I have such special treat for you in this Blog… It’s the inner race of my IRONMAN!
Many of you may not even know what this thing called Ironman is. Others have an idea, and some of you may have even completed one. This blog may be the closest thing that many of you may experience to actually participating in the single day most challenging endurance event in the world. So sit back, grab yourself your favorite snack and beverage, buckle up and enjoy the ride. And… there’s lots of pics and a 20 minute professional video of my IRONMAN CANADA experience! You’re going to love that!
“The Will to Be Extraordinary is Important, But the Will to Prepare is so Much More Vital”
My Ironman 2011 journey began 12 months ago. Ironman Canada is a single day endurance race that consists of a 2.4Mile/3.8Km open water swim, a 112Mile/180Km Bike leg through the high dessert mountains of the BC Interior and a 26.2Mile/42.2Km marathon run along Skaha Lake.
Over the past 12 months I have been diligently working hard on improving in my swim, bike, run, nutrition and mental game for life and Ironman. Kate knows how much I love pushing my mind and body to the edge of what’s possible by attempting to experience the impossible. Ironman is the ultimate experience for me as a true student of life.
Ironman may sound simple enough, but I’ll tell you…. it’s not easy. My dedication and commitment over the past year was impeccable. I trained everyday, having 15-20 workouts every week. This ranged from 15 – 40 hours of training each week. I was up at 5am everyday and balancing work, life and play had me up until the late hours of the evening.
“There are No Secret’s to Success in Life, It’s All Simply the Result of Working Hard and Smart”
I’ve been an athlete my entire life. So the idea of pushing myself in training to the point of nausea and complete exhaustion is something my beautiful mind loves to do, go figure…! Over the past several years I’ve ran 100’s of marathons and ultra-marathons as long as 100 miles lasting over 20 hours of nonstop running. But today, at the age of 37, I’m in the best aerobic fitness of my entire life. Truthfully, my body right now is an incredible endurance machine and it feels pretty amazing to live in a vehicle that can take me to extraordinary places.
“In Life, I Never Compete Against Any-one or Thing, I’m Simply Striving to Be the Absolute Best I Can BE”
Here in Vancouver there’s this trail called the Grouse Grind that is essentially a climb straight up a mountain. Every year I hammer it to gauge my fitness. Several years ago when I began doing this short intense climb I could barely crack 50 minutes. It was always a dream of mine to complete the Grind in under 30 minutes. With my health and wellness being off the charts I was able to kill it this summer in 28 minutes and 17 seconds. Sure this means nothing to you, but the attainment of a dream means so much to me and being 2 weeks before Ironman, it was an enormous confidence builder.
“If You Want to Grow Exponentially You’ve Got to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Do What Scares You Most”
This Years race had a record start of over 3000 participants. It’s the biggest mass start any Ironman race has ever seen. Swimming has never been my thing. I’m still not sure if I even actually enjoy swimming. 3 Years ago I was still deathly afraid of the water as I simply couldn’t swim.
Fast forward to today! I’m very comfertable and confident in the water although it’s still something I’m not very good at.
At the swim start I still lined up in the front row at the buoy line. I never want to swim any further than I have to, 2.4 miles is plenty. At the start I was focused, ready, nervous, scared, excited… I was pretty much feeling every emotion surge through me. It’s actually a relief when the gun goes off, because I can start racing.
I swam hard from start to finish simply doing my best. I put pressure on myself to not slow down knowing there’s a cavalry of peeps behind that would mow me over if I did. There was actually a chop in the water from east to west that made things a little more interesting. After exhausting myself, several minutes in, I set into a nice pace with a pod of swimmers.
The contact was a little more intense than last year especially at the turn buoys. I did get the occasional elbow or fist to the head and back, but I held my space and ground well. Each time I’d get a blow to my body I’d just smile and laugh.
During the last 200o meters I increased my arm turn over and dropped my pod by picking up the pace. It’s the first time in my life I actually was passing people in the water…. Yaaaaaa!
“The Key to Success is Focus, Because what You Focus on Expands”
Swim Time: 1:07, 455th place overall!
