First of all, I just want to start by saying finishing an Ironman has been on my “to do list” for the last three years. I had talked with a few people that had done various different Ironmans and the question I always had for them was, “how do I know when the time is right to do my first Ironman?” My friend gave me a simple response, “when you click the payment button and officially sign up.” I did not think to much of it at the time, but September 1, 2017, was the day that I officially new I was ready. After speaking with my wife we agreed that August 19, 2018 would be the right time for me to take the next step and complete my first Ironman.
We opted to rent an AirBnB that was just outside of the village. It was listed as a ski in/shuttle out condo, and at the time I didn’t think much of not being able to ski out. When we arrived it was a shuttle out because it was located at the top of a steep incline, hence the ski in part, and I had a feeling that Sunday night after the race we may have to be creative and arrange a ride for me, but more to come on that. The AirBnB was everything that we could ask for, slept 8, had a full kitchen, pool in the complex and most importantly was pet friendly.
We arrived on Thursday in time for athlete registration which worked out very well as there weren’t any lines and the check in was a smooth process. This was nice because it allowed me a chance to get out and cycle the dreaded Duplessis with a friend that was also doing the Ironman for the first time. It really calmed my nerves as it didn’t appear to be much different than the cycling I had been doing in Muskoka for most of my long training rides.
The Friday before the race my family and I walked around the village and picked out spots for the my family, aka the support crew, to be so that I could pick them out and get some words of encouragement, which went a really long way during the race. As we were going through the places they would get to see me exit the swim, fly past on the bike, and head out for the run portion, we went through my approximate timing. Going through the timing was another way that I was able to calm the nerves. A friend of mine told me to break down the race into chunks, a swim, 90k bike, 90k bike, and then 2 half marathons. It seems less daunting when you aren’t thinking of each segment in there full distance. Friday evening we went to the Athlete’s Dinner, I was lucky enough to purchase a ticket in advance for my wife and it was a dinner that any carbloading triathlete would want, pasta and breads. I was very impressed by the attention to detail, as someone that eats a plant-based diet I was very impressed that the pasta was separated from the meat, the cheese was available to put on after, and there was a quinoa salad available as well. There was some great entertainment during the dinner and the great Mike Reilly was there to get everyone excited. He kept saying that he can’t wait to tell everyone “You are an Ironman” and it really made everyone excited for the race Sunday. After the dinner and athlete information/rules session, there was a concert in the village by the start line. We opted to take the gondola up to the upper village, as this was the first time there wasn’t a line up. The view from the gondola was incredible, the excitement and bright lights in the village lived up to all of the hype one would read about. On the way down on the gondola the fireworks started, and that was another part of the weekend that failed to disappoint. The race hadn’t even started and I could see why this race is so special for both athletes and spectators.
Saturday before the race, my wife, her parents, and I wanted to go for an easy bike ride. I suggested to try riding the run course, which is on a portion of a beautiful rail trail that passes by lakes. The portion out to the rail trail had a few hills but after that it was predominantly flat and shaded, just what you would want after a 180 km bike ride. After the bike ride it was time for me to get my bike ready and head down for check-in. I had pre-packed all of my bags and just had to change so we could get down and get that part of the day over with. The hundreds of volunteers were stimulated throughout the village to guide everyone in the right direction and answer questions as needed. This part of the day was smooth and I was happy to have everything ready. It was back to the condo for some rest and relaxation while the support crew headed to the pool, hot tub, and into the village to enjoy a cocktail on the patio, I mean they deserved to get some enjoyment for their vacation.
Sunday morning I woke up before my alarm and was eating breakfast at 4 am, to ensure that my body had time to digest it. My wife and I headed down so I could place my bottles on my bike, pre load my nutrition into my bike shirt, and ensure that everything was set to go for the day. As we headed over to the swim start I looked out on the water, and the first sets of buoys weren’t visible, the fog was very thick, as it was around 12 or 13 degrees at this point in the day. Mike Reilly came on the microphone and announced that they would be delaying the swim start, this made my thoughts start racing. My nutrition was planned to be ready for a 6:45 start, but 15 minute delay after 15 minute delay, the swim ended up being delayed by a full hour. It was great to have my wife there, as she had a back pack with snacks for her day with her. I was able to have a banana, a Gu gel, and a couple of Clif chews. I think this little detail really went on to benefit me later in the day.
The swim started and the fog had rolled back in, while swimming I went with the “follow the group” mentality for the first portion, this seemed to work well until the leader of the pack steered us of course. A kind lifeguard in a kayak redirected the 30 or so swimmers in the right direction, and I changed my game plan to make sure I could sight each buoy as I was passing it. About halfway through the swim the fog had lifted and it made for an enjoyable swim the rest of the way in. New to this year the Ironman Foundation had built a pier out of Lac Tremblant that would be used as a bird observatory when the Ironman was not taking place. It was great to get out of the water and head up the pier to the red carpet and into transition. As I was running up the carpet my support crew was right in the spot they had said, I got to say my hellos and give them a high five.
