My first ultramarathon - race report

The Northface Endurance Challenge Gortex 50 mile ultramarathon race report

To say I was having a good day would be the understatement of the year. I was on fire and after 9 hours I was flying through the mountainous course feeling WAY too good. Something bad just HAD to happen...

My first triathlon coach gave me some very wise advice regarding preparing for a race. He told me that the things that we most worry about effecting us on race day NEVER happen. Instead, it's always always something that we don't expect. So far, after 12 Ironman races, about a dozen marathons, four 24 hour world record attempts and my first 80 km ultramarathon, this advice has proven to be very true.

I was quite nervous going into this 50 mile (80 km) ultramarathon because it was my first shot at running farther than the standard 26.2 mile marathon distance. In fact, the distance is almost a double marathon. My right knee had been swollen and sore for about 3 weeks leading up to race day. Most of my training has been on steep hills and the constant downhill pounding really effected my right knee and it wasn't showing much improvement during my taper leading up to the race.

Thankfully, and true to my coaches advice, my knee injury never really bothered me during the race and instead I was inflicted by another injury that I never expected - a BRAIN injury! Basically, I got a bit stupid for a while and it cost me about 1.5 to 2 hours in additional running! Here's the story:

The race started at 5:00 am with the blow of a horn and I kissed Helen goodbye (she was running the half marathon that started at 10:00 am), turned on my headlamp and and joined about 80 fellow 50 miler runners as we launched ourselves through the start line and disappeared into the forest for a very, very long day. A few minutes after we started our first climb I heard a voice calling out from behind me down the trail; "is GREG up there?". It was my buddy Dennis from Boulder, CO who had driven out to Bellingham, WA to run the race with me! It was so great to see Dennis and I had totally forgotten that he was coming out, so it was a really cool surprise to learn that I had someone to run with.

Our paces were very well matched - I worked to keep up with Dennis on the up-hills and he worked to keep up with me on the downs. I think we were pushing each other. The course is a brutal 13,000 feet of elevation and rated 4 out of 5 for technical difficulty, and 5 out of 5 for elevation. You are either running up or down - never flat. We were both feeling pretty good and after a few hours of 'warm-up', so we started to 'pick-off' runners one by one as the day wore on. We would see a runner down the trail and take aim, focus on our pace, eventually pass them and move on to our next 'victim'. Sometimes it would take an hour, but we never got passed and were passing runners one by one as the hours ticked through. It was really a lot of fun and kept us both focused on the race.

Dennis shot this photo with his iPhone while we were running
After 4 or 5 hours my legs started to feel that soreness that creeps in after a marathon, but that just seemed to dissipate with the realization that were weren't even HALF done. There was no choice but to ignore the achy fatigue and push through. I think when you know the end is near, the pain becomes very apparent and real, but your adrenalin allows you to push through to the finish line. When you know that you are only half way there, and realize that you will be living with the pain for another 5 hours or more, I think your body just sort of pushes it to the background and you kind of start just running through it. That worked because I started to feel pretty good and was able to pick up my pace a bit. We started walking less of the ups and running the downs faster.

At 8 hours, we reached a fire road that was a reasonable grade and I was still feeling pretty good at that point, so I decided I would try to put the hammer down a bit and really focus on maintaining an aggressive pace all the way to the finish line. I figured Dennis could keep up and would probably catch me on the next up hill like he typically had been doing all day, so I took off.

I cranked up my music and switched over to tank mode. I was taking no prisoners! I was flying, singing to my music and having a blast - really. Just loving every minute of it.

At 9 hours I figured I had less than 5 miles remaining and I was pumped with the realization that I just might actually make my 10 hour goal. And this is where the 'brain injury' stopped me cold in my tracks. After a blazing 30 minute downhill segment, I reached a highway by the ocean that wasn't supposed to be there. I thought: "Oh, oh... I don't remember seeing this on the map. Wait.. Where are the route markers? In fact, I don't remember seeing ANY of the orange flags that are supposed to mark my trail during the last.. well... quite a while. Oh no! This can't be happening! NOOOOO!!!!"

