Ironman Mont Tremblant - by Jen Jarvis
My goal was to stay away from the Ironman crowds in the days leading up to the race. The hype gives me unnecessary anxiety. Kevin and I drove the bike course Saturday after I checked in my bike. We drove along 117 and then up the Chemin Duplessis. I knew the course would be hilly, but I had no idea it would be that hilly. I was speechless. After driving it, I began readjusting my expectations for the race. I knew that in order to have a successful Ironman debut, I had to stick to coach Kelly’s race plan and not let my nerves or excitement get the best of me.
Parking was going to be an issue on race morning. I woke up at 3:45 and ate my breakfast of white rice, banana, blueberries, brown sugar, and honey. I drank a cup of coffee and filled all my water bottles. Kevin dropped me off a half mile from transition. I got to my bike, loaded it up with my nutrition, and took it over to have the tires pumped. I was in and out in 10 minutes. I began the long walk down to the Beach and Tennis club.
I put on my wetsuit the second I got to the beach. The air temperature was very cold. My feet felt like two giant blocks of ice. I was in the 9th and final wave of the swim. As I waited in line, I talked to lots of women. I even met a girl I knew from Beginner Triathlete. The water temperature was 66 so I was glad to have the wetsuit. Jets flew overhead and cannons shot out giant clouds of smoke. Each time a wave left the dock, fireworks went off. While all of this was exciting, it added to my nervousness. I lifted my hand and it trembled. I couldn’t seem to quiet this anxiety. It kept building inside of me. Once our wave got close to the swim entrance, I spotted my Sonic Endurance teammate Kim. She kept telling me to breathe. She told me to find clean water and swim.
I heard the horn and the fireworks and started swimming. About 200 meters in I started to feel a panic attack coming on. I’ve had this happen before. I slowed myself down a bit and focused on my breathing. The feeling in my chest subsided. I hugged the buoys to my right. They were numbered, and I knew that once I hit 12 I’d make the turnaround. I made my way through wave 8, the younger females, and wave 7. I hit the 1.2 mile mark at 31 minutes. I told myself to keep swimming this pace. I thought I could at least come in at 1:10.
The biggest problems started after the turnaround. Suddenly I swam up through several waves of men. Some of them were treading water, not moving at all. I ran into someone doing this, and I had to stop, lift up my head, and move over. I repeated this at least a dozen times. Several men who were doing breaststroke kicked me in the ribs. I got hit in the eye, and my goggles were knocked from my face. I had to stop and readjust. Looking back, I wish I had swum to the far left, avoiding the buoy action altogether.
I know Ironman is trying to fix swim safety issues by dividing groups into waves, but I really feel as if the women in the race were put at a disadvantage from the start. I fail to see how this was fair. The younger men swam in clean water the entire time while we had to wade through 1000s of guys the entire 2.4 mile swim. Like a fellow athlete said in her race report, we had to “take one for the team.” I also read that wave 8 included 150 women while wave 9 had over 450 women. Why the disparity?
I exited the water in 1:17:38. I had set a personal goal of 1:05-1:08. I was very disappointed. I knew I couldn’t dwell on my disappointment so I tried to put it behind me as best as I could and focus on moving forward.
Transition 1 (10:52)
It was at least a quarter mile run up to transition. I saw my husband and kids along the way, and I gave them the thumbs up. A volunteer handed me my bag, and I ran into the male changing tent. Yes, the male tent. Nude men were everywhere. A volunteer sternly grabbed my arm and pointed me toward the female tent. I had to smile. It was too funny not to warrant a smile. The changing tent was packed. I was shaking badly so it took longer to get on all my gear. I knew I was wasting time, and I couldn’t help but think of something my friend Jeff had said after seeing my T1 time at my first olympic distance race. “Did you stop and eat a ham sandwich in T1 or what?”
The bike. I had dreaded this part of the race for months, but I had a plan. The goal was to get in my easiest gear, sit up, and keep my heart rate under control on the hills. My goal was also to consume at least 1.5 bottles of sports drink an hour. I’ll say right now that I met both of these goals. The first part of the course is on 117. It’s a constant up and down along a really boring highway. The ascents were long but not very steep. I didn’t have a problem keeping my heart rate under control. I was pleasantly surprised. The hills had looked so intimidating the day before from the car. I ate, drank, and climbed. I sat up for the first few descents. I am fearful of going over 40 mph down a hill. I conquered this fear because by the end of this race, I was in my aero bars going well over 40 mph down some of the steeper hills. It feels amazing to conquer fear; to face a fear directly and not let it own you.
