Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report

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On Saturday, August 16th, every once in a while I would hit refresh on the app on my iPhone, watching the storm intently, hoping it was going to make it’s scheduled exit before the race started. The days leading up to Ironman Mont Tremblant a nasty and very wet storm hit the region. It rained off and on for days and Saturday before the race it rained non-stop all day. I was hoping the weather predictions were right and mother nature was going to take a rest on Sunday. I don’t mind a little adversity, I just mind freezing. Coming from the desert and 100 degree temps the thought of racing in 50 degree temps sounded awesome until moisture was thrown in the mix; than that sounded awful.

First, let me share with you that Mont Tremblant is amazingly beautiful. The town is a ski resort town IMG_3256and has an extremely Frenchie feel. The village has quaint, ornate buildings with cobblestone walkways. The surrounding area is extremely green and lush. Most of the locals speak english but every once in a while you come across someone that speaks very little english, yet they are so willing to try and communicate. Traveling to Mont Tremblant was the farthest I have traveled for a race yet and that provided an element that I was not used to. The time difference was three hours and my total travel time was just over eight hours. Because of this I decided to fly a red eye to maximize my time in Mont Tremblant and minimize the impact on my family. Upon my arrival Thursday morning I got my bike together and decided to go check out the village and shake the legs out. I went for a 45min spin followed by a 30 minute run. My bike was not shifting properly so I took it to the Cervelo tent at the expo and proceeded to find out my frame was crack…a sinking feeling came over me. He immediately told me it would be fine to race on but I needed to get it replaced ASAP. Ok, well if you have never been told 2 days before an Ironman that your bike is cracked, it is a sucky feeling. Even though he told me it was okay to ride I did question whether or not I should. In a matter of a few seconds I decided to let it go and not think about it anymore until my return home. He checked everything else out and sent me on my way. Later, that afternoon I checked out the lake and went for a 20 minute swim. Ok, well maybe a dip, I think I looked like I was flopping around in the water more than swimming. The lake is surrounded by mountains and the water is so clear and tastes like mountain spring water. I was in a happy place to be in such a beautiful venue and getting ready to race another Ironman.

Pre Race Day – Ironman Mont Tremblant

Saturday morning I woke early to knock out my 20 minute run. It was drizzly and the air was cool and heavy with moisture. After breakfast I headed to bag and bike drop-off. It was now raining. There were puddles everywhere and I was hesitant to leave my bike as I have never left my bike in the rain but I had no option and everyone else was doing it. After walking through transition and getting a feel for what race day was going to be like it was time to get off of my feet. For the rest of Saturday I listened to the rain, hoping that it would let up by race morning. I distracted myself with a book and hanging out with some friends. Then it was early to bed and it was still raining.

Race Morning – Ironman Mont Tremblant

Thank you Mother Nature! The rain stopped. The air temp was 52 degrees and the humidity was in the 90’s. Coming from Arizona and 100 degree temps, I was in for a rude awakening. My routine is to get up and finish eating breakfast about 3hours before race start. That morning it was a big bowl of oatmeal and a banana. The rest of the morning I sipped on 24 oz of PowerBar Perform, then I eat a PowerBar gel 20 minutes before race start. After arriving to transition I checked on my bike, lubed my chain, and loaded my nutrition on it. Then I got body marked and headed to the swim start. Everything felt so surreal. I had to keep telling myself that I was getting ready to embark upon a long day to do an Ironman.

photo-20Swim – Ironman Mont Tremblant

Every race I have done, I forget something. And I always seem to make that realization RIGHT before the cannon goes off. I think it is my subconscious way of testing my ability to adapt. This time it was body glide or wetsuit spray, whatever you like to call it. After my raw neck at IMAZ I was not too excited about forgetting to lube my neck. I started looking around for someone with spray or a body glide stick. At this point people are lining up in the corrals for the wave start and their faces are either stricken with fear or they are zoned out. So, then I started looking for someone that had a support bag for their loved one and luckily found someone more than willing to help me out. Phew, now I can rest easy my neck will not be raw. Zipped myself up and headed to the corrals. As we meandered up to the start you could feel the energy rising. It was a beach entrance and the front line was standing there with their toes in the water. My friend looked at me and said, “You might want to put your googles on your eyes.” as they were sitting on my head. That should be a clear indicator to how intense and ready I was feeling. All I was thinking was I am getting ready to swim for an hour with a bunch of other people and I am going to try and not get kicked. Mike Reilly cues us up and sounds the horn.

