Sunday, September 26, 2010

3 major cities, 2 continents and 1 confused biological clock

We woke up this morning at 6am in St Thomas US Virgin Islands to catch our flight at 8:15. We connected in Miami and had a 6 hour layover so we decided to spend the afternoon exploring a little bit of South Beach. We siezed the opportunity to rent a couple of Segways and motored our way up and down Ocean Drive, the Boardwalk and even had time for lunch on a patio on Esplanada Way (historic spanish part of the city). We got back to the airport just in time to get our 6 pm flight to Los Angeles were we had another 3 hours to kill. Not enough time to get out of the airport, but just enough time to enjoy some of LAX's finest food court dining and learn a few new card games at the gate waiting for our 11:50pm flight. Fourteen hours later we've arrived in Hong Kong and we've completely lost track of what day or time it is. We know technically it's 6:45am on Monday Sept 27, although we did wake up this morning when it was only Saturday Sept 25th.

I'm not sure if I want lunch, dinner or to pass out for a good (nights?) rest. I will however go with the flow and take any opportunity to get a morning coffee and bagel.. it is before 7am technically right?

Ok - well, one more connection and we're finally in Bangkok. All is well and can't wait to post some great pictures of our adventures so far.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Great trip! Bad blogging!

Just a quick update for anyone who thinks we've gone missing...

I intended to post to my blog everyday since I had figured out how to do so from my blackberry, but turns out that I couldn't afford to eat or have anywhere to sleep after paying for the data uploading and roaming charges in both the Carribean and Asia. So... instead I will have to rely on hotel internet cafe's for posting updates.

We're having a great time and enjoying our last night in St Thomas US Virgins Islands. The BVI's were amazing, but we have an early flight to catch in the morning so we're here tonight to make things easier on us. Tomorrow starts 40+ hours of travelling and my next update will be from somewhere in Southeast Asia.

Don't worry, I'm keeping blog posts prepared daily for posting as soon as I get the chance and a bit more time.

All is well.


Monday, September 20, 2010


Anthony and I had a great visit in Toronto. The wedding on Saturday was incredible and it was so nice to see old friends again. Those Comries sure know how to throw a party.

Sunday we visited with family and ate way too much food at my sisters place...some things will never change.

Now we're finally at the airport waiting for the first of many flights today anticipating the warm sun and ocean air of Tortola.

Ciao for now.
Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Here we go!

I'm taking out the garbage, turning off the lights and triple checking that I have my passport. In just a few hours Anthony and I are leaving for the airport and our adventure begins.

The journey starts with a whirlwind trip through Toronto to see two of my favourite Big City peeps tie the knot on Saturday and visit with family on Sunday. Then with not a moments rest, we're off to the British Virgin Islands for some island hopping and R&R Caribbean style.

From there, we start the trek to Asia and then the worlds our oyster!

This is my last post from home also serving as a test to make sure I can upload photos along with my mobile posts.

Ciao for now.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mobile Me!

This is my first mobile post! In just a few days Anthony and I are leaving on our whirl-wind trip to Toronto, the Bristish Virgin Islands and Southeast Asia. I've set up this mobile setting so I can blog on the go (complete with photos and all!)

7 days to go!

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.
Envoyé sans fil par mon terminal mobile BlackBerry sur le réseau de Bell.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ironman - Pre race report

This is my ridiculously long race report. I want to remember everything when I come back to read it years from now. It's broken up into separate posts for readability. Enjoy.

I woke up as scheduled at 4am that morning with a feeling that truly only compares to being a child again. It was like Christmas morning, or like going on vacation and knowing that you were going to ride an airplane that day. It's pure honest excitement that as adults we rarely get to experience anymore. Today was going to be a big day.

The nervous energy in the air downtown was amazing. Hundreds of athletes in varying degrees of focus strolled down Main Street dropping of their special needs bags and lining up for body marking. Triple and quadruple checking that they had everything they would need 14 or more hours from then and using the sharpies from body marking to write their own message of inspiration or motivation on their hands and forearms. Watching this was pretty cool, but I also wondered why so many people wanted to put a smiley face on the backs of their calves. Later in the day out on course, I smiled every time I saw one and found my answer.

