Monday, October 20, 2014

Ask Me Anything : My Answers

You asked, I answered...

What next?

More short triathlons and a few 70.3 because I like the distance a lot. Another Ironman distance? Most likely in 2016 (Coeur d'Alene, Whistler or Penticton). But only after the pain in my knees goes away. But don't count 2015 out for an IM if I feel really, really good after Muskoka 70.3. We shall see.

Will you get an Ironman tattoo?

So many people asked me the question and the answer is... I don't think so. Not yet anyway. I don't have any tattoos, and for my first, I'd rather have tattooed the initials of my boys or something that makes me think of my family than the logo of a corporation that has started to act rather questionably recently.

You reached the top of the mountain. The natural tendency is to look up and wonder what to conquer next -- and to feel lost when you see nothing. Have you stopped to admire the view? Have you looked back at the path you took to get where you are? Can you still see where you were, all those many months ago, before that first run? What about the prep for that first 50k on the bike? Did you take the time to recognize that?

The answer is YES, yes, a thousand times YES. I could not be more grateful for even finishing this race, given the challenges that were thrown my way. I did reflect after each hard workout, each building block completed (more or less successfully) and thanked my body for not failing me. However, and here is where I may upset some people, I did not think of this Ironman as something really extraordinary. From outside looking in, it is certainly remarkable, but for me,  as I marched towards this goal, it never felt out of reach. I always considered it like my longest training day, with some memorable perks along the way. And once I did reach the end of that day, I didn't feel an epiphany or anything transcendental. It was over and that was it. The fact that I didn't have another goal to look forward to is what hurt the most. And it doesn't have to be an Ironman - even a 5K race would keep me happy. Something, anything to look forward to that involves my body moving. I spent 5 years now patting myself on the back for getting out of depression and climbing mountain after mountain to reach impressive goals. But there comes a moment when you have to let go of the past and start living IN the moment. You have to make each day count. Sure I do deserve to spend a month on the couch with my feet up, but I can't give up the fire that gets me OFF that couch, it's too much of a risk taking for my own health.

What has been your FAVOURITE part about no longer being in Ironman training?

Hands down, being able to spend more time with my family and friends in the weekends. Now I can say YES to a movie night or a brunch and it makes my day. I just went treetop trekking with the boys on Sunday (after going to work at 5am)!!

What's your favourite long ride? It's Saturday, and you have 4 hours to spend, so where would you go?

I really love going to Erin or Schomberg for coffee and treats (80-100km). The ride is not too exhausting, there are some rolling hills and fast descents, and good people to say hi to, like Brian Travis from Erin Forks Bicycle shop.

What's your religious affiliation, and how does it affect you motivation?

I have no religious affiliation and it doesn't bother me at all. It's probably the last thing in the world that would affect my motivation. I'm with Darwin though, so if I get to blame someone for a missed workout it's only myself and my human limitations, like the need for sleep, or the hormones. I also blame my negative "ape index" for not being fast enough in the water.

What movies are you most likely to pick if you are going to put on something you have already seen?

I currently really want to see "Across the Universe" (2007) again (it would be the 3rd time). I love a movie with interesting visuals and that puts me in a good mood. But the following are always a staple in our household: "The Fifth Element" (1997) (too many to count), "Taxi" (1998) (the French version, maybe 10 times), "Dirty Dancing" (1987) (must have seen at least 35 times since I was a teen) or "Lost Highway" (1997) (because I still haven't figured it out after seeing it half a dozen times). What's up with the years ending in 7??

Can you write a bit about balancing work/family/kids etc with Ironman training? Did you ever feel guilty about things like long rides?

No doubt that it is hard, but you must let go of the guilt, or you're going to stress yourself too much, which leads to burnout and injuries. You have to think of this "journey" as something you do for yourself, but that your family members can get inspired to follow in their own lives - and it's not about racing an Ironman or any long distance in particular - but the dedication, the  consistency, the drive to success and overcoming challenges that are life lessons for anyone willing to be by your side and help you achieve your dreams. A very good piece of advice that I read once in a book (I think it was Be IronFit) is to sit down with your family members and make this decision together. You will have to explain what it will entail and get a buy in from everyone, but especially your significant other. It will be a family "sacrifice" so to speak, but if you balance it well enough, you can still have 1 weekend/month where you can squeeze in some family time. We tried to make some of our racing weekends interesting for the kids and stay overnight in a hotel and visit the surroundings as well, like going to Niagara Falls when we raced Welland. We also made our trip to Mt Tremblant the yearly family vacation, so that everyone gets something out of it. As to work? Meh. I thought I would be more fatigued, but somehow my body adjusted and I didn't feel much impact during the day. If you eat well and rest appropriately, you will recover fast enough to be ready for more. Last but not least, balance is the key. I truly believe that you do not need to train more than 15h/week at your peak for a 70.3, with an average between 10-12h, especially when you have a family and a full time job. Quality over quantity and don't forget to take a full rest day (no workouts of any kind, not even yoga). You can also use this day to make dinner, fold the laundry or play a board game with the kids.

Personally I am not a morning person and I did most of my workouts in the evening, with the biggest volume in the weekends. And yes, I felt guilty at times, but knowing that there would be some quality time spent with my family once a month always helped to let go. And truth to be told, I could not have done it without Zin. He made dinner every night and took care of most of house chores - it's a family commitment, al right.

How do your family members support and keep up with your IM ambitions?

See previous answer. They do not ask too much from me, which makes me a very lucky person. My boys are teenagers and don't need constant attention, and I have NO clue whether I could have done this with younger children. Looking back, I was in a much worse mental and physical state when I was a new mom to even exercise. Maybe if I had taken up triathlon back then it would have helped, but I'll never know, unless I get pregnant again, yikes!! (not gonna happen)

So, the answer is - they are mature enough to understand. I want to believe that they are proud of me and this new "lifestyle" encourages them to live a healthy and active life... but nothing is a given and only time will tell. They are helping me by not getting in trouble, staying in school, getting good grades and showing me that they don't need me to look over their shoulder in order to succeed (even though Zin and I still do a minimum to keep them "on track" so to speak). In my opinion, it teaches them to be adventurous, independent and resilient.

