I am an Ironman!
Race: Ironman Mont-Tremblant
Race Date: August 18, 2019
Authored by: Melaney Bouthillette
By the numbers: My finish time was 14:21:32, #1626 out of the fortunate 2230 people to finish
Training hours: Yes, it takes a lot to train for an Ironman, without counting the years leading up to my fitness base, I put in about 390 hours of training since last December to get to the start line.
First off, one of the reasons I picked this race was for the location and local support. Mont-Tremblant is an amazing destination that fully embraces the Ironman and welcomes athletes year-round to train. I felt this both when I went to train there over the summer and during my race week. Also, I love Canada so I am biased. This is known to be a difficult course, similar to Lake Placid, but I would choose a bike course with an elevation profile over a flat course any day.
4:30am wake-up call. Not too early compared to local races since I was on site so that was nice. Key to the race- stay on site, you’re steps from transition and it’s so convenient! I ate all the food on my breakfast list, put on my race tats, or rather, had Mike put on my tattoos which resulted in my age having a backwards “3” on my leg. His response, “what do you expect for 5am?!”. No biggie, amusing, and made sure he got my race number 7’s right! Tied up my bags and we took off.
Set-up is pretty easy at such a big event since you only need to check over your bike, pump up your tires, and drop your special needs bags. We then walked over to the swim start but I stayed a little above where everyone was packed in to have some space. Waiting wasn’t too long, heard the pros go off (with fireworks!) and I waited until around 6:30 to go join into the beach chaos. I walked down, volunteers were already cheering and dropped off my clothes bag and ran into my training friend Kelly. That was great since we got to chat, and we both went into the water to get adjusted. I always try to do this now since I get cold easily and it definitely took me a few breaths to get comfortable with the cold but otherwise it was fine. I filed back into the line and then waited to start. By the time they got close to the end, everyone was just walking slowly into the water without pausing. I seeded myself far left as I had planned so I could swim over to the side and avoid the crowd. I waded into the water and then just started at a moderate pace. Actually, the water is what was worrying me the most but in the end it was totally fine. The crowd wasn’t too bad and I actually should have seeded a little forward b/c most feet I found were slower so I had to keep passing and passing. It got more crowded a little further out, maybe b/c I was catching up to more of the pack, but still manageable. I was thinking about being pulled along by the crowd- a man we had run into the day before said the swim is like a vortex, it just pulls you along- so I thought about that and how I should try to swim more in the crowd to get a pull. I didn’t really need to sight or look for buoys (all that practice wasted!) b/c I just followed the crowd. I looked at my watch twice, once at the first turn buoy, it was 35 min. And once again at the second turn buoy back, I think it was about 42-43 min. I was on track to be faster than my anticipated 1:30 which was great. To pass the time I started to count to 50’s, it was about 100 strokes between buoys. Next thing I know we are shallow and wading out of the water to the steps. BAM! I did the swim, very relieved and very happy with my swim, honestly the conditions could not have been better.
I got my wetsuit stripped off and then walked to the transition tent. I saw Mike and my mom on the side at this point cheering which was nice. I took my time changing fully into bike shorts and put my jersey on over my tri top. The women’s changing area was quite crowded so no one could really assist you but that was fine. I carried my shoes out to my bike.
The bike! I knew I needed to not really push hard anywhere on the bike, go with the rollers and be steady on the climbs. The first loop seemed to go quick. I saw the pros coming back off the highway when I was just going on! Wow, they are fast. I stopped once for a bathroom break since I already had all my fuel needs and I caught Mike again on the side in town before heading to the first Duplessis loop. I made it up most of the hills without standing so I knew I was doing okay. At the beginning of the second loop I made a longer stop to get my special bag (PB&J sandwich, powder fuel, chews). I took these, went to the bathroom again and filled my bottle with water I found and mixed my drink. I took a sec to eat half my sandwich and put the other half in my pocket. I chatted with a few people stopped here which was nice and we had a laugh. One guy had a good laugh at my backwards “3” on my leg.
The second bike loop got hotter and windier. I took one more bathroom break at the same stop before the turnaround. The way back was a little more difficult. There was a full on headwind headed back, I could see the brush on the side of the road and trees moving. I tried to tuck my head down and be steady. I wanted water at the last highway aid station and they had run out (doh!). When I made the 180 degree turn off the highway to head back around and down into town there was silence (confirming the headwind I thought I was feeling). Luckily, the first aid station on the Duplessis loop had water and I grabbed a whole bottle to fill up my top bottle. I was getting pretty thirsty so I think I should have drank a little more towards the end of my bike. One more Duplessis loop, a little more challenging than the first but still not bad and I was done. There were plenty of people walking the hills so it gets the best of some.
