I woke up at 3:40am on Saturday to make the long drive up to Mont Tremblant for the long weekend. The goal of the trip was to get a taste of what race day will be like. I’ve virtually ridden the course several times now but until you can be there and see everything with your own eyes, it’s not the same. For me this trip had everything to do with mental training. The physical training was just an added bonus.
Several times before this weekend I considered changing plans and just heading up to Collingwood instead. The hills there are just as steep and it’s a lot closer. But, I’m so glad I stuck with the original plan because I needed this trip more than I thought I did. Before I dive too deep into this, mad shout out to my sister who was the ultimate sherpa. There aren’t many people who free-willingly put up with my crazy weekend “getaway” plans.
As soon as we arrived in town, it was like coming to the Olympics. Everything was decorated from the 70.3 race the weekend before. There were athletes everywhere, bike racks on the back of every car and the Ironman logo was sprinkled throughout the whole town. I was incredibly excited and, as my sister would attest to, definitely freaked out with happiness more than a few times. Somewhere between that initial excitement and that afternoon ride, panic, nervousness, and anxiety crept into the picture.
As I pre-rode the back end of the course, the hills hit me like a ton of bricks. The hills weren’t hills, they were mountains. The other athletes looked like they could crush me for breakfast. Everything was so much bigger than I’d spent the last 10 months dreaming it would look like. And so with little sleep, rain, and 100% humidity, the day didn’t get off to the bestest of starts. Nonetheless, I did my 1.5 hour ride before attempting the first part of the run course. Again, I don’t know why this was so surprising, I’d studied all of the course maps, and virtually ran through most of the course yet when it’s right below your feet and you let yourself think negative thoughts, the worst comes out in you. The run course if far more hilly than I imagined it to be. I now understand why people wait until it’s too close to drop out, before going to see the course. Had you made my sit in a therapist’s office on Saturday night I would probably have broken down and started bawling and finding out how I could get myself out of this mess. But, we’re 49 days out. Too late to turn back now. Funny how over 10 months of training apparently don’t matter when you can’t think straight.
I make it sound super traumatizing. To be fair though, the first day did me good. It grounded me. It put things into perspective and the reality of what I’m trying to do settled in. I regained some of the respect the previous week’s race had erased. This is no walk in the park. This was never and will never be easy.
The afternoon turned into evening and the true Ironman Michele emerged. In case you ever want to hang out with me sometime between now and race day I’ll give you a sneak peek as to what you can expect. Between dinner and heading out for dessert, we tried to watch some Netflix. I fell asleep in the first 10min of the movie. My sister woke me up an hour later to go get crepes. There was about a 1.5 hours wait for the fireworks to start. I walked around for maybe 15 min before heading back to the car to… you guessed it… sleep. My sister called me to wake me up for the fireworks before heading back to the hotel and sleeping. Basically I’m a 4 year old toddler with an appetite of a family of bears.
The next day I headed out for what will be the longest bike ride I will do before race day. I did two loops of the race course, saving the final 5km for race day. The first section of the race is on a 4 lane highway. I spent so much energy freaking out about this part of the training that I had built it up to be so big and so scary in my mind that it wasn’t even enjoyable. The biggest problem for me was if I went to test out the course and got too scared I couldn’t turn back because it’s a one-way highway on each side. It was my sister that gave me the final push and agreed to wait in the Tim Hortons parking lot at the on route. I would ride for 5min and if it wasn’t bearable she’d come get me.
Turns out all the stressing was useless. The road was fine. In fact, it was safer, more smooth than any other road I’ve ridden on. Turns out Mont Tremblant has invested a couple million into repaving all the shoulders so that bikes have an entire lane to themselves (it’s as wide as a regular car lane). The speed limit is 90km/h which is the same as country roads I ride on here. Plus, when you enter the highway on either side there is a GIANT flashing billboard warning motorists about cyclists. Basically other than closed roads this is as safe as I’d ever get. Within 5 minutes I’d started to gain back confidence and let me sister know she could leave me out here to suffer.
It took me a bit to get over my nervousness. There are some freaking monstrous hills out there but slowly as I crept towards to 175km mark I got my mojo back. I had a smile on my face, enjoyed seeing the large sea of others cycling out there. I think the greatest confidence boost was going up hills and passing others. Again wouldn’t recommend getting your happiness from others but for me, that’s what it took. It took seeing others struggle just as much as me for me to finally let it sink it that I don’t need to wiz up these hills at unreasonable speed. Basically, I needed perspective.
I hurt a bit coming back in from the constant aero bars but even with about an hour of super slow cycling with my sister I averaged around 26.4km/h. Another round of confidence that if the weather is semi-decent and I get to that start line in one piece I’m going to be just fine. An added bonus my top speed of the day was 72.4km/h and I did about 1,900m of climbing. Both those stats are massive PRs.
I topped the day off with a 2km swim. The water is too cold for a regular swim but for me in my wetsuit, it was actually AWESOME. Far clearer water than what I’m used to and they even had a separate section of the late with buoys for us to practice in. I could go into a host of other side tangents but if you’re reading this in the future and wanting to do an IRONMAN event, even though I would have killed myself on the Saturday for saying this go to Mont Tremblant. Yes, it is a super difficult course. But, it’s the only IM course in the world that’s permanently open and marked. The entire town caters to athletes every need. Not to mention the food, atmosphere and sheer beauty of this place is on point.
All in all, I’d say it was a wonderful wake-up call. I still have a lot of work to do. While my training volume will still increase slightly over the next few weeks I will do some more work with the mental training. I need to figure out a good mantra, practice visualization, and add in a couple of other tactics I’ve recently learned about. That’s a wrap. Not your average long wekend but an aweseome one indeed.