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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What it's like to race the Mont-Tremblant Ironman

We recently reached out to one of our customers, Eric following his race at the Mont-Tremblant Ironman to check in and see how it went. His race report is below.

"A full year has gone by since I decided to take the leap towards the full distance triathlon. It was in that same location in August of 2014 that, after a long day of volunteering for the Ironman, I enlisted for one of my bucket list items. Along with 12 other members of my tri-club, I signed up for what would be the challenge of a lifetime.

Up until September of 2012, I had never run (other than to catch the bus), I had never swam across a 25 meter pool (but I thought swimming was not an issue), and had only ridden a bike as a kid. Less than three years later, I am on the starting line of what most people consider a crazy race! A 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride and a 42.2 km marathon separated me from my goal to complete an Ironman.

The last nine months have been filled with early morning runs, lunch workouts, evening swims, missed family reunions, snoozing during a movie and eating constantly. On this foggy Sunday morning, it is all about to be put to the test during what is expected to be the hottest Ironman Mont-Tremblant event so far. Weather forecasts are calling for a felt temperature of 37 Celsius... this is going to be a hard run!

4 AM... my iPhone reminds me that it is time to have breakfast. I can’t say that it woke me up as I have been awake for 30 minutes going over the task at hand. Time flies by and the next thing I know, I’m getting marked and head for the swim start with some other 2300 triathletes. It is a foggy morning, and it is nearly impossible to see passed the third or fourth buoy. I hug my wife and daughters one last time before heading to the water for a quick warm-up as the pro race kicks off. The canon goes off and my heart sinks... Am I really about to do this?? My daughters’ and wife’s teary eyes remind me of all the sacrifices that we had to do as a family. Triathlon is an individual sport, but training for an Ironman requires a commitment from the whole family, and I am fortunate to have the best support crew around. This is what I remind myself as I line up on the starting line.

6:51... the fireworks go off once more, this time it is for the men 45-49 and we enter the washing machine. This is going to be a long race and I’m not about to let the other 374 triathletes in my swim wave ruin my day with unwanted body contacts. As long as my goggles remain in place I’m happy. The water temperature is simply perfect and the lake is fairly calm. My calves give me hints of cramping a few times during the swim but I manage to keep it under control hoping this would not be a sign of things to come. However, the fog is dense enough to hinder my ability to swim straight. I already have a hard time sighting properly, so the mist gives me a hard time throughout the 3.8 swim, which ends up being over 4 km for me. 1h 12m after the start, I can finally stand on my feet once more. Not a great swim, but then again, swimming is not my strong suit. I had planned for 1h 15m so I’m happy with the result. Two of my club mates, acting as wetsuit peelers for the day, greet me and send me off in no time. As I run toward T1, I am going crazy trying to locate my support crew, which proves to be more complicated than I expected. My tri club is so well represented both within the athletes and in the crowd that I constantly hear my name and can’t tell where it’s coming from. Finally, I see them and take a few seconds to thank and kiss them!

As I enter the tent in T1, I can tell that my swim was average as the changing space is full with no seats available. I put on my socks, shoes, helmet and sun screen in the middle of the room and leave.

The first bike loop goes by in a flash. I mainly refer to my heart rate to evaluate my effort and notice that my speed is much higher than expected. It must be the effect of being surrounded by other cyclists as I mainly rode solo during my long rides. As long as I keep my HR in the 140-145 range, I think I’m good. I respect my nutrition plan to the letter by drinking 600 ml of my custom blend from Infinit Nutrition Canada and adding an Eload Zone Caps X5 every 45 minutes. I complete the first 90 km in about 2h 38mins which is much faster than I ever did in training. I am worried that I will not hold that pace and run well after that. I stop at the special needs to pick up my replacement nutrition bottles that I had previously frozen. The first ice cold sips are heaven sent! With the temperature rapidly rising, a fresh drink is more than welcomed. However, around the 130 km mark, my quadriceps starts cramping. I have not had this issue since I started supplementing with my salt tablets. Fortunately, I’m able to avoid major cramps by reducing my speed and the cramps slowly go away around 140 km. I keep a slower pace during the rest of the loop as I’m worried that they would be back. On the last section of the second loop, at the 165 km mark, the cramps reappear. This time I really slow down and only concentrate of completing the bike. I dismount my bike 5h 25mins after T1. This is 25 minutes faster than my best training time and 35 minutes less than I expected. I am on a cloud at that point but worried that I could’ve pushed too hard and that the heat would get to me on the marathon.

T2 goes by super-fast. When I enter the tent, my head coach, who had started the race 8 minutes before me, is right there changing up. As I walk toward him, he looks up at me in disbelief and congratulates me on my bike ride. This only reinforced my feeling that I might have overdone it... oh well! It’s too late to change anything now. It’s time to run!

I exit T2 alongside my coach and totally forget to stop to hug my support crew. My mind is wondering if I can match my coach’s run pace! For the first 5 km we run side by side and I keep telling myself I should drop back as he usually runs faster than me and has two other IM under his belt. My goal pace was between 5’30” and 5’40 per km. However, with the heat, I would be happy with 5’40”. My heart is steady at 142 BPM, so I decide to run based on my effort regardless of pace. My coach pulls away and I keep my strategy. He then stops at a potty and I pass him. I wonder if not having peed yet is a sign that things are going wrong. A few minutes later, he catches up to me and passes me again. I fight the urge to match his pace as I feel very good. We are only 7 km into a
I do not need the added pressure at one sixth of the run. However, at the 10 km mark, I catch up to my coach who mentions he is fading. My legs still feel fresh, but I start wondering if this will hold much longer. This is the last I’ll see of him before he crosses the finish line 47 minutes behind me. I have to say finishing first of my club was not even remotely a goal for me, but it sure gives a boost of confidence.

My pace remains similar for the next 23 km and I constantly hear footsteps right behind me for most of this section. I don’t know who that person is until he decides to start a conversation. He tells me he has been pacing on me for the last 15 km and feels we’re going to complete the marathon within 4 hours. This was my optimistic scenario, but at this point my right calf is starting to act up so I respond that I will likely need to walk the aids stations and that the 4 hour mark is unlikely for me. Sure enough, about 1 km later my right calf seizes up and I need to stop at the potty. I will use this stop to rest my calf and walk the next station and hope for the best. The outcome is reassuring as my run pace seems acceptable.

I will walk to next aid stations and try to keep a good pace between. As I arrive at the last kilometer of this long day, I can hear the music and crowd cheering at the finish line. This is when I think that I need to slow down and absorb the moment. However, all I can do is smile uncontrollably and hold back the tears. All the efforts and sacrifices will be over soon. I can’t wait to see my wife and daughters at the finish line. I find them about 100 m from the arch and cannot stop or even slow down! I give them high fives and hear my name being called out! “Eric Boulanger from Ste-Julie... You are an Ironman!”

The clock stops at 10h49m21s for me while my optimistic scenario was set at 11h5mins! 23rd over 375 in my age group and 196 overall...I am ecstatic!! A friend of mine who has done KONA on two occasions said the conditions today were very similar, so I’m even more satisfied with my race."