Saturday, August 23, 2003: Vol. 7, No. 35
What the triathlon world is talking about on Saturday:
1. Pre-race report from Penticton, BC, and Ironman Canada (from Lee
2. Second pre-race report from Penticton, BC (from Crumbaugh, USA)
NOTE: This is an unusual Digest, carrying only Lee Crumbaugh's pre-race
report from Ironman Canada, two parts. Results to follow on Sunday.
1. FIRST PRE-RACE REPORT FROM PENTICTON:
Penticton (British Columbia), hosting Ironman Canada, has an eerie feeling
to it, like I felt while on vacation in San Sebastian, Spain, during a riot
by the Basques in the old town up the beach from where we were sun bathing.
Everything is normal...but it's not.
On Wednesday Sherry and I had a long drive up to Penticton, from the airport
in Seattle via Yakima (where we visited my brother) and then north through
Washington state into BC. All the way from Yakima the mountains were
shrouded in smoke. As we approached the Canadian border at sunset the
ridgeline to the west was a stunning scene, mountains dark with trees atop
highlighted in an orange glow as the sun behind flooded the smoke-laden air.
The following morning I was up early for the obligatory 7 a.m. swim from the
Sicamous paddle wheel boat with my Tri-Deads Internet group. As we played
in the water, more than really swam, the mountains remained shrouded, but
others who had been in Penticton the day before assured me it was better,
because the day before it had snowed ash. Yet the absence of friend Bill
Justus who would normally have been swimming with us underscored the
continuing seriousness of the situation--he was helping evacuate friends
whose house was threatened by the fire consuming Okanagan Mountain Park not
that far up the eastern shoreline of Okanagan Lake.
Later, as we had coffee and muffins at Hog's Breath, Tony Lyon's friend
Murray tried--and failed--to be reassuring by saying that on his ride on
part of the course the day before his lungs only hurt when he pushed the
McClean Creek climb. The Ironman part of the world of Penticton bustled
around us as we ate and joked. Last year's race winner Garrett McFayden was
interviewed on radio next to our table. Top pro Gordo Byrne held court
speaking a group of of the athletes he coaches. I chatted with my coach,
Mike Plumb, of Tri-Power.
As I waited for my free ART treatment at the expo, the situation did visibly
improve, for Ironman Canada competitors, at least, as the wind picked up
from the south and pushed the clouds of smoke above Kelowna to the north,
away from Penticton and the ride and run courses to the south. We knew,
however, that these stronger winds had to be bad news for Kelowna residents.
All day we heard rumors that the bike and run courses might be changed to
two-loop courses to keep the racers closer to Penticton and emergency help
and away from potential or real fire points. This anxiety grew as a special
optional evening athletes' meeting was scheduled to talk about the
Nonetheless, just like in Basque Spain, the day proceeded just as it had for
the past 26 Thursdays before IMC. Tony and I cruised the expo and the gear
tent. (I tried to restrain myself--after five IMCs in a row, how much more
IMC gear do I need? Well, it appears, two shirts, IMC bike shorts and a
couple of water bottles!) We stood in a long line to register, where we
were embraced by wonderful volunteers thrilled to have us in their town. As
always, getting the silver competitor's bracelet on my arm brought home the
reality that, yes, in three days I was going to do an Ironman race.
After lunch I lingered by the fence at Gyro Park and listened as Lisa
Bentley answered questions from the audience of IMC registrants. What's
helped you improve the most over the past few years?, she was asked. Being
happy, she answered, explaining that she has learned that she races best
when she is happy. She offered a lot more on how to prep and race, but I
thought her "be happy" advice was the best guidance I had heard in a long
time. Likewise, her racing mindset was revealing: She said she continually
asks herself if she is a going as hard as she can. If she is, then whatever
the result of the race is is OK with her. She would rather suffer on the
course than suffer after the race knowing she could have raced harder. The
end question was about racing Hawaii. She said that last year she finally
had started to race Hawaii rather than experience it. She thought that this
year she would do better because now she knew that she could race it just as
she races other Ironman races. She said she was in better biking shape than
ever and that she hoped she could stay with Natasha Badmann on the bike and
pass her on the run.
Later I built my bike and rode part of the run course. The air quality
seemed better. Maybe that's because the wind from the south had picked up
to over 20 mph. I labored out along Lake Skaha at 17 mph but flew back at
26 mph. If race day were like this, the ride to Richter Pass, where as a
flatlander I need to make time, would be a slog, but the rollers after
Richter Pass and the descent after the Yellow Lake climb would be faster and
easier because of the tailwind.
Our group, swelled to about 22 with spouses and a few kids, had a great
dinner at Earl's and blew off the special meeting. Jeannine Prichard, who
used to run the Ironman Canada office, joined us and agreed that no
decisions on the course would be announced at the meeting. After dinner
several of us went to Dairy Queen to enjoy the freedom to eat "forbidden
desserts" at the end of our taper. I had the joy of talking with Coach Mike
face to face--he coaches me by e-mail and we had not been together since he
last did IMC five years ago. After consuming our Blizzards we took in part
of the Ironman concert at Gyro Park--while the musicians were talented, this
big city suburbs boy just has trouble getting into rock country Scottish
music with kilted fiddle players!
