Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ironman Mont Tremblant 2014

IMMT 2014 Finisher's Medal

Ironman Mont Tremblant is truly a world class event, and, I have to say that the entire race experience has been my favorite so far.    I don't normally include the days leading up to the race in my report, but I feel like I need to in this one, because it really was an entire experience.  I would definitely suggest this race to anyone who asked about it and I do feel like it is a bucket list event.   Not an easy race, but a fantastic venue and a "red carpet" experience for sure.  


Mont Tremblant is about a 13 hour car ride (give or take a few hours) from Columbus, which was one of the reasons my friends and I chose this race.   I traveled up with and stayed with my friends Rocco, Susan, Tani and Aaron and all of us except Tani did the race (Tani was our much needed super sherpa for the weekend).  There were also about a dozen other Columbus triathletes that I knew, that also signed up for the race, which also made it a more fun experience  (shout out to Kathleen, Mike, Bill, Peter, Tim B, Jennifer, Tim G, Pete, Rick, and George who also raced and finished IMMT).  

Our group packed up and left the Wednesday prior to the race,  we ended up taking two cars as we had 4 bikes and an embarrassing amount of  gear.   We broke the trip up into two days and all I can say about it is that it was challenging for 5 very active people to stay cooped up in two cars for that length of time. I am actually quite surprised we didn't kill each other.  Despite some horrific traffic, lots of orange barrels, and a trip over the border, we still  managed to have fun...but it seemed like we were in the car FOREVER.  
 Pedestrian Village of Mont Tremblant

We finally arrived in Mont Tremblant late Thursday evening and decided to head out for a short "shake out" run around town.   We checked out the race venue, a little of the run course, the swim start/finish areas and snapped some fun pix around the Village.   All in all we put in about 2 miles but were gone for about 45 minutes...definitely an ez pace with lots of stops!      
 Checking out the run from swim to T1
 Swim Finish Area...and some photo fun!
 M-dot found in the village
Susan, Aaron, Rocco, and I...the racers of our group

The next morning we woke up fairly early and headed down to the lake to do a practice swim.   We met up with some of the other people from Columbus  to swim together and check out the water.   Temps at this point were 68 degrees for the water.   I was debating between a full wetsuit and a sleeveless.   The full sleeve is warmer but I feel really restricted in it,  I prefer the sleeveless for a smoother swim stroke, but it definitely isn't as warm.   I opted to trial the sleeveless for this swim.    
 Aaron checking out the swim course
Part our group:  Rocco, Aaron, Me, Bill, Peter, and Susan

We ended up swimming about 1,500 yds as group.   Nice easy swim for most of us and we stopped periodically to make sure the group stayed together and urge each other on to keep swimming.   The water was really nice and clear and I immediately felt comfortable in it.   My arms and feet were a little cold, but overall didn't feel bad during this swim.   On the way back we stopped off at the "espresso boat" and even had a little cup of coffee as a group...which was so much fun!     Also, while we were all treading water and drinking our coffee, we ended up singing "Happy Birthday" to Tani, who was back on the dock.   In the midst of all the Ironman madness, it was actually her birthday, and to make it even more fun, she met another racer dressed as a king (we would see him many more times throughout the weekend, always in his crown and cape)!  

The espresso boat

 Tani and the "King" 

 Enjoying our coffee!

Singing "Happy Birthday" to Tani

After the swim we headed to the Iron Village to check in and get our race packets.   There we ran into the many compression stocking and IM branded athletes that are present at all these races,  found some more of our friends, and walked through the expo.   It also gave us an opportunity to take some more fun pictures!

 Backpacks were part of the race gear given this year   
 The big Ironman Chair

 Columbus folks representing! 

JustTri athletes:  Rick (first timer), Aaron and Tani

 Another First Timer (Tim) and his wife
Jennifer, Pete, and Jennifer's boyfriend

After this we headed out for a short bike ride to make sure our bikes were working alright prior to the race.   We opted to ride one loop of the run course (it was a two loop course) so we would know what to expect for the run.    It was much hillier on the first 3 miles through town than we expected, after that it evened out (sort of) on a paved bike/running trail.    It is deceptive as it is a false flat...1-2% grade for about 2.5 miles, which is fine, except it was an out an back.    But mostly went along the lake and a river so had some pretty views along the way.   At one point we randomly came across two guys who had ventured out on foot to check out the run course.   Their intent was to just do an ez 4-5 mile shake out run.   Unfortunately they got lost and by the time we helped them to figure out where they were, they were without fluids, without a map and ultimately were a little clueless.   Rocco kindly gave them one of his bottles of fluid off the bike and helped them to figure out the "shortest distance back."   Those poor idiots would end up running closer to 15 miles by the time they would get back to the village.   We never did find out their names, but we did wonder how their race would go after their little "training run."  
 On the bike/running trail
One of many views along the trail

