Race Report: Ironman Tremblant (Part 1 of 3)

Seven months ago, I did an Ironman.

You may have heard about it. I may even have told you some of the stories, like the time when I got kicked in the head so hard in the swim that  I had to pull up, remember what I was doing and keep going. Or you may have heard the story about how I flew on the bike, maybe too much, but man, it was fun. Or you may have heard the story about the 30 seconds that I was about to quit, how I was mere seconds away when I got a glimpse of Laura, perched in just the right spot wearing her “proud wife” shirt and I figured, I can do it. Or you may have seen the picture, one of the most proud moments of my life, captured on film of me giving a fist-pump as I crossed the finish line.

I did it. I’m an Ironman. I’ve even got the tattoo to prove it.

I figured, now that it’s been half a year, maybe I should sit down and write a quick report of the nearly thirteen hours.

The Lead-Up:

It’s nerve-racking showing up, the venue, the people, the bikes, the registration, the weigh-in, all of it. This is it. Yet, at the same time, I had nothing to worry about. I had done what I could do.

A few important things happened:

1. In the last few months, I had whittled my weight down to a paltry 204lbs. At least, I thought. The official weigh-in told me I was back up to 216lbs. I had obviously tapered the workouts, but didn’t do the best job tapering the eating. Oh well, too late.

2. The banquet was inspiring. I had a great table with Coach Patti and some folks I didn’t know. We heard stories from the legendary voice of Ironman and were treated to the story of the very first Ironman, from one of the originals. In 1978, he swam, rode and ran the distance, all in jean short cut-offs. He had no food or water with him on the bike or run, so he brought cash with him to stop at the corner stores to buy what he needed.

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3. Race day: I was ready. I had a great sleep, had set out all my transition equipment, filled up the water bottles, my nutrition was organized, everything was set. Laura and I drove down to the race start, in the craziness of ushering a few thousand people to the start line, I remember, my water bottles. I had put them into fridge the night before and totally had forgotten them. Luckily, I have Laura. We couldn’t get our car out of the parking lot, so she grabbed her bike, which we figured would give her an advantage moving to different locations to cheer during the race, little did she know she’d have to bee-line it back to our condo, a good twenty minute bike away, not to mention the ridiculous hill she’d have to climb, grab the bottles and come flying back, all in the little time I had to prep before they closed the transition area. My stomach was turning. I started questioning my preparation. I wanted Laura to be back in time for the race start. I felt like an idiot. Dripping sweat, at 7am in the morning, Laura made it just in the nick of time. She found me in the crowd, got the bottles on my bike, and was able to watch the festivities of the start.

The Swim:

Standing, wetsuit on, heart beating, the crowd pressing in, I somehow fin Coach Patti in the chaos. I swim with Coach Patti three times a week, so she knows my swimming strength and convinces me to get to the front. So, in the mistake of the day, I go to the front.

Then the cannon fires.

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I’d like to say, I was like a gazelle bounding over the water; quickly getting deep enough to dolphin dive. Unfortunately, I tripped early then struggled to regain my composure. And people were right on me. When people say they are most terrified of the swim, I now understand why.

Like a roller derby in the water, I received (and gave out) elbows, body checks as it was all I could do to maintain forward motion. But then it struck me. I got booted in the face, twice. He stunned me. I had to pull up, stop swimming and make sure I was still with it. After getting my bearings, I tried to make my way to the outer edge and find my rhythm. Eventually, I did.

On the back edge of the swim, I started realizing that this was it. This was the Ironman. And, that this was a long freakin’ swim.

I started questioning my training. I started questioning my fitness. I started questioning my ability to complete the quest. But I kept swimming. I slowed my pace, checked my expectations and finally felt like I was in control.

Only once, after not sighting for too many strokes, did I look up and I was in the middle of the buoys. It probably cost me some time, but man, what a vantage point to see the thousands of swimmers.

I did pick up the pace as I neared the end, you couldn’t help it as you could hear (and almost feel the vibrations) of the crowd of people cheering at the water’s edge. I  got out of the water and lunged at the wetsuit stripper. I was totally at their mercy as they grabbed the suit and tore it off.

Then it was back to my feet for a long transition run. This was the first chance to see Laura and my family cheering me on. But, I didn’t blazed a trail right past them into the transition tent.

This was a new experience for me. Rows and rows of transition bags and rows and rows of folding chairs, filled with dripping, half-naked men as they shimmied into spandex cycling shorts. I joined into the crowd, wrenched at my spandex in a full-body dry-heave and eventually made it to my bike.

Helmet done up, bike un-racked, I was ready for event #2.

Swim: 1:10:59

Transition Time: 11:12

Total Time:  1:22:11


Part 2 of 3: The Bike and Run (To Be Published February 28th)

Part 3 of 3: Final Thoughts and Lessons Learned (To Be Published March 1st)