Realizing that I had missed an important turn, I turned around at the highway and started to back track wondering just how far I had to go to make it back to the course. I ran back up this steep grade for another 40 minutes before I found my orange flags. UGH! I was exhausted from running back up that horrific grade and the whole time I kept thinking - no... hoping, that my course markers were just up around the corner. When I finally made it back onto the course, I looked at my watch to consider the damage, and realized that I had just wasted about 75 minutes including a grueling climb! This was a disaster. Plus, it had been a few hours since the last aid station and I was out of water and out of food.

Of course, the part of the race course that I started back on was the steepest, longest UP HILL section, and my legs were already fried from my little detour. I started to get very discouraged and started to walk quite a bit. I was also getting cold because I was becoming dehydrated and running low carbs. dumb, dumb, dumb. I could be finished by now I kept thinking. There goes my sub-10 hour finish. (I discovered later that a 10 hour finish would have earned me 4th place in my division).

About an hour later I met a Search and Rescue guy and asked him how much farther to the next aid station. He told me it was still 3 miles away and kindly offered me an apple and some water which I devoured. I finally made it to the aid station and chowed down on a plate of potato chips (I was craving SALT), Skittles, Smarties, brownies and drank a gallon of Mountain Dew.

I eventually made it to the finish line just short of 12 hours where Helen was waiting for me. Dennis finished in 11 hours and assumed that I had already finished and headed back to the hotel room, so he didn't stick around. I talked to him after and he told me that just after we separated, his knee locked up on him and he spent 20 minutes sitting at an aid station trying to massage the cramp out. He got it worked out, but he said that last 10 miles was pretty brutal.

In the end, I was totally happy with my day and my primary goal was just to finish in under 13 hours which is the cut-off time. I was expecting it to be difficult, and the last few hours certainly were (mostly due to my stupidity), but for the most part, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself and found the general organization of the race, along with the volunteers at the aid stations absolutely AWESOME. One of the best races I have done and I look forward to running it again next year.

In fact, I loved it so much, I'm thinking of signing up for a 90 MILE ultra called "sinister 7" in July. Why do I get myself into these predicaments? Yikes - 90 miles!!! That's probably going to be 24 hours of straight running. What am I thinking?

Helen had a great half marathon. She finished 5th out of 20 in her division with a time of 2:24 (which goes to show you how tough these trail races are!)

Helen and I relaxed for a couple of days in Seattle after the race. We rented a kayak and paddled in West Seattle.

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112th running of the Boston Marathon

112th running of the Boston Marathon

After twelve Ironman triathlons including the world championships in Hawaii, seventeen marathons, and three 24 hour cycling events (one world record attempt and two world records), the Boston marathon on Monday was one of my most memorable races. It was truly an incredible event.

25,319 runners qualified to run the Boston marathon this year by finishing in the top 10% of their age groups in qualifying marathons from around the world. It is indeed a great honor to compete with the greatest amateur athletes in the world. The last time I was lucky enough to compete in a world-class event like this was at Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in 2006 where I learned a very valuable lesson. My goal and sole focus for three gruelling years leading up to Ironman Kona was to place in the top 5% of my division at an Ironman triathon and win a qualifying slot for world championships in Kona, Hawaii. When I placed 4th in my division at Ironman Arizona in 2006, I had accomplished that goal. (the blog report is here) Ironman Hawaii that October ended up being a long and miserable day because I was suddenly goal-less. I had made it to Kona and simply 'doing' the race made it almost impossible to push past the agony of the distance, repressive heat, humidity and relentless wind. I really suffered in Kona.

I learned that a man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder, and I wasn't about to make the same mistake in Boston. I needed a reason to give Boston everything I had in me and I found that reason in a book I picked up at the race expo which I read in the few days leading up to the race. "Duel in the Sun" by John Brant is about the 1982 Boston marathon where two American favorites Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley raced neck and neck to the finish line. In a speech given by Dick Beardsley 20 years later to a group of runners at the Victoria marathon, he offers this golden piece of advice:

"Tomorrow at your marathon, you're going to give it your all. When it's over, you can look back on a job well done. You'll be able to relax. You'll be finished." In applying this bit of wisdom to our everyday lives, Dick goes on to add: "Every morning, I feel like I'm getting up to run the Boston Marathon all over again."

