Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report: The Prelude

Last August, I took on Ironman Mont Tremblant.

I know. I know. It’s now almost six months later (February 2019) and I’m just sitting down to write my race report. Gad, I barely remember the race, but here I am planning to go back and relive the excitement of swimming 2.4 miles (in the fog), biking 112 miles (with hills), and running 26.2 miles (without a back spasm!). 
But hey, life happens. I’ve been really busy the last six months. I worked a lot – and then there was the fact I went to the Ironman World Championships in Kona back in October. I will take going to Kona (no, I didn’t race! I was there supporting my friend Fliss who got in through the Legacy Program) any day over having written this race report any earlier than now. Sorry. Hawaii will win every time.  

Fliss Rocking her Finisher's Medal
Oh wait, technically I did race. I just didn't do the big dance. I did do the Ho'ala 2.4 mile swim race the week before the Ironman World Championships, and the Path 5k run...and the (In)Famous Kona Underpants Run. If you'd asked me if I'd do an underpants run in my lifetime, I would have sworn that the answer would be, "No!" but this is one instance where my friends convinced me to jump off the (thankfully metaphorical) bridge.

Kona Underpants Run 2018
Spoiler alert: I did do Ironman Mont Tremblant faster than Ironman Arizona…but I wasn’t actually -fast- by any stretch of the imagination. I was more than 3 hours slower than the woman who won my age group. If I ever race in Kona, it will be when I'm 90 and the only woman in my age group!
Now, if you want to read a very detailed Ironman Race Report – I suggest going back to read what I wrote about Ironman Arizona. That six-part series (Prelude, Don't Drown, Don't Crash, Don't Trip, The Aftermath, and The Epilogue) was something special. I highly doubt I am going to get even close to the detail and length of that report here. But hey, that was my first Ironman. It should get the best coverage.  
But I am still going to cover a bunch of things in this report. Feel free to skip ahead (well, you can do that once I've actually written all the segments) if you get bored. I won’t be offended. Promise.
Now, on with the show!
The Prelude
After finishing Ironman Arizona with a back spasm (with a time of 13:59:16), I knew I was going to do another. I had a crazy experience in Arizona, but despite the pouring rain and having to walk 25km of the marathon, I had a great time. That race (along with all that came before) taught me that anything really is possible - that a former overweight klutz who was entirely unathletic could, with the proper training and an awesome coach, complete on of the most challenging endurance races out here.

Ironman Arizona - 2015
Originally, I was going to take a year off and do a second Ironman in 2017. But then I accidentally qualified for the Olympic Distance ITU World Championships in Rotterdam in 2017, so I did that instead. Yes, I qualified because there were more slots for the race than people in my age group….but that’s besides the point. I went to Rotterdam and had a great time if a crazy race (you can read all about my fun running in bike shoes here).  

2017 ITU Worlds in Rotterdam
After Rotterdam, I decided that 2018 would be a good year to do another Ironman. I debated what race I wanted to do. I scoured course profiles and looked at the costs associated with doing another US-based Ironman. Sadly, the Canadian dollar has not been great – so whatever race I thought about doing, it was going to cost an arm and a leg.

I initially liked the idea of doing Ironman North Carolina (I had spectated for a friend who did it 2016) but that was no longer a full distance race. I nixed Maryland because it has had several years of bad weather. Florida was out because I was afraid of the ocean and didn’t want to get stung by jellyfish.
The race I kept coming back to was actually Ironman Mont Tremblant. I raced the Mont Tremblant 70.3 in 2016 and truly loved the course, the community, and the fact the people in Mont Tremblant loved triathletes. They really go out of their way to support the race.

Mont Tremblant 70.3 - June 2016

My biggest fear with doing the Mont Tremblant full Ironman was the course. It’s not easy. The bike course is quite challenging for someone who isn’t a strong biker.  I was worried I would have a tough time doing the bike course twice (you do the 70.3 course twice) and being able to run a marathon after.
Aside: To be completely honest, I also once swore that I'd never do an Ironman with the word "Mont" in the title. Famous last words.

I was also worried about the weather. I don’t do well in the humidity – and mid-summer racing can be very hit-or-miss for me because of my asthma. If I got a terrible day humidity wise, I could be in for a lot of trouble.

So what was the deciding factor? Well, there were two.
First, my coach reminded me that I picked Arizona because it was going to be hot and dry. What I got was cold and wet. He told me I shouldn’t pick a race because of weather. He made a very good point.
Second, I realized that Ironman Mont Tremblant would fall on the weekend of my 40th birthday (My birthday would be on Friday the 17th, followed by the race on Sunday the 19th). And given that Ironman was also turning 40 in 2018, why not treat the race like a giant birthday party with 2,500 of my closest friends?
Ironman birthday party. I couldn’t think of anything better!

