Location: Mont Tremblant, Canada
Weather: 75 Degrees and Sunny
Distance: Half Ironman (1.2 Mile Swim, 56 Mile Bike, 13.1 Run)
Finish Time: 4 Hours 56 Minutes 24 Seconds
Overall: 282nd out of 2,556
Division: 35th out of 207
Swim: 1,352nd Bike: 379th Run: 154th
Music, fireworks, fighter jets…and more! Not to mention the charming village of Mont Tremblant, which is straight out of a fairy tale and the incredible event production, staff and volunteers. Needless to say, it was worth the 7.5 hour drive up to Canada for this race, which I signed up for over a year ago. No wonder it sold out in less than 30 minutes!
The drive up on Friday wasn’t that bad, aside from some traffic in Montreal and for getting lost between dirt roads on farm lands trying to find my AirBnB. When I crossed the border into Canada the first thing the Customs Agent said to me was, “Ironman?” I guess I had that look. Finally arriving a little after 6pm, I took a walk around the farms to stretch my legs. It’s a good thing I brought a ton of groceries because there wasn’t a store for miles in either direction. The sun didn’t set until about 10pm because we were so far up north.
I woke up early on Saturday, did a 20 minute shakeout run and drank a whole bottle of beet juice, which was nasty, but necessary to pump the nitrate levels in my blood. After that, I did some minor tweaking to my bike and attached the gear. It was about a 30 minute ride to the village of Mont Tremblant.
My dinner Saturday night was chicken, spinach and white rice. I went to bed at 8:30pm, but couldn’t fall asleep. The fact that it was light outside didn’t help. I finally managed a few hours of sleep and woke up at 3:00am. My breakfast was half a protein shake, beet juice, pickle juice, coconut water and four rice cakes with coconut oil and honey. In case you’re wondering, pickle juice and coconut water are both high in electrolytes like sodium and potassium that are key to hydration and prevent cramping. Lastly, I did some massaging with the muscle roller and applied Muscle Tonic.
Arriving in the transition area, I had some major anxiety because I forgot to buy a spare tire tube the day before and I was worried that the bike shop selling them would be closed on race morning. Sure enough, the shop was closed, but as I was peering inside, one of the employees asked me if I needed anything. I told him that I did, but wasn’t sure if they were open for business. The gentleman asked me what size tube I needed and he said that he’ll be right back. Moments later he arrived with the tube and I handed him my credit card, but he said to just take it and to return it after the race if I didn’t end up needing it. How nice is that!?
After getting my body marked, I put on my wetsuit and walked over to the starting area. They played the Canadian National Anthem, then there were fireworks and a fighter jet flyover. This race is one of the most competitive in North America, so the competition was really good. There were about 20 pro athletes attending the race. I seeded myself in the 40-45 minute swim corral, which was one of the last to hit the water, so there was a lot of standing around and peeing in my wetsuit. I changed my swim technique a little bit during the Puerto Rico race, where I breathe unilaterally after ever stroke instead of bilaterally after every other stroke. I believe it helps me swim faster and get less winded. It seems to be working because I had my fastest swim split ever at 38 minutes. While this is still considered slow, it’s a nice improvement from my usual 43 minutes. My place after the swim was 1,315th.
I had the biggest smile on my face exiting the water because I knew that I was off to a great start. However, I had a slight urge to pee again and I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable during the bike leg, so I stopped before transition. In hindsight, I drank too many fluids before the race. My fuel for the bike leg was 900 calories of liquid nutrition in a water bottle, mixed with BCAAs, 200mg caffeine and Citruline Malate. I had a sip every 20 minutes, which was identified by an alarm on my watch. The bike course was very scenic – similar to Lake Placid, but not as nice because most of it was on major highways. Fortunately, the course was closed to traffic, so we didn’t have to worry about cars and it was extremely well-marked and organized. There were even volunteers riding on motorcycles with spare bike parts in case you needed anything – the first time I’ve seen that at any race. My average heart rate was 136bpm and average speed was 21.4mph. My place after the bike was 521st, so I passed over 700 people during the ride.
I felt pretty good coming off the bike, but had to take another bathroom break. Good thing I wore a two piece tri suit instead of a one piece. The crowds near the race village were large and loud. I really enjoyed the run course. Part of it was through the town and then we ran along the river on a wooded trail before turning around and running back. My goal was to maintain around 7:00 minutes per mile, but regrettably I started too fast and averaged 6:50 for the first six miles. I took an SOS nutrition gel with 75mg of caffeine at miles 3, 7 and 11. Approximately four miles into the run, I started feeling a slight burning sensation on the bottom of my left foot, which became more painful as the race went on. I suspect it was due to the socks I used or my shoes being too tight. I passed over 250 people on the run and one of them commented at the end of the race that I was the only person who passed him and he gave me a lot of praise, which was really nice.
The last quarter mile of the race was truly unforgettable and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. We ran down from the top of the village on the cobblestone streets in a narrow passage way that was flanked by hundreds of spectators who were incredibly enthusiastic and loud. The red carpet finish was beautifully done, elevated and adorned with fresh flowers, as I crossed the finish line in 4:56:24.
There was a lot of free food and drinks after the race, but I was too nauseous to really eat anything. I did however enjoy a cup of beer.