Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ironman Mont-Tremblant Race Report

I did it!   Those 3 words sum it up.  Mont-Tremblant was incredible!  So much has happened over the last 2 months, there's no way I can cover all of it.  I completely skipped a race report for the Caseville half (and any other blogging).   Quite honestly June, July and August are a blur, so I need to write down what happened at MT before I lose it.

We arrived in Mont-Tremblant on Thursday after driving my parents RV through the night.  We stayed at a campground right on the bike course.  It worked out really well.

As soon as we detached the car and drove into Mont-Tremblant I revised my bike course goals.  This was my first "Oh Shit" moment.  We don't have mountains in Michigan, so I was fairly sure I was looking at a 7 hour bike ride.  By the way, my goals for the course were:

Swim - 1:20
Bike - 6:20
Run - 4:20

Thats 12 hours without transitions, but I revised it to 12-13 hours after seeing the mountains.

I picked up my packet Thursday as well.  The volunteers were amazing.  There was a lot to pick up and the whole process was smooth.  They weighed us as well...that was a first for me.

Thursday night I went for a bike ride into MT and ran into Leo from our Tri Club.  He was riding the run course, so I tagged along.

Friday was spent watching the kids have fun at the base of the ski hill rock climbing, riding the luge and bungee jumping.  They had a great time.

I attended the pre-race meeting after the banquet dinner.

Saturday my Dad and I drove the Chemin Duplessis part of the bike course and I checked my bike gear and run gear into transition.  Chemin Duplessis is the toughest part of the course with multiple step ups.

Saturday night was spent running through final checklists.  The strange thing is, I think I slept better Saturday night than the rest of my family.  Apparently they were nervous about the was I.

I woke at 2:45 AM, 15 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I spent the next hour and a half getting ready.

There was no body marking at the start.  They gave you self applied tattoos.  Like the kind you used as kids.

We arrived at the bike transition at 4:45 and transition opened at 5AM.  I loaded up the bike with gels and fluids and pumped up the tires.

Jen and I walked down to the swim start at 6AM.  This was my second "Oh Shit" moment.  You can see down Lac Tremblant as you walk along the road to the beach.  That said, you cannot see the red turn buoys.  All I could see was yellow buoys stretching off into the distance.

The swim start was amazing.  As the Age Groupers warmed up the pro men lined up along the beach.  Matty Reed is about the only one I could recognize.  He stands about a foot taller than everyone else.  I won't ruin the event for future attendees by explaining what that happened right after the Canadian national anthem, but suffice it to say there were jets and fireworks involved.  Very nice touch!

I was in the sixth mens wave to go.  I lined up right in the middle about 3 guys back from the water.  I was right in the mix and prepared for battle.  The gun went off and we high stepped it into the water.  A couple dolphin dives later we were bumping and clawing our way out into the lake.  I took a path very close to the buoys.  Sometimes to the inside and sometimes to the outside depending on traffic.  At the pre-race meeting they made a point to make sure we went outside at the corners, but on the way out and back we could choose a path on either side.

At the first turn I noticed every colored cap in the rainbow.  As we made the first turn the sun hit us right in the face and it was hard to sight.  I made it to the second turn and noticed something I had only heard about in other race reports.  There was a scuba diver about 10 feet below us.   I fought my way around the second turn and bee lined it for the finish.  I felt like I had room to move and the buoys were flying by.  As we approached the beach a waited until my fingers dug into the sand and pulled myself up.  I stripped off the top half of my wetsuit.

Swim time: 1:14:37

As I went under the arch I noticed the wetsuit strippers busy at work.  I needed help, but didn't want to wait.  I ran up closer to the road and pulled my wetsuit down to my knees.  Just then a volunteer asked if I needed help.  I immediately sat down and said yes, "Please Pull".   She quickly pulled off my wetsuit, I thanked her and ran for transition.

T1 was very busy.  They have draped off sections for men and women to change.  I didn't need to change my tri suit, just add socks, bike shoes, helmet and arm warmers.  The volunteers were again incredibly helpful.

T1 time: 7:37 mainly due to the run up from the lake

I grabbed my bike and ran it to the exit.  Mounting was no problem and we were off to the races.

As I rode out Montee Ryan I noticed a guy in a Michigan State tri suit.  My alma mater.  As I passed him I said "Go State, I graduated from there twice".   He responded with "So did I".   About 10 miles up Highway 117 he passed me and asked what I got and when I was there.  "Advertising and MBA, 91 and 97".   He responded with "Biology and Medical, 90 and 94".   Aha a doctor.  His calf said 45 and mine 46.  A couple of mid-lifers.

After the turn at Labelle there is a climb with an aid station at the top.  This was where I had my third "Oh Shit" moment.  As we entered the aid station there were two people in front of me.  Apparently the girl at the front decided to stop and grab something catching the guy in front of me off guard.  He hit her she fell down, he went over his handle bars, I locked up my brakes and hit his rear tire, which was now on its side.  I had a flashback to Tour de France crashes.  The "F" bombs were flying from the guy in front of me.  He took the brunt of the crash.  Fortunately I was able to clip out fast and get my feet down before I went down.  Volunteers rushed to their aid.  I walked my bike around the pile up and remounted and rode away.  Each aid station has a doctor and a nurse, so I knew they would be in good hands.  I ended up with a rubber mark on my right shin where it hit his wheel, but that was the only damage to me.  Later in the run, I saw the same guy with skin missing from his shoulder and arm.  It was good to see him continue on.  That's the Ironman spirit!

