I was not supposed to do an Ironman in 2015. And actually, when I started doing IMs, I was only supposed to do one every other year but here I am, having raced one IM a year for the last four years. (I only stuck to the original plan after my first Ironman, IMC in 2010 and took 2011 off). At IM Boulder last year I entered a lottery to win a free IM anywhere in North America and I WON! That’s how IM Mont Tremblant got added to the 2015 schedule. Last year was a big struggle all year and I somehow made it though IM Boulder but looking back, I was clearly deep in a hole of overtraining. Thankfully I physically rebounded but this year was tough mentally, especially with respect to cycling. I had no desire to be on my bike much over 4 hours so I didn’t force it. But that meant my long rides were limited to 100-120km which was frustrating because my body felt good but I really just couldn’t face the long hours mentally. So I came into IMMT knowing that I would be able to finish, but unsure of what I could expect for a finish time.
As I’ve written about (a lot) before, I am pretty much the worlds’ worst triathlon runner, and specifically, Ironman runner. My open marathon PR is 3:32 (I will be running Boston 2016!) but my IM marathon times are 5:45, 5:45, 5:51 and an outlier of 5:10. In IM, sure there are a few other people that run around 6 hours but I’m assuming their open marathon times are in the 5 hour range, not in the 3:30 range. I run 2.5+ HOURS slower in IM!! That’s insane. I think this is a combination of a few things: 1. I’m not a strong enough cyclist 2. overbiking 3. mental – when I see people walking in IM, I want to walk too, as well as lack of confidence – I feel like I *can’t* run well in IM because I’ve never been able to 4. undertrained in the run.
So my main goal for IMMT was to have a good run, and I really (really, really) wanted a sub 5hr run. I didn’t care what my overall time was, I just wanted a good run. The plan was to really hold back on the bike and coupled with the ultrarunning I’ve been doing this year then hopefully I would finally get a proper IM run.
My mom (IronMom) and I flew to Montreal on Wednesday and arrived in Mont Tremblant on Thursday. This is my mom’s 5th Ironman as well so she’s pretty much a pro at all things Ironman. We stayed at Le Tour des Voyageurs which is basically twenty steps from the finish line and just a few more to transition. It was perfect and wonderful. It’s only taken me 5 times to figure out it’s worth the extra money to stay as close as possible to the finish/transition.
The pedestrian village at Mont Tremblant is awesome. It feels European. Of course Whistler is awesome too but there’s just something different about Tremblant. There was a little general store that met all our needs for groceries (we left the car parked once we were on site), and lots of shops and restaurants. My French skills from high school was even starting to come back but it really is one of those “use it or lose it” things!
I completed athlete check-in with no line and it’s the first time I’ve been weighed at check-in. We wandered around the site, had lunch in the pedestrian village, and I put my bike together to go for a ride. Right outside the hotel I ran into Jen, a OGBetty from last year who’s a total badass. We seemed to be on the same wavelength all weekend because I think we ran into each other every day and a ton of times on race day! I am absolutely terrible and finding course routes, even when I have the map, so it turns out I was actually on the run course but I thought it was too hilly that it couldn’t possibly be the run course! 🙂
I’m glad I checked in Thursday because the lines on Friday looked really long. I went for a run/walk with my mom through the hilly part of the run course. It was overcast and foggy, about 21c, and seriously humid. It actually would have been perfect for race day because there was no burning sun. After the run I did a short swim in the lake which was cool and refreshing. The houses along the lakeshore are really beautiful and it was fun to check them out from the water. I ran into my friend Bria who was getting ready to tackle her first full Ironman and she was super calm! Very impressed! My mom and I took the gondola to the top of Tremblant but couldn’t see a damn thing because of all the fog. I did not go to the athlete banquet, even though I’ve heard it’s fabulous at Tremblant, partly because I’ve been privy to food poisoning at the athlete banquet, and partly because 5pm is just too early for me to eat! There was an outdoor concert after the athlete meeting and some awesome fireworks! Tremblant really puts on a world-class event, everything is top notch. I’ve never seen fireworks (coordinated to music) at an Ironman before!
