Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Ironman Canada 2009 Race Report...

"Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Dear Tigger,

Well, I did it. I managed to complete another Ironman Canada. This year it was all about you my friend. I wanted to be able to honour your memory somehow and I thought this would be a great way as we finished it together in 2007. Then I found your race report from 2007 and saw that you were thinking it'd be great to race again this year. That sealed the deal.

We made it exciting in 2007, and let me tell ya, this year was just as exciting. The big difference was I handled things very differently. Let me start at the beginning though...

I had felt great leading up to race day, and that feeling continued with me as I got ready to go. It's funny how 4am doesn't seem super early on race day? Any other day I'd find many excuses not to get up!

After the usual morning ritual, the Parental Unit and I made our way to the start. Gave them both a big hug then, dropped my bag off at the special needs bin (I was very pleased with myself that I dropped it in the right bin) and went to body marking.

I asked the fellow if he could write '4 Tigger' on my calve. It was hard for me to ask as I could feel the emotions rising into my throat. He was hesitant but when I told him why I wanted it he wrote it right away. I was very thankful for that. Then I made my way to transition.

I was there pretty early so had a lot of time to make sure I had everything in place where it needed to be. I saw Richelle and went up to wish her a great day as it was her first Ironman. I'm not sure what started it - I think one of us said your name and that was it. I lost it. Great big sobs. I felt awful as this was Richelles first Ironman and she really didn't need this. I had seen others this morning, but didn't burst into tears. I think it was because we both knew you and both are still grieving the loss. Richelle was someone who could understand. We hugged each other for a bit then I sucked it up as I knew I had to. We wished each other a great race and went to do what we needed to do.

For the next half hour I sat looking out at the water and meditated for a while. I wanted to be still before I had to keep moving for who knows how long. I ran into some of the Team TriLife girls and was happy to share some easy banter before the race. I was bummed that I couldn't find my buddy Chuck, but with over 2600 people starting it was pretty full in transition!

Finally it was go time. I had my swim gear on, everything else was where it should be and was making my way through the swim start arch. So far it was a gorgeous day out there! This time I was going to do something different too. I was going to stand on the right side of the swim start! Bold for me, I know. Remember the last time how we stood WAY back on the left??

A couple ladies asked me if this was a good spot to stand, I told them it was a great spot! Not that I'd ever started a swim from there, but I decided it was going to be whatever I made it to be.

Know what? It WAS a great spot! Well, except for the very shallow bit and the rocks. That made the actual start a bit tricky, but I somehow got through it. Partially by going into the water and literally pulling myself forward by grabbing the rock bottom. I can imagine what a sight that might have been.

Finally I was swimming. Oh what a swim I had! It was BRILLIANT. I have never been so confident and strong in any swim as I was that day. I got right into the thick of it. I got kicked in the ribs, and some fellow (I will assume it was a dude) tried to swim up me backside, until I gave him a gentle kick (filled with love of course) to get off me.

I tried to get on someones feet to draft, and if they were too slow I'd zoom past. There were a few times when I was getting sandwiched in so I would power stroke to get through them. Me! Power stroking in a race and not dying!! It was such an amazing feeling. I kept thinking how proud Leslie would be of me.

I kept to my plan and sighted often, kept up the strong stroke, and kept moving forward. I didn't worry when there were lots of people around me, I didn't worry when I got hit, I just kept going. The only time I had a bit of difficulty was after going around the first sailboat. For one thing I was thrown off because it was a sailboat and not the usual houseboat out there! So when I turned the corner I couldn't see another houseboat and ended up aiming for another sailboat.

Halfway through this portion I caught a glimpse of the houseboat. Rats! I figured something was wrong because I didn't have as many people around me as before. So I adjusted my course and went for the houseboat.

For the first time ever I really enjoyed my swim in a race. It was a joy to hear the announcer as we got closer to shore. At long last I was on terra firma.

Into the transition tent I went. I got on my shirt that had the wee Tigger doll in the back pocket, then all the rest of the stuff, grabbed my bike and was off. I love that first bit riding up Main Street. You feel like a rock star having everyone cheer you on. I felt fantastic.

The biggest thing I noticed on the start of the ride was that I was with a lot of people. Normally I'm closer to the back, so this was a new experience. It was really hard to space out and pass people as there were just so many. Apparantly the race officials realized that too as there was drafting, but only because there were so many of us, if we all spread out we'd be a kilometer or more long.

