Mont Tremblant 1/2 Ironman Race Report
Friday June 23rd
My weekend began with the drive up to Mont Tremblant. Jackie and I stopped in Brockville to pick up my Mom as an added supporter and equipment manager, lol. I was lucky to get to relax in the back seat for part of the drive as Jackie drove. I was incessantly checking the weather report, and it didn’t look good. It was 100% chance of rain with thunderstorms. We arrived at the Fairmont hotel a little after lunch and I was greeted with a cookie in the shape of an Ironman logo. Nice touch. They unloaded the luggage and took it to the room, and parked our car. Of course, it all came at a cost of $16 a day. All of this on top of the $300 a night room rate. This place is not cheap.
We walked down the hill and I got into the line to register and pick up all the race goodies. It took about 20 minutes once you got to the front. I had to get weighed. It felt like cattle to the slaughter! The weight thing is for safety reasons as when you finish the race the medical team can tell how dehydrated you may be. When I came out of the registration building the line was already getting extremely long. I was lucky to have gone through when I did.
I put on my bike gear and headed out for a 1.5 hour ride. I rode the entire run course, just to see what it was like. The majority of the run is on a paved path that is very nice. All of the kilometer markings were already painted on the road, they are very prepared for the racers. I managed to not get too wet, but my bike was a mess. I had just had it tuned up and cleaned so it was disheartening. I managed to wipe it down in the room. It almost looks as good as new.
We went out for dinner to a place called “The Shack”. It was nothing special, but we were all hungry and it hit the spot. Lying in bed I was thinking that this would be the only sleep I would get this weekend. Tomorrow night, being the night before the race, I will likely be up all night.
Saturday June 24th
I began the day looking for a cup of Starbucks coffee in the village. I was there an hour before it opened. I walked around and took some pictures and watched the sprint (shorter distance triathlon). When I went back for coffee the line was 50 people deep. I didn’t need coffee that bad. I did a final bike, run, and swim. Each of them was very short but served the purpose of getting my head in the game and loosened up. In the afternoon, I racked my bike at the 2pm scheduled time and listened to mandatory safety briefing. There was a huge bike accident at this race last year that sent 18 people to the hospital so there have been some modifications to the passing rules on the larger hills. We had dinner in the hotel room, the typical pasta pre-race dinner. It was nice to not have to go to a restaurant and sit around. I wanted as little interaction with others as possible at this point. The anxiety level has increased tenfold.
Sunday June 25th (Race day)
Setting an alarm for 4:15 is hard. As it turned out I didn’t need it. I was up at 3:15am and laid there waiting for it to ring an hour later. I got up and put on my tri suit for the race. I had one piece of toast with plenty of almond butter on it. In fact, it would be more accurate to say I have almond butter with a bit of toast. We walked down to transition and I took my pre-marked bags to my bike and setup my area. I should have taken a picture of my space in transition to give you an idea of how much crap a person can store in such a small area allotted to us. I put my water bottles on my bike and pumped up my tires on last time. The air held in the tires and a breathed a sigh of relief. We walked to the swim start (about a 15 minute walk I should add) and found a picnic table to sit at. We arrived just before the crowd. If we had been a few minutes later we would have been standing for the next hour waiting for the swim leg to start. I had brought my headphones hoping to get into a zone with some music but I was somewhat Zen at that point.
After putting on my wetsuit, which should be an event on its own, I went down to the practice area. I got about 200m of swimming in, just back and forth amongst the other competitors. I was told that the warm-up area would be closed at 6:45, but that was not the case. People were using the warm-up swimming area right until the race began. I self-seeded in the 41-44 minute group. This seemed to be a bit of a joke. There were 2500 competitors all squished into a small area. I had people beside me saying they planned on swimming in a 60 minute time, and another saying he was aiming for 30 minutes. The real anxiety began here. For one, being surrounded by so many people all deadly serious was intimidating. I tried cracking a joke but there wasn’t much laughter. It was at this point that I first said “WTF am I doing here”. I spotted Chris, another training partner from Kingston and made my way over to him. This helped immensely as we talked about race strategy, goals, family, etc. I find when I can talk and get out of my own head I settle down and having a friend there really helped. A fighter jet flew over. We heard it but couldn’t see a thing as it was too overcast at that point. There were fireworks and then the race began. The Pros went first and then it was our turn. It felt like forever until I got to the front of the line. They let four people in at a time every two seconds.