So that is exactly what I decided to do. I was going to run this race "balls to the wall" right from the start gun. There are two start waves - the first wave is finishers with qualifying times faster than 3:30 and it started 30 minutes before the second wave. Helen was in the second wave, so I decided that since it was chip timed anyhow, I would just start with Helen in her wave. This meant passing thousands of runners which was quite a challenge with 25,000 runners on the road! I finished the first 10 km in 47 minutes and I was felling pretty good. I started to make deals with myself. "Just hold this pace until 20 km, then you can coast for the remaining 24 km". I reached the 20 km mark in 1:32 which I was quite happy about. I was starting to feel the pain in my quads from the hills, so my second deal was to make it to 20 miles holding my current pace, then relax for the last 6 miles to the finish line. After 20 miles my legs were SCREAMING at me!! All of the pounding from the hills was taking it's tole. It took everything I had to block my mind from focusing on my pain, and to keep my pace up. At this point I figured I could possible make it another mile before slowing, so I held onto my painful pace.

The crowds in Boston are like nothing I have ever experienced in any race. Non-stop cheering from spectators lining the race route for all 26.2 miles. The screaming and cheering reached ear-plug levels for the last 6 miles with fans 3 to 4 deep lining the course! This was my fuel that got me to the finish line without giving into my agony. The motivating cheers from the crowds in Boston is like nothing I have experienced in any race before.

I finished with a personal best of 3 hours, 15 minutes, 51 seconds placing me a humbling 943 out of 2773 in my division and 3422 th over all. Helen had a great race also and broke 4 hours.

Training lessons:

Denis Waitley said "You must learn from your past mistakes, but not lean on your past successes." I try to learn something from all of my races, and recording the lessons in this blog is a great way to retain the education and possibly help others who might be in the same boat.

Training for the Boston marathon was to be a bit of an experiment. I was still injured with a sore calf and hamstring from last summers 24 hour HPB (human powered boat) record attempt, so I decided to ease back on my run training distances leading up to Boston. I am also training for another shot at the HPB record for sometime this summer, and I didn't want to sacrifice any of my bike training with additional running that might further injure my hamstring and jeopardize my HPB record attempt. I limited my running to one run per week which was my long run - and limited my intensity to VERY easy. My longest run was 3 weeks ago, and maxed out at 3 hours at a very slow pace. The following week I did a 2 hour fast run at race pace with short rests every 30 minutes, then last week a 1.5 hour very fast run. That was it aside from about 12 hours a week spend on my bike. Typically when training for a PR marathon, I will run at least 4 times per week consisting of a short distance speed intervals workout, a tempo workout, a moderately fast long run and at least one easy recovery run.

According to conventional training wisdom, I was VERY under prepared for Boston. Yet, I ran a personal best. Go figure. I think the lesson in this is to not underestimate the power of a good, multi-year base, and fully rested and recovered legs. I now appreciate the true power of a "less is more" strategy in a training program.

My training schedule and journal are here if you are interested:

Here is a table showing all of my previous race results:

Race Results:

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Ironman Canada 2007 Race Report

Ironman Canada 2007 Race Report

My finishing time was 10:54 and I came in 33rd out of 296 in my division. The last Ironman World Championships qualifying slot went to 10:38, so I was about 16 minutes too slow.

This was Ironman Canada's 25th anniversary and to celebrate, they invited just over 2700 athletes to join in the fun this year - a record number. There is no doubt about it - Ironman Canada IS the best Ironman race in the world. What an amazing event. I actually enjoyed many parts of the race. The crowds watching are enthusiastic and everywhere you go. A truly great event.

The swim was great - I don't think I touched another swimmer the whole 3800 meters in Okanagan Lake. My secret is to start way, way, way LEFT. Then when the start cannon blows I run still further LEFT until I am on the far outside and in my own private water space. This also cuts off some distance, as the beach curves out toward the turn around buoy. Not much though, but I'll happily take whatever I can get. My swim time was an average 1:15.

My bike kind of sucked. I just ran out of steam. I had no issues holding my 200 to 210 watts during the first 3 hours, but after climbing Richter Pass I just sort of ran out of gas. I would be riding along at what I thought was 200 watts, when a quick look down at my SRM power meter would indicate 180 watts. I'd ramp up the power, then it would slowly fall again. My legs were sore and very fatigued. I think I am still not fully recovered from the 24 hour human powered boat record. Injuries from the 24 like my knee and hamstring were bothering me quite a bit near the end of the 180 km Ironman ride.

