Friday, September 2, 2016

My supercalifragilisticexpialidocious sherpa Ironman vacation

If I had a better word than "super" to describe this vacation I would have used it, but the truth is, I needed the extra califragilisticexpialidocious to make you understand just how amazing this week was (and how long this blog post is going to be, oops - my bad).

We left for Mt. Tremblant on Wednesday and I knew that I was in for a long drive, but the few stops along the way, especially the one in Ottawa in the Bayward Market for mussels, fries and treats made it rather enjoyable. We arrived at destination around 5:30pm and after settling in our condo at Cap Tremblant Resort, we decided to go out for a shakeout run on the Petit Train du Nord trail, part of the run course and a stone throw away from where we were staying.

(Brace yourselves, there will be photos, and lots of them!)
The walk towards the condo
Our condo is at the bottom. No stairs, yay!
Living room
Seating area
Cozy, eh? I could not believe it when I saw it. Very quiet, spacious... exactly what we needed, and perfectly located in the old Mt Tremblant, away from all the craziness of the athletes village.
At the start of the run with my Ironman in Training
Oh deer! Stopped us dead in our tracks and we took pictures and a video. These guys were totally unphased.
Zin ran 8km run and I settled on a 6km distance as an out and back on the trail. It was exactly what we needed after sitting down for 8+ hours. Back at the resort we took a shower and went out for dinner because we were starving!

The next day we met with friends for lunch in the athletes' village, then walked around for a bit, immersing ourselves into the M-Dot Extravaganza and posing for pictures, pretty much like everyone else. My favorite past time in these places is to find the hardcore IM fans and the wannabe pros. Quite entertaining if you ask me. So much compression gear and aero everything! But let's go back to the most memorable detail, the food.

We ate in a restaurant called SoCal Kitchen and it was absolutely delicious. I even placed the guacamole as second best that I've eaten, first being the one that I make based on an Alton Brown recipe, of course.
So much yum
Athletes athletes everywhere
A gorgeous day in the village
Quick ride in the gondola to save the legs with view on the finish line
Pledging allegiance to M-Dot
And another postcard view from the gondola with the changing tent in the background
We spent a bit of time up and down the streets of the village, wondering what else we could eat, then headed over to Lake Tremblant for a swim. I had never swum there outside my IM race day back in 2014, so I was really looking forward to finding my zen in those waters without the pressure of the race. Little did I know that I was going to have one of the toughest swims in my life. The lake was super choppy and the training course was tricky, so Zin, our friend Louis and I decided to go out to the 7th buoy and back. According to my Strava, we swam for 1.4km in about 34 minutes, but it felt like double the effort. We were pretty happy to be done!
I don't even remember if this was before or after. Let's pretend it was after and the wetsuits dried really really fast.
We rushed back to the condo, took a shower and went out for dinner with friends, again. If this sounds familiar, it's because we love to eat, as you must have noticed. This time we met a larger group of friends from our tri club in St Jovite at Le Vieux Four, one of our favorite Italian restaurants in the area. And in a very non Italian fashion, I had mussels and fries, again. And they were even better than those I had in Ottawa at the Fish Market. However I was a little disappointed because the waiter forgot to bring me a salad with goat cheese that I ordered as appetizer and I finished by drowning my sorrow into a cup of Tiramisu. (story of my life)

The next morning, we went to St Jovite for breakfast and started the carb loading in style. Started? Umm... for the day, that's it. Bon appetit!
Brioche and almond croissant. Orgasmic.
Back to our home for the week, Zin had a bike workout on the menu, and I supported him by streaming the men's Olympic triathlon on my laptop since CBC did not care to show it on TV. I also cheered him from the couch and refilled his bottles when asked. I am such a nice sherpa.
Then we went back to the village for registration. Hubbs and our friends met again and they all lined up at registration, at the M-Dot sign for pictures and in the IM store where they collectively left a little fortune. You can't help it when it's your first Ironman, I guess. For once, I was pretty restraint I should say. I bought 2 IM beer/cider glasses (because we had booze in the fridge), the last Kona DVD (because the Kona Lottery is no more and IM did not send me one this year) and a magnet for our car since we were both going to be legitimate 140.6 drivers.

And speaking of legit, here's another M-Dot picture because I was wearing my finisher tshirt. So legit, I'm going to show it to you in XL. Ahem.
Two thumbs up for this IM finisher. I hope I didn't break your screen...
Back to St Jovite for a late lunch at The Vieux Four. I really, really wanted that goat cheese salad, and Zin continued his carb loading with pizza. I also could not resist the Profiterolles, so here they are in all their beauty, before I murdered them. You must wonder who is doing an Ironman here... But it explains why I put on 10lb since the beginning of the year.
There was a 3rd crouton there, but I ate it before I took the picture
No caption necessary. Lick the screen here.
Once again, we went back to the condo and I was itching to go on my bike (and burn some of those damn calories). Zin told me not to ride the bike course because he didn't want me to die before I saw him finish the IM, so I listened and went to ride on the safer parts of the course. Sort of. We needed to settle the argument whether Montee Ryan was going up or down towards the highway 117, so I took the Petit Train du Nord to Montee Ryan, then "up" to the village, then on the run course to old Mt Tremblant (Chemin du Village), and on the Petit Train du Nord for another loop. I guess the argument is settled now (he won).

