Race Report: Ironman 70.3 Canada

This is shorter than usual, for obvious reasons, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the learnings that come from days that don’t go as planned.

I woke up feeling calmer than I ever have before a race. I had a great sleep, and felt good as I got organized.

I checked my lists and was out the door by 4:10.

I dropped off run nutrition in my run bag and jumped on the shuttle. I started setting up my bike transition area and quickly became chilled.

I had worn exactly what I’d worn before Kelowna and Victoria – my race kit with a light jacket, socks and running shoes.

And while I had checked the forecast in a general way (25C and sunny) and hadn’t really thought about the temperature at 5am.

It was 6C.

At that point, there wasn’t much I could do aside from pulling in the legs of my wetsuit. My coach and I had made the decision the day before that I would wear a sleeveless suit – it fits me better, and with a water temperature of 20C, it made sense. What we hadn’t taken into consideration was the mountain air temperature.

We had to drop off our morning clothes bag about an hour before the start, so I texted my coach and asked him if he would take my sweatshirt as close to the start as possible – I was so cold.

I got in the water for a warm-up around 7am. I swam a few hundred meter and felt calm. Cold. But calm.

Another athlete and I hit head-first and broke my new goggles. But I calmly swam to shore, and retrieved my spare pair from my bag.

I was among the first twenty athletes to enter the water, and I believe I was the first female. I was able to stay with the pack and was surprised by how slowly everyone seemed to be swimming – I didn’t have to work at all to stay on feet.

The first 750m were calm, but cold. I focused on just holding a steady pace. I didn’t have to do much sighting; I just stayed in the pack and kept the buoys on my left. I took the first turn, and began to feel something was really wrong.

I wasn’t anxious. I wasn’t panicked. The best I can describe it is that I felt disconnected from my body – sort of like being drunk. I sighted a paddle boat on the right and kept swimming.

I took the second turn and realized my pace had slowed considerably. There was pack of swimmers ahead of me that hadn’t been there before. I was feeling a bit too calm.

I passed the first orange buoy and stopped swimming briefly to  look for a paddle boat – I could see that they were right there and I made eye contact with the volunteer.

Don’t stop. Don’t quit. Don’t give up.

Second orange buoy. Make eye contact with the next paddle boat volunteer. A bunch of swimmers swim around me.

Don’t stop. Don’t quit. Don’t give up.

Third orange buoy. I just can’t do it.

I treaded water for what seemed like an eternity – in reality it was probably only a few seconds – before raising my hand.

The woman on the boat saw me immediately and came over. I grabbed on and realized I was shaking.

“I….just….can’t….get….warm”. I struggled to get the words out.

She immediately raised her paddle to signal the power boat. Two women got me out and asked me questions. I struggled to answer. I was too cold to talk.

They radioed the medical boat and I waited, wrapped in a thin blanket for hours, or, likely, a few minutes.

Medical arrived and took over. I don’t remember getting in the boat, but somehow I did. I remember being asked for my race number, over and over. I couldn’t speak, so I just held up my left wrist – race numbers are printed on our identification bracelets. They wrapped me in blankets and those emergency aluminum wraps.

My heart rate was so high while I was sitting there that I was convinced the device was malfunctioning.

I sat in medical until the paramedics were convinced I was warm enough to go. While I sat there, 4 or 5 more athletes were brought in, also hypothermic.

Eventually, some friends retrieved me and tracked down my coach. I am so grateful to all of them for their understanding and support.

The biggest learning is I need to take responsibility for make better clothing choices prior. Preparation is everything. And this needs to start when I pack to go to a destination. I admit that I did NOT carefully check the forecast when packing. I saw a high of 20-something with sun and didn’t look any more detailed than that. Had I bothered to look at the forecast for 430am, I would have worn a proper sweater, sweat pants, hat and brought hand warmers. I had none of those things in my suitcase, let alone on my person. I got cocky around packing and it cost me the race.

Wearing the sleeveless wetsuit didn’t help, of course. But that was the icing on the cake. The problem started 5 days prior, and was a lack of preparation. Had I even bothered to think this through the day before, I could have found and worn proper clothing. But I didn’t.

So I take full responsibility for that – this one is on me.

On the plus side, I was able to spend a good day supporting my teammates once I warmed up. It felt really important to me to be out there and adding positive vibes to the race. I had fun, and it felt GOOD to be here, and to watch others do well.

A huge thank you to the race organizers for ensuring a safe race, to the medical team for taking such good care of me, and to my teammates, friends, and coach, for their support.

It’s time to close the book on this one and focus on the next.