Kona bound, the Spartan way. IMC race report.
.......Firstly I'll start with a warning...this race report contains:
- swear words
- it's a long write up and a 15minute coffee break won't cut it
- it's my first race report of the year so it's all encompassing
- It's Kona Baby!
- is full of excessive enthusiasm, passion and happiness which is highly contagious
Read, and enjoy my life as an open book, at your own risk.
Words cannot describe how elated I am to write this race report. For the last 4years, I've dreamed of writing a race report on being a Kona IM WC qualifier.
Many people know I started doing IM races back in 2005 after watching Dalton finish his first race in Penticton in 2004. Like everyone else who spectates and witnesses a loved one accomplish something of this magnitude, you are inspired. The inspiration lasts long enough that you wake up at 3am the next morning to line up, pay $800 and sign up for the following year. Then the reality sets in when you go home and realize "holy shit!! what have I done?"
Except, I had NO idea how to train. There were no coaches in our city, no tri groups, etc. Dalton & I just did our best to train with knowledge found in triathlon magazines. And boy, did we learn the hard way.
Needless to say, when I showed up to the start line in 2005 I was excited, scared, severely undertrained, yet ready to give it my all. 14hrs, 24mins later (includes a 20 minute massage between the bike and run) I crossed the finish line and completed my first Ironman.
That was all that I needed, I became a full blown Ironman Addict.
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 I went back and kept having 45-60mins PBs. There was no end in sight. We took 2010 off but decided that I would pursue The KONA dream the following year. I knew it would be a process. I had to be a lot faster than 11hrs25min, especially in one of the most competitive age groups, 30-34. That's when I knew I needed a coach. A confident, tough, analytical person with racing background as well as theoretical knowledge and awareness of the sport.
I knew what I needed as an athlete so Dalton and I did a lot of research and eventually interviewed 3 coaches.
I'll be first to admit that I am not the easiest person to coach. I'm donkey stubborn. I'm raised like a Spartan - so, more is more. I don't have a safety switch - it's all or nothing. I am my biggest critic and I have extremely high expectations of myself (well...ok..everyone I know). I will overtrain to oblivion if I'm not monitored closely. I sometimes loose my shit (sometimes literally) if I: have a bad work out, I don't get my way, I get a negative result, etc....the list is much too long to continue. Let's just say, I'm a head case and your typical triathlete.
I needed someone that I could absolutely trust with my LIFE. I needed someone who always had my back and someone to take over, plan my year, races, and week to week training. All I had to do was EXECUTE.
Luke Way, Owner and Head Coach of Balance Point Racing out of Kelowna met all my 100 criteria. Starting October 2010 I was under Luke's tutelage.
What also appealed to me about Luke was that he too had a mentor and a coach. Luke's an accomplished endurance athlete, mountain biker and triathlete as well as an unbelievable coach. I found it refreshing that he continues to learn from others around him, namely, Dr. Andrew Sellars out of Vernon, BC. Often from my experience in talking to other coaches, they tend to be closed minded and don't get mentored themselves. I feared stagnation so I knew Luke was different and had such a unique approach. I respected that and our personalities immediately clicked. I knew right away it would be a good fit. And the fun began...
2011, 2012 I had a PB after a PB, I also slept more each night, I was much happier, I even liked my own company. By 2012 IMC I had another PB of 10:39:40 (2011 - 10:54) and missed Kona by 1 spot. I was pretty sad but knew that Luke's plan was long term, methodical and this type of development takes time. I realized, I hadn't been injured for 3yrs while working with him, nothing beats consistency, I just needed to be patient. Kona would come - eventually.
So, we kept the eye on the prize and set our goals for 2013. We discussed what worked in 2012 and what didn't and tweaked the process where necessary. Training camps got planned, signed up for all the races I wanted to do and we ranked by importance (A, B, C race). The "A" race was IMC Whistler. Everything else was just 'developmental' and he trained my weaknesses. Beginning of 2013 my confidence from 1-10 in the swim was 8, biking 7, and running 5. Luke's main focus was: let's make you a runner, maintain swim-bike fitness and confidence but most of all keep you injury free. This meant a lot of fun snowshoe adventures, XC skiing, mountain biking, yoga...aside from the swim-bike-run routine.
In the 1st Qtr of 2013 I had fun putting in 'structural' miles and time. I did the odd race but I didn't have a sharp edge, I was merely getting my 'racing fix' I desperately needed from time to time. 2nd Qtr was building up running mileage, frequency, and monitoring my body's adaptation, all while still swimming and biking.
