Ironman Mont Tremblant – Race Report
Friday August 18, 2017
I woke up early on Friday morning, ready for my drive to Mont Tremblant. We had decided to take two cars for the trip as space was an issue (and the girls didn’t want to get up so early). As I drove the 3.5 hours I was able to get myself into the right mindset. I kept telling myself that it was just like any other race, yet it wasn’t.
When I arrived at the condo graciously offered up by my friends Chris and Laura McKercher I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get into the room. It was 9:30am after all. I had no issues though! Everything went very smoothly and I was super impressed by the staff. They even gave me an extra parking pass for the second car that would be arriving later in the day. I left everything in the van and went straight to the registration building. The line-up was already quite long but I was able to get through it all in under an hour. It consisted of ID checks, insurance checks, waiver signings, and of course I had to weigh in. It felt like I was getting ready for a title fight and I had to make weight or something. Fully clothed, with running shoes on I tipped the scales at 168.2 lbs. I had a brief internal smile, I don’t think I was that weight since middle school! I picked up my timing chip and my race bib, as well as all of the loot that was handed to me as I passed each table. I was now registered and there was no turning back.
I unloaded the van and began to organize my things. I had lots of equipment and food, all in preparation for race day. It was time for a scheduled 30 minute run. I had been very worried about my recent troubles with my achilles. I guess there is always something to worry about, but pain after a short run does not inspire confidence when a 14 hour day of racing is upon you. I enjoyed the 30 minute run, taking it slowly and enjoying the sites as they setup for the race. Mont Tremblant is a beautiful place, if only it wasn’t on the side of a mountain. I mean, there seems like no flat land anywhere to run and I was looking to baby my achilles. In any event, the pain was minimal and I didn’t do any further damage. I visited the merchandise tent and picked up a few t-shirts and a hat. I thought about buying a new triathlon suit but honestly had too much anxiety to warrant the fitting process.
Jackie, Brittany, and Mom arrived mid-afternoon. I met them out front and helped to unload the second vehicle of race supplies. The cooler had arrived! Everything seemed rushed. I went to the athlete’s dinner and safety briefing for the rest of the evening. I tried to get extra tickets so that I would have some company but they were sold out. I sat at a table with three others who were similarly all alone. One guy had flown in from Dallas, one from Japan, the other was from nearby Perth. In conversation with Mr. Perth I found out that he also had used Randy for some coaching services. It’s a small world! The two gentleman from out of town had lots of questions about the race course once they found out I had done the half Ironman a few months earlier. It made me feel a bit better that I was more prepared than some, although it was a small sample size. I didn’t stay for the entire safety briefing as I had seen it before from the ½, nothing had changed. I began weather watching for race day. Saturday would by wet all day but race day on Sunday was looking better. It was time for a night of rest.
Saturday August 19, 2017
I woke up in full panic mode. What the hell had I gotten myself into? I seriously thought about going home. Deep breathes. Jackie and Mom went to a local yarn festival. I dragged Brittany down to the swim start so that I could do a practice swim in Lake Tremblant. She was a real trooper to stand in the rain. I, of course was planning on getting wet in the water, but she wasn’t. The practice swim was fine. I used a new pair of googles. They say don’t change your equipment close to race day but what could go wrong with googles right? I also did a short run in the rain. The training plan had a short bike on it as well but I didn’t think it was worth the risk in the pouring rain this close to race day. Britany helped me get my bike ready. There were stickers to be stuck, bags to be packed, etc. I was given five bags when I checked in each for a different purpose. Being a project manager certainly helped as I needed to mentally plan each stage of the race and put my required items in each bag.
Morning clothes bag – Items that I would wear to the swim start, but not take in the water with me. Things like a warm coat and running shoes.
Bike bag – All of my bike gear went into this bag. This included helmet, shoes, bike clothing, sunscreen, nutrition, and socks
Run bag – Running shoes, running hat, more sunscreen, more food, clean clothing for the run, run belt, etc.
Bike Special Needs bag – half way through the bike segment of the race I had the opportunity to stop and get some things out of this bag. I only put one C02 cartridge and one spare tire tube in my bag. I figured if I had used the spares I had on my bike in the first half of the ride, I would stop and pick up more form my special needs bag, if not I wouldn’t stop.
Run Special Needs Bag – This one was all comfort food. I would get access to the contents of this bag at the halfway point in the marathon. It had Pringles, Cliff Bars, Wheat Thins, and a soft dry pair of socks.
