Ironman Mont-Tremblant was last Sunday. It was a hard race. It was my fourth full Ironman. It was my slowest yet.
Swim = 2.4 miles = 1:14:20
Transition 1 = 5:35
Bike = 112 miles = 5:29:10
Transition 2 = 2:45
Run = 26.2 miles = 4:02:55
Total = 10:54:45
Despite the disappointment of a poor performance, I was very happy to finish, I learned some lessons, I had fun; and I really appreciated all of the cheers from my family (13 of them at the race!), friends, spectators, and volunteers.
IMMT really is a fantastic race. When I didn’t get into the Norseman Xtreme via lottery, I opted for a traditional Ironman and chose Mont-Tremblant based on the awesome feedback after the inaugural race in 2012. I hadn’t raced a full since the 2010 Ironman World Championships. Admittedley, I was a bit concerned about the three-year layoff.
My preparation had more focus thanks to my work with the Pursuit Athletic Performance Triathlon Team. I’ve been pleased with the program (when I have the time to stick to it), but my work schedule and other commitments ate into my training and resting time. I got in some good key workouts over the summer and stuck to my minimalist approach while honoring the framework of the PAP program.
IMMT would have been a different race if I didn’t blow up in the marathon. I had a slow swim, even by my standards, but can live with that because I wasn’t cooked coming out of the water. I conserved energy as best I could. One lesson: put more lube on your neck. Something as simple as a chafe on your neck over the course of a 2.4 mile swim can really throw you off. In my case, it was a painful annoyance.
My bike leg was decent. It wasn’t my fastest Ironman bike leg and it wasn’t my slowest. However, I did put out a bit more of an effort on lap two when the temperature warmed up and the wind kicked up. The hills were always going to be there and I was ready for them, but the wind did hurt me. I’m not the most aerodynamic rider, but I was very pleased with my Seven Kameha SLX. It is a very comfortable bike, handles great, and I can climb on it very well.
I enjoyed the bike course and the pavement was excellent. I could have fueled a bit more on the bike. I think I made a rookie mistake and swapped my Perpetuem bottles by mistake. I had one set up as a six-hour bottle for the bike and another as a three-hour bottle for the run, but I’m pretty sure I swapped them in error. Even a six-hour bottle wouldn’t have been enough. I was hungry, so I took aid from the neutral stations, including three bags of Honey Stinger gel blocks, two Honey Stinger waffles, and three bananas.
I came out of T2 with a good mindset, repeated my mantra for the day, “Pump It Up,” and attacked the run course. I stuck my pace right where I wanted it, running the first three miles in 7:54, 7:55, and 7:55. My plan was to hold that and then see if I could drop it 20 seconds a mile with a 3:20 marathon target. That would have been 9 minutes faster than my IM run leg PR from Ironman Brasil, but I had nothing to lose….other than time.
I faded much quicker than expected, gave time back every mile through mile 10 when the wheels came off. I ended up running three consecutive miles in the 10:30 range, which was agonizing. That is jogging pace for me, but I was literally staggering. Then it got worse. I walked most of mile 16, but it was the right thing to do. At the time, I figured that it could go one of two ways: 1) I totally blow and walk the next 10 miles and just be satisfied with finishing. 2) I relax a bit, recover, get moving again.
Thankfully, I had the mental strength and ability to calm down and catch my breath. I also resorted to taking in some caffeine, which I only do in extreme circumstances like this. When you never drink soda or coffee and never use energy foods with caffeine, then the stuff can work like rocket fuel in the late stages of a race.
I started moving again in mile 17 after covering two miles in 24 minutes. It took me running three miles in the 9 minutes/mile range to pick up the pace again. The course wasn’t flat, but it also wasn’t hilly. It just had some grade to it on the rail trail sections and a few short ups on the road. I got a second wind and then banged out five miles all in the 8:40’s, which was a minor victory itself. Then, with 2 miles to go, I had a viscious right calf cramp.
It caught me by surprise, but I had one like this in the water at the SOS Triathlon last year. It was awful. I might have stepped on a manhole cover and that was enough to trigger it. I had to stop and massage it. It was agony, but I started running. I had to hold my pace back for fear of it seizing up again. I thought I was going to have to walk the last two miles and I had been on pace to break 11 hours, which was going to be a moral consolation prize when my original goal of breaking 10 hours for a second time went out the window.