Saturday I did a swim and a final small ride to check out the bike before walking, like, 40 steps from my hotel to drop it off in transition for the night. I reviewed the course with my mom so she would understand the layout because aside from cheering, her major job was to take photos, so we had a short walk to the lake so I could point everything out to her. I was also able to take a nap and my mom made me spaghetti for dinner. I was not nervous, I don’t get nervous before races, I was just really looking forward to the long day ahead.
I pretty much got what I deserved in the swim. Not that I deserve not being able to swim in a pool for over 2 years, but my swim time was what I expected. I was thinking 1:20 to 1:30 for the swim and ended up at 1:24. A far cry from IMC 2012 when I swam 1:08:00. If at some point I can get back to swimming, even just twice a week, I have no doubt I can get back down to 1:11-1:12 fairly easily but I just need to be able to tolerate chlorine first.
It was very foggy, very reminiscent of Tahoe and I couldn’t see the next buoy, even though they were spaced about 100m apart. So there was a lot of zig zagging going on, and my Garmin data sure reflects that.
Mont Tremblant does AG wave starts which is really cool. However, I had a lot of contact the entire swim. For me, the swims when I’ve had the least contact were in IMC mass starts and that’s what I prefer.
Also, I got sea sick before the first turn so I spent a lot of time bobbing in the water trying not to puke. I’m not sure why that happened in a lake, I’m very prone to sea sickness in the ocean, maybe it was because all the fog obscured the horizon line so that threw things off in my head? My goggles (brand new goggles, Roka X1, tried them once!) were also a bit too tight and causing a big headache which maybe contributed to the sick feeling. In general, I was just not happy in the water. I thought many times about swimming over to the floating pads and handing in my chip because I really didn’t want to continue. I was not having any fun at all!
And then to cap it all off, about 300m from the shore, somebody hit my wrist and my Garmin and a button got pressed that changed the screen I swim with. I panicked, because I really wanted the data from the whole race in triathlon mode, so I stopped, treaded water, and started pressing buttons to try to get it back to my original screen. Unfortunately one of the buttons I pressed was the lap button, which on the 920xt in triathlon mode, sends the watch into T1, and I was still 300m from the shore. Crazy thing is when I pressed the lap button at 1:19, distance read was 3880m, and then I still swam for 5 more minutes! So either the course was long or I was REALLY bad at navigating this swim!
I’m not even joking, the run to the change tents is 500m. Might even be more. And it’s completely lined with red carpet the whole way. This was also my first taste of the passion the Quebecois have for sport. They were lined up 3 deep all the way to the change tent and yelling like mad! It was so cool. Bravo! Chapeau! I changed
quickly into my Team Betty Designs cycling kit. I wear my cycling shorts under my wetsuit so I didn’t have to yank them on over my wet legs! I have never done an IM in tri shorts, I can’t handle it. I need the extra padding on my bum so I do a full change in T1 and T2.
My goal for the bike was to bike conservative. I have become a stronger cyclist in the last couple of years (I still have a LONG way to go) and I do like to hammer the bike, but this doesn’t do me any favours on the run. So I made a conscious decision to really hold back this time and not worry about chasing a bike PR.
The bike started off overcast and foggy and remained that way for the first lap. It took about 40km to find my legs but I was feeling really good and happy to be on my bike. As always, I got so many compliments on my pink kit and pink bike. Those comments always put a smile on my face. There was a girl who kept yelling at me (in a good way) all day when she would see me (the pink stands out!). Turns out, and I didn’t figure this out until I saw her a few km from the finish, we follow each other on Instagram! Her cheers were so helpful! I also saw Jen so many times, I never felt alone. I stopped being able to eat Hammer Gels after having only one or two, not really a big surprise, but I was just not interested. My stomach even started revolting against the Skratch in my water bottle so I stopped that too and just took water. I continued eating my lovely strawberry apple baby food which was going down really well.
