Thoughts on IMFL

Well we’re two days past Ironman Florida and I’ve now had a little time to reflect and digest. As with most things in life, it didn’t go nearly as I had imagined it. But in the end, I am very happy with the outcome.

As I mentioned in my last post, my only goal for IMFL was to stick to my race plan and learn as many lessons as possible. Everything prior to the race went very smoothly. A little too smoothly actually. A bit of that smoothness began to balance out though on race morning. At about 5:40 a.m. on Saturday morning all I had left was to air my tires then bike the mile to transition. I put air in my disc wheel and could immediately hear air flowing out. I examined the tire, and there was a small hole, likely from a piece of glass picked up on my easy ride the day before. Lesson one was learned here: Bring more than one spare tubular! I tried to stay calm and quickly ripped the tire off the wheel and used my spare tubular to fix it. I made a mental note that all corners would now have to be taken cautiously as the tire was not glued on.

When I opened the door to head to transition, I was caught off guard by just how cold it was. I was wearing a pair of gloves, but I decided to put them into my bike gear bag as I knew there was no way my extremities were going to warm up. I also went and grabbed a pair of socks to wear on the bike. It was VERY cold, and I knew that after swimming, it was going to be dangerously cold. Even though my mother country has attempted to harden me up to the cold, I have found ways to avoid its touch e.g. wearing long johns, snow suit and snowmobile gloves every time I go outside in the winter, training indoors, etc. I am one of the biggest wimps ever in the cold (I swam in a wetsuit almost every morning during my 2 month Tucson training camp in February and March), so I knew the temperatures were definitely going to be a factor for me. Regardless, I stayed positive and continued on my way.

Once I checked my bike and gear bags into transition I had about 20 minutes before the gun. I was doing everything I could to stay warm, but I was already beginning to shiver. Fortunately, they let us into the water before the start, so I hurried up and put my wetsuit on, said goodbye to my family, and then went into the relatively warm waters. Man was it ever fun! I swam out to the second buoy (approx. 200m out). I have never swam in water like that. The waves had to have been 6 feet, and the pull of the current was like nothing I have ever experienced. I was having a blast swimming in it, but then I started thinking “my mom is going to have a tough time getting off shore, this current is that strong.” I figured we were nearing the start at this point, so I started heading back to shore. Suddenly I saw a lot of the other pro men standing up in the water looking very upset. I stood up as well and asked someone what had happened: “They f****** cancelled the swim!” was the response I got.

As a competitive person, I was there to win, so this news was bitter sweet. I have spent a lot of time swimming this year, and I really wanted to post a swim time, as well as a complete Ironman time, particularly to compare to my first Ironman from 2010. It was very disappointing that I was not going to be able to do this. I also felt the pain of everyone else in the race, as they trained hard for three disciplines, and wanted to show their stuff over the full 140.6 miles. I also knew that if I did win, there were going to be naysayers and doubters of the win. All of these things left me with a somber feeling inside. That being said, I think the race organizers made the right decision. It’s one thing if I decide that I want to swim in those conditions despite it being unsafe. It’s another thing if I get caught in a rip current and then the lifeguards who are obligated to try and save me, have to now risk their life because of my stupidity. It was totally the right call and I have no ill-feelings about the decision or the decision makers.

This meant having to regroup and gather my thoughts. I got out of the water and was chilled right to the bone. I kept my wetsuit on and then put my clothes on over it. I then went inside the Boardwalk hotel and tried to warmup. The race had been turned into a bike-run that would start in the time-trial format. I wore number 5, so this meant I would be sent off third. We would be sent off 30 seconds apart from each other. Initially, I asked my coach whether I should change my game plan a bit as now I would not have any swim deficit to overcome i.e. bike with the field and then try and run as absolutely fast as I could on the marathon, but we decided to stick to our plan completely. I was going to approach the race exactly as I had intended. This meant I was going to attempt to hold 310-320w on the bike. With 20 minutes before the race was to officially start, I went for a quick warmup jog. I then grabbed my bike and went to the start line.

After a few minutes I was off on the open road. I went out a little hot in an attempt to try and warmup. I entered the lead around 10 miles. At this time I was averaging about 330w, so I told myself to calm down and settle into my planned power output. The rest of the bike was rather uneventful. I just focused on holding my power, following my nutrition protocol, and staying aero. It was very windy. So it was very important to stay low. Of course, I would have preferred calmer conditions, as I would have loved a really fast time, but from an experiential standpoint I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was almost exactly like I had experienced in Kona. Either head or cross-winds the entire way. Very little tailwind relief. At the half-way point I was averaging 316w. By 70 miles I had got the average up to 318w.

