Spectating at Ironman Mont Tremblant

A year ago, Jared registered for Ironman Mont Tremblant and while he knew on a surface level what it would mean to prepare, I don’t think he had any idea where the next year would take him.  When Jared committed to training for this race he figured it may be a ‘one and done’, so he was going to do it right.  Meanwhile I committed to being understanding, patient and cutting our pizza intake by a significant amount (that’s love friends).

Jared is a great athlete and in the few years he has been doing triathlons he has done really well.  He trains hard and when the race gets tough he can power through discomfort like no one else I’ve seen.  It’s impressive.   Still, this race was twice as long and grueling as the longest race he had ever done so it was going to take a special kind of dedication.  He started by signing up to be coached by QT2 systems.  They worked with him on training, nutrition, race fueling and race pacing (they also offer mental fitness but I think he assumed that was a lost cause) so he would be the most prepared he could possibly be.  He also worked with our friend, Kate Weiler – an Ironman Finisher herself, on changing his day to day diet to help him lose some weight and get him in the best shape he could be.

It’s unbelievable how quickly the year came and went.  Before I knew it we were in the final countdown to race weekend and planning the final details of our trip to Mont Tremblant, Canada.  We thought we had a great plan to do most of our driving on Friday and stay in Plattsburgh, NY then cross the Canadian border on Saturday morning and arrive at our hotel right in the village – steps from the race site.  Unfortunately, just hours before we were supposed to leave, Jared realized he would need to check in for the race by Friday at 4:00 pm.  We quickly made some accommodation adjustments and found a simple motel in Mont Tremblant to stay on Friday night.  Thursday night we packed up everything we needed and set the alarm for 3:30 am to make our way up north.  The scramble was stressful but if that was our big glitch of the weekend, we were okay with that.

The gift bag I made for Jared before we left.

The gift bag I made for Jared before we left.

We arrived in Mont Tremblant by late morning and Jared was able to pick up his athlete packet and collection of transition bags.  We weren’t yet familiar with the layout and parking seemed challenging at this point so I stayed with the car and the bike exercising my patience since I was dying to see the race site, scope out the best places to spectate and take pictures of everything.  Still, my job this weekend was to support Jared so I sat tight and read the athlete’s guide again while he did whatever they did at athlete check in – I don’t know, I was in the car…not taking pictures of him picking up the stuff.

I got the opportunity to photograph everything later in the day when we went back to the race site for an athlete’s meeting.  We arrived early so we wouldn’t have to fight for parking and it gave us some time to walk around.  We checked out the transition area and discovered that Jared’s spot was right on the end and very easy to find.  The pedestrian village is adorable and there were tons of restaurants and shops.  I was excited to spend some time there and really happy to see that the Westin (our hotel for Sat/ Sun) was so close to the race.

Exciting!

Saturday morning, just as the 12 weather apps I checked had forecast, it was raining.  Since weather predictions are always a major part of my travel planning I had packed appropriately with lots of warm clothes and rain gear.  Mont Tremblant was cool and damp all weekend so while I had definitely over packed I was also prepared.  It ended up being perfect for the athletes come race time but I rocked the same jeans and lululemon hoodie every day.

We spent the morning preparing Jared’s race bags.  There were 5 – Prerace, Bike Transition, Bike Special Needs, Run Transition, and Run Special Needs.  I wish we knew about the bags ahead of time because I would have insisted that we make lists for each bag and edit those lists in the weeks before the race rather than try to make sure we remember everything the day before.  Lesson learned.

We repacked the car and headed to the village to move in to our next hotel and check the bike in at transition.  We were lucky to score a suite at the Westin giving us a lot more room to spread out with all the race gear.  Having a kitchen made it a lot easier for Jared to stick to his pre-race nutrition plan and not have to compromise based on restaurant menus.  He was able to make his dinner in the room before we met up with his mom, Cherryl, and her partner, George, for pizza at Spag and Co. in the pedestrian village.  There were lots of restaurant options nearby but nothing very Ironman strict diet friendly.

Another advantage to having the suite was when Jared’s alarm went off at 3:30 am race morning he was able to shut the door to the room and start eating breakfast and preparing while I continued to sleep.  A little before 5 he came back in to wake me up in time for me to throw some clothes on and head down to the race site.  It was still dark but the village was wide awake with athletes and supporters getting ready for the race.

Race morning

Race morning

After the pros, Jared was in the second age group wave taking off at 6:45 AM.  With my VIP spectator pass I was able to hang out on a dock to watch some of the swim and take pictures but wanted to move quickly to find my way to Swim Out to see him come out of the water.  Heading over there it looked really crowded so I ended up finding some VIP bleachers and waiting for him to run by.  I strategically found a good spot where I would be able to see him coming and have a clear view for photos.  A little over an hour after he started I caught sight of him.  I yelled his name and snapped some pictures but he didn’t see me.

Here he comes!

Here he comes!