The first out and back along the highway was fun. There were a couple climbs but nothing major. The return trip on Montee Ryan was also no problem. Leading up to the race, everyone was talking about the climbs Montee Ryan. I didn’t preview the course, I never really do, I don’t find it helps me that much. Either I don’t get a real sense of the course or I get scared so I just don’t bother now. Montee Ryan was nothing! I kept waiting for some horrendous climb to come along and it never did and soon enough I was back at the village where there were again hoards of screaming Iron Fans, including my mom. I had taken that loop really easy, my legs felt awesome, and I was actually ahead of my “predicted” time. Then all hell broke loose.
Well, not really, but why does no one talk about Chemin Duplessis?! It was brutal!! It’s a short out and back but on the way out, it’s like climbing steps up and up and up. Lots of climbing! I was not expecting it to be so hard because no one talks about it! I’m here to say, if you’re gonna do IMMT, you do NOT need to worry about the climbs on the highway or Montee Ryan (at all) but prepare for Chemin Duplessis! My first inkling that it was going to be tough was the TdF style spectators at the start of the climbs and a sign that said something like “Welcome to the Duplessis Challenge!” On the way out I kept waiting and waiting for the turnaround and it seemed to take forever. The foremost thought in my mind was “I have to do this again!” (quickly followed by “IM Tahoe was way worse! You can do this!”)
Back by the village and on to loop #2, the sun immediately reared it’s ugly head. I felt like was my skin was instantly burning and it remained that way for the remainder of the bike (and run). I stopped at special needs because – potato chips! I’ve had potato chips in my bike SN bag at every IM, so I guess now it’s just a bit of tradition. But this time, because I had stopped eating gels early on, I was able to add chips to the mix for some calories. So water, chips, baby food, and BASE salt was my menu for the last 90km.
Did I mention it was hot? It was brutal. Hot and humid. 40C with unbearable humidity. In Calgary we just don’t have any chance to get used to conditions like this. Our summers are like 0% humidity and 23C. I ended up having to completely stop at every aid station (like in Boulder, but this was way hotter) so I could get one fresh bottle of water on my bike and also dump another entire bottle of water all over me. My friend Mel had told me to “come into T2 with a rusty chain” so that’s how much water I was dumping. By the time I arrived at the next aid station in 10mi/16km, I was completely dry and my drinking water bottle was empty.
A French guy was riding behind me when I heard him say something like “that ass is beautiful!” The bum on our Betty kits says “badass is beautiful” so I assume that’s actually what he said but with the French accent I can’t be sure!
The second time on Chemin Duplessis was worse than the first, obviously. There were a LOT of people walking their bikes up the hills! I even think there might have been more people walking than in Tahoe! It was very surprising to me. These hills right before T2 were very worrisome to me because I didn’t know how my legs were going to handle it. It’s very different than the Penticton IMC course where once you get up Yellow Lake, it’s more or less downhill for 30km to T2. When I do Tremblant again, I will do training rides starting from Canada Olympic Park, head out the Bragg Creek or Cochrane, and then once back, do something like 5 COP hill repeats.
My average power was much lower than I wanted or expected but I didn’t feel completely drained either so I can live with it for now, but eventually I would love to see higher numbers off the bike. Final bike time was 6:40, well back of where I want to be so there’s work to be done.
After handing off my bike to a volunteer, I took my cycling shoes off and ran into the change tent in barefeet. I can’t remember why I decided to do that but it seemed like a good idea at the time! I think it was a good idea because I’ve heard that some people slipped on the red carpet and on the floor in the change tent. I had another full change to do, into my Betty onesie trisuit for the run. I LOVE the onesie trisuit. This is the first year I’ve ever worn a one piece, I always thought it wouldn’t work for me because I have a long torso, but I’m a complete convert. I love not having to tug on a separate top when it rides up and it’s not too hot! In fact, it holds a lot of ice, which I discovered from experience! I HIGHLY recommend the one piece, even if you have to change in transitions of IM like I do.
