2014 Ironman Mont Tremblant
As many of you know, this was my first full Ironman and as many of you also already know, it was a fairly bittersweet endeavor for me. It was sweet because I was lucky enough to look a GREAT BIG dream I conjured up a few years and 130lbs ago square in the face. However, it was just as bitter because I was not able to toe the start line in neither the state nor the shape I would have preferred and am normally capable of. This is because a mere week after I signed up for this Ironman I was diagnosed with long term, chronic Lyme disease, a condition that also supremely compromised my immune system and also caused me to also wind up with Epstein Barr (aka mono) and to develop both adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism. To say this year was a challenge is overstating the obvious. LD and subsequent treatment threw many obstacles my way but in the end, I still made it to the starting line. I didn’t have the day I envisioned when I signed up, but I had the day life allowed me to have given everything I was dealing with. What this day proved to me was that no matter what hand I am dealt, I can push through and be victorious in some way. In short, I completed an Ironman with a chronic disorder, while undergoing a fairly intense treatment for said condition and I did this all while working full time and while in grad school. I finished with the world’s biggest smile, feeling happy with whatever I left out there along the course.
In the wise words of my coach, my goal only going into this was to “forget about time and have fun!” More specifically, my plan was to have a decent swim, a conservative bike and just do whatever I could during the run. In the end, it was a perfect day with perfect weather and I’ll never forget how magically it felt to cross the finish line. So, without further adieu, here is my race report:
SWIM – 2.4 miles, 1:19:xx
I was the second to last wave to go and to my chagrin, it was not a wading start. My husband had graciously gotten up bright and early with me, walked with me to the start, helped me get my wetsuit on and waited with me until it was time to line up for my wave. I won’t lie – I was pretty damn calm in the days and hours leading up to the race, but as the waves before me started to take off, I got choked up. I was nervous and scared because this was the BIGGEST, LONGEST endurance race I had ever set out to do, my training wasn’t as aggressive as both myself and my coach would have liked and here it was right in front of my face. But before I could make anymore ugly-girl-cry-faces, it was time to go. I kissed my husband god bye and set off on my way. It was a crowded yet enjoyable swim; the first half fell by and the second half went by just as quickly. The water and the weather was a perfect and it was over before I knew it.
- This was by far the cleanest body of water I have EVER swam in and probably the only time I have swallowed water on an OWS and thought, “Well now, that is kind of tasty.”
- The water was also 65 degrees and calm as can be.
- It was cloudy so the sun glare was minimal.
- Overall, the swim went well for me and I felt great throughout.
- It wasn’t until the last 20 minutes of this swim that it didn’t feel “crowded” and in many ways it was exactly like driving on I-76 (a main expressway in Philly) where instead of just taking their foot off the damn break at turns in the road, everyone speed towards them, jams on the breaks and creates unnecessary congestion. I say this because at every single damn buoy way too many people stopped swimming and bobbed around like apples!
- You would think at this distance, no one would be using any other stroke but freestyle. BUT, that wasn’t true and I lost count of the amount of people I passed doing breaststroke. What this boils down to is that I got kicked more times then I have fingers and toes and it was REALLY annoying. I’m honestly not sure how I finished this without punching anyone.
- My goggles started to fog in the second half of the swim, which made sighting tricky.
THE BIKE – 112 miles, 6:39:XX
With 6,000+ ft of climbing on the bike, this wouldn’t be the hilliest long distance ride I’d been on but it would definitely be a challenge within a long distance triathlon! Both my coach and I decided going into this I would need to ‘cool my jets’ on this leg of the race because the run was the overall main concern (explained below) going into this and I needed to keep some ‘oomph’ on tap for that. I always find it harder to slow down than speed up but I knew it was crucial I stick to this plan. That being said, this was a pretty fun, tame ride for me where the gorgeous scenery around me made it extremely hard to get made when you were in pain and when these deep dark moments loomed over you.
- I did a great job of not letting the race get to me and lose sight of keeping my output tame.
- The water/nutrition stops had hockey nets set up at the end of them for people to throw their empty/unwanted water bottles which made throwing out your crap…fun! I even scored a few goals!
- 95% of the course was closed to traffic. Translation: Dudes! We had the majority of the roads to ourselves and it RULED!
- The roads were pristine! I think I spotted all of 3 potholes? I’m probably exaggerating but these were truly the most well maintained roads I have ever ridden on.
- My nutrition was spot on this leg (and the others as well) which I knew was of most importance since it makes up the longest leg of the race. I took in 250-300 calories and hour, went through a bottle of liquids an hour and got off the bike feeling really good.
- I stopped at a porta potty around mile 65 because I had to pee like the dickens, and having yet to pee on the bike I decided now was not the time to experiment. I know added 3-4 mins to my time BUT when I got back on the bike, the next 20 miles I felt as fresh as if I had JUST started cycling.