We finished out the night be heading to the Athlete Dinner.   I haven't gone to all of these in the past as they are much the same:  mediocre buffet dinner,  thank you speech's by race directors/mayors/charity organizers, motivation video, stats about the race and Mike Reilly "the voice of Ironman."   And we debated going to this one, but finally decided to go as part of the whole experience.    This one far exceeded my expectation, and despite the long line to get in, was far more organized than any other ones I have ever been to in the past!
 Entertainment while waiting in line

 Awesome brownies on each of the tables

 Live entertainment during
Big screens so we could see the show

They actually had live entertainment during this Athlete Dinner that included two different acts of Cirque du Soleil type performers.   The pictures didn't turn out well but the first act included two people doing different stunts and maneuvers on a moving pole.   The second group was 4 performers doing stunts on two trampolines and a platform of sorts.   I was mesmerized by both and was a very impressed for sure.    The rest of the dinner was  little long as they had to translate everything in both English and French since we were in a primarily French speaking province of Canada.     After the dinner they had live entertainment on one of the stages in the villages (which we skipped) and fireworks (which we caught from the balcony in our room)!

The only damper on the entire weekend was the actually rained the first 3 days we were there and temps were in the 50's and 60's.   Definitely made it harder to dress and walk around this fun little village for sure.    

Saturday morning we slept in, organized our gear, and then went down to transition to drop off our bikes and bags for T1 and T2 (required prior to any IM race).    It was definitely hard to try to figure out what to put in each of our bags because of the was predicted to be in the low 50's at the beginning of the day and possible up to high 60's but with rain and wind.   We all debated quite awhile on what to put into our bags and it took the better part of the morning.     

 Transition Bag Chaos

Stuff for my T2 bag

 First time I remember seeing my name on my spot!  Notice all the condensation...
Happy to drop off the bike!  

After dropping off the bikes, we headed back to the expo to get some ART (Active Release Technique) from our Columbus friends Ken and Rhonda of Primal Kneads.   They were up volunteering for the weekend and the treatments were free for athletes!    
 Rocco, ready for his treatment!

 "Usie" in the ART tent

Ken and Rhonda with Tani and Aaron

After ART we headed back to the condo for food and relaxation until race morning, which always comes way too early.    I slept fairly well (for me) and had a solid 4.5 hours of sleep and then tossed and turned after that.   We woke up at 4am and were down to transition by 5:15am to drop off our special needs bags, pump the tires on our bikes and to get body marked.    Fortunately our hotel was pretty close to both the transition area and the swim start so we were able to head back to the room for a bit to relax, use the loo, and get our swim gear ready.    We headed down to the swim around 6:15am and the walk was about 15 min from the hotel.    All of us were in different waves, so we split up almost as soon as we got there.    I was in the last wave so had plenty of time.  The swim area was chaos.   There were people everywhere and it was actually hard to get over to the chute, mostly because there were spectators all over the place and they didn't seem to realize they were blocking the athletes.   It took me a bit to get to the chute and I only had minutes to spare.  But, I think that was better as it didn't give me time to get really nervous and I think it gave me some practice for the upcoming swim. 

This swim was the easiest/best I have had to date.   It was set up in wave format by gender and age.   I am not sure how many waves there were in total, but the Pro's started at 6:30am and the AG started at 6:45am.  The waves left every 3 minutes after they started and everyone was in the water by 7:02 am.    I ended up wearing my sleeveless and was cold as soon as I got in the water.    There was some initial turbulence as we all entered, but it seemed to spread out quickly and I never got panicky or short of breath like I have in other swims.   There were 13 buoys out before we had to turn and then start heading was a one loop course.   Somewhere between the 1st and 2nd buoy I realized I had a woman next to me that was swimming almost the same speed and I couldn't shake her, we kept bumping into each other and all the sudden I realized I could draft off someone.   So I slowed just enough to get behind her and kept on her feet the entire first half of the swim.   I have no idea what her number was, but I am so thankful for her as she did a great job of keeping inline with the buoys and maneuvering through each of the waves as we caught up with them.   I counted at least 4 different colored caps by the time we reached the turn around point.   Unfortunately, the water was really choppy at this point and I lost my friend.   Going back was definitely more choppy and I could tell my swim slowed down,   there was also a little current that I didn't feel initially, that kept pushing me to the left of the buoys.   But even with that, I still felt good during the swim, although I never did completely warm up.    By the end of the swim I counted at least 6 different colored caps!   I also realized as I exited the water that I had a swim PR with a time of fastest yet!