And if they join me in a race or workouts, they know that I am always looking forward to it.

THANK YOU all for your questions!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Life after the Ironman / Ask Me Anything

It will be soon 2 months post IMMT and I still haven't written any of those navel gazing posts about my life "as an Ironman". But here it is, you cannot escape it now. I've been asking myself what to write because this whole time felt like a 12 step recovery process that took me through all kinds and ups and downs. But I must be at least at step 5 or 7 right now and thankfully I haven't yet signed up for another Ironman, which makes this post as objective as it could be, or so I hope.

Euphoria
The week after the Ironman - all happy, all the time. In retrospective, I blame the endorphins for it. Not only I didn't feel much pain and I even thought that my knees were healed thanks to this race, but I was also ready to climb mountains and swim across oceans and bike across Canada and the US. I actually continued not to feel any pain for about a month, which allowed me to hike up Mt Tremblant, walk 10km a day for 4 days in NYC, and even sign up and complete another (sprint) triathlon.

Withdrawal
After coming back to work at the beginning of September, I was convinced that I had to sign for another Ironman race and I found myself hitting several registration pages and abandoning the process while flipping the card to grab the numbers on the back. Every single day, I could not keep myself from thinking about racing again. The fact that I had kept my bracelet and made the silly promise to myself and everyone around that I would only remove it when I would sign up for another one, was like pouring gasoline on the fire.

Depression
I was also crying, a lot. For no reason, and I was coming back home every day, feeling lost without a goal, without that shiny carrot that helps me moving forward. At the same time, the aches returned to into my joints and muscles - back, knees, hips, neck - the usual suspects - but all at once for good measure. And of course, I had maxed up all my RMT, ART, PT, Acupuncturist and Chiropractor allowances. No more TLC from medical professionals  - just me and my foam roller (ugh). I was constantly wallowing in self pity and it was rather pathetic to watch.

Acceptance
After volunteering at Muskoka 70.3, and once my birthday came along, I finally made peace with signing up for another 140.6 "right now". I decided that I would do at least Muskoka 70.3 next year (and will probably sign up early to take advantage of the early bird price) and continue to work towards a healthier, stronger ME in the meantime. It's going to be my gift to myself - a more able body to take me through more Ironmans - but only when I feel ready physically to tackle another one. I am 40, for crying out loud, and I only started "playing triathlon" 3 years ago, because it looked like a lot of fun. I was not born or built like an elite athlete, so for me, it's all about enjoying life and the process of tackling new challenges - not qualifying for Kona or finishing on a podium - the kind of discipline that those feats demand sounds absolutely terrifying. I choose to believe that I am not defined by my performance or my physical appearance, but rather what I have in my heart... and if it takes me to pushing new limits, so be it, but if not... No biggie.

Boredom
Not working out in 3 different sports like before left the space to boredom, and after a few weeks of sitting on my ass and not doing anything - nada - I could feel the mojo leaving me and even thinking "what if" triathlon was not the answer to my happiness after all. I got in a sort of funk. The less I was moving, the less I wanted to get moving. I just didn't feel like doing anything, but at the same time I was hating myself for it.

Anticipation
Once I finished the Lakeside Tri and the pain returned with full force in my legs, I made the decision to start working with a personal trainer. I know that it will be a long process, but I am finally ready to let go of my current fitness and focus on the things that I can improve, such as imbalances and weak glutes. I am looking forward to starting with fresh legs. I have not run since Lakeside, exactly a month ago and I plan not to run until my knees and ITBs give me exactly zero signs of distress, even if it takes them three more months. I will continue biking, ellipticalling and swimming, and of course, strength training - all in moderation - but not running.

Dedication
So now I am back to training, but I am not following a specific program. I am just trying to stay active and keep the blood and the endorphins flowing. I talked to a coach once and I ended feeling pretty shitty about myself when I admitted not being able to train without external accountability and/or a coach. I cried for 2 days afterwards and I was ready to unfriend half of my contacts on Facebook, but eventually I got over it. Not everyone IS a coach or has her innate drive and dedication. Some of us live with this thing called dependability and don't get me wrong - I know that it's a crutch and a handicap at once, but I am now dedicated to reducing some of this dependability and stand on my own a little more... baby steps, yes, even at 40.

Okay, so that's 7 mental steps to recovering from the Ironman. Are there MORE? I am looking for feedback from those who made the trip down this rabbit hole and came back alive. Do I need to hire a shrink? Or do I need to sign up for another one to put an end to my misery? Here's that dependability again... Oy vey.

But enough with the questions. For the next post, I decided to answer yours. Ask Me Anything - for real, and sorry that I don't have Reddit. Nothing is taboo around here.

(I did not include any photos on purpose. Are you sad?)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

40 steps to 40: Eleven months update

Did you know that I turned 40? Yep. It happened. Quietly and uneventfully. I didn't have a party or invited guests, but my colleagues bought me a cake and sang Happy Birthday to me in three languages.
Hubbs also made me cake (twice!), a non-dairy Far aux Pruneaux (which I devoured with orgasmic pleasure) and bought me a gift which I had been coveting for years (an iPad Mini). So, maybe there wasn't so much Bang! about this birthday, but I lived to tell the tale. I consider Goal #40 complete! Remember, I make them rules. Just like I decided to continue with those goals until the end of the year, because.

To recap, I have the newly completed goals below:

1. Finish Ironman Mt. Tremblant
DONE! You can read the whole saga about the swim, bike and run by following the links.

2. Clean up my diet
To further update you on this, I had an official allergy test done and I AM allergic to milk after all. All types of milk, but my body gets more or less rebellious whether it's cow, goat or sheep. I was told to avoid them all. I am now supposed to carry an EpiPen with me at all times. Yikes. Not fun. My oldest son is also allergic, so misery keeps company... at least I have one more reason to stay put and not go YOLO on my body whenever I feel like it. I have to be a perfect example of discipline. Truth is, whenever I have dairy, it feels like my insides are about to explode and I am super miserable and regret putting myself through this punishment. I am still a work in progress from this point of view, but man, it's hard... there is milk EVERYWHERE.
12. Go skinny dipping
Vacation, cottage, private access to lake, warm water, need to say more? DONE!