It was absolutely glorious, aside from the ... uphill section on Montee Ryan. I was on my road bike and did not have clip-on bike shoes, and let's say I struggled a bit there. However the smile was stuck on my face for the rest of the ride and I just didn't want to go back inside. I rode for about 1.5h, then called it a day. Not only it was getting late, but I was also tasked to get us dinner, and as a good sherpa, I drove back to the village and quickly stole a chicken from St Hubert (within the free 15 minutes parking that I found without a credit card).
What day is it again? Friday, that's right... Pretty sure that I got a few things mixed up above, but who cares... it all happened one day or another. Swim, bike, run, eat, sleep... repeat.

Saturday morning I tried to beat the rush at the beach and started my day with an early swim in Lac Mercier. There were only one or two people in the water and I could not wait to join them. I brought my little orange buoy just in case I was going to meet a weeds monster or a local version of the Loch Ness, but soon enough I completely forgot that it was trailing behind me. So much for the extra safety. At least it kept my car keys and phone dry.
As for the swim, I loved every minute of it. I was apprehensive at first of the big, unknown lake, but it turned out to be the most beautiful swim that I've ever done. I even swam in a heart shape for posterity in Strava. How cool is that?
For lunch we went back to the village because I was in mood for another salad, this time with duck confit. The restaurant La Forge at the top of the main street in the village makes an an awesome version of it, and I eat it every time I go to Tremblant. You should try it sometime, preferably paired with a pint of Stella. ;-) The afternoon was pretty uneventful for once as everyone decided to rest their legs before the big day. Since I did not have the race pressure, I chose to tire my legs a little more instead, with another run on the trail, topped with a walk from the condo to the trail and back, which added another 2.5km to the total.

I was pretty tired from all the walking/biking/swimming though and chose to keep it short, only a 5km out and back. However, the walk back added another challenge with the 15-30% incline of the road. It was so steep, I had even been afraid to ride on it on my bike. Once again, I met deer on the path and even saw a few that made the climb all the way to our backyard.
The rest of the evening was quiet as well... We watched some TV, then went to bed early. I believe it was 9:30pm. Zin fell asleep instantly. I am so jealous... I think I woke up around 2am and it was almost impossible to fall asleep again. I don't remember exactly when our alarm went off, but it mustn't have been later than 4am. All I remember is that we got dressed, had something quick for breakfast and then I drove Zin to the transition area where I dropped him off before going to park the car near the swim start.

The plan was to stay with hubbs until the start of the race, then go back to the car, pick up the road bike and follow him all day with my camera, hopefully able to take some good pics and give him some kisses in return.
After a bit of a freak out because he forgot his aero drink bottle straw at home, we met at the swim start and I finally managed to calm down knowing that he found a bike technician in transition who helped him out. Many thanks to Cycle Technique for their assistance!
It never gets easier... just a little overwhelmed.
Soon enough we heard the deafening noise made by the jets flying above us and we knew that we had to make our way to the beach. I asked Zin not to die once again and gave him a goodbye kiss. I watched all the waves starting the swim and once everyone was in the water I made my way back to the car where I picked up my bike. I rode back to the village and positioned myself along the red carpet that led from the swim exit to the changing tent, starting the wait. I saw the pros coming out, then fast Matt, our club coach, Louis, Paul and eventually Zin, who did not have the best swim, but gave me a thumb up nonetheless. Apparently there had been a lot of chop on the second half of the swim and that made it a lot more challenging than expected. I knew hubbs was a good cyclist though and I was expecting him to catch up. Onward and upward!
I then ran towards the road and took my camera out again, waiting for him to start the bike. And then I waited again... crazy how 5 minutes seem like an eternity sometimes...

Eventually I saw him zooming by and managed to take the kick ass picture below. It was going to be one of the best I took that day since everything went down from there... especially the weather. A few minutes later and it was pouring!
I quickly retreated to the city in search for coffee. By then I was completely wet and was trying to minimize the damage on my camera. Thankfully my camera bag had a protective sleeve and I had brought big garbage bags to wear over my clothes... not very helpful to keep the rain out, but at least they kept me warm.
After camping for an hour or so under a big patio umbrella at one of the coffee shops atop of the village, I took my courage in my hands and rode over to the General Store to buy an umbrella for my camera. I had procrastinated the entire trip, hoping that the weather gods would be wrong, but it was clear by then that the rain was not going to stop. I bought one of the last umbrellas they had, and the perfect size to carry around. I was back in business, yeah! Quickly I rode over to the turn around at the end of the first loop and Zin showed up less than 5 minutes later, woohooo!! Despite the downpour he was having a great bike and I could not be happier to see him safe after seeing so many police vehicles and ambulances leaving for emergencies the road.

