Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pinch Me... Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart." -Helen Keller

I keep having this dream.  It's a dream where I wake up smiling because it's one of those you want to replay over and over again in your mind.  Then I realize, it was real.  It really happened.  THAT really just happened.  Ironman Mont Tremblant 2013!

Upon our arrival, Kyle and I were greeted by an Ironman flag at one of the most beautiful houses right on the lake.  This kind of attention to detail and welcoming atmosphere continued through our entire trip.  Hats off to the Tremblant volunteers, planning organization and everyone who made this trip so special!! 

We met the lovely couple, Tom and Shelia, who would be our "homestay" or our "billet" as she called it for the next four days!  They were such gracious hosts!

We had a relaxing few days leading up to the race on Sunday, and I felt as ready as I could possibly be to execute my plan all day long.  It's a good feeling knowing you have done every single thing you could to prepare physically and mentally.  All that was left to do was stand on the starting line.  I met with Coach Jesse on Friday after the pro meeting and my plans were set.  The course looked challenging and fair.  Just my style!

It was a nice luxury for the pros to have our own bags on each chair labeled in the change tent.  Again, they really treated ALL the athletes well and I was thankful for these little touches for the professionals that helped our day run as smoothly as possible. Plus they fit my WHOLE last name on the sign and my bib number.  That's a feat in itself!  My good friend Jacqui Gordon was racing as well as a last minute entry.  I was so happy to see her and catch up before the race. 

Race morning we arrived very early and I spent the 45 minutes in the car relaxing and just visualizing my day.  I prayed the same prayers for a safe day for me and all the athletes over and over again.  I was nervous when I arrived, but it seemed to fade away as it was time to get things underway.  

It wasn't even light when we hit the swim start for the 6:36am gun.  I love this shot of Kyle  (middle with his ball cap) getting ready for a long day ahead while I'm out warming up on the swim course!

I lined up right in the middle of these exceptional women.  The quality of the field was extremely high due to some of the highest points on the circuit at the North American Championship.  I had some anxiety about the fact that we would be running in vs. starting in the water before the race (these type of starts CAN be rough with elbows flying everywhere), but I listened to my coach and did what I was told.  His words were as follows: get in the mix and get tough, FIND THOSE FEET and swim those first 400 meters like my life depended on it.  

With a BANG, we were off!  I found some open water and surprisingly, I wasn't getting too banged up!  Swimming hard, I realized I was starting to pack up with some girls so I fought to stay with them.  After a few minutes, they seemed to settle in and I was still alongside the group of about five women and I wasn't struggling to stay in position.  "THIS IS HAPPENING," I thought!  Finally, I swimming with a group!!  Before I knew it, we were rounding the far turn buoys and I started thinking about how I could (and maybe should) be swimming a bit harder.  I pulled out alongside the group to see if I could spot any swimmers ahead, but not one person was close enough to bridge the gap and make a move.  We headed on the back buoy line and I gave it some good thought.  In the end, I knew it made the most sense to stay with these girls.  We may not swim one hour or under (which is what Coach said I was capable of doing before the race), but we would be close.  I could tell and the energy I was saving was worth it's weight in gold on a 9+ hour day.  It was like sailing and I was smiling all the way. 

2.4 mile Swim Time: 1:02:10

Photo Credit: Jean-Christophe Lagace

Out onto the bike, I was very close to my teammate Jennie Hanson and I knew we are very equally matched in our cycling ability so this could keep me motivated with keeping her a constant distance away (of legal distance of course!).  The Tremblant bike course is exceptionally beautiful.  The air was cool as it rushed by at a moderate 65 degrees. It was perfect conditions for a great day.  Usually, I have trouble hitting my first wattage goal for the day, but today was different.  My legs seemed to lack their usual protest from the swim (less kicking - another benefit from swimming with a group!).  The wattage (force on the pedals) was reaching my goal and I was loving life!  I tried to stay in my own little box and not worry about what anyone else was doing or where they were.  Ironman is a long day and you're better off not to think about those things at this early stage of the game.  "Stick to your plan," I told myself.  We headed up the first section with long steady climbs to La Belle.

I felt calm and controlled.  I was drinking my Powerbar Perform and taking my gels every 45 minutes like clockwork.  At the 2:00 mark, I knew I was hydrated and had a successful downhill section to prove it!  I'm growing up a bit as a pro and with every successful move in that direction I feel a bit more confident I will never again have to get off my bike to get the job done!! 

It started to heat up as we made our way on the back half of the first loop with these kicker hills that you are wise to try and get in your easiest gear and grunt out as long as possible before you have to stand.  I saw Kyle and Coach Jesse and they encouraged me to stay on my numbers.  On the second loop, I started to see my proximity had me gaining on a few girls.  While I didn't get too excited about it, I used it as motivation to try and keep the pressure on my target wattage and be smart.  I was making some headway and Jennie and I continued to switch places on an off as some age-group male athletes interspersed themselves with us making it hard to not pass all 6 of them to stay legal.  We had many officials with us throughout the day so that was nice to see.  I made sure to pay attention to legal distance.  

Finally, I started feeling that "get me off this bike" feeling around mile 100 and even though I didn't know exactly what place I was in, I felt I had made some headway on the bike and ridden smart hitting my targets exactly.  It was time to see what I could do on this run!

112 mile Bike Time: 5:11:20

Mike Riley "the voice of Ironman" did an wonderful job of keeping all the spectators informed and keeping the athletes pumped up

Let's face it, I love the Ironman run.  Sure, I'm a runner, and I know it's going to be hard, but at the very least you lessen the chance of something random, like a mechanical issue, taking you out of the race.  I headed out optimistic that I could do some damage if I had the right day and see where I landed.  The temperature was perfect for a great run day at 77 degrees with very little humidity.  I would get to see Kyle, our homestay family and Coach Jesse (and many more) people out on the course which is always a great pick me up!

