Disclaimer 1: my perspective of the race may be very different from yours: to me, this is a race like any other and the goal is to beat the other person. It is not a question of finishing, but of how fast. If I push just right, then that is my victory. If I push too hard and blow up, which I am willing to risk most of the time, then it becomes a mission of surviving better then the next person. If I push way too hard, then it is simply survival that matters.
Disclaimer 2: any reference to groups on the bike is a reference to a legally spaced, draft free group of riders. Yes, there may be some psychological benefit, but that is not against the rules. We had marshals around us all ride long. This was a clear ride by anyone mentioned.
And now, the story…
A year ago, I signed up for Ironman Mont Tremblant. I was so impressed with the organization, that it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Later that year, I did the Esprit Triathlon, and it was not pretty when I got to the run. I was hoping for a different outcome at Tremblant.
Slow forward to the winter and training months: I swam diligently over the winter, did my Hammertime Long Course, all my rides and Tuesday workouts, touched my toes at least once a week, lost a pound, raced a bit in my lead up and had no sore spots to speak of. In hindsight, there may have been one sore spot, but I did not know the extent to which it would haunt me until it was too late.
Three days before the race, I arrived in Tremblant to find things in full swing. I went for a short ride and run. The body felt good, but not awesome. Just the way I wanted and expected.
On Friday, I went for a swim and felt even better. Stopped at the floating Café in the swim area for a quick café con leche, then continued back to shore. Went for a short ride and felt even better, sooner.
I was staying with a super group of clients and friends. Truth be told, they are more friends than clients most of the time: Sheri and Steve McCready. Gail MacDonald and her husband Brian and their dog Kona, Sheldon Betts and his wife Cathy Chatham, spectators supreme Heather and Len Ireland, and of course, my Nancy. Everyone was relaxed and having fun.
On Saturday, I went for another short swim and a ride that was just long enough to make sure my Speed Concept was working as it should (it was), and then I racked it. Even with such a short ride, I noticed my legs felt even better than the day before. This was getting exciting.
Just before dinner, I started the campfire and aside from a short break for supper, stared at it for about 2 hours, watching for the pattern of the flames to repeat themselves. They did not, and I was mesmerized most of that time.
At 4:15 Sunday morning, the alarm sounded and the ‘ON’ button was pushed for the coffee pot. We had breakfast, piled in the car, and were driven over to the transition zone.
We wished each other good luck and mostly went our own ways.
And this is when the fun started….
Sheldon had a pump so I asked if I could use it. As I unscrewed the plastic cap from the front valve, the whole inner valve body unscrewed and blew away. Fu*k. All the air came out and I looked around my bike for the lost part. Nice! It was 6:05, and the t-zone closed at 6:15. I could not find the part, so decided to take one out of a spare tube and simply replace it, rather than change the tube completely. Fortunately, Sheldon was able to find it two bike racks away. I screwed it in and gave it a good finger tightening, then pumped up the tire, thanked Sheldon (should have hugged him), then went over to the bike tech guys to tighten it up with some pliers.
6:13. Time to blow this popsicle stand.
I walked over quietly, found a spot to don my wetsuit, and was promptly joined by Kevin, Kat and Cassie Becker, then Marcel Brugger. We were in a pretty good spot to see people as they had to walk past, and were therefore able to wish good luck to many.
I said my see ya laters and headed on to the beach, where I met up with Nancy, the Irelands, George Reid and many others.
I got in line, chatted a bit with Marc Flageole, the man I thought was the one to beat for our AG. It was very friendly and we wished each other much luck and a good race.
I was in the 6th wave, and planned to swim to the far left for as long as I could to go around the waves in front of us.
The cannon sounded and I had a phenomenal start—not a bump. Not a single one. We were wearing white caps, and I could see one guy off the front pretty quickly. Jeezus, how do people go that fast? I did my thing and swam wide for a few minutes and then meandered my way over closer to the line of buoys. I had someone on my toes, and actually thought it might be Pierre Heynemand, the guy whose toes I was on at Esprit the year before. He tapped me a few times, but nothing too bad. We weaved and bobbed our way through the masses pretty effectively, I think. Every now and then, I swam into a ‘non-kicker’ who makes no bubbles or wake to see from behind. I had no idea they were there until I bumped into them. “People really should kick when they swim. It adds power and counterbalance to the stroke, and I could see them before swimming into their feet”, was all I kept thinking.
I felt great and was swimming very well, changing speeds to hit gaps between people before they closed, but every now and then, the man I thought was Pierre would remind me of his presence with a gentle tap, so when I did swim between two swimmers that were close together, I would zig just after clearing them to maybe bump him off my toes. All in good fun, eh!
