I remember it well, it was a stinking night, we were huddled together underneath a small covered area outside of the Sandpiper pub on the beach in White Rock. The rain was horizontal. Jamie turned to me and said, “I’m doing an Ironman this year.” Here I was, wrestling with the idea of jogging along the prom and up White Rock’s historic pier or just heading straight inside for an IPA and a steak sandwich. This girl had lost the plot.
I was debating whether to run the 5k or go straight into the pub, then Jamie said to me … “I’m doing an Ironman this year.” … I felt completely pathetic.The following week I decided to do a bit of research on what this crazy nutcase had signed up for and the distances she would have to complete.
So here’s the poison
Open Water Swim 3.8k:That’s the equivalent of 152 laps of a pool but in choppy water with 2000 other people in your lane. Oh, and no end to hang on every 25m and no shallow end. Now you have to do this in under 2 hours otherwise they haul you out, give you a good slapping and put you on the bus home. Seriously.
On your Bike! 180k:After that, just jump on your bike and cycle as fast as you can the equivalent of going from Tonge Louie YMCA to Squamish, do a u-turn and cycle back to Richmond. That’s 180k. Nuts. My quads are burning thinking about it … my ass? Don’t even go there.
Run a full Marathon 42.2k:You can’t be serious, right? After nearly drowning for 2 hours then cycling to Squamish and back, you want me to do what? I’m out. To normal people running a marathon would not even be in their peripheral vision of must things to do. Starting a marathon with your legs feeling like jello, is, here’s that word again, nuts.
But she was in, signed up. She’d offered her body to the Ironman god. Would she sit on the Iron Throne before midnight on July 26th? Or would the valyrian steel running through her veins slowly melt away? By the end of that night would we be calling her … Jamie, mother-of-triathlons?
Sunday July 26th, 07:00
A few of us had decided, in honour of Jamie’s sacrifice, to have a BBQ, “let’s stalk Jamie” day. This is where we sit on the couch and monitor her progress with the aid of ginger-chilli marinated chicken breasts, portobello stuffed sausage, salad and olive bread. Exhausting I know, but we were there for her.
The good thing about this Ironman malarkey is that there are several ways to track (stalk) the competitors (victims). There’s a Facebook page, there’s a link from the official Ironman Canada page and there’s even an app called IronTrac available in the app store. 99c or $1.30 Canadian because of our pathetically weak loonie, but that’s another story. We could even airplay live video coverage of the swim, the start of the bike and the finish line, from the website to our 48” flatscreen without so much of a “can you pass the ketchup?” I love technology.
So Dean, Claudette, Tracey, Fran and yours truly were in for the duration. We were bulking up on carbs and taking on plenty of fluids – Sauvignon Blanc, Cider and IPA. Not forgetting Dean, who was OD-ing on enough coffee to keep every one of the 2000 competitors awake for a week.
Our first job was to find Jamie. Fortunately there was only one Jamie Higgins in the event, as if there could be two like her, she was competitor 651. Now we knew we wouldn’t get a read out of her progress until she’d finished the swim. We just hoped and prayed she would do this within the 2 hour limit otherwise she was on that early bus home, and we would be filling tupperware boxes with chicken.
Coming up to the 2 hour mark we were all refreshing our apps and double clicking everything we could to get her first read out. There it was! She’d finished the swim. Not only had she beaten the 2 hour mark, she’d smashed it. 1:20:07, holy crap, she was on fire! Fran was quickly updating the r4n Facebook page with the latest news and the comments were buzzing. Tiffany, who completed the Ironman last year, kudos Tiff, was on the ground in Whistler volunteering at one of the stations. She was texting and updating Facebook with news and weather conditions from the sharp end. For the swim and part of the bike ride the weather was atrocious. Cold and wet. Tiff said some competitors were pulling out of the cycling as they were so cold. Not our Jamie though.
We got the read out on how long the transition took her between finishing the swim and starting the bike ride. It takes a while as you’ve got to get out of your wetsuit get your cycle gear on, get yourself together, not to mention find your bike. It took Jamie 12:38, but this was fine, she’d had a great swim time and the swim to bike is the toughest transition.
