IMMT Race Report.....REDEMPTION!
So, where to begin….I started this journey a little over two years ago as I came back from significant knee/leg surgery. I wanted to prove that I could still do it….and, more importantly, I wanted my kids to see that I could still do it! And, with that, I also decided to do something I had never done before….race to raise money for charity. I picked Shriners Hospital for Children-Boston as my charity, as it was a child-based charity that, I felt, needed the exposure/support. Rewind to July 28th….Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP)….my goal race. As you likely know from my last post (HERE), IMLP didn’t go as I would have liked. In fact, I think you could say that it went “sideways” very quickly. So, I refocused my attention on Ironman Mont Tremblant (IMMT), three weeks later. I guess in some ways, what happened to me at IMLP may have actually helped my fitness leading into IMMT. I mean, it was a “race effort” aquabike! Albeit, a very EXPENSIVE aquabike. And, let’s be honest, as much as IMLP was a disappointment, it makes for a good story line!
So, approximately 2 hours after abandoning the race at IMLP, I was officially registered for IMMT. With that came a mad scramble of travel logistics….accommodations, days off from work, rescheduling kids’ activities/camps. We were very, very late to the IMMT game. Most do these things months and months in advance….and we were doing them 3 weeks out. I’ve said it before, and I can’t emphasis it enough, Ironman takes a village. Without the support of my family and my law partners (and employees), I couldn’t have done this. In the end, we were able to get everything resolved, including getting a great condo very close to the race venue.
With travel logistics set, I now had three weeks to figure out and resolve the issues I had at IMLP. The first thing I did when I got home from IMLP was re-set my bike back to my original bike fit, which raised my aerobars a little more than 15mm. In retrospect, changing my position around was completely stupid….and unnecessary. It’s worthy of another post, so I don’t want to get into it on this one! Next, I called my doctor who prescribed me Ambien, in case I had the sleep issues that I encountered at IMLP. Lastly, I worked on a new hydration plan for IMMT. This included getting rid of my XLab Torpedo (front hydration system) and just going with a bottle between the bars. The reason for this move is that I felt like I was fumbling too much with trying to re-fill the Torpedo…and, in some cases, didn’t grab fluids at aid stations (when I should have) because it was too much of a pain to fill. With a bottle, I can ditch it at any time and grab a new one at the aid stations. I also switched from Salt Stick salt capsules to Base Salt. I wasn’t able to use the Base salt on any long rides, with only 3 weeks in between races. But, I seemed okay with it on my shorter (2hr) rides.
With the changes in place, me and the family headed up on the Wednesday evening prior to the race. We decided to drive up to St. Albans, Vermont, just before the Canadian border, as it’s a long trip, especially with a 6 and almost 5 year old! On Thursday morning, we drove the rest of the way. We arrived in Mont Tremblant around lunch time. After getting unpacked, I put my bike on the stand to get it ready for a ride later in the day. After putting my disc wheel on, I noticed that it was rubbing the brake. After a closer look, I realized that the disc was significantly warped (likely a manufacturing defect). So, I switched it out for my 80mm depth carbon wheel (I guess it pays to have multiple race wheels….at least that’s what I keep telling my wife!). If this had happened at IMLP, I probably would have been freaking out. But, I was way calmer for IMMT. No big deal. Switch wheels and move on. After I got the bike ready, we walked down the village to register. As I was in line for registration I thought, wow, I just did this 3 weeks ago! I actually felt fortunate to be able to do this race. In the past, I would have never been able to sign up for another Ironman race so late. After registering and talking with some friends up for the race, I took the bike out for a 30 min spin. Everything felt pretty good.
