IMMT 2013 was my first crack at Ironman distance racing. Over the past two years I’ve completed 2 70.3’s, 3 Olympic distance, and a sprint. I felt good about my training and barring any technical issue with my bike or an injury I was confident that I’d finish. I didn’t really have a firm time goal in mind. I’ve been able to make huge improvements over the last year (was 6:50 in Muskoka 2012, and 4:57 in Tremblant 70.3 2013) but I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to perform over 140 miles. If I had a near perfect day I knew sub 11 was a possibility, but there were also scenarios where I could have a good race and just break 13 hours.
I woke up at 3:45. I managed to fall asleep around 9:30 and was well rested for the race. I had my normal breakfast of 2 pieces of toast with almond butter, pomegranate juice, tablespoon of chia seeds, and water then I was off to transition.
The nice thing about an Ironman is that there really isn’t anything to set up in the morning. I pumped up my tires, and checked my gears and brakes. Someone must have bumped my bike because the rear brake was rubbing the wheel. This was an easy fix and I was off to the swim start.
Before I got into the water at the swim start I ate a Honey Stinger Waffle. I never do much of a warm-up before the start of any race. I just got myself wet and made sure my goggles were adjusted properly.
The jets flying over prior to the race was a really cool touch.
I’m in the M18-24 AG so I was the first wave after the pros at 6:42. I figured I’d swim anywhere from 1:06-1:11. I didn’t put as much thought as I likely should have into where I positioned myself at the start. I was middle-ish along the beach 4 or 5 people back from the front. The first 200m of the swim was relatively uneventful for me. There were swimmers all around me, but I wasn’t being hit or kicked by anyone. Just as this thought popped into my head someone’s hand came down on the back of my head. The next few hundred meters had a lot more contact, but I managed to stay calm and just keep swimming. It was nice to feel a really strong draft at the start with so many swimmers all around me. The turn and coming back to shore weren’t too eventful. I had some trouble swimming straight, and it seemed like the other people around me did too because a couple of swimmers crossed back and forth across me. My goggles were tinted so the rising sun wasn’t much of a problem. I finished in 1:08:43, which I was happy with, but I think I gave up some time swimming back to shore since I wasn’t swimming straight.
From the swim exit all the way to the change tent the red carpet was lined with spectators 3 deep. It was great to see so many people up and cheering so early in the morning. T1 went as planned. I put on my Garmin watch, shoes, helmet, glasses, and stuffed my pockets with my food for the first loop of the bike and I was off.
Bike pacing isn’t always my strong suit. I’ve been known to push too hard uphills, and burn matches early. I rode a 2:35 bike split at the Tremblant 70.3, but I knew I’d have to hold back if I wanted to survive the marathon. I figured if I rode a split under 5:30 I’d be in trouble, and was shooting for 5:35-5:40. The first loop went really well. I rode out of transition conservative and was keeping my pace in check through the first few rollers. Through the first 40 minutes my nutrition had been a bit of an oversight, but no big deal, from the moment I realized I hadn’t been eating or drinking I picked it up. I’d eat 2 Stinger Waffles, a bottle of a sports drink (started off with Scratch, but would take Perform from aid stations) and a bit of water every hour. I continued to pace well on the 117; the riders were all pretty well strung out. Coming into St-Jovite was a great pick-me-up, so many people in town cheering. At the end of each loop there is about 9km of climbing followed by 9km of downhill along Chemin Duplessis. I really backed off the pace on the uphill and took the time to assess how my first loop had been going, as well as to do a systems check of my body to see how I felt. The back of my neck was a little sore from being in the aero position for so long, but otherwise I was in good shape. I rode about 2:46 on the first loop. I stopped at special needs to pick up 2 new bottles of Scratch and 6 more waffles. I also went to the bathroom while I was there. When I got back onto my bike my legs felt really heavy and I thought I might have just used more energy than I originally thought. I decided to stop at the first aid station on the 117 (about 20km away) to see if it was a bike problem, and sure enough my rear brake was rubbing. It’s an easy fix but I wish I had checked sooner. Just after the second aid station on the 117 there is a long downhill. I was shifting into my 11-tooth as I was going downhill and dropped my chain. Fortunately I was able to reverse pedal and get my chain back on. By this time the wind had picked up. There were a few strong gusts that pushed me around a bit, but nothing strong enough to make me second guess running a wheel cover in the rear. I stayed on top of my fueling and was in good shape until I got back to the final out and back along Chemin Duplessis. The crowd support along the first kilometer here was incredible, so many people cheering all the athletes up the hill. About 3km into the climb up to the turnaround I was riding up a section that was about 400m long and really steep when I dropped my chain. I was moving far too slow to pedal backwards to try to get it back on. I quickly unclipped and got my chain back on. Then without thinking I hoped back on my bike and tried to clip in. I still had about 200m of this steep section to climb, and tried unsuccessfully 3 or 4 times to clip in and get going. I finally wised up to the situation and ran my bike to the top of the hill and clipped in up there. This should have only cost me about 1:30 but in the end cost me closer to 3:00. It was time to refocus, I made a mental mistake, but there was nothing I could do about it now. I took in lots of water and an extra waffle after the turnaround as I made my way downhill towards the village and I began thinking about the run ahead of me. At this point I still didn’t have a game plan for the run, and I wasn’t sure of my overall time. I was feeling alright, but I’d only completed a marathon once in my life and it wasn’t pretty (I’m talking 4:47, excruciating pain not pretty). I had been so caught up thinking about the run that I was less than 1km from transition and I realized I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to keep my shoes clipped into my bike as I dismounted. I usually would leave my shoes on my bike, but we weren’t allowed to keep them clipped in as we mounted the bike, so I wasn’t sure we could leave them clipped in as we dismounted. The guy in front of my unclipped his shoes from his bike and ran in them so I decided to do the same. As it turns out you are allowed to leave your shoes attached, but ultimately this cost me very little time. I was off the bike in 5:45:46, missing my goal time, but feeling good about the marathon ahead of me.