People did do there best to leave some space though. I felt really strong going up Maclean Creek Road - normally I'm out of breath but this time I wasn't, which was a great thing. Going into OK Falls I didn't use my brakes on that huge downhill. Now that was a rush!

As I was riding I had several people go by and comment on the Tigger in my back pocket. I heard 'Go Tigger Go!', which made me smile. I kept thinking they are cheering on your spirit as you take this journey with me!

I figured I must have had a great swim because I'm sure a good thousand people passed me. It didn't bother me though because I was also doing some passing and I was still with a lot of people.

I felt really strong and kept a good pace going right up to Osooyos. Then it was time to climb Richter. I was starting to feel the heat then. I kept on top of my nutrition like I said I would and started the climb.

You'd never guess what was at the bottom of Richter. Some dude dressed up as Tigger!! I swear girl, I do not know what connection you have with that section of road, but everytime I go there your spirit appears in the form of Tigger. During the May camp it was a little Tigger doll in some guys fanny pack, and this time it was a full sized Tigger! That guy sure must have been hot later on in the day. I had a good laugh and as I rode by said 'You should look at my back pocket.' When they saw it was Tigger I got a huge cheer and "GO TIGGER!". Very cool.

I felt good climbing Richter. I made sure I cheered those people going by me and I smiled a lot as there was some really kind people cheering and encouraging all of us. I saw Wade from Great White North Tri at the top. He was announcing everyones names and numbers and cheering everyone on.

I started taking salt tablets at this point. It was hard to feel the heat as there was a headwind, but I figured I better get going with them. The rollers felt really slow to me, but it could have been the wind. I did my best climbing them, and then really pushed it on the decent and flats. This is what I do best I think. I found that people would pass me on the climb, then I'd pass them on the decent. Sometimes they'd catch me, sometimes they wouldn't.

Just my luck along the way to Keremeos I had more headwind. The wind itself didn't but me, I'm used to it. But I think it slowed me down. I remembered what coach said about staying in aeros at this point and I did my best to do that.

My neck and upper back were starting to hurt a lot so I decided I would stop at the special needs out and back to stretch a bit. There was something else going on with the bod too. I had had a gassy stomach most of the bike. This is really normal for me as both my Infinit and the bananas I take at the aid stations make me burp. I wasn't worried about it at all, just kept burping along the way.

Somewhere along the out and back though the slight discomfort in my belly, which was normal, started to get a little more intense. When I got off my bike at the out and back I actually felt a bit queasy. I had stayed on top of my nutrition to that point and was going to keep at it no matter what.

I felt much better after having a stretch. I even went to the loo. I didn't feel like I had to go, which was unusual for me, but figured as I would there I would see if I had to. I got back on the bike and had a better ride on the way towards Yellow Lake. People were starting to drop at this point I should add. I saw a guy lying on the grass under a fruit tree in one of the orchards. His bike was propped up on the tree.

I was almost at the bottom of Yellow Lake when I saw an elderly gentleman sitting on the roadside with his bike. He didn't look good and I was worried so I stopped and asked if there was anything I could do to help. He came up to me looking like the life was being sucked out of him and asked if I had any salt tabs. I gave him the last one I had. He said he had no energy and couldn't go on. I encouraged him to keep going, but then left even though I was scared for him. I saw a couple specators go towards him so I hope he got help.

The heat was getting oppressive as I climbed Yellow Lake. When the winds changed again and it was a headwind, but I wasn't upset. I needed something to cool me down. My stomach was also getting worse. I saw the Cochrane gang on the hill and stopped to break down a bit. Esther gave me a hug and then ordered me back on my bike. Or perhaps that was Linda. Not sure. I laugh about that now and am thankful for it but at the time I was thinking 'I'm okay guys, I just need to have a little cry as I really hurt right now'. Of course I couldn't spit that out.

I got more water and tried to take in a banana at the top of Yellow Lake. By now I was having troubles taking in nutriton. When I did a wave of nausea would come over me. I stuck to my plan though and no matter what kept taking in drink and food. I was also trying to drink more water thinking that maybe I had too much salt or something? At this point I didn't really know what I should do, but I didn't give up staying in touch with what I was feeling and trying to address it.

