So here it goes, it has been 2 full years since I started an Ironman and 4 years since my first and fastest at IM CDA in 2004. So I had a lot that I wanted to improve upon, and a bit of nerves since it had been so long since I had done the distance. These nerves where unnecessary due to the great training I had put into this race, so beneath my anxiousness was a new found confidence that would serve me well. My goal was to put in a solid race that I know I can produce, while staying within myself and just getting one solid IM result, so I can then jump off the cliff and get some W’s.
The day started EARLY- 3:30 for me, well actually 3:28 to be spot on. I new it was going to be a good day when I woke up on my own, feeling rested 2 minutes before the alarm went off. Sucks to wake up to an alarm at 3:30. Anyway, after my traditional big ol’ bowl of Oatmeal with banana and peanut butter, we where off to the race. After dropping off all the race bags and body marking, it was in transition getting the rig together. Future winner Bryan Rhodes was racked next to me, and you could tell was full of confidence, as we helped each other pump the tires up, he was all business, not the jokester I am used to. Focus, good thing. Warm up run, last PowerGel (2x caffeine) and off to the swim. I did about 20 minute warm up, because I injured my shoulder 3 weeks previous while racing a 5k open water swim, and needed it loosy goosy for the swim.
Gun!!! I went out steady and found myself chasing a group that was off the front, I saw that one was Rhodes, and tried for about 5 minutes to pull him back. The shoulder wasn’t stoked so I decided to take second spot in the group and chill out. The pace was not what I had hoped for, but decided to take it easy, mostly because in EVERY IM I have done to date, my legs cramp to all high hell usually about half way through and usually costs me 5 minutes or so. So content to just sit in and conserve, I finished the swim in the 53’s somewhere, not what I am capable of, but feeling fresh. Into T2 and the longest transition in the history of transitions;( So ended up starting the bike a bit off the group I was with, but it is a long day.
On the bike, I had a very specific race plan, and while watching my FSA SRM I took the first 30 miles pretty easy. Perceived exertion is really off for me early on the bike, so it was good to keep my eye on the watts. During this time a large group formed, and made it’s way to Osoyoos. It was obvious guys where ancy, and weren’t letting anybody go without a very hard effort so - stick to the plan. On the way up Richter I felt great in my watts and moved towards the front. About halfway up Richter I heard what I swear was 2 gunshots coming form a farmhouse. I sat up grabbed my side and yelled to Courtney Ogden, (who was making his way to the front) I’M HIT!!! He gave me a funny look but not sure anybody can hear anything in those goofy aero helmets!! Once over the top I put a steady effort down the pass to get about 20 seconds on the group. Back to the plan, and the group slowly pulled me back. Damn. It was more of this for the next 30 miles, with myself and Andre Yasterbov trying to make moves off the front. Then the plan said otherwise. Through the feed zone I wasn’t feeling great, in fact I was a bit under nourished and vision a little hazy. I filled up on my nutrition and threw a power bar down like no-body’s business. You guessed it – plan, so I put in a hard effort to break from the group and told myself to not look back for 10 minutes. I didn’t, and when I did I had a solid gap and just tried to hold it steady into transition. Up Yellow Lake I felt great and was surprised the top came so quick, good sign I guess. So fun seeing all the people on the way up yellow, so many people encouraging you and giving you that extra push. I got to see Lea and Mr. Butters and they where pumped. Lea knew my plan and was jumping up and down like a rabbit, cause she knew I had stuck to it and looked good. I bombed the descent and hit 50mph, fun times;) I was still feeling good until my adductors started cramping. This has happened to me before, just after long descents with no pedaling. Frustrating because when one goes, both go and can’t really stretch or pedal without the opposing locking up. So the last 10 miles was a lot of standing and coasting, not what I wanted, but still came in with what I think was around 1:30 minute gap. 4th place