T2 went smooth. Nothing really to report, thanks to the volunteers who helped me switch from bike to run swiftly.
Coming into the race I planned on following a run/walk strategy. Most of my weekly long runs were in the 21-24km range, I did one longer 35km run. I felt good out of T2 and was able to check the clock to see my overall time about 7:03. The thought of running a 3:56 marathon to come in under 11-hours flashed through my head, but it was still way too early for me to seriously consider it. I was really excited to be running, and there are lots of people that line the first km of the course. I also knew that I had a number of friends working aid station 2 and I was really excited to see them. It’s a sweeping downhill turn and I had a huge smile on my face as I saw so many familiar faces at the aid station. It was a shot of adrenaline that helped push me up the hill right after the aid station. It was getting hot so my plan at aid stations for the first loop was to take in a mouthful of water, 3 of the energy chews, and a cup of water or ice over my head. By the 6km mark I had settled into a pace of about 5:15/km. I knew this pace was a little fast and I was breaking one of the rules of marathoning (don’t try to bank time in the first half) but I felt good at this pace. From the couple longer runs I did I noticed that things got really rough for me at about 2.5-hours weather I was running 5:00/km pace or 6:00/km pace. So I decided I’d keep moving at this pace and reassess as I went along. As I passed the 10km mark and approached turnaround for the first loop the idea of a sub-11 Ironman began to feel like something that was achievable, and something that I really wanted. I’d run my first 10km in about 51mins. This left me 3:05 to run the remaining 32.2km, or a pace of 5:44/km. As I was running I was doing the math in my head to try to distract my mind from the pain that was building through my lower back, quads, and feet. Also I began to pay close attention to my split every kilometer. The second aid station, where I saw friendly faces, was also the second last aid station on each loop. It was great to run through there and get all sorts of encouragement, as well as know that I would see them again in just 6 kilometers. Running through the village at the end of my first lap was an amazing experience. A couple of the male pro’s had lapped me and were through the finish, and Mary Beth Ellis, the female winner, was a few minutes behind me. The finish chute, which you run most of before veering off to run a second lap, was buzzing with people cheering. It energized me, and reaffirmed that I really wanted to finish sub11. The second loop also meant that I would begin taking Coke at aid stations. I really like Coke when I run, but I made a conscious effort to avoid it until the second half of the marathon so I would have something new to look forward to. Back at my favourite aid station on the course, aid station 2, I got to see my friends again, and they were shouting all sorts of words of encouragement. I don’t remember if I said it out loud, or if I just imagined it, but I told them “see you soon” as I collected my Coke and water and kept on running. I knew I was past the point of no return at this point. If I stopped to walk I would not run again all day. By this time the bottom of my feet were waterlogged from all the water I had been pouring all over myself, and shriveled up like a prune. I could feel that skin had folded and there was a pain in the middle of each of my feet just behind my toes every step. I knew I couldn’t do anything about it, and I couldn’t slow down if I wanted to beat the clock to 11:00. Something that really helped me on the second loop was that I felt like the course was shortened to 39km’s instead of 42.2 because of the friends I had at the aid station on course. I don’t have much to say about the run along the trail to the turnaround and back other than it hurt. I stayed on top of water and Coke at every aid station, and seemed to be checking my watch 10 times per kilometer. I was trying to keep my mind busy so that it wouldn’t convince me to stop running. It wasn’t until I got back to the 39km mark and aid station 2, seeing so many friends that I let the thought that I was going to finish my first Ironman, and that I’d do it in under 11-hours, sink in. The final 3 km’s were amazing. I reflected on the past year; how far I’ve come, all the people who helped me get to where I am, and the support I’ve had from friends and family. It was really special for me to have this time on course while I was still running to let everything sink in and enjoy it. The finish chute at Tremblant can’t be put into words. There were people everywhere. I spotted my parents just before the finish line, as well as a couple friends. I managed to give some high-fives and then cross the finish line in 10:57:31.
Finish Time: 10:57:31
Right after I crossed the finish line I was happy to be done, but I didn’t have a single moment of elation. I had let it sink in for the last 17mins as I ran the final 3km. A couple of the catchers walked with me after the finish line, but decided I was fine to be left on my own. After making my way through the post race food tent, and stopping for a massage I got to see my parents and friends. Their support had helped me get through the day, and really helped me push when it hurt. I haven’t named names, but to all of you that have helped me get to where I am I want to say a big thank you. Ironman Mont Tremblant was an unbelievable experience. The town, the volunteers, and the race itself were all amazing.