Ironman Canada Race Report

Jay Watson on the bike course during Ironman Canada 2019

Doing an Ironman race was a goal I have had for many years but circumstances never aligned and was never in one place long enough to give it the commitment that I felt it required. It wasn’t until 3 years ago that I arrived in Canada from Australia, met up with Mike and joined the HPR team. I knew then the time was right. Little did I know what the journey would actually entail having to start from ground zero, from the tough early days to the simple satisfaction that comes with just being active, fit and doing it with a group of like minded and inspiring people.

The first year I completed the Vic half and Whistler full and they are the ones I remember fondly, the ones that fulfilled the goals that I had set out for myself. Both races I got to smile a little and enjoy at times as there was no other expectation other than finishing. The next few years though it has changed to not only wanting to finish another Ironman but actually finding out my limits and what one learns from pushing boundary’s.

The 2017 Full was my rookie year, actually still feel like a rookie to be honest, but I went into the race relaxed and looking to simply survive the day. Swim began a bit crazy as I just tried to find my own space and rhythm in the madness but was able to build through the second lap. The bike out to Pemberton was ok but the haul back was long, tough and with a headwind. The run had its moments and I hit the wall…I think I had overdone the all you can eat buffet on the bike and at the 30km run mark was sick. From then I wasn’t able to keep anything down but was still able to run out the race to the finish with an occasional smile and high five to Mike and Jasper as I passed. Unfortunately, I kept them out on the course longer than I am sure they wanted to be as they got ravished by mosquitoes.

The 2018 Ironman was a whole other beast…I thought with another year of training the results would just come, but what makes this race such a challenge is that it bites you quick if you don’t have the right mindset. I was super relaxed, possibly too relaxed at the start and the swim was the same as the previous year although I did try some drafting but never quiet found a good rhythm so often just kept my own space. The ride was where the problems began and as the day wore on the temperature got to the very high 30’s and I was just out there too long. By the time I got off the bike I was literally cooked and sitting in the transition tent with my head down. With my shorts full of ice trying to cool down I pushed on but within 1km of the run I began to be sick and couldn’t keep anything down including water. Every drink station I tried to force nutrients but again everything just came straight back up. No need to go into the details but it was a long 30 km run and unfortunately missed the 30km cut off by 10min. I actually stupidly didn’t realize there was a 30km cut off and in my mind, I thought I could have got back in time to the final finish cut off. Once though the official said to me “You are out” and called my number in. The body and mind started to really shut down. I remember thinking bugger it I would stay out all night if I had too, but once I got to the next aid station I was done, the officials again offered a lift back as the course was closed and you need to pick up your bike before midnight!… And so, I got the long sad golf cart back with leg cramps… I still kick myself at times for not finishing regardless but having done the whole run feeling seasick I guess at some stage you do have to listen your body. The 2019 Ironman I was out to redeem myself from the disappointment of 2018. Being the last year in Whistler I was determined to make it a good one. My training this year was good and although I had done some of it on my own I felt I was doing longer distances and a lot more brick sessions. I did though have a really flat Vic Half and although I had focused on getting my heart rate and nutrition right I was really disappointed in my race. Shortly after I had a chat to Mike and he said simply “I want you to bike with Anger!”. I also made a real effort to get back to the group training sessions where there was more intensity and I tried to bring this to the Ironman.  I was also more nervous this year leading into the race and thought this was a good sign. The morning before as we did the 20/20/20 I put my shirt on backwards and Mike saw it and with a smile on his face said, “That happens when you are in race mode!” He then mentioned he had left his keys at home to his car bike rack lock and couldn’t get Sandy’s bike off…I think Mike races with all of us on race day!

I felt good on the morning and the weather was perfect, the lake flat with a surface fog which at times made sighting the next mark hard. On the second lap the fog cleared just as the sun came over the hills. My swim was good and although I did some drafting I again preferred to do my own thing and find a rhythm taking a few minutes off my previous times. I hit the bike with Anger and really tried to push hard on the down hills while grinding back up them. Having rode the course a couple of times this year I felt confident of where and how I should be travelling. The last 20km of the day started to heat up and just tried to drink as much as possible and remind myself to keep pushing harder so as to get off the bike as quick as possible. I had also backed off the food intake a lot this year and just kept to Gatorade (carried my own powder as I hadn’t had or trained with the base stuff) and plenty of GU gels. I really have found that for me less food is better and leading into the run I felt good with the first 15km at an ok pace. At about the 21km I started to feel seasick again and with the knowledge of last year’s melt down I had sourced a good access point a few meters off the track to the river where I planned if needed a quick ice bath…so I jumped into the river. This was a good move and a quick couple of minutes the legs and body felt better and from there on I kept a steady run pace all the way to the finish.

I was definitely a lot more focused this year with a very different mindset and took off about 90 minutes from my 2017 time. Although I still have a lot of improvement in me, many more mistakes to be made, I feel I am getting better at it while learning more about myself, but only race day can you really find those places of discovery.

Thanks’ HPR team for all your support in training and at Whistler…also for your pearls of wisdom which I also take into my races… like… don’t drown on the swim, catch em on the bike, hang on to the finish…don’t forget there is a run after the ride.

And my favourite of all ‘Race Angry’

Jay Watson running at Ironman Canada 2019

Jay