The FAANT chicks are racing again!
Ironman Mont-Tremblant was in a word: Amazing! The entire city joined together to welcome all the triathletes. They repaved the roads, rolled out the red carpet (literally there was a red carpet on the road from the swim exit to transition) and put together the most organized race weekend I have ever experienced in any sport. The venue at Mont Tremblant, Quebec was breathtaking. This cute little village on the mountainside was perfect for a family summer vacation with adorable shops, lots of activities for young and old and a great venue where families could stay right on the mountainside and catch their triathlete many times during the race without having to travel anywhere!
We flew into Montreal on Thursday night and drove the almost two hours to the village of Mont-Tremblant. The hotel was lovely and about 400 yards from the finish line. Perfect! Friday included packet pick up, a practice swim in the crystal clear mountain lake, picking up my bike from Tribike Transport and a short bike ride to explore the course. Wow! Super hilly in the just the small portion around the finish line. This was a harbinger of what was to come! A little shopping, a gondola ride and then an extremely well attended pre-race welcome dinner. When have you ever seen more than 5,000 people at a pre-race pasta dinner? Never! The tent was overflowing and excitement was in the air.
It was the little things that you noticed. They repaved a large portion of the bike course. Permanent street signs marking the bike and run course. People to help you everywhere that actually knew what they were talking about. Super organized packet pick up that flowed quickly and efficiently. Lots of pre-planned entertainment for the whole family! A sense of welcoming excitement everywhere!
Saturday was a day to explore and rest. Check in the bikes and drop off all the transition bags. Big dinner and early bedtime. Sunday was race day!
Since the swim start was less than a half mile from the hotel, I didn’t have to get up before 5 am to get to this race! 5:30am to body marking then check on my bike. A short walk to the swim start and we were ready to go! I actually had a small melt down on the beach when I realized I forgot my goggles at the hotel! I was less organized than the race officials! Janet had an extra pair, but my super-sherpa, Peter, ran back to the hotel and got my goggles before we started. Thank the Lord the hotel was so close! The Canadian anthem, a fighter plane fly over and we were off.
A tremendous beach start! A wide beach so it wasn’t extremely crowded at the mass stat. It still felt like swimming in a washing machine, but the crowd thinned out quickly on the way to the first buoy. No sense of drowning today. The water was amazingly clear and a crisp 70 degrees. Perfect for a comfortable wet suit swim. Janet and I both had a good swim and were out of the water and into transition practically together.
Onto the bikes we go! The first half of the bike course (two loops) was absolutely gorgeous! There were great crowds, lots of volunteers, tons of spectators yelling in three languages and breathtaking scenery along the way. The countryside was dazzling and the air was crisp and cool but not cold. The hills at the beginning were challenging but not horrible. A nice warm up for the backside of the course!
The wind started to pick up and a light rain started to fall just as I headed into the last 20K of the first loop. I was doing just fine until the rain. Steady and on pace. Janet was rocking the bike course, as we all knew she would! The last part of the first loop was incredibly challenging. So many hills I stopped counting. I thought I was never going to see transition! My brakes were wet and I was freezing! I was extremely thankful for the light jacket I had put on because it was a little chilly. It kept me from going hypothermic in the chilly rain. The rain subsided and I hit transition for the second time. Oh no! I had to do the loop again! The hills were so daunting and my legs were already dead. Back onto the course I went for the second loop. I slowed considerably and then rain returned. Ugh! Janet was about an hour ahead of me by the time I hit transition to go on the run. She was doing awesome! Me, not so well…. There were times in the last half of the second loop that I wasn’t sure I was going to make the bike cut off! The last hills were sadistic! Who puts a 15% grade hill in the last 6 miles of a 112 mile bike course? God has a sense of humor and the race was on a mountain side! I saw a lot of the mountain! They don’t make hills like that in Texas!
As I exited transition and tried to run, my legs protested. Internal whining and a little negative self talk ensued. I was fast walking the first few miles to see if I could “embrace the suck” (see previous blog) and get my butt moving. When I saw Janet going the other way on the first loop of the run, she was smiling and looked good. I started to run (maybe you would call it a fast shuffle, but it was all I had). The run was also two loops, but they were nice enough to make about ten miles of the course along a dirt trail in the woods and predominantly FLAT! I made lots of friends on the run (shocker to anyone that runs with me – yes, I talk non-stop). Chatting away as I tried to keep myself moving. I was laughing at myself. Due to the fact that my bike potion was so slow, I found myself in an unusual position in the back of the race with the elderly, physically impaired (lots of walking wounded) and the people like me that perhaps hadn’t trained as much as they should’ve for the killer hills! This was an interesting group and lots of great stories were told as we all trudged toward the finish.
My only complaint about the course (can’t really complain about the hills, I knew it was on a mountain when I signed up!) was the fact that we had to run right by the finish line to enter the second loop of the run. This was great for spectators, but the crowd was cheering you on and telling you that you were almost there when really you had 21K left. Ugh again! It was just mean! You could see the fish line but knew you had to go back out for a second loop! At this point, my daughter Caitlin was very inspiring yelling, “You can do this Mommy!” and jumping up and down with excitement. It got me motivated to finish hard. I sucked it up and started to run again; this time at a decent pace. My legs were killing me, but the last 21K weren’t going to get done under the cutoff without a little push. It is times like this that you realize why Ironman is not for the mentally weak. You have to dig deep and overcome your natural instinct to quit and call it a day!