My run started out good, then got really good. After the first 45 minutes I was able to get into a comfortable sub 8 minute mile pace, but again, I just ran out of steam or the last hour and finished my marathon in just under 4 hours.

I'm not super disappointed, as my top 11% age group finish (33 rd out of 296 in the 45 to 49 age group) was my 3rd best Ironman finish, and my best Ironman Canada finish. My best performance was in Arizona 2006 when I placed 4th with a top 2% finish. Second best was Arizona in 2007 where I finished in the top 8%, but missed qualifying due to TWO flat tires!

Here is a list of all my races and finish times.

I think I am going to take a year off of Ironman and focus on some of my other challenges - like making some progress on the Pedal The Ocean project, a second 24 hour human powered boat record attempt race, and the Greenland Ice Cap crossing record attempt .

I may return for Ironman Arizona in 2009 where I WILL qualify.

Helen also had an enjoyable race.


3 weeks until Ironman Canada!!

photo from my favorite training ride - the top of the highest paved road in Canada - the Highwood pass

Well, I have survived another Ironman training epoch and I have now entered the taper phase. This is the time where my priority is to allow my body to FULLY recover from the stresses and damage that the last few months have conflicted upon it.

The 'damage' started with the 24 hour HPB record on June 3 - mostly my right knee and my left Achilles tendon. Now, my knee seems like it is recovered, but I have a very tight and sore left hamstring, left IT band and left Achilles tendon.

My focus for the next 3 weeks is going to be more extreme than a typical Ironman taper. I am cutting out ALL intensity and endurance work, doing nothing but recovery work between now and race day with a few short, race-pace intervals placed in when I think I can handle it. This means daily easy bike rides of 100 to 130 watts, and daily walk-runs. I will still maintain a similar swimming program as before - 3 times a week for about an hour each session.

I know from experience that recovery happens when you are ACTIVE, not when you rest. Your body tends to go into a state of suspended animation when you sit around all day - Injuries just sort of stick around, as there is no pressing reason for your body to fix them, so it doesn't. If you are doing nothing, then your body does the same regarding it's injuries. The way to recover is to be active to the point where you are not further stressing the injury. By doing this you are telling your body that you still require the use of the injured parts, and that it had better fix them. Or you might get eaten by the saber tooth tiger. If you are not using it, then your body thinks you don't need it anymore and as a result, it does not allocate any resources to the repair work required. "Use it or lose it" is my recovery mantra.

My last big training day was with Greg B. This is tradition - before every Ironman, we finish our training with an epic 9 to 10 hour training day. This was a 216 km ride from hwy 40 at the Trans Canada, up to the summit of Highwood Pass, down the back to Longview, then around to Bragg Creek. We had driven and parked two cars in the morning before we headed out. We also inserted two, 20 minute runs into the bike ride - the first at the top of Highwood pass and the second in Longview. It was a great day despite getting soaked with rain through a few thunder showers.

Helen and Greg outside the Banff Springs Hotel

Helen is also doing Ironman Canada on August 26th. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, we like to escape on the weekend by cycling to Banff, staying in the Banff Springs Hotel and then doing a long trail run the next day. The long training weekend finishes with a 120 km bike ride back to Calgary. We've done this 4 times this season, and it's really a great way to keep the training fresh and fun.

This is the 25th anniversary of Ironman Canada - the oldest Ironman race in the world next to the original Ironman world championships which is in Kona, Hawaii. The last time I did Ironman Canada was in 2004. According to my race report, I did a 5:15 bike split and blew up on the run finishing in about 12 hours. I 'would-have' qualified for Kona again in Arizona earlier this year if it wasn't for two flat tires on the bike. To solve that issue, I am going to give a new product by Vittoria a try. It's called Vittoria Pitstop ( Vittoria Pit Stop ). It is a small canister that will inflate and seal a flat tubular tire. I testing it out on an old tubular that I have and it worked really well. I punctured the tire by hammering a nail through it, then simply inflated the tire using the Pit Stop product. It pressurized to about 100 psi which is good enough to get me to the finish line and it took all of about 1 minute to do! You don't have to take the wheel off, or mess around with trying to pry your tire off the rim. you don't even have to carry any of the heavy tools or spares with you - just a small canister of Vittoria Pit Stop - pretty nifty!