Out onto the run and not feeling quite 100% I had a wicked side-stitch and, oh guess what -it feels like poopoo to run a marathon after a 112 mile bike ride!! So the first 4 miles felt like H,E, double hockey sticks (it is IM CANADA eh), but was hitting my pace and stuck to THE PLAN. By mile 5 I had hit my stride and was running 6:50’s at a pretty comfortable exertion. I was passed by 5 guys in that first 4 miles, and now saw them in the distance and was trying to pace them a bit. One of which was Mr. Yasterbov, who the last time I raced him in an IM he outran me by 40 minutes!! I kept this in mind, but tried to remember that I am a different athlete now. On the way out to the out and back there is this ridiculous wall of a hill. As I came up to it I see Multi Canada and Hawaii Ironman winner Peter Reid on his mike with a TV camera. He just smiled his big ol’ Cheshire one, and I think laughing just told me to “keep running matt, keep running”. I didn’t think I looked that bad, but that’s just him giving it to me I guess! 2 years earlier on the same spot I do remember asking him if he would run the last 15 miles for me, I wasn’t kidding. So maybe he thought I was going to be in that same mindset. I wasn’t. I got through the crazy hilly section of the course and just tried to stay on the gas through the special needs till I could see where the guys where behind me. There was one athlete about a minute back and a few about 3 minutes further, so not much room for error. I stayed on the Powergel, but was now on the 2x caffeine mix and was hanging in there. By mile 16 I had pulled in the 2 guys that had come off the bike in front of me and was on my way to a PR Ironman!! With 6 miles to go the athlete behind me was running strong and was within 30 seconds. With 4 miles to go it was 20, and at 2 to go I heard it was 10. With this news, knowing no-one was behind him, and there was another athlete in semi-striking distance I went as hard as I could for a mile. The fastest mile of my marathon was at mile 25 (slightly downhill), but got my gap and into the final K to go with a 7th position. I had some great cheerleaders on the final stretch along with Mr. Butters and Lea now jumping like a crazed grasshopper on a pogo stick. I had some time to celebrate and went into the finish shoot walking on air.
So sum up the day- can we say plan? My plan was best-case 8:45, with a 3:05 run. The day ended with a 53 swim, a 4:41 bike, and a 3:06 run, oh, totaling 8:45!! This was a very competitive year in Canada and a time that often would get me top 3 and always-top 5 got me 7th, only 15 minutes out of 1st. Now I have something to work with, my Ironman performances to date have been a bit less than I am capable of. With my PR being my first IM, followed by races raced out of the plan, and seasons plagued with injury. So I PR’d by almost 40 minutes, with most important to me, a PR on the run by almost 20!! It took me 5 Ironman starts, but I think now I have something to work with ;)
Oh, and this is very special to me, not for most triathlete’s reasons, but I am racing in Hawaii!! Why is it so special? Well it is the 10-year anniversary of a life-changing day for me. For those of you who don’t know up until IM Hawaii 1998 I was overweight and topped at 240 lbs. Watching big bro (Chris) race that event, and all of those incredible “finishers” inspired me to try again and lose the weight. Long story short, I lost 75lbs, and started triathlon, and worked my way to racing as a Pro. To me this day is a culmination of 10 years of hard work. I finally get to race IM Hawaii alongside my big brother and inspiration in the sport. It may sound cheese ball, but racing with the kid who grew up down the hall from you in the most challenging single day sporting event in the world, feels pretty cool. Especially since Chris is racing so well and is my pick to win the thing. Can’t fricking wait!!
Special thanks to everyone who has given me encouragement over the last few tough years; I couldn’t have stayed in the sport without you. Also I am not a fan of the gratuitous sponsor plugs, but I have been blessed with some great sponsors this year that have helped me re-find my love of the sport. K-Swiss, the shoes are amazing, and guess what you can’t fake a marathon!! 1st time no blisters, no calf cramps, and a PR by 20 minutes. Good stuff, but also impressive where my sponsor’s efforts in the race!! Erik Vervloet did his first IM with a time that anyone can respect 10:40, and David Bond raced to an age group placing and a 10:20 time. These guys, not only make a great product, they love this sport. Seriously you guys inspired me out there on Sunday. My energy was great due to my PowerBar’s and Gels, while my muscles felt strong from the months of Base Performance Nutrition Amino’s!! My bike not only was super fast, but looked bitchin’ due to Trek, and Vision Tech/FSA. Thank you all for all that you do to help me along the way. And last but not least, thank you to my fantastic coach Matt Dixon. I am lucky to be working with Matt and could not do it without him.