Ironman Canada 1998 - Part 1
"Boy, I suck."
The spectators within earshot guffaw at this cheerfully frank assessment and assure #294 that such is not the case. "You're doin' great!" they cry enthusiastically. "Lookin' good, you're almost there!"
OK, so maybe I didn't actually suck, but there was no denying that my progress up Richter Pass was sluggish in comparison to that of the mountain goats rolling past. Fact of the matter was that I was simply pursuing my usual game plan: Don't fight the hills, sit down, relax, spin, joke with the spectators, cheer on the other athletes. Then, when the descents come: VROOOOM! Truth to tell, I was feeling pretty good.
The first 40 miles of the bike down to Osoyoos had gone beautifully, taking a little less than 2 hours before that good ol' Husky Station sign appeared and we made the sharp right turn into the hills. I welcomed the challenge of Richter Pass with relish. TriBaby has worked her tail off this year to get strong in the hills, and was looking forward to reaping the rewards of all that hard work. I still wasn't fast, but the strength and confidence of lots of climbing would surely translate into reserves of strength for the flats and rollers beyond the hills. If nothing else at IMC this year, I planned on an excellent bike split.
"I may not be able to do the run," I reasoned, "but I sure as hell am gonna hammer on that bike!"
Yes, you read correctly; there was to be no marathon for TriBaby at IMC. This painful decision had not come easily, but there was no denying that it was the practical one. The majority of folks from whom I sought advice on the matter, including my coach, had assured me that trying to do IMH only 5 weeks after completing IMC was risky at best. "Forget it," they all said. "Don't do IMC." "But, but, but...." I sputtered. In the end, I compromised, and quietly let it be known to most folks that my plan was to do the swim, do the bike, run perhaps a few miles of the marathon, and call it a day. No shame in a DNF when Kona beckons, right?
With that plan in mind, TriCrew Skippy and I headed off to Penticton.
It's difficult to fully convey the magic of Penticton during IMC week. You have to understand that IMC is about more than just the race itself; it's about a whole glowing week of concentrated trigeek heaven. Now, I suppose there are those who find that idea repulsive, but for me, there aren't too many things that can equal IMC week for sheer, headlong fun---especially for RSTers.
It begins almost as soon as you arrive at Spanish Villa---ah, home! Start hauling your stuff into your room and immediately the other trigeeks begin arriving to greet you. Rolf and IronPete, Wade and Cathy Blomgren, and here comes John Welch from across the courtyard. Then, the fellow in the next room says, "Hey, I know you!" "Hey, yeah, that's right, we had the same rooms next door to each other last year! Good to see you again, Ray!" Bruce and Martha Grant are comfortably installed in a corner room on the opposite wing. And Joe, good old Studmuffin himself, is in his old room 251, looking fit and ready to claim the IMH slot that will soon rightfully be his. It sure is good to be back.
After unpacking and reassembling the tangle that is your bike, you don a swimsuit for a refreshing evening dip in Lake Okanagan right across the street. You ease your way into the clear cool water as the sun sinks behind the mountains to the west and twilight settles lightly upon the valley. Ahhh! Heavenly.
After a restful night's sleep, pop up at 6:55 and pull on the swimsuit again. Quick, gotta get down to the Sicamous! It's time for the RST gathering! Sauntering up to the group with Bruce, Martha, and Scott in the brilliant early morning sunshine, I cry out, "Where are my boys?" and from the neoprene-clad knot before us emerge Jason and David. "Come to me, my love!" cries Jason. Our reunion is joyful and comical. Then the serious socializing begins.
Quick, how many names and faces can you assimilate in one hour? Conversation, laughter, and great hilarity ensue when Jane "Shadetree" Fratesi bends over and hears an ominous rip... Oops, that was her coach's wetsuit! Umm, better ease up on the Ben & Jerry's, Jane... The talk is all about the weather (much better this year, we all agree), the course, who's racing, what strategies will be employed, who's gunning for a slot. Pure Tri-Geek-Speak all the way.
While some insist on actually swimming, the smartasses in the group are having entirely too much fun Voguing. Swim to the first golfball and recite Vogue! Swim to the next golf ball, Vogue once more, then hold contests to see who can actually swim to the bottom and back without drowning. David Barclay wins the title of Siltboy for successfully retrieving a handful of said material from the lakebed at the third golfball.
