“You. Are. An IRONMAN!!!”
Those four words were uttered as each of over 2000 people crossed the finish line of Ironman Mont Tremblant, including the PTO’s very own Eugene Wu, Kang Hu, and Charles Shedrick. This race was the second Ironman for Charles, and the first for Eugene and Kang. All three successfully finished, last I heard, were off getting M-dot tattoos (I kid, I kid…).
What is an Ironman triathlon? Although the distances are standard, not all races are the same. The weather conditions and terrain play a HUGE role in this 2.4-mile swim/112-mile bike/26.2-mile run triathlon. I came along solely as a spectator, but from what I saw, the region is pretty hill, albeit very scenic.
So now let’s back up a few days, to the beginning our trip to Mont Tremblant.
In the wee hours of Thursday, August 15th, six of us- three racers, three sherpas- packed our bags and began the long trek towards Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada. I could feel the sense of tension/excitement, and I recalled how, on a much smaller scale, I’ve had those same feelings as I am traveling to a distant marathon. It’s those nervous butterflies- I’d be looking forward to finally racing after months of training, and but also thinking about how so many variables were out of my control and could go wrong. But since I already gave you the punchline, you all know that these three guys made it through the race just fine and earned each of themselves the title of Ironman!
We reached our condo late that night and were pleased to see that, in this town, EVERYONE knows about the Ironman triathlon.
Even when we were crossing the border, the officer had asked us who would be racing. This was officially A Big Deal. It was great in the days leading up to the race, when we were walking or driving around the area, nearly every business had some sort of sign welcoming people to Mont Tremblant for the Ironman. It was definitely a nice touch, and gave us all a good sense of community, and brought more meaning to the event.
So we had two more full days before the race- plenty of time for nerves to build. But also plenty of time to enjoy the resort town of Mont Tremblant and really feel that we’re on vacation. On Friday evening, there was a fireworks show in Ironman Village.
Sure, we’ve all seen fireworks dozens of times, but this was just another way to make the race into not just a race, but a celebration, because the racers have all already come so far, physically and mentally, before they start this race.
One of my favorite memories is riding the gondola to the summit of Mont Tremblant. The ride itself was amazing- we kept going up and up and up…. and the views were breath-taking.
That body of water down below, with the islet, is Lac Tremblant, site of the Ironman swim. The racers and I went to the lake on Saturday afternoon for a practice swim. Good thing I’d brought my wetsuit, because that water was cold!
Although then I saw some kids splashing around in just their swimsuits, and I felt a little sheepish. Seriously, though, the water was cold (I could have used a second swimcap), but it was clear. I’ve never swam in a clear body of water (does my bathtub count?), so this was a very neat experience for me. At one point I saw several rocks underneath me and thought, “Oh, it’s just refraction that makes them look close”, totally forgetting that there are no refractive effects when eye and object are in the same medium. When my hands started brushing against them, I realized I had swum into really shallow water!
The swim was helpful for our racers, so they had at least some idea of what to expect in terms of current, temperature, and water visibility. They also went for a short practice bike ride on a part of the course, to get a sense of the terrain. I hadn’t brought my bike, so didn’t join them. Their verdict of the bike course- rolling hills, lot and lots of them!
Finally, we’re at RACE DAY!!!!
It was a VERY crisp morning as we all- racers and sherpas alike- headed down to Lac Tremblant. The sherpas- Nikki, Vera, and I- wished our racers well, and then waited (and shivered a little) for the swim waves.
An Ironman is a VERY long race. Sure, I knew that by seeing the numbers on paper, but it wasn’t until I was out spectating ALL DAY that it really hit home. But who I am to complain that I’m cold/hot, tired, hungry, or that my feet hurt? All the while, people are racing non-stop. Sure their everythings might hurt, sure they have the urge to throw in the towel, but they don’t. And that it is incredibly amazing and inspirational.
Along with my little posse of sherpas, I was able to see each of Eugene, Kang, and Charles on the race course at least three times. And as they crossed the finish line, they each got to hear the much awaited words, “You. Are. An IRONMAN!!!”
So when you see them walking around the PTO, make sure to congratulate these Ironmen! They are definitely champs!
Kang, Eugene, Charles- I’m sure we’d all love to hear firsthand about the race experience!!