15. Bike the Caledon Trailway
DONE! Initially the plan was to ride about 80km on it, but I didn't get the chance until Zin asked me to ride beside him and carry his nutrition for the longest run before his next half marathon. I rode 24km at 13kph. A glorious fall day with ALL THE COLORS on the trailway - I say it counts!!
16. Climb a mountain
DONE! Mt. Tremblant, on the Thursday following the race. I may write a separate post for it because I have too many pictures to share. It was amazeballs. Quick look at Strava:
17. Volunteer at a race
DONE! (again) I volunteered at Ironman Muskoka 70.3 (again) and I had a blast putting medals around the finishers' necks, which deserves a separate post as well. These are piling up already... just like my Ironman bracelets (I did end up removing those on my birthday).
26. Go on a date night x 4
1 done, 3 to go!! We saw "Gone Girl" and I had absolutely NO clue what the movie was about and I think it was even better this way. I loved it, really well done!

24. Spend a whole day at the movies
Yeah, speaking of movies... I am too old for this shit. Two max, and I'm done. I will replace this goal with another one that is more adequate for my age.

27. Make something with my cork collection
DONE! I saw this at the cottage that we rented in Mt. Tremblant. Here, on the mantel... it looks artsy, right? (you may have to squint to see it)
And this is my version:
I tried getting drunk, but it didn't work. We need more wine.

30. Try paddle boarding
I said I would try this, but then another opportunity arose... and I decided to scratch this goal for... Riding a horse!
And that's it for the goals on the list. However, I am going to add to it a few more "fun" things that I managed to fit in and that I could not have anticipated when I made the list. 

I went to see a hockey game live (my first ever!) with hubbs and the boys. It was a great game that finished with shoot-outs and, cherry on the cake, the Leafs won!!
I went to New York with my mom for her birthday and we saw A LOT of tennis! Federer, Tsonga, Bouchard, Dimitrov, Sharapova, Robredo, Lisiki, Kyrgios and many more. Spent three days at the US Open and walking around Manhattan and ... more in another blog post (am I shooting myself in the foot here??)
I also saw (and took a picture with) Naked Cowboy. Because New York, yo!
Last but not least, my boobies got a squeeshy hug today from a machine that takes pictures and makes funny whirring sounds. Yep, once you're 40, you get to have Mammograms. Have you booked yours yet?
And that's enough fun for this post. It's making me depressed knowing that I only have 3 days left of vacation before the end of the year. Who's got more cake? I'm all out!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

2014 Lakeside Sprint Triathlon Race Report

I told myself before the Ironman that if I was going to survive the day, I would participate in this last triathlon of the season "just for fun". I knew that my friend Marlene was going to be there, Zin was already signed up and so was Phaedra, the 40-45 AG champion extraordinaire, who most likely was going to leave me in her dust. But since all are awesome peeps, I knew that I was going to have a great time. My legs, not so much.

On Wednesday before the race I had a moment of panic when I realized that I was not yet registered. Oops. In retrospective, I should have checked the weather app before clicking OK, but ... whatever. Rain or shine, I had no reasons to back up now, I had raced in worse conditions after all.

As to training for it, *cough cough* -- since the Ironman I went on my bike once for a 50km ride with a friend from the tri club, and I ran 2x1600m on the track once... sloooooooow, just to make sure that my legs were still in working order. And I swam twice in open water, more for relaxation than anything . In my mind, this was going to be a a day to be more social than competitive and so I had zero stress going into it... but I admit being a bit puzzled while deciding what to wear. Eventually I decided on wearing my Cour tri top, my old black Sugoi tri short and my cycling jersey that I bought in Mt. Tremblant. That's what IM gear is for, right? Bragging rights forever, yo!

The drive was going to be about 2h long, so we woke up again at some ungodly hour that started with a 4 if I remember properly. We got dressed warmly, knowing that temperatures were not going to raise much more over 10 degrees Celsius. We also took our rain jackets since a thunderstorm was on the menu, just because Mother Nature was in a pissing mood I guess.
We ate breakfast and drove to Lakeside... hoping to find a coffee shop nearby, but alas none was to be found. However a "premium" parking spot was available, just beside the portapotties. I was secretly hoping that Phaedra's friends from Real Deal Racing were going to be there with cookies, bananas and coffee. But they decided to skip this party, and we were left miserably un-caffeinated.

We took our bikes in transition, then we went to pick up our bibs, get body marked and leg chipped. We returned in transition to set up our stuff, then we went back to the car to remove the extra layers of clothes and make a last stop by the portaloos. It was still raining, and the idea of putting on my wetsuit was a challenge that I was not ready to tackle, yet I knew it was necessary due to the low temperatures. From what I had heard, the water was much warmer than the air, so I was eager to get myself immersed in this hot tub, or at least that's what I wanted my brain to believe.

I am so thankful that I decided to bring my old XTerra instead of my ROKA because the operation took only a minute given how much looser this wetsuit is. Plus I wasn't planning on breaking any records, so the less stress the better. As expected, the water was nice and warm, but once I finished my little warm-up loop, I had to resort to jumping jacks so I don't turn into an icicle. I was in the third wave and the minutes were not going by fast enough. But once the gun went off, I knew that I had to swim hard to keep my blood flowing. I jumped in with no less than 6 dolphin dives, 6 more than in my entire career of triathlon age grouper, then tried to stay close to the buoys, and latch onto feet whenever possible. This was a triangle shaped course (just like at Professor's Lake, yay) - but not quite as peaceful. There were also lots of weeds, but thankfully deep enough that my hands were not touching. Overall I thought that I swam really hard, but once I got out of the water my watch showed the slowest time ever on this distance. Oh well, whatever happened, happened. Not going to dissect this swim forever. I am pretty happy with my sighting and the fact that I ended the season without drowning.
I made my (very short) way into transition and there I decided that I didn't need any extra layers. For some reason, I was boiling inside. I don't know what I was thinking... but at the time it seemed to be the right decision. By looking at the race pictures, it seems that I was in the minority to go on the bike with only one (soaked) layer, but hey, I like living dangerously. See? No jacket, no arm warmers, no socks... no problem! We'll talk about that later...
Sometimes I like to compare myself with a seal or something. My fat layer is thick enough to protect me from the elements, alright? Riding on...