Now, I wish I had a photo or a video of what I saw next. I looked something like this.Really, we are getting ready to do an Ironman, where most of us will be out here 10+ hours up to 17hours. And you are IMMT - Swim startgoing to start your day doing the butterfly to gain a few seconds on me…knock yourself out! I chuckled, looked at my friend and said, “Let’s do this!” and we were off. I had the best swim ever of all my Ironmans. Yes, it was a wave start but it was still as physical as ever. As I swam through the field I saw three different colored caps, I saw people breast stroking, I saw people swimming at an angle, almost sideways, I saw people clinging to paddle boards. It was very interesting and eye opening. I simply focused on staying as mellow as possible and going with the contact when it came. As I approached the first turn buoy it started getting very choppy and I could feel swells in the water. Two things crossed my mind, a) stay mellow and go with it and b)it will be windy on the bike. On my way back to shore I continued to focus on staying relaxed in the water and not fighting or forcing anything. With about 500M to go I increased my kick to wake up the legs and increased my effort to prepare for the sprint to T1. I got out of the water in 1:10, 24th in my AG. I was extremely happy with this performance.

Transition 1 – Ironman Mont Tremblant

The sprint from the water exit to T1 is long, I think it is about 3-400 yds. Not sure, but it feels long and with the air temp being in low 50’s the ground was cold and it hurt to run on it. Even though I put plenty of gear in my T1 bag to battle the cold I decided to go only with only arm warmers and the newspaper trick in my tri top to block the wind. I was out of T1 in 5:57 and moved up to 11th in my age group. Fast transitions always pay off.

Bike – Ironman Mont Tremblant

Once I was on the bike it was hard to settle into a groove, the air was cold and the course was congested. There were times when I wanted to work hard to generate some body heat but didn’t want to expend too much energy too soon. To make matters a little more challenging, because of the wave start the course was congested and it was a draft fest out of the gate, you could not get away from other riders. So I did my best to stay off of other’s wheels and if someone wanted to sit on mine I didn’t care.

IMMT - bike profileEven though I had driven the bike course prior it didn’t register how hilly it was. I realized I needed to watch my energy expenditure and not blow my wad too soon. I focused on staying hydrated because it was very humid and I understood that if you’re in a humid climate you will require more fluids. Well, silly little ole’ me didn’t take into account that it was also cold. Instead of listening to my body and doing what I felt I needed, I pushed fluids thinking I needed them. On top of that, I found myself more hungry than normal because I tend to burn more sugar in cooler climates because my body is trying to stay warm. Unbeknownst to me I was stirring the cauldron in my belly by putting in too much fluid, eating more than I normally do and expending energy on a hilly course. Being caught up in the beauty of the course and the excitement of an Ironman, I finished the first loop faster than I thought I would and realized I needed to chill out. There was no way I was going to negative split my second loop and have the marathon I wanted. This was my forth Ironman and I still have things to learn. I decided to dial back my effort level and enjoy the second loop of the bike course as much as I could. However, the wind picked up and my belly started to show signs of unhappiness.

One of the things I enjoyed about this course was how broken up it was, or at least allowed me to break it up mentally. It was a two loop course with long rollers up the freeway and then back towards Mont Tremblant. There was an in and out section in a very quaint town that was lined with people and full of energy. Lastly, each loop ended with a stair climb section of short hills that was about 7.5 miles up then a fun rolling descent into transition or your second loop. This section made me think of the Tour de France, as it was lined with people cheering and it really separated out the field. It was a beautiful course and the entire region had a storybook feel to it.

Okay, now back to the race, I maintained an even effort on the second loop and focused on letting my belly calm down. At this time, I was not sure what was wrong, I just knew it was unhappy but at the same time I felt hungry. It was a very weird combo of feelings. I knew my body needed calories to function but I didn’t want to put anything in my mouth. I figured once I got to the run I would feel good, as that is my happy place. About 4 miles out from transition I began to increase my effort to get prepared for an increase in heart rate while running. All in all, I felt good about how I finished. I biked a 5:39 and moved into 7th place.

Transition 2 – Ironman Mont Tremblant

I love that someone is there to take your bike and rack it for you, all you have to do is head to the changing tent. I left my shoes on my bike so I could run through T2. Once I was in the changing tent I was flying through my things so I could be on the road again as soon as possible. My time was 2:29 and I was happy with that.

