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DNF - First DNF at Mont Tremblant 70.3 2024

IMMT 70.3 Course Report - By Constance Geoghan

For those who are interested in this 70.3, here are my thoughts.

Swim:  Beautiful.  Single loop, crystal clear lake water.  The lake can get rough in bad weather, but even when it’s rough, it’s beautiful.  It’s like swimming in a bottle of Poland Spring.

Bike:  After Blue Ridge, this is my favorite bike course.  It’s beautiful, with lots of mountain vistas to keep your eyes engaged.  It’s also got variety, with a couple of long, grinding climbs, some rollers and some super-fun descents.  Pacing matters, as the penultimate 5 miles or so deliver a pretty intense series of climbs up the Chemin Duplessis and then a 180-degree turn around and a 5 mile fun, rolling descent into T2.

Run:  It’s rolling, but it seems very do-able to me.  The run consists of a rolling set of climbs from T2, then into a rails-to-trails type of bike path to the turn-around, and you return roughly the way you came.  The final mile brings you past the swim exit, up a hill that will absolutely burn your legs but it’s okay to let them burn because from the top of that hill, it’s a brilliant downhill dash through the village to the finish.  You can really let it fly.  Overall, a super fun course – just pace it appropriately on the bike and on the first half of the run so you can let it rip over the last 10 kilometers.


2024 IMMT 70.3 Race Report           


Now for my report. 


I’ve completed the Mont Tremblant full Ironman twice before, and I was quite looking forward to this race.  The course is a favorite of mine and I’ve not done a triathlon yet this year, so I am chomping at the bit to get the season going.


I got to Mont Tremblant with my daughters, Anna Lee (age 18) and Katherine (age 15) late-ish on Friday. My son, Daniel (age 13) was home with my ex-husband (Dan).  This becomes relevant later.


The 5150 (Olympic distance race) was on Saturday and the 70.3 was scheduled for Sunday.  Check in was easy and I had my race number and packet within 15 minutes from getting to the village.  I was surprised that there wasn’t a clean transition and that there weren’t bike and run bags provided.


I’d not been closely following the weather, which turned out to be a mistake, because I hadn’t packed cold weather gear for the trip beyond a hat for under my bike helmet and gloves.  I will never make that mistake again.  I have a cold weather cycling jersey that would have been useful if I’d gotten onto the bike portion of the race (spoiler alert, I didn’t). 


Saturday, the girls and I watched some of the 5150 and took advantage of the resort.  I also took my new race bike, Rudolph the Red Nosed Tri Bike (nicknamed “Chonk” because he’s heavier than my other race bike) for a check ride up the Duplessis climbs.  The MT course has a kind of vicious section in the final 10 miles or so of each loop, where you take on a series of steep climbs with very little downhill to recover between climbs.  The nice part is you get to the top and it’s a 180-degree turnaround, so you get to fly back down what you just labored to get up.  Wheeeeee.


I was nervous about riding Chonk since he’s heavy and he’s not totally familiar to me yet.  I’ve only ridden him outside a handful of times.  That said, my regular race bike (Eloise) went into the shop for a two-week repair in April and isn’t back yet, so Chonk was all I had.  Regardless, I wasn’t too worried about racing on Chonk.  Maybe a little bit nervous, but totally manageable. 


Saturday afternoon, I got a text from Dan.  Credit to him, he opened with “I’m okay.”  He then added that he had gone to the hospital with chest pains and while he was there, the EKG registered a heart attack.  He was admitted.  Daniel was home alone; Dan was finding a relative to take him (from the ER while he was being prepped for an emergency heart procedure – talk about multitasking). He then told me he would be fine, and I should have a good race.  Now to be clear - I don’t want to be married to Dan anymore, but I still like him, and I definitely don’t want him dead.  Therefore, this situation was upsetting, a bit stressful and a distraction.  Daniel texted the girls at the same time I got the message from Dan, so even if I’d wanted to keep them in the dark, I couldn’t have done so.  We discussed pulling the plug and going home, but they didn’t think it made sense since Dan was in the hospital and Daniel had decided to stay with his grandmother for the overnight.  We had an early dinner, and I gave the weather a quick check before I went to bed.   That was when I saw the bad forecast and the flash flooding advisories.  I started to wonder if I wanted to take my chances on the new bike in bad weather.  I went to bed deciding to play it by ear in the morning. 


Sunday was a washout from the start.  It was cold and pouring as I got ready.  I sent the girls back to bed, telling them the weather was too rotten for them to come out to cheer.  Both were worried, and Katherine had a deep furrow between her brows as she asked me if I was going to swim in the storm.  I lied through my teeth and told her Ironman wouldn’t let us in the water if it wasn’t safe for all the racers.  At 05:30, I headed to transition to drop my bottles on my bike and pump up my tires.


I stayed in a condo about 5 minutes from transition, and as I was walking back to the condo to wait for the start, I saw a man heading down to his bike.  His eyes lit up when he saw me heading up the hill toward my condo.  “Cancelled?  It’s cancelled?” he asked.  “No,” I said.  His face fell.  I understood where he was coming from.  He didn’t want to race, but he didn’t want to back out.  I’ve been there. 


The girls were out of bed when I got back to the condo.  I told them again that it was too stormy out and they should stay inside.  I said I was walking down to the start, but I wouldn’t get in the water if I wasn’t convinced it was safe.  The fear on Katherine’s face stuck with me.


