A little perspective…I did my first tri in 2009 and my first Ironman in 2011 at Louisville with another one just 6 weeks later….. After that whirlwind, I took 2012 off from Ironman and it was supposed to be Ben’s turn. With 2 kids, simultaneously training for IM would be just too tough. Unfortunately about 6 weeks before Louisville, he had a “small accident” on the bike and ended up with a 40cm titanium rod in his femur… He was really bummed about not becoming an Ironman and knew he had to try again even if he had to walk the marathon. But wait…. I wanted to do an IM in 2013…. Hmmmmm what to do….. SO we decided we’d go with the team to Mont Tremblant, we’d stagger our long rides on the weekends and work around schedules during peak training to get there – we could do this! And with Ben essentially starting over, we knew he was not going to be able to get to the same volume anyway and it was more about getting him to finish without hurting himself along the way.
My goals were a little different…I had always been a strong runner – but I struggled with a strong run off the bike at longer distances…so my 2012 focus was on being able make that happen at the half distance. And I finally was able to do that. So 2013 became trying to run strong off of a stronger bike, and I also knew I had some work to do on the swim…. So in Nov, I asked Coach Shelly for help and we went to work. I went 12:38 in Louisville and really wanted to go sub 12, and as close to 11:30 as I could get at IMMT. It was a long 9 months of training that taught me a lot and which paid off on race day!
We left Tuesday night and drove for about 3 hours before crashing and finished the drive on Wed after picking Ben’s sister up in Montreal. We arrived at the team house around 7pm grateful to be out of the car. The next few days were a rush of last minute rides, runs, and swims, checking over bike and gear, exploring the town, and thankfully, just playing shuttle for Ben’s sister and the kids since she helped keep them occupied and entertained – as did our housemates! Oh and did I mention puzzling? Lesson #1 – don’t ever spend the 2 days before a race bending over a jigsaw puzzle! But Mont Tremblant was truly a beautiful place with plenty of things to keep everyone occupied and unlike some of the other races we’ve been to, the community truly seemed happy to have us!
We arrived at Transition approximately 5:45 thanks to a ride from one of our teammate’s Dad, pumped tires ~110, put bottles and nutrition on bike… Outside temp was low 50’s, with projected temp of 56 by 0800. I decided not to swim in my singlet and put it in T1 bag. We headed down to the FeXY tent by the swim start by about 6:15. Not gonna lie – I had a few minutes there where I was asking myself why the heck was I really doing this?? This was different than previous races though. Previously it was nerves – can I do this? What is it going to take to do this etc… this was – in order to do what I wanted to do I knew I was going to have to push to the limits and put myself into the hurt locker. This was realizing how bad I knew I was going to have to hurt and why would I do that? We made it to the tent and felt a bit better.. We headed into swim start area at about 6:30. Ben’s wave went off at 6:45 and I was at 7… Took a GU at 6:35ish to top up glycogen.
I lined up in second row about ¾ of the way to the outside. I’ve gotten a lot better, but I’m still not a “fast” swimmer. It was a beach start and the water temp had been 70-74 the previous days. It was announced race morning that the temp was 66’F. I had swam in a sleeveless the previous day and it was chilly for the first minute or two but then it was fine so stuck with sleeveless. The water felt fine- warmer in fact than my practice swim on Fri morning. I was in the last wave and I was concerned about slower people from previous waves but at least I knew I wouldn’t get swum over! The gun went off and I went in up to thigh high water and started swimming. Tried not to start out too hard and to find my pace and rhythm quickly. I feel like I did well at that. After the first few minutes I felt good and actually found some feet that I followed for 5 min or so (longer than I ever have done that before). The sun was just over the horizon directly to my right which made breathing to the right difficult. So I settled into a 2-2-2-4, or 2-2-4 rhythm. I didn’t actually site very much at all, there were enough bubbles and feet around me that I was just swimming straight – every 5-6 stroke I’d peek and I was dead on, so actually backed off and started only sighting probably every 8-10 strokes a lot of the time. By about the 1K mark I was catching people from the next 2 waves and started having to swim around people. I felt like I got into a funk for a bit, and started to feel my hip flexor pulling which has been an issue in previous open water swims. I tried to concentrate on pushing that head down and my form and that