Pure Iron Athlete Nick talks about his experience doing the Inaugural Mont Tremblant 70.3 Ironman!!

"Nick! Wake up! it's 4am!"

These were the first words I heard on June 24th, 2012 when I embarked on my first triathlon – Mont Tremblant’s 70.3 Ironman. The first round of my support staff, my father, was anxiously waiting for me to prepare for what has been in the works for over 170 straight days.  The sound of his voice waking me up was synonymous to when he would wake me up for school – only this time the exam was pass or fail.

By 5am I was at the base of Mont Tremblant alongside my father with gear bag and wet suit in hand. Words cannot describe the emotions I was going through as I entered the body marking area.  My bib number 195 was affixed to each shoulder and my age on my left calf.  At that instance I felt like a true triathlete, more so than when the Ironman athlete bracelet was secured around my right wrist during registration.

I entered the transition zone and setup my white stallion for the 90km trek we had ahead. I filled my Pure Iron nutrition bag with gummy bears and a Honey Stinger Wafer. On the ground, my Newton Running shoes and two Clif Bar Gel Shots to supply me with energy for the 21.1km run thereafter.  I did my final checks of the transition zone, located entrances and exits, and engaged in conversation with fellow athletes who were about to conquer 113km continuously with 3 different modalities.

At 6:20, my girlfriend came down from sleeping in to wish me all the best and see me enter and exit Lake Tremblant on my first open water swim. All three of us ventured towards to swim out located at the Tremblant Beach and Tennis Club where I would change into my Aropec Triathlon Suit branded with none other than Pure Iron Athletics and, my sponsors who have assisted me throughout my endurance adventures. It fit perfectly and did not give any difficulties when trying to slip into a wetsuit thereafter.

The Snowbirds filled the sky with their brilliance to open the Inaugural Mont Tremblant 70.3 Ironman 2012.  With the sound of a cannon – the elite athletes were off at 7am. I entered the swim out section for my wave start; 5 minutes after the elites had taken to the water. By the time I started the swim, it was amazing to witness the elites almost nearing the turnaround; true breaded athletes. I entered the water with hopes of finishing since I knew my weakness was swimming and that open water swimming was far different than swimming countless laps in a pool. 

Once I could not see the bottom of the lake, I hesitated and panicked, I couldn’t continue my perfect freestyle technique I had practiced countlessly in pools.  I had to keep my head up for the remainder of the swim since once I attempted to duck my head in I would panic and drink the most fowl tasting water.  I swam 1.8km with my head up and knew that at some point I would be standing up again on land. 

When my fingertips could feel the beach, I was elated. I stumbled out of the water and began stripping the wetsuit off. I saw my Dad and girlfriend smiling as I came out of the water unharmed. I knew I had conquered one fear, and the two last events were my strongest fields. I ran the 500 metres to transition and began suiting up for the 90km journey.

My first mission on the bike was to refuel my body. The Aropec Trisuit dried considerably quick (within the first 15km) while I drank water liberally and inhaled my Honey Stinger Waffer. Within 20 minutes or so into the bike course, I was sufficiently recovered from the grueling swim that I could start making some gains on my position. I came out of the water 1581st out of just over 2100 people therefore needed to make up for lost time. 

The bike course was amazing.  It was the perfect blend of uphill climbs and death defying descents. I was zipping past people constantly on their $6000+ triathlon specific bikes while I slalomed through athletes on my Scott Speedster S10 with clip on aerobars. The first portion of the bike course was along a large section of highway 117 that had been closed for this inaugural event. The line of triathletes extended long into the distance, however it did not discourage me in the least. We went downtown of St. Jovite where the streets lined with enthusiastic spectators. As we made our way back to Mont Tremblant, I climbed more positions and knew what was in store for the final 2/3rds of the course.