This morning blue sky shown overhead but the cloud above Kelowna was huge.
Bill did show up at the 7 am. "swim" and we all were concerned for the 50 or
so Kelowna families whose homes had burned last night and the hundreds
others whose homes were threatened. The yin and yang continued as we swam
to the float and tried our belly flops and then discovered the ultimate way
to draft on the swim: Create a human chain starting with Bill clutching
Tony's ankles, me grabbing Bill's, Marshall Slater grabbing mine, Dara Miles
grabbing Marshall's and Frank Zimmerman's son grabbing Dara's at the back.
Tony hauled us twice, once to test the process and the second time so his
friend Rhonda could get the obligatory picture. Do you know how much water
you can take in when you break out laughing underwater? I do!
The "glorious obsession" of IMC continued with another Mocha and muffin at
Hog's Breath and the infamous Huddle/Roche Underwear Run. Males and females
(but not this old guy) stripped down to their tidy whities, took the oath
not to shop but only to race so unclothed, and the paraded off and back,
concluding with jumping jacks and other exercises while blocking Main
Street. The run ended with this dialogue between Huddle and Roche: Hushed
whisper--"Tell them to get off the street." Yell--"Get off the street, you
We learned that the evening meeting had basically consisted of this: The
bike and race courses are unchanged; if we have more to say on this, we will
tell you at the mandatory competitors' meeting on Saturday. Our decision to
dine at Earl's looked even better.
After another cruise through the expo, I went over to the Bike Barn to pick
up CO2 cartridges and a spare tube. As always, one of the world's great
bike shops was wall-to-wall people and crammed with tri gear. Not that I
needed more clothing (remember the gear tent?), but, then again, I did
destroy my previous Bike Barn jersey in a bike crash earlier this year and I
needed something to wear with my new IMC bike shorts. Besides, the
redesigned Bike Barn jersey looked good on me--or at least that's what the
sales guy said!
So that's catches you up to Penticton at noon on Friday, pre-race. The town
is jumping with the fittest athletes in the world. Bikes are being built,
runners are everywhere, and money and gear are changing hands. And the
hills are ablaze. Quite odd.
2. SECOND PRE-RACE REPORT FROM PENTICTON: From Cumbaugh
Saturday, 11 a.m.:
Today it is clear, but the fire burnt 300 homes last night in Kelowna.
Another fire started near OK Falls yesterday and may cause course changes;
McClean Creek and Oliver Ranch Roads have been mentioned in evacuation
alerts. Pre-race meeting in a minute, so we will find out more then.
The carbo load dinner last night was moved to the baseball field behind the
convention center last night as we lost power. They fired up a portable
jumbotron, so we saw videos and Steve King did his usual terrific job
announcing. Lots of fun being outside, but eerie, too, as we could see the
fire smoke to the south and water bombers were flying overhead to and from
The 2,000 Ironman Canada 2003 competitors gathered in Gyro Park for the
mandatory pre-race meeting late this morning, awaiting news about the fate
of the race. While the weather today is beautiful, with sun, clear skies,
moderate temperatures and no haze over the mountains, television coverage
and distant smoke plumes continued to remind us that fires still threaten
lives and property around us and that our race, no matter how special, is
not the first priority for the Okanagan Valley at this time.
Ironman North America President Graham Frasier put our fears to rest when he
announced that the race will go on, conditions continuing to permit, with
course changes. Graham said that last night, however, they were prepared to
cancel the race, but this morning, miraculously, the work of fire crews had
allowed to road at OK Falls to reopen.
The swim course will be an in-water two-loop course--what had been something
like 30 fireman who were in charge of the swim has dwindled to 5, so a more
volunteer-efficient swim course was required. The bike course for now is
unchanged, despite a fire in the McClean Creek area, set off by an Osprey
shorting out a power line and its nest igniting and falling, starting a
rapidly spreading grass fire. The run course will be three loops within the
city of Penticton, so that runners are not out clogging up roads needed by
emergency vehicles and potentially to evacuate homeowners. This means we
will run down past the Sicamous boat twice and the third time finish with
left turn off the end of Main Street, as was the case before they changed
the course a few years ago.
Every competitor I spoke with, new and veteran, was very happy that the race
will go on and that the course changes would not lessen the race experience
for them. With homes ablaze near us and 30,000 people evacuated from their
homes just up Okanagan Lake from us, all of us are just grateful to have an
opportunity to race.
The parade this afternoon and the fireworks tomorrow night have been
cancelled. That seems fitting with the demands on emergency personnel and
continuing great fire danger.
An emergency fund for the burnt out and displaced Oakanagan residents has
been established. I'll pass along the details when I learn them.
Meanwhile, athletes are checking in their bikes and transition bags,
cruising the expo, eating lunch at Hog's Breath and otherwise trying to
quell the rising anxiety from fast approaching race morning.
Almost time to race!
Lee Crumbaugh #1494
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