My friend and HEAT clubmate, Gabe Jiran had traded spots with me several times between the bike and run. He came by me again and it helped me. I got going, gritted my teeth, and pushed as hard as I could. Thankfully I was able to shuffle along before punching it again in the last half mile. The finish stretch is one of the best ever for me. The crowd was immense. I loved the cobblestones. I crossed in 10:54:45 and was genuinely happy. If I only could have run a 3:30 marathon like my last two IM’s, then I would have been much higher up the age group rankings in the super-competitive 40-44 AG.
It would have still been short of my stretch goal, but totally acceptable. Instead, I have to live with my time and ponder “what if” and “what next.” It really hurt (physically), so I’m in no mood to shop for another IM race anytime soon. I definitely want to race again, but I can envision waiting until I’m 45. I could easily switch gears and look for something fresh to focus on. I assure you it won’t be “mud runs!” Triathlon has kept me going the past four years, but it may be time for a fresh challenge. I know that I’m going to do sprints in 2014 because they are fun and short, but I’ll likely return to more road cycling, mountain biking, and trail running. I’ve already got a full cyclocross season planned as a 2013 to 2014 transition.
Factor that life is busier than ever with our kids entering grade school and Debbie’s ongoing ultrarunning career, and I won’t do another IM until I can increase my focus (at least a little), which means getting more rest and having fewer distractions. I’m fine with these distractions because anything distracting you from time-consuming IM training can be viewed as balance in life, which I LOVE. Having a challenging and rewarding career, community involvement, other sports, and a full family life is what it is about. Ironman is just for fun.
IMMT was an awesome production. I’m still much happier at a grassroots race like the Winding Trails Summer Tri Series, but for an Ironman brand event, it was very well done. The volunteers were some of the best I’ve experienced in my endurance sports career. They were enthusiastic beyond all expectation. I got so many cheers from so many strangers that it was like riding on a wave of applause. It was really appreciated.
Le P’Tit Train Du Nord rail trail was a huge highlight for a rail trail junkie like me. The running surface was a little slow, but it was super comfortable and was a nice break from the pavement. It was narrow, which made for congestion in spots with runners going in both directions and crowded aid stations, but I still loved it.
The Mont-Tremblant resort was a very good venue. It had a “Disney feel” to it, but didn’t seem fake. We stayed at a condo 1/2 mile from the center of the village, which was super close. The all uphill walk after the race was tough, but I made it! There were lots of activities for the kids to do, and it was all walking distance from where we stayed.
There were only a few “lowlights” during the Ironman week. The opening dinner/meeting was way too long. I had to leave after the scheduled 2.5 hours. No end was in sight, they admitted they were way behind schedule, and they never got to the actual meeting. Thankfully, I’m a veteran, but if I was a first timer, I would have been really annoyed with the pomp and circumstance. The race itself is entertainment. I don’t need to be crammed into a tent with 3,000 athletes and volunteers to get pumped up. I could have dealt with it for an hour, but not for three.
Another lowlight was a real disappointment. We were exited that run course sponsor, Merrill, promoted a kids run and an adult 5K. Debbie was super-excited to have something to do (on Friday afternoon) during a race week that revolved around her spouse. She was just as happy that the kids had something to do. Merrill charged $5 for the kids race and $10 for the adult race.
Our son had a blast doing the 1K. It was short and crowded, but he survived it, got to cross the IM finish line, got a little medal, and some food. Debbie ran the course with our daughter and she was excited too. I stayed with the kids at the finish line and Debbie returned to the start of the point to point course to run the 5K, which was scheduled to start at 2:00 P.M., 30 minutes after the start of the kids race.
She showed back up at the finish line at 2:05 P.M., and was as mad as I’ve ever seen her. She was beyond mad. They started the 5K 10 minutes before the scheduled time. She hadn’t even made it back to the start after the finish of the kids race, and they had already sent the adults on their way. She had already vented her frustration with spectators, other runners who missed the start, and some IM staffers. She unloaded on me, but I was able to calm her down. Instead, she ran trails to the summit of Mont-Tremblant, but she was very disappointed.
Yesterday, she sent an email to the Ironman customer service team and engaged in an exchanged. They said that the race was independent of the IM and that it was Merrill’s issue. Debbie pointed out that there was a fee and that starting a race earlier than a published time is totally unacceptable. Customer service tried to justify it by saying that the fee went to charity. However, we didn’t know that. There was no mention of charity when she registered and no mention of it in race documentation. Who cares about the $10? Charity is fine. It’s a matter of principle. You don’t start a race early. What if the Ironman started early…just because? This was a serious lowlight that I don’t see her forgiving for a long time, even if it was a “fun run.”
All in all, this Ironman experience was a good one. We met new friends, spent quality time with family, and got to see a really nice part of Quebec.