A few weeks ago, I posted my Ironman Mont Tremblant – Race Week Report (for Spectators) and I had high hopes of posting this Best Places To Spectate Report weeks ago, but I got sidetracked. I had Halloween on my mind and spent my free time doing all sorts of fun Fall activities with my kids instead of sitting down to write. But now that Halloween is past us, I can focus again, so without further ado, here's my humble opinion about the Best Places To Spectate at Ironman Mont Tremblant.
The opinions below are solely based upon my own experience at Ironman Mont Tremblant 2013, and will hopefully, answer all of your questions about where you should sit, stand, walk, eat, and more. But, like I said in my previous post, I would be remiss if I didn't give a huge shout-out to my friends (Dana, Jodi, and Sherry) over at Tri Wives Club for their original post "The Sport of Spectating – Ironman Mont Tremblant". They're a great group of women and their blog is chock full of race information, so make sure you check them out!
IRONMAN MONT TREMBLANT (IMMT) – THE BEST PLACES TO SPECTATE
As I mentioned in my earlier post, my husband had found a great blog post over at Tri Wives Club called The Sport of Spectating – Ironman Mont Tremblant and I wanted to find all of the "hot" spots that they mentioned in their post. So, the day before the race, my husband and I grabbed a Spectator's Map and headed out. Unfortunately, the Spectator's Map was pretty terrible and Ironman really needs to redo this map. However, the volunteers at IMMT are some of the nicest people I have ever met and were all too happy to help us out whenever we couldn't find something listed on the map.
In my opinion, walking the course, pre-race, is one of the most important things you can do. Why? Well, because the day is long, and filled with emotion, and your Ironman needs to see you – and you need to see your Ironman. As a Spectator, I am a nervous wreck, and I can honestly say that if I miss seeing my athlete at a designated spot, it makes me really, really kooky because it could be hours before I see him again. Needless to say, it's very important for you to discuss with your Ironman where you'll be during the race. Naturally, things can change – but it always helps if you both know where you expect each other to be.
Tip: For this race, I carried a super bright pink scarf from JCrew with me. My husband knows what it looks like because I wear it often. On race day, I tied it around my wrist and draped it over the fence at each of our designated meeting spots. This way, it was very easy for him to spot me all along the way! I also saw one family all wearing the same neon orange tee shirts – there were 4 of them and it was impossible to miss this family. They specially ordered their tees in "the loudest color they could find" just so their athlete could spot them; it worked, even on the bike course where the athletes were whizzing by!
Where To Spectate
The morning of the race, I got up with my husband at 5:00AM to help him get ready and calm his pre-race nerves. We walked up to the swim start together and I was able to help him don his wetsuit and chit-chat while he got ready. It was nice to be able to just spend some time with him before the race start. Once he was in his wetsuit, I walked back around the snack shop down to the water's edge and politely fought my way into the crowd. Unfortunately, because I spent time with him getting ready, I lost precious time finding a spot against the fence and only got to see him warm up in the water. He didn't get to see me at all. 🙁
So, if you're traveling with kids and want to go to the swim start – you should get there with your athlete and go directly to the blue fence. You'll see the black floating dock where the announcers and the VIPs stand and you'll want to be directly to the right of the big inflatable blue arch. The athletes all run under the arch as their age group is called. If you are directly to the right of the arch, your athlete can come up to the fence and give you a hug or high five before they go through the arch. Do not move or the wave of people will wash you away!
If you're traveling solo, you'll need to make a choice. I thought I would be able to do both because it was only me squeezing through the crowd, but not so much. However, when I nicely explained to one family that my athlete was in the neon yellow caps (i.e. a 6:45 AM swim start) and I just wanted to snap one picture, they let me go through but it was a pinch too late because he didn't know I was there. Bummer!
After your athlete gets into the water, you have to hustle if you want to catch them at Swim Out, which is at Parc Plage. Now my athlete was in one of the early swim starts, so there was maybe 5 people at Swim Out when I got there – lucky me! Swim Out was super confusing mostly because the media didn't play by the rules and kept getting in the way of the volunteers and athletes!
My husband and I had agreed that I would be at the end of the "chute" – so even though I could have gone down to the water and snagged a prime position, I stuck to the plan. I planted myself directly in front of the swim chute exit – there was no way he could miss me, especially when he saw a pink scarf dangling over the fence!