Right out of T2 there was a big bucket of ice, which I was pretty much wanting to jump in to. And my mom was right there too so she gave me a big hug and some motivation. I was really worried about the heat. I have lost all tolerance to heat so I knew I really needed to focus on staying as cool as I could. I had a buff in my T2 bag that I planned to use as an ice bandana. I had never used one before, I just knew of it from hearing ultrarunners talk about it in races like Western States. I tied one end tight and my plan was as I was approaching aid stations, I would open the other end, pour ice in, loosely tie that end and run with it on my neck. It took a couple aid stations to figure out the appropriate amount of ice where it would still sit on my neck but have enough ice to last until the next aid station. Even with the aid stations being a mile apart, the ice in my bandana was melting before the next one. I was melting too!
But, as I started running out of the village, I felt surprisingly good. It was reminiscent of how I felt in Vineman this year. I kept an eye on my Garmin to make sure I wasn’t overcooking my pace and I was feeling super comfortable at between 6:00-6:30/km. I wanted more than anything else to run under 5 hours, which is just over 7:00/km.
To my surprise, I comfortably ran the hills in the first 4km that had scared the crap out of me in the days before the race. I stuck to my plan of getting ice at every aid station, which of course slowed me down but was an absolute requirement for my survival. I would load up my bandana, the one cup of ice in my bra, one cup in my hat, water over my head, and alternating coke and gatorade. I continued to stick to the BASE salts but still couldn’t tolerate gels.
The big problem I was having in the first part of the run was I was super bloated. I’ve never experienced that before. Maybe it was from all the salt I was taking? I can’t remember who it was exactly, maybe Natascha Badmann, but one woman pro was always super bloated on the run in Kona. Even though she was kicking ass and taking names, her tummy looked awful! Well that was happening to me, I felt like my tummy was sticking out like a pregnant girl and I was getting pretty embarrassed about it! But I couldn’t get anything moving in my gut. This problem consumed a lot of my thoughts so the miles just ticked by, even though I was getting really uncomfortable. Finally at about 14km, I was able to stop at a porta potty and get things moving, after which I had no problems!
Coming back towards the village was mostly downhill although I had to walk a bit of one hill with the Cervelo guys at the top. My mom was a little further past the bottom of that hill and I told her I was doing fine and I had so far been able to run. Run special needs was up another hill, where I grabbed potato chips, yay! The run down the village street on the first lap was excruciating! People were already finishing and I had to take the turn to the right to continue on the second loop. There were some awesome spectators right at that junction who were so supportive, telling me I was looking great and I could do it. I don’t know what my split through half way was, but I believe it was something like 2:26. On the way to sub 5.
I came back to where my mom was standing, feeling a little down trodden because I had just been by the finish line which is really tough mentally. I think she thought I looked worse than I was, because shortly after passing her I looked back and mom was running after me, yelling “don’t you have to go back up the hill”, and pointing backwards! I yelled “no mom! I just came from there! I have to do a whole second loop!”
This was the hardest part of the race for me. Nothing was really hurting, I wasn’t feeling *that* bad, but I just felt like I had so far yet to go and it was a bit overwhelming. I had to walk some of the hills the second loop. But almost everyone else was walking them too. Once I got to the flat part, a cool thing happened. I transported myself, without meaning to, back to running the Grand Canyon. I could have sworn I was back there. In the days leading up to the race, I was thinking a lot about that run because there was a section on the way back from the North Rim, in “the Box Canyon”, where I was totally in the hurt box, but I was running. It was slow, but I was running and it got the job done. I knew if I wanted to get my goal marathon time, I needed to keep running. This is the first time I have kept running when things got tough in the IM marathon. I put my head down, and imagined the huge vertical walls of the canyons and the river, and I just kept running. It was awesome. My pace had slowed after about 23km but I was still running.