- Though there were definite moments of discomfort on the bike I was 100% amazed that my back held up! I had little to no lower back pain and my sciatica stayed dormant! At this distance and with my bad back, this was a god damn miracle.
- This was hard to dress for. In fact, while in Mont-Tremblant I had to buy a pair of non-cotton arm warmers and gloves because the weather forecast kept changing. It had rained 3 days straight leading up to the race and it was on the colder side. Thus, those arm warmers and gloves stayed on for the first loop and by the second were in my jersey pocket.
- The course included two 56 mile loops. I don’t mind loops when I run but there is something about cycling in loops that kind of mentally drains me!
- The last 12 miles of each loop involved a lot of climbing. It was annoying on the first loop and down right daunting on the second loop.
THE RUN – 26.2 miles, 5:08:xx
This portion of the race was the wild card for me and this is because of the three disciplines, running was where I was most affected negatively by my LD treatment. In short, the high doses of antibiotics I have been on for the last ten months seem to exhaust, dehydrate and tire me much more and earlier than ever before in the long distance ranges. It took me a while to figure all this out but after some research I found out this is fairly common and expected with most athletes going through a like treatment. One heavy dose of antibiotics by itself can wipe an athlete out and suppress performance (http://tinyurl.com/onlnqwl) and by comparison I am on and have been on 3 separate antibiotics all in heavy doses concurrently for 10+ months. Thus, I’ve definitely been affected negatively and in a major way. Couple all this with the fact that overall I have just plain been running slower and shorter distances to make sure I didn’t tax my body during treatment and the end result was that leading up to race day my longest training run was 14 miles. Yes, really, and that is because this was all my body would allow. Even if I was only running a marathon by itself falling short on distance so severely like this would make me feel VERY under prepared. But, I knew I had a ton of mental strength and in general a huge endurance threshold that could carry me through need it be, so although this wound up being the longest, slowest marathon of my life I am actually surprised I didn’t do worse on this leg. I ran the first 8 or 9 miles or so without stopping. I was moving slow, but at the very least I wasn’t stopping. Around mile 10 I stopped to use a porta-potty which was much needed at this point. After that I took small walking breaks before reaching the half way point. After the half way point the inevitable happened and walking breaks became necessary.
Miles 14-18 were pretty dark miles. I was walking more than running and more than I wanted to because at this point my back had completely locked up. Truth be told I was VERY surprised when this did not happen on the bike and I am fairly sure this was a delayed reaction to the time spent on the bike. I kept trying to “shuffle” but when I did try my left leg felt weak. In fact it felt weak as in…I could actually feel it buckling and damn near giving out, so walking was safer at this point. I could feel myself well up and the ugly cry start to rear it’s head but I just kept walking and trying to distract myself. Somewhere near mile 19 I decided I really hated walking and decided to test out how my back was doing. I started shuffling and it felt ok. So I kept doing this over and over again. Shuffle, walk, shuffle, walk, etc. For six miles I shuffled on all the flats and down hills and walked the hills. By the time I knew it, I hit mile 25 and I thought, “screw this” and took off. With legs of lead, I ran every last inch of the last 1.2 miles like it was my first and as I ran the crowd was going crazy. I slapped hands, I high-fived everyone, I smiled ear to ear and before I knew it I was in the chute heading to the finish line. The over head lighting was blinding as I tried to figure out if finish line was close by but just then I heard the six most beautiful words ever uttered in my general direction: “Kristen Faughnan, YOU are an Ironman!” And so I was, as I crossed the finish line some 13:28:29 hours from the time I started and it was all over. The dream I had been harping on since I did my very first sprint triathlon over four years had finally been realized and it was a feeling I simply can not put into words.
- The crowd was amazing and encouraging and so were the athletes. Because the crowd was a mix of those who spoke English and French(Canadian) and because I know next to no French I had no idea what was being shouted at me but because the language is so fancy sounding basically everything shouted at me made me feel so damn fancy-pants!
- Honestly, although this was the longest marathon I have every run (or rather shuffled) I am still proud of what I was able to do given everything that was up against me
- Even though my back locked up it eventually relaxed and I am grateful it didn’t actually get worse!
- Simply put: Walking is boring when you actually want to run.
In summary, this was seriously the hardest, most humbling thing I have ever done and I still cannot believe I pulled it off despite all the crap this year has thrown at me. This isn’t a “brag” worthy performance for me but in the end that’s not what it was about for me. Maybe when I signed up it was, but being sick changed that for me and when your health gets affected and part of your identity, or who you know you are, gets pushed to the side while you heal, just being able to toe the starting line and subsequently finishing becomes its own deed worth of being proud of.
I have no doubts I will one day do another Ironman under better circumstances and in better health. That’s something I won’t be pursuing this year nor next summer, but I am confident I will have another go at this eventually! 🙂by