Thumbkin goes to Canada to Race an Ironman


The rest of the story goes like this:

I got my cast off, fully expecting to be able to use my hand at will.  Yay – opposable thumb recovered!!


I don’t have words for the pain I suffered after she pulled out those pins without benefit of any anesthetic at all but DayUm!  The extraction wasn’t so bad – it was the pain that came later.  My thumb was quite useless and I could not even consider riding a bike for another 2 weeks.

So there I was, 5 weeks out from Ironman Canada and still not really functioning.  My Ironman dreams dimmed but I kept my chin up and did not cancel my flight.

3 weeks before the event I went for my first ride.  51 miles and it was miserable. Slow and difficult and twitchy and scary and I hated it.  Things looked really grim but I decided the solution to that problem was to go out the next day and finish my 100 mile ride.  So I did. I rode 57 miles and it was fun and much faster and, in an overused word, awesome!

The next weekend I set out and rode 104 miles, all by myself. I climbed hills.  I worked hard.  I was ready to go!  Only problem was I didn’t really manage the long runs and I hadn’t been on a long swim for a while.

Tuesday the week before the race I managed to swim 3600 yards at masters.  So I was good, right?  I could ride my bike over 100 miles and I could swim 2 miles and maybe I would walk the marathon but that’s okay!

And off to Canada I went, filled with renewed hope although truth be told, I was really just cautiously optimistic.

IMC Swag

IM Bags – getting ready to roll!

Race day I set off with 2500 other people on the swim. The first lap was fine but the 2nd lap was exhausting.  I felt myself getting slower and slower and slower but I made it.  1:50 after the gun went off I was out of the water and I met my goal of being on the bike by 9 AM which left me with 8.5 hours to finish the ride.  I could do that!

I have to tell you that when you race triathlon and you are one of the last ones out of the water it doesn’t feel good.  Those bike racks that had been filled with bikes are just about empty and it’s really hard to remember that you are a winner for being there and not a loser for being way off the back.  But I was determined not to let that bother me and off I went.

IMC Bike in T1

My trusty ride the night before the race

There were 4 cutoffs for this race.  The first came at 62K (this was Canada so we’re all about kilometers, not miles) and was at 12:30;  the second one at 94K and 1:40, the third at 148K at 4:30 and then the final cut off was at 5:30 at T2, 180K from the bike start.

I was worried about making the first 2 cutoffs but at 12:15 I was at about 75K and confused about things (thinking the 2nd one was at 64K) so I had to stop being disappointed that I had made the cut off. That’s right – this ride was HARD and part of me wanted to quit really badly.  In fact, part of me wanted to be fished out of the water but anyhow… on I went with the mantra of ‘just keep going – just see how it goes’.

I knew we had another hard climb and then a descent and then 30 miles flat and then a climb back.  I got out there to the flat and about 1/2 way back pulled into an aid station and said, “I don’t think I can make the cut off” wanting to stop.  The Volunteer said, “SURE YOU CAN!” keep going!  Damnit! – So I did.  I pulled out of Pemberton at about 3:30 or something like that so I had made that cut off.


IMC Pemberton

Pemberton Meadow Rd. – flat, flat, flat


Then the real climbing started and I was so tired.. so very tired.  I even pushed my bike up a hill that apparently a lot of other people had pushed their bikes up.  Then I got back on and kept riding but at some point I got to the last aid station and I was certain – 100% certain that the 1 hour I had left would not get me back to T2 in time.  I thought I was 17 miles out due to my Garmin getting screwed up.  Turns out I was wrong and I was probably more like 10 or 11 miles out but I wasn’t moving at 10 or 11 MPH.  I was climbing at about 6 – 7 MPH and I had a lot of miles of that to go.  So I bailed.  I quit.  I stopped.  I waited for a SAG wagon to pick me up.

I rode in in a truck and we followed the last riders. I watched them pedal and pedal and pedal and I watched the clock turn to 5:30 and they were not going to make it and I was glad I had done myself a favor and quit.  That is until I wasn’t glad.

I’ve triangulated the numbers a 1,000 times. I’ve looked up the results of others who were near me and sure enough, they mostly didn’t make the cut off.   Most of them took about 2 hrs and 15 minutes to get to T2 from the last timing mat and I only had 2 hours to work with.  All but 1 person; 1 woman my age who did make it. She made it by about 30 seconds and she finished the run and she’s happy.  Of course she was about 2 minutes ahead of me at the last timing split so I suspect I would have ended up like those other women who missed the cut off by minutes.  And that makes me glad again. I would have been bitterly disappointed to have climbed another 6+ miles of hills only to have missed the cut off.

I’m kind of happy.  I’m glad I went in spite of the injury and work travel (I didn’t mention that part) and the utter lack of training. I learned that I have a really good base and it’s commendable that could get as far as I did under the circumstances.  Sadly, I’m not done.  I have unfinished business.

Whistler is beautiful, though. I’m happy to head back there for Round 2.

IMC Whistler


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6 Responses to Thumbkin goes to Canada to Race an Ironman

  1. Don says:

    Way to tough it out Pamela.
    I am looking forward to racing with you next year in Whistler.

  2. Tea says:

    Next year, you’ll be more driven than ever before. In the meantime, get ready. I hear there’s a 70.3 with your name on it.

  3. Petra Duguid says:

    A year out from my Ironman (or nearly) I am terrified of the cutoffs. Terrified. What if I train hard and am still slow? What if I never get any faster? What if I have a flat tire? (And so on go my 3am thoughts).

    Amazing reading this post. You did SO very well given what you’ve been through and I’m full of admiration that you’ve gutted it out as far as you have. Nothing like a monkey on your back to get you back at it. I know what I speak of…

  4. Brent Buckner says:

    DNF >> DNS!!

    Nice work to have given it a serious shot on compromised training.

  5. Dori says:

    I haven’t been keeping up on blogs, and I was surprised that you did an Ironman! Sorry you didn’t finish, but you got pretty far. Next year you’ll get farther. Good luck!

  6. Not sure how I ended up here, probably via a TMetzger web/blog etc.

    Failing to finish isn’t failing. Failing to start is. Way too much is made of finishing, only because we all want to be part of the club. Looking back now I’m guessing you have an entirely different perspective on this race, you are amazed you started, right?

    Meanwhile, I had no excuses, started and finished Challenge Roth in Germany(formally Ironman Europe race) and I’ve still not been able to write my race report, because things didn’t work out how I expected, what I trained for etc. So, as one triathlete to another… finishing isn’t everything, it’s definitely not the only thing.

    What counts is what you do next, not what you’ve done. They only time what you’ve done matters, is when the are reading out your eulogy.

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