If you have kids, you might want to skip Swim Start, and go directly down to Swim Out. You can set up shop right by the water's edge and catch your athlete coming out of the water. Normally, I love being at the water's edge, but the volunteers didn't know if people would be allowed down there, so we picked the chute end instead. If you do go down to the water's edge, the entrance is to the right of the park gates. You will need to get there as fast as you can to secure a good position, but there's lots of room down there.
There was also some controversy about being able to stay in the little "dirt lot" to the left of the Swim Out chute. It looks like it's a parking lot for the park and they were letting people in there in the beginning – but then they closed it off. This is very bad if you're stuck down there because you can't get out until after ALL of the swimmers finish. The volunteers started pulling people out of there because people started hopping the fence instead of waiting for the athletes to finish. So, my advice? Don't bother with the little dirt parking lot. Either stand on the fence line so you can high five your runner as he or she goes by, or go to the water's edge.
As I mentioned, if you get a chance to walk the course (and talk to the volunteers) before race day, you'll be privy to some insider information. On our pre-race walk, we found a sneaky little shortcut back into town that no one else knew of. It is directly across the street from where the swimmers come up the chute. You can't miss it – it's a big, dark hole right in the middle of the woods. If you're quick, you can run up the hill, through the the woods, around the lake, over the drawbridge, and immediately after the drawbridge, you can climb up the gravelly path and pop out into Le Westin's parking lot. Sounds complicated, but it worked for me and allowed me to get to Bike Out just in time to snap a quick pic of my husband before he set off on his ride.
Now if you take the path thought the sneaky woods, you'll need to be able to run up and down some hills at a pretty steady clip. I was gabbing with the lovely woman who took this picture of me and my husband, so I lost about 5 minutes and barely had time to catch him at Bike Out. You'll have about 10 minutes to get from Swim Out to Bike Out if you want to cheer your athlete on.
Now if you go my way, you'll want to stay on the left side of the runner's chute in the Pedestrian Village. You can run alongside it and then once you get to the benches by the finish line, you'll make a sharp left and run up the hill to the arches of Bike Out. Like I said, I caught my husband just in time, but perhaps I shouldn't have loaded up my backpack for this early morning sprint! It was like sprinting with a 30 pound baby on my back…
The bike course is long and there are lots of places to watch your athlete. My best suggestion is to agree on a spot beforehand. Due to the hills, the athletes are FLYING by. Seriously, I wanted to close my eyes because I had no idea how they weren't falling off of their bikes and crashing into the fences.
My husband and I got our connections crossed on the bike course and I missed him completely. He wanted me to be at the Bike Special Needs station, but I couldn't find it on the day of the race as it was much further up the course than I originally expected. However, Special Needs is a great place to spectate if you can get there early enough because the athletes actually stop there for a few seconds! Plus, there's some much-needed shade if you have little ones with you.
Instead, I hung out at the roundabout. (If you look at my Swim Start picture, you'll see the roundabout in the upper left hand corner of the picture.) There was a large clearing and not many people were there, so I was able to snag a prime spot to watch the athletes go whizzing by. The only downside is that there isn't any shade. It's wide open which meant that the sun was blazing down. Please, bring sunblock! In the two hours that I was there, with 50 SPF on, I burnt to a crisp. A sun hat, sunscreen, a folding chair and water are "musts" if you plan to sit out on the course. It's also fair to note that people were just going into the woods behind us and "popping a squat" to relieve themselves of all of the water they were consuming (i.e. porta potties are not in this location)!
Although I did not get to see my husband, many spectators got to see their athletes on the way back up the hill. On the way down, they're just flying by way too fast, but at this spot, it's a small incline and they're moving slow, so lots of athletes stopped or waved as they passed by. When I realized that two hours had gone by, I texted my family to check www.ironmanlive.com to see where he was. When it became clear that I missed him, I headed back down the path to Run Out.
Now my husband originally wanted me to be closer to the athlete's tent to cheer him on as he ran down the red carpet out onto the run course. But, I was fraught with worry over losing track of him on the bike course, so as I walked down the hill, I kept my eyes open for a good spot to park it until eternity. I found a very "I know what I'm doing and you will all listen to me" looking volunteer and sadly told him my story. I'm not sure if it was my sunburned face, or my sweat-ridden dress, but something sparked compassion in him and he told me that if I sat down Right Behind Him, I would see my husband FOUR times! That was music to my ears!
