The run. The weakest of all parts of the triathlon for me. Prior to this, I had done one marathon, and it wasn't the best performance I've ever done but one of the proudest - I gutted it out harder than anything I had done to that point. But this time, I had a strategy.
But I was missing my legs. My glutes and hamstrings were entirely shot after mismanaging my nutrition and grinding out the last part of the bike leg. So I did what my buddy Scott told me: walk the aid stations. The trouble was that I had hills in the way of those aid stations, and either my legs or my HR would lose that battle right now. :) I remembered what Hans told me about hills: work within your means going up, and take advantage on the way down. That was basically my story for the entire run.
What's interesting for me - even still today - is that I felt in much much better shape for the Ironman than the marathon, and what was holding me back was nutrition and not fitness. My dead legs bounced back rather fast and they didn't feel tight and sore like in my first marathon. But they were empty and they needed food. I headed out with my Fuel Belt loaded up, and I ate and drank from it at lot at the start. But I quickly learned that it wasn't needed because of the aid stations every 1500m, and I wasn't as well stocked as those stations too. Near the end of the first loop, I found my wife and handed off the belt to her and just fed my way along the second loop.
It did take some time to get that energy back in the legs - much more than I anticipated, and that spoke volumes about just how low my calories had gone. I hated all the walking, but I knew I had more than enough time to complete the course. My goal wasn't to come out with a new marathon PR, but to enjoy the day, the experience, the people - everything. And that I certainly did. I thanked as many volunteers and cheering squads as I could, and there was a lot of them! And what I was eating was a lot too - gummies, Honey Stinger waffles (those things are GREAT), oranges, cola, chicken soup, pretzels, Gatorade. If it had calories and electrolytes in it, I was taking it. Finally things started to feel better, and I could do run/walk intervals more reliably now but still not a lot. I was at the point that I needed to top up at each aid station to keep from bonking - I could actually feel the energy levels now. It was slow, and I knew I was at a 5+ hr marathon, but that didn't matter. The weather was fantastic, the people amazing, the crews incredible. And those mile markers just kept on passing by.
On the first loop, when I was feeling sorry for myself, I encountered someone walking with a limp. "You okay? Need something?" I asked. What he responded with blew me away - his foot was broken. He broke it just a few days before the race, and wasn't letting that stop him. He swam and biked with his foot this way, and he was walking the marathon. I called him a BAMF, wished him luck, and started running again, leaving my self-doubt and self-loathing behind.
Near the end of my first loop, I was doing The Shuffle less smoothly now, and it must have showed. "Nice work - keep it up" I heard as I was passed by another athlete...who was wearing a sling. I read about this guy later. He had crashed his bike and had some form of "injury" but got the medical crew to strap his arm to his chest so he could finish. I doubt it was broken, but he must have had some sort of tear or something to require the sling. In any case, he finished...and after he passed me, I never saw him again.
Heading back into town on the first loop, things started to turn for me. The energy stores were coming back. The legs were feeling better, but now my feet were the ones hurting. Muscles stayed loose, stride was opening a bit more. And at this point, my mental game changed too - I realized that almost nothing would stop me now, and that the cutoff for the second loop was FAR away. I knew that in just a few short (?) hours, I'd complete my quest and have a medal around my neck. My shoulders dropped, my head lifted up, and I felt so proud. People along the way kept cheering, and kept saying things like "You're incredible!" and "What you're doing is amazing!" That's when I realized that it was, that they were right. Being on that course and doing this event truly was amazing, and it was the icing on the cake for so many months of hard work and sacrifice. I teared up many times the rest of the night because of this realization.
Heading back into town, past the edge of Lac Tremblant, the memories started to flow back. and just up ahead was the start of the end. Heading up I saw my family and friends cheering like crazy, waving signs. I had to stop and hug/kiss them - the few seconds "lost" wouldn't matter. I left them and headed to the middle of the Pedestrian Village and ran through the crowds, turning right to the second loop...and looking left to the finish. "THAT is what is waiting for me" I thought, and that brought a lot of wind to my wings. This was the first time I felt like I could actually run again. And run I did. I held my pace, and just kept going. Low HR, steady focus, walk the aid stations and hills as needed. Suddenly I snapped out of my focused state - I was at the turnaround point on the run course! I only had about 12km to go, and I was well on the way to a negative split on the run!
That's when the rain started. And it rained hard for about 45min.
I laughed to myself. "That's not gonna stop me." I remembered how much I love running in the rain, running in the cool weather. I was on a softer surface, surrounded by trees and wilderness, with the sound of the rain beating the leaves and the ground. Loved every minute of it. But I think I was one of the few. So many others were wrapped in solar blankets and garbage bags trying to keep warm. I was perfectly cool - I must get that by growing up in Saskatchewan. And while I was enjoying it, the fatigue was starting to settle back in again - but after 12hrs of effort, I think that's normal.
The run/walk stuff started again, but as quickly as I hit the turnaround point, I was off the trail, with only 5k to go. The sun was starting to set, and the picturesque scenery around me was changing again. The rain had stopped, the light was changing, and the fog was starting to hang over the water. Through the old village, past the marina, and then to the top of the bugger of a hill near the swim start. This was it. 1k to go.
One. Kilometer. I just couldn't believe it. I could see the lights of the town, hear the cheers and shouts of the crown, and I could hear "The Voice of Ironman" bringing people in. And in one kilometer, that would be me in there.
Before I knew it, I was headed into the middle of the Village, now surrounded by thousands of people along the fence, on balconies, everywhere! I've never given so many high-fives, had so many slaps on the back and shoulders, so many people shouting my name. The whole place was electric, and I felt no pain. I glided through town easily, trying not to rush this last 300m of glory, and not get too close to people so my name would be called out properly. :) Then I saw my wife and daughter going insane shouting and cheering - but they offered no hugs or kisses. I could easily see that they wanted this to be my moment, and I did not disappoint. With arms raised high, I celebrated the last few strides down the blue carpet and across the line with Mike Reilly's call - "You're an Ironman!"
I had absolutely no time to celebrate as I was caught by a volunteer. I hate that I cannot remember his name, but he stuck with me the entire time until I left the finisher's area. We talked and told stories, got my medal, my shirt, my hat, my photo, and some food (although all I could stomach was chocolate milk...slowly). After confirming that I was in a good state, he bid me farewell, and I went to find my family.
Scott found me first, then we found his wife, who was busy texting all of us trying to find me. Finally, my wife and daughter were there, and they greeted me with huge hugs and kisses, and quite a few tears too. It was all over, and we got to be back together again after this long exciting day.
We bid Scott and his wife farewell, gathered my stuff from the transition area, and headed to the hotel. We got my daughter into bed, me into a bath, and then into bed. I didn't sleep well though. I was thinking about heading down to the finish line to watch everyone else, to enjoy the party down there. My body was revolting and had no interest in sleeping. And the bed wasn't as comfortable as I remembered it being. But I really didn't mind - I replayed the day through my head over and over until finally, I fell asleep.