On Friday morning, I got a very quick swim in, as I needed to get over to the village to watch my kids run the 1k Ironkids race. I wanted to swim a little longer, but I forgot how far the swim venue was….and just ran out of time. Anyway, I wasn’t about to miss my kids racing! As always, the race was a bit disorganized. They wound up sending the kids off by age group. When they finally called Hannah and Ben’s group up (they were in the same group), Jenn and I left them alone at the start and walked back to watch at a different area. As we walked, we both started questioning whether we should have left them alone (it was a large group that included adults)! Parents of the year, lol! When their race finally started, I saw Hannah coming around an early turn in 3rd, with Ben not too far behind. Of course, I was yelling like a crazy parent, telling her to catch the other kids in front! I wasn’t able to catch them at the finish line, but we believe that Hannah finished first in the group. Ben also ran very well….and, again, wasn’t far behind. Fun stuff! The fact that THEY want to do the race and be competitive is WHY I do this!
Saturday morning was a quick bike/run…..20 minutes total. My legs felt very good. This was promising, as they felt like complete garbage before IMLP. That was partly due to my lack of sleep leading into that race. I wasn’t letting that happen for this one. I took Ambien on both Thursday and Friday nights, just to make sure I got ample sleep. The rest of the day was left relaxing, with the exception of dropping off the bike and gear bags.
As always, I woke up several times during the night….and finally woke up for good around 3:30am. I got my normal pre-Ironman breakfast in which consisted of some applesauce, Kodiak Cakes, a peanut butter sandwich and coffee. Since transition didn’t open until 5am, which is late, I didn’t feel rushed. I headed down around 5am. I quickly set up my bike and re-organized my transition bags. As I headed down to the swim start, I realized that I missed the special needs bags drop off, which was on the far side of transition. No big deal….plenty of time. At this point, most of the athletes were heading to the swim start, by way of the main road along the lake. I noticed that there weren’t many people on the walking path, which ran parallel and went to the same place, so I opted to take the path (even though it may have been a tad longer). This turned out to be significant, as I found a bank of 3 portajohns at the corner, and no one in line (score!). I then positioned myself outside of the swim venue to wait for Jenn and the kids who were on their way down. After meeting up with them, I realized that I had better try to use the facilities one more time (hey, it’s a long day!). The lines around the swim venue were large. Since I had a pair of running shoes on, I lightly ran back to the portajohns I found off the path (again, no line). Then, I got my wetsuit on, hugged and kissed everyone, and was on my way to the swim start.
At IMLP, I took a very aggressive swim start position for the rolling, time-trial start. In retrospect, it hurt me. I just can’t hang with the fastest swimmers and wound up getting passed a lot, and not able to grab anyone’s feet (to draft). So, for IMMT, I wanted to line up a bit differently. Rather than position myself at the front of the :55-1hr swimmers, I wanted to position myself towards the back, closer to the 1hr swimmers. I probably got pushed closer to the 1hr-1:05 swimmers due to the congestion of the swim start. Again, keep calm, all is fine! As the gun went off, it took me 20-30 seconds to get across the timing mat….then I was on my way. I didn’t feel great at first, but got into a rhythm, and felt like I was navigating okay. I wasn’t really able to get any “good” feet until the second half, when I found the feet of a woman (I could tell by the color of the cap)….and I just tried to stay on her. I felt like I got into a really good groove by the last ¾ of a mile or so, and started to feel good. I exited the swim not to far off my time in 2013. TIME: 1:03:24
While the run to transition isn’t as long at IMMT as it is at IMLP, it’s still a decent run. I pride myself on fast transitions. Ironman, however, is a bit different. You don’t want to be fast, as much as efficient. I don’t think having the bike shoes on the bike to start is an option at IMMT, but I since I planned to wear cycling shoes, I wasn’t planning on doing that anyway. So, shoes on, helmet on, gel flask in pocket, and I’m off. I felt like I was pretty efficient. TIME: 4:02
