Ironman Mont-Tremblant Monday, August 20th, 2012
It’s 9:55AM and my father, step-mom, and I are making the eight and a half hour journey from here in the Canadian wilderness of Quebec back to northern New Jersey. My legs hurt, my arms hurt, my back hurts, I’m tired, sore, chaffed, and completely thrilled. That is because yesterday at 7AM with a Canadian SnowBird fighter jet overhead and a massive cannon blasting, I set out to complete my second Ironman in eleven weeks.
It was nearly a year ago that the USA Ironman Championship in NYC was announced and went on sale. I was one of the fortunate? ones, not to get in. The even sold out in 12 minutes thanks to 2,000 willing athletes forking over $850 faster than I could. So what could I do? Having run 14 marathons, my family knew what running 26.2 miles meant but they didn’t know what covering 140.6 miles meant and the extent that Triathlon has played in my life since June 2010. Therefore, I decided to skip the NYC marathon that I’d been trying to get into for four years now and my ten year high school reunion, come back in August and put my body through a 15,000 calorie workout.
Wednesday before the race, Dad, Donna, and I rented a Nissan Quest and drove north across the border. We checked in to a 2 bedroom suite at the impressive Chateau Beauvallon which was located two miles south of everything and right on the bike course. We had an amazing French dinner there that night, where we would also eat Saturday and Sunday.
Thursday was check in. We headed over to the resort center and were immediately impressed by the beautiful buildings, massive mountain, the shops, and restaurants. Mont-Tremblant is actually the #1 Ski Resort in North America according to Ski magazine. I had started the day off with a 5 mile run on the bike course which left me slightly sore for the next 2 days. I also did a practice swim which was my first swim in nearly 3 weeks. Lake Tremblant which measures more than 6 miles long is a gorgeous lake, with crystal clear waters and little fishes swimming below you. Later on in the day I logged 20 miles on the bike course which was technically 40 miles of the 112 mile bike route because the bike route was a 2 lap course; I made sure not to climb the 12% and 17% grades in this warm up. During the day we ate some French food and I made sure to eat the Escargot. MMM snails! We also took the Gondola to the top of the mountain to see the views which were quite impressive.
Friday we hung out. While I went to the athlete dinner under a massive tent that held 2,500 competitors and were also the tents used for T1 and T2, Dad and Donna went out for their 10 year anniversary. I met some nice people, had some decent food, saw the voice of Ironman, Mike Riley, saw and heard from the Pro’s. A special treat was seeing one of the original Ironmen. He was the 3rd place finisher back in Hawaii in 1978. Little did he know that he would help create a multi-billion dollar industry which would include Ironman events all around the world, and triathlon gear all aimed at making us competitors faster, stronger, and better. Then I watched a band and some awesome fireworks with Dad and Donna who came back to join me after dinner.
Saturday was bike check in. I had everything organized with all the bags and did that, then we had an awesome lunch including seafood fettuccini. And just like my Dad kept saying, “man those French know how to cook!” I went to bed that night around 9PM fully prepared and focused on breaking ten hours.
4:30AM alarm, chip on ankle, 2XU compression suit on, Australia Sweatshirt over that, Adidas pants, and Ironman Cairns visor. I ate a chocolate chip muffin, banana, and Monster Energy drink; my ritual. I joined five competitors in the complimentary shuttle service provided by the hotel and was dropped off right outside of Transition. By now it was 5:10AM. Off to body marking for my bib # 132. Then to the bike where I put on an Aero energy bag containing 500 calories or 5 gels, and a FuelBelt energy bag containing 790 calories or 5 gels and a ProBar protein bar. I also loaded up with 2 bottles of Ironman perform carrying around 1,600 calories in total. I then headed over to the beach, hit the jon, and rested and focused. My support crew arrived and I got another hug and pictures. At 6:40AM I headed through the arch. Putting 2,500 competitors on a beach ain’t a simple task! My strategy was to stay right on the boeys the whole time instead of Cairns where I stayed about 50-100 meters off of them. The anthem played, a fighter jet flew overhead, the canon went off and the pro’s took off. We all cheered them on. 10 minutes later it would be our turn. The jet looped back, ankles in the water and 2nd row, and BOOM and ROAR. We were OFF!!!
For those of you who remember my Cairns recap when I mentioned that I peed in my wetsuit, well let me just say that it is better when it’s a deep water start!!! LOL. ANYWHO, we’re going we’re racing. For the first five minutes I swear I thought I was going to drown. There were people swimming over me, into me, hitting me, kicking me, it was a mash-pit but, in the water. It was just crazy. I tried to focus but it was chaos. After five minutes, that I read off my Garmin 310XT, the craziness started to Ease. But I did find that I was about 20 meters to the inside of the boeys. I couldn’t really swim to the outside though because there were so many people all around me. So the swim course was an out and back which worked to my strength because it meant that I wouldn’t lose time with turning six or seven times. There were 11 boeys on the way out each 150 meters apart. I kept doing this in roughly 2:30 or 1:40 pace which was really great. My easy pace is 2:00/100 meters, my tempo pace in a pool without a wetsuit is 1:50 so doing 1:40 with a wetsuit was to be expected. I made the turn at 30minutes, 5 minutes for the width, and then 35 minutes on the way back. I actually thought I could break 1:05 but had a little bit further than expected on the way back to go. Regardless, I came out of the water in 1:09.27 which beat my goal of 1:10. This was nearly a five minute improvement over Cairns. Right out of transition there were some of the 3,000 volunteers who helped tear my wetsuit off of me. The crowds were also amazing and the 400-600 meter run to transition was welcoming while I carried my wetsuit over my shoulders. I grabbed my bike in T1 and my support crew was right there rooting me on. Unlike Cairns, I had my helmet and shoes already on me because only the Pro’s were allowed to keep shoes and helmets on their bikes. 4:51 and then it was bike time.
