Not every race day goes as planned. One member of our Canada crew had to learn that the hard way as adversity was thrown his way, but he dealt with the problems as well as anyone could. His experience also highlights how much having a supportive team around you can help along the way, be it friends, family, or thoughtful volunteers.
Here’s Ryan’s Canada experience, its an amazing one. Congratulations on an inspirational finish!
I’ve been training with M2 since the beginning of the year for IM Canada. M2 is a big proponent of teaching his students to be ready for the unexpected. In an IM event there is only so much you can plan for, but you can be assured that there will be some new challenges that you will need to overcame in the spur of the moment. I am a believer of this philosophy. But never in my 9 months of training for this event would I expect to be lying on the pavement, bike on the ground, sunglasses thrown off me, and as I later found out, helmet cracked.
I’d spent 6 days a week preparing for this event for the majority of the year. Just prior to the race I was feeling great, I was in the best shape of my life and everything was pointing to me having a good race. I had some pretty specific race finishing times in mind too. I arrived at Canada a few days before the race to get settled in and do all the needed check-in requirements. We had a contingent of about 50 or so from San Francisco that I knew really well and it was nice seeing all of them all over town. Karen had come up to watch me as did my parents. Race day arrived and I was in a good spot; “glorified training day” was a mantra that our group has been using this year and I was surprisingly calm. Made my way down to transition and got everything ready, saw a bunch of my friends and before we knew it we were in the water about to start.
The gun goes off and off we go into the water, with all the preparation work we do the entire year, its almost as we go into auto-drive. The swim went generally as planned. Finished in 1:24 and off to the wetsuit strippers and changing room. A few minutes later I was on the bike and headed onto the course.
The first 41 miles of the bike course is generally down hill and quite fast. Nothing really to do here but take it easy and save energy for Richter Pass and Yellow lake. I settle into a good pace which finds me passing quite a few people. I pass when I can, saw hi to a few people that I know and soon enough I arrive at Aid station 2 at mile 19. I was to the left of one rider and he pulled right and got something first. I went around called out what I wanted, made eye contact with the volunteer and got a water bottle. Another guy in front of me on the left most part of the lane decided he wants a banana or something, and without looking or signalling he pulls completely right to another volunteer which is in front of me and significantly slows down. I have no where to go. The next thing I know I was eating asphalt. I distinctly remember yelling “F#CK” when I hit the ground. The volunteers rush to our aide. My adrenaline is pumping and while I feel ok, I know that from the force of the impact that it was a hard crash. Many thought went through my head at that time.
Is my race done after all this training?
The first pain I feel is one on my fourth finger, looks like there is a bloody as hell hang nail there. I also notice that my right knee is really banged up and bleeding a lot. A volunteer asks me how I’m doing, but I don’t know how to respond. Another one comes up and sprays me knee and shoulder with water. I notice that my bike is lying a good 5 feet from me. Someone else asks if my head is ok. I don’t know, it feels fine at this point.
Is my bike ok comes to mind?
