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.


  1. We were all like veggies in a giant soup - love the imagery! Great read, can't wait for Part II!

  2. how weird about the volunteer captain! Love the imagery on this, you make the swim sound so wonderful. Anxiously anticipating part II!

  3. At long last!! Thank you for breaking this up so we don't have to wait until October. :)

    I love that picture of you and Zin - so much emotion and a perfect capture right before the start of your big day.

    I'm still a little baffled by the whole volunteer experience in the tent... at least it didn't seem to shake you.

    Proud of you for keeping your wits about you during what I heard was a much choppier swim than expected. Sounds like you even managed to enjoy it, too!

  4. Oh I can't wait for the next segment! Funny, when that picture of you & Zin was first posted I remember thinking that you looked like you were about to cry. Turns out you already did. :o) Well done in the water. Sorry about the captain, what a weirdo.

  5. Sometimes a great adventure/story has to be broken up into parts. After 3 years, it deserves a long post...This is fun to read and you are off to a great start. Odd about the volunteers though since IM known for the great assistance the volunteers provide. Wonder what that's all about. Love all the pics :)

  6. I am misty eyed reading this! I remember all the same emotions so clearly as I stood on the beach in Lake Placid. I cried as well. It's impossible not to. I can't WAIT to read the rest!! That's weird about the volunteers. I don't understand what their purpose was if they weren't supposed to help you! Bizarre!

  7. Second segment is out! Thanks lovelies for stopping by. Muahs all around!