Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ironman Mont Tremblant

Courage, Form, Rhythm, Peace and Joy..... these 5 words over and over again kept me going for 140.6 miles.

So how do I sit down and write about the day I had been training for over a year for... I've managed to avoid it for a whole week now so figure I should get it done. Excuse all the pictures... 

I went to bed the night before feeling pretty relaxed and well rested. Woke up at 4am, had a bagel and crawled back into bed for another hours "sleep" which was mostly me staring at the ceiling for an hour. Alarm went off at 5 and we were up and ready for action. 

Clauds came down to the transition / start areas with me which was great. The morning air was fresh and cold with a mist rising over the lake, just over 40 degrees as we made our way down.

I mixed 1 x 4 hour bottle of Perpetuem in the morning and put it on the bike at T1. The 2nd bottle was waiting unmixed in my special needs bag. Transition was pretty neatly laid out with a few thousand expectant bags, ready for chaos to descend.
From T1 we walked to the start line, took quite a while as the walk was close to a mile long.

On the way Clauds recommended I put my wetsuit on next to the road so I avoided the sand at the beach, smart thinking.

By the time we got to the beach at least 2/3rds of the athletes were there and standing in line for the porta potties... Anyway, I had to go, so jumped in the line and wound down the time to the start. Managed to finish up and get to the start line with 5 minutes to go, sucked down a gel, did a quick 2 minute warm up swim to get the blood flowing and then found my group.

Mike Reilly had the crowd buzzing and got us ready for action, 1 minute before the pro start 2 Canadian Air Force F18's buzzed the beach, circled and buzzed a second time as the start cannon fired. Really awesome way to send us off. By now smoke was in the air and 2 helicopters were hovering above us.

We started in waves, I was in wave 5 so about 15 minutes after the pros started. Our wave, males 40 - 44 was the largest with over 500 participants. Considering the number of people it was a pretty orderly start. 

I followed my plan and stuck to the front of the group for as long as possible. I had a pretty good 1st 400m and was finding some good space, however after that I started to get really boxed in and struggled to hold a line and a pace. Got passed over and under by quite a few people and then saw my pace start to bleed off. So I slowed my pace and concentrated on form. Advice I got before the swim was to count strokes as a way of holding form and rhythm. This worked for about 35 / 45 minutes until I noticed my pace start to fade again.

Got to the 1.2 mile mark at 40 mins and was happy with that but now I was tiring and could not hold onto the 1:40 / 1:50 goal I had set. I also found myself going out wide now to avoid getting run over by wave swimmers coming in behind. 

Last 20 minutes were just a grind to swim finish. The field had thinned out and no more getting swum over. Exited the water at 1:28, so i had lost 8 minutes in pace in the second 1.2 miles - something to work on for next time....

By now it was great to be out of the water. I heard Mike Reilly call my name as I ran under the arch. Stopped at the strippers and got my wetsuit off in 2 seconds! 

As I came out of the strippers I saw Clauds and the kids next to the fence and gave them early morning hugs. Off now on the long run to T1 (about a quarter mile!).

T1 was chaos!! I had got there at rush hour. Grabbed my bag and entered the changing tent to get ready. Had to hunt for a chair, found one, I hadnt put much thought into packing my bag - but note for next time - pack it in the order I want to take it out. At one stage I had too much stuff around me and struggled to get order. I had put my helmet on early on in the changing, unfortunately someone ran past me and clipped the helmet, breaking off one of the magnets that held my visor in place. I realized this as I was running out of T1 and flipped my visor up, only to see the right corner sag down. Disaster I thought, cant get the ride done with contact lenses and no visor or glasses! I tried to go back into the change tent to try and find the magnet, big mistake as it was like a salmon swimming up stream with tons of guys bleeding out hunting now for their bikes. 

Made the decision to head back to the bike and take my chances with a dangling visor - I figuered that it may hold with 2 clips out of 3 in place. Long transition now, 13 minutes!! 