I left the water in 566 overall or out of nearly 2200 I was also 28th in the M25-29 at that point. But on the bike, I would KILL IT. The bike course was completely repaved. The Canadian government gave $6Million to road works and Ironman and the town spent $10 million, so yea, the roads were perfect. The only hiccup was on the first hill, 2 miles in, where I shifted to quick and my chain came off. I couldn’t get the chain off so had to stop to put it back on. But then I started again and past people. Which I would continue to do All Day Long. Some of the decents I hit 49 MPH so yea, that was Awesome fun. Some of the winds were quite gnarly though! I ate my gels every 20/30 minutes. I put water on my legs, arms, and face. I ate bananas through the aid stations and grabbed more Ironman perform. My back hurt but I kept working harder. Every 20 miles it was just getting more and more desolate; there were fewer and fewer people around me. By the 80 mile mark, I would see maybe two people in front of me over the next 800 meters! I past a female pro at the 95 mile mark who I wished good luck. I made sure I was out of view of her when I took my 3rd leak! At least I was hydrated! But geez the pea went all over the aero bags where my nutrition gels were! Lol so funny. I’m not stopping people! The last 10 miles were a huge struggle. I was certainly passed by at least 10 or 20 people in those last 10. Why? Well because that was where the 12% and 17% grade climbs were. And man did they hurt! The legs just had nothing left. Even cruising back down the mountain at 40 MPH, I really had to work all the way into T2. I made sure to take my gloves off and feet on the shoes before I got to the bike hand off. It was also awesome seeing my crew multiple times on the ride. I finished the ride passing 410 people! And I was in 156th place at that point. I also worked myself up from 28th to 10th in my division. The ride of 5:20.09 was 10 minutes off my goal But, the hills made it quite a tough ride. Although the weather was cloudy overcast, some head wind and perfect in the end, the hills were quite tough.
I was through T2 in 1:33 which was faster than both the first and third place pro finishers! Yes, they beat me by 2 hours but I beat them in something! Haha.
On to the run, yea just 26.2 miles and my 16th marathon I struggled. The ride really beat me up on the legs. Although I didn’t completely cramp up when I came off the bike like in Cairns, the legs were obviously sore. The first thing I decided to do was walk every single up hill section. Doing this would allow me to preserve my legs to some extent and also make sure that I wasn’t putting out to much power on the uphill climbs. Then, once I reached the top, I would run down the decents. About 4 miles into the run, we hit the rail trail. It was pretty awesome to only find out then that most of the run was on this rail trail which was not only sheltered but smooth, soft, and beautiful. Crowd support and the volunteers continued; they were all amazing. It also rained lightly a couple times on the run. Overall, there isn’t much to report about the run. The half was about a 1:50, the second half was 2 hours. The 3:52 marathon is my worst yet, and well off Cairns 3:37. However, I hadn’t done a single Brick workout in the last 2 months and again, the hills and the power output on the bike all caused a subpar performance on the run. I was really losing it in the 2nd quarter, but the bananas’ helped. Probably the best piece of the run was staying focused around mile 16 where I ran a 7:45 mile. But after that, it was all about what is realistic? What is possible? I realized that I would have to do sub 10 minute miles to break 10:30 which I believed I was capable of. My strategy was this. At each mile beep, start walking. Once the average pace for that lap or mile hit 15:00, then run to bring it down to a 9:30 lap average. Walk, wait for it to hit 10:30, then run and bring it back down finishing the mile between 9:00 and 9:30. Doing this allowed me to walk, run, and get to the finish. My running pace fluctuated between 7:15’s and 8:00 but I just did not have the mental focus which I desperately need to aquire.
With the finish line so close, I began to get quite emotional. I knew that todays effort did not bring me a 10 hour Ironman but I knew that I worked my ass off that day. I realized that I had an amazing ride and met at least 1 or 2 of my goals. Also, my parents were there, and running for those that were there and not there just solidified the impact of this race. It was more emotional for me than my last race which was also important to me. I crossed the line in 10:28:00 and 178 out of 2,200 or the top 8%. My time was worse then cairns by 20 minutes but my performance increased from 9% to 8%.
Mont-Tremblant was an unbelievable race and an unbelievable venue. Everyone was amazing and anyone that is interested in doing an Ironman that is challenging but manageable should absolutely do this one.
So whats next? January 19th, 2013. Challenge Wanaka, New Zealand. The race will be nearly 90% smaller, or 200-300 starters but at the base of glacial mountains on the most picturesque Ironman race in the world, I can’t wait. The bike will be harder, the run will be harder. My training needs to be harder. Focus, determination, strength, toughness, character getting it done. Values. Ironmen.
Great race Kevin! I had a similar struggle on the run. I did the first lap slow and steady without stopping but I didn’t feel very good. The second lap I alternated between running really fast and taking walking breaks. It worked out a lot better for me.
Kevin, great write up. Congratulations on your race. Just about every time I recognized it was you and started cheering you had flown by me.