Ironman Bike: 112 Miles/180 Km
The Bike leg of Ironman Canada is absolutely gorgeous. It’s through the high dessert of the okanagan valley and wine country with breathtaking views of lakes and mountain passes. It’s also a very challenging bike course with its climbs and undulations.
“A Person Fails to Reach Their Potential Only When They Fail to Pay the Price”
In preparation in the months leading up to Ironman I had several race simulations. Some of which were long rides to Whistler and back to West Vancouver, others were shorter races themselves. My cycling legs have improved exponentially over the past year. The key in Ironman is to cycle hard enough that your pushing yourself, but not so hard that you crash and burn on the run.
The bike was an exercise of patience. My legs wanted to hammer from the start, but my mind had to keep telling them to slow down. I found my cadence, speed, heart rate and rhythm early. I locked into this and took it easy for the first 40 miles.
The first major climb came at Richter’s Pass, close to Osoyoos. I kept patient and let other riders hammer the 20 minute climb. I kept my cadence high and kept reminding myself to take it easy. The race truly hadn’t even started yet.
“The Key to Life is to BE Fully Engaged and Present in the Process, not the Results”
Eventually I got to Cawston where I looked forward to my drop bag. I filled my drop bag with some goodies in case I was having problems with my nutrition and hydration plan. But I didn’t need anything special except my fuel for last 37 miles. I felt great and was feeling strong. This is also where Kate, family and friends were waiting for me to cheer me on.
It felt so great to see everyone. It’s like I get lit up like a christmas tree from the inside when I see familiar faces or have my name yelled out by others. It was also very timely. For me the race truly begins here, at mile 75 of the bike. This is where my 80% effort gets cranked up to 90%.
I began my lonely journey to the long mountain climb of Yellow Lake. It’s a series of false flats leading to a big mountain pass. There was an athlete 100 yards ahead of me and behind me there was nobody in sight. Up to this point there was always a pack of athletes around. But after I picked up the pace I began to steadily pass people and found myself alone.
In Ironman I find it tough to be alone on challenging climbs and stretches like this. My heart rate started to climb and race here too. Last year this is where I was getting hypothermic from the rain and hail storm. This year I was overheating from the 40 degree heat coming of the road. Like I said, Ironman may sound simple, but it’s not so easy. If it’s not one thing it’s another…. So I buried myself deep within my body getting into a meditative state.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
For half the time of this climb, my eyes were even closed, Hilarious! My heart rate was still getting too high for my comfort. I started to increase my hydration to 1.5 Litres of H2O per hour and take in more sodium/potassium/calcium and magnesium to get it under control. It helped but my physiology was getting under too much stress too early in the race.
I backed up on my pace to try to stabilize it and that seemed to do the trick. So I knew I wasn’t going to have my “triple A” bike split this year. I eventually made my way back into Penticton and was now getting my mind focused on the marathon, my favourite and strongest discipline. The last several miles of the bike was packed with spectators and I was stretching out my leg muscles getting them ready to go through 3 hours of “the house of pain”.
Bike TIme: 5:38, 372 Overall!
Ahhhh… The Ironman Marathon…
“A Journey Deep into the Soul to See what You are Truly Capable of Accomplishing”
I popped my feet out of my shoes coasted to the dismount line and jumped off my bike. Sprinting into transition, I passed my bike to a volunteer only to discover that the outside of my left foot couldn’t weight bear. WTF!!!! With every step I had a shooting pain from my left outer foot, up the outside of my calf to my left knee.
I was like, “what the hell”. Still, I was in and out of transition in 2 minutes and 10 seconds. I love to run. I mean….. I LOVE to run. I love to completely empty my tank in running races and push as hard a pace as I possibly can. I’d already achieved one dream of killing the Grouse Grind in a certain time and I’d put myself in the perfect position for a top 100 finish and a chance to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona Hawaii.
“The More You Dream, the More You Can Achieve. It’s Better to Aspire to Greatness and Fail, than to Not Challenge One’s Self At All & Succeed”
I was out of transition well under 7 hours into the race. My perfect marathon would be a top 10 marathon split of the day at 3 hours and a few minutes. My foot was sore, but I said f**k it, let’s go for it man!