Sucked down a gel and found my bike on the rack and headed out for the road. The morning had warmed up but was still cool, great bike riding weather!! on the bike and headed out of town, nice low heart rate and I was moving through the gears well as we handled Montee Ryan. As I approached Route 117 mini disaster struck as my visor suddenly dangled in front of my face again. I pulled over and found one of the magnets had flipped over, so did a quick repair and headed on. 

I had scouted out Montee Ryan so was familiar with its elevation but I hadnt been out on 117 prior to the race. Found it to be great road surface and rolling hills taking us north. Lots of aid stations on the way made the going easy, the riding packs had thinned out so it was pretty easy to pass and there were some packs to find where we could move along together. I was able to grab water bottles without stopping and learnt to pee on the bike (2x). Nutrition plan was Perpetuem every 15 minutes, gel every 15 miles (50 minutes) and water / endurolytes as needed. This worked great while the weather stayed nice and cool all the way to the turnaround on 117. I was able to keep close to 17 mph on this leg. Off 117 we entered St Jovite, the whole town was out to party and it was great riding past all the spectators yelling "Allez Allez Allez". Felt like we were in the Tour de France for a few minutes! By now I was hitting the 50 mile mark and feeling the wall - seems to always arrive around this point. I started taking double gel shots now and lots of water / endurlytes.

After St Jovite we headed back to Mont Tremblant and then out the other side up Chemin DuPlessis where the big hills waited for us. I had driven this segment by car in the days leading to the race but hadnt ridden it. The hills were very similar to the north shore of Long Island so I didnt feel intimidated of fearful of them. Wound down to a low gear and ground our way up. I was able to stay in the shade on the right hand side of the road which helped keep my heart rate down. Up until this stage I had not popped the 145 bpm threshold but did pop it twice (briefly) on this loop up Chemin DuPlessis. 

Heading back to town was a net downhill at high speed, I hit 41 mph here (my fastest time ever!...). The descending was good with wide roads and no technical turns, allowed us to keep our speed up. I did not stay aero though on the descent on this loop as I wasn't familiar yet with the turns.

Heading into town now for the start of the second loop, I saw the family and our friends the Barrs who had come to support.. I was eating a Cliff Bar as I saw them so not looking like an aero pro rider at the time!! 

A little bit about Team IronGav - my wonderful family and friends who spent the day out in the sun, rushing to viewing spots all the time, trying to anticipate where I may be all the time, and then giving huge cheers, hugs and support each time I whizzed by.  

By now the heat had risen and was in the 70's as I made my way back out Montee Ryan.  I could see my heart rate was tracking much higher and my pace on the hills on the way out was noticeably slower now. On 117 we were now faced with a cross wind - which I thought was a head wind until we turned around and the "headwind" stayed with us! At about 80 miles my Perpetuem started to taste bad and I was tired of the gels. I think the heat was turning everything inside out. For the first time ever I also started to get stomach cramps. Not a great sign but a couple of burps seemed to keep it under control.

2nd loop through St Jovite was just as fun as the first although I noticed slightly fewer people out now. By the time we hit Chemin Du Plessis it was past lunch time, it was hot and legs were tired. I noticed I was popping 145 all the time and was struggling to get it back down especially when grinding up the hills. The only way up the last 2 big hills was to travel at 5mph, let my heart rate run to 150 / 155 and stand up with a slow cadence, find shade and grind it out. I'm pretty sure these heart rate spikes hurt me later on the run but there really was no other way up!

It was awesome to hit the turn around on this leg and start the rapid descent back to town. The riding was pretty much done and I stayed aero for most of the descent, feeling more comfortable with the turns now after having been through them on the 1st loop. 

Off the bike in 6hrs 28 mins. I was hoping for 6:30 and would have been happy with under 7:00, so very happy with my bike times. 

When I hit T2 I was the only rider around and had a blast being cheered by the crowds down the red carpet into the tent. Transition now was a lot quieter than swim to bike and it was easy to find a chair, change shoes and head out the door. This time I got it done in 4 mins. 

On my way out I saw Team IronGav waiting at the tent exit and gave everyone hugs and smiles, awesome to see them at the start of the run!!

Now all I had to do was run a marathon! I felt the heat right out the start here. You are faced with a steep climb in the first half a mile and my heart rate shot up right away. I made the decision now to walk all the hills and run down the other side. No point popping thresholds for no gain, I figuered that I had done enough damage on the bike to my heart rate.