You head out of town and encounter some snappy hills (my course elevation from my watch showed 2,200 feet of elevation change total for the run course) that make you grunt a bit!  You know in your heart that the second time around they might hurt quite a bit more (but you try not to think about that!).  Eventually, you head out onto a shaded crushed gravel path to a turn around and back into town to end your first 13 mile loop of the two loop course.  This gravel path is a great chance to see who's ahead of you (and behind you!).  My heart rate in the early stages of the marathon was even a little low and I had been instructed to take the "pace" feature off my watch so I didn't know how fast I was running.  I pushed the hills to try and get the heart rate up a bit and it steadily climbed until I was happy heading out onto the path.  Around mile seven, I could see another athlete ahead and I started realizing I was gaining a bit on her.

When I hit the turn around, I passed her shortly after. Although I passed with some gusto, she hung on tightly for the next five miles right back into town! Little did I know at the time, this was the very well known and very talented Erika Csomor!  She was TOUGH and would not let me go! Her coach was yelling at us in her native language (Hungarian I think!).  I tried not to worry about her, and instead, focus on what was ahead.  Right at the moment I needed them, there were Kyle and Jesse as I headed out of town.  Coach Jesse informed me that we weren't far off 5th place, so to keep my eyes open.  Just over the hill, that's exactly what I saw my friend Haley and the 5th place biker.  I must have gotten excited and picked up the pace and I finally didn't hear Erika's footsteps right on my heels.

I took over the 5th position right around mile fourteen and as my biker turned around and pointed at me and held five fingers up I nodded and committed to the fact that I was going to run the next miles with all the heart and fortitude within my being.  The tricky part was there were NO mile markers, only Kilometers!  I didn't do my math homework before this race so at some point you start trying to calculate things and it just doesn't work you are so tired!  I resigned after the turn at the gravel path to make it to 2 hrs 30 mins because SURELY there couldn't be much over 4 more miles to run (7 mins per mile x 4 = 28 mins).  My legs were crying out in that achy pain with each and every step, but I thought about all the people watching when crossing each mat and knew that everyone I knew was pulling for me!!  I looked down at my arm and there were the initials, an "M" on one arm and a "J" on the other.  I couldn't let these girls down.  They each were fighters and so was I.  Coming into this race, I never expected to be in this position.  I knew I was having a very special day that was a blessing from above.  I wasn't about to waste it.

The countdown was on.. "Make it back to town" I told myself over and over.  I sung songs, I prayed and sometimes I just tried to blank out and think of nothing.  The pain was creeping in, but it wasn't enough to stop me.  I barreled on hoping my legs would continue to do what my mind and heart were asking.

Finally, I started winding into the town section and a funnel lined with people on both sides with sheer masses of screaming people were amazing!!  I felt like I was flying!  They were carrying me to the finish!  The finish turned off quickly to the left and I almost missed it.  Grabbing a volunteer to not totally fall over, I made the quick pull to the side and finally started to smile.

This was it!!!!!!!!!!!!

26.2 mile Run Time: 3:03:45* (*fastest female run split of the day)
Photo Credit: Jean-Christophe Lagace

Sheer joy - Final time 9:23* New Ironman PR

Sheer thankfulness - Fifth place female pro

Finish Line Video (courtesy of Kyle!!)

When it was all said and done, with the help of God, my husband, coach, family and friends, I had put together the best day I could.  A day I would never forget.  The time or place didn't matter to me as much as those facts.  I just wanted to show what the last 10 months had been about, the early bedtimes, the attention to nutrition, the early mornings and the runs in 97 degree heat.  

Kyle was right there by my side, as he always is, supporting me, loving me and always believing in me.  I swear he believes more in me than I do in myself sometimes.  I'm so thankful for him and I could never do any of this without him.

Congratulations to all of the other female competitors and to Mary Beth Ellis on a huge win! Thank you to all of you who have reached out via facebook, email, my blog, and via text.  I appreciate each and every one and don't take one message for granted.  Thank you to my coach, Jesse Kronpelnicki who has been with me through every step of this journey building me and molding me into the athlete we both know I can become!  Thank you to the Wheelers for letting us stay with you and being such wonderful hosts!!  We loved our time getting to know you!!  Thank you volunteers who helped us through every step of the way!! Thank you to my sponsors NormaTec, Top Gear Bicycle, Beyond Aero, QT2 Systems, Rudy Project, Fuel Belt and Powerbar for your assistance through product and services!  I am very thankful to have you in my corner!!

Time to celebrate!!

"I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds it" -Ralph Abernathy

PS.  No word on qualifying for the Ironman World Championships yet for those of you who have been following!  We will know more after this weekend's races, but it is going to be close!  I may make it, I may not, but either way, I'll know I left it all out there.. and that my friends is what it's all about!!


Robert said...

What a truly awesome experience. Thank you for sharing it!!

Steve said...

Congrats on a great race. I saw your run time as someone posted your name to the pro times, and I was like WOAH!!

3:03 or whatever after all the other stuff is pretty elite stuff.

Congrats again. :)

Jennifer Harrison said...

What an amazing race...GREAT and impressive run split and PR !! I know how hard you have worked - so good for you, Kim! HOPE You are enjoying this one and the success you have had this season! Well earned!

Damie said...

It was fantastic race. Congrats again!