I got a bit further and had to stop. When I went into aero I wanted to vomit, when I sat up I had severe stomach pain. Hmm, this was going to be a bit of a challenge. I stopped at a porta potty near Twin Lakes. It was hear that Squeaky Boy stopped too. Honestly Tigger, this guys bike was driving me nuts. Something on it was squeaking and he'd been near me since the end of the out and back.

He'd pass, then slow down, then I'd pass and lose him for a while, then I stopped for that man, so he passed again but was close enough for me to hear his bike. Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak. This is so not what one wants to hear when they are trying to figure out what's going on with their body and going in between the need to hurl and the sharp pains.

Of course, it was Squeaky Boy though that stopped and as he watched me fold over my bike ask if I was ok and then moved his bike from the shady bit and told me to go in the shade on the other side of the porta potty. In my head I apologized immediately for all the bad names I was calling his bike. I was thankful for his compassion.

So I'm going to admit something here...it was about this point I questioned continuing the race. I know. I slipped. The ENTIRE time I had been out there I stayed in the present. I was really hurting though and wondered if continuing on would be a wise thing or if I was doing some damage to myself. As soon as I thought this though, I thought of you. And I remembered my biggest process goal - to stay in the present throughout the race no matter what was going on.

So I did. I kept pushing on and alternated between the aeros and sitting up and just pedaled the best I could. I knew at this point I wasn't going to have the race I wanted, but I was very accepting of the race I was having. It helped too that people kept commenting on the Tigger in my back pocket. It kept me focussed on what this race was all about.

Finally I made it back in town. I saw my folks and knew they'd be wondering where I was. Dad had the computer and spreadsheet thing going and was tracking everyone by their pace. My pace was great for most of the ride, then dwindled so I figured they'd be worried. I rode by and said I was having some troubles with my belly and I was sorry if I worried them. I learned later that they didn't hear the 'if I worried them part' and though I was going to call it quits.

My transition took some time, something which my Pops mentioned I should work on because everyone else had short transitions. Too funny. As I left the transition tent I took a deep breath and said to myself 'Okay Suse. Here's the game plan. We'll walk a bit and see if we can't get this belly to settle down so we can run and we are going to keep up on the nutrition no matter what'.

I had just turned the corner onto Main Street when I saw Keith and Linda. I think they could tell something wasn't quite right. Perhaps it was the fact that I was walking?! I told them my legs wanted to run, because oh how they did, but my stomach had said no.

There was a lady standing beside Keith and Linda who overheard our brief conversation. Then she saw the Tigger in my back pocket. As I started walking away she called out to me 'What would Tigger do?' What would Tigger do indeed...of course I knew that answer. You would never quit. You would stay positive and keep going and that's what I was going to do! There was no question in my mind.

So, with head held high and quite the defiant little strut, I started walking through the crowds of downtown. I may be walking, but I'm still moving forward! I saw some friends and asked one of them, John for some advice. I was still hoping to figure out what to do about the guts.

I took in some water and a power gel at the first aid station. It didn't go down well, but it didn't come back up so that was a good thing. By the time I saw the third aid station in the distance I'd made the decision I was going to try and run. My stomach still wasn't great, but this was just way to far a distance to walk!

I got into chi running postion and off I went. Hmmm, I think I can do this running thing! I saw the Parental Unit at the motel. They were shocked to see me out there and running. I told them not to worry about me, but it was possible I would be a bit slow as I wasn't sure how much I could run. Just up the road I saw David and Esther. I apologized to Esther because she'd been worried about me. They were really happy to see me running as much as I was happy to be running!

I ran for a bit with a fellow from Calgary, but lost touch with him at one of the aid stations further down. I was still burping up a storm but also there was the back end getting into the action. Needless to say all I could think about was Jen's fear of 'chocolate rain'. Yeesh. I did make a couple of porta potty stops just to make sure this might not happen.

As I ran along the lake I noticed I couldn't see the mountains. I'm not sure if I noticed the smoke before that. I know I could smell it on the bike, but figured it might be from a camp or something. Now I could see if was from nearby forest fires. It was a like a light fog covering the mountains.

I did well with the run and made it almost to the halfway point when my stomach starting giving me the sharp pains again. Rats!

I smiled as I got to the turnaround point and thought about you and I and how I felt the last time we got here. Then I was so low on fuel I couldn't see straight!! At least this time, aside from the belly I was in high spirits and totally coherent. Always a good thing eh?!

