MGCC Member Andrew Imrie places 44th overall at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaiʻi
Total Time - 9:02:56
Overall Placing - 44th
Age Group Placing - 7th
Overall Canadian - 1st
Most athletes strive for a race effort where execution equals or exceeds expectation, and I was lucky enough to have one of those races this past Saturday. My long day started at 3:30AM, up 30 minutes earlier than planned, but was awake and excited so no use trying to force sleep when it’s not there. Ate 1000 calories and headed down to the race start by 5:30AM, did a final check on the bike, took a quiet moment to calm the nerves, and chatted with some friends until the start.
Coming from a competitive swimming background, I’ve never had a problem with triathlon swims – usually a quick 2-3 minute burst opens up clear water and I’m on my way with a small group of other swimmers. Hawaii is unique in that it is a deep-water ocean start, affected by currents, and brings together a much higher quality field than any other triathlon its size in the world. Getting to the front of the swim start line wasn’t too hard, but with three minutes until race time, there were elbows and knees battling underwater and lots of pushing and swearing as people tried to get up front. The cannon fired at 7AM and it was absolute chaos – arms and legs flailing with too many people contained in too little space. After about five minutes I felt the pace was way too high, and had a slight panic attack when I realized I had no choice but to continue at that pace because slowing down would result in getting run over from all directions. After about 15 minutes we had spread out enough that I was no longer claustrophobic, but the contact continued throughout the 3.9K swim. Swim time was 57:23, 106th overall, slightly slower than the plan but was more than happy to have that part of the day over with.
Long course triathlon racing is challenging as a successful performance requires a huge amount of patience over a very long day – it’s important to dose your effort evenly, and discipline is needed to keep that effort in check when people you’re racing take off up the road and you want so badly to go chase the down. The bike course starts with a 15K ride around town that includes a short and steep uphill, a longer climb with a more gradual grade, then a third climb that is the steepest on the course (about 400 meters long). I was getting passed like I was standing still on this section, despite seeing 260 watts and thinking I was working too hard – took a lot of patience to let everyone go up the road and do my own ride. I stayed conservative throughout the first 96K, which ends at the top of the longest climb of the day. At this point my average watts were 211, right at my target of 210, and I was feeling energized, strong, and not at all fatigued. Over the course of the last 84K, I built the effort, having a few 5K intervals where my average power was in the 225-242 watt range which was a bit risky, but a lot of fun passing a bunch of the people who’d flown by earlier in the ride. Bike time was 4:56:43 on average watts of 215, and I’d moved up to 97th overall. Garmin data:
My run plan was to run 7 minute miles for the duration of the run, I’d done this in workouts all season and I knew that was the pace I could hold if I was smart. Seeing the race clock at 5:59.11 leaving transition, I was tempted to push for a 3:00.48 marathon to dip under 9:00 for the day, but stuck to the plan as the probability of blowing up by attempting to run 3 minutes faster than planned was way too high. Similar to the bike start, guys were flying out of transition and I let them go – at 1KM I checked my watch expecting to see 7:15 pace as it felt so easy, instead I was on 6:00 pace and immediately slowed it down a bit more. From then on in it was a really steady run – every mile was right around 7 minutes with the exception of two uphill miles, and mile 5 that included a bio break. A few times I felt rough, and my brain would try to focus on how much farther there was to run, I was able to change the focus back to just completing the current mile. Once the mile was complete, it was time to stock up at the aid station on sponges, water over the head, ice down the race suit, sports drink, coke and salt tabs into the body; then back to focusing on the next mile. I also had my family out cheering on the course, it’s a long day for the spectators as well so wanted to keep on pushing to get them out of the hot sun as early as possible! I ran side by side with another athlete from mile 10 to 24 which made it so much easier, we fed off each other’s pace and were passing runners steadily. I felt so strong with 1 mile to go I was able to drop the pace down to close to a 6 minute mile and closed strongly, in a lot less pain than the race six weeks previously. Run time was 3:03:43, and I finished 44th overall with a final time of 9:02:56. Garmin data:
The race was flawlessly executed by the organizers, it’s arguably the most highly anticipated event in the triathlon industry and is supported appropriately by all the major players. Sharing the course with the professional athletes is a special experience, and having so many talented athletes in one field is a fantastic challenge. Thanks again to the MGCC for pushing my comfort zone on the bike all season long, at the start of the year I’d have been ecstatic with a 5:15 bike split, to come in sub 5 hours was really exciting. See you out on the roads!