IMMT 70.3 – The Run

After a great year of running and racing, which included 3 successful half-marathons, I was looking forward to this part of the half Ironman.  But because it was my first one, I really had no idea what to expect.  Over the summer, Dave kept reminding me, “Who knows how your legs will feel after your bike?  And, then you have to run a half-marathon!”   My typical half-marathon pace is 5 min/km but I figured that I would likely end up running 5:30 kilometres, maybe even 6 minute kilometres if I was having a bad day.  Or maybe a 6 minute pace in a half Ironman is a good day. Only time would tell.

The run out of the transition zone was uphill and my calves were tight!  I had no choice but to start slowly.  Towards the end of the second kilometre, I heard someone say “What a beautiful pace.”  I wasn’t sure if she was talking to me, but I was the only runner near her and, let’s face it, I needed the encouragement and was happy to take the compliment.  The reality, though, is I was dying.  “Slow it down, Cynthia.  You need the first 5 kilomentres to find your legs again.”

There were two main sections of the out and back run course: from transition to the old village (on roads) and the rail trail (a paved trail through a treed area).  Dave rode his bike out to cheer for me along the rail trail and I first saw him around 4K.  “You’re looking strong!”  Ha!  My legs were back, but I was running comfortably slow.  I chatted with a few of the runners along the way and i wanted to say “Wow!  You’re doing twice as much as I am and you are running beside me.  Amazing!”  But I wasn’t sure where their mindsets were at and thought it better to keep the chat more general.  “So where are you from?”

At 8k, I noticed that my breathing was off.  “Slow down.  Take a walk break to reset.”  I looped through this same cycle until 12K when I wished I had my puffer.  Then it dawned on me; asthma was kicking in and I left my puffer in transition.

When I packed my transition bags on Saturday, I packed a puffer with my bike gear and carried it in the seat bag on the ride, with the intention of moving it into my running pack.  Shortly after leaving transition for the run, I realized that I left my puffer behind.  I was so focused on getting out of transition as quickly as i could that I didn’t even bring my pack.  I remembered looking at it, thinking “i don’t need that,” and shoved the gels into my pockets.  The plan to bring my puffer with me had completely fallen apart.

I hadn’t needed my puffer while running in years.  I am good about using it before I run or race, and I always carry it with me.  This changed when I transitioned to triathlon.  My lungs are warmed up from the swim and riding so I never had any problems during the run.  But I haven’t raced anything longer than 3 hours; how my asthma would be during a half-Ironman was an  unknown variable.

And now, during the last half of the race, my breathing issues made sense.  I was in the sixth hour of the race, it was hot (27C, felt like 31C) and my chest was tight.  “The only way you are going to get through this,” I told myself, ” is to run-walk to the finish” and that is exactly what I did.

The further I got into the run, the slower my pace became and I didn’t care.  I was going to finish and that was all that mattered.  “This is your first half-Ironman,” I reminded myself.  “You’ll know better next time.”  I walked through the aid stations, ran the downhills (never waste a downhill) and did whatever I could for the rest.  When I saw one lady being carried off the course on a stretcher, I knew that I was doing the right thing.  In the last kilometre, I found the willpower to pick up the pace and was surprised that my legs responded so well – only to be passed by the first Ironman.  “Really?” I thought.  Earlier in the week, I joked with a friend that my goal was to finish when the first Ironman did because that would make a great finish photo, and here I was with that golden opportunity.  Hmmmm….tempting, but I held back.  I watched him turn a corner and turned up my cadence.  I felt like I was flying.

I was motivated by the spectators’ cheers as I ran through the village and I felt more proud than I had in any other race.  I crossed the finish line in 7:04 and, since I had hoped that my time would be just under 7 hours, I was happy, especially when my run went the way it did.

On the shuttle back to the hotel, my husband asked a group of us what our favorite part of the run was.  People started to describe the rail trail, the tunnel, the green space…there was no one answer.  “The volunteers,” I said. “The volunteers were phenomenal.  They were supportive and enthusiastic.  They cared.  It was the volunteers who got so many of us to the finish line.”  Everyone agreed.

The volunteers involved in every aspect of the race were amazing.  From registration on Friday morning to ensuring that athletes were leaving with the right bike at the end of the day, the volunteers were excellent.  It was clear that they were as excited to be a part of the race as we were; their roles were invaluable.

Mont Tremblant, you were everything I wanted and more.  You will be a tough act to follow.


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