In transition there wasn't much to do. Since all our gear and bikes were dropped off the day before, a little air in my tires was all I needed. Then, off to stand in the port-o-potty line up. I didn't have to go then, but I figured I would by the time I got to the front and waiting until you have to go is a bad time to get in line. My forethought proved a perfect strategy.

Timing was perfect to get into my wetsuit and onto the beach in time to find all my supporters before the pros start. Jen my sister from Toronto, Anthony, Robyn and Dave and even Robyn's mom was there to wish me luck, send me love and take some pictures. After all the business of the morning was done, all was calm on the beach as athletes started to fill the waters. A few good luck hugs and well wishes, but other than that, things were mostly quiet. Although it's entirely possible that it wasn't like that at all, but I was completely zen and didn't notice anything else that was going on.

In the week(s) leading up to Ironman I did a lot of thinking about what this day would mean to me. I started reading over old blog posts that started recording this journey in February of 2006. That was when I registered and started training for my very first marathon in Honolulu, HI. I followed my journey though running my first 10km race, my inaugural half marathon, the epic training days of my first 3 hour runs and the challenges and triumphs leading me through the finish line in Hawaii.

I also read race reports from "Try-a-Tri's" done on my mountain bike in 2006 and giggled as I read through the trial and error of navigating the "noodle legs" of transition for the first time in sprint distance races in 2007. I grinned fondly remembering pre-race nerves as I relived my first Olympic distance swim in Kelowna 2008 and smiled quietly at the memory of actually shaking before the Osoyoos Half Iron in 2009. I revisited the days when I started swimming Saturday mornings instead of sleeping in, when Sundays started being reserved for long runs and when biking to and from work just wasn't going to cut it anymore. Wow, what a road it's been.

My little trip down memory lane served two purposes. First, I was so thankful for the internet and the ability to record my journey in a way that not only could I revisit these days of past, but I recycled the words of encouragement left as comments on each one of those posts. Second, it really highlighted exactly what the Ironman was about for me. This was not a race, this was about a journey. It was about the same thing August 2010 as it was in February 2006. Learning about limits and how to push them, about who you are and what your capable of, about believing in yourself and that with a little dedication, commitment and a lot hard work, there isn't anything you can't do. I've come a long way.

Ironman - The Swim

Standing knee high in water as we all sang O Canada together I teared up in my googles just as I was told I would. I wasn't thinking about strategy or about anything else that would come my way in the hours ahead. Instead, I stuck true to my only Ironman goal - be present. The target was to finish, but the goal was to stay present and experience every moment of the day. I deserved that.

The cannon shot and away we went. I stayed back and took my time, I figured that it was going to be messy anywhere I went (left, right or middle) so I just hung back. I got into the mess of things and a mess it was. Arms, legs, bodies flailing, this could have very easily been panic inducing and again I found myself thanking whatever swimming god it was that gave me calm nerves in water. I never seem to panic in the chaos of race starts and I was particularly thankful for that again on this morning. It took a while to actually start swimming, and when we did, it was very, very slow. There were just too many people to get around. Eventually though, I was able to find some sort of rhythm. I looked a few different places for a good draft but every pair of feet I found were moving entirely too slow (even for me). I did eventually find a nice pair of feet moving at a perfect pace. He was cruising along and cutting a path, dodging and weaving through swimmers so that I didn't have to. I affectionately dubbed him "Captain Okanagan" and as long as I stayed on those toes, it was easy sailing for the Captain and I.

I lost the Captain at the first buoy and right turn (the buoys are actually houseboats - no way you can miss these suckers). We got caught up in the bottle neck and I was all by myself on the other side. Oh well - it was nice while it lasted. I did a quick time check just after the turn and the clock read 33 min, or maybe 36min, I don't remember. All I remember was feeling stoked that I was still feeling great and that the pace was perfect.

The next 400m I swam almost alone. Just chillin', swimmin', staying calm and carrying on.