Where was on my bike again? Ah, yes... out of transition and on the road. So what do I do, like in every other sprint that I did this year "for fun"? Hammer it, of course! On your leeeeeft! And man I love passing people! This race felt very crowded though... it was tough to stay legal, there just wasn't enough space between people, so for most of the time I found myself riding on the left for long stretches at a time, passing 5 bikes at once. There were a few rollers, but not the big hills that I was expecting after watching the pre-race video. Nothing much else to report... I ate a gel, a drank water, I peed, I tried to stay alert and hungry for a placement in top 10.

Just before the 10k turnaround a lady in my age group passed me and I made a pact with my legs that they were not going to fall off until I passed her back. And so I did quickly afterwards, then continued burning every cell in my quads until the end of the bike leg, heart rate through the roof, way above threshold... because racing all out was going to be the most fun I could have that day. That is, if I wasn't going to have a heart attack. Thankfully my heart stayed put and brought me safely through the dismount line, even though I looked like I was about to collapse.
Not many smiles in these photos!! That was freaking HARD! I managed to average 30kph with a perfect 40min split for 20km. Given my lack of speed training this year, I'll take it!!

Truth is, I was no longer feeling my hands and feet and running in those cleats without any feedback from my toes was interesting to say the least. I racked my bike, with difficulty since my hands were also numb and not very agile, then struggled with one of my socks for about 15 seconds, until I decided that it was not worth the effort. What difference it would have made when I had no feeling in my feet? I bet that even the most ginormous blood blister or a stress fracture would not have fazed my legs. So, for the first time ever, I put on my shoes and skipped the socks. Nothing new on race day? I keep forgetting about this detail ... but you never know until you try, and this was another opportunity with an outcome that didn't matter in the grand scheme of things, so I went for it!

I heard someone calling my name running out of transition, it was Cody Beals cheering on us mere mortals. That was awesome! And yes, he was already done with his race and I was just starting my run. With his 40kph bike average and a 17min run... D'UH!

Okay then... time to see what's left in those legs of mine. And the answer to that is... very little energy and a shitload of pain. I pushed hard again, heart beating out of my chest, but the hills were there to destroy me. Take this, shredded legs and achy knees! Oh and by the way, here's a million potholes and enough mud to keep you entertained. I tried to catch Marlene, but she was getting out of reach, running strong ahead of me... Knowing that this was her first tri this year and a comeback race from injury, it made me happy to see that she wasn't showing any signs of slowing down, which could only mean one thing: all systems A-OK and more races together in the future!! (Maybe? I hope... I like Marlene, she's all kinds of awesome).

I resolved to running my own pace and remaining on top of those potholes. And for good reason, as I saw another girl injuring her ankle just before the turn around. It was definitely not a day to let your guard down. I managed to keep my head in the game and finish under 30 minutes, far from my 5k PR, but good enough for 8th/24 in my AG with a total time of 1:29:00 (yes, again).
The pictures below are a good visual for everything that went on at Lakeside. It was not my favorite race because of the weeds in the lake, the shallow swim start and the crowded bike. The weather conditions were less than ideal too and I have been waiting for 10 days now to get hit by pneumonia. I might have escaped this time, but it was a close one. I am still not convinced that racing after mid September is a good idea, and I will definitely think twice next time that I sign up.
Time to wash my sneakers, say goodbye to my race buddies and call it a year. It's been an awesome one, with plenty of rewards. I made new friends, I set new PRs, I even got a handful of points in the Multisport Canada series to give me something to chew on for next year. I am still racing for fun, whatever that means in the spur of the moment, and that, my friends, is what keeps me moving forward... A perpetually moving target.
Until next time!

Friday, September 19, 2014

2014 Ironman Mt. Tremblant Race Report - The Run

Coming out of the tent with fresh new clothes, and the best looking tri kit that I have (thank you Coeur!), I did not want to spoil the feeling of starting anew with an unfortunate accident, so I jumped in a port-a-potty conveniently situated on the red carped and took care of some lingering business. With light feet and a light tummy, I was springy like a horny bunny.

I started running with my usual "all day long pace" (around 6:30min/km) and my plan was to keep it easy and relaxed and see how far my legs would take me without the dreaded pain that had taken over my knees 2 months prior. And oh surprise, I was feeling NO pain! One km, two km... the hills were looking nasty and my fitness wasn't quite there as I had pretty much given up running for 6 weeks before the Ironman, but I saw most people around me (going in the same direction, because in the opposite one was the fierce fight for the first place female and that was looking quite intense) walking up the hills and so I decided to follow suit. Nobody was there to judge, so why would I care?
We are all legit, dammit. Besides, there was still enough daylight to bask in, so ... smile and enjoy, the journey goes on and there is not a hiccup in sight. After 4km or so we arrived in the old Mt. Tremblant village where the landscape changed to flat and scenic as we reached "Le P'tit Train du Nord" trail. And just like a long train, I continued to hold my place in the stream of bodies, strongly decided not to walk again, unless I was going through a water station and I needed to grab something.

My fuel belt was already feeling heavy and I had no desire to drink anything from it for the time being. Remember my problem with boredom of the palate? Yeah, that can be annoying sometimes. At the first water station on the trail I had the choice between Coke, Red Bull, water and Perform (I think) and I took some Coke to see if my body tolerates it. No immediate adverse reaction and no problem for the next 4km... Win! The studies were there to prove it, drinking Coke in the last portion of an endurance event could enhance performance, and despite the fact that I stopped drinking pop in 2007, getting a little boost with a "gas expeller" side effect, was not going to be a choice to be ashamed of.