We had a .25 mile run from the water exit to T1.   During the athlete briefing, we were promised there would be "red carpets" down for this so it wouldn't be so painful on our feet.   Unfortunately this didn't happen,  there was only carpet down for about the first few 100 yards.   The road was painful to run on initially, but it was also cold so my feet went numb pretty quickly.    This was probably a blessing as they no longer hurt by the time I got to T1.   On my way I heard my name several times and got to see Tani, Lisa, Ken and Rhonda, who were all spectating!   
Tani was able to catch video of me coming out!

T2 was slower than I would have liked, but it included the 1/4 mile run and I took my time drying off and putting on layers prior to getting on the bike.    I did not want to pulled from the race secondary to hypothermia...the temps were still in the 50's at this point!   17:57 total time in T1
Getting ready to head out on the bike! 

The bike was challenging and is a two loop course.  Per my garmin there was a little over 6,700 ft of elevation gain total on the course.  Starting out you hit some big rollers and then head out to a highway.  The highway was very smooth but not flat...there were bigger rollers here with a combined elevation gain to the turn around point.    In addition to this we had a steady 10 mph headwind with some gust up to 20mph.  This segment seemed to take an eternity to me.     But then we got to turn around and come back down those same hills with a tailwind, which was an absolute blast!    The second part of the loop is more rollers and you go back through town,  then there is an out and back section that is about 10 miles total but has some serious reached 15% grade of climbing.    I went very conservatively on the first loop and just tried to make sure I was getting calories, hydrating and not get upset by the 800+ people that kept passing me on the bike.   One problem I had was I forgot to put my garmin on my bike...I had this pre-programmed to go off every 10 minutes to remind me to drink and eat.   So, I didn't have this during the race so I had to try and remember to do this every 10 minutes or so (which got more challenging the second half of the race).   Hydration must have been working though, as I ended up stopping 3 times in the first 56 miles to use the bathroom...still haven't learned to pee on the bike yet.   

Me, just past the first half of the bike

  The second loop was a little more challenging as the wind picked up more and ended up being more of a crosswind on the highway with more random gusts, this resulted in a less speedy return.  As I approached the last 10 miles of the ride the sky got really dark and the wind really picked up.   All of the sudden there was a torrential downpour which left me cold and the roads more slick.   So, I did have to slow down some for safety, especially on the descents.   Fortunately though, I didn't lose control of my bike or have any mechanical difficulties and the hills never seemed too challenging.   I made it back to T2 after a ride time of 7:35:09.    Not a fast time, but I was happy with it, especially since I didn't feel overly exhausted and I had stopped a total of 5 times by the end of the ride!   Plus, I still had about 7.5 hours to finish the race!   I could walk and still finish at this rate!   

right before the downpour 

T2 was a little faster and included another bathroom stop!  I opted to change out of my wet jersey and socks for dry clothing,  but left the arm warmers on at this point as I was freezing and I figured the more I had on the better.   Total time:  9:13

The run was also hilly, per the garmin almost 2.300 ft of elevation gain over the marathon.   The hilliest part is out of town for the first 3 miles, which is mostly rollers.   Then you get to the bike trail, which is an out and back for 5-6 miles.   I felt pretty good for the first 10 miles.   I did have some nausea around mile 3, but after changing my nutrition plan a bit, I started to feel better.   Somewhere between miles 9-10 my right knee started to feel sore and tight and then it locked up suddenly going into one of the aide stations.   I had to walk and stretch a bit, and it felt a little better, but from this point on my knee continued to bother me the rest of my race.   It seemed the IT band injury I had 4 years ago had come back to haunt me.  By mile 12 I also started to get cold again as it had rained a bit.   Fortunately I had packed extra layers in my run special needs bag which we got at the half way point.    This helped immensely and as I ran through the village I got to see a ton of spectators and Lisa and Tani again, which really helped my spirits! 
The only picture (taken by Lisa) of me on the run course, this was about half way into the run. 