May 20th after a long, hot training day in AZ with Luke, I got the news that my father passed away unexpectedly. I was devastated, shocked, heart broken, and completely thrown off balance. That day my life changed forever.
For anyone that has had the pleasure to meet my dad, you know he was something special. We are the sum of all our parts and Dad was the person who taught me to 'take life by the balls'. We were born in Romania, lived 4+yrs in Italy and immigrated to Canada in 1994 when I was a teenager. Our family was very adaptive, we had many struggles and triumphs but we always stuck together. He would remind me often when I would have troubles at school with mean kids: 'Emanuela, I raised you like a Spartan. I raised you to be loyal, loving, to be fearlessly determined and independent'. He taught me to go after my dreams, take risks and above all to "stand my ground".
My father was also one of the most brilliant person I have ever met in my life. He was a Chemist and Scientist but his knowledge was vast. Whether it was getting into debate about politics, teaching me money management when I was 10, teaching me how to ski and skate when I was 5, discussing the Roman Empire, Communist Regime, giving me Greek Mythology lessons, classical music and composers, architects, sculptors, painters, helping me with chemistry, physics, mathematics, discussing the intricacies of the Ecosystem, linguistic studies (he was fluent in French, Italian, Romanian, English and German), or the chemical make up of polymer fibers, HE was the man!! He was an encyclopedia. I always thought of him as a Renaissance Man.
As talented, brilliant and loving as he was, he had one single 'flaw'. Mental illness. It transformed and controlled him. I always knew dad was special and a little different when I was growing up but never quite understood exactly what mental illness he had until...well...after he took his own life May 20th 2013.
I think it's worth mentioning that as a society we have failed most people afflicted with mental illness and also their loved ones. We marginalize them and this stigma further fuels shame and privacy. This topic shouldn't be taboo, it should be as easily discussed as diabetes and high blood pressure. We also should provide more support to the families and tools on how to deal and live with someone that has OCPD, Bipolar tendancies and depression. After all, you are living with a patient. It would be akin to sending a 5yr old home who is insulin dependent diabetic and not teaching the parents how to dispense the injections.
My mother, a phenomenal, lively, patient, strong and loving woman did the best she could in the 37 years they were married. She's my hero!
I don't blame myself, mom or sista for what happened to dad. We weren't educated or equiped to deal with this situation but I implore anyone that reads this to keep the dialogue open. To support and love those afflicted with mental illness. Talking about it, putting it out in the open and getting help saves lives and families.
After the funeral at the end of May I had to completely reassess my strength mentally and emotionally. I wasn't sure if going after Kona was still in the realm of possibilities.
Between a full time job at Manulife Bank & Trust, owning 13th Avenue Food and Coffee House, owning 35 rental properties, and training for the race of my life is a lot on a regular day. I felt many times like I was broken and the ground was caving under me. I had countless melt downs and at times I couldn't trust myself to leave the house not knowing when I would start crying in the middle of a store.
Yet, I needed my regular routine and to carry on with my life. Training is what keeps me sane as both Dalton and I have a lot of stress. We are an incredible team and I know that I wouldn't be here today writing this if it weren't for Big Dalton. He's the rock, the solid ground, the 'bubble in the middle', my love, the funniest, quarkiest person and best friend. We are 2 peas in a pod. We are team BanYad.
By beginning of 3rd Qtr I started to feel a bit more normal, a new normal. Training was going well, things settled at work, I had more peace in my heart and I was beginning to have more faith that I may be able to race well in Whistler. I NEVER, ever wanted to go there and have an excuse for a failed attempt and miss podium. I was scared this year was bigger than me and feared I couldn't put this race together with all I had going on. I kept reminding myself, Dad did what he needed to do and I KNOW he would have wanted me to race my little Spartan ass off!
At the beginning of August, Luke, my buddy Monica Dalidowicz& I went up to Whistler to scope out the course and train there all week. That's when it crystallized for me that I had a good shot at podium. *well, ok...not during that week of massive mileage...but after I came home and had a couple days off. Running training was going well and had many 60-75km weeks of run training additional to bike and swim mileage. I was sleeping 9-11hrs a night, eating well, and most of all, injury free.