There were many times in the last loop that I thought I was nearly the last person on the course. The people behind me were dropping like flies. We had lost a handful to the bike cutoff and a few more to the sag wagon. At one point on the run course, I had a personal guide on a mountain bike with a headlight. They had thought of everything. They had medical volunteers patrolling the last half of the run course making sure everyone was OK. I had a nice chat with an EMT from Toronto on his bike, who said he was so inspired by the athletes that he thought he would try an Ironman! It was infectious! Even though there couldn’t have been more than twenty people left on the course that were going to make it in by midnight, there were still lots of spectators along the course! And yummy hot chicken broth! Nectar from God! Amazing! Dark, cold, windy and yes, the rain started again!! I had to keep moving at my pathetically slow run pace! One foot in front of the other! I chatted with a fellow from Toronto for about the last 7 miles. We were both hyperaware that we had to keep moving at a decent pace or midnight was going to come and we were not going to make the finish! Onward we trudged, running the flats and downhill while walking the hills. The last hill at 2K to go looked like a mountain to my weary legs, but you could hear the excitement at the finish line.
I picked up my pace and glided to the line. Whew! Made it with a half hour to spare! Mike Reilly (the voice of Ironman) stopped me just before the finish line, put his arm around my shoulders and turned me towards the to crowd of spectators saying, “Mary Crane from Grapevine, Texas, these people have something to tell you!” The crowd shouted together, “You are an Ironman!” What a moment! Even though I had been there before, nothing can equal the emotion I was feeling at that moment. Elated to have finished and emotional since there were so many times during the race I had thought of quitting and giving up. I had dug deep for this one and succeeded. I can’t explain the emotions. I was disappointed with my performance because of the times but elated to just have made it to the finish line. A fantastic ending to a tough day.
The finish line people were also amazing! I had a personal guide to get my medal. The winner of the entire race, Romain Guillaume from France, gave me my medal and kissed me on both cheeks. What an awesome guy! He had finished almost 8 hours before me, but came back to give out medals to the stragglers at the end of the race. My family was waiting for me with big hugs and happy faces. The time was forgotten in my daughter’s hug! The look on her face made the day all worth it. I had embraced the suck and won! Janet finished almost an hour before I did and had a great day! A monster personal best for her on a killer course! She deserved it! She worked so hard this year! I am proud to be her training peep!
Ironman Mont-Tremblant is easily going to rise to the top of the destination races! It was extremely challenging, but so incredibly well run for all! Kudos to the people of Quebec! They get an A+! The race experience was excellent, even if my time was not!
Yes, I said it, "Embrace the Suck!"
I was watching the London Olympic ‘s Women’s marathon this morning and thinking of my upcoming Ironman in Quebec. (Yes, I was up at 5am to watch the race and was on my bike trainer so I wouldn’t waste the training time) The announcers were talking about the work these women put in day after day for years that culminates at their shot for Olympic gold. They also talked about the way an Olympic gold could really change many of their lives, especially those from African nations. Although I did find their commentary interesting, the one thing that struck me was the comment that at least 30 of the woman had the athletic talent to win gold, but it was the ability to embrace the suffering inherent in the marathon distance that eventually meant the difference between Olympic champions and also ran.
It reminded me of an article I read in Triathlon magazine by Chris McCormack (for those non-triathletes he is “Macca” and a hugely successful triathlete and pretty neat guy) that had this topic as its theme. “Embrace the suck!” is Macca’s mantra when thinking about long course. He also felt that mind over body and how you controlled your mind during a race meant the difference between successes and also ran or in some cases DNF! (Did Not Finish)
There was one study that had half the athletes doing math problems while doing weight reps and half the athletes concentrating on the weights. Guess which one fatigued earlier? Of course the ones spending mental energy on math and losing focus of the reps. Focus is the key to success!
What does all this mean? My musing this morning comes down to why we do this sport. Whether you are a marathoner or a long course triathlete, you challenge yourself to perform races that most people think are insane. Why? The challenge! The edge! Whether our goal is to finish or a time goal or to win, a satisfying race is accomplished when we come to the edge and come face-to-face with our inner weakness. The edge comes when the risk is compelling enough to make it all count. I find myself asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” about halfway into a long race. How I answer is the difference between success and a less than optimal outcome. Whining is not an option. At that point, I might as well throw in the towel. Perishing on the pavement is also not a good option. Confronting this inner voice and trouncing it makes the race a success.
After finishing my first Ironman, I went back to work the next week with the feeling I could do anything! Not only was my mental attitude better at work, but it was also better at home. I had embraced the suffering and succeeded so nothing was impossible, even the whining of my 13-yr-old! I find in business, the same mantra holds true. If you embrace the suck, meaning put it all on the line knowing it will take work, suffering and an uphill battle; you usually succeed. Why? Same reason, the risk is compelling enough for us to put in 100% effort! We can’t lose when we bring our “A” game!
I have a significant challenge in 2 weeks at Ironman Mont-Tremblant. The course is at altitude and is very hilly! I will conquer the course and finish the race, which is my goal this year. I know I will be asking myself why I am racing and what does it matter to anyone except myself that I finish. My self-talk will tell my inner voice to suck it up and finish no matter how bad I feel, for myself, for my friends and family and for all my patients following their doctor! I inspire them to take on life’s challenges and win! If it were easy, everyone would do it!
Bottom line: Embrace the suck!! In a race and in your life! You embrace the pain and the challenge, then deal with it and succeed!
What a great new product that I stumbled upon at the Ironman 70.3 New Orleans expo. This is awesome! I bought one for my daughter so I can sleep better when she is training! Ever worry about drowning in the chaos that is the Ironman swim start? This is the answer!
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