First 3 miles were on tar, hilly and hot. Pace was just over 10mpm and I felt ok, except for the heat. At mile 3 we hit trail and  a long out and back loop in a forest. While shady and less impact on the legs from the trail, I found it harder to keep a faster pace here so settled into just over 11 mpm now. Nutrition plan was gels every 30 minutes and water / perform every 2nd aid station. The gels were getting really hot and were not that easy to get down, but I decided to rather risk throwing up than bonking, so kept taking them every 30 mins. Also had a banana at mile 4 and some pretzels (took a minute to chew  1pretzel...).

I started to play a game and guess whether the athletes running past the other way were on their 1st or 2nd loop. By looking at their faces / posture I thought I would be able to guess. Of course there was no way to know if I was right, but on my second loop I saw a lot of faces who I thought were on their 1st loop earlier on. I passed the Iron Frior from mass the day before around mile 9. He was looking strong running the other way.

Although I did see Team IronGav at this point and felt very emotional as all the kids ran out into the road and gave me huge hugs. After I passed them it was a tough grind now to keep the miles clicking over. 

At the special needs zone I just replaced my gel flask and was grateful to have another taste now to wash things down with.

I had read before the race that you need a purpose to keep going when you hit the wall, a reason to be out there slogging it out. On my forearm and also on my bike water bottles I had written out key phrases that were important to me and important to the race: Courage, Rhythm, Form, Peace. I started repeating these words over and over again and found they acted like a metronome and helped my legs just keep ticking over at a slow cadence. Miles 15 to 21 were very hard. I found myself walking for at least 1 minute on each mile. Repeating the mantra helped me move back to running after a brief walk. The stomach cramps I had on the bike had been with me for a lot of the run, but I felt them the most again from 15 to 21. At some point here a guy ran past me and on the back of his shirt it read "be joyful" - so cool - so I added joy to my 4 word mantra and kept ticking over.

I also discovered that mixing Ironman perform (Powerade) and ice was an awesome cocktail and started drinking this at every aid station after mile 15!!

Once I got to mile 22 I felt a large weight lifted and I could hold a steady pace for longer, not needing to walk as frequently. Now only 2 hills remained between me and the finish line and I felt really positive. 

By mile 25 of the run I was back on tar, heading into town and glanced over my left shoulder out over the lake. The sun was setting over the mountain on the west side of the lake. This was the same place we had stared in the morning and had watched the sun rise coming over the mountains to the east. Amazing to think I had been out there all day, and now i was finishing as  the sun was setting.

The last 500m of the run are through the ski village, hundreds of people are shouting encouragement, the noise of the finish line gets louder and louder. You are running downhill now so you dont have to work as hard and I felt myself flying! Both arms out high fiving everyone as I ran past. I ran past Team IronGav so fast that I didnt have time to stop, the finish line was 100m away and I was being pulled there by a magnet.

The last 50m I felt a rush of joy. Not emotion (which I was expecting) but pure joy, to be finished, feel strong and have a decent time was amazing. I tried to pace myself so I wasnt finishing in a bunch and I could have 1 second of fame.

 Mike Reilly called my name, I hit the finish mat and that was it, I am an Ironman!!!!

This is how my marathon looked:

After recovering in the eating zone (chocolate milk, beer, poutine, fruit, cookies, water - in that order) I found Claud's and Luke at the exit and started to pull myself towards myself slowly. 

Made it back to the hotel, had a swim in the hot tub, took a shower and then headed back down to the finish line with Danny and Luke to watch the end of the race through to midnight. It was awesome to be there, we had a spot on the course about 20 meters from the finish line and could see everyone come past us. Managed to chat to Mike Reilly a bit as well. 

The last runner out on the course was brought home by 5 angels, dressed in white, bringing her home to the line, she made it by 2 minutes! 

Amazingly all the runners out on the course who had made the cut off and not retired made it to the finish line by midnight, apparently first time ever. 

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Ironman Finish Line - Go to clock time 13:16:19 to see me finish