Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ironman Mont Tremblant 2012

The inaugural Ironman Mont Tremblant fell on August 19 this year. I signed up last year with the desire to figure out what sort of nutritional changes I could make to be coherent through the last half of the marathon. My training this season was different than in the past. I had less quantity and much more quality. I think I can safely say I did very little fluff along the way. Having done two Ironman races in the past the newbie effect was gone. I knew I could finish it and the key was figuring out how to go faster, and perhaps more importantly, to effectively fuel. Race morning dawned clear and chilly at 47 degrees. My friend Alison and I planned to head to transition at 5am, get marked, stock our bikes and then head back to our rooms for stretching, bathroom, final prep- and then to make our way to the swim start at 6:15am. All of this went well. I loaded my three bike bottles with Powerbar Perform, pumped my tires with a borrowed pump (a little sketchy), got marked and headed back. There is something so simple about the Ironman distance race as everything is already there, packed and organized. At least that is the plan. At 6:15am after I stretched and chomped on a powerbar, we met back in the lobby to walk to the race start. We were in a massive flow of people down the road. It was insane. My adrenalin was starting to pump and I did my weave and duck and we wound our way to the beach, zipped up the suits, and went up to toe the water's edge. Having never done a beach start in an Ironman, I will admit now that I was petrified of what might happen when 2600 people charged into the lake on foot and dropped to horizontal. So that I didn't have to find out, we stayed in the front. The crowd was crazy! The military did a low flyover in an F16 for the start of the Pro wave. It was awesome. And then they did it again for the AG wave and we were off. I swam as fast as I could for about 50 strokes. People were all around me instantly. I found myself on male feet with no way to go around so several times I just chilled out and swam- telling myself that wasting energy to go around would be stupid. This went on nearly the entire way out to the turn buoy of this one lap course. I stayed a little wide on the buoy but it was all fine. Around the back side of the course and then around the next turn and I was on my way home. I felt rested and pumped so I played a little game, started passing people, catching feet, floating for a bit, passing a little more, until the end was in sight. It got very shallow so we had to stand up and run the last section. I was looking at the clock and seeing that I was in the 1:02 range, but the run through the water to the mat took long enough that I was just over 1:03. I was good with it- a PR even with the running in and out of the water. The jog up the chute to the transition area was long- but carpeted. Also crowded with people. The people lining the sides were insane. It was so loud and spectators were going crazy- I couldn't help but to smile and enjoy the run up. Once in the tent there was plenty of room. Volunteers grabbed my bag and actually put my socks on my wet feet and then my shoes. I probably should've done that myself, but I was buckling up my helmet and sticking nutrition in my pockets. Jogged out to my bike rack, couldn't find where it was, the racks near my bike were FULL which indicated that I was one of the early women in my AG out of the water (I was in the largest age group), and I took my bike and headed out onto the course. The course is awesome. It is made up of two out and back stretches which at first sounds a little boring, but not at all. The first section is all highway. An entire lane is closed down, the roads are well paved and wide. I did find that for much of that first section I had to do some coasting because frankly, many people ride like idiots. There were guys passing on my right, guys passing on my left then slowing a lot, guys riding in little packs... I saw a lot of motorcycles but not any violations being handed out. It was great when the first big hill came up on the return trip. It is very long and significant. That broke up the packs and I was finally able to start riding my own race. Could I have ridden this first 40 miles faster? Probably. But it would've been a lot of pounding pedals to escape reckless riders. I knew just about all of these guys were going to drop soon. There was one woman too, in pink compression calf sleeves who kept on passing me and had the worst pedal stroke. It was annoying, but I let her go a few times too and once we hit the big hills, I never saw her again. Anyway, after the highway you get this cute little excursion into a town which has a quaint main street you cycle down, then up this rather painful little hill, around a little lollipop and back through town. Apparently this was added because the town wanted the race to come through. It's a diversion and helps break up the 112 miles, so it's ok. After that you're on the hilly trip back toward the start. Of course you have to turn off and head out to the most difficult part of the course an out and back with some very serious climbs. As a person who loves to climb, I thought it was great but admittedly I was also loving my granny cassette that I put on for the race. I rode it all comfortably, nearly all in the saddle and enjoyed some free speed on the downhills. It's a bit like a rollercoaster so if you enjoy up and down over flat, it's the perfect course. And do it all again! Second time was great for me. I had the course just about to myself and rode exactly as I pleased and enjoyed lots of peace and quiet