It was exciting to see him but I wanted to move quickly to try and beat him to transition to see him get on the bike.  I was carrying two bags and had to push through a crowd, then run over a bridge and about a third of a mile to transition.  When I got there his bike was gone.  I was disappointed but really happy that he seemed to have a smooth transition and things were going well so far.  A few minutes later I caught up with Cherryl and George who had gone straight to Bike Out after the swim and they saw him head out looking great.

Video credit: George Zubal

With our hotel so close I had some time to go back to the room and shower before catching Jared on the bike.  Once I got cleaned up and grabbed a bite to eat (this took forever, insane lines everywhere) I headed out to the bike course to get an idea of the best place to spot him.  I thought I might try to go to the special needs station since on the map it looked like he would pass by there several times but I didn’t know exactly where it was and I was not as familiar with the course as I would have liked.  I walked to an area with a ton of spectators and learned that the athletes would be passing by around mile 35 or so (total guess) and then they do an out/ back coming back to where we were for the half way turn around.  I stood under a bridge on top of a concrete slab waiting for Jared’s bright red, white and blue bike jersey to come by and knew I couldn’t look away because they were riding so fast.  Thankfully I saw him and screamed his name.  He stuck his tongue out.  This could have been a quick hello to me but sometimes he makes that face just for fun so I wasn’t sure.  It turns out he did not see me but thought he might have heard me prompting him to make a face.

I met up with Cherryl and George again and we waited for him to come back for the turn around.  We were in a spot where we could see him coming and most of the athletes were slowing down quite a bit to make the sharp turn so we knew he would see us.  Once he came by we cheered and waved and after some debate I decided to try and take some video rather than get a picture.  Obviously this was a complete fail as it always is when I try to take video with my phone but I was just so thrilled that he was doing well and looking strong that it seemed secondary.  I now had some down time before he was scheduled to come back on the bike.

This was my opportunity to fulfill a promise to my friend Hallie and her project Scattering CJ.  I will write more about this effort in a future post but I wanted to participate in this special effort to honor CJ Twomey and asked to scatter some of his ashes in Mont Tremblant.  CJ was scattered back at the beach and along the bike/ run course while I kept him and his family in my thoughts.   I definitely felt a sense of calm and peace when this was done, as if maybe CJ was with us watching over Jared and all the athletes.  Thank you, Hallie for letting me take part in this.

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Mont Tremblant is one more place CJ has been scattered.

One of the best perks of the Ironman VIP spectator pass was a huge lunch spread where I got to sit down for a while and have a good meal.  I sat with a mother/ daughter from Washington State who were there for their husband/dad.  He had competed in several 70.3 and full irons in the past year and was hoping to qualify for Kona.  A man joined us whose wife was attempting her first full iron.  We had a great conversation about what life has been like for us as the significant other of an Ironman in training. It was really interesting hearing the point of view of the wife vs the daughter vs the husband compared to my experience.  The husband had the most trouble dealing with his wife having this goal as a priority.  Imagine that.

My next stop was to get in place at the transition area to see him come in from the bike and then out for the run.  I was tracking him on my phone so I knew when he was close and then I caught site of that awesome bike jersey again and I was so happy for him to be off the bike.  112 miles is a long way to go in the saddle and it must have been a relief to dismount and toss the bike to a volunteer.  That’s exactly what I always want to do when I get off my bike in a triathlon – just jump off and throw it at someone.  ‘Ugh – take this stupid thing.  I never want to see it again’.  I’m not sure they are offering bike catchers at any of the sprints I might do in the future but it would be nice.

2 down...1 to go!

2 down…1 to go!

He ran through transition and stopped to say hello to me when he ran by.  I was so thrilled that he still looked strong and high energy that I just stood there for a few seconds clapping while he ran away.  He was heading into the transition tent for a costume change to what he would wear in the marathon.  A couple of days earlier there was a bit of a meltdown when we were packing and the exact outfit he would wear for the run was missing – the same running shorts he has worn in every marathon, the ‘Organ Donors Save Lives’ tech shirt he promised me he would wear as a shout out to my organization and arm warmers just in case.  All three were together and went missing.  We still haven’t found them.  Plan B was a different pair of shorts (with one less pocket than Plan A shorts) and a bright green shirt we would be able to spot easily.  I stood at the fence where he would run out of the tent and waited for the bright green shirt.   He came out of the tent eating a banana and looking very ready to run a marathon and pumped to get started.  Only 26.2 miles to go…yikes!

(video credit: George Zubal; please pardon his talking with his mouth full)

By now the sun had come out so I wanted to run back to the room to lose some layers and grab a phone charger (a portable phone charger is one of the most important tools for an Ironman spectator).  Walking in I realized there was a waterstop right in front of the hotel with super high energy volunteers blaring music.  They told me it was about the 22k mark so doing some quick math in my head (or maybe google), I realized that it was the half-way point of the run.  I called Cherryl and George to let them know where I would be and hung out with the volunteers cheering for the runners.  At this point of the day I was getting pretty tired and a little punchdrunk so my cheering took on a rare form.  I heard someone near me start repeating to the runners ‘you’re almost there, way to go, you’re almost there’.  As a distance runner, I am well aware that half way through a marathon is not in any way almost there so I had to follow up his insanity by explaining to the runners ‘you are definitely not almost there but you look really great’.  They seemed to appreciate the honesty.

