Week 27: Ironman Mont Tremblant 

I’m currently sitting in the Air Canada lounge in Montreal, because when I changed my flight to go to New York after the race it was cheaper to end up with a business class ticket than to pay the change fee. Turns out the thing the rich people never told us is with all the free food and drinks you basically end up ahead. Money makes more money and all that.

Ironman Mont Tremblant happened on Sunday. I finished in 10:02:something, and that’s totally good and fine. It’s a PR and I’m proud of how I rallied on the day.

But.

It was a pretty not amazing race for me, personally. Just rough all day, and that’s a long time for things to be rough. When you start thinking about how nice it’d be if a car hit you 10 miles into the bike, well, it makes for a fairly miserable eight more hours.

I don’t really have a reason, though I have some ideas and some mistakes I made. It’s more that it *turns out* Ironman is just like any race, and you can have good days and bad days and perfectly fine days. And you can feel the most deflated you’ve felt in a while crossing the line and still recognize you did OK on the day. That’s just how racing goes sometimes.

The longer version:

I swam well. I think. Hard to say. I ended up about 10 feet back of the front group and made the decision to swim my pace instead, and pretty soon another girl caught up to me and I had her to swim with. We did not take a straight line, though when I tried to remedy that I fell behind, so instead I decided to stick to her feet while we swam zigzags around the lake. We merged with two other girls towards the end and I got dropped by about 20 seconds because I never have a closing sprint/kick, but I felt totally good and at ease about the swim. In retrospect, I really thought we were swimming a few minutes faster, which is what the front group ended up swimming. So I still don’t know for sure if I made the right choices.

It was also pretty clear coming out I was in a bit of a calorie deficit, likely because I was so nervous beforehand I couldn’t get much down, and I had already peed during the end of the swim. That meant I needed to do what you do during Ironman: troubleshoot.

Made myself pound some calories and drink, and just get on with it. The first two hours of the bike sucked hard, which is a long time for things to be sharply awful. Hillary actually thought I had a flat or mechanical on the first half, from the splits. Nope, just sucking. I felt nauseous, my legs were dead, I couldn’t settle into the pace, and I wanted to quit, like completely and totally quit the sport, find something easier to do with my life. Girls went by, lots of girls, and I couldn’t go with them. I decided I needed to race my own race and worry about them later, at least until I got it together, and I decided I needed to down another Immodium. I also spent the two hours trying to think of every workout ever that has been awful at the start, but turned out fine. Choices.

When we came in at the end of the lap, my mom and uncle were cheering for me and I did that kinda small headshake you do sometimes when you’re like: this isn’t going well. And when I passed again a minute later after the turnaround, she yelled something, maybe “you can do this, Kelly,” and I almost started to cry.

It got somewhat better. I rallied. My second lap was stronger. I passed an aid station blasting Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself,’ and sang that over and over in my head until my legs came back to me. And when I got off the bike I actually didn’t feel that awful for an Ironman.

Then I started running half-Ironmam pace on accident. My watch didn’t pick up GPS signal for a few miles, and I knew I was running fast-ish but it felt easy-ish. When I hit the kilometer markers, I tried to remember what my per-kilometer pace was at the 70.3s in Costa Rica and Victoria, and I was pretty sure, oops, I was running that pace now. This is NOT my Ironman pace, not even optimistically. These were bad decisions.

I slowed to 7:10-15s or so after a couple miles. I had finally caught back up to girls and was passing people, so I tried to tell myself I’d hang onto it. I knew if I slowed too much too fast it’d fall apart quicker, so I decided we’d just have to make this last as long as possible. But by 15k, I knew I wasn’t going to hang onto it. Which is early in a 42k run. And then it became survival.

I’m not trying to complain, but I don’t want people to think it’s easier as you get faster. I want to be clear that it sucks for everyone. In fact, that was one of the things that kept me going on the second half of the run, knowing ‘it got ugly and I started throwing up a little’ isn’t a unique excuse. For the last 16 miles mostly I thought, “Do not stop running. Do not stop running for any reason.” Over and over. If I stopped actively choosing every single step to continue running, well, I risked not continuing to run. At some point, that turned to, “Just keep moving forward.” I caught a girl and we went back and forth for a bit, but then I fell more apart. My quads started to muscularly fail pretty early, which I assumed was a product of not being able to run as much as I should have in training what with the micro-tears in my foot. I ate nine gels, trying to keep things together. I started hitting the Pepsi by mile 14. I focused on just making it to the next kilometer, thought about what I’d eat at the next aid station. Threw up a little. And just kept moving forward, though much slower.

Eventually, one bite at a time, you can eat an elephant. I finished and I, honestly, didn’t feel much of anything. Not excited or proud or relieved, just done. Then I spent the longest I’ve ever spent in a med tent, since I couldn’t stop throwing up. I even threw up an ice cube I sucked on an hour after getting done.

And that’s my Mont Tremblant story. Sorry it’s not more fun or exciting. I really wish it was, I do. But that’s not always how things work.

11 thoughts on “Week 27: Ironman Mont Tremblant 

  1. You looked amazing out there!! Love this story of struggle and perserverance. That’s Ironman!! Can’t wait for the next race report. Happy recovery.

  2. Dear Kelly,
    Congratulations! Thanks, as ever, for your honesty about training and racing. You gutted it out and finished strong. As a reader/lurker/fan, I was excited to check the results to see you’d finished in 10:02 even before you posted this recap. Take a well-earned recovery, be kind to yourself, and know your Not Always Sunny friends are proud of you.
    All best wishes,
    Carrie

  3. Oh man. I feel you. (On a very different scale, but still.) Those days when you’re like, “This is a thing I am doing, just do it for 10 more seconds” and just cannot allow yourself to really feel any of it beyond that because it might actually be the end of things. Congrats on the PR & hope you can maybe celebrate that a bit.

  4. Kelly, this is your old roommate Adriana and I loved how you chronicled your Ironman experience. I even got a little teary eyed for you…sounds truly brutal. You may not have had your best race, but you gave it your all, what else can you do? I did a half marathon years ago and I thought, “Why do people sign up for pain?” It’s completely ridiculous, but so rewarding. I’m so proud of you and miss you. Hugs and kisses!!

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