I had been power walking up the hills and was going to keep doing that for the hill out of the turnaround. I tried running on the flats a bit but was really struggling. Finally I decided I would just power walk for a while. The sun was going down and the sunset was incredible!

I wish you could have seen it. The sun was a fiery orange and the smoke was in layers and glowing slightly orange over the lake. It was a beautiful scene. At the time I didn't put two and two together...I was having troubles with my breathing. I would take a deep breath and my lungs would hurt. I didn't have my inhaler with me as I took a hit off of it in transition. Afterwards I realized it was likely the smoke getting to me too.

Along the way I finally saw JoZ. You would have been proud of her Tigger. She was finally doing her first Ironman. She told me that she was having major stomach issues and would be able to finish. My heart broke for her, but I was so proud that she wanted to go as far as she could and she was positive about everything.

I was still running and walking and playing leap frog with this gal who was walking. Finally I ended up walking with her for a while. Here name was April from TO. She was a total sweetpea. She's an engineer as well and we got to talking engineering. She's involved with cranial fascial reconstruction for little kids. The equipment they use is totally fascinating and I was picking her brain about it. I swear anyone hearing this conversation would be thinking 'what the heck are you guys talking about??'

I was biding my time at this point. I wanted to run, but I also wanted the pain in my belly to ease up a bit. I started in on the cola at some point and didn't stop. By the time I got up the last hilly bit it was time for me to run. I had been walking a bit with my friend Hope at this point and bid her adieu.

I have no idea what got into me at this point. Perhaps it was your spirit?? But I ran and I ran hard. I was at or faster than a half marathon pace at this point - I'm sure of it. I was gritting my teeth at times because it hurt so bad, but I kept thinking only 8 km to go. PUSH!! I was passing people left right and centre. Spectators were shocked at my pace, not as much as I was shocked at my pace I'm sure! I tried not to think how nice it would have been to run the entire race this strong.

I stopped quickly at the hotel and grabbed my big Tigger doll from Mom. Tigger was going to run this last bit in with me just like we did in '07. I was charging down the last few kilometers. I stopped a couple times for more cola but that was it I wasn't stopping for anything.

Finally, the last stretch. I remembered what it was like to run this stretch with you. I was thinking, 'Well Tigger, here we go again! Savour it my friend, this is all for you!!' I charged forward and held the Tigger doll up high as I made my way across the finish line. I was so happy to see Keith pop out of the crowd to catch me. Then I crumbled. It had been one heck of a day.

After helping me to gather my stuff I went out and met up with the Parental Unit. I'm sure they were glad there was no repeat of a medical tent visit like there was in 2007! I left them to go use the loo, and just as I sat down I thought 'Oh oh, what if I can't get up??' Thankfully I did. We then chatted with friends and then it was time to go back to the hotel. I was a wee hurtin' unit.

I told you I would get us in quicker than the last time, and I managed that. Not by a whole heck of a lot of time, but it was still good. The day wasn't what I had hoped to give you, but really, it was a great day. I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to stay positive and stay in the present NO MATTER WHAT.

I was challenged with the pain that was going on, but I didn't let it get me down. I continued to stay on my nutrition and to try different things to help the situation. I smiled a lot. I thought of you tons! In the rough spots I thought of my friends and family and how blessed I am with this incredible life.

Some would be disappointed with that type of race, I'm sure. Me, well, I think of it a different way. I look at it as this is what being an Ironman is all about. Not only taking on the challenge of a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike, and 42.2 km run, but also taking on all the challenges that go with the day and staying positive no matter what is handed to you.

Thank you Tigger for having been in my life and showing me how to smile throughout the tough bits. Thank you for giving me the courage and the strength to face the day. And thank you for being my guardian angel - I just know you had a hand in giving me the energy to finish the race strong.

Your spirit will always be in my heart.

Love always,


  1. Great race Susi and amazing report! Just WOW!

  2. Susie, what a race repor thank-you so very much it was outstanding. I actually watched you and Terry come across the finish line on the weekend, as I was glued to the IMC site.
    I am so proud to know you, and will miss ya when you move. Luv Mox0x0x0

  3. Suds,
    That was an incredible report. I can picture that all going through your mind and the smile still on your face. I'm sorry for your gastric turmoil but glad you finished. Tigger would be proud. Now I'll have your crazy race on my mind when I'm beating myself on the rocks in my 12hr AR in 2 weeks.