Another hour or two went by and I tried to keep myself busy catching Pokemon in the village. But soon enough I had to go back on the road to see him coming back from the second loop and start the run. I was once again relieved to see him zooming by on his way to Chemin Duplessis and I knew that it would take about 30min for him to roll into transition. I went over to the run start and saw a few familiar faces leaving the changing tent. Eventually Zin appeared in a dry change of clothes and he stopped to give me a kiss. Everyone shouted "oh les amoureux!!"and cheered for us. And so he was on his way again... From the number of open umbrellas around you can guess that his dryness was not going to last.
By then it was almost 2pm and I was starving!! I joined Matt's family in the village and they brought me a yummy vegan pizza, which I inhaled (thank you!!!). This time we were going to wait for Matt to start his second loop in the marathon. He was having the best day ever and we were all excited that he might qualify for Kona. As you can see, his wife Cary and I were all smiles, despite being drenched to the bone. The ice cream must have helped for sure!
Once again I saw the pros running by, then Matt and soon enough, my hubby. I gave him another kiss, the crowds went wild again and my smile got even bigger. That's when the Ironman photographer nearby captured the image below. I am famous, yay!
From that moment on I started following him on the run course on my bike, trying to dodge runners and cars left and right. That course was sure interesting for a paparazzi like me... But it was a lot of fun. Here's hubbs doing his best shuffle run on the second lap. He was struggling a bit because he could not hold down calories, but he was making forward progress and that was great. If he was going to keep up the pace he was going to finish in daylight. How awesome for his first Ironman!

I waited for him to come back at the end of the Petit Train du Nord and saw a lot of familiar faces again: our friends Paul, Louis and Mike Cooke, Durwin Brennan, then Jamie from the blog "From Couch to Ironwoman". It was really great to see them all. Once he started running the last 5km I knew that I had to go ahead and drop by the car to pick up Zindine's dry clothes so he can change into them after the finish. I stayed with him for another 5 minutes then hurried up to get myself to the finish line before he arrived.

There is always plenty of movement in the stands and I had no doubt that I'd get a good spot to see him finish. I left my bike somewhere at the back and joined by Maggie, Louis's wife and kids, I started  the countdown. It took maybe another 10-15 minutes, then I heard Mike Reilly calling his name. I was over the moon and so incredibly proud of my hubby for finishing under 11h30, more precisely in 11h 19min 23sec. You can see me in the video on the left of the arch (second row from the bottom)  taking pictures with my DSLR and yelling "Wooohoooooo!!!!".

We were soon joined by Matt and Cary who gave us the best news of the day: Matt finished 3rd in his AG and qualified for Kona!! There is going to be such a party in our tri club!! Louis joined the finishers' ranks just 30 minutes later, then Paul. For their first Ironman, and despite the very harsh conditions, these guys absolutely rocked it!! So much respect to all.
The boys went to shower and change clothes at Louis's place, then we went out for pizza. I had a salad again (because I had pizza at lunch) and for once I skipped dessert. I did however splurge in a different store as I was sick and tired of my wet running shoes, so I bought the first pair of flats that I found and it was a pair of Birkenstock, my first! However I still had to wear my wet shoes one last time to go pick up the car and then Zin and his stuff from transition. 

All went without a hiccup and we were back in our condo by 10pm. This day almost felt too ...easy. Nope, I don't believe it either. I know that it certainly wasn't for any of the athletes. Plus, spectating is quite a sport in itself, so I crashed on the couch, exhausted but so friggin' happy! The next day we were lining up for the finisher jacket at 6am, no surprise here. The boys were feeling a little tired, but not tired enough for some shenanigans with the fallen Ironman sign. Not sure what happened to it... but it literally went downhill from there. By noon that M-Dot was completely destroyed.
Which one of you broke the Ironman sign, huh?

We were surprised to see that there were no "special" jackets other than the ones we had seen a few days before in the store. So be it. The boys got theirs then we went for breakfast. I had one breakfast, Zin had two, of course. It was so, so good! We definitely recommend the restaurant Le Saint Louis in the old Mt Tremblant. 

We spent the rest of the day being lazy. No more workouts for either one of us, d'uh. I have little recollection of what happened that day, so it's probably better that I start wrapping up this blog post as well. The next day we drove back home anyway, The End. 

We had just about the best time ever. Beautiful setting, excellent food, great company, and outstanding races by all our friends. How could I ask for more? There is only one thing left to do.... sign up for another one. Hahaha!! Ok, maybe not an Ironman, but we'll go back to Mt Tremblant next summer as we all signed up for the 70.3, yeah!!!

 If you read all the way here... congratulations. You are an endurance reader. Bravo!!


  1. Congrats again to Zin and Louis! Looks like a great time. Enjoyed reading the recap, and read the whole thing! Awesome

    1. I wasn't expecting anything less from you Robin! You are an ultra runner after all... Many thanks for the comment. Will pass it along.

  2. You make name hungry and want to go for a run- all at the same moment! You and Zindine are an amazing pair- I love seeing you together.

  3. I LOVED THIS!!! What a great day!!!! and I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE 70.3 NEXT YEAR!!!!!! WOOHOOOOOO!