I went into this race with a similar plan as IMLP. It was based more on HR than power. I also switched up my nutrition for this race. Rather than start with just Skratch Labs hydration drink, I went with 2 bottles on UCan and 1 bottle of Skratch. Since the UCan has more calories, I had to adjust my other calorie intake. After those 3 bottles, I would take water and Base Hydro, offered on the course. I felt pretty good/comfortable on the bike. When I did this race in 2013, I really didn’t like the bike course. I’m not sure why. It’s actually a great course….and breaks up very nicely. Out of transition, you have about 6 miles until you reach the highway. Once on the highway, there are a few nice climbs…but also some stretches where you can really get after it in the aerobars. Then it’s back to and past the start, where the course gets pretty hilly….like roller coaster hilly! The total out and back is approximately 12 miles. The way out is mostly climbing. The way back is mostly downhill. You do this entire course twice. Anyway, I really liked the course this time around. Now, back to the race. Once I hit the highway on the first loop, I really tried to get to work. As always, I got passed by some aggressive riders…many of which I knew would come back. It always amazes me to see some of these guys go by….visibly laboring to ride hard….on the FIRST loop! I stuck to my plan and rode my race. I know that I’m not winning it on the bike….I need to be able to run off the bike. On the second loop, the right side of my lower back started to bother me. So, I stretched and got out of the bars a few times. I think this was mainly due to the fact that I didn’t get any long rides in my revamped bike position. Getting out of the bars definitely hurt my time on the second loop, as the wind picked up. We had a decent headwind all the back on the highway. I was actually really looking forward to the final segment of the bike, the hilly out and back. I knew that I’d have to be out of the bars for the climb out…which would give me some relief. On the way back to transition, I let it rip…and tried to save the legs for the run. I was still feeling pretty good, and ready to get running. My bike time was also very close to 2013. TIME: 5:20:27
Unlike IMLP, I had a flying dismount, and quick run to my run bag. Run shoes on, race belt on, nutrition in hand….off we go! TIME: 2:33
THE RUN (yes, this one’s longer….because this is where the race is won or lost)
IMMT was the 13th Ironman I’ve raced….and in every one of those, there was an aid station just outside of the changing tents. Unless I completely missed it, IMMT was the first one where there wasn’t an aid station. I had planned to down 4 Advil and a salt capsule on my way out (the Advil keeps any leg pain for my repaired leg in check). So, where was it? I kept looking….and looking. Finally, as I got out on the course along the lake, I saw what appeared to be the aid station. So, I popped the Advil and capsule and ran to it. Not an aid station. Rather it was a Red Bull station….NO THANKS! Fortunately, the actual aid station was only another 100 meters up the road. Finally, some water! As my mind got back to racing, I realized…man, I don’t feel good, AT ALL! In fact, I felt pretty bad. In addition to my legs, my stomach wasn’t feeling great. Thoughts of not finishing IMLP three weeks earlier started creeping back into my head. Was this my penalty for not finishing that one? Was I going to be able to finish this one? For 3 miles I felt like this. WTF…I took it easier on the bike so I could run! It was also getting hot. I tried taking small swigs from my gel flask…and water at the aid stations. I also had Base Salt with me, which I was frequently taking. Around the 5k mark, once we get on the bike path, it begins to flatten out a bit. As bad as a felt, I was still running at a decent clip. Right after the 5k marker, I could hear footsteps coming up on me….not fast, but closing. A guy in the 50-54 AG passed me, looking pretty good. I thought, hell, I can run with him. So, I said, “hey, I might try to keep you company for a while”, and started to fall in line with his pace. Then I heard him say something in French and realized that he probably didn’t understand a word I said! But, I WAS able to match his pace. Then, a funny thing happened….I started to feel GOOD. My French (or French Canadian) friend fell off the pace…and I started passing people. I hit the turn around and began making my way back to the Village for the start of the second loop. Along the way, thoughts of finishing crept into my head….thoughts of running a fast marathon….thoughts of getting on the podium…Kona….SHUT THE EF UP! That’s what I told myself. In fact, if you were near me, you could HEAR me say that to myself! It’s a long freaking race! There’s still over 13 miles to go! You haven’t run over 16 miles in 5 years! So, I changed my thinking to “steady”…just run steady…keep it in check. As I ran back towards the Village, I saw Jenn and the kids. Jenn told me that I was running in 4th and catching the guys up front. That gave me a jolt of adrenaline! I gave the kids a high five as I ran by. Funny thing….Jenn missed seeing me a the beginning of the run…and I’m sorta glad she did….as she usually tells me my race position. However, when I started the run I was around 12th or 13th. If she had told me that, with the way I initially felt, I would have been discouraged. So, it was almost a blessing that she missed me. In reality, only the guy in 3rd place was remotely catchable. The top two guys were running as fast or faster than me…and were just out of my league.
