Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Judy Conquers Ironman Mont-Tremblant

My humble and modest friend Judy just crushed the course of Ironman Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada last weekend.  She finished in a time of 12:50!  Way to go Iron Girl!  We are proud of you!  Here's her race report...

My Ironman Mont-Tremblant Race Report
Race Day:  Sunday, August 19th, 2012
It was over a year ago, that I decided that I would tackle my second Ironman.  The New York City Ironman and the Mont-Tremblant Ironman were announced at the same time.  I looked at both websites and knew immediately that I wanted to race in Canada.  Everything about it seemed like I would be in for one epic adventure - and an epic adventure it was!

The list is long of people who helped me throughout my training process.  I have kept a list of each of those people, and hopefully, they know who they are, as I could not have done this race without them!

I began training in January, as I was would be doing the Oceanside 70.3 race in March and then Vineman 70.3 in July.  These two races would be great indicators as to how my training was progressing.  Those experiences, in themselves, were great teaching tools to get me to the start line of Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

I arrived in Mont-Tremblant on Thursday prior to the race.  This was a very long and rough day of travel.  With flight delays on every portion of the race, a long wait to get through customs, and then finding out the car rental company that I had made my reservation through did not actually have a car for me, I was spent.  While trying to figure out what to do about the car situation, I happened to see the guy from Enterprise-Rent-A-Car that had helped me in June when I flew up to preview the course.  I said hello and explained my situation.  He had me follow him to the Enterprise counter and within minutes, had a car for me, and at a fraction of the cost it normally would have been.  (I almost always use Enterprise.  When I was booking my car for this trip, this other company - that didn’t end up having a car for me - was significantly less expensive so I decided to try them instead of Enterprise.  Lesson learned there!  Stick with what you know to be a quality service so you don’t have to be worried about things when you arrive!)  I got to the hotel where my reservation was made and they ended up sending me to another hotel, who sent me to a third hotel, where I finally had a room.  In Tremblant, you use a central reservation group to book rooms.  This means that your reservation may say one hotel, and you end up somewhere else, which is exactly what happened to me.  By the time I finally got to my room it was almost 10pm and I was exhausted!  I had planned to be there around 6pm.  Things change, and I just rolled with it.

Friday morning, I put my bike together, which was a first for me!  I have only traveled to races where my bike arrived still put together!  I did what I knew how to do and then met with my coach, who helped me with the rest of it.  It was great to have him there!  It was a relief to know that I had some friendly faces there and that they knew how to help me with the little things!  He got everything dialed in for me and then I headed back to my room.  I went for a short run down to the swim exit area and just chatted with a few athletes who had just come out of the water.  All reports were that the water was great!  I did a bit more running and then went back to my room to just chill out and relax a bit.  My room overlooked the mountain behind the village and I just sat with the patio doors open, enjoying the fresh air and the sounds of excitement in the air.
I then decided to go for a short swim to test out the water myself.  I always like to swim at least once in a new body of water so that there are no surprises on race day.  The water was just as everyone said - GREAT!  It was about 72 degrees and clean.  You can see the bottom for a good portion of it.  I probably only swam about 500 yards or so before getting out.  My coach said that two days before is the most important for rest.  I opted not to take my bike out on Friday, and instead went and got checked in.  Registration was a very smooth process and it was fairly quick.  If there is anything I have learned over the years, it is to NOT go first thing in the morning when registration opens.  Instead, wait a few hours and you can usually walk right through, which is what I did.  Perfect!  

The Athlete Welcome Dinner was Friday night - UNBELIEVABLE!  The energy was alive and well.  I was fortunate to be given a VIP bracelet to sit in the middle, close to the stage.  The banquet was in an enormous tent - the biggest I’ve ever seen! There was some local talent that brought everything to life.  They were drummers and they had their presentation nailed down and choreographed.  It is very hard to describe.  Pictures don’t describe it and even the short videos I took can not give you a true sense of how incredible these performers were.  UNREAL!  It was an amazing way to start the evening.  
Like most banquets, they had a few speakers, a few videos, and of course food.  Dinner was a fantastic spread of French-Canadian Fare while still giving it that pre-race meal feel.  Meats, salads, fruits, veggies, etc.  Delish!  At the conclusion of the dinner, everyone gathered outside at the Ironman Stage where they had another performer play for 90 minutes, followed by a spectacular fireworks show. Because a majority of the athletes stayed in the village, the sheer number of people that stayed for the entire evening was quite impressive.  Usually once the banquet is done, everyone goes their separate way for the night.  I would guess that there were at least 1000 people that stayed until after the fireworks.  And then......time for bed.  We are all told that Friday night is the most important night of sleep, since most of us can’t sleep the night before the race.  All week I had had restless sleep and dreams of different aspects of the race that woke me in the middle of the night.  Friday night was no different, but at least I got a mostly solid night rest.