helped. Shortly thereafter I could see the first turn about 3 buoys up. It was a bit congested and I was on the inside. I checked my watch and saw 33 – yes – right on pace (I was hoping for a 1:10)!. The second turn buoy - 200 M across was 37 and my arms were fine, I felt good and was confident I could hit 33 on the way back to hit the 1:10 I was hoping for. I had intended to try and hit outside a bit more to get away from the congestion but found myself no longer swimming straight. I think there were some boats that sent some waves and I actually felt a little vertigo for a minute or two like I couldn’t tell which direction I was swimming. About 5 min into the way back I found some open water and pushed for a good few minutes and then I started finding the slower swimmers from 2-3 waves ahead of me. And more often than not they were swimming side by side and I had to go around. I got kicked in the face once and had to re-set my goggles. I also at one point got a big whiff of boat exhaust that made me a bit nauseous. But I very rarely “stopped” swimming – I just had to go around, and I felt like I was swimming strong. My arms actually felt good, I was concentrating on form, and pushing that head down, and my hip was holding. I remember checking my watch when I could see the exit and it was 54. I felt like I could swim the rest in 16 min, but then I hit some shallow water, and I had that feeling when you are looking at the bottom and swimming and it seems like the bottom isn’t moving, I checked my form and I felt strong, checked my effort and I was definitely still pushing, so just sucked it up and swam but I definitely felt like that last part just took longer than it should have. When I got closer to the exit then I could see the ground moving again which was weird. I was a little bummed when I stood up and looked down at my watch and saw 1:14 and knew it would be another minute til I crossed the mat – how did I lose 5 minutes on the way back??? But I knew that aside from taking the outside line I did all I could – I swam about as hard as I could have and kept my focus well. Then I peeked behind me and saw the hundreds of people behind me and felt better – just as Slake snapped my sports bra! I hadn’t seen him but apparently somehow I came out right in front of him! Got out of the water (narrow exit area…) hit the strippers grabbed my suit and ran to the tent (passing a few people on the way).
That was a long run! But thankfully they had the whole way carpeted so it was no problem on bare feet. I ran into the tent had a great volunteer who told me to sit – she dumped my bag out, helped me put on my singlet and started putting on sunscreen on my back and arms as I put on my helmet, glasses and shoes. I was not cold at all, which I knew meant my core was warm enough to head out on the bike without the arm warmers I had stashed in my bag. I really had to pee, and they didn’t have porta potties in or near the tent (really??) they also did not have a nutrition table…. I forgot to put sunscreen on my face too…. Which I’m paying for now… so I stuffed my gels in my pocket and ran out (peeing along the way…) to my bike. The bike racks were TIGHT and I was thankful to see volunteers at the racks, grabbing your bike for you. SO I grabbed mine and ran out – hopped on and was on my way.
Hit lap on the garmin to get it to bike mode, and then went to flip it to the inside of wrist and accidently hit lap again…. Doh! Had to reset the watch to get it back to bike mode… dammit – now I wasn’t sure how long the swim or transition were to know my total time for the race…Headed out past all the FeXY folks and heard the kids yelling “MOM!!!”- once past I grabbed my first gel that I would’ve done in T1 if I had water. Then tried to settle. It was hard to hold back – but it was congested which actually helped just sit back. Shortly thereafter I noticed my power dropping out. I got to the first 10K – turn onto 117N, and popped 2 salt tabs. I had already taken about half of my first bottle of Roctane. I tried to keep watts about 170ish on the first climb out of town, but the power reading kept dropping and when it would come back in it would say 200 before dropping out again. Shortly before the turnaround I finished my bottle of Roctane, and downed a honey stinger (total of 500 calories so far – I think too much in hind site…). I had passed teammates Laura, Ernie and Matt on the way out and saw KWed and Sara next up and figured I’d catch them by the end of the first loop. I had seen Ben too and wanted to keep him about the same… At the first aid station after the turn around I grabbed a water bottle, and then soon took the next 2 salt tabs. About 5 min later I started feeling my right hamstring pull. They had been bugging me strangely all week (bending over doing that dang jigsaw puzzle for hours at the house didn’t help) but I’ve never actually had a real problem with a hamstring before and it was