The tire eventually went flat again in about 3 hours, but after re-pressuring with a Co2 cartridge, it stayed fully pressurized for the next week. I would recommend taking a couple of Co2's along on race day just to be sure than it the tire started to lose too much pressure, that you could top it up with the C02. I think this largely depends on the size of the puncture. In my test, I used a fairly large nail, so it was probably a bigger hole than your typical puncture.

My plan at IMC is to do what I can with the swim - I'm a slow swimmer and nothing I have done over the last 7 years has resulted in any appreciable decrease in my Ironman swim time, so I will be satisfied with an hour and 10 to 15 minutes. According to the SRM data that I have from past races, I know that a 5 hour bike split in Arizona equates to a 5:10 in Canada, so that is what I would like to do.

I was using Pyro Platforms on my bike with water socks, but I recently switched to wearing my running shoes with the Platforms. The reason I was using the platforms with socks is because i found that by providing a FLAT platform for my foot without the restricting shoe, that my feet were not sore after I came off the bike - a problem that has plagued me in the past. I also discovered that when you pull up with your leg on a pedal stroke, that mostly you are just pulling up the weight of your leg and not really adding much to power moving you forward. I found that I could pull up just as well in the platform without any kind of strap holding my foot down to the pedal as I could with a shoe. In testing with my SRM, there was no difference between using a traditional bike shoe, or my platforms with socks (or bare feet).

The reason I switched to using a full running shoe in the platform is that I figured i could save a couple of minutes at transition by being able to run direct from my bike out to the bike course without having to stop in transition. Since all that I required from my T2 transition bag is my running shoes, I am good to go directly from my bike. After a slight seat height adjustment, wearing the running shoes on the platform feels no different than wearing the aqua socks, and for time trial distances like Ironman, I do not see any valid reason to wear tight, restricting, uncomfortable bike shoes.

After my 15 second T2 transition, I hope to better my 3:50 running performance at Ironman Arizona in 2006 where I came in 4th in my division and qualified for world championships. If the plan is successful, I will finish between 10 and 10:15 which should be good enough for a Kona slot.

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Taking a breather

This is the view from outside my backdoor!
Sorry for the hiatus in blog updates! I've been taking a bit of a breather since the abuse that the 24 hour HPB record inflicted upon my body and mind.

Helen and I have been focusing on our training for Ironman Canada coming up on August 26th. Calgary is such a great place for Ironman training! A days ride (180 km) and check out the kind of scenery we have to suffer with.

This is total training heaven: Helen and I drove out to Banff 2 weeks ago and did an hour swim, then a 2 hour trail run in the mountains. We stayed at the breath-taking Banff Spings Hotel, then cycled 120 km home the next day. The following weekend we reversed it by cycling the 120 km to Banff, staying at the Springs again, then doing a long run and swim the next day and driving home.

This weekend, we cycled 180 km (uphill and into a strong headwind!) to Lake Louise and stayed at another very famous hotel - Chateau Lake Louise Then the next day, we did a 2 hour hike first thing in the morning, then cycled 2 hours back to Banff and did the 2 hour mountain trail run (a favorite of mine!) and stayed at the Springs again. Then we cycled the 120 km back to Calgary the next day. This is how training should be!!!! To do it right, you need to make your training a part of your life.

If you check out the links to the hotels you will probably think that level of accommodation is quite excessive - however, periodically Fairmont Hotels, who owns both the Springs and the Chateau, offer some spectacular deals to local Calgarians. Typically some rooms go for over $550 a night, but during special times, locals can get them for $120.

I think the 24 hour record on June 2 /07 took more out of me than I thought. Since starting back on my triathlon bike, I only just this weekend had my first real great training ride. My knee is almost fully recovered and my runs are up to 2 hours. My swimming sucks as usual, but I've been doing some 90 minute long swims without any major drama, so that's cool.

My goal in training on the bike this time around is to try to maintain at least race intensity (210 to 220 watts) for my entire long rides (5 to 8 hours), and to make sure that I get more than adequate rest between hard training sessions. My goal for run training is to first and foremost, not injure myself. That means taking more days off between hard or long training sessions to be sure that I am fully recovered.

