I think the last 20k is a good place to get in an extra gel, and some extra fluids.

10. The race has wetsuit strippers and transition at IMC is one of the most simple, straightforward, and comfortable transitions I've seen.  Take a walk through with one of the volunteers and ask them how it works, they're always happy to help.

11.  Please wear sunscreen for this race.  It is often full sun all day and there is almost no shade on this course for the entire day.  There have always been sunscreen smotherers out of T1 in my experience.  Just shout for sunscreen and they'll come slathering :)

12. If you get a chance to meet the announcer, Steve King.  Say hi.  He is a fantastically devoted person to our sport and unbelievably positive and a true force of endurance on race day.  He is the first voice you'll hear on race morning and also your last as you cross the line.  His voice is a total comfort to me during race day.

13. The run has a great combo of flats and climbs.  The middle 'half' of the race is quite technical (in other words, hilly), but it gives you little goals to get up and over, and I think that helps.  Your last 10k is basically a gentle uphill for about half of it and then downhill all the way to the end.

14.  There have been some complaints that the back half of the run course is quiet.  It's true, it is.  But it's a good time for you to just focus on what you're doing and keep up the pace.  If you're working hard, you won't be able to do much sightseeing for fans anyways.  But don't worry, you'll get a great boost at the OK falls turnaround - plus your special needs bag - and lots of cheers!

15.  There is one exception out on the 'quiet' part of the run course - for anyone who raced last year they may remember the very attractive dancing girls on the boat?  Simply awesome!  I think a few guys were tempted to jump into the lake and go party with the girls, but I have to say, their spirit was contagious and we all loved it.  Hope you're there this year ladies!!  And maybe you can bring some dancing men as well :)  Just sayin'....

16. If it's hot (it likely will be), I have 6 words of advice: "The ice goes in your pants".

17. If you're thristy (likely you will be), I have another 4 words of advice: "Don't suck the sponges".

18. Thinking back to the bike, don't get caught up in racing towards Osooyos (the start of the first climb - Richters' Pass).  People tend to derby right out of the gate and guaranteed you will be saying hello to these people before they ever get to Keremeos. (the 2/3 mark).

19. Wave at the kids.  There are kids all over this course cheering you on.  If they are looking for high fives, give 'em some.  It's a long day and they are out there hoping to make your day better.  It is worth the extra 3 steps to the side.  And it's a good stretch for your pecs.  The kids will go crazy!

20. The creativity that goes into the signs people will hold up on the run course are priceless.  Make sure you take a look.

21. Go to the carbo dinner.  The food is good, there is lots of it, they manage the line ups very well, and it is so inspiring to listen to Steve King talk about the history of the race.  Watch out for the Dickheads. You'll see what I mean.

22. If you didn't already know, this is the 30th anniversary of Ironman Canada and this is a big deal to the community that has supported it for 30 years.  It really is the community that makes this race.  It's their land, their water, their hands holding the cups of ice for you.  I feel honoured to be a part of it.  I hope you do too.

23. If you see a tall bald guy with #745 on his bib, I'm really, really trying to beat him this year.  I want a fair race, but I wouldn't be adverse to you stealing his ice cups.  His name is Carl.  He is my Ironman nemesis.

24. Be an honest racer.  Don't draft.  Even if you see other people doing it.  Don't do it.  Stay true to everything you trained for for the past year.

25. If you swim 1:05 or faster, please start as close to the front as you can take.  I was around a 1:05 swimmer last year and I made the mistake of starting in the middle.  I swam into slower people in front of me, and then got swam over (yes, literally) by people charging up from behind.  Bad scene.  I just needed to be more confident and stand up front.

26.  If you are slower or nervous, start on the sides.  There is lots of room out there to escape and take a breather if you need.  I am still uncomfortable in the water at times and a 'pro', so don't beat yourself up about feeling nervous about this swim.  It's ok.  You'll be ok too.  And you'll get a a rip roaring draft to suck you all the way around the course - you will do great!  Just be nice to your neighbours and they will likely be nice to you too.  And if you get bonked, laugh and roll on.  My best races have started with a punch to the face.

27. This is a hot and hilly course, usually with lots of wind.  So you will get sucked dry of fluids pretty quickly because sweat will evaporate quickly.  Drink early and as often as you need, and like I said, you will have to drink on some uphills and some downs.

28. Other people in the race are always ready to share a few words of commiseration with you when you need it the most.  Encourage them and they'll do the same.  You can get pretty self involved when you're hurting and focusing on yourself.  There have been a few guys out there who have made me break out into laughter and for me, it totally helps 'reset' a runner ticker of sometimes negative thoughts.

29. You have to run past the finish line before you run to it!  Some people hate it - I love it!  The road is packed full of cheer-ers, the lake is right there, it's maybe the best finish line I've run across.  And Steve King will be there, calling you home.

30. You're going to do better than you think you will.  This course is tough, but even more so, it's rewarding.  Ironman is so much more mental than physical, and this course is a gift to you in the spirit department.

31. The descents down the backsides of the climbs are fast, but they are also straight and safe.  Give your fellow bikers a little extra space when you're zooming along at 80km/h.  You don't want to be surprised by a rogue bottle launch.  Oh, and don't be the dork that passed me on the right hand side last year.