I saw a number of athletes who had decided not to race and were walking their bikes out of transition as I walked from the condo to the swim area.  When I got to the start, I learned the swim had been shortened for visibility issues.  I’ll admit, I was hoping it would be cancelled and I was bummed when it wasn’t, but 1.1 kilometer is 0.68 mile, and I figured even being a slow swimmer, I could cover that distance in 25 minutes or so.  The radar said the storm was going to pitch up with a very strong cell passing over us between 7:30 and 8:00 AM.  I thought maybe I could get in and out of the water before it hit.  I texted the girls that the weather wasn’t too bad (another lie) and I was going to do the swim and that they should stay inside.  Notice how many times I told them to stay inside.   


I tried not think about Katherine’s face as I waited to start.  I was beginning to feel guilty about the worry I was causing.  The air was cold enough that the lake felt pretty warm at first when I got in.  The swim was rough and rainy at the outset, but honestly, I have been in worse.  I focused on getting my fingertips into the water and finding a pocket to breathe so I didn’t get too much water in my face.  I was almost to the first turn buoy when the weather took a decided turn for the worse.  The wind started driving sheets of rain, the waves picked up and the visibility deteriorated.  Once I made the turn, the wind was hitting me side-on and I started to get very cold.  The situation was getting chaotic (even for a triathlon swim).  There was a fair bit of yelling, and I struggled to figure out what was happening.  It was a bit like the chaos of 70.3 Worlds in Utah when the bomb cyclone hit.  I did grab a kayak, but that was primarily to ask what was happening and why everyone was yelling.  The kayaker was yelling something in French.  I don’t speak French, so I said “merci,” spotted the next buoy and headed for it.  I came around the second turn buoy, dead into the wind and the going got pretty tough.  I swam hard and sighted a lot and honestly, after about two buoys, I just got bored with all of it.  Bored with being cold.  Bored with being wet.  Bored with being in a situation that felt unsafe.  If someone had gotten into trouble, I don’t know that the rescue boats would have been able to see it.  The whole situation suddenly felt silly. 


I was still swimming, but I wasn’t thinking about the swim.  I was thinking about the kids.  Their father was in the hospital.  I was absolutely risking my safety, and arguably my life, for a hobby.  I didn’t think I was going to drown, but I didn’t think it was good weather to go for a bike ride.  What kind of an a**hole would I be if I wrecked on the bike in the storm and got injured?  Even if I didn’t, what kind of a mom was I being if I let my kids stand out in the storm, cold and wet, to cheer for me while I did yet another 70.3?  I’ve done 70.3’s before.  I’ve done full Ironmans.  I’ve done them well.  I was not having a good swim, and in the conditions, I wasn’t going to go full throttle on the bike, so I wasn’t going to make up time there.  I wasn’t going to get an AG podium, a personal best or a slot to Worlds.  I realized I had nothing to prove to myself, very little to gain and an awful lot to lose.  If I kept going, it would be because I was being driven by my own insecurity – not by my desire to do the event.  I was cold.  I was bored.  I was not having fun.  I made up my mind that if I got to transition and the weather had not improved, I would give myself permission to end the day. 


Spoiler alert:  it didn’t take that long.


I came out of the water and was jogging the chute to transition when I saw Anna Lee and Katherine, sodden despite their umbrellas and raincoats.  They waved.  “I told you to stay inside!” I yelled.  “We didn’t listen,” Anna Lee yelled back.  Katherine was visibly shivering, and her lips were tinged blue.  I felt like the most self-absorbed mother and the biggest a**hole parent on the planet.  “Get back to the condo,” I said.  “I’m done.”


I ran to transition and joined two other women and a man who were also dropping out.  The man looked at me and, without prompting, said, “I’ve got a family to think about.  They’re freezing cold and soaking wet.  This isn’t fair to them.”  I knew exactly what he meant. 


I smiled as I walked, barefoot and still zipped in my wetsuit, back to the condo to meet the girls.  I’ve never been prouder of myself than I was in that moment.  For once, I felt like I’d gotten my priorities right.  The kids and my family came first – my hobby came second.   I took a hot shower and told the girls I was going to take a 20-minute nap.  I woke up three hours later.   


I was fully at peace with my DNF until the late afternoon, when I learned that the swim had been cancelled and some racers had been able to compete in the race as a duathlon.  That gave me pause.  I could have done well in a duathlon.  Then I remembered that even without the swim, the weather was crap, the conditions felt unsafe, Dan was in the hospital and the girls were clearly not going to listen when I told them to stay inside, so there was no way I could have responsibly raced.  The DNF was the right play for that day.


I have a lot of emotions around this race, and a few new rules for myself.

1.    If the water isn’t safe for small boats (there’s a small craft warning posted), I don’t care what the race organizers say - I’m not getting in.

2.    If my heart is hoping the race will be cancelled, I’m not racing. 

3.    If I’m scared to compete (not nervous – not jittery – I mean scared), I’m not racing.

4.    If the kids are with me, I’m putting their experience ahead of my own. 

5.    To that end, if there is an important race and the weather isn’t going to make for a good spectator day, I’m not bringing the kids to the race.  It’s too distracting to be worried about them while I try to execute my plan for the day.

6.    At the end of the day, I do this for fun (yes, even Type 2 Fun).  The day it’s not fun is the day I do something else.

"Constance is a veteran of sport and had the courage this day on the decision that there are more important start lines to toe and more valuable finish lines to chase," - Coach Ken

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