I have some weight management goals as well. I want to try to make it to race day at 156 pounds instead of the usual 152 pounds. When I qualified at Ironman Arizona last year, I raced at 156 to 157 pounds and had the race of my life. I am currently 158 pounds which is pretty heavy, but I think it will be OK.


The plan for this summer was to get WiTHiN ready for the ocean. I still plan on getting that done, but the thought of getting back into the shop and into the epoxy isn't thrilling me right now, so I'm going to chill a bit more on that.

As I mentioned before, WIRED magazine has invited me to display Critical Power at NextFest.2007 in September They want us to build a new simulator for the show, so that is something that I will probably start on right away. Here is a picture of the concept:

We need a new sim for the KidPower school presentations anyhow. The old simulator was worked right into Critical Power, streamliner but after a few hundred kids, it just wasn't robust enough and broke quite often. So, we decided to build a new stand alone unit.

SolidWorks corporation - the same company who makes the awesome software used to design Critical Power, has kindly offered to sponsor the KidPower simulator! This is very good news because we can now afford to build a proper stand-alone simulator that can be used for both the NextFest show and our KidPower school presentations that will start again next fall.

You can pedal up to 150 watts and navigate via the steering bar through a crowded city street looking at the LCD monitor. The virtual city course is based on an Xbox game - when you turn the steering bar, it moves a push/pull rod which is connected to the thumb knob on an Xbox controller. It's really quite a lot of fun for both kids and grown-ups alike!


Check out this really cool European e-magazine called Beta-sway who just did an article on the project: Click on the July issue.


And the final item is some web site changes. I have changed the main AdventuresOfGreg home page a bit, and added some more photos to the 24 hour HPB record

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Flat tire deflates Greg's hopes for Ironman

Flat tire deflates Greg's hopes for Ironman Arizona 2007

In 10 Ironman distance triathlons, I have yet to experience a flat tire on the bike course, so I was not all that surprised when I heard the terrifying "psssssstt" sound coming from below me as I was half way through a sub five hour bike split at Ironman Arizona 2007. As if a premonition of something that I needed to prepare for, when I left the bike store that installed my tubular tires, I asked the cranky bike mechanic if he glued the area of the tire at the opposite end of the valve so I could remove the tire if I flatted and he launched into this "there's a thing called liability insurance you know, and....." bla bla bla.... to which I replied; "Sorry, I should have asked you to leave an inch or two unglued so that I could remove the tire if I flat during the race - my bad, I forgot". He told me that he wouldn't have done it anyhow due to the previously noted liability issues. I always glue my own tires - I was just real busy and thought I could get a 'pro' to do it this time. Lesson learned.

So anyhow, there I was, around the half way point on the 112 mile Ironman Arizona 2007 bike course with a potential personal best sub 5 hour bike time when I had to pull off the road to fix my first flat during a race. My sub 10 dream vanished as quickly as the air vacated from my rear tire. I wasted no time pulling the wheel off and preparing my spare tubular. If I could limit the fix time to less than 5 minutes, I just might be able to hammer hard enough to make back the time.

The famous B-line highway in Tempe cuts through a beautiful natural desert setting featuring a brilliant red hue in the rock from iron oxide, rich hematite deposits and smashed beer bottle glass. The last ingredient was probably responsible for cutting up my right knee as I knelt down on the unpaved shoulder to fix my wheel. With blood dripping down my leg, I struggled to pull the tire off. And I mean STRUGGLED! It just wouldn't budge. I ended up using a piece of natural desert garbage I found road-side to dig under the tire to lift off a small section, then muscled the remaining tube off the rim. After I stretched my spare tire on, I proceeded to waste two of my precious three CO2 cartridges by trying to fill the fire using the right-angle valve adapter used to fit the CO2 nozzle into the small hole in the side of my Zipp carbon disc wheel. The pressure form the CO2 kept blowing the adapter off the nozzle! ARGH!!! This was really frustrating. I have practiced this before and have not had a problem, but that was probably with a slightly different CO2 inflator. This particular model would not grip the 90 degree elbow. I jammed the third CO2 nozzle into directly into the valve without the elbow and was able to inject about 90 psi into the tire. In so doing, though, I bent the valve cap slightly and this caused a slow leak.

