0 km – Suck it up kids. This is possibly the ‘Hardest start to an Ironman Run in the World‘ [citation needed!].
Your initial kilometre is pancake flat. Get your head together, start slower than you anticipate your average pace will be, and focus. What comes next will define your race.
Vancouver Road is steep. Very steep, for any part of any Ironman, but throwing in at the start is going to sort the smart athletes from the … well … not so smart.
The Ironman run is all about strength. How much of it you used up on the bike, and how much you left in reserve for the run. Most people aren’t over lactate threshold when they fall apart. They just have nothing left in their legs. This is why not using what strength you have left here, at this point, is so important.
This hill will be the talking point after the race. It’s the bigger, badder, nastier punk sister of Kona’s Palani Road. It’s going to be an iconic badge of honour amongst Ironman athletes.
“.. Your run was hard? Well, have you done IMC and Vancouver Hill? No? Get back to me when you have! ..”
How much / little it will kill your legs and how quickly you’ll recover from it will depend on your plan. Have a plan. Stick to the plan.
For all but the very best runners (and probably even those too) you are likely to lose more than you gain if you attempt to run this portion of the run course. Walking here is very likely the smartest thing you will do on race day. Even then, I would dial back the walk speed. Keep your HR as low as possible. Keep your stride short and efficient, limit your losses.
You will likely see people try and run this and, if you are walking, you will lose very little time against them. Any energy you save here will reap dividends when you are cruising efficiently along on the flat section.
Our PB+J Coaching Motto is “.. Don’t F@#k It Up! ..”. You can gain significant advantage by sticking to that mantra. If ever there was a section of race course where that motto applies. It is here.
2 km – Think you are out of the woods? Not yet, you have 3km to go. Glad you walked the first bit now? A short left through a cul-de-sac and you’ll be motoring up the scenic KVR Trail with lake and vineyard views. It’s still uphill, but a lot shallower than Vancouver Hill. Stay efficient and pay very good attention to your effort levels here. It’s easy on these grades to get caught up with the idea of maintaining pace.
5 km – At 5km you are at the highest point of the run course and the entire route is easier from here on in. You have done the hardest part. Take a breathe, turn around, and start the downhill.
8 km – The downhill of Vancouver Road is steep enough that it will take a toll on your quads. I can see a few cramp situations playing out here as people start asking a lot more of their legs than their legs are prepared to accept. My tip here is that if it feels like it’s placing stress on your body, calm yourself down and dial it back.
Downhill running is about reducing downward kinetic energy. Keep your shoulder and arms up a little to stop them dropping heavily with each footstep. Keep your stride short and try to reduce as much pounding energy as possible. This is another area where short lived gains have a long term impact in your run performance.
Overall – This Vancouver Hill and KVR section is all about limiting losses. Keep your guard up, your chin down and let the run course punch itself out. This is categorically not the time to let emotion run high and your hero complex kick in. It’s an absolutely epic start top an Ironman. Congratulations, you just tamed the hardest Ironman run start in the World.