I started running with my usual "all day long pace" (around 6:30min/km) and my plan was to keep it easy and relaxed and see how far my legs would take me without the dreaded pain that had taken over my knees 2 months prior. And oh surprise, I was feeling NO pain! One km, two km... the hills were looking nasty and my fitness wasn't quite there as I had pretty much given up running for 6 weeks before the Ironman, but I saw most people around me (going in the same direction, because in the opposite one was the fierce fight for the first place female and that was looking quite intense) walking up the hills and so I decided to follow suit. Nobody was there to judge, so why would I care?
My fuel belt was already feeling heavy and I had no desire to drink anything from it for the time being. Remember my problem with boredom of the palate? Yeah, that can be annoying sometimes. At the first water station on the trail I had the choice between Coke, Red Bull, water and Perform (I think) and I took some Coke to see if my body tolerates it. No immediate adverse reaction and no problem for the next 4km... Win! The studies were there to prove it, drinking Coke in the last portion of an endurance event could enhance performance, and despite the fact that I stopped drinking pop in 2007, getting a little boost with a "gas expeller" side effect, was not going to be a choice to be ashamed of.
I also took a few orange slices to remove the sweet and sticky taste of Coke. My taste buds were already rebellious by then. I continued running steady with almost no walking breaks, still amazed at my lack of pain in the knees. Told you guys that adrenaline and endorphins are powerful drugs... you should do more of those, they're totally legal.
Right after I reached the end of the trail and turned around, it started raining again. Seriously, Mother Nature? Another temper tantrum, but this one did not last enough to spoil the day... maybe 10 minutes in total. We got a little wet, but it was rather refreshing. However my feet got soaked and I started looking forward to the fresh pair of socks that I had in my special needs bag. Soon enough I was back in the village, but there was still a way to go before the end of the loop. First, another chunk of trail in the opposite direction, not paved this time... and I had to watch my footing so I don't roll an ankle. One cannot be too careful on Ironman day, especially when everything is going so well!
Then back on the hills again... and who do I see with 3km to go? Zin!! There he was, he came to keep me company for a bit, although from the opposite side of the sidewalk so I don't get DQ'd or something. I was so paranoid... I wanted to give him my fuel belt and I started thinking of scenarios that would not qualify as "outside assistance" and came to the conclusion that I could just as well throw it inside a garbage can or on the ground and he could pick it up later... but I threw it at him anyway. He took this photo of me just minutes before, when he saw me emerging from the woods so to speak. I chose to keep the bottle of pickle juice with me though, as I never did a marathon without it.
I've got company, haha. I wonder if this picture is a good representation of the male/female participation ratio at this races. 7:1? Anyway, I had NO idea.
I stopped at special needs where I sat for 2 minutes to change my socks - what a lovely feeling, like a new pair of feet - and grabbed a small box of Pringles. There was also a can of Red Bull in the bag, but since the aid stations had plenty of it and the Coke was working just as well, I decided to leave it. I was already looking classy enough with my chips and my bottle of pickle juice in hand.
Zin continued running "with" me for about 2km, then Wendy joined the party! I loved seeing both of them... and I was still so damn happy... My desire to sign up for another Ironman RIGHT THERE, RIGHT AT THAT MOMENT was consuming my brain. I almost didn't want it to end. I think I have a problem and no, it was not just temporary. I know what I'm talking about... it's now one month after the race and my fingers are still itching to grab the credit card out of my wallet.
With these silly thoughts in mind, I made it back to Mt Tremblant station where the crowds were loud and wild, already cheering on the Ironman finishers. I thought that starting the second loop was going to be hard, taking right instead of left just 50m from the finish line... But nope, I was on the roll and this party was all kinds of awesome! I was wondering if they had a disco ball at the finish... "You should be dancing, yeah!"
But back on the road, I felt lonely all of a sudden. The hills were looking meaner and steeper and my decision to walk them was starting to dread on me as my knee pain had returned and was at its peak whenever I was resuming the running. It was all manageable though and I was already looking forward to the flat section where I wouldn't have to stop.
I remember arriving on the trail with some daylight remaining, and almost wishing the photographers would still be there to capture us the "magic light". But nah, they were already gone and the lights were already turned on. Party poopers.
