I am so glad I decided to race Ironman Mont Tremblant this year. I debated not going up until the last few days and once I was there, I knew I had made a good choice. Jon was able to come with me this time after missing out on the last couple of races, so that was great! The fact that my homestay family owned a local Italian restaurant, Coco Pazzo, and were great chefs made Jon & them instant friends! I know very little on the culinary side of things - except how to eat - which I did. :) Our new Canadian family welcomed us immediately, much like the rest of Quebec and Mont Tremblant! There were even Ironman billboards on the drive from Montreal! That's something you don't see every day. First-class support, for sure. The entire town backs the race, with signs everywhere, specials and events going on. It's great to see and to know that our presence there has spurred the village to repave many roads on the course and create an expanded network of trails and pathways to promote an active lifestyle for everyone. I may need to come back just to ride the "P'tit train du Nord"trail from Montreal to Tremblant. Obviously the village's effort has been well worth it; the number of locals taking up walking, cycling, running, swimming, etc has grown! Add to that a new training facility being constructed and you've got yourself one heck of a destination.
Race- General Onto the race prep and race day. I came into this race with very little taper, looking at it as another build to prepare for my fall race. Because of that, in some ways I was less nervous to race, but in other ways I was more nervous. Less because I didn't have the pressure of screwing up a good build by having a bad day, but more because I didn't know if I would completely implode on the course. So I was probably a little more quiet and agitated than normal in the days leading to race day. Rest assured, with the restaurant-owner-homestay I did not go hungry!
Many times I am asked what I think about for so long on the race course. I always have to stop and think about the answer to that question, because I realize after the race I have no recollection of what I was thinking about. Sure, there's the usual thoughts of "what place am I in?", "how much time to the next woman?", "how am I feeling?", but that only occupies my thoughts for a little bit. So, this time during the race I made sure to think-about-what-I-was-thinking-about and try to remember it, so I could put it in this report!
Overall, I would describe my race experiences as very Zen-like. It's the longest period of time I get to remain focused on one particular task - there is something very calming about that - and why I think I like being an endurance athlete so much! However, I know I don't stay laser-focused on 'race, race, race' the whole time. I sort of drift in and out of an awareness of effort and suffering as the day goes on, sometimes acknowledging the suffering and sometimes actively trying to ignore it.
The Swim So, all-in-all, I approached race day with a fairly relaxed attitude, but as such was still nervous about my personal kryptonite - the swim. My swimming is still a work in progress, so I take a fair bit of time to prepare myself for keeping contact with the group for as long as I can. Therefore my thoughts while swimming are, "relax and don't lose the group, don't lose the group..." Unfortunately this swim I lost the group and ended up swimming solo for most of the one-loop course. And so it is. (But hopefully not for long!). I knew it wasn't a great swim and coming out of the water 14 minutes off the leader is not how one goes about winning a race. But I don't think about that. That kind of thinking is way too destructive and I focus my energy on NOT thinking about it. After all, this IS Ironman. It's a long day and anything can happen out there and I know I get stronger as the day goes on. So, I proceed as quickly as I can to my beloved Speed Concept to "catch me some swimmers", as my friend Char so adequately puts it.
The Bike The bike is two loops with a mix of long & rolling climbs and a few short, punchy climbs & descents. My plan was to stay at about 80% for the first lap and then see what I could push for the second lap. For the first time ever, I stared intently at my watts from my Stages power meter. It was so easy to do this because the roads were so smooth and clean and I didn't need to worry about stuff in the way. (They literally wash the roads for the race.) I was intent on staying within range and not getting tricked into riding hard to make up for lost time in the swim. So I stared at that computer for long periods of time, playing games with myself to keep those watts right on target and not stray. This strategy worked out well for me as I continued to pass one person after the next, but not getting bent out of shape if someone passed me. "Stick to the plan" - that was my repeated thinking during the bike.
The Run I came off the bike in 5th place, with Jessie Donovan right behind me and teammate Jackie Hering not too far back from her. Both good runners and I know I have more good runners in front of me. On the upside: despite the foggy, overcast start to the day, the clouds were parting and it was heating up. Perfect for this desert girl. :) As I started to run I felt good. Up the first few hills and I picked off 4th place pretty quickly. Still felt fine. I didn't set the GPS on my Timex running watch and decided to go by 'feel'. I started closing in on 3rd place and got that too around 10k. It was shortly after that a small rock got into my shoe and with a still-charging Jackie behind me and a somewhat slowing Liz and Mary Beth in front, I didn't want to waste one second to get that rock out. So I spent the next couple of miles concentrating on wiggling that rock down in between my toes somewhere. Anything to pass the time. So there was my thinking for awhile. Nobel Prize winning, isn't it?
The run course is two laps out and back and I find it is easily broken down (mentally) into smaller chunks to help get through it. I really like this course for that reason. It was unseasonably hot for Quebec and wreaked a lot of havoc on the racers. 90+ degrees is not common for the Canadians and clearly not normal since many homes do not have air conditioning! So, constant temperature and fluid management was key the entire race, which luckily for me is second nature when you live in the desert. So, after getting that rock into a reasonable spot in my shoe, the rest of my thoughts during the run hover between deciding what fluids to take at the next aid station, counting the kilometer signs and then specifically NOT looking at or counting the kilometer signs. Too much counting down or counting up and you'll drive yourself crazy out there! I said it is a zen-like experience and it really is. While I'm out there I can hear everyone, see what's going on around me, and understand what I'm being told, but it is as if I'm passing through it like a movie. Such a surreal experience, for sure. Gratefully, I solidified my third place and came within 4 minutes of the winner, posting the fastest run split and capturing a run course record at just a tad over 3 hours (3:00.37)! Apologies to my coach Jimmy (who certainly was having a coronary tracking the race from home) seeing my splits on the run. So there you have it...what I actually think about during most races. (confession - one exception to this is racing Ironman France, where at least once during the bike I break into a huge smile at how lucky I am to be racing in such a beautiful place!)