The section down Saint Jovite was fun. The crowd support was overwhelming. I welcomed it after the long, lonely trip along the highway.
The last section of the course was along the Montee Ryan and the Chemin Duplessis. It was absolutely insane. It was epic! It felt as if I were climbing stairs on my bike. Up, up, up I went. These hills were very steep. I muscled my way up the first few without getting out of my saddle, but after a while I had to stand. I didn’t see one person remain seated up this section. It was brutal but beautiful. The road was narrow and added to the difficulty of this section. Going down was exhilarating. I was in aero again, moving so quickly. I was flying!
The second loop was identical to the first. The wind picked up on the highway section. I’m used to wind so it didn’t bother me much. I wanted to be done around mile 90, but I had the most difficult section ahead. The second time up the Chemin Duplessis was challenging. I just told myself that once I was at the turnaround, I would have the bike course in the bag. I was on the bike for 6:50:11.
Transition 2 (5:24)
My triathlon top was chafing the skin at the back of my arms so I switched to a running tank. It was a pretty uneventful T2. I was just happy to be off that darn bike.
I knew the first few miles of the run would be hilly. The run course went past the house we had rented for the week, and I’d run along this part of the course in training. Lots of people were out, and I began to get excited. I felt great. I stopped at the aid stations and power walked for 30 seconds, taking in chews and fluid. Mentally I was in a really good place. I thought I could even come close to the time goal I’d set for myself.
After the first section of hills, the run course goes along a soft trail. It was a false flat up to the turnaround, and then it was down. It was getting really hot out, and I kept taking water from the aid stations to wet the back of my neck. I was still keeping an acceptable pace for this portion of the run. Around mile 7 something changed. My stomach started gurgling, and I felt sick. I couldn’t make it to the port-o-john fast enough. I became very familiar with the potty stops over the next couple hours. I stopped in almost every bathroom along the trail. I prayed for it to stop. I knew it was taking a toll on me, as I’d begun to feel dehydrated. My stomach was bloated with air, and I really had no relief until later in the race (when it was too late). I kept trudging on. My muscles felt fine up to this point, and I really think I could have fought through the muscular aches and pains if I hadn’t had to stop in every single bathroom in Mont-Tremblant.
I saw my husband, mother, aunt, and children at the 13.1 mile mark. I gave my kids high fives. I hugged Kevin and told him something was wrong with my stomach. He told me to do my best. The hills seemed much steeper the second loop. Once I hit the trail bed again, I felt a snap at the base of my right leg. I stopped in my tracks and grabbed my leg. I moved my foot in circles, trying to determine the location of the pain. My teammate Kim passed me at this moment and told me to run/walk if I couldn’t run anymore. I was determined not to walk. I hobbled my way back to the hills.
Mile 20 was the worst. I cried off and on. I told myself that I was wasting energy I didn’t have crying like that. Stop crying! I had two voices in my head. The negative voice told me I was slowly descending into hell. At one point I thought I’d rather give birth to triplets without pain meds than keep running. The positive voice told me to push on. I worked too hard to give up. All of those sacrifices weren’t for nothing. I was going to finish this race feeling proud of the effort I gave it!
I ran the last 10k the best I could run it. I was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t take in any nutrition with vomiting. I was extremely dehydrated. Once I climbed the last hill and turned into the village, I picked up my legs again. I could hear the crowds, and I could see the lights. They seemed so far away. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. So many people! Many of them cheered for me! I crossed the line near two other people and didn’t really hear my name being called out. I tried to lift my arms up over my head. The left one was dead; the right one made it up halfway before it dropped to my side. I finished the run in 5:15:30.
All I could think about after I crossed the line was finding my husband, my babies, my mother, and my aunt. I couldn’t eat any of the post-race food because I have Celiac disease, and I declined help from the med tent. I slowly made my way to the place I was supposed to meet my husband. I waited for what seemed like forever before I saw him. He came running over to me, picked me up, and squeezed me. We cried together for a long time. He told me he was proud of me. My children came running up. My daughter Madge shouted: “MOM, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”
Final race time: 13:39:35