Ironman Mont Tremblant: The Swim. This post is part of a series that chronicles my journey at my first Ironman Triathlon.
Ironman Mont Tremblant: The Swim
3:45am, I’m up and making coffee, feeling very excited about the day ahead of me. I go through my Special Needs bags and make sure I have everything I think I might need at the 1/2 way point on the bike and run. Oddly, I was not nervous about the day ahead. After all I had done in the past 7 weeks, after the bike accident and injuries incurred with that, my goal was to just Finish the race. I knew it was not going to be easy as I had missed 2 key weeks of training, then I was unable to do any swim training for 4 weeks as I let the fracture in my humeral head heal up as much as possible. Honestly, I was thrilled to have pulled myself together enough to make it to the start line. I knew in my heart that despite all of the obstacles I had encountered, I would be able to cross the finish line before midnight.
I have my coffee and banana and check my messages on my phone. It was nice to have so many positive vibes sent my way. One message that stuck with me said “The path that led you to today was meant to be. Stay Strong! You rock sister!” It made me tear up a bit as the path was so hard over the past 2 months. At this point, it was time to get my Tri kit on, I generously applied vaseline about 1 mm thick over every area that could potentially chaffe. I also used lots of chamois cream as I put on my bottoms, then added more vaseline under my arms and around the elastic at my waist. I have experienced bad chaffing before and heard the horror stories of what can happen during Ironman distance events.
Now, it was 4:45am and my husband was up and pointed out all of the activity going on in the village outside of our window. Many athletes were up and about heading down to transition. It was about a 7 minute walk from our hotel. (I can not say enough wonderful things about Mont Tremblant and the organization of this large event, just phenomenal!). I chatted with my husband about the day and when/where we might see each other. Then, I gave my “sound asleep” kids a kiss and quietly thanked them for being so supportive of me!
Heading to Transition
I headed down to transition along with many other athletes walking down the cobble stone streets of the Village. The energy there was electric, a bit of a frenzy with people buzzing all over nervously chatting about the day ahead. I dropped off my Special Needs Bags in the appropriate large bins with allocated numbers on them. Next, I was off to check my bike. I put my nutrition in the bento box, filled up my aero bottle with Skratch, and put my Garmin on the top tube & left it on. I borrowed a tire pump from someone beside me to fill up my tires, then helped someone else fill their tires with air. Everyone was very friendly and helpful around me, it was a positive, but high strung atmosphere! I checked my tires again, then again, one more time! For some reason, I had been obsessed with the idea of getting a flat and not being able to change it fast enough. I’m not sure whether it was a premonition of what was to happen later on the bike course, or if I had an acute onset of OCD. Finally, I left my bike alone and headed to the swim start.
Ironman Mont Tremblant: The Swim
The swim start was at the Mont Tremblant Beach and Tennis Club. It was packed with approximately 2500 athletes ready to start a grand adventure. I could feel the anxiety in the air, but kept my emotions in check as I got my wet suit on. I had purchased a new sleeveless wetsuit 2 weeks prior to the event to help me get through the swim. I have limited range of motion in my right arm due to the fracture and needed the least amount of restriction as possible on my right shoulder. A good friend of mine, who is also my chiropractor, and a phenomenal athlete helped me come up with a modified stroke for my right arm to get me through the 2.4 mile swim. It was not pretty to watch, but I knew I could finagle my way through the swim.
I was in the last wave to start, so I got to watch the Pros and all of the other age groups head off first. My wave started to line up and I stayed in the back and to the far left. My plan was to make it through the swim without aggravating my arm too much. I had the fracture, but also tendinosis (lots of swelling) in the surrounding areas, which was the cause of most of my discomfort. The gun & fireworks went off, I walked slowly into the water as I watched the ensuing chaos of an open water swim unfold around me. I felt calm and was enjoying the moment, the beautiful lake that was clear and 71 degrees, surrounded by the majestic scenery of the mountains. Then, I heard someone say to me “I guess we need to start swimming at some point!” I laughed and said to the lady beside me, ‘I guess it’s time to go!” The water was up to my chest at this point and I put my head in and started to just swim.
Managing my way through the swim
The water was very crowded, despite the fact that I had taken my time getting in and being on the outer edge. I swam, got hit & kicked by some other swimmers, but nothing too aggressive. After a few minutes, I decided to swim a bit closer to the buoy line. There were so many people in the water that I just let the draft carry me as much as it could. I was enjoying the ride, when I felt a very firm hand grab at my shoulder. It was purposeful, and I stopped, it was another lady pale and panic stricken saying “I need help, I need help!” I shouted out for one of the kayakers to come over and waited until I saw her hang onto the side to go again. I’m not sure what was going on and have been curious if she was able to finish. Open water swimming can provoke serious anxiety for people and sometimes catch experienced swimmers off guard! I truly hope this lady was able to finish that day.
I continued swimming and was just enjoying my time in the water after that incident. The water remained crowded, but it was the best open water swim I have ever done, even though it would be my slowest. The water was beautiful: perfect temperature, clear ( I could see fish swimming below me), and there were 30 buoys in the water. THIRTY BUOYS!! This may not excite most people, but for someone like myself that gets a C+ on sighting skills at best, I was thrilled, as this meant essentially no sighting necessary!! I counted the buoys on the way out and they were even numbered in case I lost count. Once again, this made me very happy! 14 out, 2 humongous turn buoys, and I had 14 to tackle on the way back in to shore.
At this point, the swim was thinning out a bit. I was happy to be passing some blue, green, and white caps from the wave in front of me, although my right arm was starting to burn. I realized that I was so caught up in the moment that I had forgotten about my stupid broken arm and was asking it to do way more than it should at this point. I snuck a peak at my Garmin and it said 3000+ yards, so just 1200 to go until I was out of the water. I returned to my modified stroke with my right arm and relied heavily on my left arm to finish. Before I knew it, I could hear the sounds of people cheering and I was standing and making my way out of the water. It was such a great feeling! I heard my husband yell my name & saw him and my sweet kids cheering me on as the wetsuit strippers tugged off my suit. I was done with the swim and jogging off to T1, what a beautiful day!!
(This post was written in August 2015 and is being republished)