First off, congratulations to all the other team Running Free members out there. I know there were at least five or six of us undertaking our first Ironman. I could not have imagined a better day out there, the volunteers, spectators, community and race organizers really put everything into making the athletes’ day one to remember. As I write this, I believe there are still spots available for 2013, so if anyone is reading this and sitting on the fence about signing up, or just contemplating an Ironman next year here is my advice: Stop reading my race report and go and sign up for next year’s race. You can thank me at midnight on August 18th, 2013.
I arrived on friday just around lunch time which provided me more than enough time to get my gear sorted out, and pick up my race kit. The M-dot gear back that everything came in was a very nice touch, and seeing as I saw others from Lake Placid and Coeur d’Alene it seems to be a new WTC thing. The pedestrian village is incredibly convenient, with everything being a short walk from transition, but it is expensive. The hotel room prices were a little steep, but they are the same rates for any weekend during the peak summer months and everyone appreciated the fact that they weren’t jacked up even higher for the race. There are tons of activities for the family, but my suggestion for anyone attending the race with families, especially those with young children is to arrive early if you are one of those athletes who wants to spend the day before the race off your feet so you have some time to enjoy all that Mont-Tremblant has to offer with the family. Oh, and make sure you have lots of room on your credit card, most of the activities aren’t cheap! I did the luge ride with my wife and it was around 25 bucks for a 2 minute ride down!
The opening banquet was well done, especially the introduction of the voice of Ironman himself – Mr. Mike Reilly! That was a great surprise since I had checked his schedule a few months earlier and IMMT was not on the list.
The day before the race I got up and did a quick swim at the beach to see how bad the glare from the rising sun would be on race day, and I was surprised by the amount of chop on the lake. I hoped it would be a little calmer for race day, but I’ve swam in worse so I wasn’t too concerned. After the swim I put on my bike clothes, and rode to the finish line for a photo with some other team RF athletes. After the photo I took a quick half hour spin along Montee Ryan to check out that part of the course and then went back to the hotel. I contemplated a short run, but as I had been struggling with IT band syndrome for the month leading up to the race I decided there was little be gained by a short run, but if my knee hurt it would be huge drop in my confidence heading into the race.
I didn’t get as much sleep as I would have liked, and on race morning the 4am wake-up call came early! I got up and ate a bowl of cereal, had a cup of coffee and jumped in the shower. I had wanted to eat a bit more, and I managed to get half a bagel down on the way out the door but it was clear that was all my stomach was prepared to tolerate. From that point on I just sipped nuun until the pro swim start, at which point I downed a Gu gel.
I was aiming for 1:03, but would be fine with around 1:05 if I had to back it off a little. The goal was to get to the bike rested, and I didn’t want to get caught up in a crazy sprint for position for the first couple hundred meters so I lined up to the far right. We couldn’t hear Mike at all down that end of the beach, and I’m told they couldn’t fire the cannon for safety reasons so I just started running into the water when I noticed everyone else start to go. I was able to quickly settle into a steady rhythm that I held until the finish. I had very little contact and the first turn seemed to come very quickly. I was thankful to have lots of feet to follow to the swim exit as I couldn’t see a thing with the glare from the rising sun on the home stretch. When I stood up at the end of my swim I looked at my watch and was pleasantly surprised to see 59:xx. Shortly after I was grabbed by a wetsuit stripper and I was soon jogging to T2 up 600m of red carpet lined with cheering spectators which was incredible. I was wearing my tri kit under my wetsuit to simplify T1 and other than fumbling a bit to slip my arm warmers on I was in and out of the tent fairly quickly.
Swim time 1:00:02
Since it was my first crack at the distance and I wanted to get to the run feeling as rested as possible I went pretty easy on the bike. The first 30 minutes was just an easy cruise out onto the highway, and I got passed by a lot of people, but was happy to let them go. At around 30 minutes in I popped a couple of prerace caps and started building into a low to mid Z2 effort. I don’t have a power meter so I just used RPE and heart rate. It took a while to find my legs due to the cold, but heading into a slight headwind at the turnaround on 117 helped warm things up. I really enjoyed the stretch through St Jovite, and didn’t find the pavement to be in bad shape at all even though I had heard that was the roughest part of the course. There seemed to be a really good referee presence on course and I didn’t see much drafting going on at all. A few of us got a little bunched up on the climbs up Duplessis, but it was just the nature of the road at that point, no one seemed to be trying to get an unfair advantage. The crowd started to thin out approaching the turnaround and I enjoyed the fast decent back down to pick up my special needs. For nutrition I had a bottle with 3 scoops EFS drink and 2 scoops carbo-pro, and then a flask of liquid shot all chased with water from my speedfil. I also took a salt cap every hour. I don’t think this was necessary due to the cooler temps but figured it couldn’t hurt. In special needs I picked up an identical bottle and a half full flask of liquid shot as I didn’t bring quite enough with me to top up both flasks. I felt good so I bumped up the effort level heading out onto the second loop. The winds had picked up and the stretch on 117 from the turnaround back to St. Jovite was a bit of a mental challenge, but I was passing a lot of the riders who passed me on the first loop which helped. The rest of the course seemed to fly by and I felt strong enough to try and hammer through the last hills up the Duplessis. I ended up riding the Duplessis section only 40 seconds slower than my first loop which gave me confidence that I had paced the bike well. Possibly a little on the conservative side, but for my first Ironman I think it was just about the right effort. After a relatively quick T2 I was out on the run to see what my legs had in store for me.
