Obviously you are still processing what happened on Sunday, but I have to ask...how the hell does it feel to WIN an Ironman!???
It's pretty remarkable. I think like anything really special, it’s impossible to describe. It’s this thing that happens that sort of knocks you over. Vince Lombardi, whose classic speech on winning is really a must-read (“The Habit of Winning), summarizes as well as anything I’ve ever read, “I firmly believe that any man's finest hours, his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle victorious.” That’s what it feels like to win an Ironman.
As many competitive athletes witnessed with Lance Armstrong's method of preparing for the TDF, living and training ON the course absolutely works. How long were you living in Penticton before the race? Did the same roads you trained on day in and day out feel "easy" on raceday?
I’ve been here since the beginning of May. The roads didn’t feel easy, because there just aren’t easy roads around here, but I knew how hard they were going to feel. More than the roads, which I think you can perceive from the course map and from talking to people or driving the course, I expected to get pounded by the winds. That’s what you really can’t see, especially if you drive the course. I didn’t have it any easier in the winds, but I knew they were coming. There are a couple of spots where I know you don’t need to touch the brakes where I think I saved a few seconds, but other than that, there’s nothing free out there. I guess I was just prepared. At the same time, it’s always different on race day with aid stations, people out there cheering, and competition. When I go and train on the roads, there are also the places that I generally like to just coast and stretch my back, and you don’t get to do that on race day. That was actually hard, because you have to keep pushing. There’s a fruit stand that I always stop at when I ride the course to have a snack and refill my bottles. I didn’t expect it to be phase me, but it was sort of weird to not be able to even slow down and rest. I think your brain perceives that as a marker. It made some stretches that seemed short in training actually feel longer during the race. But overall I do think it helped, mostly because this is just a great place to train for any Ironman. Beautiful, long and open roads with tough conditions will prepare you for anything.
We know your family is very supportive of your dream, and try to make it to all of your big races. Was Mom-Rappstar present on Sunday? Did she know this day would come?
Mom-Rappstar was unable to make it. Someone misunderstood Jasper’s mom (Jasper, Jordan are easy to mix up) and thought she was my mother and called me over. At first I thought my mom - who is very wily - had come out without telling me. I think it was quite hard for her, but she actually got sick right around the race so it was probably for the best. She never really takes any vacation, and I think flying across the continent would have been yet another thing to do when she probably ought to have been relaxing. I called her today and despite having pneumonia, she was weeding the roof of the garage. That pretty much sums up my mom. I am sure she will say she knew I would win, but she’s a mother, and therefore not to be trusted on such matters. You could probably tell her that I had walked on water down at the lake the next morning, and she’d say, “I knew he could do that.”
In terms of the race itself, as an outsider looking in, it seemed as though you were having one of those PERFECT days everyone dreams of...was this the case? Were there any bad patches you had to overcome?
There were some rough spots. Especially on the bike, it seemed like I was paraphrasing Homer Simpson a bit. There is a classic episode where Homer is having an internal monologue and he says, “Okay, brain. You don't like me, and I don't like you, but let's get through this thing and then I can continue killing you with beer.” I have those conversations regularly with my legs only I promise to let them lay on the couch for a while after it’s all over. On the run, it’s always a struggle once you get deep into the marathon. I think this is true even in standalone marathons. Running 26.2 miles is far. There is always going to be at least one moment where you will say to yourself, “It would be really good just to stop running right now.” Especially when I was beside the lake, it was “I could A) jump in the lake and just relax or B) run another 10km.” It’s best not to think too much in those cases, because there a very few sensible reasons to choose option B. But I think that’s just Ironman racing. There’s no way it can’t be hard. It’s just too far. It’s really a ridiculous thing to do, but I suppose that’s exactly why we do it.
The bike is clearly where you set yourself apart from the field. How did you feel about your bike split?
I felt pretty good. There were certainly some moments where I felt I could have done a bit better, but I think maybe I’m overly critical. Sometimes I think that my expectations on the bike are too high and that my expectations on the run are too low. Generally I try to ignore the split, though I certainly covet the 4:25 that Chris Lieto rode on this course, and just focus on the execution. It is certainly satisfying to have the fastest bike split of the day though. As much as the end result is really what I go after and a fast bike ride just seems to be the best way for me to achieve it, it lights a fire under me to have the fastest ride. It was also really nice to lead out of transition, but I don’t want to become a “T2 chaser.” I sometimes wish I was a faster swimmer so that I could spend more time riding away from people instead of riding up to people, so ironically I think that fast bike rides ultimately motivate me to swim more than anything else, because I imagine “what if I didn’t have to make up that time out of the water?”
Now let's talk about your 2:55 marathon split. WOW. Major triumph. We noticed you won by 15mins yet negative split the marathon - does that mean you had plenty in the tank and could have done even faster or did you pace yourself perfectly?
The course is actually shorter on the way in since you don’t run an exact “reverse” of what you do on the way out. So if you ran the exact same speed, you’d actually be a fair bit faster on the way in. You can tell this is the case when you run the course since you hit 13 mile and the turnaround is way more than 0.1 miles beyond it. That being said, I felt quite good and could have run faster (I think) if I had to. Of course, I think part of the reason that I felt good is that I was able to relaxed since I was in the lead and was running well. So part of why I felt able to run faster is also the same reason that I didn’t have to. If I’d needed to run 2:55 to win, I don’t know if it would have felt as easy, since then there is a desperation that you have to overcome. That can be a powerful motivator, but it can also be crushing.
Are you tempted to go to Kona this year (instead of AZ) now you have a win under your belt?
I was definitely tempted. But at the same time, I know I’ve had success by sticking to a plan, so I thought it best to follow my own advice. And of course, I definitely feel like I have unfinished business in Arizona. I would actually really love to go see the race in Kona live this year, moreso than in other years, so maybe if I can find a cheap ticket I will. But I’m also excited to get ready for Arizona. It’s much easier to get out the door when you know how the hard work can pay off on race day.
Will your first child with Jill be named Penticton or Skaha? Maybe your first pet? Pretty sure Bamf is out of the question.
Skaha is a good dog’s name. If I had to pick a kids name from the course, I think it’d be Richter. Jill and I are partial to “J” names, though, being both that we are both “J”s. But I don’t think there are any climbs or roads that start with “J” out on the course. Fortunately, unless Jill knows something that I don’t, we still have lots of time to decide.
Congrats and enjoy your time off! You've certainly earned it!