40 Years of Me!
13 weeks: What was I thinking?
For Ironman Arizona, I started training in May. I ran a PB half marathon and then, with the weather nicer, began riding outside as of the TTC Collingwood camp.

“Great!” I thought, signing up for the Glass City Marathon on April 22, 2018. I could train hard for a BQ attempt and then go into Ironman training for Ironman Mont Tremblant. No problem.
Of course, I didn’t think about the fact that mid-August is 3 months sooner than mid-November. Not at all. I simply put all my effort into running, and tried to swim and bike at least once a week (I think my longest ride prior to mid-May -excluding my week at Triathlon Camp- was 1h20).

In fact, I didn’t start thinking about training required for IMMT until after I’d screwed up at Glass City (I ate too late the night before and had stomach issues that forced me to DNF) and signed up for my back-up race, the Toronto Marathon, two weeks later. 

Aside: The Toronto Marathon was also not good because my quads decided they hadn’t recovered from my DNF 2 weeks earlier). Ah well. At least I tried. Since my stomach was fine, I was able to treat the race as a training run for Mont Tremblant.

Toronto Marathon: Let's call it a training run
Around that time, I had a bit of a panic attack. If I’d screwed up a race I trained for 6 months for – how on earth was I going to complete an Ironman in….9, 10, 11, 12…13 weeks! Yikes! 
Aside: Next time I decide to do two big races in the same year, maybe I should spread them out a bit better. 
My awesome coach Mark Linseman of Loaring Personal Coaching never worried as far as I could tell. At least he always came across as entirely confident I would be fine. Which is good, since I pretty much asked myself why on earth I’d signed up for IMMT every single day from about May 15th until Race Day.
Training: The Bike (Because really, it was my -only- priority)

So, I had 13 weeks to train for a race I considered to be insanely challenging with some crazy hills. So what did I do? I found every opportunity I could to bike, and every opportunity I could to bike on hilly courses.

Collingwood Camp (May 18-21)

I started my training with the TTC Collingwood Camp. It’s always a fun weekend with some crazy hills. I planned to ride 40km, 90km, 90km, and maybe 40m.

Collingwood TTC Camp!
What really happened:
Friday: I rode the 40km ride on Friday, ran into a person who made an unexpected quick stop, and went down hard. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt – just a bit battered.
Saturday: I rode 108km very slowly – in the rain and wind. I had some leg issues because of my fall the previous day, but managed to finish the ride. I realized just how slow I was – which made think I was probably going to die during IMMT – particularly if there was any kind of inclement weather.
Sunday: The weather was cold and windy and I was sore. Then one of the girls I was with had pedal issues and couldn’t ride properly. I decided to ride back with her because no one with bike trouble should ever ride alone (while this was the right thing to do, I admit I wasn’t the slightest bit upset about cutting my ride short). Ended up doing about 35km. 
Moe and I - Collingwood TTC Camp
I did get a nice 25km run in with a different friend on Monday. Because what I needed was more running, right? So funny. 
Essex Weekend (May 26-28)
The next weekend I was in Essex, so I got 2 rides on quieter roads (60km, 90km). On the flat, I was much better. I realized maybe I wasn’t in as bad of shape as I’d thought.
Limitless Fitness Mont Tremblant Camp
I signed up for the Limitless Fitness Camp thinking it would be really great to get in some training on the actual course so I could -remember- how hard it was – but also so I could remember that it was completely doable. The weekend was great. 
Swimming: We swam three times – once in a pool then twice in open water. 
Biking: I rode up Duplessis 3x – once on Friday and twice on Saturday. Yes, it was hard, but I survived. The Saturday right was particularly helpful since I rode 133km – including two times up Duplessis in a row. That, I figured, was harder than doing it twice with a more moderate 50km break in the middle. That’s what I told myself anyways. 
Running: My run off the bike on Saturday was terrible. But then on Sunday I ran most of one loop of the course and felt good. Phew!
Limitless Fitness Mont Tremblant Camp

