Wayne Little with his family at the Whistler Ironman.

Wayne Little with his family at the Whistler Ironman.

Living Well – Ironman competition incredible

Wayne Little's monthly motivational column on staying fit and healthy.

While washing dishes last Fall my wife Juanita says to me: “When are you going to do Ironman?”  “Are you saying you are giving me the OK to do Ironman?” I replied.

She said, “Yeah, I guess that’s the next step isn’t it?” We sat down and talked about exactly how much more training there would be. With basically twice the training per week to complete an Ironman in a decent time, she agreed I should do it. So now I would have to train 15-20 hrs per week instead of a max of 12 hours like I had been in the past.

For those who don’t know what Ironman is – it’s a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, then a 42.2km run – all in the same day, and you have 17 hours to complete it. It’s the full monty, the real deal, the whole enchilada in the Triathlon world. Many people tattoo the Ironman logo onto their bodies after completion. The event itself is hard, very hard – but the training leading up to the day is even harder.

The 20 hours a week of training on top of a 48 hour work week at the mine, plus some amount of sleeping in between, was hard to co-ordinate from week to week. Somehow though with huge support from my family I was able to accomplish it.

At the time, it was still undecided where Ironman was going to be held, because of a financial and political disagreement between Ironman and Penticton. In the end, Whistler got the bid, and it couldn’t have happened to a better area.

I started training on Jan. 1, with long runs on the treadmill, and long bike rides on a stationary trainer, all done in the basement while watching movies and re-runs of “Big Bang Theory”.  It was totally boring, but I needed to get the base fitness in for when the weather got nice, and I could do some faster work outside.

You see, I could just “finish” Ironman, but I wanted to do well. My goal was to finish in 10 hours, and if possible, qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii

I’ve never done one before and I was going to need help. I hired the same coach who helped me win the BC Provincial Championships last year, Maurice Maher from Multisport Solutions. I didn’t think I had the know how or discipline to put myself into the long hours of training. Maurice gave me a schedule for the season and lots of one on one workouts to get me to the Finish Line in Whistler.

In the months of training, I participated a few little tune up races: two half marathons in Kamloops, a half Ironman in Oliver, a six hour mountain bike race, a few short 10 km running races, club level bicycle races in Kamloops and an Olympic distance triathlon in Calgary. All these were pretty much treated as training tools for a successful Ironman.

I was driving back and forth to Kamloops until our pool opened doing laps at TCC, up to eight km per week there. Biking to work, and all over Ashcroft when the weather got nicer was fun, my longest ride being from Ashcroft to Lillooet to Lytton and back to Ashcroft – 237 km and it took me eight and a half hours. This route is also great for running with my longest run lasting three hours.

6:59 am, Sunday, Aug. 25, Alta Lake, Whistler: The day had finally arrived. The pro’s started 10 minutes ago. I was in the water at the start line with over 2,200 other people who had also trained long and hard, neglecting their family and friends along the way. We are all here to be able to call ourselves an “Ironman”.

BOOM! The cannon goes off, the swim course is two laps of 1.9 km each in a long rectangular shape. The fast guys and gals are lucky, as they are fast enough to get ahead of the mass, I’m not so lucky.

I get to Turn One at 800m with about 150 other athletes. It’s like being flushed down a toilet bowl but with more kicking and getting hit in the head by flailing hands. There is no way you can train for this part, it’s horrible. No one is trying to hurt anyone else, it’s just that there is too many people trying to take up the same corner in the lake. Turns Two and Three get better as more athletes fall behind, but not by much. By the time I’m finished Lap 1, it’s getting better. About half way through the second lap, I start catching up to the slow swimmers. These are the people who are probably not going to finish Ironman today. It’s tricky navigating through them. The swim is over after 1hr and 15 minutes. I’m so happy. I finish in about 800th place.

Onto the bike! This is my thing, I love the bike. The longer, the faster, the better. The course leaves Rainbow Park and heads up Callahan to Whistler Olympic Park, with a long hill up Callahan. I love it. I love hills. Then back down Callahan and past Pemberton, 30 km past Pemberton and back to Whistler. Other than the blatant cheaters who are drafting off of other riders, and people blocking you to pass, the Bike course was awesome. I pass 600 people on the bike course, and come to the run portion feeling fresh. Well, sort of. 180 km done in 5hrs 17minutes.

My coach told me, “Don’t go fast in the beginning of the run, you’ll blow up and end up walking.” For the first 21 km I felt pretty good. I’m running slow – well, slower than I’m used to running, that is. The course goes around Lost and Green Lake, along golf courses, across covered wooden bridges, over boardwalks and through Whistler Village. It is truly awesome. With literally thousands of people along the course cheering you on, it was so much fun.

The second 21 km, I didn’t feel so good. This is the part you can’t train for, as you need too much recovery time. I’m digging deep to stay running at any speed, never mind fast. I figure I’ll just walk through the aid stations. Then I figure I’ll just walk on the uphill portions. In the last 5 km or so I can hear the crowds cheering on people across the finish line. I feel a rush hit me and I run fairly fast – well, faster than walking that’s for sure – all the way across the finish line.

I finish in 10hrs 32minutes. That’s about 32 minutes short of my goal, and about 27 minutes away from qualifying for Kona. Was I disappointed? Heck no. When I was done running and crossed the Finish Line, it felt like I had been racing forever. At that point, there were people only just starting the run course. It crossed my mind that there were 2,000 people who had wished they’d trained and raced like I did. The winner finished two hours in front of me. He’s from Kelowna and has tried to win Ironman for probably half his life.

I would like to take this time to say “Sorry” to my friends and family who I either didn’t see, or completely ignored through this season.

I would also like to thank my family Juanita, Calvin and Rhea, for putting up with me, my coach Maurice, and my sponsors Runner’s Sole and Taboo Cycles.

What’s next? I have one more triathlon I would like to do in Cultus Lake, then I’m going to train to finish a Marathon in three hours. Next year, I’ll be going for the BC Provincial Championships as I’ll be in a new age group.

When do I plan on doing Ironman again? Not soon, but in the future, when my children are a little more independent and don’t need “Dad” around as much.

Wayne Little