Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ironman Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant goes all out for the Ironman event and the race is at the top of my list of favorites.  Ed and I flew up to Canada on Thursday and met up with our hosts Mark and Caroline for a memorable weekend.  The race itself was such a small part of the overall experience that included plenty of good times and amazing experiences.  The pre and post event festivities and company luckily made up for a pretty rough day at the office.  If you have not been up to Mont Tremblant, be sure to add it to your list.  I garuntee you will leave with an amazing experience.  Even if your race is the slowest you've ever completed (it was) or the weather made the day brutal (it did), you will still leave with a smile on your face.  Heck, I started my IMMT race experience with an DNF 2 years ago and have been coming back ever since.  As for this year, here's how it went down:

Race morning started early with a 3:30 breakfast and 5:00 arrival at the race site.  Ed and I wanted to be there early to make sure I had plenty of time to take care of transition details for any last minute issues.  I was lucky we erred on the early side because as I was unloading the bike I noticed something wasn’t right with the bike.  Normally, the C-Bear bearings hum along smoothly but not today.  I looked over the newly-installed IceFriction chain and realized it was installed incorrectly!  Instead of being threaded through the rear derailleur correctly, it came out on the wrong side of the pulley guide.  Ed and I pulled on our headlamps and I dismantled the pulley cage to make it right.  Small screws in the grass in the dark in a hurry under stress is not a great combination, but I was able to get everything back together and rolling smoothly.  Disaster averted.

After the impromptu shop work, the rest of the morning went smoothly and I was ready for the race.  Mont Tremblant really does put on a first class event and this year included a JET FLYOVER for the start of the race!  I went to work immediately and three of us established a break quite quickly.  The swim was relatively rough and non-wetsuit so it really played to my strengths.  Before I knew it, I was leading the group onto land (only to be outrun for the swim honors) and feeling pretty strong.  After a quick look back I knew we had done the job of creating a gap to the field.  The long run to transition allowed for time to pull down the BlueSeventy PZ4TX and pull up the Wattie Ink speed suit. 

By the time I hit T1 I was ready to attack the bike aboard the Dimond and maintain the advantage out of the water.Unfortunately, my body wasn’t quite ready to rev the engine in the cold, wet morning and my two co-leaders out of the water were quickly out of sight.  I felt like my legs were made of lead and after 20 minutes I had convinced myself that today wasn’t going to be my day.  The wind and rain started much earlier than originally forecasted and the external storm mirrored my internal struggles.    I was supposed to be the one up the road but instead I kept getting time reports that I was going backwards.  Ironman is very much a mental battle and I was losing.  

Fellow Dimond athlete Jordan Rapp came by around mile 40 and I was still not in my groove.  By the half way mark, I was in 4th and joined by a group of 4 more that included eventual winner Chris Leiferman.  Fortunately,  I was able to tag along with that group but still just couldn’t get any sort of rhythm.  It was a terrible feeling knowing that I wasn’t performing to my expectations.  I really just survived the rest of the ride and endured the weather.  I stuck with my First Endurance nutrition plan (so I thought... more later) and kept the calorie intake steady while hoping for a spark of energy.  Sometimes simply pressing on is a victory.  This race was definitely one of those days.

The last descent into T2 was crowded, wet, and technical.  The Dimond and Alto wheels handled beautifully, but the unknown of lapped age group athletes made me a tentative descender.  The race director himself was out in the pouring rain in the middle of the road urging everyone to slow down and be safe (Merci, Dominique).  I lost a bit of time to the group coming down the hill, but after last year’s Rev3 Knoxville hospital trip I wasn’t going to be a hero.  Safely off the bike in 8th, I did a mental reset and told myself that the race was just starting.  I generally consider myself a mentally strong athlete but the race up to this point was proving otherwise.  I had 3 hours to make a change.

On to the run, I settled into an eerily familiar situation with Paul Ambrose.  We ran together for a decent chunk of last year’s race but this year he pulled ahead pretty quickly.  Working to change my negative mindset, I settled in and decided to play the long game.

By the halfway mark of the run I was finally starting to get in a groove.  I had moved into 6th place and started to close the gap on Paul in 5th.  The competitive mindset that had eluded me for the first 7 hours of the race finally clicked into place.  In retrospect, the change in mental status really highlighted just how much I'd given up early in the race.  This is something I will need to address moving forward so it doesn't become a habit!  By mile 18, I was running stride for stride with Paul and feeling strong.  I was really just biding my time until the last stretch of hills going into town to make my move.  My confidence was back and I even started to enjoy the rain!  Unfortunately,  I started to notice GI issues creeping in and around mile 22 I had to make an emergency detour to the port-a-potty.  I believe the combination of lower than prudent water intake due to the cold/wet weather and too much caffeine from my Pre-Race tabs was my undoing.  I failed to follow Robert's #1 rule for nutrition (scroll to last question in article) and paid the price.  After my stop, I had lost any chance to run myself back into 5th and knew I had a 10 minute cushion on 7th place.  The rest of the race was a steady run simply focused on keeping the glutes tight and avoiding a potentially embarrassing situation!

I finished in 6th place, which is 2 spots lower on the podium than last year and over10 minutes slower.  I wasn't satisfied but thanks to my support crew I didn't have time to dwell and mope.  After congratulating my other competitors and a quick massage, we were quickly in celebration and war story mode (after a few more visits to the bathroom!).  My now-traditional Coco Pazzo post-race meal was fantastic and plans for a 2017 return visit already started to take shape.  I'm lucky to have incredible people and companies supporting me.  A race like this where not everything went well makes this abundantly clear.  Thank you to anyone who has been a part of the journey.  From my family and friends to my sponsors to the volunteers and race production team at Mont Tremblant, thank you for helping me gain a bit of character and experience.  You are invaluable.

Looking back, my mental strength and nutrition plan are generally two of my most dependable aspects and I screwed up on both of them!  The end result is a race that was not exactly satisfying.  I may not have been able to win the day given Chris's impressive IM debut, but I should have been able to be in the mix.  My expectations for this distance are starting to get pretty high and that leaves little room for error.  On the upside, I'm proud of my ability to turn around my mindset on the run and actually pleased that my times weren't further from expectations given the mistakes on the day.   My fitness is great and my body is healthy moving on to IM Chattanooga in 5 short weeks.  I'm already itching to rectify my mistakes and put together a complete race.  Stay tuned!

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