Swimming race 1:18:00  2.4 mi (32:30 / mi)
The organization of the event was amazing. While race morning is usually anything but relaxing, knowing that your equipment for each leg is safely tucked away and methodically arranged for you is fantastic. Once I racked my bike, and set up my nutrition, I made sure my tires were inflated and... that was it. How strange it was to not have to fight for space, arrange my towel, roll my socks and place my shoes: the myriad of other little details that usually are part of transition. Everything else had been taken to the course the night before, in numbered bags: my aero helmet, sunglasses, bike shoes, socks, race number and belt in the Bike bag, and running shoes, hat, and nutrition in the Run bag. These would be handed to me by volunteers as I came into the transitions. The special needs bags went in appropriately numbered boxes that would be taken out to the course.
Other than a fitful period when Birdy realized he forgot his bike nutrition back at the hotel room, prompting a lengthy search for Kim or Jill to help retrieve it, I was relaxed. I walked around a bit, just loosening up and concentrating on my breathing. Nutritional crisis now resolved, Birdy and I put on our wetsuits and made it down to the water to watch the pros start at 6:45.
The water was a good temperature: not so cold as to take your breath away for several minutes, but not too warm to lead to overheating. It was just Birdy, me, and two thousand other people waiting for the cannon. We waded out to get used to the water. It's always a little bracing when the water seeps in the zipper, but it quickly warms up. We went for a quick swim, and then positioned ourselves a few rows back on the left for the start. He's a stronger swimmer than I am, so I wanted to make sure that I took my time and didn't try to keep up with him or get in a pack that was too fast for me. Swing the arms to get them loose and move the wetsuit into a comfortable position... check the watch... marvel at all of the spectators on the beach and boardwalk... keep breathing...
BOOM went the cannon.
The water is actually pretty shallow for a good 30 meters or so, and as I waded out, I watched the first ranks butterfly their way along. Then it was time, so I went horizontal and started swimming.
The best way to describe the mass swim start is like a sharing a lane at the pool with twenty other people, eight of which have questionable directional abilities, three who have forgotten how to swim, and one who has a personal vendetta against you. People pushed down on my legs, arms, shoulders, and head. I had my goggles knocked askew 200m in so I had to pop up and get them readjusted. But after a few minutes, I began to get my own water and swim comfortably. I'm glad that I started toward the outside, because I can't imagine what it would be like closer to the buoy line. Every once in a while, someone would appear to be swimming diagonally to me, so I would recheck my orientation and verify that yes, I was pointing right at the houseboats that marked the corners of the course. I'd breathe bilaterally and just make sure that there were people on either side of me and I managed to go straight.
The first houseboat came up relatively quickly and as we rounded it, the pack began to bunch up. We spread out again and headed toward the second turn. At this point, I felt relaxed and was well into a good rhythm. The second boat and turn came and went and then it was back toward the beach for the final 1800m stretch. I found some feet and drafted most of the way back. As I neared the beach, I began to hear the announcer and some cheering. I kept swimming until I touched the ground with my fingers, then stood up and waded in.
I glanced at my watch and saw 1:17 and change. Nice, a little ahead of my target.
Biking race 5:29:00  112.0 mi (20.4 mph)
I unzipped to the waist, and then headed toward the volunteers. I flopped down on the grass and whoosh, I was free of my wetsuit. I picked up my swim-to-bike bag and headed toward the change tent, which had a pungency and frenzy that can't really be described. I changed as fast as I could and ran out of the tent while fastening my chin strap. I had several racks to run past, grabbed my bike, and then headed out of T1.
On to Main Street and the thousands of spectators... it was so nice to see my family waving and cheering for me! Their presence was very empowering.
I had made up my mind to go relatively easy until Osoyoos and the turn up Richter, so I knew that for the first 40 miles or so, I had to pace myself. There was a pretty nasty headwind out toward Skaha Lake so just hunkered down in aero and tried to maintain about 20 mph.
I passed by Birdy, who'd come out of the water 10 minutes ahead of me, at about mile 30 or so. We wished each other good luck and I headed on.
Just a brief aside about my nutrition plan: I used my Speedfil bottle, which held 40 oz of Infinit mixed at 580 calories. From previous experimentation, I knew that 10 sips were about 4 oz, so I planned on doing this every 20 minutes. On the hour, I took a Gu Roctane (100 cals), so I was aiming for just under 280 cal/hour. I had a second 20 oz bottle of Infinit as just the powder, on my back bottle carrier, which was a different flavor (so I didn't get bored of the taste), 1/3 the protein (so it was easier to digest and it didn't fizz when I shook it) and a slightly lower osmolality for easier digestion. I grabbed a cold water bottle from an aid station just before the rollers on the back side of Richter at mile 60 and mixed the second bottle of Infinit and then poured that into my Speedfil. From then on, I was good for liquid nutrition and just took cold water bottles as supplement for the rest of the way, still sipping every 20 minutes with a Gu on the hour. I used Thermolytes every 30 minutes as well to supplement the electrolytes in the Infinit.
I turned up Richter Pass, the first major climb, and spun conservatively all the way up. By this point, I had already passed a lot of people and was feeling great about the ride. My legs seemed fresh and I felt fast. There were plenty of people cheering and yelling, which I found extremely motivating. The descent off Richter was quick; I hit about 45 mph coming down.
The next section of the ride can be tricky. It's a series of rolling hills that require careful pacing to keep your energy and momentum going over the top of each. I leapfrogged with several riders, all of them bigger guys. I would pass them on the uphill and they'd catch me on the descents.