Rounding the next buoy pointed us in the direction of home and the final 1800m. Things started to get fairly rough here again. I think at this point people start to get a little tired and start to swim a little less straight and a little more curvy and swruvey. I know I do when I'm tired, so maybe it was just me bumping into more people… Anyhow, I couldn't find another good draft again, I looked in a few different places, but I was either getting bumped off by someone else or we just weren't jiving in pace. I decided to just stay focused on my own swim and stopped wasting mental energy looking around for a draft. It almost felt unnecessary anyway because the entire body of water was moving in one direction. If you've ever swam in a lake or ocean and let the waves take you into shore, it was like constantly swimming in that kind of moving water. I think if I stopped swimming, I'd probably keep moving anyway :)

I was happily swimming by myself watching the two tall condos on the beach get closer and closer with every sighting. It never did get calmer and in fact, I took a big thump to the abdomen when I got too close to another guy. I must have zigged when he zagged and somehow I was over his feet and took a nice hard kick in the guts. I wasn't shaken, it just kept me happier to be swimming alone and not fight for a draft or positioning. The end was near anyhow.

Coming out of the water I stood up and walked in through knee high water with a big stupid smile on my face and announced to the entire crowd "that was AWWESOMMME!" They must have liked it cause it got them cheering. Standing on sand again I heard Rudy (my Mom's good friend) yell too me from the side lines. So good to see faces you know cheering you on.

SWIM: 1:21min

Ironman - The Bike

Transition was pretty calm for me, although it didn't seem that way for everyone. People were running this way and that way, sitting on the grass putting on their shoes, into change tents and out again.. it was crazy!. I took my time and even stopped at the port-o-potty again. I had a few hands helping me get my jersey on and slather on some sunscreen, then I was out onto the bike course in no time.

Riding down Main Street was pretty incredible. The people cheering are six deep and lined the streets for 20 blocks. Anthony and Jen went way down to the other end of Main where it wasn't so crowded which was great because I couldn't have missed them as I rode by. A big smile and a wave and I was on my way.

Thanks to my training, I knew the bike course inside and out. I had mentally broken it down into 5 parts. From transition out Skaha Lake, up McLean Creek Dr and down the highway through Oliver and into Osoyoos was considered "The Warm Up". This section is fairly easy with a small climb up McLean Creek, but mostly descending with a tailwind. I make it a point to enjoy this 60km or so because after that, it only gets tougher.

The second part of the course I break into Richter Pass and the Rollers. Once you get into Osoyoos Ironman really begins. By now your nicely warmed up and mentally prepared for the challenges to come. Climbing Richter Pass has always been a trademark part of the Ironman course, but now that I've ridden this section of the course almost a dozen times, it's lost it's intimidation factor on me. Now, I just settle in for the climb and find it no where as daunting as it was the first time. Of course, today was a little different than any other ride I've done. The line of riders was as far up the mountain as my eyes could see and at some places three riders wide. At the first look out, the spectators were in full force with music blaring and cowbells ringing. Still smiling ear to ear, their cheers just pushed me up the hill near effortlessly. The reception at the top of Richter was no different. A guy standing on top of his pick up truck with a mic and two amps yelled out your number, your name and welcomed you to the top. Of all the times I've done that climb, this certainly was the most exciting.

I mentally include the rollers on the backside of Richter in this section of the course. That means that once I get to the top of that climb, I know it's not over. A quick (and I mean quick - 69km/hr the last time I looked) descend down the backside provides a decent recovery but it's not long before those hills come at you fast and furious. You've got to work hard here to keep your momentum otherwise you end up doing a lot more climbing than you have to. The faster you descend, the less you have to climb up the next hill. Easy when your alone, not so easy when there's a hundred other riders doing the same thing in front, beside and behind you. Was a little scary, but all went by smoothly.

The next section is the Out & Back. But before you get there, you have a long stretch of flat road to get over which also tends to come with a nasty headwind. This day was no exception and the wind was definitely blowing. I hate headwind. It just sucks. I was just about to get settled in when I see three fans up on the side of the highway cheering like madmen. As I get closer I recognize one of them… hey! I know that redhead… that's my boyfriend!!! And he's got Kierstie and Adam with him!!! Yelling! Screaming! Cheering! Cowbells ringing they jumped up and down for me. I smiled bigger than I had been all day and suddenly forgot all about that headwind.