Right around 3 hours I started to feel the ride. In all honesty, I knew this was going to happen. I just didn’t have enough time between 70.3 Worlds and this race to adapt to the distance. Of course, I had hoped that the distance wouldn’t be a factor, but I knew this was unrealistic. I had been doing high volume running throughout the season (140-160km/week average) but I had not been doing the same on the bike. My bike workouts up until 70.3 Worlds typically were 3 hours maximum. Prior to 70.3 Worlds I had done two rides of 4 hours duration or greater (one in August and one in February). And even after 70.3 Wolds I only managed to get four 4+ hour rides in. All that being said, my power began to wane. Not considerably, but it was becoming progressively taxing to hold my wattage. In the end, I finished the bike with a 313w average. I was very happy that I stayed within my intended zone, but I had a strong suspicion that I would pay for this effort on the run.

Once out on the run course I was surprised to find that I felt quite good. For the first 5 kilometers I had to really try and hold myself back. My intention was to hold 3:40/kilometer for as long as I could. I managed to do this up until about 22 kilometers. At this point I began to pay for the bike ride. It wasn’t super painful, but I had lost the pop I had in my legs on the first half. Despite this, I tried to keep putting in a good effort. I had 20 kilometers to go, and was unsure if I would continue to pay progressively more. Fortunately, the pain stayed fairly constant for the remainder of the run. My legs were definitely heavy during the final 5 kilometers, but I wasn’t afraid of them locking up or anything like that. This was in huge contrast to my first Ironman where the final 6 miles I was just praying that my legs wouldn’t seize.

The finish line was amazing. I tried to soak it in to the best of my ability. I slapped every hand I possibly could. I tried to let every emotion come out, without grasping or analyzing it. One second I would have tears in my eyes, the next second a shiver down my spine. I crossed the line with joy in my heart and a smile on my face. My girlfriend was waiting right at the finish and I gave her a big kiss and a hug. It couldn’t have been any better. A little while afterwards I got to put my mom’s finisher’s medal around her neck, right after she became an Ironman! I am so proud of her. And I am so glad that we got to share this moment together. I will never forget this day for the rest of my life.

I spent almost the entire bike and run meditating on the last five years. I was asked at the finish line how I would describe the race. I would describe the race and the last five years as: SURREAL. When I think back to who I was five years ago, it is difficult to believe that that was me. I feel like a totally different person now. But I don’t look back with regret. I look back with compassion. I was a troubled and lost soul at that time. I was searching for answers and meaning and in that process I got wrapped up in drugs and alcohol. I am so fortunate that I am one of the lucky ones to have made it out unscathed. I am so grateful to my friends and family who have always been there for me during the process, through thick and thin.

For those interested, I didn’t have any time after the race to have my celebratory Whopper. But, to make up for it, I made sure to have two the next day. It was quite the journey itself. First off, it was over a kilometer walk to the Burger King. When we got there the doors were locked. Someone came out and told us the ventilation system had stopped working and that they weren’t letting anyone into the dinning room. We pleaded with them to let us order. They said we could go through the drive through, despite not having a car. Eventually we got our order and man was it ever delicious. Here are a few pics from the lunch:




This marks the end of the season for me. It has been an awesome journey, better than I ever could have imagined. I can’t express how thankful I am to my many sponsors: Louis Garneau, Cycle Culture, Dr. Richard Kniaziew, C3-Kinetico, Saucony, CompuTrainer, ELoad, Nineteen, Vorgee, Recharge with Milk Triathlon Series, Speedfil and Embrace Open Water Swimming. Any success I have seen is a direct by-product of your support. Additionally, my friends and family have been amazing all year. Knowing you are following along has given me the strength and motivation to push myself to the limit.

Now I will take a bit of down time. I learned a million lessons on Saturday. Next season I will put all of my energy and focus on the Ironman distance. Saturday gave me a great bench mark and now I have a better understanding of what I need to do to race at the level that I would like. 2014 has been great, but I would like to make 2015 even better. Thanks to everyone who has taken an interest and followed along thus far. Your support is very much appreciated!

I would also like to mention that on Sunday I asked the love of my life Erin to marry me. After much deliberation, she said yes!! I am the happiest man in the world! Here we are a little while after:

Erin and I

40 thoughts on “Thoughts on IMFL

  1. Hi Lionel,
    First off, Congrats to you and your Mom on a great effort in what sounded like very tough conditions!! Also, congrats on your engagement!!

    How much do you think the winds and the cold weather played on your ability to hold your planned wattage or do you think it was solely due to coming up a little shy on the training km’s for that distance. Also, wondering if you could fill us in on your swim plans for the off season and your projected first race for 2015. Once again, congrats!! Look forward to watching the L-Train destroy the Ironman ckt in 2015!!!

    • Thanks man. To be honest, my upper limit I had initially planned to hold was 310w. This is what I had been training to hold for the 5 weeks leading into the race. When I found out Starky wasn’t going to be in the race, I knew I had a bit of leeway on the run i.e. I could blow up a little. I decided to increase the limit by 10w and see what happened. So, I actually held more than I had trained to hold. I do believe doing this, in conjunction with not having the endurance to bike much longer than 3 hours, greatly negatively impacted my run.