After all of the logistical preparation it was time to drop off my bags and bike in the transition area. I wouldn’t see them again until race morning. It was eerie at that point. All of the planning and preparation was completed. All I could do was sit and worry. I had a dinner of pasta and chicken and continued to hydrate. I had been sipping on water for a few days now in an attempt to be as hydrated as possible for the morning. Jackie helped me with putting on my race tattoos. I elected to use that for my race numbers rather than be inked up with a Sharpie. It took some effort, but in the end all went well. I went to bed around 7pm but sleep did not come easy. I had a major case of monkey brain on many fronts. I am not sure what time I fell asleep, but it was later than I would have liked.
Sunday August 20, 2017
Race day came early with a 4am alarm. I didn’t feel tired, but I think it was just the adrenaline. I had my typical race day breakfast of toast smothered in almond butter. We all walked down to transition. Once I got there I realized that I had left my special needs bags back in the condo. Britany took off to retrieve them while I tended to my bike. The tires were inflated one last time and I checked for brake rubs. Everything looked good. It was time to head down to the swim start. Gulp.
The 3.8km Swim
After a quick practice swim I stood on the beach lined up beside the 1:20 group. Brittany had found a spot right beside the barricade so I was able to talk to her to keep my mind off the impending task that was just ahead of me. The planes flew over, the anthem was sung, and it was time to go. The line moved much quicker than it did at the 70.3 race. As it turned out they were letting more participants in the water at a time. Maybe they had learned something from the 70.3. I was at the front in no time and into the water I went.
So swimming almost 4k is never something to look forward to. Doing it with 2400 others is even worse. I had numerous “altercations” during the swim. There was swearing. It felt like I would never get to the turn-around buoy. I would look up and all I could see was yellow buoys, and I wanted to see the red one that signaled I was halfway completed. Finally it came. Likewise heading back to shore felt very long. I thought I had a good pace going and was excited to see my swim time. When I exited the water it had taken me 1:24:12. I was hoping for a sub 1:20 swim but overall it was a good time for me considering I couldn’t swim the length of a pool not long ago.
My swim to bike transition took a long time. It was 11:02. I guess when you consider I had to run to the change tent, take off the wet clothing, put on dry clothing, bathe in sunscreen, get all my gear on and then stuff all my swim stuff back into the same little bag maybe it wasn’t as long as it looks. I was aiming for comfort at that point. Dry clothing and good bike shorts were more important than a 1-2 minute faster transition.
The 180km Bike
I was never really concerned about the bike portion of the race until about a month ago. Comfort on the bike is important, and even more so when you are going to be sitting on a bike for 6-7 hours. Comfort is a weird thing. I can do a one hour ride and feel like I never want to see a bike seat again, or I can do a four hour ride and not think about comfort. It seems to vary day to day. I was hoping for a good comfort day! My goal was not to push as hard as I did on the half Ironman. I completed that bike (half the distance of the full) in 3 hours. Each time I thought I might be going too hard I backed off a little bit. Each little bit of saved energy would make a difference in a long day. The mountain at the end of the first loop was hard, but I really did pace myself well. I was 3:10 after the first loop and still felt reasonably fresh. My cheering squad was waiting along the bike course right by transition, yay! The fun began at about the 110k mark. I got a drafting penalty. So the theory behind drafting is that if you follow another biker (or a group of bikers) you benefit from being in their draft. In essence you go faster without using as much energy. Ironman frowns upon such a thing and issues penalties if you are caught. The difficult thing is that there are so many bikes out there and it is almost impossible not to be too close to another rider on occasion. So I came up upon a group of slower riders. They were three wide and not making much progress on passing each other. I had nowhere to go as I was not allowed to pass the center line (another offence). A motorbike pulls up beside me and tells me I have been penalized for drafting and that I have to serve time in the next penalty tent. WTF. I argued but it didn’t help. So for the rest of the ride I am upset. Do I really push now to try and make up for the time I will be in the tent? If I do will I kill my energy stores and leave myself with a bad situation on the run? I plodded along. There were a number of us that got the penalty so that made me feel better. At least I wasn’t singled out. John from the IronStride group was also in the penalty tent the same time I was. Coach Randy would be so proud! We should have taken a selfie to send him, lol. As a result of the lost time in the tent I elected to skip my planned stop at the next aid station. The final climb up the mountain at kilometer 160 was brutal. It was all I could take to get myself to the top. I was out of the saddle for most of it and my heart rate was far too high. It was at that point that I lost some confidence in my ability to finish the race. There are dark moments in an Ironman race, this was definitely one of them. It was the first time I thought I couldn’t do this any longer. I just wanted off the bike and never wanted to see it again. I made it to the top and mostly coasted my way back into the village and the transition area. The last part of the bike and all its ups and downs was over, and I couldn’t have been happier. My time on the bike was 6:32:12. If I removed the time in the penalty tent I was reasonably pleased with the effort.