I hammered out of transition and jumped right into my 7 minute/mile pace. Heart Rate was good, pace felt good, stomach was good, nutrtion/hydration/electrolyte plan was being executed perfectly. When I’m having a perfect run there’s not too many athletes that can hold my pace. At this point of the race I was focused on staying present, poised and powerful with every stride.
I kept going over my systems review, my form, pace, cadence, nutrition….. the list goes on and on and on. Mile 1, mile 2 ,mile 3 had passed. The pain in my foot and leg was progressing, the intensity was crawling up to a 7-8/10. On top of that I was starting to get numbness and tingling into my lower legs and feet too.
“Dealing With Adversity is the Ultimate Path of Greatness”
I’m racing Ironman, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional right. “Suck it up Princess”.
At mile 4 Kate, friends and family were there to lift my spirits even further. I am so grateful to have them all, it was such a blessing. By mile 6, I was right on pace, I ran the first 10km in 41 minutes, my heart rate was high but I was going for it.
But at this point my body began to really fall apart. I was surprised because I was executing the perfect race. What the heck was going wrong???
At 6.5 miles in I felt and heard a “pop” in my right hip. Not Cool! I instantly got sharp shooting pain up my ribcage and down the front of my right thigh. I later found out that I Tore my right Psoas and Illiacus muscles and my rectus femoris tendon (Right hip flexors). I had no idea I tore anything, but the pain was crazy, yet I managed it well.
To compound that I was told after that it got up 41 degrees on the road during the time I was running the marathon. Although I was staying cool externally with ice and water every mile, my internal physiology was overheating and shutting down.
By mile 7 my feet were completely numb and tingling with shooting electric impulses. I downed several electrolyte tabs. At this point too I lost my GPS signal on my watch, so I could no longer see my pace. I reset the GPS 4 times, but it never found a signal. So strange because that never happened once during training. Over the next several minutes I began to have cramps in my diaphragm and stomach… “Shit man, this is not good”!
“Pain’s Temporary, Pride is Forever”
My Good Friend Ryan Yokome was on his mountain bike filming me and he knew I was in trouble, but he kept encouraging me… ” GO Sukhi, GO Sukhi, You Look Awesome Man!”. It was hard to believe him, but it was very uplifting to hear.
By Mile 8 the cramping in my right hip and diaphragm got so bad I had to start shoving my hand under my rib cage and into my hip and stab my fingers into pressure points like an ice pic. I downed several more electrolyte tabs. A few minutes later my arms and hands began to experience the same numbness and tingling as my feet. “Oh Shit, Not Good”!
All I kept thinking was… “This is ridiculous, the wheels are falling off the wagon way too early. Can’t breathe properly cause of cramping, can’t feel my lower legs and feet, can’t feel my arms and hands… What the hell should I do?”
I did what I always do, stay present and on purpose… keep running as fast as I can.
“I’m still passing people like there parked.” A spectator read my name on my bib and said “Go Sukhi, Hey Sukhi??? I’ve heard you speak, You Rock, Awesome man you’re killing it!” I gave her the thumbs up and tried to smile, it lifted my spirits again. “Stay focused, stay present, keep running”.
“In Life You May Only be able to give 80% of Your Best, But You Better Make Damn Sure You GIve 100% of that 80%”
At this point I’m looking for all the inspiration I can find to keep hammering as best I can. I spent most of it thinking about Kate and our little baby growing within her. I want to be the greatest role model for my child and “show” her/him that anything is possible in life. This race was extra special for me because they were inside their mother experiencing the emotions of it all.
I kept running, mile 9, 10, 11…. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse I started to get dizzy and get double/blurry vision. OK, now I knew things were getting bad.
At the half way point of the Marathon, Mile 13.1, I picked up my drop bag, ate some of my goodies, and took a shot of Yerbe Matte to try to stay focused. At this point the dizziness progressed and my vision was cycling from seeing single to double, triple and even quad vision. “What the heck should I do???”.
Between mile 13 and 14 I thought I was going to have to drop out of the race. I told myself “I was done, I’m cooked, Ironman Canada is over for me”. But I began negotiating and rationalizing with myself. “If I keep this up I may pass out and fall on my face anytime, but there’s so many volunteers and race officials around that I’ll get help within a minute”. “It wasn’t like I was on some remote trail and wouldn’t be found for days and left for dead, right???”