I see that my rear hydration holder is broken and the 2 water bottles in it are missing. After a few minutes I somehow start to gather myself and pick up my sunglasses and proceed to my bike. I do a quick check over and the bike seems ok to ride. I spin the front wheel and the brake is rubbing against it, move the front brake a bit and it seems ok. I want to check on the other fellow involved in the accident to see how he is doing and overhear him yelling at the volunteers to get my race number. I turn around and he yells to me “there is no passing on the right, you are going to be disqualified” Whatever, I tell him my race number as I know I didn’t do anything wrong. He yells at me again that “I’m going to get you disqualified” Time for me to go. I get on the bike and start a mental checklist of what is wrong with me and the bike. The rear gears are shifting really slow, not surprising. I try to get into aero position, and my right elbow screams at me. Road rash over there too. Blah, I start to think if I should even continue at this point. I have another 92 miles to ride and a Marathon to run, finding out that your disqualified at the end means alot of time and energy can be potentially wasted at this point. I also start wondering if I can still get into IM Wisconsin somehow if I do get disqualified or succumb to my injuries later in the day. I realize that there is nothing in the world I can do at that time to change either of those outcomes so I kick it out of my head – don’t need that looming around for the rest of the day. I notice that there is a rip on the right hip side of my bib shorts and a large tear on my right shoulder too. Oh whells, nothing to do about that too. I shift thought more of the gears in the back and see that I’ve lost the smallest cassette and the biggest one, my climbing gear is gone. This can be a problem as spinning up the climbs versus mashing up in a bigger gear saves your legs for the run. I stop at the aid station at the beginning of Richter Pass and ask if there is a mechanic. A volunteer says one will be there shortly. Shortly can mean 5 minutes to forever. At least my bike hasn’t been converted into a singled speed consisting of a 53 x 13 or something. Also, we have done Mt Shasta!! Richter Pass is a speed bump compared to that. Off I go again. M2 is at the top of Richter! He is clapping and cheering all of us. He asks me how I’m doing and I point to my knee and shoulder. He asks if I went down. Yup was my answer. I grab water and this ironman poweraid drink at the aid stations. I haven’t used this ironman poweraid drink at all this entire year. Introducing it now and missing my usual nutrition can cause havoc when I change to the run. Yup, nothing I can do about that either. The rest of the ride was pretty non-eventful. Jamie catches me on the out and back, I’m surprised to be playing leap frog with Skinner for a long time (I swear she’s been on the bike 4 times this year), Yellow lake comes and goes, notice that on the long non-technical descents that people are passing me. Weird, I have 808’s.
Pulling into town means that the bike course is almost over. Yes, I’m ready to get off this damn thing. I see Karen cheering for me not too far from transition I’m excited to use the volunteers who catch your bike and rack it for you for the first time. Dismount and then walk your bike 10 feet to the volunteers. I dismount and, my right hip scream pain as I take my first step to the volunteer. Shit, I limp my way into the changing tent and and ask to go to the medical tent. A doctor comes up and ask’s me what is going on. I tell him what hurts and show him my wounds. Its the first time I see what’s going on with my hip. There is a bruise the size of a softball there now. He ask’s me if it’s important if I finish this race. Yes, was my response. He advises me NOT to go to the medical tent as they probably won’t let me continue on with the race…..Off I go again, to the run course this time. I am in extreme pain. My right hip area is cramping and with each step with my right leg there is so much pain. The crowd encourages me to continue.
I make it half a mile when Heather catches up to me, she can see how bad I am. At this point I’m unable to walk in a straight line, she says to walk with her for a bit. I can’t, it hurts too much. I want to cry. I can’t do this another 52 times I think to myself. I see Heather running down the other way as this is a short out and back and tell her to go get Karen, I’m going to DNF the race. This isn’t the Ironman I trained for or wanted, I think to myself. “Ryan, you got this” “Keep moving Ryan, keep moving” was yelled to me by the crowd at this point. I’m sure they could see what was going on in my mind and I keep going.
I see the first aid station up ahead across the street. This is still the out and back part, so I ask one of the volunteers to bring me a Coke, they have Pepsi, blah it works. I feel better. Slowly make my way through the out and back and hit up the same aid station. I stop here and take in 3-4 pepsi’s, a buncha of pretzels, and water. My fourth finger is still stinging like hell from 5 hours ago and I stick it in a cup of ice. I start moving again, and somehow manage a gimpy run of some sorts. I think its a 15 or 16 minute mile, great…. “Ryan, you going to FINISH this keep going, your going to FINISH this” Karen has made her way over. She keeps yelling me words of encouragement, maybe more on the lines of NOT finishing is NOT an option. I keep going. M2 see’s me from transition and ask’s how I’m doing. I give him a a sorts of thumbs down. He says he’ll be there shortly. Karen is now asking me what is wrong and I tell her I’m cramping with every step on my right hip. She asks me if I’m taking enough salt. Oh, she hasn’t heard. I show her my wounds and being the doctor she is, sympathy comes second to fixing the problem. She tells me to put some ice and cool off the bruise on my right hip. Hmmm, how to do that? I grab another cup of ice, water, and sponges from the aid station. I think I start holding the ice over my hip and am carrying the water and sponger with my other hand.