I sat in the transition zone and once again changed my clothing. The other faces around me looked about as excited as I felt to now run a marathon. More than one person asked out loud “Why the fuck do we do this?” We all just nodded, totally understanding the feeling. I reapplied sunscreen and walked out the transition area just happy that my ass and my bike seat played no part in running a marathon. I was in transition for 9:16.
The Marathon (42.2kms)
To put this into perspective I have never run a marathon before. I have done a number of half marathons and felt totally depleted after those so I was not looking forward to what lie ahead. My cheering squad of Jackie, Mom, and Brittany were at the exit of the transition tent. I stopped and had a quick chat before beginning run. It lifted my spirits. It is amazing how dark you feel and how quickly it can turn around just seeing familiar faces. My injury to my achilles played on my mind in a major way. With every step I ran in the first few kilometers I was just waiting for the pain to come back. I felt like the longer I could run pain free the closer I would be to the finish line and if I did end up having to walk at some point so be it. I was on borrowed time. I would run between aid stations and walk through them to get drinks and the occasional bit of fruit or sugary cliff shots. When I ran it was at a good pace for me but factoring in the aid station walks had me at an average pace at best. It was hot. I would look at the others running and think “I don’t look that bad do I”? I bet I did. Here is my internal monologue as best I remember it.
5k – Feeling ok, the hill is done I can settle into a good pace now. Where are the cold fluids at the aid stations, everything is warm as piss.
10k – Almost a quarter of the way there. Still no leg pain. Why does my ass still hurt? Why are the aid station workers so damn cheerful? I bet they are eating solid food they have stashed somewhere behind the tents. Bastards!
15k – Ok, this was a really bad idea. There are big hills ahead. Nothing at the aid stations is palatable any longer. My choices are water, Gatorade, red bull, or cliff shots. They have small chunks of banana but I am not sure that I can keep that down.
20k – It is hot out here. Brittany joins me for a bit which helps. I look into my special needs bag handed to me from a volunteer but really can’t imagine being able to eat any of the treats I packed. Jackie and Mom are also cheering me on at the split in the course where you either finish, or begin your second lap of the course. I can see the finish line as I begin my second loop. It is torture.
25k – The same hills again, but it is for the last time so there is some small bit of comfort to be had. I feel like I might puke, but hold back the urge. I try Red Bull for the first and last time in my life.
30k – I feel my achilles begin to act up. This could mean I may have to walk the final 12k. I keep running and hope it straightens itself out. It does and I am relieved.
35k – I run past medics giving CPR to a participant on the side of the run course. Very sobering sight. Maybe I should walk the last 7k. I hope he is ok.
40k – Everything hurts. My hair even hurts and I don’t have much. Brittany finds me with 2k left and walks/runs with me until we approach the finish line. She takes a video, I am not pleased. I can hear Mike Reilly telling others they are an Ironman as they complete the race. I am going to make it.
42.2k – I run through the village and the wall of spectators on each side of the finishing chute high five me as I pass. My support crew is there screaming for me. Mike Reilly tells me I am an Ironman.
I finished the marathon in 4:55:16. Not speedy for a stand-alone marathon time but considering it was after a 3.8k swim and a 180k bike I felt great about it. My overall time for my first Ironman was 13:11:57.
I am sore, I am tired, but I am an Ironman. I did better than I thought I would, and honestly it was easier than I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, it was very difficult in fact, but I was well prepared to face the challenges the day had brought me. It was also made so much easier to have my support crew helping me along the way. I also had great support from afar. Many positive messages on Facebook awaited me when I checked my phone after the race. I had personal messages from many others who had been following me silently for years and decided to congratulate me. Some I had met before and others who I had not. As an example, one of Brittany’s friends, Erica, took a keen interest and followed my day very closely. It is amazing how people draw inspiration from a simple guy like me just following a dream and attempting to achieve it.
It is now three days after the race and I am already thinking about what is next. Is there another Ironman in my future? I certainly wouldn’t rule it out at this point.
You saw me at the finish line……
Various Pictures taken by my support crew!!!