getting worse quickly. Hoping it was a salt thing and knowing I had just taken some – I made myself drink some water and a few swigs of the next Roctane bottle. About 10-15 min later the hamstring started to ease up and never came back…By this time I had given up on power meter, but when it did come back I was close to what I was supposed to be doing depending on flat/up etc… Heading into St Jovite I took a Honey Stinger bar. Heading out back to Montee Ryan it was really thinning out. I caught KWed and we talked for a few as I dug out the next salt tabs. She was doing well and happy to be almost half way done with the bike. Heading back to town there is a single file part that I got stuck behind a few idiots which slowed me down. As most folks know – I ‘m NOT a terrific descender – so if I’m not braking – you should not be!!!! But this is where I started to realize I was getting tired, I really had to pee and I felt too full. Coming back to the resort area and hitting the hills was tough but I was excited realizing I was probably right about at a 3 hour first loop - right where I wanted!!! I caught Sara on the way out on the backside to the last turnaround. And I know I saw a 40 something mph at one point on the hills back to town – I’ve never broken 40 before even on a straight hill pedaling to the max! But Sure enough coming back in I hit 3:01. I finished the Roctane bottle (have I said I really had to pee) before special needs – at special needs, I took a few sips of coke (probably should have taken more), and grabbed my extra bottles and snickers bar. Ate the snickers bar on the way back out. I think that was too much – I had had way too much solid food. By that point I had consumed almost 900 cal – half of it solids. It just sat in my stomach. When we got away from town towards the 117 the wind picked up and I realized it was getting hot…. I started to just feel blah… I was sleepy tired, and couldn’t concentrate. I popped more salt, but it didn’t seem to help. And when my power did come back it was low…like going up the hill at 115…what – 115 going uphill???? my feet were starting to hurt and I was actually wondering how the hell I was going to even finish – I’ve never felt that out of it before – like I could fall asleep just sitting there pedaling. I was actually wondering if I was “coherent” enough at one point to be safe. I made it the next aid station and just stopped and peed. By now it was probably close to an hour since the snickers, and I pulled out the chomps and took a few of those. No kidding about 5 min later I started to feel like I was coming back – not entirely, but getting better. So ate a few more chomps and some roctane. About 10 min later I was at the turn around and feeling much better, although much to my Angst, the wind STILL seemed to be a head wind – I was like – no I just turned around it should be at my back now!!!!. About half way back to St Jovite I was still hurting a bit, but by then it was count down mode – I was 2/3 of the way done. At mile 85 I remember thinking I feel better now than I did at mile 85 in Ohio…. That’s a good thing… I kept on those chomps as those things really seemed to perk me up. By the time I was back on Montee Ryan I was feeling good and although I knew I had lost time, I knew I’d be under 6:20. It wasn’t the 6:10 I wanted, but after how bad I felt for the first hour of that second loop – I had come back strong. I also realized at the turnaround that I had put a few minutes into Ben and that I’d be catching him on the very early part of the run. I also very much started getting excited about the run. Maybe too excited as we turned in towards T2 and I pulled my feet out of my shoes, and tried to dismount – catching my leg on my gorilla cage and falling on my ass on the red carpet…. Nice…. Thankfully my bike catcher first picked me up, then said “I got it you go” – as he bent down to grab my bike! SO big lesson learned – careful of too much real solids – I think the honey stinger bar + the snickers just sat in my stomach and I had pushed too hard on the first loop preventing my stomach from digesting them…. In training I always lean heavy on the solids at first when my body can digest them better, but on race day – need to remember that I’m not starting on the bike… I’m coming out of an hour+ swim and the HR is already up!
Nice and fast, even though I looked down and saw the red streak and a bruise already forming on my calf from where I caught it on the cage. I could feel it with every step and was hoping it would ease up for the run…. It didn’t but it didn’t get worse either… into the tent, I dumped everything out, grabbed my GUs, reserve chamois cream, (which I needed later for under arm chaffing) visor and race belt and off I went. I stopped at the sunscreen table because I knew my face needed it… so probably could’ve shave 20-30 sec off there if I had my own. Put on race belt and visor on the run and headed out.
