Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report

I’ll be completely honest with you, this is my third try at writing this race report and I hope I succeed. The past 2 had to scrapped because I found myself venting, whining and complaining – and it’s not something I want to look back on given my experience.

Pre-Race: I’ll spare you the usual pre-race “I didn’t feel ready” nonsense because I did. Although the hours I put weren’t optimal (averaged about 13 hours a week with a peak week of 18) I had the right training and was hitting most of my numbers.

Being my second Ironman, I was nervous but well prepared to race Ironman Mont Tremblant. Pre-Race I experienced the usual pre-race phantom pains and double and triple checking my Triathlon Checklist. We left NYC early on Thursday morning and arrived in MT by late afternoon. The drive wasn’t really bad except for the border where the wait seemingly spanned over an hour.

On Thursday we went for a short 1k swim in Lac Tremblant! Wow. Crystal waters. Amazing. Sadly the reason I went for the swim didn’t pan out because the coffee boat wasn’t there. Oh well! Maybe 2020!

Venue/Check-in:  The venue is great: beautiful, quaint and European. I was really impressed. This must’ve been the best pre-race venue I’ve been to. Barring some language barrier issues, check-in was a breeze. We went through the usual shpiel about getting weighed and having 4,500 bags to sift through because an Ironman has more logistics than most surgeries.

Saturday was the usual munching on random food all day and drinking plenty of fluids. I really tend to try to consume more complex carbs before an endurance event but I just wasn’t really hungry on Saturday for some reason. Bike check-in and bag check-in was pretty quick. The volunteers were all helpful and I never passed up an opportunity to say “Merci”

Race Day:The day started as any other, a 4:40 alarm (which is kind of late for an IM) woke me up and I walked to the kitchen to make some coffee and my oatmeal. My usual breakfast is 2 cups of coffee (don’t judge me I work in a hospital) a handful of oatmeal and a crushed Nature Valley Bar for flavor. I grabbed my Special Needs bags (which were rather empty except for a spare tube in the bike bag and some pickle juice and nutrition in the run bag) and walked the 5 minutes to transition. Pumped my tires to 95PSI and walked down the Lac Tremblant.

Start: As I’m sure you know at this point, the start was delayed due to fog on the lake. I would later learn the swim was almost canceled due to safety reasons, thank god it wasn’t. I wanted the full 140.6 miles of suffer. The Royal Canadian Air Force flew over and scarred the living crap out of everyone there and we waited for what seemed like eternity. Finally they announced that the pros were going off at 7:45, which meant everyone should be in the water by 8. The race no longer had a midnight finished, but now a 1AM deadline for the full 17 hours. Dipping my feet in the water gave me life. The first few strokes felt amazing. I was ready!

Swim: 1:30:22.

I am not a fast swimmer. At all. Ever since starting triathlon my goal has always been to relax on the swim and then hammer the bike and run. Today wasn’t any different. The swim was rather violent from my perspective, for a lake that size I didn’t expect to get hit 7-8 times in the head – and I mean hit, not an accidental stroke but rather a hit. Perhaps all the Tim Horton’s in the morning made people angry. The visibility going out was rather poor due to the fog so sighting was an issue. I resorted to using the “well, since everyone is going this way the next buoy must be this way” method. This obviously added some yardage but my options were limited since my swim skillz are non-existent. Going back was a breeze. All the buoys were clearly visible and my polarized goggles blocked the sun well enough to sight flawlessly.

God damn that’s a straight line on the way back!

Through all of this I came out of the water with a very low HR and really relaxed.

T1: 4:50. I took a minimalistic approach to transitions for this race. My bike bag had 3 things: shoes, helmet and a Clif bar. It would have been 2 but they didn’t allow clipped shoes. Shoes on, helmet on, scarf down the bar and run to the bike.

Bike: 6:15:23 NP 159. Avg 144W. Avg HR 145. Strava File

This is where things went a little awry. I came out of the water cool as a cucumber and ready for a strong ride. The first 30 miles went better than expected. Holding higher power than I expected at a much lower exertion and heart rate. I was elated. Based on that progress I would have been able to make a 5:35-5:40 bike. But then, it all came crashing down, literally. At about mile 32, approaching an aid station I took inventory and decided I did not need to stop and moved to the left to pass. Another athlete grabbed a bottle from the station and lost control. He careened from the right to the left and clipped my bars and I went down at about 16mph (according to Strava). See that first flat line below? Yup…. Dead stop.

