As you may have heard, Denine (my wife) and Daniele (my sister-in-law) have decided to add a new section to We Know Stuff – Family Health and Fitness. I will be a contributing writer to this new section and I am excited to put my spin on an already fantastic blog.
For those of you that do not know me, I am a triathlete. I come from a swimming background and I started cycling about 7 years ago, which led me to triathlons. I did my first sprint race in May 2009 – and I was hooked. Since then, I have completed dozens of triathlons from sprint distance to Ironman.
I do triathlons for a few reasons, but the most important is the sense of personal accomplishment that I get from training and racing. I am a strong believer in working hard to reach your goals, and endurance sports are a good way for me to show my children that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
For those of you that are not familiar with “tri-speak,” here are a few terms that will help you to better understand - and get the most out of - my contributions to We Know Stuff.
- 140.6 – a full distance triathlon (aka: an Ironman), consisting of a 2.4 Mile Swim, 112 Mile Bike, and 26.2 Mile Run.
- Transition – the area at a triathlon designated for athletes to transition from Swim to Bike, and then Bike to Run. T1 is the Swim to Bike transition, and T2 is the Bike to Run transition.
- Expo – the area at a triathlon where vendors hawk their goods and the race organizer sells race memorabilia (t-shirts, hats, water bottles, etc…).
RACE REPORT: IRONMAN North American Championship - Mont Tremblant 2013 (IMMT)
Now, let’s talk about Ironman Mont Tremblant. This was my second shot at the 140.6 distance so I still consider myself a bit of a rookie, but I can honestly say that I could not imagine a better place to stage an Ironman. The location, the people, the volunteers, and the atmosphere of Mont Tremblant make this event great. The people of Quebec embrace the sport of triathlon, and I can see why in just its second year, Mont Tremblant has become a favorite on the Ironman circuit.
The race is staged in and around the Pedestrian Village of Mont Tremblant , so I highly recommend booking your hotel early and staying in the village because it will give you easy access to everything. Anything and everything you need is within a few minutes walking distance (transition, expo, food, shops, etc…). If you are staying in the village, don’t plan on driving because you really don’t need to; the only reason we needed a car was to get to and from the airport in Montreal, which is about an hour and twenty minutes away.
After I registered for the race and did some research, my wife, Denine, and I decided to make the trip without the kids. Our kids are 5 and 7 and although we would have loved for them to be there with us, there isn’t much for the younger kids to do. Plus, it would have taken away from Denine’s experience in Mont Tremblant and her ability to get around the course to see me on race day. For kids that are a little older and more independent, the village offers a great recreation area (movie theatre, luge, rock walls, etc…), and the beach club is just a short walk from the village.
We got to Mont Tremblant around lunchtime on Friday, proceeded through athlete check-in, and afterwards, we got something to eat at Spag & Co. Not the greatest meal, but it got the job done. After lunch, we wandered around the expo a bit and picked up a few items for us and the kids. That night we took a helicopter tour which ended at Trattoria de Lago, a restaurant on one of the neighboring lakes where we had a great meal. I wasn’t sure if the restaurants would be packed, so we booked this ahead of time to make sure that I got a solid meal in before the race.
Saturday brought with it the expected anxiety and pre-race day nerves. We had breakfast in the village at Creperie Catherine – which I HIGHLY recommend. Then we walked down to the swim start, over to swim finish, and back into transition to get the lay of the land so we could figure out the best places for Denine to be so that she could see me on race day.
Afterwards, we ate lunch at La Diable, the microbrewery in town, which had good food and great beer. FYI - A beer (or two) on the day before the race may not seem like a great idea, but I needed it to calm my nerves, and I got the OK from Gary Jensen, my coach. Better to have them at lunch than at dinner.
After lunch, I got my gear bags together and checked them in with my bike. I exchanged a few pleasantries with professional triathlete, Matty Reed, at check-in, who by the way seems like a super nice guy. I was bummed to hear that he had to drop out of the race due to a mechanical issue the next day.
After check in, Denine ordered me back to the room so that I could get some rest, with my feet up, while she explored the village some more. Later, we walked back into the village for dinner at la Pizzateria, which provided the perfect pre-race meal. The restaurants were not as crowded as I had feared. We finished dinner, walked a bit, and then headed back to the hotel to get a good night sleep.
On race day, I was up at 4:00am, along with Denine, who was a trooper. I told her that she didn’t have to get up with me, but she insisted. I ate some breakfast, and we headed down to transition which opened at 5:00am. My swim start was at 6:45am. On the way to transition, we found a guy with a Sharpie and Denine wrote the kids names on my right and left forearms – it was some much needed inspiration that I was sure I’d need later that day. I put my bottles on my bike, topped off the air in the tires, and we walked down to the swim start. I suited up and said my goodbyes to Denine, who assured me that I would do great and she’d see me along the way.
