THE DAY I DID AN IRONMAN

TONY'S RACE REPORT: IRONMAN CANADA 2010


Race Morning:
August 29, 2010. Ironman Canada was finally here!  My day started at 3am--didn't even need the alarm to wake me up.  I went to the bathroom, and then had breakfast:  water, banana, and a bagel with cream cheese.  My swim to bike bag, my bike to run bag, and my bike were checked in yesterday....just less stuff to think about.  I made one last peak at my special needs bags for the bike and the run, got dressed, and prayed.  I already had my race plan memorized and had my goal time of finishing between 13-14 hours.  If I finished before that, then it would be a perfect race...but really, I just wanted to finish in one piece.  We were in the hotel lobby by 4:45am.  I looked around and saw all of our TNT teammates.  Some looked nervous, some looked tired, and others looked very relaxed.  For me, I was a combination of very excited, yet calm. Before we were driven to the race area, Bea's friend, Kevin, made sure that we did not forget anything.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Dropping off "special needs" bags.

We headed to the race area and there was the swarm of competitors getting in line to drop off their special needs bags and to get body marked.  I remember the lovely volunteer who body marked me.  She was so nice and energetic.  After she wrote "458" on my arms, legs, and wrote my age on my calf, she then gave me a hug and wished me luck. How cool was that!?!  Special needs bagged dropped off and body marking done, I proceeded to the bike transition area to put my water bottles on my bike, and then waited in line for the bathroom.  After my long wait in the bathroom line, I walked to the Ironteam meeting place and saw Ron.  He had the bike pump so I borrowed it from him and pumped up my tires. I did one last bike check--checked the tires, my spare tire, my tool kit, water bottles--it looked good. I took a deep breath and then I sighed.  Wow, the race was about 45 minutes away and I had time to relax!  I hung out with my teammates prior to the start of the race.  I chatted and laughed with them, then before I knew it, it was 6:30am...and just like Dan would say, it was time to get serious.  I started to do some active warm ups for my upper body and then took a peek at the buoys in the lake.  I quickly ran through my visualization--seeing myself making it through the swim unscathed, entering transition, and quickly making it out to the bike.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Tony finishing the 2.4 mile swim.


2.4 Mile Swim

It was time to enter the water.  I gave Donella a kiss, wished her luck, and told her I love her.  I took a little warm-up swim and then placed myself not to close to the starting line, but in line with the buoys.  I looked to my left and to my right...wow there was a lot of people!  Then, I looked behind me towards the shore and, man; there was a whole lot more competitors--about 3,000 of them!  Before the start of the swim, the announcer asked us to greet and shake the hands of each competitor next to you.  I shook their hands and wished them luck and they did the same.  Prior to the swim start, the announcer said something like,”We are soon going to enter the human washing machine".  And the swim was exactly like that! 

The race officially began.  I can feel some of the competitors around me get frantic.  I didn't pay too much attention to them and stuck with my plan to proceed to walk forward until the water got around waist deep.  I started to swim with the pack--literally surrounded by swimmers.  I could not get around anybody for the first quarter mile!  Oh well...we were all swimming in the same direction and we were all drafting off each other.  I really could not get my swimming rhythm down until the first right turn around the boats.  I stuck to my plan to spot every 3-6 strokes.  Every now and then, I would get bumped or nudged.  I did my best to ignore it...then a guy tried to swim over me and I wasn't going to let that happen.  I exaggerated my flutter kick and gave a high elbow to get him off and he swam around me.  I made the second right turn was now heading toward the shore.  I could spot off the two big towers!  Not too long after the turn, I felt my timing chip strap around my left ankle coming loose!  Crap!  I didn't want to risk kicking my timing chip off so I stopped swimming and tightened it.  As I was doing that, I felt my hamstrings and my quads cramping up. "Aww Man!  Not now!"  I said to myself.  Oh well...I had to deal with it and I kept swimming.  I got closer to shore and I was able to see the Big Peach.  I swam until I was able to touch the ground with my hands.  I got up and started to run towards transition, saw Ann and Franny and gave them high fives and stuck out my tongue (I don't know why I do that, but I tend stick out my tongue during races when I am having a good time).  My swim was finished in 1:13:39.

I ran towards the two volunteers and they quickly stripped my wetsuit off and handed me my swim to bike transition bag.  I went into the changing tent and it was packed!  There were no chairs to sit on, so I put my transition towel on the grass and sat down and proceeded to change into my bike gear.  T1 took me 10:33...oh man that was way too much time in there, but at least I was certain that I had everything I needed on the bike.  

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Tony climbing up Richter Pass.

