Monday. Yes, I know I never wrote the promised part 2 (i.e. the good stuff) of my Mont Tremblant race report. Honestly I was so busy last week I didn’t have another minute to write. I actually don’t have time this morning either but for documentation purposes I better get it done.
So what happened in Mont Tremblant? It was a combination of things culminating in my getting pulled off the course between 18k of a 21k run. I had run out of time. It was 4:10. I had less than 2 miles to miles to go. I think I needed at least 30 minutes to finish. It would have brought me to an 8:50 finish. They told me they had to stop support. They said I could finish on my own (no finish line, no medal) but I would have to sign a waiver that said they were no longer responsible for me, or I could go in their fancy go cart and get a ride back. There was no question in my mind that I could keep going for another half hour but why bother? I was well past the cutoff of both this half Ironman and what a real Ironman would allow (if prorating the hours.)
I will say that I was 100% capable of finishing that race in the time allowed. The only problem was I didn’t believe it at the time.
I’ll list some of the fact(or)s.
I was exhausted. I didn’t even realize how exhausted I was until this week when I actually got some physical and mental rest. I had spent 10 days in CT prior and even though it is not physically stressful, it is mentally stressful and I underestimated how mental fatigue translates into physical fatigue. Too much traveling, too much work, too much worrying.
My wave went off second to last. Race started at 7 a.m. My wave (women 50-59 and men 50-59) went off at 7:45. It didn’t bother me that my wave went off late, it was just a factor in my getting a finisher’s medal. There were at least a dozen people who finished in the same time I would have finished (if not more — one guy took 9:15) but they finished using the added wave times. I didn’t have that luxury. To be honest I don’t really care about that because I really only care about my net time and yes although I could have finished in 8:50 I don’t want to finish in 8:50. I wanted to finish in 7:45. That’s a big difference.
It all started with the swim. I thought I was doing just fine. I was shooting for 48 minutes which would be my normal swim time. A minute or two more would be no big deal. It felt long but it was actually nice water, a little too warm for a wetsuit for me, but nothing bad. It felt like I had a lot of kayaks around me. I got up too soon when I hit the rocks and I started to stumble across them to get to the finish line. They were yelling at us to keep swimming but I was standing in 10 inches of water. Then they finally said go to the right it is deeper there. Yeah that might have been something to mention a little earlier, I had already started to unzip my wetsuit. If you went about 6 feet to the right you could keep swimming. I was aiming for directly into the finish chute. Silly me. When I finished it said 53 on my watch and I felt defeated.
In retrospect. Who the heck cares? The race is not made or broken by 5 minutes. Shake that off and keep going.
Then we had a long run from the exit to transition. I knew I was one of the last because I didn’t see many bikes left in transition. When I got out of transition and on my bike I thought I saw 1:07 on my watch. I started to freak out. A 14 minutes transition? What the heck happened? I let it start to freak me out.
In retrospect. My watch had said 1:01 not 1:07. In fact I did very well for me to jog 300 meters and change into my bike gear and run the distance of the transition area in 8 minutes.
The case of the missing inhalers. I have two. They were gone. I’ve searched everywhere. I don’t know what happened. I was nervous because using the inhaler was part of my plan.
Even though I NEVER train with my inhaler, this was freaking me out that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get my breathing under control without it. AND because I was freaking out about not getting my breathing under control, I never got my breathing under control.
On the bike I thought I was breathing too hard for a 56 mile bike ride. I didn’t think I would be able to maintain it. I felt like I was climbing, climbing, climbing. As I was heading out on the first out-and-back Hundreds of people were coming at me on their way back. Eventually they dwindled off and when I finally made the turn around there were exactly seven people that I counted behind me. I’m guessing I was at about mile 20. That is when the darkness entered.