I also took a few orange slices to remove the sweet and sticky taste of Coke. My taste buds were already rebellious by then. I continued running steady with almost no walking breaks, still amazed at my lack of pain in the knees. Told you guys that adrenaline and endorphins are powerful drugs... you should do more of those, they're totally legal.

Right after I reached the end of the trail and turned around, it started raining again. Seriously, Mother Nature? Another temper tantrum, but this one did not last enough to spoil the day... maybe 10 minutes in total. We got a little wet, but it was rather refreshing. However my feet got soaked and I started looking forward to the fresh pair of socks that I had in my special needs bag. Soon enough I was back in the village, but there was still a way to go before the end of the loop. First, another chunk of trail in the opposite direction, not paved this time... and I had to watch my footing so I don't roll an ankle. One cannot be too careful on Ironman day, especially when everything is going so well!

Then back on the hills again... and who do I see with 3km to go? Zin!! There he was, he came to keep me company for a bit, although from the opposite side of the sidewalk so I don't get DQ'd or something. I was so paranoid... I wanted to give him my fuel belt and I started thinking of scenarios that would not qualify as "outside assistance" and came to the conclusion that I could just as well throw it inside a garbage can or on the ground and he could pick it up later... but I threw it at him anyway. He took this photo of me just minutes before, when he saw me emerging from the woods so to speak. I chose to keep the bottle of pickle juice with me though, as I never did a marathon without it.
I've got company, haha. I wonder if this picture is a good representation of the male/female participation ratio at this races. 7:1? Anyway, I had NO idea. 

I stopped at special needs where I sat for 2 minutes to change my socks - what a lovely feeling, like a new pair of feet - and grabbed a small box of Pringles. There was also a can of Red Bull in the bag, but since the aid stations had plenty of it and the Coke was working just as well, I decided to leave it. I was already looking classy enough with my chips and my bottle of pickle juice in hand.

Zin continued running "with" me for about 2km, then Wendy joined the party! I loved seeing both of them... and I was still so damn happy... My desire to sign up for another Ironman RIGHT THERE, RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT was consuming my brain. I almost didn't want it to end. I think I have a problem and no, it was not just temporary. I know what I'm talking about... it's now one month after the race and my fingers are still itching to grab the credit card out of my wallet.

With these silly thoughts in mind, I made it back to Mt Tremblant station where the crowds were loud and wild, already cheering on the Ironman finishers. I thought that starting the second loop was going to be hard, taking right instead of left just 50m from the finish line... But nope, I was on the roll and this party was all kinds of awesome! I was wondering if they had a disco ball at the finish... "You should be dancing, yeah!"


But back on the road, I felt lonely all of a sudden. The hills were looking meaner and steeper and my decision to walk them was starting to dread on me as my knee pain had returned and was at its peak whenever I was resuming the running. It was all manageable though and I was already looking forward to the flat section where I wouldn't have to stop.

I remember arriving on the trail with some daylight remaining, and almost wishing the photographers would still be there to capture us the "magic light". But nah, they were already gone and the lights were already turned on. Party poopers.

I drowned my sorrow in pickle juice. It tasted like heaven! No need to switch back to Coke until further notice, I could do just well with salt and vinegar. The nectar of the Gods, dudes!

I noticed that a lady was running close behind me and at some point she said that I was helping her to keep moving, or she would have stopped running a while ago... Now that was exactly what I/both needed, company to share the pain and the struggle. I asked her if the pace was ok and she said "perfect", but that she wanted to walk through the water stations... But of course, no problem with that, even though my knees preferred the relentless forward motion. I had a Tylenol 3 (codeine) with me in case things got really ugly, so that thought remained my safety net, along with the last minute mantra by Billy Ocean, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going" (read Part 1 for the background).

I learned that her name was Jane and that it wasn't her first Ironman, but at that particular moment, it was probably going to be her last. I wonder if she changed her mind since... ;-) It was definitely nice to have someone to chat with, and the kilometers went by one by one, rather uneventful. The night fell upon us way before the first turn around and it was dark in places and very quiet. Several times she felt bad for asking me to walk, but I kept reassuring her that it was no biggie. In a short delirious moment we even wondered if we could make it under 14h... but quickly abandoned the thought of being stressed by an arbitrary number. We knew that we still had a few hills ahead and most likely it was foolish to dream of significantly speeding up when we were actually fading down.

Once we reached the second turn around I told her that no matter what, we were going to stick together until the end. She asked me to promise her that I would run ahead and have my own moment at the finish line... That was a deal... if only I could still run by then. :-) The old village was now deserted, with only a few scattered people yelling at us "Lache pas!!" (don't give up), drinking beer in front of their houses. My own celebratory beer had to wait a little... Only 3 more kilometers... Wendy was there again, but I was out of words. The emotions were slowly taking over my tired self and I was dreaming of the finish line... Lights, music, Mike Reilly's voice, space blankets, and my family! I told Wendy that I was sorry for not being as talkative as before... But she knew and she didn't say a word. The pain in the knees was there in full force, but I was resolved not to take the T3 until after I become an Ironman. It makes it even more Ironman-er without drugs, right? Whatever my mind was tricking me into thinking, I was game. And tough, almost-Iron tough. Billy Ocean kind of tough (even though I wasn't looking for Jewels on the Nile).

As we were approaching the roaring crowds, I shared my mantra with Jane and she said, "isn't this a song by Billy Ocean"? What a woman, she knows her 80s too! It made me smile, just as we turned the corner onto the cobblestone path, surrounded by a sea of people. She said... go, go GO... and I RAN. High fives left and right. BEST FEELING EVER... and it only lasted a minute.. two maybe? I heard my name and Mike Reilly got it right!! Did he rehearse or what?! I raised my arms in the air and took half a second to savor being under the arch. I was still feeling like a million bucks.