Onto loop #2. With my new found knowledge of being in 4th and gaining, I was in hunting mode! I figured I could run 3:15-17. Again, I felt good….keep it steady….that is until about 16 miles, which, ironically, is the same exact place I started to feel GOOD on the first loop. I felt a twinge in my upper left calf….cramping. Shit! Slow down, let’s hit the next aid station and load up, I told myself. So, the next aid station, I walked. Water, gel, coke, Base Hydro, Banana. Start running again. Now, I could feel it happening in both legs. So, I dialed my pace back…and kept taking hits off the Base Salt. At this point, I changed my race focus. You’re in 4th place…..on the podium….and pretty much guaranteed a Kona spot (there are almost always 4 in my AG, as it’s the largest). HOLD YOUR POSITION! And, that’s what I did. Every time my pace crept up, I’d start to cramp, so I just slowed down. However, around 23-24 miles….it wasn’t just the cramping…I was really feeling it. I hit one last aid station to get some Coke, water and ice, then gave it what I had for the last mile. At the top of the hill, before we turn into the Village for the finish, both legs cramped…badly….like when you just lose control of them functioning. I was able to stop, get myself upright and walk. I walked about 50 yards, then started jogging….until I got to the Village, then I started to run again. The finish at IMMT is fantastic….running through the spectator lined, European-inspired village….crowds cheering…Mike Reilly on the mike! I had a rush of emotions come over me on my way to the finish line….the surgery, my kids being there, IMLP….crossing the finish line was very emotional for me. TIME: 3:24:55
TOTAL TIME: 9:55:19
PLACE: 4TH 45-49AG; 67th OA
After the race (probably 2 hours after), I was pretty sick. Vomiting. Couldn’t eat or drink. I thought I might have to go to the hospital for an IV. Then, around 4:30am I was able to get some food in me, and started to feel better. We went to the awards ceremony the next day, where it was confirmed, not only had I gotten onto the podium, but I got my spot to the Ironman World Championship in Kona. This will be my 5th (and likely last) time racing there. I’m really excited to be able to share it with my kids (Hannah was only 8 months old the last time we were there). It’s one of our (me and Jenn) favorite places on earth, and I really want to enjoy it this time. As I mentioned before, I need to thank my family for putting up with me, first during the past 2 years of doing this, and second over the past few weeks after IMLP. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it to either start line. It wouldn’t be right not to mention my coach, Chris Thomas of Lifesport Coaching, who has been coaching me (off and on) since 2010. Chris is my coach and sometimes therapist….talking me off the ledge! But, I owe much to him! Also, as mentioned, part of my motivation for doing this was to raise money/support for Shriners Hospital for Children-Boston. So far, we’ve raised over $13,000.00. And, since Kona is now the schedule, I’m keeping the donation page open. So, please consider donating a couple bucks! I’ll do my best to get back on the social media kick to document our trip to Kona! Lastly, I need to thank my supporters…..my firm, Dwyer, Spino & Goncalves, LLC, Sun Multisport Events, Kalahari Biltong, Treatment Training Wellness, Idle Hands Crafts Ales, Fast Splits, and Michael Hollywood Marketing.