M2 shows up and asks me whats going on. I show him, and he tells me to figure out a way to put a cool sponge in my shorts over the bruise and to drop everything else, as you can’t run properly like that. I’m sure I look pretty absurd at this point. I drop everything and make do. He also tells me to keep going as I’ve come too far to not finish now. Make Lemonade out of Lemons he says. True words. Karen yells some more words of encouragement. She is running up the side of the course, waiting for me, and repeating. She takes me all the way to the edge of town which I think is mile 4 or so. I tell her I’ll finish this thing. This part is the long part of the race, the going is slow, lonely, and painful. My routine consists of running when possible, walking when I need to, but to just keep moving at this point. Walking is the main source of motion at this point. Every aid station is lots of pretzels, Pepsi, sponges and sitting down. I just want to make it to the turnaround. Its a long and slow going, I finally make it and my split is a 3:30, OMG this is ridiculously long. Turn around and make my way back. See a bunch of my M2 training buddies along with fellow GGTC’ers. Its nice to see them on the course. The way back is more of the same along the lake, the sun is starting to set. The jokes I made before about not getting a glow stick on the run are surprisingly not funny at this point, I shouldn’t of made them in the first place. I admit wrongness.
I make it to the end of the lake and Karen pops up again. She has been waiting for me there the entire time! It’s a very lonely part of the course, comparable of sitting in an empty Safeway parking lot for 5 hours or so, wow! I’m at mile 22 or so now and calculate that if I finish under 40 minutes Ill be under 14 hours. No problem is my initial reaction as 10 min/miles on regular runs is nothing. Wait, I just did a 3:30 half, never mind. Getting closer to town your mood gets better, there are more spectators on the course and the anticipation of finishing is alot stronger. Karen does much of the same on the way back and the closer I get to town the more I can hear the crowd. It pushes you and motivates you. It becomes more real. Soon I’m at the last 1.5 miles, this is the same out and back as in the beginning. I see my mom! Reach the turn around to the end and I see my Dad!! Soon, I’m running through the finisher chute and the sensation is unreal. I raise my hands in the air and run through the finish ribbon! I’m done!
Volunteers catch me and off I go to the medical tent. The doctors there say there isn’t much they can do for me as if they bandage me up, it will be for nothing once I take a shower. I look for some food and they have all the aid station food. Blah, that’s the last thing I want at this time. There is pizza on the other side, its….Dominoes, blah. Eat one anyways. Karen finds her way on the other side of the fence and after eating, I find my parents and gather my things. I have to drop off my bike to be shipped back to SF. I’m pretty afraid to go look at it. Find it and start pushing it, its not rolling that well. The rear brake is rubbing…that explains being passed on the downhills! Oh whells. Take a few photos with the family as I want to go home at this point. Drop off bike and make the walk home. Sleep is achieved relatively easily that night.
As of now, I’m still pretty banged up. The soreness has just really started hitting me and it hurts to walk still. The day after my neck starting getting really sore. Took my helmet out of my transition bag and yup, there is a crack on it. My bike hasn’t arrived back from Tri Bike Transport yet and I’m pretty scared to see what the damage is and what the cost is. Major props to Kahn for giving me one of his two extra X-labs rear hydration. My favorite bib shorts and jersey are really ripped up, need to get new ones. The old ones will be re-appropriated for spin use. M2 will be happy see that in class.
A lot have asked if I’m going to sign up for another one now. My initial goal time of the race was 13:00 hours with it dropping a bit in the last few months of training. I finished in 14:16:51. Not even close, but the day turned out alot different than planned. I’d like to think many people don’t achieve their goal Ironman during their first try, that’s probably why its called an Ironman. As of now I’m just trying to heal up and be able to walk normally before signing up for another race. When I think about the day in its entirety, I’m just happy that I finished the race. Also have to remind myself that its not just the time results of the race that count, but the path to the starting line. Joining the M2 IM Canada training groups was one of the best decision of my life. I’ve made numerous life friends on the process to the starting line. We’ve done so much together as come so far. I wouldn’t trade any of that part of the journey for anything!
Interesting facts of the day:
I went down at over 20 MPH.
I was down for maybe 3-4 minutes.
I still finished the bike course in 6:09:29, not too bad.