After these rollers, it was a long flat stretch toward Keremeos and the "out and back" portion. Mentally, it's difficult to see this turnaround point, ride past it for several minutes, then turn around to head back in the direction you just came from. This was where the bike special needs section was, although I didn't need to pick it up. I did see Birdy again at this point, so I knew he was still maintaining a good pace.
Now came the push up Yellow Lake. It went by quickly, much faster than I had anticipated. Again, just as at Richter, there were hundreds of people cheering everyone on, with lots of chalk messages and an announcer who called out names as we passed. The tricky thing about Yellow Lake is that once you make it to the lake, you're not really at the top, since there's still a little more climbing to do, albeit not very steep. This is the high point of the course, and the last 10 miles are a series of long descents all the way back into town. With tired muscles, it?s easy to lose focus, but at speeds of 45+ mph and some serious crosswinds, my heart rate was definitely elevated.
I sped back into town along Main Street and increased my cadence to get ready to run.
As I pulled up to the dismount line and prepared to get off my bike, I unclipped my right leg to swing it over my seat and water bottle. Normally, I'll then ride on one leg with both hands on my bars, come to a stop, unclip my other foot and get ready to run. But this time, as I swung my leg over, I felt like I tweaked something in my groin/hip flexor. It didn?t feel too serious, just a pull and a slight burn. I jogged my bike into T2 where a volunteer took it and I headed to get my bike-to-run bag.
Running race 4:37:55  26.2 mi (10:36 / mi)
I headed into the change tent again, which now was even funkier than the first time through, got my running shoes on and pulled on my cap. I took a second to stretch out the hip, which was now starting to bother me as I moved through transition. Some volunteers slathered me with sunscreen and I headed out.
The run begins by going along Lakeshore Drive, for a quick out and back, so I went right past our hotel where all of the Crosbys were cheering. I can't begin to describe how neat it was to see everyone yelling and smiling... seeing family and my sweetie gave me a huge boost!
However, things started to go south as I headed out of town. At mile 3, my hip started to tighten up. I stopped and stretched it out and then started running again. It was a pattern I was forced to repeat for the rest of the run.
For the first few miles, there aren't any significant climbs, thankfully. I grabbed water at each aid station to take down a Roctane according to my plan, about every 45 minutes or so. My plan was to continue with the Gu and then switch over to simple sugars and the HFCS in cola and Gatorade when I got REALLY tired of the Gu. I'd practiced this on my long runs without any adverse results.
My hip was now really starting to bother me. I could run for several minutes and feel it tighten up the entire time. I stopped at a few aid stations on the run to sit down and stretch out; it would feel better for a few minutes while running and then gradually get worse until I couldn't take it anymore and then I'd walk and stretch it again.
At this point, I knew my original goal of going <11 hours was going to be impossible, so I just decided to grit it out and do the best I could. It was all about the damage control.
At about mile 10, the course becomes much hillier heading into the town of Okanagan Falls. Going up hill was excruciating, so I wasn?t looking forward to this section. I saw Thomas Gruver out of the course and we encouraged each other and then Cindy Bigglestone from EMC passed us at a good clip... she looked like she was going strong (and eventually finished up setting a new PR by 16 minutes).
I hit the turnaround, waved off my run special needs bag, and then headed for home. Up and down the hills I had just run, still maintaining my "run/stop to stretch/walk for a minute or two" pattern. It was frustrating not to be able to maintain a good pace without pain since my heart rate was <150 and the rest of me wanted to run! My hip just wasn't cooperating, with every time I picked up my right leg causing me to wince.
While I was at mile 16, I saw Birdy at mile 10. He was walking but looked great. I was concerned that with his recent medical history (walking pneumonia, pulmonary issues), he could be in trouble, but he had a huge grin on his face and said that his walk was going well. It was great to see him... his positive attitude was infectious.
It was a long, lonely time running along Skaha Lake. The rain had started just after the turnaround, and normally, it wouldn't be a problem... in fact, I'd take cooler weather rather than the usual heat of Penticton, but now the cold just caused my muscles to tighten up even more. I walked the aid stations and ran as best I could otherwise.
The volunteers along the course were amazing. Always positive, despite the downpour, they were supportive and enthusiastic without fail. There were also little pockets of people, usually clustered around the hills, huddled under blankets and umbrellas, who were also cheering on every single runner.
At mile 23, the course starts to head downhill into town, and while I was hurting now more than ever, I decided that I was going to run the last mile no matter what and not worry about the pain. Right before the last half mile, which was again an out-and-back along Lakeshore drive mirroring the start of the race, I saw my family and Jill cheering me on, so I just tried to smile as best I could and finish. I saw the Crosbys again outside our hotel, hit the turnaround point, and just kept concentrating on the big finish banner. The last 200 yards of the course are packed with people, all cheering and banging on the fences, many calling my name (which was on the front of my bib number) and just going crazy. Then I heard the announcer: "Ryan Perovich, you... are... an... Ironman!"
And I was done.
I finished in 11:32, which was slower than my target time of <11 hours, but still extremely satisfying. I felt good that I was able to execute two of the three legs well and had set myself up for a strong run before I injured myself. I felt like I managed the situation as best I could, so I was happy.
I was still worried about Birdy, but as I was gathering my bags and bike, I heard the announcer say his name, so I dropped everything to give him congratulations and a hug. It turns out that he felt good enough to start running right after we passed each other on the run, and was able to do the last 16 miles at a reasonable pace to come in at 12:35, almost twenty minutes faster than two years ago despite his recent medical problems. Amazing!
I was so happy that my family was there to support me. Jill and her family were wonderful, and I couldn't have asked for better encouragement. It was a fantastic experience, and I can't wait to go back for 2010!