112 Mile Bike Ride
Hearing the crowd cheer was very exciting.  I was pumped and happy to be on the bike.  Prior to the race, my coaches, captains, and former participants had strongly recommended for me to take it easy for the first ~40 miles before Richter.  Taking heed to their advice, I calmed my nerves down and made sure that I was biking with a cadence of 85-95 RPM.  I did not let it bother me that tons of people were passing me.  I knew if I stayed patient, that I would be able to pass some of them on the run.  Even though I was taking it easy for this portion of the race, the course was so flat that I was going about 20-24 MPH on the bike.  For the first 15-20 miles, the bike portion of the race was crowded.  There was one point where I witnessed a bike accident around mile 10.  Looks like the guy lost control of his bike and crashed.  All of us cycling were good about making sure he had enough room to pick up his bike and walk to the side of the road.  I hope he was OK and finished the race, but didn't see his bib number. 

Around mile 25-30, I had to pee!  There were porta potties, but there were only 2 at every rest stop and there was a huge line!  I said to myself, "Forget it, I'll wait until the next one!" So I decided to continue biking, and the next porta potties were occupied with a full line of people.  I really had to go, so I promised myself, before Richter, I would stop at the next porta potty.  Finally--the next Porta potty station!  I dismounted and waited for like 10 minutes in line.  I didn't care about the long wait.  To make use of my time in line, I stretched my hamstrings and quads. It lessened the cramping, but it didn't completely go away.  This was another thing that I had to deal with. 

I felt much better after having a "sense of clear" and proceeded up Richter pass.  Yes, it was a big hill, but I also felt my training with our team prepared me well for this.  I put a little more effort into the climb, but not a lot since I knew I had another ~70 miles to go.  I finally got to the top of Richter and started my descent.  I reached 45 mph while descending...pretty exciting, but also a bit scary.  One little turn or blip in the rode and I'm sure my race would have ended.  After that lovely descent, I went up and down the various hills which have been endearingly named the 7 bitches. 

Finally I hit the "out and back" around mile 70-75.  Out of the whole bike course, this was the most brutal.  I was warned about the wind, so I was expecting it, but it was truly a pain trying to bike this portion of the race.  My speed slowed down significantly, but I kept pedaling.  My legs were getting tired, so I had to bump it down a gear.  Thinking back, I remember trying to keep smiling and to think happy thoughts.  I was thinking about random stuff, like when I was giving my best man speech at my brother’s wedding, and thinking about the fun times I have had training.  I definitely thought about my mom and how I have missed her.  I could imagine her standing at the top of those hills and cheering me on.  I also imagined that my whole family was there in Canada...on that bike course cheering me on. 

Yellow Lake finally arrived.  The day before the race, Ann told us that she would be at the top of Yellow Lake and when we saw her that would be the last climb of the bike course.  I kept trekking up Yellow Lake, and it didn't feel that bad going up...I just needed to make sure that I had saved my legs for the run.  I would tell myself to "keep the money in the bank".  I think I heard that from Ron, and it stuck with me.  The crowd cheering while we were going up Yellow Lake was awesome.  It definitely helped. I would here some of the spectators say, "You are almost there...the top is coming right up."  Since I didn't see Ann at the top, I knew they were just being nice or didn't know what they were talking about.  I finally saw, not only Ann's, but also Franny's smiling faces and I was so happy to see them.  If I wasn't smiling going up Yellow Lake, then I was smiling then.  Seeing them gave me an extra boost of energy.  I was also excited that this was the final climb of the bike course and there would be another downhill on the other side of the hill. 

I got into my aero position and started to cycle down the hill.  Again, I reached 45 mph on the descent.  Being that this was the last part of the bike, I started to think that I should err on the side of caution and put my hands near the breaks...just in case.  It would have sucked to crash at this point.  I made into down just fine and headed into town.  Those last 10 miles to the bike to run transition took forever!  I completed by bike ride in 7:04:18.  It was about 20-30 minutes slower than anticipated, but it was all good.  I completed the bike course--nothing to complain about!  I went into transition, handed my bike to a volunteer, picked up my bike to run bag and ran into the changing tent.  Before I left transition, I went to the bathroom and asked the volunteer for some sun block.  T2 took 8:21.

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
Tony during the 26.2 mile

Finally...the 26.2 Mile Run

26.2 miles left in the race.  This was my very first marathon, so I didn't really have a good estimate of how long it would take me.  My goal was ~5 hours.  I had set my watch to beep every 15 minutes.  My plan was after 15 minutes; I could either walk a minute or keep running. 

I think it was within the first 1-2 miles on the run course, I was instructed by a volunteer and he said "run course on your left and finish line to your right." At that time, I was confused and just happy to be on the run.  Guess what happened? ...I went to my right!  I went around the turn-around and as I was heading down the stretch I saw the sign "finish line".  I asked the volunteer, “Wait a minute, where do I go?"  Realizing that I went the wrong way, he pointed me in the right direction!  I was upset at myself for that moment and yelled out, "SHEEIT!" I just ran more than I needed to!   Oh well I had to let it go.  ;o)

Around mile 3, I felt like the water bottle I was carrying was bothering me and felt imbalanced.  I ended up chucking it into the recycling bin and continued on with my run.  I looked around and I saw so many people cheering.  You know, it really does make your day better when you have others cheering for you.  "Go, Antonio!"  I would hear. (When I registered for IMC, I forgot to mention that I go by Tony.)  Every now and then I would also hear, "Go Ironteam!" from total strangers.  I ran until mile 5 then walked for a minute.  I knew I would not be able to sustain a 5 mile run/1 minute walk for the remainder of the race.  At mile 7, I walked a minute, proceeded to go through the aide station and grabbed Gatorade, and water.  The Gatorade made my stomach upset temporarily, so I said to myself that I would no longer take Gatorade and relied on GU chomps, Pepsi, pretzels, and/or water for my nutrition.  At Mile 10, I had to walk again, and I quickly had to figure out another plan.  I then decided to run the mile and walk the aide stations...sounded good to me. 