  For the next few miles I actually started to feel good  and picked up the pace again.   Unfortunately by the time I got back to the bike trail, I had some GI issues  and I had to stop twice at the nasty port-o-johns.   "Never trust a fart" is a sage piece of advice for these races,  and I try to abide by this rule.   Of my stops, one time was a false alarm, the other was not and as good luck would have it, I chose a pot that still had toilet paper, many had run out by this point in the race.    I hoped I would feel better after this but I didn't.    By mile 16 I was really struggling.   Enter George.   I had never met George before, but he lives in Columbus.   I had packed a volunteer shirt that I got at the Columbus Marathon the year prior as my extra layer.   He recognized it and slowed down to run with me.   He was doing a 4:1 run:walk pace, which seemed perfect to me, so we stayed together for several miles and chatted.   Well, he chatted and I grunted back to him.   I really wanted to try to talk more but I couldn't.   But he was entertaining and was helping me take my mind off of how horrible I felt, and I will be forever grateful to him for this.   Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to, I couldn't maintain his pace and we eventually had to part ways.   Soon after this I started getting really dizzy, dry heaving, and eventually puked.   And I still tried to maintain that 4:1 pace as much as I could.   At this point I really wanted coke and in my mind I thought this would help.  At the next station I asked for it.  "We are out."  Not the words I wanted to hear, so I tried the chicken broth.   Almost puked again.   Weird how that had helped me so much last year at Lake Tahoe, but did nothing for me this time around.    A little water and I was on my way again.   Fortunately the puking seemed to help my stomach and I eventually started to feel better.    It wouldn't be until a few more stations before I finally found my beloved coke and I felt great for about 15 minutes...I was so slow that they had apparently run out of it on the back half of the course!   That one cup of coke was all I ended up having that day.      Of course at this point the knee started barking again.  Seems my stomach and knee were duking it out in the race to see who would be the loudest.  

The last 3 miles I bargained with myself and and ended up walking up the hills and ran anything that was flat and/or descending.   With a little over 1 mile left to the finish, I caught my friend Rick, who was out there for his first IM.   I debated walking with him to the finish, but after chatting with him and knowing he was doing alright, I moved on and kept running at my snails pace.   I knew I wanted to roll across the finishline and I didn't want to get in his way when I did it.   I finally reached the village and then the finishers chute and magically all my knee pain and nausea is amazing what adrenaline can do for you.    Getting to that finish was awesome!    And no one was around me so I was able to roll across that line "Blazeman" style and hear Mike Reilly say those sweet words "Ann Kurtenbach, YOU are an Ironman!!"        

After the roll, I wasn't sure I would be able to stand up, but I did without any problem, but almost fell back over again because I was so dizzy!   It was also a little confusing because the lights were so bright that I couldn't see anything, so I just started running again to the first volunteer I could find.   She lead me to the finish area and I stopped when they put my medal on me.   I felt fine and convinced the volunteers of this and asked if I could give Rick his medal when he came across.   Of course they said yes, and I waited a few minutes for him.   It was pretty cool to hear his name and then be able to put Rick's medal around his neck for his first IM and hug him right there at the finish!   Perfect ending to a spectacular race!    
 Happy to be finished with #5
Rick and I after his IM finish!  

My final run time was 5:46:22 and my overall time 15:07:01. This was not a PR race for me (IMAZ holds that with a 14:11:something).     My main goal this race had been to beat my IMKY time which was 15:07:42.   So I did it but barely.   My swim and run times were both faster on this course (despite how crappy I felt on the run), so I was pretty pleased with that.   I also thought this course was much harder than Louisville.  So, although not exactly what I had hoped for, I am happy with my overall time, especially given the avulsion fracture (right ankle injury)  I had in November of last year and  the difficulty of the course.    

Another athlete called this race "The Disney Race" of the IM races, and I would have to agree.    The Village was so cute,  everyone was very welcoming and I felt like a VIP the entire race weekend.   I also have to give a huge shout out to my traveling buddies and friends as they also added to the whole race experience.    I am grateful they were with me and gave me the support and humor I needed to have for this race.   And incidentally,  we finally did some site seeing the last day we were there, and wouldn't you know it, the skies were blue, the sun was out and the weather...absolutely perfect!  

My Crew:  Rocco, Susan, Tani, and Aaron
View of the Village from the gondola