The swim is a counter-clockwise loop, and it was clearly marked with buoys so sighting was easy. In fact, this was probably one of the straightest tri swims I’ve ever done because it was really hard to go off course. The buoys were on the right every few hundred yards, and boats and lifeguards in kayaks and on SUP’s to the left.
Here’s my only complaint about the race, which many people may not agree with: with Ironman’s new swim start initiative, this race was a wave start by age group as opposed to the usual mass start. In my opinion, this made the swim course very congested because the faster swimmers inevitably caught up to the slower swimmers from the earlier waves. I preferred the mass start in IM Cozumel because even though it’s chaos in the beginning, it allowed you to get into a groove with swimmers of your own ability. Just my two cents, for what it’s worth.
Regardless, the lake is beautiful, the water was clear and calm at about 68 degrees (F) and the swim went as expected. I got out of the water, saw Denine at the end of the swim chute, gave her a quick kiss (which got quite a few cheers from the spectators) and took off for T1.
The bike course is two loops, which consists of three out and backs each. My plan was to go conservative on the first loop to make sure that I had gas in the tank for the second loop. I stuck to that plan and I think that it worked. All of the roads are smooth and entirely closed to traffic. Heading out of T1, I saw Denine again -- she had really hustled and was able to get from the swim finish all the way around to the bike exit, which was no small feat with the crowds!
You leave the resort area of Mont Tremblant on Montee Ryan, which is about 6-7 miles of rolling hills. I took this opportunity to take in some nutrition and re-hydrate from the swim. Next, you get on a long stretch along Route 117, which also has a lot of rolling hills, but with each uphill, you are rewarded with a quick downhill. This section isn’t particularly hard except for one long uphill, but if you settle into the right gear and not try to kill it, you eventually get to the top where an aid station is waiting. If anything, this section just wears on you because it’s the longest part of the bike course.
After the return trip on Route 117, you take quick detour into the village of St. Jovite, which is lined with spectators, music coming out of the shops and restaurants, and a lot of positive energy. It was a great thought of Ironman to do this on this course because it gives you a big boost coming off of Route 117, which is long and somewhat draining with no spectator support except for at the aid stations.
After St. Jovite, you get back on Montee Ryan and head back into the resort area, where again the streets are lined with spectators - you would think you were in the Tour de France. Again, a great boost, coincidentally as you head into the hardest part of the bike course.
Before the race, someone who had trained in Mont Tremblant told me that the last 10 miles of each loop on the bike course is the hardest part…he wasn’t kidding. The Chemin Duplessis section is no joke. It’s about 5 miles, mostly uphill, with grades up to 12%. The turn-around is at the top of Duplessis after Chemin des Quatre Sommets, which I believe roughly translates into “Path of the 4 Summits.” The good news is that what goes up must come down, so the downhill back to the resort area is fast, but there are some technical turns, so you have to watch your speed and be careful.
Then you go out and do it all over again. In my opinion, you really need to be conservative on the first loop of this course. The hills that seemed easy on the first loop aren’t so easy on the second loop. I remember spinning up one hill on the second loop thinking “I don’t even remember this hill from the first loop!” And you really need it at the end when you hit Duplessis for the second time at 100 miles. There were people walking their bikes up parts of this section. My Garmin told me that the course had 6,539 feet of elevation gain; where I come from (Long Island), that’s a lot.
After tackling Duplessis a second time, you come into transition for T2 and head out on the run course. The run is pretty straightforward. It’s a two loop course with some sneaky uphills in the beginning, and at the end, as you come in and out of the resort area and the village. The middle part of each loop is on hard packed trail in woods, which is soft on the feet and provides some shade from the afternoon sun.
Coming out of T2 I saw Denine who had claimed a spot right at the exit thanks to a friendly volunteer. She snapped a few pictures, I gave her 2 thumbs up, and I was on my way.
The road out of the resort area (Chemin du Village) has a few short hills and winds through streets that are filled with spectators, again, a huge sign of support from the locals. They’re yelling at you in French and English - at this point it doesn’t matter. It takes you to the start of the Linear Park, which is the trail section of the course and is flat, but it’s narrow, so it got a little crowded in some sections. There are no spectators out here, but plenty of enthusiastic volunteers working the aid stations.
Coming out of the woods and back into the street at about mile 10, I started to feel really beat. I had been sticking to the strategy of running the course, but walking the aid stations to be sure that I got what I needed, but at this point I had to walk a couple of the uphills going back to the resort. My stomach was hurting and I wasn’t able to take in anything other than water, Coke, and the occasional orange slice. Near the end of the first loop, I saw Denine and told her that I was struggling and that I expected the second loop to be much slower than the first. She ran with me a bit, gave me some words of encouragement and told me she’d be back at the same spot waiting – no matter how long it took.