Then, of course, there was the sparsely attended Bellyflop from the Safety Float contest. Jason, David, Jane Fratesi, and TriBaby were the sole, uh, participants--- although David was the only one brave enough to attempt actual bellyflops; the rest of us resorted to cannonballs and frightening renditions of "Tequila" and "The Macarena", complete with very scary dances that rocked the float drunkenly.
After such frolics you return to the beach at the Sicamous and learn more names and faces. You note Mike Plumb's heart rate while standing around chatting is 46 and promptly tell him that you hate him. You learn about George Ball's plans to shave the IMC M-dot into his hair for the race. And plans are made to gather for a marathon course bike ride in the afternoon.
Walking back to the Villa, you note that nearly everyone you see is a triathlete. Race sponsors have banners hung on balconies and building-fronts all along Lakeshore Drive, and most of the hotels and restaurants have "Welcome Triathletes!" on their marquees. People ride by on beautiful tri-bikes, and others are out for leisurely morning runs. You realize that at this moment you are in Triathlon Central, and you belong. It's a very heady sensation.
While strolling back to the Villa that first morning and chatting with others, someone mentions my name, upon which an unmistakably Aussie voice accosts me from behind: "Oh, so YOU'RE TriBaby! It's all your fault that I'm here!" accuses Steve "Gibbo" Gibson reproachfully. "I beg your pardon!" I respond indignantly. "I assume absolutely _no_ responsibility for anyone's presence at this function. Don't blame me!" (But I am still working my way toward that toaster oven.) Little did either of us realize that I would soon hurl a similar accusation right back at the ebullient Aussie.
Time for blueberry pancakes in Bruce and Martha's room, yum!
Next, it's early registration, stand in line for an hour, pick up your bags, check in, chat with other athletes. See Dave Scott eating brunch out on the Patio of the Clarion (now called the Lakeshore, I think). Check out the expo, experience the rush of excitement at actually being here, surrounded by all things tri. "What, you mean Lori is actually here?? Is she really gonna race? That's nuts, how can she do this so close to Hawaii? Wow!"
At 1pm you spin over to the stands of the finish area to meet the group for the bike ride of the marathon course. Personally, I was overwhelmed by the size of the group. Good god, there must have been close to 30 of us, if not more, and most were clothed in those gorgeous, flashy IMC-RST jerseys that Jason had made up this past spring. Last year I think we totalled about 8 people! We make quite a spectacle as Bruce leads us out of town on a roundabout route by the canal to get out to the run course. Folks floating down the canal in inner tubes cheer at the sight of this enormous peleton of trigeeks rolling by. Quelle spectacle!
The big events on Friday are breakfast at the Hog's Breath after the swim (yum!), the Bike Course Caravan, and the Carbo Load Dinner.
At noon perhaps 25 of us piled into vans and cars and cruised the enormous loop of the Okanagan and Similkimeen (sp?) valleys, stopping for food, photos, ice cream, and course grafitti along the way. I was in a van driven by Mike Tennent that included Jim and Dawn Kuhn, David Barclay, and "Hurricane Bob" Mina as passengers. Between David and Bob, we were all in stitches throughout the drive. We stop on the climbs, you hop out, grab a piece of Tina Hoeben's chalk, and start scribbling away on the pavement. Then you look forward to reading everyone else's messages on race day.
You return to the Villa and have only a few minutes to freshen up and get ready for the Carbo Load dinner. Is there anyone you haven't met yet? You'll meet 'em at the Carbo Load! Stuff your face, listen to the bagpipers, and ponder soberly the story of Don Lorrimer, the triathlete who suffered heart failure while on a training swim in Lake Okanagan just 3 days before. He was getting ready for his first IMC, and we all will have his initials penned beneath our race numbers at body marking on Sunday. All sorts of emotions assail you at the Carbo Load, and the nervous tension begins to mount.
Saturday, it's time to check in your bike and your gear for the race, and attend the mandatory pre-race meeting. What a lovely contrast to be actively seeking shade at this meeting; last year, we were all just praying that it wouldn't start raining before the meeting ended. Afterwards, you head back to the Villa for a nap. Whew, after such a busy week, you need it! Of course, you end up sleeping through the Parade of Athletes, oops! Guess you REALLY needed it. But now it's the evening before the race, and time to prepare all of your food for tomorrow: Metabolol, Cytomax, a turkey and mustard sandwich, pop tarts. Yum, yum, yum. Visits from other trigeeks beginning to get nervous. Finally, take a quick shower and fall into bed. Just a few more restless hours to go....
Continue on to Part 2...