I realized I was last. Or at least I was going to be last. I hate being last. There was nobody in front of me. Seven people behind me (but they were so far back that I couldn’t see them if I turned around to look). Wide open highway totally closed off to traffic and just me and my evil twin having a party on the bike. It was a moment because it was so beautiful and I did try to think how it was worth $200 just for this experience of being on a totally closed off highway with nobody as far as I could see and me riding through the Canadian mountainside. That lasted about ten minutes and then I resumed with this sucks, why am I last? Why did transition take so long? Why can’t I catch my breath? I’m too old. I’m too everything…. And why the heck did they put the oldest women at the end?!??!?!
The three women I passed on the bike were all in my age group and we all bemoaned the same thing. Why not give the older gals a break and give us the extra 45 minutes and not the twenty somethings? It’s all spoilt milk. In a real Ironman everyone starts at the same time so who cares?
I didn’t do too badly on the second out and back. Actually one gal caught back up to me and asked how I was feeling and I remember distinctly saying okay but I wasn’t pushing at all at that point.
It was the last 14 miles. Seven miles out all uphill. A couple of short steep ones and at mile 42 a climb that kind of did me in. Not physically — Mentally. Physically my legs didn’t give up. I was breathing very hard but it was my anxiety. I actually remember gripping my handles bars and yelling out loud “I want my life back!” I promised myself if I did not quit and just finished this race I would not have to do Ironman and I would never have to come back to Mont Tremblant. I told myself a huge relief had just lifted from my shoulders. “I’m so relived” I just have to finish this and then I’m done. Forever done. Two guys walking their bikes up the hills faster than I could ride. Evil-twin was doing a jig on my shoulder. “yeah, quit, quit, we don’t need this, let’s get our old life back.” Every swear word I have ever heard was coming into my left ear. F this, s that. This is stupid. I got off an walked at one point going up the 12%. I didn’t care. I had given up. But my new cheer of “I’m getting my life back” was keeping me up.
Then there came the turn around. What comes up, comes down. Seven miles of downhill. On perfectly smooth roads. I did not even have to pedal to get up the hills, the bike just flew over them. Only problem was now I could see who was still behind me and the seven people that had been behind me were now 3. 3 people behind me to the sag wagon. The other four had quit or were pulled off the course, I don’t know. Evil twin smiles.
By the time I got into transition I was sure that I had not made the bike cutoff (which is silly because the sag wagon was still behind me). I put on my running shoes and fuel belt. I started to exit and a medical guy came running up to me looking me over. “How are you feeling?” he asks me and I quickly try to come up with the right answer for him to tell me to stop. “That bike sucked and I hate this sport and whoever designed that bike course should be shot.” And you know what he says to me? “Okay, have a good run.”
The run starts out back tracking the swim exit to start the run. This time you have to run up a hill similar to Harlem Hill. I tell myself that I can walk to the top of the hill, catch my breath and then start running. I walk to the top of the hill and meekly jog down. Margaret, one of the three who had been behind me on the run catches up to me and starts walking with me. We are both in our fifties. She’s mad because her 60 year old husband got to go off at 7:10 in the third wave (men and women 60+) and she’s 58 and she has to go off in tenth wave at 7:45 (men and women 50-59). I agree it didn’t seem fair (but I kept repeating to myself, it doesn’t matter, it’s your net time that counts.)
Margaret starts running and I realize that now there are only two people behind me (maybe, did they even leave transition?) And I can’t catch my breath. Just finish this thing and you can retire. You never, ever have to come back again.
Then a 21 year old kid from Ontario catches up to me. I had passed him on the bike he had been struggling so I had given him a few words of encouragement. He was about 6′ 4″ and said he was going to walk. He lied he started to run. He ended up finishing in 9:15 but he still got his medal. His wave went off at 7:05 (men and women 18-29). Seriously? You think a 21 year old guy needs the extra time? But again I obsess over something that in my mind doesn’t add up anyway. It just seems to me that everyone should be given the same amount of time to finish. Why is his 9:15 better than my 8:50? ‘Who cares? Your 8:50 sucks anyway!’ Shut up Evil Twin!