I came back into transition thinking, wow, how wonderful, no issues and decent weather the whole time, how lucky! They took my bike, a nice Ironman touch, and I walked to the tent. I saw Mike on the side and then I heard M-H yelling as well (she made it!), so those were nice pick-me-ups. I changed into my compression shorts, visor, my backpack, and put on sunscreen in the tent. I took off jogging out of the tent feeling pretty good. After a little bit I slowed myself down to about 9:30-10 min./mile because I didn’t know how long I could last otherwise and I was afraid of blowing up towards the end.
The run was fun and I took it all in. The volunteers at the first aid station helped me fill up my bottle completely (so great!) and then I was good for fuel for half the run. I stopped at a bunch of the aid stations for water and ice in addition. A little bit into the run I was getting a headache so I drank some more, thinking I was likely dehydrated. After a little bit I realized it might be my visor so I took it off and put it around my race belt, and tada, problem solved! I usually don’t run with the visor so I think the visor was too tight for me. I remember from the run that I just wanted to keep moving. I took the run 5K at a time and didn’t have any issues. I saw someone with a Tri-Hard jersey on and I thought I could catch up to say hello but even though he was slow, so was I! Haha, it was hopeless to try to catch up, like a turtle chasing a turtle. Towards the end of my first loop I knew I would see my family so that was nice, they were by their hotel outside cheering and Mike was taking pictures. He said “you’re still running!”, and while I was slow, I knew I could keep going. Right before the aid station there was a water stop so I stopped to grab a full bottle to empty into mine. A nice volunteer even got me a cold bottle. I stopped at the aid bags and took out some stuff that I wanted to keep but not wear and stuffed into my backpack pockets, filled my bottle with Skratch, and got my ginger ale and pretzels. I continued walking and drinking and ran into M-H right after the pick-up. I stopped to say hello and take a picture. I then took off jogging again for loop 2. For the second loop I took the strategy to walk the hills and take the time to eat here. On the first big uphill I walked quickly and tried to eat my pretzels. That was a joke, it was like the saltine challenge where 1 pretzel dried up my entire mouth and I could barely eat it. I guess this is a sign of being dehydrated. I then thought to screw the pretzels and focus on water and my bottle of Skratch. Thinking after, I never did bring pretzels on a warmer run to try this out so that is my fault, nothing new on race day kids. I took in more water this round and I remember seeing Kelly on the hill and we had a nice hug to say hello. The 10K out was light out. I got past mile 18 and then I got to start thinking, I’ve never run over 18 miles, cool! I think it started to get dark towards the 10K turnaround and I remember it looking neat to see the silhouettes of people running up and down the path and the sky had nice colors for the sunset. Almost back to the MT Village I saw Kelly heading in the other direction and we gave high-fives, we knew we both had it at this point! It got dark towards the end, and on some of the paths, very dark, so I took my time, watching my steps, walking the hills and managed to keep a good pace the whole way back. It was really cool to see the big spotlights on the other side of the lake heading back.
The finish line is great (obviously), you get to climb up a little hill in the dark where no one is watching (so you can walk, haha!), and then it’s downhill from there. I took in all the high-fives along the way and looked all around. I slowed down as I crossed the finish line to hear my name. I think the first time they said my name they said I was from Maine, so luckily they corrected and said MA, and I heard it that time! Good thing for repeats. I couldn’t really see anything from all the lights at the finish line, so I didn’t know where Mike or my mom were standing. I got shuttled past the finish and the volunteer was wonderful at helping me out, getting me all my stuff, and talking to me. He said, come back for the last hour, it is worth it.
I was definitely tired at the end, I’m sure that is not surprising to hear. I had no appetite so I went into the tent, got my clothing bag, and put my legs up against the tent pole on the side. I stayed there for a little bit then went to have my photo taken with my metal. I finally managed to get out of the tent and Mike was right outside waiting for me. We went and sat down on a bench, I was a little lightheaded and didn’t think I could walk around too much. Mike went and got my mom and then nicely went and got my bike and gear bags as well. I regrouped and walk out of the area, I got my picture in front of the big IM sign and then walked to the hotel. Having the hotel close by was such a lifesaver! I rested, showered, and went back out to watch the final 30 minutes of the night. It was great to see the perseverance of people coming in at the final moments.
This race was made a little extra special when I decided to put my story out there and fundraise through the Ironman Foundation for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Through the Your Journey, Your Cause, Ironman allows you to use their platform to raise money for any charity of your choice, no limits on the amount (so no pressure). I was overwhelmed by the generosity of people and made well over my goal and am pleased to help out in a little way in memory of my dad who I wish was there on race day.