Our next time check for Jamie was going to be a while, so we started to watch the live stream on the flatscreen. Believe it or not the top pro athletes were already starting their marathon having cycled the 180k already. These guys and girls were machines. The leading man averaged 37kph for the whole 180k ride and remember, this area is hardly flat.
There were 5 separate timing checkpoints on the 180k cycle route so we would be able monitor Jamie’s progress pretty well. It wasn’t long before she cruised past the first to give us an idea of the pace she was managing. She was 34.7k into the ride now and she went though that in just under 2 hours, so she was averaging 17.45kph. Doing ok but there was still a very long way to go.
With the aromas of ginger-chilli chicken growing ever stronger, it was back to the live video stream. Now to be frank the live stream and the positioning of the cameras, was pretty dire. It looked like something that you might have been proud of back in the 90’s with your non-HD camcorder. Dean and I started to hash a plan for next year of how we could get some cracking footage if he were to ride the bike section with me strapped to his back with my GoPro – Tour de France style. Fran and Tracey could do the swim passing the camera between them and then all five of us could do the run as a relay, passing the GoPro like the baton. Viola, sorted. How hard was that? Yes … we were keeping well hydrated.
The day was rolling by. Jamie hit the next time checks averaging 23.90, 28.72, 23.18 and 15.03kph between each section. She finished the ride with an overall average speed for the 180k of 20.64kph. Fantastic, but she’d now been out on the course for over 10 hours. What would she have left in her legs? How would she mentally cope with having to face running a marathon? And, lets be honest, more importantly, would we have enough chicken?
Now there was one of the aforementioned 90’s camcorders set up at the start of the run, giving us a live feed. You could roll this back to see earlier competitors coming through or roll it forward to view it live. We were now on a mission to catch Jamie coming through. There was a lot of math going on …. if she started at 7:00 and she’d finished the cycle after 10 hours 15 mins then add that to her starting time that should be the time she comes through the camera, right? The trouble was there was no live clock in view at the start of the run section, so we had no idea how ‘live’ the shot we were seeing was. There was a timer of sorts on the video recording but it correspond to, well, crap all. We spent the next hour running the video back and forth, double checking our math and getting more frustrated. We were losing the will to live. Our brains were fried. Dean was sweating mocha. Fortunately, Jamie came to the rescue, as she clicked through the first checkpoint of the marathon.
We all stared at our apps. Oh no, she ran the first 2.2k of the marathon at a pace of 10.30. Was she injured? Were her legs failing? We quickly worked out that if she kept at that pace she wasn’t going to make it to the finish line before the midnight cut off time. Bugger. The next time check was in another 4k away. It seemed a long wait. We were refreshing our apps continually, willing Jamie to the next check point.
Finally it came through, it was the 6k mark. And her pace? 7.56, rock on! This would bring her back inline for a finish. This called for more Sav Blanc and another visit to the chicken bar. We were in a much more positive frame of mind now, until we realized she still had another 36k to run. Crazy.
Her pace at the next splits were 8.52, 10.20, 8.54, she was at the mid-way point and just about keeping on target for a finish. Just another half marathon to run now Jamie. Really, this is insane. There were now three more time checks left before the finish line. She hit them with a pace of 9.20, 8.04 and 10.39. She now had 5k left to run. That last split time was worrying, was she done? She needed to run the last 5k in a pace less than 10.00 to be sure. Any other time she could do that running backwards but after 16 hours on her legs doing what she’d done today? We weren’t sure.
That last 5k seemed to take forever as the clock ticked down towards the midnight hour. We were exhausted and we’d done nothing. Jamie must have been in a daze. Then we got the update, she’d crossed the line! Jamie had been on the course for exactly 16 hours 47 minutes and 27 seconds. She completed the event with 12 minutes 33 seconds remaining. What an achievement. Jamie, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! Everybody at run4nachos salutes you. You were determined and never gave up. Huge respect girl. And best of all you can now officially call yourself …. Jamie, mother-of-triathlons 🙂