Mile 12 hit and I felt my right IT band starting to hurt.  Funny thing...it was my left knee that I had to rehab during the season and it wasn't bothering me at all.  My right knee never gave me any issues until now.  I walked-- it hurt more.  I ran--it hurt less.  So I ran as much as I could and decided to deal with the pain.  At 13.1 miles, my right knee really started to bother me.  I had to take a moment and massage it out.  I got my run special needs bag and took 5 baby aspirin, a water bottle, and my long sleeve shirt.  I chucked the rest.  I looked up...That same hill I ran down to get to 13.1 miles I had to now go back up.  My right knee did not feel good running up the hill, so I walked it.  At that moment when I was feeling the most discouraged, one of the competitors offered me his other half of a peanut butter and jam sandwich.  I gladly took it and thanked him.  After devouring that sandwich, I felt a little better and kept walking.  I had to think of something positive and then said to myself, “Each step you take forward is one step closer to the finish line." 

Finally, I was done walking up that stupid hill and started to run a mile then walk when I would get to the aid stations.  Around mile 14-15, a volunteer asked if I wanted some chicken soup broth...I took it and it hit the spot and I had more energy.  What also gave me another "pick me up" was seeing Ann and Franny driving down the run course.  I heard their cheers and saw their smiling faces.  I, too, began to smile, because before that moment, I was getting a bit lonely on that course.  As I was approaching mile ~18, I crossed paths with Martin.  He might have been on mile 7-8 on his run.  I was glad to hear him say, "Donella is not too far behind me."  A few miles later, I crossed paths with Donella.  So happy to see her, we ran up to each other and gave each other a kiss.  She then said, "I don't think, I'm gonna make the cut-off." I quickly said to her.  "No, don't say that!  You will make it!  Just keep going!"  The whole season, I was rooting for her and was her biggest supporter.  I wanted her to succeed. 

Mile 22 came and it made me think of my colleague who once told me that his race during Ironman Canada ended at mile 22.  That made me think that there would be no way that I would stop here!  If I had to walk or crawl to the finish, I would have been determined to do so.  Around this time, I was picking up my pace.  I remembered seeing a few familiar faces.  They passed me on the bike, and now I was now passing them on the run!  Sweet!  Mile 23 passed, so did mile 24.  Main St. was approaching Westminster Ave.  I made a left. Then came Winnipeg St--I made a right. 

Tony learning to fix a flat tire.
I am an Ironman!!!


I felt no more knee pain, just a rush of adrenaline and excitement.  Lakeshore Dr. was in front of me.  When you are on Lakeshore Dr., you can literally see the finish line to your right, but you have to turn left on Lakeshore, run for what seemed to be another 1/2 a mile or so, then you make a U turn and head toward the finish line.  Almost there!  I picked up my pace even more, passing more people.  I saw Ann again and she started to cheer me on!  "Yeah, Baby!  You are an Ironman."  Before I made it to the chute, she said to me, "Soak it all in!"  Indeed, that is what I did.  Once I made it down the chute, I made sure there was enough space between the competitor in front of me and behind me.  The last thing I wanted was to ruin someone else's moment down the chute, and I sure didn't want someone ruining my moment by having them run in front of me.  I was all smiles from this point.  Overjoyed, yelling, and slapping high fives with everyone on my right, I looked all around me so I would have that moment ingrained in my memory forever. 

At 8:36pm, it was my moment!  I did it! I crossed the finish line and finished the race in 13:36:57! 
I was officially an Ironman! 


About Two Weeks After the Race

Since that day, I have thought about my race and my journey.  I remember my excitement when joining the Ironteam.  I remember the days when I would see good improvement in my swim, bike and run.  I also remember the moments when I faced adversity—such as the time when I had sustained an injury to my left knee.  The physical therapy definitely help me get back out there and returned back to running in a timely manner. 

For all my experiences, and the friendships that I have made, I am very grateful.  I am grateful to EVERYONE on our team.  I am especially grateful for my wife who persuaded me to join Ironteam.  Yes, she joined the team first, and when I tried out my first swim practice, I was sold!  Thank you, everyone, who has supported me and the cause that was behind doing the race:  not only finishing an ironman, but also raising money for cancer research. 

I wonder if I will do another Ironman again?  Hmmmmmmm...I wouldn't rule it out. 

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