At run special needs (13.1 miles), I stopped to change my socks, which were soaked from dumping cups of water over my head and filling my jersey with ice and sponges. Dry socks felt good on my hurting feet, but I knew they wouldn’t be dry for long.
After special needs, you run into the village and down the path towards the finish line. But, the path forks in the middle of the village – left to the FINISH, right to the 2nd LOOP. Mentally that was tough, but I made the right turn and headed out. I saw Denine again, smiled, and told her I’d see her in a couple of hours.
I continued my plan of walking the aid stations, but again had to walk a couple of uphills heading out of the resort area. At this point, I’d been out there about 11.5 hours and I was exhausted -- mentally and physically. My gut hurt, my legs hurt, my feet hurt, I was mentally exhausted, and I felt the day slipping away. I made it into the woods and to the turnaround, which left me with only about 6 miles to go to the finish. My plan going into the race was to beat my previous IM Cozumel time of 12:55:48 (which was on a flat course in Cozumel), and to finish in the daylight. It was going to be close.
Then I got a pat on the back – which couldn’t have come at a better time. I turned around to see a familiar face, Danny Gould, a fellow member of Team Sunrise Tri. This guy saved me. I met Danny when we volunteered at IMNYC in 2012, and we did a few open water swims in the same group leading up to IMMT. We ran together for the last 5-6 miles, walking the aid stations and occasionally the uphills. Having someone there to talk to, suffer with, and run stride-for-stride with for the last stretch of the race got me back into it mentally and really made my day.
As we came back into the village near the 26 mile mark, I saw Denine again at the top of the hill. She was pretty happy to see me, and thanks to Danny, I was there earlier than planned, so she knew that I would be happy with my finish. She snapped some pictures of us coming up the last hill, we made the turn and headed into the village and the finishers chute.
This is where it becomes a bit of a blur. You’re in a chute about 8 feet wide, running downhill, with screaming spectators on both sides. I had my hands out and high fived as many people as I could. I remember Danny telling me to go ahead of him so that I could cross the line by myself, so I took him up on it. I rounded the corner and saw the finish line with the clock above it that read 13:01:25 – my first thought was “Damn, how did I not beat my time from Cozumel?” But then I remembered that with the wave swim start, the clock started when the pros went in, so I was 9 minutes behind. I crossed the line with an “official” time of 12:51:29 – a four minute PR over my race in Cozumel. I vaguely remember hearing Mike Reilly say “Brennan Regan, from Bay Shore, New York, you are an IRONMAN!” A “catcher” grabbed me by the arm and escorted me into the finishers’ tent. My legs were a little wobbly from putting everything I had into the last quarter of a mile, but aside from that, I felt pretty good.
Overall, this race was a great experience, and I walked away from it knowing that I gave it my best effort. I accomplished my pre-race goals, and I honestly can’t’ say enough about the venue and the people of Mont Tremblant. It’s a fantastic race and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to do an Ironman.
A few quick thank you’s…
My coach, Gary Jensen, from D1 Multisport, the best coach that I could ask for. He dealt with me for 9 months of changing schedules to accommodate work and family commitments, and understanding when I just needed a break for a day or two.
Terry Stein LMT, from Athletes Performance Care, who got me back on the road and running after a groin injury in April. I thought that I was done for this race, but he got me back on track in 2 weeks using Active Release Techniques®.
Jon and Brendan, at Sunrise Tri, who were always there to give advice when I needed it on equipment, kept my bike in shape, and got it ready for race day.
Dan Perlmutter, who recommended the race in Mont Tremblant when IMNYC was cancelled, and who assured me that moving my registration to IMMT would be a blessing in disguise. He couldn’t have been more right, and I wish him the best of luck at IMMT in 2014.
I would be remiss if I didn't thank Kevin, my brother and business partner. Running a business with an athlete training for an Ironman isn't easy, but he looked the other way on the days that I came into work late, or had to leave early to get a run or bike in. It was also a big help that would pick me up for work on mornings after I ran home from work and left my car at the office.
Lastly, but most importantly, my wife, Denine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, being the spouse of a triathlete training for an Ironman is not easy…especially when you both work and have a 5 and 7 year old at home. Getting up at 5am to train, and then training again in the evenings some days, often left me tired and downright cranky, but she dealt with it and supported me. She worked with me to make sure our schedules allowed time for me to train, and still get in as much family time as possible, and she was my unofficial nutrition consultant. On the day of the race, she ran around like a lunatic making sure that I saw her face as much as possible to keep my spirits up when things got tough. I could not have done it without her love and support.