They caught up with me again down the road and drove beside me in the car for a minute or two. Despite being 120km in the course, having climbed Richter Pass, been up and over the rollers and facing a nasty headwind.. I was having SO MUCH FUN! I was riding the Ironman bike course and three of the most amazing people were out there with me making me feel like a champ. This was what this day was about.

Onto the out & back. One last cheer from the three amigos on the side of the road and I was again on my own for the next challenge. The out & back section of the course isn't all that demanding, it's a semi-flat farm road with some undulating hills but nothing like the rollers behind me now. The challenge here is that you backtrack where you've just come from for 10km or so, turn around and head back the same way to get back on the highway. This is mentally exhausting. To backtrack at this point is just taxing. Add to this that your well into your day now, you've just been riding into headwind for probably 45 minutes and you know that after you backtrack, you're in for more, stronger headwind than before. Worst of all, you know that after all this, you head out to Yellow Lake. The only good part of this section is that at the turn around point is the special needs bag pick up. This is where I have stashed my secret weapon. Mini-potatoes.

Boiled, slathered in butter and salt and frozen over night these little carb cannons are going to be the best part of my day (so far). Sure enough, I picked them up at the end of Barcello Road and they were still chilled but perfectly defrosted. Helllllloooo taters! Five powerbars into my day, you can't imagine how good real food taste. I washed those down with a salt tablet and a couple of Ibuprofen and I was (almost) good as new.

Back on track and feeling revitalized I headed back towards the highway. Despite the new energy found in food, mentally it's getting tough out there. I'm really, really getting tired of headwind and it's an unseasonably cold day in the interior. Thankfully I have my arm warmers with me and I put them back on just in time for the rain. Headwind, rain, this day isn't getting any easier no matter how many people ring their bells and honk their horns as you pass. Good news is that now that I'm cold and tired I have Yellow Lake to look forward to (that was serious sarcasm).

Part four: Yellow Lake. This section isn't just the notorious climb itself. It starts 17km away where the out & back spits you back onto the highway. Some where on a training ride we discovered that someone has spray painted mile markers on the road every 100m from the out & back to the top of Yellow Lake. It's exactly 17km and you get to watch how close your getting 100m at a time. 0.0km, 0.1km, 0.2km, ….1.0km, 1.1km…. all the way to the top. Some find it distracting, I LOVE IT. This part of the course had me close to tears and feeling defeated the first time I rode it. Now, out of spite, I ride this section with vengeance. Like it stole something from me that day and every time I ride over that pavement I ride it harder and faster like I'm earning it back.

I got to Yellow Lake smiling. It's raining. Not hard, but it's raining. The start of the hill is lined with fans and as you get closer you ride through them with them so close on either side it's like your riding the Tour de France. People dressed in costume, banners, noisemakers, signs (my favourite read "ride it like you stole it!") and traffic is stopped and lined from the top to the bottom. People sitting in chairs that have obviously been there all day still have the enthusiasm like your the first rider to come through. I rode up the whole way with a smile ear to ear (they really like it when you smile) and made sure to look at each fan and soak up the energy. 4km to the top. What hill?

The final section: The Descend. Once you defeat Yellow Lake mentally you've completed the course. There is still a climb or two left, but nothing compared to what you've accomplished. For the most part, it's all downhill from here. Pouring rain now I'm laughing out loud that I'm at the top of Yellow Lake and beginning the descend into Penticton to complete the Ironman bike course. Down one of the long winding downhill parts (thankful the roads are now dry from the hail storm earlier and thankful for my wool arm warmers and my forethought to wear them) I let out a "WWWEEEEEEEEE" and a "YIPPPEEEE" for good measure. I'm loving every minute of this ride no matter what Mother Nature had in mind.

The end of this ride generally ends the same way everytime, with one single thought pushing you to the end "it's time to get off this bike". Very quickly your mind can make itself up and just decide it's having no more of this and your butt needs to get off this bike. Once that happens, funs over.