The actual swim went well. I was calm and composed. About 500m in I got kicked on the head. It didn’t hurt, it was just shocking more than anything else. I didn’t see it coming. After a momentary check that I still had my googles I continued on. I swam on the right side of the markers as there was less traffic. I got to the first red marker. This was a turn marker and where the traffic really piled up. It took a bit of finesse, but it was uneventful. I was shoulder to shoulder with another guy for the next 200m. With each breath to my left side he was right there, lol. Finally I got hit in the face from his hand. It was only a matter of time. Again, I survived. The swim back towards shore was smooth and uneventful. As I stepped out of the water I looked at my watch. 38:50 (official race time of 39:08). Wow! Better than I had hoped for and I wasn’t winded or wounded in any way. It was a successful swim! I let the wetsuit strippers undress me, grabbed my wetsuit in hand and ran to transition. Jackie and Mom were along the way cheering! The run was on a red carpet that was easy on the feet!
It was time to conquer the hills of Mont Tremblant. I was concerned that I might be too cold on the bike but chose not to where anything but my tri suit. It was a good choice as I heated up pretty quickly. The climbing began right away with the trip up Monte Ryan. I settled into a good pace and just concentrated on consistency. Some people blew past me (must have been slower swimmers, never thought I would say that!) and I also passed many. Honestly it was hard not obey the drafting rules. There are just too many competitors out there. Especially on the uphill segments where it felt like a parking lot. I checked my watch a few times and was always going faster than 32 km/hr. Happy with that speed I just kept chugging away. I was braver than usual on the descents and stayed in my aero position. I reached the turn-around in Labelle and headed back towards Mont Tremblant. I was beginning to feel seat discomfort at this point. Should I stop for a quick break or power through? I stopped. At one of the aid stations I got in line for a bathroom, grabbed a cliff bar, and stretched out my legs and back a bit. I was off the bike for 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Once I began riding again I felt 100% better. Key learning, breaks do help! After biking through the village and seeing Jackie and Mom cheering for me on the side of the road it was time to ascend the main mountain on Duplusis. I hate climbing on a bike. It takes me out of my comfort zone. To my surprise I passed many people. It turns out I am a good climber, but I still don’t enjoy it. My power to weight ratio is much better now that I have lost some weight. I made up lots of time on others going up the hill. The descent was fun, but nerve wrecking. I was grabbing the bars pretty tight! The newly installed “no passing zone” on the descent wasn’t an issue for me. I just jockeyed around prior to that zone to make sure I wouldn’t get held up by a slower rider. Total bike time was 3:00:13. I was happy with that considering I had stopped for a break.
Run (21.1k) 2:05:26 5:54:01
The sun came out! I slopped some sunscreen on and headed out for the ½ marathon. I ran past my cheering squad at the top of the first hill coming out of the village. My pace for the first kilometer was a little too quick to sustain so I slowed it down a touch. I wanted to maintain just under 6 minute kilometer pace. I ran up through the village and finally onto the paved trail. The good news is that it was shaded in places. The bad news is that you are surrounded by trees for most of it so it is monotonous. There is nothing to occupy your mind so you can’t click off kilometers mindlessly. You know you are running. I hot the turn-around point in 58 minutes. That is when the mental math started. If I maintain this pace I will finish at this time. If I go faster I can get yet another finish time even faster. I can slow down and still be under 6 hours in total. It kept me busy mentally. I stopped at each aid station and forced myself to drink or eat a little something. I think in the end that was a good strategy as I didn’t bonk during the run, it felt reasonably controlled. The last 4 k was tough. I thought more than once that I wasn’t sure running twice this distance in August would be possible. I did not like running up that final hill to get back into the village, but it then allows you to run downhill and through the finish line looking stronger than you actually feel. My legs felt fresher than they did a few months previously when I did a stand-alone ½ marathon. My run time was 2:05:26.
I finished with a time of 5:54:01. This was about 50 minutes faster than my other attempt at the ½ iron distance. A huge improvement! I was really happy with my performance and I knew I had some left in the tank. I left there thinking I must be crazy to think I can do twice the distance in less than two months’ time. My only solace is that I know if I go slower, I can go longer. It will be all about the pacing.
I had awesome support from my race team of Jackie and Mom. They carried bags, made food, updated Facebook, got up early, and stood around for hours just to watch me pass in the blink of an eye! I also had great support from my co-workers and online friends and relatives. It helps to keep me motivated!
See you at the finish line…..