“When You say I Can’t, You’ve Weakened Your Power of Accomplishment, Which Otherwise Could Have Been Achieved”
So that was it, after a mile of talking myself through it I was fully committed, the only way I wasn’t crossing the finish line was if I was taken out on a stretcher… “Just keep running, you can do this, you might faint and pass out, but at least you didn’t quit right????”
By mile 15 I couldn’t think straight, I was getting lucid moments of not knowing where I was, Ryan would yell at me, “Keep going Sukhi”, and I was like, “Huh, What, Oh Ya Running, Where am I Running? Oh the Finish Line??? I think???”
I kept looking at my watch to see my pace, I’d mark my time at a mile marker and then check it at the next mile marker to see how much time had passed, but I could never remember the previous markers split time. WTF?? I kept pushing all the buttons on my Timex Global Trainer watch, but didn’t understand what all the numbers meant. So I just kept on running.
At Mile 22 I was at an aid station and taking in nutrition. Kate, friends and family were 20 yards down and yelling my name. At that moment I got a surge of adrenilin, oh ya I remembered, “This is Ironman, I’m racing Ironman, that’s why I’m running”. I threw down my water and said “4.2 miles to go”. I kept trying to calculate my pace, but I still couldn’t remember the splits.
“In Order to Get Things You Never Had, You Must Do Things You Never Did”
Making my way back to town the shooting pain and neurological sensations were so freakin intense, 10/10 on a pain scale. The dizziness was even worse, and now I was getting moments of total blackout vision. Yes, I was suffering. “Stay focused, Stay alert, You got this!” “Oh There’s a Professional Athlete with a yellow bib, go pass’em!” ANYTHING to keep me on purpose would do.
At mile 25 my watch said “10:23:07”. So I knew I had to run the last 1.2 miles in under 6 minutes to break 10.5 hours. Again, another surge of adrenilin, I hammered it as fast as I possibly could. I ran the last mile in 5 minutes and 23 seconds. And I never did fall on my face and pass out, at least not during the race… : )
“How You do Anything In Your Life is How You Do Everything”
Here’s me Giving Kate and her mom Debbie a high Five in the finish shoot!
Life is all relative based on our perceptions of reality and my marathon split was a mollasses slow 3:39. One of the slowest marathons I’ve ever ran in my life. Yet I still managed to never get passed during the 26.2 miles and still hammered by 241 people, despite how challenging it was.
Today that effort was my absolute best and I was so proud of myself. That’s all we can do day in and day out is to do our best. But My best today was not good enough to race with “the best” at the world championships this year in Kona. That dream will be fulfilled sometime latersss!
“The more challenging the attainment of a dream becomes, the more extraordinary the achievement is”
I guess my child is meant to watch me race with the most extraordinary athletes in the world. “Little Baby, I’ll be taking you to Kona with me once your born into this world, and I can’t wait to show you how amazing this world truly is … : )”
Once I crossed the finish line, after a minute or so, my adrenaline surge dropped and my body collapsed. I was carried by volunteers into the Medical tent. I ended up spending over 3 hours in there on 4 IV’s. When the doctors learned that the dizziness and visual impairments started after several miles into the marathon they thought I was nuts to not drop out. They couldn’t believe I actually finished the race.
My response, “Life’s too short… You just gotta go for it sometimes”!
My final Splits For Ironman Canada were:
Swim 1:07 Bike 5:38 Run 3:39
Total Ironman Time: 10:29 – 131st Overall
…..plus 3 hours and change in the med tent. So really it was like 13.5+ hours.
I hope you enjoyed the read and pics…I welcome you to leave any comments below. Please sit back and enjoy this amazing 20 minute video of Ironman by my good friend Ryan Yokome. It also features one of my closest friends that I’ve known for over 16 years, Lanny Taschuk and the woman who introduced me to Ironman, Deanne Tomlinson. I love these peeps!
It’s one of my favourite and most inspirational weeks of the year… Thank You Ironman Canada for the amazing experience, I’m Grateful!
With Love & Gratitude,