Most July weekends also consisted of long steady 5hrs rides with 8-10 x 1mile repeats off the bike and descending each mile. I would be totally cooked after these efforts but the days off, adequate sleep, good food, normatec boots, & low stress really helped me recover and come back stronger week after week.
I had a couple maintenance sessions withBrie Ellard-Jedlicbefore I left to Whistler. She is my sports Psychologist who always screws my head on tight. We worked on some visualization and helped me get key words I truly believed and needed to deploy during the race. She also gave me a book to read that I found incredibly helpful this past week - Top Dog by Po Bronson. Great read, GET it now!
Brie is another person that I owe my race successes to - she is an incredibly accomplished athlete and doesn't just read stuff out of a Psychology book, she's raced at an Elite level as a rower and, boy, I am sure glad she's not an up and coming triathlete.
We flew in Thursday morning, settled in the Village, checked out the course, got registered as soon as we got in and stayed clear of the athlete village. Too much nervous energy and too many type A people around. They tend to drain the energy right out of me. I surrounded myself with some of the coolest cats I know and who helped me get race ready.
Majorie Lauzon, our team's Sport Physiologist who lives in Whistler worked on my range of motion and did a couple FST treatments. She is THE Fascia Whisperer. I was ready to explode and rip it up!
Coffee, dinner, laughs with Luke, Dalton and his family were a perfect distraction. Good 9hrs sleeps every night leading up to the race - just perfect.
Saturday, I went for a last swim and visualization of the swim course, went through a detailed discussion of what my race plan was, smashed and dented my front bumper into a stump, then Luke and Majo who also specialize in doing body work on Town &Country Chrysler Vans popped it out, waxed the bumper and made it look like new again, checked in our bikes, dropped off gear bags and made the most blandest supper ever. Chicken and Potato..and Salt.
In bed by 7:40pm and I was lights out right away without a worry in the world. All the hay was in the barn.
Woke up at 3:45am, had my breakky (1200 calories), and laid in bed for another hour visualizing my day. At 5:30am I took the shuttle to Alta Lake and pumped up my tires, bottles on the bike, 10 minutes of SpiroTiger RMET (20RF, 3L) warm up for my lungs, dynamic stretches, got the wetsuit on, kissed Dalton & wished him a great race, hugged everyone and off I went in the water. I got in the water to warmup at 6:45am and had plenty of time to find a good line, warm up, get my goggles, swim cap ready, and said to myself: "Give'em hell kid".
7am - gun went off and I was immediately in a good group at the front with fast feet and good sighters. My heart rate didn't shoot up, I felt incredibly smooth and strong. The pace felt comfortable and I stayed on 2 guys' hips for the majority of the swim. The swim 3.8km was a 2 loop course and I knew that it would be congested on the second loop as we were lapping some slower swimmers. I was prepared for that and knew I would be getting kicked or pushed around. But luckily, I'm raised like a Spartan. Swim done - 3.8km - 1:01:42 - 4th out of the water.
Got out of the water, went through transition and this is where I had my first obstacle of the day. The volunteers 'reorganized' all the transition bags Saturday night. So where I put my bag the day before, it was no longer there. Didn't get much help locating it either. So I had to go down row by row running and looking for my bag - #392. Not fun looking for a bag that's identical to the other 2600 bags...when you are trying to hurry your ass up.
I found it after a couple minutes, helmet and shoes on and onto the 180Km bike.
The bike course is one of the toughest courses I've biked on. After all, it's Whistler so you're either climbing a mountain, or winding down technical descents only to climb some more. I broke down the course in 6 x 30km sections. Rainbow Park to the top of Callaghan is approx 35km and mostly uphill. I knew that I was going to be passed and I needed to be patient and just race my race. I would climb controlled, relaxed and would make up time on the descents, flats, and false flats with 'finesse', not hammering on the pedals. My goal was to get my heart rate down from the swim, ensure I wasn't hypoxic and the sooner I'd start my nutrition and hydration plan the better my energy would be later on. The climb to Callaghan I did something when I changed gears and my bike started to make an annoying clicking noise, I couldn't figure out if it was my chain but I couldn't shift out of my big chain ring. I had a little minor panic - and feared a 'mechanical'. But I managed to get things under control by pedaling backwards and I was smooth sailing again.
Descent from Callaghan and climb back up to Upper village is the 2nd 30km section. This was fun, I love bombing down the hills going 70km/hr in my aero bars. Upper village to Pemberton is another 30km and this section had a whole lane completely blocked off so I just let it rip!