Started off feeling great – 8:45 felt effortless. I came out of the chute and turned toward the lake. To my surprise there was Brandon who ran with me up the hill and told me how Ben was doing and where Lex and Becca were. Even up the hill, 9:00 no problem felt great – ooh I was gonna have to be patient and not start too hard! I popped 1 salt tab at the first aid station along with some water and a sip or two of power aid. The next aid station I popped a gel with some water. By now I was out in town still holding 8:50-9:00 trying to keep it there and not go too fast. When I got to the Petit Du Nord I was in heaven… I had just seen Beaman who said Ben was a minute ahead and that surface was nice – I was down to running 8:45-8:50 and had to hold back. About a mile ahead I saw Tom who said Ben was really close and in fact I could see him. I caught up to him and we talked for a few, then he was almost to a walk break and I stopped to take a rock out of my shoe that had been bugging me – then said see ya later and kept on going. I took the second salt tab around mile 7. Somewhere on the way back – I feel like mile 8 or 9 I started to feel twinges in my IT bands… crap – I haven’t had IT band pain since 2011… and its never been in both knees at the same time – right where it goes over that little bump and attaches. So I tried to pay attention to form. Energy wise I was feeling okay, but knew the hurt was coming and coming soon. Around mile 10 I passed Christian, and also took my first coke…. A little early, but knew it had been awhile since I had caffeine… continued with coke every aid station. When I got back into town and those hills hit… ooh, those IT bands let me know that second lap was not gonna be easy. But I saw Lex and Becca and everyone else and put on my happy face and ran up that damn hill. Then I knew special needs was near. I had some chomps and the bracelet Lex had made me. Grabbed it and went through the resort…. Man that was hard to go that close to the finish and keep going! But I was at 1:58 for the first lap – yes! I knew the second lap was gonna hurt, but also knew I would be okay if I didn’t start out pushing too hard. So I let myself slow down for those hills – by now my IT bands were screaming….knowing that I would be able to push a little more on the soft gravel flats… opened my chomps and grabbed 2. Looking at pictures I was definitely hinged forward at the hip – not sure if that was the cause or a symptom, but I’m sure it was related. Got back to the trail and felt a bit better. Ate a few more chomps and felt better again. I also took the last 2 salt tabs around there. I remember getting to the 32K mark and was like – ok – if I can pull a 1 hour 10K I’ve got a 4:06 marathon, and that helped me focus and stay motivated. I felt pretty good for the rest of the trail running 9:30ish and was thinking 4:05 was possible if the IT bands held. Once I got back to the asphalt though and had to run down the path for that little out and back I was hurting again. I remember the 4K to go and there being this little hill, and on the first step up my leg almost gave. I panicked and had to fight back tears which made me unable to breathe. I had to fight to gain control. That last 4K was bad… every step was excruciating. Any time I saw an elevation change I was like crap please let my legs hold, just let them hold. And the downs were even worse! On that last hill, its like 2K to go and I remember seeing Steve V and he was running with me, I couldn’t even talk I was fighting tears…. Finally at the 1K mark I knew I was there, but it didn’t make the pain any less. I skipped the last 2 aid stations entirely because I didn’t want to slow down for fear of not being able to pick it back up. Then I hit the turn for the home stretch down the cobblestone street and then- finally the pain subsided as I could see and hear the finish. I saw the Schallers and high fived them, then down the way saw Brandon and then Becca and Lex and the next thing you know I crossed the line. I remember seeing 12:13 and I was like – did I do it – did I get 12? Remember my garmin had gotten screwed up, so I knew I came out of the water at 1:15 and that my bike was bout 6:17, but I didn’t know what my transitions were, so worst case I was thinking 15 minutes which meant I needed a 4:10-4:12 or better to go sub 12… but I didn’t know for sure and that’s part of what pushed me on the marathon. But I had to stop and ask someone what time it was to know for sure that I made it sub 12! It never even occurred to me to just look at what time it was!!! As it turns out I went 11:48, a 50 min PR and the crowning event – a 4:05 marathon!
All in all a good day – I think if I had a better line on the way back I could’ve been a few minutes faster on the swim. Ben was 34 minutes at the first turn buoy and he swam a 1:09. The bike…. that nutrition screwed me, but I’m happy I was able to trouble shoot and push through it – I was NOT giving up. The run can’t really ask for much more. The IT bands were definitely the limiter as opposed to fitness. Not that I had all that much more to give, but if the IT bands were not so bad I probably woulda shaved another minute or two on the last hills. But I definitely left everything I had on the course, there was not anything left in me. And even now a week after the race as I’m sitting on the couch having only worked out once and not caring (and I’m that OCD athlete that FREAKS out if something is not green in training peaks!), I know that I definitely gave it everything I had which means mentally I had a good race.
Although I’m still enjoying being lazy for now - Coach Shelly and I are already scheming for next year – I have a lot more work cut out for me and can’t wait!