I got to see my parents and kids at mile 45 and 95.   The second time it really gave me some extra energy.  I was so glad to see them standing out there and cheering.

Also, the town of Saint Joliet was lit up.  Music was blaring, people were dancing, and yelling GO, ALLEZ!  Another amazing memory.

The rest of the bike was uneventful, with the exception of the Chemin Duplessis steps at mile 104.  That's just wrong.  Anyway, this is Ironman so I'll stop whining.

Bike time: 6:14:41

T2 went good.  No issues.  Again very helpful volunteers.  They took your bike right at the entrance to the bike racks and I got to run the red carpet just like the pros.  I'm not used to that level of service.

T2 time: 3:32

I stopped for a pee break in one of the porta johns and lost some time at the start of the run, but I felt very good at the start of the run.  At about mile 6 I hit my first wall.  The cramps started and I quickly grabbed a salt stick from my Amphipod.  The run was very hot as the sun beat down on the road and trail.  Fortunately much of the run is on an old railway bed.  Very much like I run on at home.  Flat and softer than pavement.  I did the first loop and then I got a sense for the finish.  At then end of both loops they route you through the town.  Close to the finish you split to the right for the second loop.   It was hard turning.  Your body wants to go for the finish.  I was glad to see Jen in the shade near the start of the second loop.  That gave me a boost again.

By the way, normally I don't use Finisherpix on my blog, but I'll be purchasing a few pictures soon. The people at FP are amazing.  The pictures were ready on Tuesday after the race.

The second loop proved to be a lot harder than the first.   I only walked for a few moments in the aid stations to down some Perform or water or re-ice my hat.  That was a trick I learned at Steelhead.  It's like a radiator for your body.  In fact a lot of people must do the same thing because all I had to do was run by the volunteers with my hat flipped over and they would fill it up.  I took my second salt tab at about mile 18 when I felt the cramping again.  I saw several people either throwing up or doing the walk/run at that point.  I told myself I wouldn't walk.  Run slower but don't walk.   I was constantly on the edge of either throwing up or cramping at this point.  The Perform was not staying down well so I switched to water.   I managed to choke down a half a Stinger Waffle and that seemed to help.  Around mile 21 I found a running partner.  He was keeping a good pace.  A spectator he knew said he could go under 12 hours, so I told myself to stay with him.  By the way,  I didn't use my Garmin.   In hindsight I think that was one of the few things I would change about the race.  If only to regulate my pace a bit better on the run.

As we approached Lac Tremblant I knew we were about a mile out from the finish.  The adrenaline kicked in and went from about a 9:30 pace to probably a 7:45 pace.  The crowd was hanging over the fences at least 10 people deep, screaming Go, Go, Allez, Allez!  It felt surreal.  I had never been on this stage before.  I bolted for the finish line and heard what I've been dreaming about for the last 4 years.  Mike Reilly yelling across the loudspeaker "Kirk Kaufman from Lake Orion, Michigan,  YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"  All I could muster was a huge smile and a fist pump as I crossed the line.

Two volunteers grabbed my arms and led me to a third who put on my finishers medal.  Then they escorted me to a person who removed my timing chip.   I lost my balance a couple times but soon came back to reality.  They then escorted me to the Finishers T-Shirts and Hats and I walked off to get some water and find my wife.

Run time: 4:24:16

Total time: 12:04:37 (the clock overhead at the finish is an unfortunate side effect of the wave starts) Still I prefer the wave start.

We didn't stay at the finish long.  I wanted to get back to the kids and my parents to share the news.  The kids had a big sign waiting for me at the RV.  I hugged them and crashed on the couch.

The whole experience was incredible.  I put this event up there in the top 5 things that I've accomplished in life.  Right behind marriage and kids.  It has taken 4 years to get here.  I told Jen it feels like graduation day.

The magnitude of what I've accomplished is still setting in.  My first FULL.  I'll admit to getting a bit teary-eyed driving home somewhere between Montreal and Toronto.  Some family members have asked if I'm done now. They assumed this was a bucket-list item.  I'm not done.  I met a guy at the Kona Roll-down on Monday who had been doing tri's for 24 years, had done 10 Ironman's and been to Kona 3 times.  No, I'm not done.  I'll won't do a full next year, but Jen and I agreed I should do Steelhead again.  So I'll close one chapter and open another.

Thanks for listening for the last 4 years.   The blogging will slow down a bit, but should pick up again soon.


  1. Great write up. I look forward to it in August next year. I am used to pancake flat Busselton Western Australia so it sounds as if it might be something very different. Congratulations, great time and you must be very happy with your swim and bike legs considering what you were aiming for! Chris

  2. Congrats!! I love your race report!! Someday I will become an Ironman