I drowned my sorrow in pickle juice. It tasted like heaven! No need to switch back to Coke until further notice, I could do just well with salt and vinegar. The nectar of the Gods, dudes!
I noticed that a lady was running close behind me and at some point she said that I was helping her to keep moving, or she would have stopped running a while ago... Now that was exactly what I/both needed, company to share the pain and the struggle. I asked her if the pace was ok and she said "perfect", but that she wanted to walk through the water stations... But of course, no problem with that, even though my knees preferred the relentless forward motion. I had a Tylenol 3 (codeine) with me in case things got really ugly, so that thought remained my safety net, along with the last minute mantra by Billy Ocean, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going" (read Part 1 for the background).
I learned that her name was Jane and that it wasn't her first Ironman, but at that particular moment, it was probably going to be her last. I wonder if she changed her mind since... ;-) It was definitely nice to have someone to chat with, and the kilometers went by one by one, rather uneventful. The night fell upon us way before the first turn around and it was dark in places and very quiet. Several times she felt bad for asking me to walk, but I kept reassuring her that it was no biggie. In a short delirious moment we even wondered if we could make it under 14h... but quickly abandoned the thought of being stressed by an arbitrary number. We knew that we still had a few hills ahead and most likely it was foolish to dream of significantly speeding up when we were actually fading down.
Once we reached the second turn around I told her that no matter what, we were going to stick together until the end. She asked me to promise her that I would run ahead and have my own moment at the finish line... That was a deal... if only I could still run by then. :-) The old village was now deserted, with only a few scattered people yelling at us "Lache pas!!" (don't give up), drinking beer in front of their houses. My own celebratory beer had to wait a little... Only 3 more kilometers... Wendy was there again, but I was out of words. The emotions were slowly taking over my tired self and I was dreaming of the finish line... Lights, music, Mike Reilly's voice, space blankets, and my family! I told Wendy that I was sorry for not being as talkative as before... But she knew and she didn't say a word. The pain in the knees was there in full force, but I was resolved not to take the T3 until after I become an Ironman. It makes it even more Ironman-er without drugs, right? Whatever my mind was tricking me into thinking, I was game. And tough, almost-Iron tough. Billy Ocean kind of tough (even though I wasn't looking for Jewels on the Nile).
As we were approaching the roaring crowds, I shared my mantra with Jane and she said, "isn't this a song by Billy Ocean"? What a woman, she knows her 80s too! It made me smile, just as we turned the corner onto the cobblestone path, surrounded by a sea of people. She said... go, go GO... and I RAN. High fives left and right. BEST FEELING EVER... and it only lasted a minute.. two maybe? I heard my name and Mike Reilly got it right!! Did he rehearse or what?! I raised my arms in the air and took half a second to savor being under the arch. I was still feeling like a million bucks.
Someone gave me a blanket, then I heard another familiar voice in the crowd. It was Zin with my mom and my boys. I walked over and gave them all big sweaty hugs.
|A fleeting moment, and still a blur|
I talked to Jane for a minute, we exchanged Twitter handles (I still haven't found her since, I must have gotten it wrong), then Wendy came to sit with me... I drank my beer and ate some fries... I was definitely more thirsty than hungry. My body was feeling totally fine and I told myself, wow, I felt much worse after a standalone marathon. About 10 minutes later I was getting cold and wanted to see my family really bad. So I went to have my finisher photo taken, then met with my loved ones.
We went to pick up my bike, my bags, I put on some warmer clothes, we took the bus to the air field, then drove back to the cottage, where I went to sleep. The End. :-)
And what else is there to say? I DID IT. I AM AN IRONMAN.
So I raced smart, I kept the heart rate down and my ego in check, I ate and drank regularly, and in the end... it really didn't feel bad at all.
Anyone can do an Ironman? Absolutely!! Stop doubting yourselves!
However, I could not have done it without the support of my family and friends, close and far. My Coeur tri kit did not disappoint (zero chaffing!!), my bike Trinity did not fail me, thanks to my best bike mechanic, my hubby. My ROKA wetsuit kept me warm and buoyant without excess tightness and panic attacks. My coach gave me a great plan and helped this 40 yr old body reach the level of fitness and endurance to do the unthinkable and for that I am extremely grateful as well.
I could not have asked for a better day. Will I do it again? OH YEAH!!!
(To read the whole shebang - follow the links for The Swim and The Bike)