According to the SRM, I spent about 25 minutes messing around with the flat. I mounted my Cervelo P3 carbon and took off again with the goal of trying to catch up to some of my buddies who had zipped past me while I was struggling with my tire - Greg Bradley, Matt Hoffman, Mike Gorman and Bernard were a few local Calgary triathletes who were also doing the race.

I ended up catching Matt during the 3rd and final lap, but by then I was really starting to slow down. My rear tire was almost flat again, as I could feel even the smallest bump bottom out against my carbon rim. My 220 watt effort wasn't producing nearly as much speed as compared to the other cyclists I was passing, so I knew I had to fix the problem. I wasted another 10 minutes or so riding on this soft flat looking for a support van to get a pump from. Finally I found a support guy and pulled over asking him for a CO2. He quickly produced a fresh cartridge for me and I re-filled my tire to about 100 psi - good enough to get me to the finish line.

I ended up putting in a 5:38 bike split was was good enough for 21st position in my division. Here is where I start playing the WOULDHAVE game. I WOULDHAVE finished in just under 5 hours if not for the flats. My watts average was 208 watts for the first lap, 209 watts for the second and 181 watts for the third ending in 198 watt total average for the whole bike race. 198 watts of power over 180 km (112 miles) is about 4 hours, 55 minutes for me and my P3. Believe it or not, the fastest bike split in my 45 to 50 year old division was 5:21 !!!!! I WOULDHAVE had a 20 minute lead on my competitors in the marathon.

Anyhow - lets not dwell. My swim wasn't that great. I felt like I was having a great swim, but exited the water in an hour 16 minutes which is 2 minutes slower than last year. You know all about the bike, so I'll stop going on about that. My run was mostly un-fun. A fairly slow 4 hours, 5 minutes. I felt great coming off the bike - for the first time I was able to run without any foot pain so I thought I was going to have a great run. I think I started to slow down after the 2nd of 3 laps of the 26.2 mile marathon course. I'm not sure my heart was fully into pushing through the misery. It was very hot and VERY windy. In order to really push the run, you need to be in perfect mental shape. I had done the mental math and figured that there was no way I could win a Hawaii qualifying slot after the bike fiasco, so I sort of checked out. Also for some reason my chest was really getting sore. The winds were especially high that day, and there was quite a bit of dust being blown about. I was starting to cough a during the run which was sort of concerning. I spoke with many triathletes after the race who reported the same symptoms during the run and the next few days after the race. I figure it was due to either the pollution (Phoenix is now the THIRD largest city in the US and there was a high pollution advisory on the days leading up to Ironman) or the dust storm.

My finish time was 11:06 which was good for 16th place out of 203 guys in my age group (top 7.8%). The last Ironman World Championship qualifying slot went to the 8th place finisher with a finish time of 10:41 - only 25 minutes faster than me. I feel good knowing that I WOULDHAVE qualified easily if not for the flat tire. But as everything in life, you can't blame anyone but yourself. I know that. It was my own negligence that resulted in 35 minutes of wasted time during the bike - I had not properly prepared for that and I have learned my lesson.

A while ago I looked into a new product by Vittoria called PitStop. This is a compressed air canister that seals and fills flat tubular tires without having to remove the tube. You could theoretically fix a flat in under a minute. When I first heard about it, I tried to get some, but no US mail order bike supply company would ship the compressed air to Canada and it was not yet available here in Calgary. My next race is Ironman Canada on August 25th, so I will try to get some before then to experiment with.

I am looking forward to giving this another shot at Ironman Canada. It's my favorite Ironman race and I know a ton of people who will be racing, so it should be a lot of fun. I'll be in great shape by the end of the summer, and I WILL BE PREPARED for a flat this time. I vow to break 3:45 on the run, 5:15 on the bike (IMC is a tougher bike course), and 1:15 on the swim. That should get me a Hawaii slot for world championships in October!

gratuitous injury shots: black toes from the marathon, wet suit chaffing because the neck came undone during the swim and the Velcro sanded down my neck, and my tri jersey was rubbing on my underarm and carved off some skin.

I am looking forward to a GREAT summer and I hope yours is equally as great!

Greg WOULDHAVE K, and support team Helen.

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