Someone gave me a blanket, then I heard another familiar voice in the crowd. It was Zin with my mom and my boys. I walked over and gave them all big sweaty hugs.
A fleeting moment, and still a blur
Jane arrived a moment later and together we went to grab our medals and some food. Food, really? I didn't feel like eating any food! I put some fruits in my plate, but they tasted like ... nothing. My tastebuds had either left the building or the fruits were really that bad, I'll never know.

I talked to Jane for a minute, we exchanged Twitter handles (I still haven't found her since, I must have gotten it wrong), then Wendy came to sit with me... I drank my beer and ate some fries... I was definitely more thirsty than hungry. My body was feeling totally fine and I told myself, wow, I felt much worse after a standalone marathon. About 10 minutes later I was getting cold and wanted to see my family really bad. So I went to have my finisher photo taken, then met with my loved ones.

We went to pick up my bike, my bags, I put on some warmer clothes, we took the bus to the air field, then drove back to the cottage, where I went to sleep. The End. :-)

And what else is there to say? I DID IT. I AM AN IRONMAN.
I had an spectacular day and I am totally hooked. I smiled the whole time, I survived the pain, I made friends, I learned lots about my body and how it can handle the unknown. I found that the most important is to stay in the moment and just... enjoy. It may come easier to those who don't run after podiums or a time on the clock... and once I freed myself from expectations (about a minute in the swim, when I looked at the sky), I had a blast. From the first breath in the water, to the first pedal stroke, to the moment my soles hit the pavement, I kept reminding myself that this was just a long training day.

So I raced smart, I kept the heart rate down and my ego in check, I ate and drank regularly, and in the end... it really didn't feel bad at all.

Anyone can do an Ironman? Absolutely!! Stop doubting yourselves!

However, I could not have done it without the support of my family and friends, close and far. My Coeur tri kit did not disappoint (zero chaffing!!), my bike Trinity did not fail me, thanks to my best bike mechanic, my hubby. My ROKA wetsuit kept me warm and buoyant without excess tightness and panic attacks. My coach gave me a great plan and helped this 40 yr old body reach the level of fitness and endurance to do the unthinkable and for that I am extremely grateful as well.

I could not have asked for a better day. Will I do it again? OH YEAH!!!

(To read the whole shebang - follow the links for The Swim and The Bike)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

2014 Ironman Mt. Tremblant Race Report - The Bike

After leaving the changing tent inferno, I picked up my bike from transition and off I went. For having driven up and down Montee Ryan pretty much every day before the event, I knew every inch of pavement, and it didn't scare me from the elevation standpoint. It's actually a great introduction to the landscape, but with a lot less space around to navigate. There were parts of the road that were downright dangerous if you were flying downhill passing someone. No place to go if something or someone jumped in front of your wheel, so I tried to be careful and not do anything too crazy that would get me in trouble. Before you know it, 10km done, boom!

But once I arrived on the Hwy 117, I had to start working harder right away. There are some long climbs and a few fast descents, but overall I'd say it's a rather boring stretch of the course, that goes out for another 23km before you get to turn around. You can see what I'm talking about in the gorgeous graph below. Hwy 117 is from km 10 to 33 and back, before you go into the little tail at the bottom.
Given the winds that you may encounter on this highway, the first big descent after 6k of non stop climbing is the most exciting part as it gives you the first good adrenaline shot of the day. After that all you should really care about is to stay legal and not to ride on the shoulder like everyone else does. Don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful course from km 1 to 90, but in the context of a race, it becomes work, and very hard work at times, so you have less time to admire the surroundings. There aren't many people to cheer you on either, so for the most part you are with your thoughts and for a few seconds at a time, with those who pass by you, or you pass back later on. "Hey, dude, didn't I see you earlier? And then... "Alright, feel free to pass me again, no hard feelings..." (I'll catch you later... or not).

I started eating as soon as I got on the highway and I continued to eat solids at 35-45 min intervals, trying to go from one kind of food to another on a rotation, with a sip of liquid to make it go down faster. I cannot stand boredom, especially that of the palate. I had 5 salty balls, 3 gels (1 Espresso, 1 Mint Chocolate, 1 Salty Caramel), 1 Kind bar, 3 bottles of Endura and 3 bottles of water (I stopped to fill up twice). I also had 1 half of a banana (maybe 2?) at one of the water stations, and a few pretzels that another athlete shared with me because I told him that they looked tasty.

And just like that, with the wind at your back, after it sucked your soul on the way out, you find yourself leaving the highway and turning into downtown St. Jovite, which is a sort of cheerful interlude with a side of false-flat that laughs at you in the face: "A-ha, gotcha!". I laughed back at it and promised to bring confetti and a party hat the second time around.

Then Montee Ryan (should have been Descente Ryan this time) brings you back into Mt. Tremblant, where the masses go wild. I found this part quite exhilarating and my heart was ready to explode with joy while riding through the crowds, but I also knew that the worst was yet to come... so I contained my excitement, yet my face still got a cramp from smiling so much. I remember seeing the photographers there and told myself that was the best spot for taking pictures, just before everyone starts crying. The last 10km before the last turn around are pure torture and they do put an end to everyone's enthusiasm for sure. Mission: stay upright, don't break your chain, don't stop (or you'll never be able to start again) and if you can, keep your butt on the saddle and the heart rate under control. Translation: slow and steady. This is no place for heroics, because you'll have to do it all again in a few hours.

I did my best not to burn all my matches on this climb, and followed to a T my own pieces of advice. The turn around could not come soon enough, but once it did, it was like fireworks! I swear I wanted to get off my bike and do a happy dance. I celebrated with another fast descent, and double the adrenaline shots thanks to all the turns and reduced visibility.

And shortly afterwards, I could finally say LOOP ONE DONE!! (pretty sure I yelled even louder inside)
Loop two started just like the first one, but with a stop at special needs about 1km in. I exchanged one of my Endura bottles and I was on my way. Things got a bit more interesting on this loop if I can say... For one, there were more bottles scattered on the road to avoid, like the big Aerodrink that I encountered during one of those fast downhills that I was telling you about on Montee Ryan. It's a miracle that I did not hit it. I may have even closed my eyes for a fraction of second thinking that I was about to go down. Phew, one avoided, three dozens to go?