Pemberton is approx 94km into the bike course. I am in the zone at this point, nutrition is spot on: 200 calories of solids, Em's Power Bites, and 1.5 scoops of Eload in 24oz bottle - 150 calories each hr. This is where the special needs aid station is on the bike, and where I was given number 382's bag....ok..no big deal. Ask for my bag #392 breath deeply, enjoy the 30second rest and move on.
Pemberton to Pemberton Meadows another 30km or so, flat and false flat sections and a little bit of head wind. Very uneventful 30km...other than packs of people drafting and blatantly cheating...but what can you do...I didn't see one race marshal motorbike on that section of the course. I guess that was the Team Time Trial part of the bike.
Turn around from Pemberton Meadows back to Pemberton is the 5th, 30km (145Km into the race) and now I had tail wind so I was flying. I stayed tight in my aero bars at all times, cycled with finesse and really got myself pumped up for the last 35km of the race. ALL UP hill baby!! The climb from Pemberton back to Whistler Village will separate the boys from the men and the girls from the Spartans. I was mentally ready! Relxed, focused, and controlled. I kept my heart rate down and maximized my strengths. I also used this time to get my mental state ready for the marathon coming up.
Before I knew it I was back into T2 with a time of 5:42:03 - 3rd in my age group and from what someone told me, the 18th woman over all.
Ran through T2, got my run stuff on and I was on the run course. It was time to 'make the earth move beneath my feet' (Thank you Stacey Shand for this quote).
The spectators cheering and knowing I had paced my self so well gave me great energy and I was full of enthusiasm to run. I had trained so hard on the run that I wanted so badly to show myself what I was capable of.
The run is 42.2km and it's a 2 loop course. I love 2 loop courses! Spectator friendly and also running in Whistler is like running in a postcard. Spectacular course!!
I kept a 4&4 breathing frequency and ensured I had a good rhythm. Pace was the last thing on my mind as I knew I could run well if I was relaxed and kept a high cadence. I focused on keeping my shoulders down, hips up, nutrition, hydration spot on and just unleash it.
I saw Luke and Majo at the 14km mark and he told me what spot I was in off the bike - 3rd. He gave me my splits on the women ahead of me and behind me. This was great information as I needed to pace myself and run a very tactical, controlled race. By the half way point I felt amazing and I started to pick up my pace a bit. Jessica Yin was in 2nd and she had 8minutes on me. Cara Denver was in 4th and was gunning for me at a ridiculous pace so I knew I couldn't let up.
At 22km in I was handed my special needs bag and now onto the 2nd loop of the course, back through the village where specators and Dalton's family were cheering me on. All I had to do was keep my shit together for another 20km, run Jessica down and not let Cara catch me. Easy!
I ran possessed-and repeated over and over in my head: Never give up, run her down, never give up, run her down. It became an active meditation for 20kms.
My pace picked up and before I knew it I was right back at the spot where Luke and Majo were standing, approx 28km now - this is where I got my second split from Luke who was jumping out of his skin...he screamed at me ..."you put SIX F*&^% minutes into Jessica, she's 2minutes right up the road, GO GET HER!" New wings and on a mission.
2minutes for the next/last 14kms didn't seem like much to me, I knew I could do it - with patience and staying on top of hydration. I also ran scared that Cara was running so fast and chasing me that I could almost feel her breathing down my neck. I wasn't letting up.
With 9kms to go I saw Jessica a 100yards ahead of me. We were about to make the turn and head back into the village towards the finish. I watched, studied her pace and body language, and I made my move right after the timing chip mat. I ran past her with a pace that I knew she wasn't able to hold on to. I was taking a big risk at this point but I felt well hydrated, and made a deal with myself that all I had to do is go up the incline for 1 minute hard, bury myself, get over the incline and let my legs go on the descent. I knew I'd be able to catch my breath on the down hill and gravity was my friend. At this point I'm at about 35km in and this last kilometer I had run it in 4:49.
My quads were burning and stiffening up. They were not happy, but my heart was. I told myself that I didn't need legs for the last 7km - I would run with heart.
Jessica wasn't able to stay with me so now I was in 2nd place. Saw Luke again with 5kms to go and he screamed again "...hold onto Silver, don't you let up, run for your life, Cara is running faster than you, she's moved up in 3rd, 1minute down and wants you - pick it up!"
I was on the 2 cups per aid station coke train and literally ran like I was being chased by the Italian Mafia.
