Ultraman Canada 2010 Race Report

Race: Ultraman Canada

Date: 31st July to 2nd August 2010

Ultraman Canada is a three day triathlon covering a distance of 512km. The race is staged with Day 1 seeing the athletes complete a 10km point to point open water swim on Skaha Lake, followed by a 145km bike ride taking in three quarters of the Ironman Canada bike course. Day 2 is a gruelling 273km bike ride with virtually no flat ground, plenty of hills (including something called "the wall"), and a prevailing headwind. Day 3 winds down with an 84km (double marathon) run. The run takes in some fantastic scenery, following a course through typical Canadian Alpine forest. Roughly 40km of the run is on gravel forestry road, and the last 20km consists of a 10km climb, followed by a 10km quad smashing descent.

Kirsten and I arrived in Penticton (British Columbia) on Tuesday 27th July, allowing us 3 full days before the race. lores_Crew_supportLeaving Cairns on Tuesday 27th July and arriving in Penticton on the 27th via Brisbane, Los Angeles and Vancouver, makes for an extremely long day. The bonus though is that all flights are during the day, which meant that we landed at 5pm in the afternoon, giving us some chance to eat dinner, unpack and go to bed in the normal time zone sequence. However, I believe that the secret is to maintain momentum with these sorts of things, and so I was up at 5:30am the next morning and did an 11km run with my new crew member – Ed Marbach.

Ed is a local Pentictonite, who was assigned to our crew by the race directors and officials. Everyone has the option to provide their own crew for the race, however, as an international athlete, this would prove to be a costly affair. As always, Kirsten is crew captain and top notch co-ordinator. Kirst looks after all pre-race logistics, communication, and then finally, everything that happens over the three race days.

Ed has completed a number of Ironmans and is no stranger to the pain locker. Given his involvement with the sport, he is also proficient at changing wheels, flat tyres and getting the most out of a gas canister.

We were booked into the Day's Inn which was the race hotel of choice. After being met at the airport by Ed we checked lores_Ed_and_truckin, freshened up, and were then picked up again and taken back to Ed's place for an awesome spread of dinner. So much healthier and more relaxing than dining at a restaurant!

Another bonus is that Ed was the bike course director for the race. So, on Wednesday after our run, we dropped the bike off at the bike shop for a final check over before heading out to drive and mark the bike course for the weekend. The guys at Pump n' Pedals in Cairns made sure that the bike was absolutely bullet proof – however, I always get these things checked out again, purely because of the way I have seen baggage handlers at airports treating so-called "fragile" equipment.

We spent around 10hrs on Wednesday driving and marking the course, finally driving home via the run course. The tour was invaluable. I would be racing against previous UMC competitors as well as local athletes, so having a vague idea of what to expect is always helpful.

Thursday Ed and I did a 2km lake swim and a 36km ride. This was to test out the wettie and water temperature, as well as a final spin on the bike to iron out any glitches. We also registered for the race and picked up some mandatory gear for the crew (whistles, flag, high vis vest, esky, vehicle number and CAUTION sticker).

lores_Pre-swimOn Friday the race organisers put on a welcome breakfast and race briefing. The spread of food was unbelievable. The volume and quality rivalled any restaurant breakfast and being a buffet meant that we could also go back as many times as necessary. The beauty about heading into a three day race is that you can never eat enough the day before. The funny thing also, was that I saw some crews eating as much as their athletes........Ultraman events tend to justify these eating habits regardless of your role in the event.

At the breakfast I met with the third member of the team – Dr. Tom Jasper. 9_1Tom is a local lake guru and paddler extraordinaire. After brekkie, Tom and I went for a 2km swim and paddle so that we could adjust to each other's styles. We did about 2km and things seemed all good.

Up until Friday we had been eating at Ed's. Home cooked standard Canadian staple food – rice, potatoes, chicken and salad, washed down with a strawberry yogurt ice-cream and berries. On Friday night we just hung around the hotel and ate a bland restaurant dish. Nothing too excessive as the nerves were starting to set in.

The swim start was at 6:45am on Saturday 31st August. We had a 4am wakeup call to go for breakfast and then down to Skaha Lake.

Whilst there are only 40 athletes plus paddlers in the water, the usual pre-swim nerves were present. No one swims over the top of you, but we all start as though we are racing a sprint distance triathlon.........the difference is that we have 10km to go.

Tom and I started out hard. I wanted to get into some clear water and get into a rhythm as soon as possible. Tom was carrying 4 PowerBar gels, a bottle of NUUN electrolyte, and a bottle of PowerBar electrolyte, and the plan was to stop after the first 40 minutes to start the fuelling process. The water was flat and cool which made for a good swim. 55After the first 40mins was up, the plan was then to stop every 20mins, alternating between PowerBar gels, NUUN, and PowerBar drink.

Everything went well until around 90mins of swimming. A chop picked up and it became a bit tough for the next 20mins or so. But miraculously just as suddenly as it started, it stopped and we were back to reasonably good conditions. I had opened a slight gap on the rest of the field and there was no one in front of me. I wasn't sure how long I could hold onto the pace, but I could just see the 8km buoy and kept hammering until I reached it. At that point we had taken exactly 2 hours to swim 8km. Not bad I thought. At this pace we could possibly make it to the transition in 2hours 30minutes........A quick gel and we were off. By then my arms, shoulders and lats were burning. My stroke rate was starting to slow and I was now slapping the water. It took everything to focus on technique and flow, and push the chasing field out of my mind. I could see the bank and knew that if I could just hang on, I would at least be first out of the water.