Now I am just walking and the sag cyclists are starting to surround me like vultures. They are chatting away with me like we are doing a walk in the park and I’m letting them. I’m telling them stories and entertaining everyone and the last thing on my mind is the finish line. I don’t even look at my watch. It’s not until later that I realize that I should have told them to go away and to stop bothering me. They were being friendly and nice but not in the least encouraging about picking it up or start running. I was breathing hard because I was working hard but still freaking out. I should have stopped, regrouped and then got back on plan. Instead I learned all about some gal’s history with TNT Canada and Lava man and blah, blah, blah…. I let it happen.
And then finally the last guy passed me. He had regrouped and was now running. He would ultimately finish in 8:51 which is just about when I would have finished. After the sag wagon picked me up we came on him not even 1 k later. I looked at the women to see if she was going to get out and stop him too but a bunch of volunteers jumped in and started telling the guy to run and she didn’t stop them. They were all yelling and talking back and forth in French. (I think the guy was French Canadian). I screamed at the guy “RUN, start RUNNING now!” And the group ran with him to the finish. In 8 :51 which is one minute more than I had predicted it would have taken me. But again the bottom line is I didn’t want an 8:50 something finish. And I didn’t need to do an 8:50 something finish. Even if I had done my run/walk for half the distance I would have knocked off six minutes. But I didn’t and so I didn’t deserve to finish because I had given up.
After the race I kept telling myself I was relieved to be done with it all. I wrote my coach and told him I was finished. Maybe I would do another half sometime later in the year but no Ironman for me. I kept saying “It’s totally understandable, look at all the pressures I have, it’s just not my year.” I drove back from Canada through the Laurentian mountains, through the Adirondacks and through the Berkshires to CT. I was struck by how gorgeous our planet is and how lucky I was to have been to even go to Canada for the long weekend and what an amazing place Mont Tremblant is, race or no.
A day to rest in CT and get all warm and fuzzy with my retirement idea and then the drive back to NYC to face some more deadlines. Somewhere around exit 35 on the Merritt Parkway I had a little visit from Cher in her Moonlighting character. She slapped me across the face and yelled “Snap out of it!” At first I was taken aback, I mean what the heck was Cher doing on the Merritt Parkway? But then I realized it was really my race guardian angel Chuck who had not renewed his passport in time for Canada. I had no idea he was a female-impersonator as well. He was trying to tell me “what are you talking about? When did you become such a quitter? For three years you’ve been throwing a big pity party and the only person showing up is you! Knock it off! Where’s the fighter? Where’s the come-back kid? Where is the COMPETITOR? Are you going to take that crap from Canada of all places?” All of a sudden I got mad. I realized Chuck/Cher was right. What had happened to me? I had spent all that time learning to have confidence in myself and not worry about other racers and what happened? I just let it all get to me and I gave up. How anti-American could you get?
By the end of the drive I was in the head game. I am going to keep working and finish or not I’m going to Mont Tremblant and I’m getting my money’s worth. I’m going to do hill repeats until I can’t repeat anymore. I’m going to get three inhalers and put them in every pocket. I’m going to work harder on my running. No quitting, retirement reschmirement. Get out there and fight!
So this weekend I had 95 degree weather. I ran for 2 hours (finished 8 miles) in the park at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday (with a race walk there/back on top. Nice chat with my coach about excorcising the demons in my head. Then we had a 100 mile ride plus short run in NJ on Sunday. It was too hot and I only did 70 but I’m okay with that. The under 30 gals finished the 100 miles and were almost dead. I feel I got a great, hard workout doing the 70 and that was enough. My plan is to be the smart athlete not the one having a heart-attack on the highway.
So that’s my story. I’m back in it to finish. Taking my iron pills, getting enough sleep. Doing the work to the best of my abilities. I am going to be the Cher of triathlon. You can’t kill me off. Like the old joke goes, after the end of the world the only two things that will survive are cockroaches and Cher.
So, me and my female-impersonating race Angel Chuck will be in Canada at the end of August and if you want to hear our theme song check out below!