Ironman Mont Tremblant

I've had co-workers and classmates call me weird. Insane. Having a warped sense of quality time on weekends and an insatiable appetite. I've been known to eat three bagels and a bear claw on Bagel Wednesdays at the office. My typical grocery shopping cart would feed a family of 6. I consider a 100-mile bike ride a 6-hour Social Hour with some of the greatest girls I've met in DC.

OK, OK, I admit; triathletes are a bit crazy. But being a part of this sport and a member of the Snapple Tri Club (as well as an adopted-outside-groupie of Team Ignite!) has introduced me to some wonderful fellow Type-A personalities and friends who talk about chafing on their crotches as much as our record number of pees on the bike. 

I love us!!

Winter Running with KGo! Despite frozen toes and hands, we're so happy!

Diabolical Double - Fig Pizza Gentleman's Team!
When last year's Ironman Lake Placid left me slightly depressed with my finishing time, resentful of my injured hamstring, and hungry for redemption, I immediately signed up for Ironman Mont Tremblant. Wa-hoooo!!! I immediately started fueling my Ironman training with The Best Stuff on Earth...

Fast forward 12 months, and there I stood, freezing on the shores of Lac Tremblant!!

Chattering teeth, numb toes and hands...thanks to
Xterra Wetsuits for keeping me buoyant!
2.4-Mile Swim: Follow the Bubbles, Try to Avoid the Fists of Fury

My goal for the swim was sub-1 hour. This year's IMMT start was in age-group waves, so I took off in the first women's wave of 34-and-under. Fireworks went off in place of a cannon, and we were off!!!

I started on the far, far left edge of the beach. Far from the flailing fists and even farther from what was the perfect recipe for my recent string of panic attacks in open water swims.

So happy to say my swim got off to a smooth start, and after the initial 100 meters, I settled into a smooth rhythm and found a pair of bubbles to follow! A victory in itself to have avoided the panic attack!

The one-loop, 2.4-mile swim in Lac Tremblant was gorgeous. The water was the perfect temperature with my full-sleeved Xterra wetsuit, and following the 5 waves of male Ironmen made for an extended draft line.

Swimming has always been therapeutic for me. Zen-like. I don't think about anything at all except full extension through my shoulder and the angle of my elbow. That's it. It's the sport I think know I'll continue to do until I'm 98 and shriveled, and I'm thankful that my parents put me in swim lessons when I was so young!

No highlights on the swim except for swimming into a breast-stroker's crotch (pardon me, 55-year-old man!) and getting socked in the eye by an elbow. I pounded a fist back in reflex, not out of spite.

Out of the water and I knew I was pretty far up, because the spectators all said "Yeah! A WOMAN!!!" as I came laughing through. I had no idea what my time was, and all I cared about was knowing whether it was 59:xx. I found out after the race that I had NOT met my swim goal, but overall very pleased with the first leg of my Ironman!

Xterra partners!

2.4-Mile Swim: 1:01:16, 4th AG

Wetsuit strippers helped me suction out of my Xterra Vendetta, and I was off on the red carpet to T1!

The crowd was amazing...I couldn't stop laughing and waving!

Highlight: Finding a good pair of bubbles and holding onto them for 1.5 miles!

Lesson Learned: Panic attacks are avoidable. Steady start, then work your way through the mass.

112-Mile Bike: Don't Mind Me, I'm on the Right

The bike. The most dreaded and longest leg of the race. The part where all I hear is, "On your left!" and get neck cramps from holding my aero position. And foot cramps because my damn bike shoes are too tight and my feet are built wider than a man's. The part where I drop from 4th to 25th in my AG. Le sigh.

I've trained with some really, really strong cyclists. I don't understand how they generate so much power. How they climb hills so much quicker than I do and descend without fear. Is it my slow cadence? Is it my lack of power? I haven't figured it out yet, but Bart got me a power meter for Christmas last year, and I thought it was broken for the longest time because I could never break triple-digit wattage. 

Well, it's not broken, and what I really need this year - if I want to erase the frustration of losing so many places on the bike and constantly being passed - is to just dedicate my training to getting stronger on the bike. Squats. Pain Cave. Intervals. Make it HURT. 