IMG_3183Run – Ironman Mont Tremblant

The run portion is always my favorite. This is my happy place. However, on this day I was struggling right out the gate. My stomach was in knots yet I knew I needed sugar. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, I never felt terrible, just not great. I started running hoping things would settle down and they never did. The run course is a two loop course with mild rollers for the first two to three miles and then photo-19an out and back, four mile flat section through a very dense verdant bike path. I maintained a decent pace for almost the first lap and then the wheels started to come off towards the end of the first lap. At the end of the loop I got to run through the village and the crowd was amazing. As I began my second loop and merged with runners coming out of T2 I realized how awesome it is to see all these people doing an Ironman, some of them for the very first time. Once again I felt an energy surge and rode that wave as long as I could.

At this time the weather could not decide what it wanted to do. The sun was trying to peak out from behind the clouds and when it would the air felt very thick and wet. Then all of a sudden the clouds opened up and dumped rain for a little while. The moment it stopped raining you could feel the sticky, wet air. I could not decide if I liked the weather or if it was nuisance. It definitely impacted my ability to fuel and hydrate properly. Because it was so humid I thought I needed more fluids, however the temps were in the mid to high 50’s. Therefore, I was not sweating out the fluids at the same rate I was putting them in and that impacted my body’s ability to properly digest the fuel that I was putting in.

At the start of my second loop I could feel myself sensing the barn and I picked my pace up a bit but I knew it was too soon to smell it. Before too long my peak of energy went plummeting down into a valley. I saw people walking and thought I could walk the rest of this marathon and still be under 11 hours and that would be perfectly acceptable. After all, I was not going to hit my 3:1x marathon goal, so what was the point of pushing and continuing to suffer. My stomach felt bubbly and I was mentally fading. This went on for about a mile, then I had a heart to heart with myself and realized I was not the only one suffering. All who choose to do a full Ironman suffer at some point. It just comes down to how bad do you want to suffer and what is your reason why.

My reason, well, I have a few: 1) I like to push my body to it’s limits and see what I am capable of, 2) I have three beautiful children that I love dearly and want to set the best example for them, 3) To show that if you simply put your mind to something, you can do it; you might have to make modifications along the way BUT you can do it.

I wanted to walk, in fact I did for a bit, but then chose to run because I knew I could. So what if I was not going to hit my big, fat, juicy goal, I had a bail out goal that I could still hit and that is what I went for. No one would have cared if I pussed out and walked in the rest of my marathon, except for me, and candidly, that is a driving force for me. My kids would not have cared, that would not have loved me any less but I would have known that I gave up on a goal and that would have bothered me.

With 5K left I picked my chin and feet up and ran as best I could to the finish cheering on as many people as possible along the way. My marathon time was 3:38, I know that is a good marathon time and I am proud of what I did. After evaluating my Garmin profile, my coach, Bill Wilson with Camelback Coaching, and I figured out my body was not absorbing the sugar I was putting in because of too much fluid in my stomach. My heart rate was drifting down as my perceived exertion was rising. A clear indicator that I needed more sugar. Note to self: On cool days, regardless of humidity, do not over consume fluids and consume more sugar.

I finished 6th in my age group and 18th out of 626 females with a time of 10:37. The other cool stat is I was 196th out of 2317 athletes that raced that day. Pretty cool. I went into Ironman Mont Tremblant with an open mind ready to learn something new about myself and about long course racing. In that case, I came out a big winner. I love goals and am a firm believer in them, if you don’t have them, what are you shooting for? Secondly, why do you have those goals? What drives you? I encourage you to have that defined so that when you hit a low spot in racing you can pull on those wonderfully beautiful goals and they will pull you out of the pain cave.

Lastly, I want to thank my family for all of the love and support to do this crazy sport and pursue some big dreams. Camelback Coaching for their unwavering support and encouragement through all my training and racing. Right Honda for partnering with me and believing that we can make an impact on the health and wellness of our society. Destination Kona for always being willing to help get whatever I need to be successful out there on the battle field. Sole Sports Running for supplying me with best shoes and support and also believing that we can make a difference. And Wattie Ink for taking a stand in the triathlon community and making athletes comfortable and stylish at the same time!

Now…onto Ironman 70.3 World Championships, on the same course in Mont Tremblant 🙂

Stay tuned… and Happy Training!

About sherianne

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is SheriAnne Nelson and I am happily married to my husband Mike. I’m a mother of three beautiful children ages 9, almost 6, and 3, am a passionate fitness professional, and a Star Diamond Level fitness coach within the Team Beachbody program in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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