Once into the tent it was time to find my bike bag and gather my gear for the ride. A tip I received from one of my friends was to decorate the strings of the bag with ribbon. When looking for your bag in a row of 100 different bags, the ribbon made it very easy to spot. I took my time in transition to make sure I applied sunscreen, grabbed a drink, and had everything I needed for the ride.
180 km Bike
The bike heads out of the village along a winding road with a few hills, there is a brief no passing zone across one of the bridges that did not seem to cause a bottle neck as I went through it. Once you get out onto the highway and out to the 33km turnaround it was hot and sunny. During this time it was important to ensure that I was keeping the pace I wanted and ensuring I was taking in enough liquids to get me through the day. The highway had some inclines and descents along the way. It was a nice ride, felt like I was going up Highway 400 north of Barrie, minus the cars, which was a great feature of the bike course. Once you exit the highway it is back along the winding road towards the village and up Duplessis, which featured some steep climbs, a few people were walking their bikes up some of the hills as they didn’t have enough gears to make it. The ride down Duplessis was fun and fast, it made the climb worth it. When you head back out for the second lap there is the special needs station, which I made a quick stop at to get a few more peanut butter and jam sandwiches and two more bananas. The second lap of the ride was uneventful. However, it did feel like there were a few hills I didn’t seem to notice the first lap of the course. I made a quick stop at one of the aid stations to get some more sunscreen and ensure that my bottles were full. I looked at my watch and decided to take it easy and save myself for Duplessis and then for the run. On the second lap of Duplessis there were a lot of people suffering, it seems like the climb was getting the best of them, but with plenty of time before the bike cut off, I’m sure most of them made it through the bike.
When you arrive to dismount your bike there were numerous volunteers waiting to take the bike from you and rack it so that you could go into the change tents, and get ready for the run. Like the first transition, I made sure to take my time and ensure that I had everything I needed, including my arm warmers for later in the run.
As I headed out on the run I was amazed at how good my legs were feeling. Having not run more than 30k at any point in my life it was only a matter of time before my body entered an unknown place. As mentioned before the run takes you out along the road and into the Olde Village of Mont Tremblant, that is lined with little stores, and one massive patio that people were watching the race from. From the village you head out and back along the rail trail, that can be a little tight at times, but for the most part it was smooth sailing. The hardest part of the run was at the end of the first lap when you run through the village and past the finishing chute. There were people finishing at this point and it made me a little jealous. During the run I started around the same time as a fellow competitor that had travelled from Las Vegas to do the race. This was her third Ironman, and it really helped me to maintain a consistent pace until kilometre 36 when she had to slow down a bit. As I got to kilometre 38 the voice of Mike Reilly telling all the finishers that they are an Ironman was echoing across the valley. At this point the feeling was surreal, I knew that I was going to be an Ironman! It was hard to maintain a steady pace, as I kept wanting to push myself to finish, but this was not the time. As I entered back into the village and through the walkways it was amazing how many more people were lined along the course cheering everyone on. As I was heading down the finishing chute I remembered the advice from a fellow Team Running Free member, “take it all in, embrace the moment as all of the hardwork you put in is for this moment.” After that I heard the words I had been waiting for, “Mike Morrison, you are an ironman!”
After the Finish Line
The food in the finishing tent was very plentiful, from poutine to pasta. One of the volunteers that walked me into the tent stayed with me and ensured that I had everything I needed and even brought me an ice cold Diet Coke that I for some reason was craving.
My wife and I had not planned where we were going to meet at the end, I am guessing it was a minor detail we didn’t think about in order to not jinx the finishing line. I exited the tent and wandered around looking for anyone from my support crew, and when I found them I started to feel very weak, so we found a bench for me to wait on and see if my body could recover enough to gather my gear and head back to the condo. Unfortunately, my body was not recovering well enough and a couple of paramedics were brought over to check me over. They encouraged me to take in as many fluids and food to try and “jumpstart” my body. After attempting to “jumpstart” my body did not work it was off to the medical building where the nurses and doctors could check my blood sugar levels, sodium, and monitor me. The care in the medical building was incredible, they check my levels and decided that the best thing for me was going to be two cans of orange juice, and that should spike my blood sugar and allow my body to take over and start the road to recovery. Between the heat in the building and the orange juice it was just what I needed to get my feet back under me and start the trek back up to the condo.
The Next Day
My wife and a couple of others woke up early (6 am) and headed down to the merchandise tent to wait in line to purchase finishing gear. Upon arriving there, around 6:30 am, they were treated by a line that had already started! They came back with the much coveted finishing jacket, and a few more “finisher” articles of clothing. We cleaned up the condo, packed and started the trip back home.
My Advice for Completing an Ironman
- Do the training, skipping a workout does not mean that you can do double the next time and everything will be ok.
- Ensure your family is on board with your journey, they will be almost as important as the training is to your success.
- Plan your various bags prior to heading to the Ironman, allow yourself the ability to prepare before getting to the venue.
- Mark you bags with tape, or a ribbon so you can identify your bag in transition.
- Take it all in, and make the most of the event.