and eating and drinking. And the nutrition piece. I had set my Garmin alerts to remind me when to eat. And now I admit my biggest error. I set the alert wrong. It was going off to often. Suffice it to say I'd eaten everything minus one gel by 80 miles. I wasn't worried, I had extra in my pockets, but I was ill. My stomach felt disgusting and full. I had to back off for awhile which was also fine, but I did back off on my fluid intake which was actually essential as I was counting on my sodium from that source. I probably came up about 48oz short in the end. I was sort of laughing at myself out there once I figured out what had happened. The key for me was that my head was clear, my energy was solid, I was just a little, um, fat. Still, rode it all well until near the final turnaround when after a day of very 'gentle' shifting (my chain had been falling off the outside occasionally) my chain dropped off the outside!! I was rather irritated but hopped off, got all greasy and put the sucker back on and headed off again. That was my only mechanical issue. Probably about 1 minute worth of time lost. The ride back on that last stretch is absolutely fun plus you get to crank past all those athletes just riding up the big hills and feel smug and accomplished. I zipped into transition, volunteers grabbed my bike, I left my shoes on the pedals and started to 'jog' to the tent. My legs felt horrid. I'd been dealing with a significant hamstring problem so I was worried, but this felt more like hip flexors and tight hips with just a little bit of hamstring play right off the bike. I hobble jogged into the tent, popped on the running shoes I should not have worn (too new), grabbed a banana and set off. Quick pitstop, ate the banana and tried to ease the legs into the run. The first miles have hill- and I was hitting around 8:45 which was about a minute slower per mile than I'd hoped, but I just had to let the legs do what they could do. Very soon I noticed my head felt a tiny bit light so I popped some clif blocks. My fingers were tingling. This made me nervous. I pulled salt from my pocket and popped two at the first water stop. I drank at every stop- powerbar perform until around mile 20 when I added in Coke. I really drank some too. I felt better throughout the run, but my legs were definitely NOT planning on doing anything other than a rather pathetic plod along. At some points I focussed on picking up my knees and that helped but the hamstring was a little rough and that whole side was landing on the ground at a funny angle and I knew blisters were forming on those toes. Anyway, the key for me on the run was just to keep running and drinking and eating so I did. I had a plan to eat my shots every two miles and I did. The tingling in my fingers abated a bit and then would come back but it never got out of control and I kept my head clear the whole time. Going uphill was slow going, but again, kept up the run. So, I ran a 3:54 which in the end is a PR for me on the IM course and I am kind of amazed. The run course is forgiving in that you run about half of it on an old railway bed that is made up of some sort of hardpack gravel. Perfect surface and flat. Aid stations were stocked, volunteers in droves and plenty of stuff to go around. Because it is out and back twice you see people the whole time. I saw the pros go by. On my second lap many people were starting their first lap. That doesn't always work in my favor because they are often going slower so I have to keep on myself not to slow down too. The very end of the run is up a hill and then down a cobblestone path through town and it was totally cool and people were yelling like crazy making everyone feel like rockstars and I threw my hands in the air, saw my time of 10:39 and thought how the hell did I do that? A PR of over 30 minutes without ever digging deep into a pain cave and with actually ENJOYING the day. Two volunteers took me out of the finish area, I was a tiny bit wobbly and they handed me off to a young medic who was over the top kind and did not leave my side until she was totally sure I was OK, which I was, so I headed out to find my crew. The only downside to the day was my gut but this is nothing new for me. I can't eat for a long time after events like this. I'm always curious how people are sitting around eating pizza right after they race. I went back to my hotel, showered, started taking in water and put my feet up for a bit. A couple hours later I was better and went out to have a small amount of food, still not really hungry, and watch the midnight finishers. Totally rocking down there, we had a great time. Slept well that night, woke up the next morning and started eating non-stop for about 12 hours- raw and grilled vegetables, sushi, potato chips... weird things I was craving which I tend to just go with. And then the drive home. In summary: Do this race! Amazing in every, volunteers, party, location, course... The only thing that sucked was the dinner/meeting on Friday which I'd never do again as it took hours and hours and had to be in French and English and the food was minimal and poor and by the time they got to the info part, we were all zoned out. So, skip the dinner unless you've never been to an IM and you want to watch the same promo videos they show at every one. Two cool things at the meeting- the drummers- sweet! and this guy who did the 'original' Ironman in his cut-off denim shorts 34 years ago. And he raced on Sunday- 16 hours! He was great. I finished 3rd in my AG- only 2 minutes behind second (yes, easily could've made that up on bike) and 10 minutes off first. More than met my expectations. And perhaps most importantly, I really enjoyed the day.