Chemin Duplessis is a fearful hill when ascending, but feels like a roller coaster as you make your way back to the base of the mountain.  We climbed single file up this monstrous hill at no record breaking speeds. It was a true testament of strength, endurance, and skill. I spent most of my ascent in my small sprocket and keeping my cadence high to save energy for the powerful descent. When I reached the turnaround point at the top of the hill, I smiled knowing that the ride of my life was about to begin. As I mentioned, the descent is similar to a roller coaster with high speeds and sharp turns that would make any stomach queasy.  If I had wings, I would have more than likely obtained lift off. My Cateye odometer was reading speeds between 60-67km/h throughout the beautiful descent.

As I neared transition zone I felt great and deserved to as the running time was for my race was 3 hours and 35 minutes. I had gained considerable distance on the bike leg - actually putting myself in the upper half of the group (818 overall). Best of all, the Aropec Trisuit served great for the 90km ride as I did not suffer any discomfort in the saddle!  My hamstrings were a little tight, but nothing that would impede me on completing the run. Heck, I had completed a Marathon just over a month prior with a time that qualified me for Boston 2013 so I was confident to finish. I racked my bike in record time, placed my helmet on the ground, slipped on my Newtons and grabbed my gels. I was off for the last 21.1km of this adventure.

The start of the run had us enter Tremblant village where citizens sat in their front lawns with garden hoses showering the roads. The mist served as a well-deserved treat after  90km in the sun. After about 4km, we entered a man made gravel run path for the remainder of the run. This gravel served uncomfortable to my feet and gave me considerable pain.  I had to stop 3 times just to take off my shoes and let my feet feel normal again. I kept reminding myself that I was in the home stretch and nothing was going to stop me now. I had spent 170 days training for this one event, I conquered my first ever 2km open water swim less than 3 hours prior, and I just biked 90km in fashionable time, a little discomfort on the bottom of my feet was not going to stop me.

One of the most memorable portions of the run was when I passed a fellow athlete I knew personally at about the 10km marker on the run.  I knew he had prior experience in triathlons and had competed in the Mont Tremblant Olympic Triathlon a few weeks before. We each had started at the same time that morning, however his experience in open water gave him the advantage. Throughout the race I had made it my goal to catch him and I did just then and there. As I caught up to him I patted him on the back and we exchanged congratulations for making it thus far. His words thereafter made me feel like a true triathlete, ’Finish strong.’

I counted down the distance as I passed the markers, ‘109 down, 4 more to go.’  When I saw cobblestones beneath my feet  I knew I was within the last 500 metres. I entered the last stretch of the race while spectators lined the barricades. I was overcome with emotion and began to tear up slightly. As I made my way down the hill towards the finish, I looked left to right trying to find my support group. A big thumbs up from my father and the largest smile on my girlfriends face was all I needed to sprint my way to the finish, and the aid of a downhill slope.

I passed the historic plants aligning the Ironman 70.3 arch with delight. I had managed to come back from 1581st place out of the water to 472nd overall. I dreamt about this moment; however nothing can truly simulate the real thing. As I passed the finishing arch, I became a triathlete and a 70.3 finisher. Theses credentials stay with you for life, and no one can ever strip you of them. I finished the 70.3 strong and to the best of my abilities at the time. As I made my way out of the athlete’s quarters, I reunited with my support group. After they all congratulated me, I took a second to thank them for being up early this morning and watching as I pushed the limits of my physical capabilities.

I was happy to have had the experience in Mont Tremblant which will be hosting the 70.3 and Ironman events for the next 4 years. It will also be the go to destination for triathletes wishing to train during the summer months. In such a scenic location, it is a great place to train and rest as I spent the days preceding the 70.3 training in the environment.

I want to thank Triathlon Centre for all their support during my journey which began last September when I met Jimmy. Without their excellent staff and products, my dreams of becoming an Ironman would have busted last year. I am confident to say that their product line is by far nothing less than exceptional for any triathlete. I look forward to continue training and racing with confidence that Triathlon Centre will support me throughout my future endeavors. 

 Article by: Nicholas Ravanelli

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