Race Report: Ironman Tremblant (Part 2 of 3)

Seven months ago, I did an Ironman.

Yesterday, I started this post by looking at the pre-race and the swim. Today, I continue to reflect by looking at the bike portion and the run. Oh, the run.

The Bike:

Getting on the bike was relief. It’s my comfort zone. I had probably trained the most for the bike. Coach Patti had told me to get out and do 180km training rides and to do as many as I could because it would help me come race day. Also, it was the part of the course, I had travelled before, having gotten the chance to do some reconnaissance the weekend Laura did her 70.3.

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By the time I hit the road, I felt in control. I had gone through this part of the race so many times in my mind. I had to tell myself a few times in the first 10-20 kilometres to settle down, to find an easy rhythm. 

I wanted to lay it out there. In the back of my mind, I knew I was 10-15 minutes down on my “perfect race pace”. I had hoped to be out of the water in an hour. This worked to propel me forward.

My legs felt good pounding on the pedals. I kept peering down on my bike computer and calculating my total bike time. As you can imagine, this mental math often eats up a lot of time. I was averaging 33km/h for the first 30km, but then we got on the highway.

When I rode the highway in training, I discovered that the wind likes to push you out, so peddling back in is much harder. I tried to remember that as I hit my maximum speed for the race at 77km/h. 

About 45-50km into the bike ride, the leaders passed me going in the opposite direction. And were they ever flying.

Anytime you ride on your own for six hours, you develop little tricks to stay on top of things, part of it is following the numbers. Knowing that at certain points you have to drink, or eat. I do have a little habit of singing to myself. Especially when I’m feeling good, the songs roll through my head. I got to that point. Nice rhythm, reminding myself not to worry about speed and instead listen to my legs, and a little bit of the Tragically Hip, or Great Big Sea, or best yet, Garth Brooks. It’s always funny that songs, I haven’t heard in years come to mind, ever word of them.

I also watched for people I knew. I saw Coach Patti out in front of me going the opposite direction, I spent kilometres trying to calculate how far in front she was, how many minutes it would be to claw her back. But I never did.

Instead, by the second time out and back on the highway, my legs were starting to feel it. That’s when the worms of doubt dug in. “Did you go too fast?” “Are you going to be able to even hit your goal ride?”

At 90km, I had averaged 32km/h, ahead of my goal time. But had I gotten greedy?

The next 60km were fine, decent. I kept on top of the ride, I tried to avoid the nagging tiredness in my legs, but eventually, the hills got longer. The turnaround point got farther. My legs got louder.

By the time, I finished on the bike my speed had dropped considerably. Regardless, I hoped off my bike, knowing my legs and mental strength was really going to work now.

Like I’d seen at the world championships, a volunteer grabbed my bike from me so I could focus on getting through transition and not having to worry about racking my bike. 

So, back into the transition tent I went.

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Sunscreen, fluids, nutrition, running shoes and visor and I was out. Although I felt no inclination to run, I started moving one foot in front of the other in a hippo style lumber.

Bike Time: 5:49:11 (11 minutes ahead of my goal time of 6:00:00)

Transition Time: 00:04:52

Total Time: 7:16:16


The Run:

I thought I was prepared for the run. I thought I had put the miles in in training that would help propel me forward after the bike ride.

I had no idea.

The run started fine. I lumbered and plodded for a few kilometres, then it hit me, just how hard this was going to be.

It didn’t take long for my “stretch goal” of 12 hours to be a pipe dream. I dropped my concern for time and thought only of survival.

I started negotiating with myself around the 10 kilometre mark. Run 2 kilometres, walk 500 metres. Run a kilometre, walk 500 metres. Run a few steps, walk a few steps. Within the first loop, I was hurting, but I still felt like I could run, every so often. 

On the run, seeing Laura and the rest of my family still out in full force carried me. I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I kept moving closer to the finish line.

Three distinct moments stand out for me on the run:

1. On my second loop, about 30 kilometres into the run, I hit rock bottom. If someone on the side of the race offered me a seat, I would have taken it. I was walking and truly at the lowest point. I questioned why I did this to myself. I questioned why I needed to finish. (I didn’t really, it was valiant effort.) For as little as thirty seconds I had resigned myself to the realization that I wouldn’t finish. I wanted to give up. And then I saw Laura. She had moved from the first location and was now in a place that really was the fork in the road. She smiled. Cheered me on and told me she was proud of me. Me. The trudging mess that had been at this for over 11 hours. I think I told her I wanted to quit. She looked at me and smiled and said, “You’re not allowed,” or something like that. And so it was. I kept moving. She knew just when I’d need her and she was there.

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2. After another long stretch of walking (probably around kilometre 36) and no real inclination to start running again, a woman came up from behind me. She stopped running and walked beside me. She said, “Hey, I see you are walking there. Why don’t we run and talk to each other?” I looked at her. She smiled. And we started trotting. It was by no means a fast run, but we were running. More importantly, I was running. After that point, I didn’t walk again. She was on her first loop and was just hoping to finish before the cut-off time. She was from the States. It was her second Ironman. Eventually, she wanted to walk and told me to go ahead. I ran on. From out of nowhere, that stranger, made such a huge difference.

3. After leaving the woman, and getting to within the last couple kilometres, I met up with Jerome Cyr. This 60 year old man, had competed in six Ironman races and so we ran together. I asked him, “At 60 years old, why do you keep doing them?”  His initial response was, “It gives me something to do,” but his follow-up was better, “It’s a way of telling me to keep pushing my limits. To tell myself to not settle down.”  We ran to the finish line together, he backed off right at the end so I could, “have my moment.” He was the first person I hugged after crossing.

Run Time: 5:37:19

Finish Time: 12:53:33


Part 1 of 3: Pre-Race and Swim

Part 2 of 3: Final Thoughts and Lessons Learned (Published March 1, 2013)