Where was I? I was directly in front of the chute for Run In/Run Out – where the athletes all intersect on the run course. I grabbed the towel out of my ginormous backpack and sat down and waited and waited and waited.
Tip: Cell service is super spotty in Mont Tremblant – you're in the middle of the woods and your battery gets eaten alive. I was not able to load www.ironmanlive.com at all – so you should have a backup at home to check your athlete's stats for you if you're a Nervous Nellie like me. If you miss your athlete on the bike course, just pick a spot on the run course and sit. She or he will show up. To keep myself hydrated throughout the day, I brought two of my husband's large electrolyte drinks and sipped them throughout the day. If I had caught a glimpse of him on the bike, I would have left on his second loop to get an ice cold drink, but it just didn't work out that way.
This spot was an awesome spot indeed. Not only did I get to see my athlete right up close and scream my fool head off, but I also got to see the leaders and the motorbikes clearing the way. It was a really fun spot to be in – it's actually just down the road from one of the water stations.
Once my husband ran up the hill, I left my backpack and towel in my spot and walked up the hill to wait for him. If you go a little ways up past the aide station, you can then run down part of the hill alongside your athlete and gauge how they're doing. I got lots of smiles as I ran in my dress and Nikes, and he before he left me, he said, "It's really hilly. It might take me awhile."
Since I started timing my husband once he popped out of Run Out and kept timing him until he went through the Village and came back out of Run Out, I knew I had about two hours before I would see him again. So I packed up my stuff and went back to Le Westin to shower, eat and apply some much needed aloe.
After I was cleaned up, I decided not to go back down to Run Out because at the end of the driveway to Le Westin is a beautiful park that is actually the Run Special Needs station. It is a truly lovely spot! It is full of shade and you can see them come into the park and then run to the other side to watch them run out. If you have kids and they're done with the sun – this is a nice spot to sit and wait in. The only downfall is that it is way too far from the finish line to run through the uuber packed town, so if you chill out here, keep in mind that you will miss your athlete crossing the finish line. It's also a little buggy, so bring some bug repellent.
As I waited, I met some more spectators and chit-chatted until I saw my husband come down the hill with Danny Gould, a fellow member of Team Sunrise Tri. My husband was looking good and happy and the guys were chatting, so he gave me a quick kiss and said, "I'll see you at the finisher's tent." Even though I was sad that I wouldn't get to see him cross over, I was happy to know that he met up with a fellow athlete and they paced off of each other until the end.
The finish line is all about choices.
For my husband's first Ironman in Cozumel, he was so shot that he never even saw us cheering him on from alongside the finisher's chute. He looked directly at us, waved and smiled – but he has no recollection of this at all. Putting my wounded wife's ego aside, I now understand how incredibly exhausting – and emotionally draining – this race is for both the athlete's and their spectators.
Since we've been through this before, my husband and I were able to have an honest conversation about where HE needed ME the most. He flat out told me that come the run, athletes are exhausted…and tired…and very emotional, and he really needed to see my face out there to keep him moving along. Because of this, I let go of my selfish desire to see him cross the finish line and stayed on the run course where he needed me.
With that said, we agreed that once I made sure he was safely down the chute, I would simply meet him at the finisher's tent. Again, like my discussion about Bike Out, stay to the left of the chute in the Pedestrian Village and you'll be able to veer left in town and cross up the street. You actually need to cut through someones back yard to get to the finisher's tent (which is sort of where Bike Out is), but the homeowners didn't seem to mind.
After The Race
For Pete's Sake – Hug Your IRONMAN!!! Regardless of whether it's the first race, the last race, or the 20th race – your loved one just finished 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running. They are now an IRONMAN!! And even though they may not be able to walk, talk or think clearly, please know that they do appreciate all of the love, support and cheers that you gave them throughout the day and night – they just might not be able to convey it until the next day…or the day after.
If your IRONMAN is up for some food (and an ice cold beer), there are loads of restaurants in the Pedestrian Village that flank the Finisher's Chute. As a rule of thumb, we always stay to cheer on as many of the finisher's as possible. This year, my IRONMAN made it until 11:30 PM and then had to go to sleep. I'm amazed he made it that long…
P.S. Are you an athlete? Do you want to know the nitty gritty about the actual race? Well then, read my husband's official IMMT Race Report. He's got the information you need. 🙂
Do you have tips to share about Ironman Mont Tremblant? Please share them with us in the comments below. We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions about this race!
Thanks for reading,