I don't remember the last couple kilometers as I was seeing spots and had tunnel vision, I just remember making the final turn and seeing the finish line, hearing people cheering for me so loud it gave me goose bumps. Finally I was done - REALLY done....medical tent done. I didn't care though, I had my KONA spot! 3:43:40 marathon time.
I managed to hold onto 2nd place by a mere 28 seconds, after 10hrs 33minutes 15seconds of racing and 15th woman overall (Pro's and Age Group).
Cara Denver got 3rd with 10:33:43, and Jessica Yin 4th with 10:35:44. The 1st spot went to Stacey Langenecker with a time of 10:08:35 - smokin! Amazing race ladies!
The moments and hours after the race were pretty ....well...uneventful...a lot of vomiting, a few IV bags, medical tent, then medical clinic for some tests for 5hrs...I had done some damage apparently, and Drs. figured I gave myself some minor ulcers/tears that were causing me to bleed. I felt awful, but I didn't care, I had KONA by the balls. Luke and Majo were right by my side the entire time helping me anyway they could. Eventually I got discharged at midnight and went to the hotel to find Dalton, my buddy, sleeping. I don't blame him, he raced too and it was a long day (10hrs 13min).
I have said before that it takes a village and a team effort to get someone to Kona. Even in life, when a person succeeds it's not because they did it on their own - there were some pretty special people that had their back at all times.
I want to take some time to thank these people for making my dream become a reality, for always believing in me and pushing me outside my comfort zones.
Thank you to Dane Stennes and Todd Jones at Western Cycle for the great, and timely service you provided me. For my Trek SC and my Blue Seventy Helix wet suit.
Thank you to Freddy Vandelinden at Dutch Cycle for keeping my Cervelo R3SL road bike in great shape and the bike sponsorships and our friendship. I rode my road bike and cross bike a lot, thank you.
Thank you to Olivia Brennan AKA Fast Feet (600M & 800M track runner at SFU) who catered to my every run workout and always ran one foot ahead of me so I could chase her.
Thank you for my training pals and comic relief Nadia Williamson, Donna Kabaluk AKA Hollywood, & Monica Dalidowicz AKA Kurwa.
Swim Coach Jason - thank you for the painful 1500M TTs and all the swimming tips at the masters class.
Thank you, Stacey Shand for being an incredible inspiration to me each and every day, for our long training weekends, laughs, tears, and for helping me believe that anything is possible when you commit. I'm a better person because of you.
Thank you to my peeps that kept my body tuned up and ensured I wasn't falling apart at the seams: Dr. Dan Rutledge, Shelly Major, Basil Schmuck and most importantly Majo Lauzon AKA Fascia Whisperer.
To my mom and sister for always cheering me on, following my races, believing in me and for the incredible bond we have. Dad would be so proud. I love you!
My amazing team at Manulife Bank & Trust - Stacie Joosten, Damaris Goertzen, Rick Vircavs, Tony Lupo, Doug Conick for the tremendous support you give me each and every day. I work for the best company and I am so grateful that you encourage me to live my life with balance. I am good at what I do because you allow me to live my dream!
My Balance Point Racing peeps and fellow athletes who inspire me to dream big.
Luke Way my amazing coach and guiding sherpa, Andrew and Ginny Sellars who have always been a phone call, text, skype, and email away to answer any question throughout my journey, who believed in me when I didn't, and took me on the team 3yrs ago. Words can never describe how happy I am to represent BPR in October in Kona.
Brie Ellard - Jedlic, my wonderful friend and Sport Psychologist who listened to my crazy theories, didn't laugh, and occasionally would do a full lobotomy. You got me race ready, time after time, season after season and gave me the mental tools to race the race of my life. Your type of work is absolutely critical in achieving excellence and I urge anyone to find a good sport Psychologist and get your head examined.
Emily Miazga from New Zealand who helped me put together my nutrition plan 8weeks prior to racing and for the yummy Em's Power Bites that kept me fueled during my race.
To Dalton for the love and support; our long training weekends; the races we do together; the memories we make; for always doing research for me on the best equipment possible to have; and, always looking after me. I am so grateful we have shared this journey together the last 8+yrs and you helped me make my dream a reality.
Lastly, My Dad and Mom who let me be the most rebellious, free spirited kid, who raised me with integrity, to go after what I want, be a fighter and never quit.
Team Emma, We did it the Spartan way!