32.  This year I am putting an emergency pair of cut off tube socks that might double as arm warmers in my special needs bag for situations like said hail storm in point #1.

33.  Penticton is home to the best peaches I have ever tasted in my life.  Buy a whole box.  I am generally fuelled by race day by about 10 lbs of peaches.

34. Same goes for the wine - a little wine tasting before your race is not going to throw you off your game.  It's a lovely way to relax and spend time with the people that support you.  You should perhaps consider buying them a bottle of wine :) or two :)

35. There are some serious downhill sections on the run.  Don't brake, just lean forward, look downhill, and spin your legs quickly down the hills, it will be good for your cadence & will wake your legs up a bit.

36. If you like solid food in your special needs bag, pack a couple completely different options, you never know what you might want.  And put a CO2 cartridge and a tube in there too, just in case.

37. Once you reach the Cherry Lane Shopping centre area of the run home, it's time to give it everything you've got.  I don't know how far it is, maybe 5km, maybe less, but it's time to push.

38.  Have fun.  This will be one of the greatest races you'll ever do.  There will be patches where you'll feel desperate, a bit raw, maybe frustrated, but you'll make it through.  When I did my first Ironman, which was IMC, by the time I hit the end of the lake section of the run I teared up a bit, because I knew the race was coming to an end.  I didn't want it to be over, after dreaming about it for a year.  But then, when I stepped over the finish line, I was proud to stop and smile and throw my arms over the army of catchers at the finish line.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.  After going to Kona last year, if you gave me the choice of one one Ironman to pick between the two, it would be Ironman Canada.

It will always be Ironman Canada.

I can't wait to race at home :)



  1. That's some of the best IMC advice I've ever read! Have a great race and I LOVE the Dick-Eds! I can't believe they're still going!

  2. hi! yes dick-eds is much better spelling! thanks!

  3. Fantastic post! I'm not a tri-athlete, I'm only a runner, but I love how you wrote this post, so informative, encouraging, and just great. Best of luck out there!

    1. thanks for your words of encouragement! i'm glad i can reach athletes alike!

  4. Thank you Gillian! This is my first Ironman and I have been blessed to live and train in Penticton for the last year. Very special words of advice! See you at the finish line!

    1. definitely see you there! you are going to LOVE this race - Penticton is a great place to train but you'll love the race even more. If you actually find this mysterious pizza at the finish line - save me a piece - I have never got any!! :)

  5. I agree! Have done both Canada and Kona and Canada wins. :)

    1. love it! i'm not surprised you feel that way either :) and the 30th anniversary this year too - so awesome!

  6. love #23, i'm looking forward to seeing that play out. CH vs. GC. Wish I had an IM nemesis!

    1. haha - i think your IM nemesis was me until we separated categories. go and rock it this year and earn a Kona spot!! beating Carl will be like me punching my Kona ticket. we'll see :)

    2. That's the nicest thing anyone has every said to me! ha.

  7. Awesome, thank you! This will be my first, I can't wait. Have a great race!

    1. you will love it - i'm so excited for you!! you couldn't have picked a better race :) have a great race!

  8. This was a great post. Thanks for this. I will be up there racing. Not my first IM, but my first in Canada. Love that area so much. Looking forward to a great race and alot of fun!

    1. it's such a special place and the race is a blast! tough, but everyone seems to walk away smiling! good luck in your last week of prep - get some rest and don't over think it!

  9. My husband and I did IMC 2010, but I found new ideas/advice in your list when I read it on Saturday. I saw your name on the blog when I read it, but actually had no idea who you were (my bad), but so many of the points were just spot-on! I saw you on the run course (on Skaha were heading "back" and I was heading "out" and saw "Gillian" on your race number. Hmmm...I thought. Gillian. Wonder if that's the pro who wrote that great list!? Checked it out and BINGO! So...congratulations on a great race and win! I also had a great day out there. "Well said!" on your comments about being happy to be involved with in any race in Penticton, regardless of the name. So many Penticton residents and volunteers seemed worried about the situation and thanked us so much from coming up for the race. Pentictonites (is that what you call them?) really care about their town!

    1. Hi Dee,
      Thanks for your note! I'm glad you got some extra info before the race! I'm so happy you had a great day of racing - I think on that course although it can be tough, it's hard not to love it to pieces.
      Thanks also for comments about sticking with Penticton. I stand by this community 100% and am hopeful for their future. I think the best thing to do at this point is if you know you want to race, sign up and be counted. There is no greater gift than having the hearts of thousands behind you as you toe the line for one of life's greatest endurance challenges. Penticton is a very special place and I hope people come to realize that anyway they can.
      All the best and enjoy your recovery!!

  10. Gillian congratulations on your win! When I found out it was you, I told my friends and family about the tips I got from your blog and your nice response. I just wanted you to know that this first timer appreciates what you do and thank you for passing on the tips. You were right, this was a spectacular race and I had a great time!

    1. I'm so happy to hear that you had a great time!! I think it's impossible not to, even when times get tough out there, I still love this course :)
      I'm really happy to pass on whatever I've learned so that others can enjoy their day to the fullest.
      Now my tip to you is rest up, go for nice walks, sleep in, sip your lattes and remember the day to it's fullest (because your legs probably still are remembering the pain :)
      All the best,