In general, my mood on the bike was: 

The wind on the second loop of the course had increased dramatically...and I did NOT deal with it well. Braking on a highway descent is certainly not the way to race fearless! 

112-Mile Bike: 6:33:10, 25th AG 


  • Seeing teammates Ellen and Courtney and DC Tri stud Alejandro doing so well on the bike course!!!

Lessons Learned: 
  • I am stronger than the wind. I shan't fear the wind. I am Xena. 
  • Huge room for improvement: Power, cadence, and confidence. 
  • Peeing on the bike makes me feel oddly victorious. Like I've just cut time. 
  • Honey Stingers Waffle cookies are like crack. 
  • Buy bike shoes that fit. I am going online shopping for men's bike shoes in Extra Wide. 

Nutrition: Because it can Make or Break your Race! 

Last year, I had consulted teammate Matias Palavecino on my nutrition plan for IMLP and he had given me extremely sound advice. I had some stomach issues at LP when I started the run, in what I now realize was eating too many solids too late on the bike and not consuming enough salt tablets on a hot day. 

I basically copied Matias's plan from last year with a couple of minor adjustments, since I've eliminated gels and liquid calories from my bike nutrition. They just don't work for me. In fact, they make me want to puke. 

Nutrition Plan for Bike: 
  • 1st Hour: ~60 calories every 20 minutes (2 big bites of Clif Bar - Banana Nut and White Choco Macadamia Nut and some Clif Shot Blox)
  • 2nd and 3rd Hours: ~60 calories every 15 minutes (2 big bites of Clif Mojo Bar and Banana Nut and Clif Shot Blox)
  • 4th Hour: ~60 calories every 20 minutes (I could tell my stomach wasn't digesting as well as I had hoped, so I grabbed a Honey Stinger Waffle at the aid station and consumed as much of one as I could before it crumbled in my hands. Two waffles, with more crumbs on the road than in my mouth)
  • 5:00-5:30: ~80 calories every 15 minutes (back to 2 big bites of Clif Mojo Bar) 
  • 5:30-6:33: One bite of Honey Stinger Waffle from aid station, lots of liquid
Total Consumption: 3 Clif Bars, 1 Clif Mojo, 2 packs Shot Blox, 5 Honey Stingers, 2 Bananas.

Throughout the bike, I also took in 7 salt tablets. Thank the Buddha I packed those in the bento box! The day was quickly heating up! 

The nutrition plan worked perfectly. I ate as much as I could for the first 3 hours then tried to listen to my stomach so that it would be settled for the run. Big thanks to our nutrition sponsor Clif for the calories!!!

Le Marathon: Chasing the 4-Hour Mark and Loving Life 

This was it. The last leg! My primary goal, as I had announced to my parents and teammates before the race, was to run a sub-4-hour marathon. I certainly had saved the juice in my legs on the bike, so I came out of the change tent in fresh running shorts feeling ready to tackle the next 26.2 miles! 

I had decided to run in my Sayonaras rather than my beloved Ronins, largely because I'd never run a marathon before (last year's IMLP had resulted in me walking 13 miles) and thought the extra cushioning would benefit me in the later miles. 
Miles 1-5: The Run out of Town: Hot. Where was the Shade? Luckily, the MT crew was extremely well-prepared, and aid stations came every mile. I horded the water, splashing it on my head and down my sports bra, and took sponges for relief from the heat. 

Miles 5-11.5: The Gravel Path: MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PART. The gravel path is perfectly packed and the trees provided some shade. There seemed to be a slight downhill on the way out. I was getting so thirsty that, when I found a discarded Fuel Belt gel bottle on the side of the trail at Mile 8, I desperately picked it up. 
The man behind me commented, "Oh, you're so nice. Are you going to run the guy down who dropped it?" 
And I said, "NO! I'm so thirsty and it's mine now." 
At the next aid station, I promptly rinsed it out, filled it up with Ironman Perform, and carried it with me for the next 17 miles. 