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Tracking him on ironman.com,  I was able to see that he was having an awesome run with splits getting faster at each check point.  He was averaging just over an 8 minute mile when he reached 10.3 so we knew to start looking for the green shirt.  When we finally saw him I sort of went crazy.  He was KILLING this race and I was overwhelmed with pride, joy, relief and pure excitement.  He seemed really happy too and stopped to say hello and let us know he was feeling great.  The next time we would see him – he would be an Ironman Finisher.

Looking strong with 13.1 to go

Looking strong with 13.1 to go

I decided I was going to head straight down to the finish line to make sure I got good real estate for the end of the race.  There were bleachers set up where I hung out cheering for the top finishers and eventually grabbed a spot right at the fence.  The energy was incredible from the crowd, announcers and the finishers coming down the chute.  For the next couple of hours I literally witnessed goals being accomplished and dreams coming true.  It was magical.  For a moment I thought maybe someday I would attempt a 70.3 Ironman… and then the moment passed.

Finish line selfie waiting for Jared.

Finish line selfie waiting for Jared.

Jared seemed to be picking up speed in the second half of the run and then after Mile 20 there was a lapse in the athlete tracker and I didn’t know if he had slowed down a lot, stopped or if he was crossing the finish line at any moment.  My eyes were glued to the finish line chute looking for the green t-shirt with my phone ready in camera mode.  Finally, an update came through and he was expected to cross the finish line at 5:22 PM.  I could barely breathe in anticipation but a few minutes later I saw him coming.  Jared was all smiles with arms raised in victory.  He ran up to the finish line as the announcer yelled “Jared Watson from Boston!  You’re an Ironman Jared!”

Video footage from George Zubal – if you keep listening after he runs by you can hear him being announced at the finish line – it chokes me up every time. 

Jared crossed the finish line in 10 hours, 33 minutes – simply crushing all the goals he set preparing for the race.

Ironman Finisher!

Ironman Finisher!

I called out his name and he came back to the fence so I politely asked the volunteer “May I please kiss my Ironman?”  He looked like maybe he just ran the 6 mile Charles River route we do regularly and not at all like he just competed in a grueling 140.6 mile race.  He got a massage and a little food and we took some photos but he was anxious to get back to the room to stretch out and rinse off.  He was on a wild endorphin high rapidly telling us all about each part of the race and so proud that he was able to pee while riding the bike (ew), but once he lied down and the adrenaline began to wear off it got a little ugly.  His body finally began to feel the effects of the race and he was very uncomfortable for a couple of hours.  I found some salt and soda water and he started to feel better but the swing from high to low was definitely concerning.

Once he felt up to it we decided to go back down to the race and cheer on the rest of the athletes.  They had until midnight to officially be an Ironman Finisher and time was running out.  We watched the finish line chute from the deck of a restaurant while he filled me in on the best and worst of the day.  At one point he asked “What have you been doing all day?”  I had plenty to share.

Hooray for a second wind!

Hooray for a second wind!

The last woman to finish came in just under the 17 hour cut off and was run in by volunteers dressed as angels who help the last finishing athletes make it to the end.  This woman did not make it in time last year but this time she could not be stopped.  When she crossed the finish line the crowd joined the announcer chanting ‘You. Are. An Ironman!’

At midnight the clock shut off and the music stopped and we were treated to fireworks signifying the end of Ironman Mont Tremblant 2014.  It had been an incredibly long day for everyone there but we were all energized by the celebration.

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Final Countdown to Midnight

We traveled to Mont Tremblant hoping that Jared’s race would be successful in that he would finish what he started so many months ago.  The entire experience was inspiring – not necessarily to train for an Ironman but to have the courage to set ambitious goals with the willingness to do the work required to reach them.   Jared didn’t just have a great day (although he did have a really great day) – he committed to a plan that got him to the starting line prepared for challenge.  When the day came he was ready and gave it his all.

I have had races of all distances where I was disappointed in my performance and wished I had been stronger or faster.  I’ve learned that you can’t just wish for a great performance, you have to do the work to get there and then have the courage to make it happen.  I am so proud of Jared for his dedication to this race and his amazing Ironman race.  I might regret saying this but I hope he continues training at this level and setting new goals.  Regardless, it was a great experience for everyone and it’s now in the books and official – Jared Watson, YOU. ARE. AN IRONMAN!

So proud!

So proud!

 

I want to give credit to two blogs that I found very helpful in preparing to spectate for Ironman Mont Tremblant:

TriWives Club: The Sport of Spectating – Ironman Mont Tremblant

We know…stuff: Ironman Mont Tremblant – The Best Places to Spectate