After the turnaround at about 30km, I started feeling better! I ran for a bit with a lady from New Jersey and we had a really nice conversation for a couple kilometers. That’s right, I was chatting and running after 30km in the IM marathon. In fact, a guy behind us commented “I can’t believe you two are talking right now!” My response was “I can’t believe this either! In 4 Ironmans, I have never ever ever even been running at 32km into the run, let along talking!!” Once that sunk in I picked up my pace and didn’t let up.
I started passing people all over the place. I have never passed people in the IM run. Just like how I felt in Vineman this year, it was SO cool. I passed the 37km marker and for the first time I looked at the running time on my watch. 4:35. Somehow I was able to do math and figured that with 5km left, I would sadly miss my 5hr run, BUT if I could hold 7:00/km for 5km, I could get a new IM run PR. Those last 5km (and probably at least 7km) were my fastest of the whole day. I was passing so many people, the spectators were going crazy because I ran every.single.hill. on the way back, and I felt like I was actually running. Not shuffling like usual, but running. So many cheers of Bravo! Chapeau! I ran by my mom in the same spot and told her I was going to get a new run PR!
I made my was up to the top of the village again and that downhill to the finish like was sweet. I even passed people in that downhill chute! I started high fiving everyone I could and as I crossed the finish line, I felt so proud of myself. My final run time was 5:04 and I couldn’t be happier. My final time was 13:31, not an overall PR, but now my second fasted Ironman. And for the first time ever in IM, I improved my AG placing throughout the race from 53 (swim) to 42 (bike) to 37/77 (run, finish).
That 5:04 *feels* like at least a 4:30. Even when I ran 5:10, it didn’t feel good. This one felt amazing. Even though I missed my goal, finally, I can see the light of sub 5 and my next IM, I will FOR SURE be under 5 hours. Now I know I can do it and I think that might be the biggest win of them all.
I made my way with my lovely finish line volunteer, through to the food tent. I did not have to go to medical! But I needed to lay down. I have now become very good at avoiding the medical people and laying down where hopefully they won’t bug me. It felt so good to lay down. A couple athletes checked on me to see if I was ok, which I assured them I was. Why can’t I just lay down after going nonstop for over 13 hours?!
I saw some people with the silver space blankets that somehow had missed me so I wandered (stumbled/hobbled) back towards the finish line to find myself a blanket. The food was not that appetizing but I forced something down. Can’t even remember what it was! I realized I had been in the food tent for quite a while without seeing my mom and I knew she would be worried about me because in 2012 when I ran 5:10 I ended up in medical. And yet, I stopped to have my photo taken, and then…. I saw the poutine truck.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I completely forgot about poutine. Highly unusual for me, since that’s usually all I can think about at the end of a race, but right there in front of me was a line up of poutine. I even asked if the poutine was for us because I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like it was too good to be true. Except it was true! I grabbed a poutine and went back to the guy taking finisher photos and had a picture taken with my poutine. Nerd alert.
Somehow, my mom was right at the exit. I was so excited to show her my poutine and she was so excited I wasn’t in medical (because she was headed there next if she hadn’t ran into me!) We sat on a bench while I ate the best poutine I’ve had in my life, and my mom told me how proud she was and how she had been taking photos all day and Rob had been posting them on social media, and how all my friends had been cheering for me all day. That’s an awesome feeling. My mom did such a good job with the photos and being in perfect cheering spots all day. After 5 Ironmans, my IronMom has really got the hang of it! I really couldn’t do these races without her being there with me and for me.
I am not planning Ironman next year. I really need a break, mostly mental, from the long training days. I also want to get my speed back. I WILL return to IM, and to IMMT, and I WILL run under 5 hours because I know I can now. IMMT is the best IM I’ve done, by far. It blows everything else out of the water. The venue is spectacular, so easy for accommodations and spectating, the organizing is top notch, the course is tough but fair, and there’s poutine at the finish line. I can hardly imagine an Ironman being better than IM Mont Tremblant. It is a must-do race, and I will be back for sure!