There is so much I want to write about this trip, that I have split it in two, the first post (this one), I'll talk about the experience of getting to a World Championship race and everything leading to the race. In the second post I'll talk about the race (race report).
I was very lucky to be able to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, if you don't remember you can catch up by clicking here . This is my second year, officially as a triathlete, so I was so excited when they called my name at the roll down in Panama, never expected to be able to go to a World Championship race this quickly. It has been a very long season, it officially started February and 7 months later here I am ready to race against the best in the World. Not to mention that I trained through the winter. I've had ups and downs but I am very happy with everything that has happened, I consider myself still a rookie in the sport. After all of the issues I've had in races I can officially call 2014 "The year of blunders", but even with these setbacks I've been able to finish every race, I hope that with all the things I've learned I can execute better in 2015.
Getting back to Mont Tremblant. I travel a lot for work, so I have been accumulating, some might call it hoarding, miles. This however allowed me to purchase our tickets with miles. For this trip Christelle and I were lucky to have some help form my in-laws, Jean-Yves & Sonia. It is a little bit of a challenge to get to Mont Tremblant from Colorado, as it's not very straight forward, there are no direct flights to Montreal, which is where we ended up flying to. For those of you that have kids, especially under 5 years of age, you know that any travel over 2 hours is a challenge. This trip was going to take over 8 hours. After a full day of travel, we finally arrived in Canada. Checked into the hotel and went for dinner, of course we had to have some famous poutine. Poutine is basically french fries with meat, cheese and a special sauce, picture below.
Before lunch we all met back at the hotel and went to the old city Center, vieux Montreal, had lunch, drove around the city and left for Mont Tremblant. In normal traffic it should take only 90 minutes to get there, but it ended up taking us about 2 hours, because of traffic on the highway. Once we were getting close, it was amazing to see that the whole town of Mont Tremblant and surrounding areas, have posters and signs everywhere with Ironman logos, welcoming tourists and athletes. As soon as you get close you can start feeling the excitement. I am not sure if this is the way it feels for all races at this venue, but it certainly felt special and different for Worlds.
The next morning we took our time getting up, had to put my bike together again and then I went to register. The line at 11am was not bad, I think I had to wait about 10 minutes to start the process, and once I had my number, the whole process took about 30 minutes. As usual nobody, except for athletes can get into the registration venue, so my companions waited outside. I heard form other athletes that in the afternoon of that Thursday the wait time was over 1 hour. I was also around the registration area on Friday at around 10am and the line was very long, a lady I spoke to told me that she had been waiting for the husband for 1:30 hours and he hadn't come out yet. So I guess if you want to save some time and not be standing in line forever, you should either go really early the day registration opens or very late on Friday, when nobody else is there. I was also told by another person that they showed up on Thursday at 3:58pm and they were told, that because registration closed at 4pm they were not allowed in anymore. They had to wait until the next morning to get registered. The French Canadians are very strict, more on this later.
Registration was uneventful, except that they weigh you in. Yes, they had 2 scales and they made you get on them and then they would write down your weight on one of the papers you have to sign, that seemed a little weird to me, why do this? I'm still trying to figure this out. After a couple of stations they put the bracelet on my wrist, I noticed that this particular bracelet was different than the ones that they usually give at other Ironman events, not sure if you can tell the difference from the picture below. It is made out of a nicer plastic material, seems to be more comfortable. This was the first time when I felt that they do make the extra effort for World Championships. They also gave us transitions bags, I've only received transition bags at full Ironman events, so I expected to have our bikes really close together. The only thing that was weird is that I didn't receive my swim cap, I was told that I was going to get it Saturday during bike check in.
When I came out Christelle was waiting for me and she had a very excited look on her face. She was standing next to a table that said Ironkids. I did a couple of Ironkids back in the 90s but I was in my teens, I knew that Emma and Sophie were too little to sign up. Before I could ask she started telling me about this 1K race that both girls could participate in. It would take place Friday morning and she would be able to run with the little ones, so I figured it could be fun. They ended up signing up, but the best part was that their number was #1, all kids number was the same. I thought it was a nice touch.
Later that afternoon I went for a swim in the lake. The beach was packed with other athletes swimming, the temperature had started to drop a little but the water was still very warm when I got in it. I put my wetsuit on and jumped in. Our hotel, the Westin, was very close to the swim exit, which is one of the beaches where you could swim. While I was changing, I overheard someone say that they had swam from the swim start and were trying to figure out how long the transition run was going to be to the bike. They were saying it was long, I started to think where T1 was, as I had been there before, and they were right, it did seem very far. The athlete guide said it was 300 meters, I think it was more like 500 meters in the end but amazingly for the race, they carpeted the whole stretch all the way to T1.
I started swimming with the intention to make it to where the race was supposed to start. In order to do that you have to swim around a little island, once in the water I realized how clear the water was, I could see the bottom of the lake the whole swim and also my hands as I was swimming, anyone that has swam in the Boulder reservoir knows you can't see the bottom, not to mention your hand in front of you. This place is really special to swim in, I was enjoying the swim so much that before I knew it I had reached the beach, got out enjoyed the view, all of a sudden noticed the Guatemalan flag on the dock. It was the furthest place from the village possible. Since we had arrived to Tremblant, we had been looking for the Guatemalan flag, and couldn't find it. Immediately I thought, well they heard that the Guatemalan (me) was a swimmer and that's why we'll put the flag here, closest to the water.
Before getting out of the water I took a couple of pictures of this amazing place. As you can see the clouds had started to come in. The temperature had been in the 80s since we had gotten to Tremblant, but it was supposed to rain and get cold on Saturday, which is exactly what happened.
Friday morning was so pretty, I went for a short run. I wanted to run up the hill next to our hotel, with 24% grade, just to preview what it would feel like during race day. Of course when you are rested it doesn't feel bad at all, but at least it gave me confidence that I was going to be able to make it without much trouble.
At the entrance the couple on the picture on the right, greeted all the athletes, this was the moment when I realized the banquet was not going to suck. The line seemed like it just kept going and going, but we kept moving. It was amazing the amount of people that went through the food line in a very small period of time. After 10 minutes I was seated with Marco, his wife Hannah, who also competed and two Italian friends of theirs. We had a great table with a big screen in front of us. As we were eating the show started, first we saw a trio of acrobats, then a music group and then all of the speeches. The food, was so good, not only pasta, but they also had chicken, fish, potatoes, salad and for desert brownies with little M-dots on top of them, that was my favorite part. At the end we listened to the race briefing, the head official seemed to serious I thought I was going to see several people at the penalty tents during the race. Once the briefing was done, I went back to the hotel, but Ironman still put on a U2 cover band concert on the main stage followed by fireworks. These we were able to see from the room of the hotel.
It rained all of Saturday morning. So instead of getting on my bike right away, Christelle and I went to preview the bike course in the car. As soon as we started going I noticed that it was going to be a hilly course. We both joked that I was going to have to get out of my saddle a lot, I had no idea what was going to happen to me. We got back to the hotel, got on my bike and rode for about 1 hour with some openers, towards the end of my ride the sun started to come out, by the time that I got back it was already sunny. Went back to the room and started getting everything ready to take my bike and transitions bags to T1 and T2 respectively. Before I left the room I put everything on the floor to make sure that I wasn't forgetting anything. I didn't really plan to have all of my gear match, but once I took the picture it was a nice coincidence.