Stratford Weekend (June 8-10)
Why no, I wasn’t home a lot for the first 6 weeks of training for IMMT – because why would I want some consistent training, right?  But I did get my 140km long ride done, plus another 20km the next day. Being in Stratford also gave me a chance to ride with my Dad both days (On Saturday, I rode 20km with him, then another 122 on my own). I actually found an awesome and quiet road by accident – which made for some solid (and safe) riding!
TBN TNTO Ride Weekend (Toronto – Niagara Falls – Toronto) (June 16-17) 
I followed Stratford up with a 2-day ride with the Toronto Bicycling Network – where we rode from Toronto to Niagara Falls (154km) on one day – and then back (115km) the next day. The first day was excellent…the second day was scorching hot and slow, but solid. This weekend made me feel a bit more confident about Mont Tremblant since the two days combined gave me 270km. While unnecessary for Ironman Training, it was a big deal from the mental training side of things. At least to me! 
The rest of my long rides (aka: my friend Shannon rocks)
From June 22nd onwards, I did many of my long rides with my friend Shannon. I have to say, I couldn’t have done this without her. Shannon was both incredibly organized and phenomenal at finding all the hills that could be found within about 2 hours of Toronto. Despite being a better biker, Shannon was also incredibly patient and supportive. All the rides I did with her were hard – but so much fun! Thanks Shannon!

Shannon and I on one of our training rides!

Oftentimes, we also did brick runs off of our bikes (one time, we even did a swim/bike/run brick) – making for some long but incredibly productive training sessions. Honestly, I think these were the main reason I did so much better than expected in Tremblant.
For those that are curious…my long ride/run bricks included: 
·       June 22, 2018: 122km bike (663m of climbing)/8km run 
·       June 29, 2018: No big ride. Friday (18km), Sat (75km), Sunday (60km including a 14km TT)
·       July 7, 2018: 163km (1,340m of climbing)/10km run
·       July 13, 2018: 2200m swim/151km run (1,087m of climbing)/10km run
·       July 17, 2018: 180km ride in Essex – no climbing. This was mid-week since I was doing the Toronto Triathlon Festival on the Sunday.
·       July 27, 2018: 152km bike (1,664 m of climbing)/20km run. 
·       August 3, 2018: A triple brick riding on the trainer and running outside: 90 min bike/8.5km run/90min bike/10k run/90 min bike/10km run – descending both the bikes and the runs.
·       August 11, 2018 (Taper Week): 1500m swim/2 hour (50km) bike/1 hour (10.6km) run.
In the end, I only did 11 rides over 100km. To me, that seems low – but the reality is my coach didn’t have me waste any time. He focused on quality over quantity for those 13 weeks. And it made a difference.
Of my long rides, 8 were brick workouts – with four brick runs over 10km, including one 20km brick and one brick that was actually three descending one-hour bricks. I also had one brick that included a 2200m swim first. 
Verdict: I can’t regret my run focus over the winter – much as I probably should have been on my bike more pre-May. But with the time I had, I trained exactly the way I needed to in order to succeed. I also tested my nutrition plan several times – perfecting my plan for race day. In the end, the execution speaks for itself. 

Group ride with Shannon, Lori, and Andy
Okay, I will be honest. I didn’t swim much in advance of Ironman Mont Tremblant. I swam something like 228km the year I did IMAZ. In 2018, I swam 123km. That being said, I got a bunch of quality swims in – including three big open water swims (4.5km, 4km, 3.8km) and a handful of swims between 2.5-3.2km.  I mostly swam twice a week – at least in the last 8 weeks before the race. I won’t comment on my consistency before that. One swim with my friend Brenda at Professor's Lake was particularly awesome!

When I don't have to swim at Cherry Beach (Professor's Lake Swim)
Spoiler: Despite not swimming as much, I still swam faster at IMMT than at IMAZ. Don’t ask me how!
Given I spent six months training for a marathon before going into Ironman training, the last twelve weeks didn’t include a major run focus. Many of my runs were off the bike (see above regarding the 20km brick) and my longest run (30km) was actually the day I did the triple bike/run brick workout. My biggest standalone run was 24.6km. 
If I had to describe my IM run plan, it would simply be: prepping to run better off the bike.

After my third brick run of the day - last big training session

I only did one race in the lead up to Ironman Mont Tremblant – mostly because with the short training cycle, I simply didn’t have any spare time. The race I did do was my favourite local race: The Toronto Triathlon Festival.
I’ll be honest, the race was awful. The swim was fine, but it poured rain on the bike – making it scarier than even IMAZ was. At times I was hit by waves of water coming from over the median. I was scared out of my mind. Slowest bike ever because my only goal was not to die (I succeeded). But hey, I did follow the terrible bike with my best run ever in an Olympic distance tri – so it wasn’t all bad!

TTF 2018: So very, very wet

Conclusion to The Prelude
Okay. At 2,500 words, I guess I am done for installment #1. Maybe this race report (which I haven’t even gotten to yet) will be as long as the one for IMAZ. One day I will learn to be brief. Today is apparently not that day.
More on Race Week and Race Day in the next installment!