      I will do a blog post when I completely firm up my swim situation, as well as my race schedule for 2015.

      Thanks for the questions, and for following along!

  2. You are awesome – obviously as a triathlete but even more as a person – thank you for such detail and allowing us to come along for this ride 😉

    Congrats to you, your Mom, and your engagement – great times I can imagine…

    Hope you put in a few short races in 2015 so us locals get to see you in action!

    Enjoy some rest,

  3. Awesome – great to follow your progress and see the result pan out as it did. Looking forward to seeing where you can progress to in 2015.

  4. Great performance Lionel!!

    There were a lot of Canadians cheering you on.

    I would be curious to know how you legs recover after the race given that most of your running is done on a treadmill.

    Enjoy your time off and congratulations on the nuptials!!!

    • Thanks man. To be honest, I felt 100% recovered after five days. I was pretty sore the next day, a little sore two days after, very little soreness three days after, and feeling very good five days after. So good I almost bought a plane ticket to Arizona!

  5. Great read(s) and performances all season long. I really appreciate your honesty and detail in your posts ! Keep up the good work you are already doing. Maintain the Whopper tradition, but perhaps modify your daily nutrition over the off season 😉 (I’m sure you’re heard that one enough lately)

    Maybe see you in Tucson again this spring !

  6. Congratulations to both you and your lovely fiancee Erin! Hope to see you this weekend at the Triathlon Ontario Awards Banquet. Dakota & I will be in attendance. You are a true inspiration to all those who follow.

  7. I started from the bottom, as I was curious about the pictures… Congrats to you both, you look like a very happy little couple!

    Great read, great insights. Despite putting out superhuman numbers, you always manage to remind us that you are also (part) human like the rest of us 😉 Your story and progress is an inspiration.

    Maybe one day I’ll get to shake your hand at an Ironman either as a fellow athlete or a volunteer – until then I’ll have my post-race poutines, enjoying life like other fellow athletes are doing.

  8. As always Lionel and inciteful read telling us mere mortals how it really is. Thanks for an exciting season, cannot wait to see what you come up with in 2015. congrats to both Erin and yourself.

  9. Great report Lionel! Congrats on the race and the engagement! I hope you keep up some regular updates when your training picks up in the winter. I get a lot of inspiration and motivation from reading about your workouts and training blocks, which I try to replicate (with less ambitious paces of course).

    You’ve inspired me to include “Finish the race with joy in my heart” as a goal for all my races from now on. It really is a great way to remind myself why I do triathlons. It should be fun!

    • Thanks James. I definitely plan on keeping up the blog. In fact, I’d like to get in a habit of doing it a bit more often. It benefits me very much. I find it very therapeutic to write, and during the training videos you don’t want to fail so it helps to push hard. Great to hear you’ve shifted your perspective a bit. It has done wonders for my training and racing. Best of luck over the winter.

  10. It’s been a great ‘ride’ to read your journey these last few months. Your raw honesty is refreshing as it is insightful. Congratulations on your much deserved win and of course, your engagement to Erin! I am looking forward to reading the next chapter in your life!

  11. Great job in your pro IM debut! Definitely spent a good chunk of Saturday refreshing the athlete tracker and IM blog to see your progress. Can’t believe that’s the only coverage we can get in this day and age but oh well..

    With your focus being IM and Kona next season – what would a race season look like prior to October? Will there be less racing in favour of bigger training blocks? Any 70.3s in the cards, or even an early season IM?

    Congrats on the engagement, your mom’s first IM and your big W! Big weekend for sure. Can’t wait to read more about your next races.

    • Thanks Alex. And thanks for following along. I definitely will race less 70.3s than I did this season. Maybe one or two as more of good hard training sessions. I will do a lot of shorter distance races to hone speed and technique. I will definitely do an early season Ironman. I felt almost completely recovered after IMFL after about 5 days, so I don’t think it will be too much to ask to do two in a season. But, I will definitely lean more towards longer, more spread out training blocks so that I am not rushing to adapt to the demands, as I was in this IMFL block. Best of luck in your training and racing!

  12. Congrats! I knew you’d win with all the training you put in. It only gets better. I can’t wait to read your next posts and see you win!

  13. I don’t think anyone your size has ever held over 300watts avg for an IM.. I don’t think even Sindballe ever did and he is a big boy… Then running a 2:44 in those conditions is very scary… Have a nice off-season, plan your race well for next year.. Very excited to see how you go in Kona…

  14. A bit tardy, but congratulations on your race. But even more importantly, congratulations on the decision to get married! I remember that I forgot to say hello to her while I briefly talked to you after the Barrelman race, so pass on my regards! Now, it’ll be interesting to guess whether you’re the same as the rest of us when it comes to post-marriage changes… 😉

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