Bike time 5:35:13
The run was very much an unknown. I had gotten some decent running in early in the season, which included a great result at the chilly half marathon which was almost 5 minutes faster than my goal. Five weeks before race day I had a very sudden and painful flare-up of my IT band which resulted in only a handful of 2-3 km runs and two 5k runs in the month before Tremblant. In the first kilometer of the run course I popped a couple tylenol and a few more prerace caps washed down with a diluted bottle of EFS that I carried with me for the first 14k. There are some decent hills in the first 3-4k but I was holding 4:45/km pretty consistently. Although the effort felt fine I eventually backed it off a little to run around 4:55/km or right around 8 min/mile for the first loop. After the first 5k a guy who was pacing off of me convinced me to walk for 10 seconds or so at the aid stations and I did this for most aid stations until about the 35 k mark. When I hit 6k with no pain I started feeling optimistic. After passing 10, 15, then 20k with no pain I was ecstatic! I felt really strong finishing up loop one, picked up an ice cold bottle of flat coke I had frozen the night before and made the turn towards lap 2. It was nice that at this point the race leaders were still out on the second loop so no one had yet made the turn into the finishing chute so I felt like I was still a part of the ‘race’. I have never raced anything more than a half marathon so I expected this to be the low point of the day mentally, knowing I had 13 miles left to go. What I experienced was quite the opposite, my legs felt fresh-as fresh as can be expected given what I’d put them through-and I started the second loop confident that I had enough in the tank to shave some time from my first loop. Must have been the coke. At about the 25 k mark I started to have some GI cramping and decided to get rid of what I had left of the coke and dilute my stomach contents with just water for the next few aid stations. That seemed to work and I started feeling better over the next few miles. My plan from 700am onwards was to ‘participate’ until I was at mile 20 of the run, and then if I was feeling halfway decent I would start ‘racing’ everyone who was between me and the finish. I hit 31 km which marked the farthest I had ever run in my life. I was starting to feel the effects of fatigue in my legs, but in general feeling better than I had towards the end of any of my long training runs which gave me exactly the confidence boost I needed to push the pace for the remainder of the race. I took in some perform and washed down a GU roctane with some water and started to push towards the finish. From then on I just took quick sips of water on the run through the remaining aid stations and tried to build on each kilometer remaining. I pushed the pace as hard as I could through the last remaining few hills, and managed to pass quite a few people, although I don’t really remember seeing many in my age group. The whole second loop is a blur, I never imagined a marathon could pass by so quickly, and before I knew it I was starting the final few hundred meters through the pedestrian village. Every time I pumped my fist in the air the crowd erupted in cheering as they knew I was on the home stretch. I approached the volunteer at the entrance to the finishing chute who was pointing people either to the right for the second run loop, or the left for the finish and pointed to the left which was greeted by even more cheers. I looked quickly over my shoulder and saw that I had some time to ‘linger’ in the finishing chute so I jogged back and forth across the chute giving as many high fives as I could before walking across the finish line in 10:12:38 with arms raised, and totally missed Mike Reilly telling me I was an Ironman!
Run time: 3:28:12
The entire event was the most incredible racing experience I have had. I will admit that when I originally signed up and handed over my $700 I felt like I had been violated and had sold a small part of my soul to the M-dot establishment, and I certainly never expected to feel like I had gotten good ‘value’ for the money, but that’s exactly how I felt. I felt like I got far more than double the experience I had at the 70.3 race I did last year, which is my only other WTC race. From the incredible hoards of volunteers, the support of the local community, the velodrome-like road surface, the appearance of Mike Reilly (and his ability to use amplified sound past 10pm unlike IMNYC!), Andrew Messick (CEO of World Triathlon Corporation) and Dave Orlowski (3rd place in the original Ironman in Hawaii in 1978!) climbing in the trenches to race with the rest of us, to the incredibly simple logistics of being able to sleep 400m from transition, this event exceeded every expectation I had. If it weren’t for the ridiculous large training time commitment I would sign up for this race every year. Thanks for reading my report, I hope I’ve encouraged you to add this race to your calendar. I’ll be back some year, just not sure when!