  4. You are a total STAR and CHAMP!!! You have no idea how happy I was to see you at the finish line. You should be proud of yourself, and I have no doubt that Tigger is as well.

  5. Susi, I am so proud of you! Congratulations!!!!!!!

  6. That was an awesome report Susi, I nearly cried when that person said, "what would tigger do?" WOW that was simply awesome, good job!!

  7. I couldn't have sobbed more reading this report.... in joy and in life and in memory of your dear friend Tigger...


  8. Sheeit, thanks for making me cry:) I'm such a sucker for an ironman story. I'm so sorry it's not what you hoped it would be but I'm glad you pulled and pushed through. What a time! I love that - what would Tigger do? And that's how you get through the dark times. Be very proud and congrats, you rock.

  9. Congrats Susi, I'm very proud of you.


  10. So - I'm tearing up reading your race report. So moving. Amazing job. That is no doubt why I love this crazy sport we do. Congrats again on the amazing race.

  11. WOW! Susi! Amazing. I'm in awe at the perseverence you put into this race. Congratulations and can't wait to see it again soon!


  12. Fighting through all you did and you finished anyway. Your friend must be looking down and smiling at you!
    Very emotional race and you perservered!

  13. Congratulations Susi! What a great race and a fantastic race report. Your tale brought tears to my eyes.

    I am so very sorry to hear that your friend passed. It sounds like some of her spirit lives on in you.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story.


  14. You rock, my friend. Sounds like you slayed that damn gerbil once and for all as well -- hahahahaha!

    I honestly thought that that man dressed as Tigger was a friend of yours! Gad! What it must have felt like when you saw him! :) :) :)

    I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU!!!!!!!!!

  15. There sure were some Tiggers I never expected to see out there!! Greater things at work! Tigger would be so Proud of you Susi :) So much more to say but I just can not find the words!!

  16. That was a very beautiful race report Susie - well done and lovely to read!

    Cath (Julie's friend from Fernie)

  17. Congratulations Susi... I love that you took Tigger with you all day. The "Go Tigger" cheers thru the day must have been amazing and hard at the same time. I know how much you were struggling when you went by me at 23 miles. You are a rock for getting the job done. Congrats on another Ironman race:) THanks for sharing your story. Angie

  18. i can only say two things, you are an amazing person and thankyou for all the help leading up to IMC

  19. I have been waiting to read your race report and since I haven't had interent for two day's this was my first chance to read it. Before I read this report, I thought of you on my flight to JFK when I was watching the abu dhabi adventure race and thought that you would be the perfect person to inspire a group of ladies to build a team to race. I will send you details soon.

    Congrats on a great finish!

  20. Susi, I found your blog through a friend of friend and read your race report. Ironically, I was in Canada too racing. I remember you! Actually I remember Tigger! I was near you on the run and ran beside you. I asked "who is your friend in your pocket?" your response "She's my guardian angel." It made me smile and touched me in a special way.

    congrats on your race!

  21. I have tears in my eyes, what a great race report! I love that you wrote tigger on your leg and that you saw a guy in a Tigger suit. I mean, what are the odds? And the part about you running in holding a Tigger in the air, gives me chills. What a wonderful recap of the race. And I love your dad w/ his spreadsheets and comments.

    Congratulations, my friend. You did it!!! I thought about you (and Julie) a lot during my race and I think we all helped each other.


  22. hi susi, i have never read your blog before but my sister amy told me about it today. you and all your canadian counterparts have been such a support to my little sis and for that i thank you.

    your race report brought tears to my eyes several times. the part where you dedicated your race to your friend and had it written on your leg, as well as when you saw the tigger on your bike are such signs. i am sure your friend is winking at you.

    thanks again for being there for my sister! wendy

  23. ps- i should have said sisterS since you follow katie's blog too!

  24. "I knew at this point I wasn't going to have the race I wanted, but I was very accepting of the race I was having. It helped too that people kept commenting on the Tigger in my back pocket. It kept me focussed on what this race was all about."

    This part encapsulates your dedication as an athlete and your compassion as a human being. And why I love you! Congrats on your finish, but more importantly, congrats on completing an important journey. You are so tough mentally and emotionally; it is very inspiring. You are a tribute to the sport and to the human race-thank you for being you!

    P.S. I especially admire your ability to stay present, problem sove and keep with it despite other circumstances. Will you be my coach? :)

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