At the end of the swim, I stood up and so did the man I thought was Pierre. It was indeed Pierre.
We rushed up to shore, had our wetsuits stripped and started running the gauntlet to the bikes. Low and behold, I was running beside Jeff Beech, someone I have raced with for about 15 years now and have a tremendous amount of respect for. He has beaten me on many occasions. Actually, he has beaten me on almost every occasion, except Tremblant 70.3.
Into transition—very smooth
Out on the bike and my legs felt awesome. And then I realized I was in my small ring. No wonder I felt so good. Pierre was just up ahead and has a tendency to hammer the first part of the ride. He is a super cyclist, so when he hammers, I let him go.
I did find myself around Jeff, though, and we played leapfrog with each other, all the while gaining ground on the earlier waves. Eventually, we settled in to a fast moving group that would push pretty hard on the flats and the downhills, then would break apart on the long uphills and cresting. Jeff and I continued on our merry way, jumping groups, losing one person, gaining another, and so on.
As we approached the turnaround on hwy 117, I saw Pierre, checked my watch, and noted that he was 2min ahead. I was quite satisfied with that.
On the way back to St. Jovite, I dropped Jeff on the climb from La Conception, and later on, Troy Puddington passed me, said hi, and blended into a group that almost got away from me due to some lollygagging I was doing. I worked hard to get back in contact and that was the last I saw of Troy for the rest of the ride. It was actually the last I saw of many of them for a while.
Back in Tremblant, Nancy told me I was 2:30 down on Pierre. I was happy with that. I hit Duplessi in good spirits and climbed mostly everything well. At the turnaround, I was with another guy who must have been taking it easy on the way up because he disappeared in front of me on the way back to finish the lap. I noticed Marc closing in, but had not looked at my watch on the turn. I knew it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when.
I made it around the first loop ahead of Marc, and my ride time was a solid 2:27 for the first loop. That was my time for the 70.3, but this time it was only half way.
Heading out Montee Ryan, one bump, two bumps, a traffic circle, a bridge and then a few guys went by me slowly, then Marc went by hard. I knew the drill—intimidate and try to gap. It was standard protocol when racing head to head.
It almost worked, but I knew he had to stall sometime, which he did. I closed the small gap he had made and the group of us fed off each other for the rest of the ride out to the turnaround on 117 and all the way back to La Conception. I got out of the saddle for a bit, and my right adductor started to seize up. I sat back down and backed off. At exactly the same moment, Marc took off. Whether he sensed a weakness or not, his timing was perfect for him, bad for me.
I could not do anything about it. I pedaled the best I could and grabbed the Powerbar Perform at the top of the hill, downed a bottle and grabbed a water, then got back to business.
I chased hard, but did not catch back up. The adductors started to twitch a bit so I had to back off a bit more, but aside from that, I still felt pretty good.
I hit Tremblant for the second time still in good time and not much further behind Pierre than I was before, but about 3min behind Marc.
Out on Duplessi, Mr’ Small Chainring came out to play a bit sooner than the first time around. I expected that, but not quite that soon. Oh well, the ride was almost over and things were going well.
At the turnaround on Duplessi, Pierre was still no further ahead, but Marc was flying. I was pleased for him as I knew he had worked hard and deserved to race well.
At the end of the ride, I plunked my bike down 6hrs and 15min after I had started the day—56min swim + 5:08 ride + 4:30 transition. Very satisfied I was with myself.
Now if only my legs would work.
Into T2—pretty smooth and efficient, and off I went.
If only my legs would work.
There is Nigel Gray, cheering.
If only my legs would work.
“They will” says he.
He was right, and by 1k my legs felt okay, but my left foot, which has a tendency to fall asleep when I ride, was not coming around. I was pretty accustomed to this happening but only taking 5min of pounding to wake it up.
This was different—the numbness was not going away, and in fact it felt like my foot was in a vice, with a stone being pressed into the metatarsal area. It was excruciatingly painful.
I stopped to loosen my laces.
Jeff went flowing by.
I tightened them up.
Alex Albuquerque ran by. So many of the people I out rode were going by.
I took my shoes off and massaged my feet.
That helped, but I was not moving forward.
Shoes back on, and started running again.
Short term success.
Deal with it-can’t focus on running. Feet killing me. So disappointing.
Think of Sindy Hooper suffering through pancreatic cancer, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. You’ve got it easy, Hellard.