Back on Hwy 117, and the hills had not moved. Still there, yup. Plus, the wind came back to keep them company. So both decided to spoil my party, but I was not going to give them satisfaction so easily. I probably slowed down a little, or rather I started telling myself that I needed to save my legs for the run since they were burning a bit more than the first time. The same 10 people that I had been playing tag since the beginning were still there too, but this time I wasn't so eager to pass them back. I kept repeating in my head: "This is just a long training day, be patient. There is still a marathon away. Don't get greedy!". Over and over again. I would say that staying put and trying to judge how tired my legs were was the biggest challenge of the day.

For those who like data porn, here are some nice charts and squiggly graphs thanks to Velo Viewer.

Ok, so where was I? Still on the highway, that's right. Well, there isn't much to say about the rest of the ride... St. Jovite, Montee Ryan, Mt. Tremblant... same old, same old, but with a lot less people around. Most spectators must have been gathering around the finish line as the pros were already on the run. However, I did see my little family just when I was about to start the last set of hills and that gave me a great mental boost. The last climbs felt even easier this time, go figure. I also found myself descending faster too, but I had to tap the brakes a little because I didn't want to crash so close to the finish.

And to make it even more exhilarating, with 5km to go, we got hit with a DOWNPOUR. I don't think that I could have gotten more wet than in those last 10 minutes. Thanks for the shower, Mother Nature! You must have known that I had pee-pee'd in my bike shorts 3 times.
I'm so happy, I'm gonna burst!
Oh, and the crampy smile? Still there!!

Bike: 7:01:24

Back in T2, I found a chair to sit on right away, then repeated the struggle with my clothes, only that this time I didn't have another towel to dry myself off before putting on my tri kit. I had to ask for help from a volunteer to untangle the back of my tri top, then put sunscreen on my back. Thankfully there was nobody around to yell against it. It still took me a while until I completed the wardrobe change, but again, comfort was a priority rather than speed. Dry clothes never felt so good!! Grabbed my fuel belt with 2 little bottles of Endura and 1 bottle of pickle juice, more salty balls and gels, my puffer and off I went again.

T2: 11:23 (1 minute faster than the first time, yay!)

For the run, go here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

2014 Ironman Mt. Tremblant Race Report - The Swim

30 weeks of Ironman training, 3 years in the making since I saw Chrissie Wellington tearing up Kona with shredded skin on her legs, and read Matt Long's "The Long Run". Three years of watching people of all ages and shapes crossing the finish line. I was told that with hard work and perseverance, anyone can do an Ironman. Okay then, challenge accepted. Now here we are...

I picked up my race stuff...
 
I left my bike in transition...
 
I prepared my race food...
Salty balls, of course! 
I carb loaded in style...
My hubby's pasta is better than Ironman's 
I even took a selfie with Mike Reilly... 
And hoped that it was not going to be bad luck 
After a week of pure cabin fever and enough trips to the Ironman village, I could not wait to get started!! And race day started early for sure... Alarm clock went off at 4am and I literally jumped out of bed. I didn't sleep much that night, despite going to bed at 7pm. I tried to relax for an hour or two, then turned off the lights at 9pm. Around midnight, my brain decided to start singing: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going" by Billy Ocean. No, for realz.


How many people get an earworm in the middle of the night before an Ironman? *raises hand* This girl does. I even got a mantra without asking for one. The mind works in miraculous ways ... Alas it did keep me awake for a few hours until 2:30am.

 Anyway, I bet there are worse ways to spend a night than singing to Billy Ocean and planning wardrobe changes. Say what?? Well... Since I could not sleep, and given that it had rained non stop for a week, I had to look at the weather app one more time. The day was going to be cold and overcast in the morning, sunny with scattered showers in the afternoon. Hmmm... Told myself that comfort should make it more tolerable for sure. And so I decided that I would wear my bike jersey and shorts on the bike, then change into my Coeur tri kit afterwards. I made a mental note to add a towel to my bike gear bag as well.
Upon waking up, I had to scramble for a bit to find my new bike clothes and make some last minute changes to my special needs bags (is it just me or everyone does it?), then I prepared my bottles of Endura for the bike and fuel belt. For breakfast I had 2 slices of toast with butter and ham, 2 boiled eggs and some juice, and a banana to go for eating closer to the start.

The plan was for hubbs and mom to come with me in the morning, then go back and pick up the boys from the cottage sometime during the bike leg. So after we finished eating, we all drove to the airfield to catch the bus to the village. Thankfully we didn't have to wait for the bus as I got close to having a nervous breakdown after an irrational scare that race transportation options may have changed from the previous year. I never checked and assumed they were the same, and did not want to believe anything that my husband was telling me that morning. Perfectly normal, right?
Soon enough I was in transition pumping the tires on my bike, just by myself like a grownup. I also attached 4 gels to the bike (or did I do this the day before? Looking at the pictures above, it looks like it) and placed all the bottles in their holders. 2 small bottles at the back + 1 big bottle on the diagonal tube with Endura, water in the aero bottle. I also went inside the tent to update the contents of my bike and run bags thanks to my mid-sleep wardrobe decisions.

Then I proceeded to body marking where I looked for my friend Wendy who I knew was volunteering at the event. Spotted her in seconds, but had to line up to get marked. Her sharpie writing skills were quite popular, it seemed. She gave me a huge hug and I asked her to sprinkle some magic dust above me for good juju. After doing her best fairy impersonation, I felt immediately better, then told her "cya later, alligator", or something silly like that. One thing for sure, I wasn't yet crying.

I still had two missions left: to find the special needs containers and a port-a-potty. Following instructions from other awesome volunteers, I found both in no time, but then proceeded to take my time... if you see what I mean... Things were not moving fast enough when I needed them to. Grrr. I had no time to waste though, so I decided to call it a day in the plumbing department and start walking towards the swim start.