I passed Anthony, Jen, Robyn, and Dave right where I left them 7 hours ago and as I rolled into Transition 2, Rudy was there once again shouting over crowds to get my attention and make sure I heard him "Go Sarah! You're doing great!". Next to my butt, it's the checks on my face that hurt the most from smiling all day long.

BIKE: 7:10min

Ironman - The Run

I handed my bike off to a volunteer that will take it back to it's home on the rack and by the time I get to the long rows of run gear bags, another volunteer has already seen me coming and grabbed my bag for me. What service! Seeing as I just rode 180km on my bike and was about to run a full marathon, I was in no hurry to get out of that change tent. I sat myself down on a chair and took my sweet time. One more stop for a pee break and I was back out through those run course arches and away I went.

Let me start by saying that I had very little expectations for my run. I'm not a strong runner and in training all my runs off the bike have been torturous and pushed me to my limits (and they were usually no longer than 30min long). So, my plan was just to run from aid station to aid station stopping to drink at each one and eat every second one. However, I wasn't going to be hard on myself if that didn't work out because I had eight and a half hours to complete that marathon and I figured even if I was walking backwards or on my hands and knees, I could do it.

Out I went. Not surprisingly the crowds of people (still there and as thick as they were 7 hours ago) gave me a huge boost. As the day has proved, my "awesome" training, and never forgetting to smile was by far the most important training I ever did. With my smile back on from ear to ear, looking fans in the eye as they encourage me forward, I am light on my feet and breeze through town looking for my personal cheering section which I know is just up the road.

As I get there, I take a few seconds to walk, hug them, kiss them and hear them tell me they love me, then I wave again and say "see ya at the finish line!". Anthony did ask how I was feeling and for the first time I did a mental scan over my body to figure that out. It was a little hard to breathe but I chalked that up to the layers of gear around my chest. My heart rate monitor, sports bra, jersey.. plus a little exhaustion made things a little tighter in the chest than normal. But I'm fine.

I was feeling great. Surprised, I did a double check as I got further and further out on course, and yup, I was feeling great. Stopping at the first few aid stations seemed unnecessary, but I stuck with the plan and it probably was the reason for my continued success throughout. With the exception of some serious bloating from the Gatorade and likely some other side effects of 10hours of exercise, I couldn't have been better.

The cool thing about the out & back run is that you get to see the entire race ahead of you as they make their way home (or at least you do when your me). Searching through faces kept me occupied as I shuffled along and I saw all the familiar faces - Suzanne (housemate for the weekend), Esther (LETC), Jeff Savage (who had a brutal day including a spill off the bike), Scotty Jones, Gabby, Amanda (LETC), Dave Pool, Connell (housemate for the weekend) each one of them waving and sending "good luck" as they get back into their own race.

I lucked out on the run as the wind was at my back heading out. Slowly but surely I made my way out walking through the aid stations, drinking, eating and walking up the hills but keeping a decent pace otherwise. With every mile marker I was shocked that I was still on pace for my 5 hour marathon. I made it to the turn around in 2:31 hours but starting to feel the day wear on me. Amazed again at the size of the crowd and the commitment of some familiar faces that I've seen throughout the day at various places on course. Particularly the couple of guys in wigs, coconut bras, grass skirts and doing the hula. They made me laugh every time.

Out of no where I teared up as I rounded the half way point. I was headed home. I was on the last half of the Ironman marathon. Then I had a very sobering thought, I was really far from home. Not feeling defeated or struggling, just a simple "sigh… I have a long way to go".

I had given myself full permission to walk all the way home if I had needed to. I had no time goals, simply finishing was all I wanted and that was not going to be an issue today. Feeling overwhelmed by the support and by my entire day, my legs continued to give me more and more. I walked up hills and through aid stations, but without question or hesitation, my body continued to give me what I asked for. I just kept running.

With 12km to go I did some simple math and it looked like I could make it home posting 13 hours and change on the clock. Feeling the weight of the day, it was going to be tough, but I thought for sure it was within reach. I dug deep and kept running at pace and as planned, but about 30mins later, everything started to really hurt and I cared less and less about breaking 14 hours.