It's MY nutrition bottle now!!! 
Miles 11.5-13: Run back to Town: Feeling good! Yeah, Man! Spectators lined the course and waved cowbells in my face. I saw Bart and got very excited, and then saw Zoya Schaller from Fexy and exchanged elated high-fives. This race had turned into a party!!!
Miles 13-16: Positive Vibes, Good Cadence: I was starting to feel like I could break the 4-hour mark. I was right on track and my feet weren't tired and my quads weren't screaming! Yeah, I could do this forever! As well, the weather was starting to cool off, and my mood improved as the shade cover increased. 

Miles 16-22: Wherein I enter the Pain Cave. Right when I hit Mile 16, my left IT band started to feel twingy. Twingy led to tweaked. Tweaked led to painful. Painful then made me stop, lean down to stretch out whatever the heck was going on with the lower IT band, and desperately hope that it wouldn't get any worse. 
The pain in my left IT band intensified and I started to worry that I was causing permanent damage. But then my knees started to ache, and eventually the combined pain of left IT band + both knees caused me to just say "DAMMIT! I'm gonna get you, 4-Hours! I'm gonna beat you and stomp on you and CRUSH YOUR DREAMS!

So I kept going. I did something that hasn't happened since my days playing tennis. Back in high school and university, I'd get into the habit of talking to myself between points - psyching myself up before a set point or pepping myself if I was facing a triple break point. It wasn't uncommon or weird; lots of tennis players coach themselves verbally on the court.
So here I was, thousands of suffering to-be-Ironmen around me, shuffling our feet to Mike Reilly's voice. And I started to cheer myself on. 
"Pick it up! You can do this." 
followed by a grunt. 
And then, when the pain from my IT band would take over, "Happy Feet! Happy Feet!" 

Yep, it was that point in the race where I didn't really care if my fellow racers thought I was crazy or not. All that mattered was that 4-hour marathon. 

Miles 23-25: The Final Countdown. 5K left. I can do this. Tried to pick up my feet as my Garmin told me my pace was dropping. I knew that if I ran at least 9:00 miles for the last 5K, I'd beat 4 hours. 

The Golden (Half) Mile: The last half-mile takes you on a cobblestone descent through town. Spectators cram their faces as far forward to scream at you and fling cowbells in your face. Little kids stick their hands out in hopes of getting a high-five. This was it. The entire race was worth it for this last half-mile! 

I cried. I couldn't help it; everyone was making me feel like I was so much more than someone who trained their butt off for 6 months and managed to stay healthy enough and positive enough to make it through the race. They made me feel like I was their champion, like some village hero.

And as I came to the last fork, where Right means 2nd loop and Left means Finish Line, and I veered Left, the crowd lining that last strip erupted. Yes, I'm probably heavily inflating this but who the hell cares? The finish line was in sight and it's just like you'd imagine - all that IT band and knee pain disappeared; my tired feet skipped; my face held an idiot grin. 

And Mike Reilly announced that Mindy Ko is an Ironwoman!!!

26.2-Mile Run: 3:58:43; 15th AG 

Highlights: I think I may have improved my run stride! No heel striking in this photo! 

And my nutrition was SPOT ON. I took in Ironman Perform when I needed. I drank Coke when I craved it. I ate a total of 5 bites of banana. Basically, I had followed Matias's nutrition plan on the bike to such a tee that my stomach felt AMAZING for the entire run!!! 

Lessons Learned: 
  • A run bottle found on the side of the trail is totally legit to borrow. Or keep. 
  • Pain can be ignored. And 26 miles can be worth it for the last 0.2 miles. 
  • Our shoe sponsor Mizuno basically makes the best running shoes in the world!!!

Ironman Mont Tremblant: 11:41:22, 15th AG 

Went back out for the midnight finish and cried again. I am constantly amazed by the grit and determination that Ironman brings out in us ordinary folks! 

A shout-out to Snapple teammates Ellen and Courtney for amazing races! 

And a special Congrats to DC Tri-mates and especially Alejandro for wearing a smile on the course! 
And, of course, Thanks to the person who dropped their Fuel bottle on the run course! 
And my wonderful girlfriends back home who all did so amazingly well at IMLP three weeks earlier! 

And Bart, because he lets me beat him on the swim :) 

What's next? I don't know. Definitely some 70.3s in 2014. Possibly another IM. But right now I'm just enjoying ice cream, Caroline's blueberry pie, and a fantastic garden in our new home. 

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