About halfway I ran into Amanda, her dad, Doug (both in our FMCT tri club) and the rest of the family. For the sake of catching up on the latest pre-race gossip with my friends, including state of bowel movements, I stopped there as well and wrestled into my wetsuit as per the usual ROKA dance. While I was contorting myself trying to smooth out all wrinkles along my arms, I see another familiar face just across the path. My Coeur team mate Kelly! What a surprise!!

It was the first time that we were seeing each other outside of our computer screens and I recognized her right away. I offered Kelly a few words of encouragement and we exchanged hugs. I wasn't going to keep all that magic dust just for myself, especially when I knew that others were in need of some too!
Twin smiles!
Her hubby took this picture of us and I like it so much (thank you)! All smiles - that's how it should always be. (You can even see Amanda and Doug in the background). Right at that moment, I knew that the day was going to be a great one. Surrounded by friends and family, doing what I love  - not for the win - but because I can. I could not be more grateful for being there. 

We walked slowly towards the beach, then I realized what mayhem was surrounding us. People walking in all directions, caps of all colors everywhere... I was in the last wave, women 40+ and I had no idea where to line up, but I knew that I wanted to do a short warm-up swim before the start. So my plan was to walk towards the lake and see what happens. I gave Zin a big smooch and just like that we got separated and the anxiety kicked in. 

 Eventually I found myself among many other green caps and they were all lining up behind a volunteer with a sign for our group. Nothing out of the extraordinary, but I had to ask whether we could swim for a bit and I was reassured that we could once we got closer to the lake... ok then... patience... Once the group got moving, I headed for the water. I remember thinking that is was rather cold, but not freezing. I jumped in and swam for about 5 minutes and managed to turn my zen mode on. I watched the wave ahead of us leaving, then rejoined the green caps as they were marching towards the start. I then saw Zin and mom who were also looking for me and ran to them for a last kiss and picture. Emotions were free flowing by then and my eyes got teary, I had to lift my goggles and put them on my head.
Not even a minute later the countdown started. The canon went boom and we all started walking towards the water... I was just about to do a dolphin dive, but at the very last moment brain sent the message "Abort! Abort!" as it realized that my goggles were still on top of my head... It made me laugh out loud. I rushed to put them on, then dove... but I had a sneaky suspicion that I would have to stop and do a better job since they started leaking instantly. I still swam a good 100-200m before I decided to come to a full stop. Someone who must have been following pretty closely started apologizing for bumping into me. It was rather hilarious to see our "sorry -  no it was me, sorry - please go ahead - sorry again" exchange in the middle of the lake. So... Canadian, eh? Who said that Ironman swim starts were all muscle and mean knock outs? Mine could not have gone better... so far.

I put my head down and the copilot on, and swam, smiling with each breath. I could see the sky and the sun breaking through the clouds and I could feel so much happiness, that I almost started crying again. I am glad that I managed to hold back my tears because it would have been rather embarrassing to stop and empty my goggles without a good enough reason. The lake got very choppy about half way towards the turn buoy, but I remained unfazed. I swam in bigger chops before and they always make me think of being a rocking chair... or swinging in the giant arms of the lake... I love open water swimming so. damn. much. You just have to go with the flow, embrace the movement... There is no need to fight it, you'd lose anyway. 

I briefly looked around me and there were caps of all colors everywhere. Green wave, what green wave? We were all like veggies in a giant soup. I kept doing my thing, making my way through the sea of people, clinging on feet here and there... Nothing much to complain about, other than a pair of feet that were hitting the water so hard and creating a loud disturbance, that I had to swim away from them repeatedly. The sound and vibration were penetrating my body and were making me highly uncomfortable, like a jackhammer through my eardrums and chest. I wonder, have you ever experienced something like this? I, for one, I was amazed how this person was still moving forward after 2.5km of super hard kicking. 

I managed to distance myself and continue on my own tranquility path, without percussion sounds in the background. The lake became quieter too in the last quarter of the swim, and I was able to fully relax... I had no idea if I was within my estimated time of 1h20, because it certainly felt laborious for about half of the swim, but I reached the beach with the masses and a huge smile on my face. What else could have I asked for? I was done the first leg of the race and I was about to jump on my bike for a long day on the rolling highways. 

Swim: 1:26:07
I am done the swim, yay!
Once I got inside the tent, I noticed that things had changed from the previous year. Volunteers were no longer giving athletes their bags, we were on our own to find them. Thankfully the water in my ears didn't alter my capacity to read numbers and remember my own, yay! Grabbed the #983 bike bag and went inside the changing area.

Holy cow, that was crowded! There was not a single seat available and I had to look around for a bit until I found a clear spot to empty my bag. In the background, I could hear the volunteers' team captain yelling at them "DO NOT HELP THE ATHLETES!! THEY ARE ON THEIR OWN! DO NOT HELP THEM EMPTY THEIR BAGS OR PUT THEIR ITEMS BACK IN THE BAG". I looked at her with a big W.T.F. on my face. I had been there as a volunteer the year before and there were no such instructions, or rather it was all the opposite. We were supposed to help as much as we could. I told the captain that things had changed since last year and she replied to me that someone must have not done their job then...  Yeah, but it was her who gave us the instructions, not someone else... Oh well. A volunteer who I also recognized from last year was beside me, ready to help, but she was utterly confused about what she was supposed to do there in this case. She just sat there, looking at me while I was changing clothes with a bewildered look on her face. We were both sorry for each other and that was kinda sad.

 I had no clue how long it took me to change all clothes, dry myself with the towel, put on my socks and shoes, helmet, food in my pockets, etc... but I did not rush. It was more important NOT to forget something and avoid an unnecessary panic attack. I'd say that if I hadn't changed clothes I would have certainly saved 7-8 minutes, but since I didn't even know what to expect from the day, being speedy in transitions was not a priority. Keeping my head in the game was.

T1: 12:29

For the bike, go here.