The mean thing about the Ironman Canada run is that the last half of the marathon is generally uphill. Mean right? Once I got onto South Main, within sighting distance of downtown, the uphill slant, in the dark, in the cold and 13 hours and 30 mins into my day, I was walking, things were hurting and there wasn't anything that was going to change that. This is Ironman, it hurts.

The hurt got worse and as I tried to adjust the gear around my chest to help with that ongoing discomfort since the beginning of the run, I finally clued in that the thump I took in the swim earlier likely had a lot to do with the aching ribs and bruising skin. Duh.

Needless to say, my legs, hips, calves, blistered feet, bruised abdomen, aching shoulders and general hurting skin was less a hinderance and more a motivator to, as I said to myself many times in the last 30 minutes, "get this over with already". I knew as soon as I peaked the small incline onto Main Street, the crowds of people would bring me home. And I was not disappointed.

I kept running. I heard people cheer me on by name (it's on your race bib). I turned down Westminister and turned the corner down Winnipeg St. The streets are gated to keep the crowds from piling onto the course and the people are screaming encouragment. The lights are bright but I can barely see anything, I'm zoned out now. I know I'm so close, but i'm just not there yet, 2 km to go. I pass the grandstands and head out for one last pass on Lakeshore before turning around to run the final glory mile. Natasha, Jen, Rudy, Anthony - they are all there yelling so loud but in my head it plays back like a movie where you know they're screaming, but you don't hear any sound. Their arms reach out and I high five them. My smile is gone, there is no energy left to make anything else happen except put one foot in front of the other. Still running.

Anthony ran with me for a little, but I think he stopped because I wasn't looking at him anymore. Just get me to that finish line, that's all I could think.

I finally reached the turn around. I stopped running, I looked ahead and started smiling. I walked for a minute looking at the spectators, thinking about what I was doing. I let it soak in for a second and then I started running again. This time, the hurt was gone and it was like I had wings. Angel wings to be exact.

In no time at all I was running in the night sun of the finish shoot and right ahead just a few feet from the finish I see Anthony yelling and cheering and on que, he holds out Mom's t-shirt with my picture on it that says "Go Sarah Go".

I crossed the finish line with Tash on the other side to catch me. She's crying as much as I am.

After 5 years, 14 hours and seven minutes. I am an Ironman.

Ironman- Post race report

Now that I've reached my goal and completed the Ironman, everyone wants to know - will I do it again? The answer is - probably not.

I learned a lot on my road to Ironman, and I found new passion in swimming, biking and running and I certainly plan to continue enjoying those at a recreational level. I'm looking forward to joining a swim club this winter to keep me in shape and running has become a favourite past time of mine. Of course, Powered By Noie is coming back strong in 2011 with The Ride to Conquer Cancer and I'm really excited about training with the team (now 6 riders strong in BC and growing). But completing the Ironman has not left me with the feeling of "the end" of my triathlon pursuits, it's left me feeling that a chapter in my life is now complete. I have the feeling that something is now "whole".

I've said so many times over the last few years that triathlon adds so much to my life beyond physical fitness and health. It's a sport that lends itself to your entire life and changes who you are as a person. It has made me stronger and more capable of doing anything I set my sights on. But that trip I took down memory lane, rereading blog posts of the years past also made me realize how long its been that Ironman and triathlon has been a main focus of my life. The training, the goal setting, the schedule and routine. The race planning, the finances, the energy and the commitment. I'm thankful for it all, but I'm looking forward to the next chapter in my life and excited about what it will bring.

While swimming, biking and running will still be present in my life, come January it's not likely that I'll be putting together a 2011 race calendar.

If I was to do another Ironman there is probably only one thing I would do differently. I would find a solid training group that I stuck with and trained with. I opted to do most of my training this year solo which worked out for me in the end, but there were many long lonely days where having someone to share the experience with would have made it all that much better.

For now, I'm enjoying some well deserved time off as I expect many other Ironmen are as well. So until the next adventure, I leave you with this:

May your next swim be with a water noodle and a floating beer cozy.
May your bikes be only on a mountain and going downhill.
And should you find yourself running, may it only be to a puddle if your ass is on fire.

Enjoy your recovery Ironmen. We deserve it.

More pictures to come, but for now here are a few that I posted on Facebook