We hit the bank and I virtually swam into ankle high water so that I didn't have to wade in and waste time. As I stood up Steve King was shouting that I needed to cross under the timing shoot to set the new swim course record. Kirst was 15already knee high in the water and was dragging me to my feet to escort me across the line.

I beat the existing swim course record of 2h 35m 45 secs for 10km, clocking across the timing mat at 2h 34: 32 and then running back into the water to take off my wet suit.

As a result of the fast finish my transition is a blur, I reckon it was about 4 mins and I was in such a hyped state that I put things on backwards and got tied up in my bike top. Not very strategic!

Then onto the bike where I kept my lead until the last 15kms, and finished 2 mins 7 secs behind Kevin Cutjar overall, who is now the leader.

Three cyclists including myself beat the day 1 bike course record of 4h 24: 34 for 145kms. My bike time was 4h 22:25, it was a brutal pace and I hoped I wouldn't pay for it over the next two days. I cramped my abdominals on the bike trying to wipe glass off my singles (tyres) and over reaching. It wasn't fun and set me back a bit.

I also stopped dead on the course and unclipped (as are the rules) to take my helmet off and release a wasp that had flown in through the vents. Fortunately it didn't sting me, but it was an inconvenient break.lores_Swim_finish_1

Dinner was Ed's place again, where Kirst, Ed and I did a post mortem on the day's crewing and racing. There was nothing to fix as everything went like clockwork. Pretty boring really, but that's what you want – no nutritional dramas.

Hot, dry, windy weather continued today for the 274 km bike ride, which includes a 10km hill climb called 'The Wall'.

At the end of the no feed zone at 20km I was in 2nd place behind Kevin Cutjar and that's where I stayed between 2 and 5 mins until the last 30km where I was overtaken by Mike Coughlin who ended up in 2nd 2 mins ahead of me. This left me in third on the bike leg, 5 mins separating the three of us. My second day bike time was 8h 22:25. I felt good on the bike and although many of the athletes suffered with mechanicals and flats over the course I have to thank profusely Specialized for my invincible Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 which did lo10002me proud and didn't miss a beat. I also have to thank Pump 'n Pedals for servicing it and lovingly packing it for me on the trip here. A reliable bikelores_Day2_bike when the split times are so close is paramount.

The double marathon was always going to be interesting, the course has a brutal hill in the final 20kms and is considered much harder than Hawaii, it's also mostly on a gravel track through a national park in BC – and so my crew had told me to look out for moose, black bears, rattle snakes and deer.

We spent the night at a motel in a place called Princeton. Dinner buffet was at a local restaurant, which we shared with Kevin and his crew, swapping racing and training stories and getting to know each other a bit. Ofcourse everyone was careful not to mention the race brewing the next day. Such is the wonderful spirit of Ultraman that it's appropriate to share a meal and a laugh with your greatest rival on the course. Brekkie was at the same place the next morning starting at 4:30am for a 6am run start.

lores_Scenic_run_course_2On Monday morning going into the run, I was second overall behind Kevin. I needed to run a better time than him by over 7 mins, and was hotly followed by Mike Coughlin currently in 3rd and 37mins behind. This was nothing in the scheme of things considering that we were about to embark on at least 7 and half hours of running. The next competitor after that was Sergio Meniconi who was over and hour behind.

The plan was to start out conservatively, not worry about who was in front or behind, splits or distance to go, and to then get serious once the first marathon was complete. It was pretty uneventful again. I ran with Juan Craveri from Buenos Aires for about 19km and then slowly picked up the pace in the hills. At that point I ran into second place behind Kevin who was setting a blistering pace up ahead. I ran through the first 42.2km in 3hrs 37min which was I was happy with given the hilly terrain and bike-weary legs. The next phase of the run was to get to the 63km point through some rolling hills, before starting a 10km ascent. Upon reaching 63km's I found out that Mike Coughlin was coming like a freight train, as he had done so the previous day, catching me on the bike with 25km to go. My crew hung back and took the split between us. Just 8mins separated us and this equated to roughly 1.6km. As if any of us weren't in enough pain already, I now had a race on my hands for the last 21km's. I stuck my head down and started to grind out the km's. The crew was giving me coke every kilometre and Kirst started to run short spurts with me, feeding encouraging words into my ear. It definitely seemed to help and I never saw Mike Coughlin again until the finish line. He told me afterwards that when he saw my crew hang back to get a split he figured he must be close, so he stepped up his pace to bridge the gap and ended up hitting a small wall.lo0001

I came to Canada to race Ultraman. I was apprehensive going in, as I wasn't sure if a three-day race was something that you could actually have a crack at all three days. I would not have changed a thing in the lead up and preparation, and the actual race days were planned and uneventful. I feel privileged to have raced against everyone, in particular Kevin, as I know his experience in the sport is vast.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Penticton – made all the better by Ed Marbach's hospitality. It is the relationships and friendships that you build in the Ultraman that make you part of a unique family. The spirit and camaraderie makes this event special. I am really pleased with my result and the racing. I have also learned a lot more about myself and racing an Ultraman that I know will be invaluable going into Hawaii in November.

Thanks to everyone who sent texts, emails and well wishes before, during and after the race. It was difficult to reply to very much but it helped a lot.

For more information and photos of the race check out the gallery, results and reports (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3)on the Ultraman Canada website.

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