Run. Get passed, Run. Get passed. Run. Get passed some more. Run. Walk for a bit. Get passed a lot. Run. Run. Run. Get passed some more. Check my shoes again for tightness, looseness, sock bunched up, rocks in them, under the insole. Anything to give me a clue as to what was happening. NO clues to be found.
Deal with it-can’t focus on running. Feet killing me. So disappointing.
For every person that passed me, I glanced at their calf to check their age. Lots of 40-44 guys, but no 45-49.
There’s Marc, clear and away the leader in our category. There’s Pierre, clear and away 2nd in our category.
There’s the turnaround. Hmmm, I’m still third.
Run. Get passed, Run. Get passed. Run. Get passed some more. Run. Skipped the walk for a bit but got passed some more anyway.
On the Petit Train du Nord trail, I saw the masses coming at me—Troy and Larry Hasson running well. A while later, Ben Oulette, then Leslie Sanderson.
On the way back into town, Steve McCready in front of Sheri.
At 18k, I saw Nancy and the Ottawa Zone3sports crew cheering me on. I called out to Nancy that my foot was killing me. No idea why. Without much detail, she worried it was the one I almost lost to frostbite in 2007, but it was not.
Running through the chute to finish the first lap and start the second one, dreading what was going to happen.
Sindy Hooper. You’ve got it easy, Hellard.
Hey, there’s Darcia. I muttered something along the lines of “if I can keep up, can I run with you for a while?”
She kindly said yes.
I ran a bit faster than she did and gapped her, then I ran slower, and she passed me back. Then I ran faster and passed her, then she ran faster and …you get the picture. We were in an epic battle for the half a lap. Eventually, she ran away from me for good.
Third place in my AG finally passed me. I let him know his new position. “how many spots are there for Kona? He asked. I did not know. As it turns out, he is from Kailua-Kona and came to Tremblant to get a spot for a race in his home town. How ironic is that? He did get one.
Troy and Larry caught and passed me. Fourth place in my category was hot on their heels and I let him know his new position.
At this point, it was hard to tell who was on first lap and who was on second lap, so I kind of stopped paying attention to calves and ages, and just ran.
My feet were still killing me but not so much on the flat as on the downhills. I looked at my pace for the first time and was hovering around 5:45 or so. I consoled myself that this would all be over in 40min if I could just hold onto that pace.
Somewhere along the line, I passed Alexandre on the run, and not surprisingly, he passed me back. We agreed to run together, but then his pace was just too fast for me.
After he left me, I settled back into the best manageable pace I could sustain. A few 45-49 guys and gals went by, but I did not ask what lap they were on. A few 50-54 guys and gals went by. I did not ask what lap they were on.
There’s Sheri, in front of Steve. All is right in the universe.
With just 1k to go, I saw Cassie Becker cheering on the side of the road where she had been the previous three times past this point. She continued to be her positive self. Thanks for that.
I knew Nancy would be at the finish line, and I know how she hates when I am late, so I hurried up the final hill and gingerly shuffled down the final chute, of course, being passed with 50m to go but not able or wanting to do anything about it.
10:17 was my finish time. Considering what had transpired on the run, that was better than I had expected.
And then I felt sick and nauseous.
I saw Troy and Larry, congratulated them both, and they both told me I looked a bit peeked and should see someone in the medical field about that.
I found Nancy and she said the same thing, after she said she was proud of me.
Well, I only have to be told three times and feel sick to my stomach to get help, so I wandered over the guy right beside me who kindly drove me up to the medical area, where they took very good care of me. It seems while this was not the initial problem, I may have lost 10% of my body weight and this may have had something to do with the queasiness.
Okay, for sure, it did. But that is not the reason for the foot problems.
A while later, I was back up to 90.9% of my body weight and they let me go.
I found Nancy and we walked back to the house, took a shower, found some chaffing I had not realized was there, grabbed a beer, then went out and cheered as the masses continued their runs and marches towards Ironmanism.
I still managed to finish 8th in my category, and snag a spot for Kona. I am astounded by this, but gladly took the spot, hoping to be able to resolve all issues by Oct.
Epilogue 2: bumped into podiatrist Annie Jean, who is also going to Kona, and she assessed my foot. It seems the issue may be from my metatarsal arch dropping which also happened just before my first Kona appearance in 1999. In the past two years, I have weaned myself off the orthotics I had worn for at least 15 years and things may have regressed in the last two months or so. My first clue might be that as mentioned at the beginning of this tall tale, my feet have been falling asleep while riding. If I had paid closer attention and not just sucked it up, this might not have been an issue.
We’ll never know.
Thanks for reading.