He fell on top of me and someone fell on top of him. By some hilarious irony I crashed near a med tent where 3 medics ran over. They saw me hit my helmet on the ground. This was bad news for me. I took inventory: road rash on elbow, knee, hand and hip while the other side had calf pain and a bruised hip where the 2 other cyclists landed on top of me. The medics wouldn’t allow me to continue until their lead (physician?) came and examined me for a concussion. What’s my name? Where am I? What day is it? Silly questions, but they served a purpose. He cleared me, however, between that and the clean up I had lost 18 minutes at the first med tent. I hopped back on my bike and slowly pedaled away. Noting pain all over my body I considered taking the DNF, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror had I decided to pursue that option. 7 months of my life was dedicated to this race. The social events missed, the 4:30AM Saturday wake ups to go ride 100 miles, the missed sleep… I just couldn’t give up. So, I struggled on. My sweat and the wind peeled away at the tape adhesive and band aids until they had all fallen off and I was left bleeding onto my bike – I had to stop again at another Medical Tent on the return out-n-back from Duplessis. Another 7 minutes had gone (see the second flat line?). Unfortunately for me, the nonsense didn’t end – as I had dropped my chain 2 more times before the 6:15 hour ride was finished. Throwing my bike to a volunteer while wiping away grease and blood is something I never want to do again. I got into transition and heard  some encouraging words and switched to runner mode and took off towards the change tent.

Kcal consumption: I had 1,200 kcal in my bike bento box mainly consisting of clif and complex carbs. I also had a full tube of Himalayan Pink Salt that I would lick every 15-20 minutes. 3.5 bottles of Gatorade and 3 bottles of water.

T2: 3:54 – Quite uneventful. Grabbed my running shoes and belt and my pickle juice and pink Himalayan salt and I took off.

“Run”: 4:52:57

Honestly, I had to take a break before coming back to this section and continuing to write. I’m a decent runner. I ran my first mile in September 2014 and my marathon best is mid 3:3X. My half best is 1:34. I’m not slow. I’m not fast, but I’m decent. Never in my entire life did I imagine I would have to do what I did.

My first half of the marathon was a reasonable 1:5X, however, by mile 14 my injuries caught up with me and I just couldn’t get my body to run. I really tried. I began to negotiate with myself “OK, walk .5 and run .5”, but both of my hips just would not listen. One side had obvious road rash that burned and the other… something just wasn’t right from the impact and it was pulling on my calf.

I considered dropping out. But, it’s just so damn disrespectful to drop out in this sport. You admit defeat. The distance beat you. But, triathletes are a different type of athlete. Seldom do we allow ourselves to be overcome. So I said to myself “I don’t care whether you’ll cross that like at 16:59, you’re crossing that line if you have crawl over it” So began my 12-mile walk/hobble/limp. For the difficultly of walking 12 miles with both hips injured or the mental aspect of simply walking 12 miles… I have never been so demoralized in my entire life. Walking for 12 miles is difficult enough but having people cheer you on felt like salt on the wound, I understand their intention was completely pure but I didn’t see it that way. Every cheer, “bravo” and “you got this” felt like a stab. Mentally, I was beyond defeated. I know my usual race reports are funny and cheery but I am honestly so disappointed I can’t even make a joke out of this one.

This sport WILL humble you. Last Sunday was a perfect example of that. I refuse to scratch my head over the events that transpired. Looking back, I could have done nothing to prevent this.

Looking back, 6 days later, I guess this embodies the spirit of triathlon. I didn’t give up. I could have stopped but didn’t. I finished in 12:47, almost 2 hours later than I was on track for. I understand that some people would be elated with this finish time, but, when the things you put on hold for 8 months while having 5am wake up calls for the weekend pay off in such a manner it’s tough to pat yourself on the back.

As I sit here on my bed with some road rash still bleeding I keep trying to think what I could have done to prevent this. Unfortunately… It’s nothing. Your day can always be derailed (had to put at least one bad pun in) by anything. The important part is that you dust yourself off. Wipe the blood off your bike and keep moving. I’m not sure how long these scabs and hip pains will persist but I hope to at least toe the start line at Ironman 70.3 AC. I’m signed up for IMLP 2019 and I plan to have some retribution then. Congrats to all the finishers and I’m sorry for not making this race report less of a vent.

We all enter this sport with some reason, goal or objective. On top of the health benefits there’s another important factor that comes into play in long distance triathlon. You need to humble yourself and respect the distance. Because if you don’t, it will humble you if you aren’t already humble. Respect the distance. As many triathletes, I’m a Type A and I do well in defeat. Once I’m 100% I promise to come back stronger, faster and more focused next year. Sadly, the disappointment still looms. Most of us get one chance a year to prove ourselves on the long course and last Sunday I failed to do that. However, what I did succeed at is learning some lessons and humbling myself.