|Toufou and I at Mt. Tremblant|
Eventually we found a parking lot on the outside of the Station (I'll call it village from now on), among the mayhem of cars, buses and bikes. Got changed into our jerseys, biking shoes and shorts then off we went onto our ride. Our plan was to do one 90k loop of the Ironman course and get acquainted with the landscape. I had read a review of the course that was saying that Mt. Tremblant is harder than Coeur D'Alene, but easier than Lake Placid, with a nasty hill of 17.2% somewhere in the middle. What I had not realized, was that the article was referring to the entire Ironman bike ride, which meant that the hill was at the end of the first loop (and the second!!). So for the first 30k, all I kept asking myself was... where are the hills? This isn't bad at all, beautiful highways, speedy descents, a few moderate climbs, but nothing that looked as nasty as a 17.2%. Here we are at the 34k mark where we turned around on the Hwy 117. We had a snack and a drink, and enough time for a photo-souvenir.
|Neo and I riding the Highway|
|My name is 117. Hwy 117.|
|Scotty and Zin|
And guess what? There it was, the famous hill. Sneaky sneaky, in the last 10k - the reviews were right after all. You MUST leave something in the legs to do this climb, TWICE. It definitely felt never-ending and unforgiving. I can't even imagine how people manage it after 6-7h on the saddle, but I suppose that I'll find out, sooner or later. ;-) The descent was magnificent, in its whole speedy goodness, especially with 3 unmarked police cars on my tail. I don't think I went over the 70km/h speed limit, it was a winding road after all, but I got a knot in my throat when I saw them passing me after 5 minutes of downhill bliss.
Back to the car, I swallowed an apple turnover whole and drank two full bottles of water. Legs seized up, I could barely move. It was my fastest 90k ride ever, I didn't feel like pushing much, but body said otherwise. You can do a 3h12 bike split, but you also must eat. Good reminder for my upcoming 70.3 race: I should not get caught in the frenzy of the race or the novelty of a circuit. In case of doubt, stop and think: am I doing everything right?? (*taking notes here*)
After my legs decided that the break was over, I changed back into "triathlon chic" clothes and hopped in a shuttle bus that took us straight into Mt. Tremblant village. There, as I said at the beginning of this post, we were in IronmanLand - even if you wanted to, you could not hide from triathletes, many of them already sporting their decal numbers on their arms and age on the calf. And of course, wearing their favorite race tshirt - the perfect conversation starter. I opted for the black Toronto Triathlon Festival tee; there is something elegant and bad ass about their cryptic symbol, which only people familiar with would recognize. Even though I was not part of the Ironman "family", at least I could talk triathlon. ;-)
|The only thing missing on these slopes is snow|
|I wonder if this hill is part of the run course?|
|You know where triathletes live - look for the wetsuits hung out to dry|
|Everyone wants a photo by the Ironman sign|
|The gates to Transition|
|Riri in a Muskoka Chair - how fitting!|
|Insert $$$ here|
|The red carpet|
|Time is up, literally.|
|Zin and the Gadget Man|
The alarm clock went off at 4am and we jumped out of bed, ready to go go go! In 30min tops we were on our way. The wrong way. The long way. The scenic way. With deer in the headlights and winding, narrow, potholey roads in the middle of the forest and around a lake, and another, and another... the GPS confusion had stricken again. We didn't pay enough attention, the direction seemed okay, but once on this path, we hoped it would take us back on the highway... and the further we were getting away from it, the less we wanted to come back to it. I am not going to say how fast we went, but I was sure hanging on for my dear life, praying that we don't collide with any animal and the car doesn't do a flying jump in the lake nearby.
Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, we found our way back onto the highway, then onto an airfield that got turned into a parking lot, where the shuttle buses were going to pick us up. Just in time I'd say, we arrived in the village with 30min to spare before the swim start. I went to the women's tent to check in with my team captain, got my volunteer tshirt, wristband and meal tickets, then headed towards the lake to spectate the swim start. On my way I caught up with Zin who was also ready to start his day as bike handler.
|The delicate light of the sunrise|
We waited until the first age groupers were on their way, then went back to transition where our day as volunteers was about to start. My job was to help women as they were coming through the changing area. Basically, to be there to put on sunscreen, socks, shoes, gels in pockets, empty transition bags and pack them back up, strip wetsuits for those who still had them on (mostly pro women), chit-chat, encourage, console, assess whether someone needed medical assistance, etc.
|Some bikes will stay|
|The Bag Dance|
We had about 1h of downtime afterwards, enough time to grab a bite in the volunteers' tent, go to the washrooms and check out the Expo. I found myself a pair of 2XU Recovery Compression Tights at 30% off, which I had been eyeing for years, a tube of DZ Nuts Bliss chamois cream (I'm a convert!) and a bottle of electrolyte tablets. I bought Zin an Ironman cap as well, but I could not convince myself to buy any other Ironman branded apparel, not yet anyway. It just didn't feel right.
|Bono doesn't swim|
Mary Beth Ellis was back in first again and she was looking so strong out there, I was having doubts that someone was going to catch her that day. Darbi was also holding onto her first AG spot and was giving some pros a lesson. As for Jennie, she passed so many women on the bike, my heart jumped with joy when I saw her coming in T2 in 8th place (down from 20-something).
I also saw some of my Facebook peeps, Mary Eggers (who also happens to be Jennie's coach), who was doing her last Ironman in honor of a friend who passed away last year, killed by a drunk driver, and Wendy, my redhead neighbour extraordinaire - I connected with both in the past few months, but they are real sweethearts and amazing athletes. My ultimate goal that day was actually to finish my shift and look for them on the course, cheering from the sidelines, until they finished - because I knew they would, they are both so passionate about the sport and obviously fueled by good karma.
After 5:45pm, only a handful of unopened transition bags remained, but another big pile was asking for our attention. Same as in the morning, we had to line them up, but this time we also had to find their twin and attach them together. Like a well oiled machine, the volunteer team got the job done in the blink of an eye, then we all got released from our duties. I met with Zin in the volunteers' tent again, we ate more food then we went to put our phones in charge as they were both drained. Just like us, but it was shameful to even think of aching limbs and knees when 2000 athletes were battling with their will to keep putting a foot in front of the other.
I saw Jennie Hansen walking by with her hubby David, who also competed in the Ironman (and finished under 10h!), and asked her if she got her spot to Kona, to which she replied that she came in 6th and qualified!! I could no longer contain my excitement, so I asked her to take a picture with me. I knew I was standing beside a great champion. David was very kind and took the photo below. I was so freaking happy!!
|Meeting Jennie Hansen|
|The crowd embrace|
One thing I knew, I was going to stay until midnight. Hubbs needed a nap, so he decided to go sleep in the car. I waited for Wendy to finish eating and get changed, then we went together to the finish line where the party was just getting started. Mike Reilly was on fire, and so were we. Athletes kept coming in, and with each new finisher, the crowd was getting louder.
|You are an IRONMAN!!|
After the crowd scattered, I took the shuttle bus to the airfield where I found Zin sleeping like a baby. He didn't even notice the messages I had sent him. I woke him up, then we drove back to the hotel, without getting lost this time. We collapsed in our bed in seconds and set up the alarm clock for 7am. We were going to sleep in, yay!! The next morning we returned to the Mt. Tremblant village. I had one more mission. At 9:35am this happened. BAM!!