On Saturday, I did short bouts of each discipline.  Biking to make sure all my gears worked and that everything felt comfortable, running to loosen things up, and then....the swim.  Wow, what a difference a day makes.  The water was SO CHOPPY when I went down to swim.  I debated on whether or not to even get in, but decided that if it was like this on race morning, I would want to be prepared.  So again, I swam about 500 yards or so.  That was enough for me.  I had my fingers crossed at that point that race morning would prove to have perfect water conditions.  
I put all my gear together that needed to get checked in and then headed down to get my bike and gear checked in.  They transformed the banquet tent into change tents and the gear bag area - brilliant!  It was perfectly set up!  The only thing left to do on Saturday was to eat some dinner and go to bed early!

More than anything, I was excited to be racing.  I thought I would be super nervous, but I wasn’t.  This is another first for me!  I got up, ate some breakfast, did some stretching, made sure I had everything I needed, and headed down to transition.  The great thing about staying at the village is that I was able to walk everywhere and didn’t need extra travel time.  The other bonus is that they have a little tram that takes you from the top of the hill down to the bottom, where transition was.  So, I hopped on the tram and got a ride to the bottom.  The first thing waiting for me at the bottom of the hill was the bodymarking volunteers!  Got myself marked and headed towards my bike.  I made sure everything was set with the bike, headed to my gear bags to put a few odds and ends in each one, and then back to the bike.  I put my wetsuit on, put on an ample amount of bodyglide, and walked to the swim start.
The swim start was about ½ mile from transition.  I had my extra tennis shoes with me as well as a cheap pair of flip flops.  I walked over in my shoes and then changed into the flip flops when I got to the beach.  I used the bathroom, took my warm comfy clothes off, put them in the dry clothes bag, dropped them off, and headed to the beach with my swim cap and googles.  It was a cool morning - about 49 degrees or so. A nice volunteer helped me get zipped up and I was ready to roll.  

When the gun went off (or rather, they had to yell ‘GO’ because they were going to use a cannon, but spectators would not move far enough away from it to be safe to fire), I let the fast swimmers get on their way and then started my day - just a long, catered training day, right?!  Because it was a one loop swim, the field spread out pretty quickly, which was great for me.  I found some bubbles to draft off of and just found a groove and kept swimming.  I felt great in the water.  Oh, by the way, the water was completely flat race morning with not an ounce of wind to stir things up!  Again, what a difference a day makes!  There were only a few points of congestion but I didn’t get worked up about it.  We were all in it together.  The turn buoys were far enough apart that we weren’t swimming on top of each other to make the turns.  Swimming has never been my strong point, so for me, it is a matter of getting it done.  I ended up out of the water slower than I anticipated, but close to what I expected.  Once out of the water, you have to run ¼ mile to transition.  This is part of the reason for my 8 minute T1 transition! I don’t regret taking the time to put arm warmers on - AT ALL!  The water was 73 degrees race morning, but getting out of the water, the air was only about 50 degrees.  When you are wet, that is pretty cold!  

On to the bike course!  I had driven the bike course when I came in June and now would experience it by bike!  Most of the roads have been freshly paved without a crack in the road to get stuck in!  I got to the mount line, only to find my chain had come off.  How in the world that happened, I have no idea.  I quickly got it put on and was off.  This bike course is absolutely beautiful and mostly fast.  There are some rolling hills to keep things exciting.  The first loop was fantastic.  The real challenge on both loops are the hills that come at the end of each loop.  There is about a 6 mile stretch where you do nothing but stair-stepping hills that are all between 10-12% grades.  Let me tell you, those hurt!  The first loop wasn’t so bad.  The hills were tough, but seemed to go well.  Getting out on to the second loop was a treat.  The wind had picked up a bit - not bad, but enough to notice - and we had a little bit of a drizzle here and there.  I’ll be the first to admit that there was some drafting going on.  There were some draft packs that were probably 20-30 strong going the opposite direction of me.  I was mildly jealous!  Again, it was still fairly fast, all things considered.  And then....those nasty hills come back for round two - and they came with a vengeance.  On the second loop, I had in my mind something my coach had told me in a previous conversation - that it is ok to suffer and that you should push yourself a bit.  Well, I think I may have done this a little too early in the game.  I pushed through the wind and the rain and then hit the hills.  I didn’t have a whole lot left in my legs to get up those hills.  While I never had to get off and walk my bike up the hills, it did cross my mind more than once to do so.  If it weren’t for the amazing scenery and perfectly paved roads, I might have gotten a nasty attitude.  Instead, I just smiled and enjoyed the pain.  This is possible, I promise!  The best part about climbing those hills at the end of the loop, is that you then get to come down them and into transition!  I love to go fast - sometimes clocking well over 40 mph!  It is a fast descent into transition.  I don’t regret the extra minute I took to change out of my tri shorts and into some running capris.  I wanted to be comfortable on the run and felt that getting out of my shorts would be a good strategy.  This ended up to be a wise decision.  

