Ironman Muskoka – Fawn Whiting

Fawn Whiting rides past Lake Muskoka at 2015 Ironman Muskoka

Ironman Whistler was the big goal for my season this year.  I was fitter than ever and ready to have a great day!  However, Mother nature had a different plan, and a few mistakes early on in the race made for a much longer race than anticipated.  The pouring, freezing rain on the bike and my decision not to put warm clothing on in T1 made for a frozen body for the first 3 hours on the bike. My heart rate monitor wasn’t picked up by my bike computer so I was racing to perceived effort rather than heart rate which I had been training with.  By the time I was in Pemberton, I was in survival mode and was just hoping to finish the bike. The run didn’t get any better because my nutrition plan didn’t work.  I had some major stomach issues that turned what should have been a 3:xx marathon into a 5:07 marathon.  I finished.  I was happy I had continued, but frustrated that all my hard work wasn’t reflected in this result.  The positive coming out of this race though was minimal fatigue and soreness as I just didn’t have a chance to do what I had trained to do.

After some pondering and discussions with Mike, I decided to sign up for Ironman Muskoka.  I was feeling too fit not to race something and I wanted to do another Ironman this year.  Five weeks later, race day came and I was nervous but excited.  I had learned some lessons in Ironman Canada and therefore had a race plan that I was going to stick to no matter what!  The swim went fairly smoothly.  There were only 1200 athletes racing and it was a rolling start.  The rolling start took away a lot of the stress of a typical Ironman mas start line.  My goal for the swim was to swim straight!  I have worked a lot on my swim this year.  In the pool I am swimming much faster than before but I still struggle to swim straight!  It was not a bad swim in terms of time…. I came out in 1:01 but there is room for improvement as I zig-zagged a bit and never found good feet to follow.

The hill to T1 is steep and fairly long.  I actually don’t mind a long T1 as I find it allows me to think about what I need to do in transition and prepare for the bike.  Learning my lesson from Ironman Canada, I had made sure that my heart rate monitor was connecting to my bike computer prior to the race.  Starting the bike, I could see that my heart rate was sky high from running around through transition.  It took the first 5km to get my heart rate down to where I wanted it.  It is way too easy to get caught up in the early stages of the bike and push too hard, which is probably what I did (unknowingly) in Whistler.

The bike course in Muskoka is amazing! It is very rolling and scenic. When Nathan and I drove the course the day before the race, I was a little nervous about all the hills, but on race day (with my heart rate under control) it was easy! The bike passed by very quickly and I had ridden my way into 2nd place female position.  It felt good to be passing people at the end of the bike without ever trying too hard.  I felt strong all the way to the end and knew I would still have fairly fresh legs for running.

I got off the bike about 8 minutes down to the 1st place female.  I knew she was a stellar runner but anything can happen in an Ironman so I never gave up trying to run my way to her.  When I started the run, I was surprised by having a “2nd place female” cyclist join me.  There was no pro race at Ironman Muskoka, so it was fun to be up at the front of the race and have some extra attention with the cyclist.  He was very friendly and would tell the aid station volunteers what I wanted when I came by.  Unfortunately, my Garmin got a little sleepy on the bike so when I got to the run, I had to go on perceived effort instead of heart rate.  I really wanted to run this race evenly so I took it easy for the first 20km, knowing that I could always pick up the pace in the second half of the marathon. The day was warming up but I had water at every aid station as well as some source of carbohydrate, whether that was part of a gel or a few sips of coke, so I was managing well.  The last 10km were tough as there were a few steep hills heading back to the finish line, but I was still running fairly well.  I wasn’t gaining at all on first place, but I was pulling away from 3rd so I was happy to maintain my 2nd place position.  When I got to the finish line, I was incredibly happy that I had just executed an Ironman the way I wanted to!  I was shocked to see 10:10 on the clock because prior to the race I thought with the difficulty of the course, it would be a slow time.  It is actually my fastest Ironman to date!  I am excited to have qualified for Kona in 2016!  I want another chance to race there to see what I can do!

Big thanks to Mike for putting together a great training program for me.  I did what it said and listened to his race day advice and it paid off.  Ironman Muskoka was a great race with fantastic volunteers.  I highly recommend it!  Thanks also to Nathan who came with me to this race and was great support in the lead up and on race day!

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