And now, we run!  While I knew my run wasn’t what it was 3 years ago, I still felt really good going into the race.  I had run the course in June so I knew what to expect.  What I didn’t do in June was swim and bike before the run!  It is MUCH tougher after those two disciplines are behind you!  I hit the first hill.  There were so many spectators that I couldn’t pull myself to walk, so I inched up and up until I got to the top and could cruise down the other side.  You then go up and down a few more hills before getting to a really nice, flat trail-like section.  It is packed dirt with a layer of small gravel on it.  It is really great for running on!  Not to mention, the scenery in this area was amazing.  Streams, lakes, golf course, and a canopy of trees overhead made for an ideal course.  
And then the rain came.  And it came and it came.  This is when I was glad I was in my capris.  While I can’t say that they kept me warm, I was certainly warmer than I would have been had I not changed. What was rough was that the shoes I wore have ventilation in the bottom, so water was coming into my shoes from the puddles below and the rain above.  I was carrying some serious extra weight on my feet.  Coming to the end of the first loop, and running up and down all those hills a second time, you come back to the village.  Instead of going left to the finish line, you go right and head back out onto the course.  Running through the village with the entire route lined with spectators made you feel like a rock star!!!  It was energizing and made heading out on the second lap a happy thing!  There were some tough moments on that second lap.  Moments when I had to really dig deep to keep myself moving forward.  Moments when the rain was coming down so hard I wondered what in the world I was doing.  I reminded myself that before I came I told several people that if it started raining, then I would just start singing!  So, that is what I did!  I put a smile on my face, and just sang some tunes in my head to keep myself moving forward.  At every aid station, I drank the chicken broth, which saved the day!  The sodium helped tremendously.  It was what kept me going.  

For me, it has always been the end of the run where it is the toughest to keep the mental game in tact.  Some times have been more successful than others, but I knew I was still in the time frame that I wanted to finish and so I was able to stick with it.  There were a few people I knew who were racing and seeing them gave me even more energy to finish.  Before you run downhill to the finish line, you have to run up a pretty good hill.  I walked and I was completely ok with that!  Once to the top of the hill, I started my run down through the crowd-lined course, and smiled my way across the finish line!  Mike Reilly was there to bring me in and said, “Judy Stowers from Scottsdale, Arizona - YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”  It was an emotional moment for me in many ways.  I had come to accomplish this one goal of finishing, and I did it!  I don’t have my finisher picture yet, but I know I am smiling in it! :)

After finishing the race, and putting my dry clothes on, I ended up sitting in front of heating lamps for almost an hour to try to warm up.  I was cold to the core.  I finally pulled myself away and got back to my room to shower and into warm clothes.  One of the best things about an Ironman race is the last hour watching those people cross the line.  When I mumble to myself about having a few extra pounds on that make racing harder, I look at some of those people crossing who have an extra 100 or even 150 pounds and am both amazed and humbled to see them finish.  It is an exciting hour of bringing those final finishers in!  I finally got back to my room and into bed around 1am.  I slept like a rock!  

My body feels pretty good considering what I put myself through.  The only lingering ailments are some body aches/cold symptoms that I’m sure came from the water and from the rain.  I did take a quick trip to the top of the mountain to take in the views of the area on Monday.

The race was an amazing experience from start to finish.  Despite the rain and a bit of wind, I could not have asked for a better day!  I loved every minute - even the painful portions!  I passed almost 500 people on the bike and another 100 on the run (amazing since that was my slowest marathon EVER).  Guess I need to work on that swim!  The community has embraced the event and come together to make it a spectacular experience.  The government has poured millions of dollars into road improvements and other things to make the race safe and comfortable.  It is a challenging course through and through, but it keeps it an honest Ironman course.  While I am now retired from the full Ironman distance races, I will definitely come back to Mont-Tremblant whether for vacation or to cheer on other athletes as they race!  

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Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

Dreams That Have Come True