Monday, April 13, 2015

Our own little Ironwar at Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2014- Race Report

Our own little Ironwar at Ironman Mont-Tremblant 2014- Race Report

This is a re-post from the original on Samuel's blog. The original report can be seen here: Ironman Mont-Tremblant Race Report

“Sometimes the impossible just takes longer.”

Originally posted on Samuel's Blog:

It was late November, middle of the New England winter, and 9 months out from Ironman Mont-Tremblant where I heard these words for the first time. On my first phone call with my coach, Jason, I opened myself up and put my dreams, goals, and aspirations on the table for him:. “Jason, I’d really like to go sub 10hrs and qualify for Hawaii this year.”

“Samuel, sometimes the impossible just takes longer.”

I thought, "Oh wow! Did he just say that!“ Yet, he went on.

"Samuel, the best thing you can do to have the ability to achieve that, is to not think about it and focus on becoming the best trainer you can be, each and every single day. Become the best trainer you can be.

I took that statement literally.

Becoming the best trainer I could be:

Simplify: Remove distractions and simplify complexities in your life. A few key changes:
  • Turning my bedroom into a calm, well organized, peaceful place to be was the first step. 
  • Moving technology devices away from the bed. 
  • Installing blackout curtains making my room pitch black for high quality sleeping. 
  • Adjusting space for storage of bike trainer and workout clothing/equipment for simple/fast set up each day/week. 
Reading: The 5 books I read cover to cover on topics of creating states of flow, becoming the best one can be, mental toughness and the path to mastery. All highly recommended reads!
Training: I had 258 days to dedicate to practice. Not everything was going to be perfect, yet on each given day you give what you have and muster your best effort on that day. Below is the data that gave me the confidence, come race day, of knowing that I was ready for the challenge of completing my first Ironman.

Training by the numbers:
  • 56 Rest days (the most important stats of all) 
  • 303 Scheduled workouts 
    • 300 completed workouts 
      • 91 swims 
        • 233 km or 145 miles 
        • 83 hours 
        • 65,000 calories 
      • 84 bike rides 
        • 3,700 km or 2,299 miles 
        • 158 hours 
        • 94,000 calories burned 
      • 90 runs 
        • 987 km or 613 miles 
        • 101 hours 
        • 72,000 calories burned 
      • 14 bricks (bike+run) 
        • Stats combined in bike and run stats. 
      • 7 Other (Hiking, Snowboarding, Cross Country Skiing) 
        • 137 km or 85 miles 
Build-up Races:

  • 5km: Super Sunday 5k Run for Cancer 
    • 18:05, 2nd overall, improved personal best time by 38 seconds 
  • 10km: Malden Road Race Rotary 10k 
    • 38:43, 7th overall, improved personal best time by 4 minutes 
  • Half Marathon: Gloucester Twin Lights Half Marathon 
    • 1:25:21, 10th overall, improved personal best time by 11 minutes 

  • Harryman Olympic 
    • 2:29:49, 11th overall, 2nd in 25-29 Age Group 
  • Mont-Tremblant 70.3 
    • 4:43:10, 89th overall, 12th in 25-29 Age Group, improved personal best by 40 minutes 
  • Mass State Olympic 
    • 2:04:31, 31st overall, 7th in 25-29 Age Group, improved personal best by 16 minutes on the same course last year 


Race week

“Silly shit happens during the taper” said Sue (my swim coach).

Low and behold, quite a bit of silly shit happened during the taper:
  • Snapped my bottle cage from my reckless swinging leg. 
  • Got hit by a car on my bike for the first time (fortunately I was fine and it was my mountain bike). 
  • Patrick and I denied a rental car at Logan Airport and waiting 3 hours before issue was resolved… 
  • Etc… 

Once we arrived in Mont-Tremblant, after an awesome drive and chat with Patrick (the gringo racing in his first triathlon), everything all of a sudden became calm and relaxing. Thankfully there was no more “silly shit.” It was surreal to finally be there living the dream. Enjoyable dinners with friends and plenty of laughter—especially when mine and Patrick’s awesome "Go fast packages!” gifts arrived from our friends Meg and Kayle.

Three days before the race I reviewed my training log and this was one of the biggest confidence boosters. I could see my progress in my own words. In December I was struggling through, with a bad form and increased levels of fatigue due to the increased load. Come July, challenges were easily conquered and my comments reflected that. 5-6 hour strong brick brick sessions would breeze by and 20 mile runs would be finished at 4:10/km (6:40/mile) pace. The solid training was behind me, I was ready, I was relaxed and everything was moving smoothly.


Race Morning: A sense of calmness…

The gods were looking out for us. After a week of heavy rain and cold conditions in Mont-Tremblant, the weather was absolutely perfect; slightly overcast and a sense of calmness in the air as the clouds broke over Mont-Tremblant in the background of transition. A very smooth race morning followed. With the checklist in toe, the tires were pumped, power meter synced, and a nice conversation with a volunteer topped off the transition setup. Heading over to the swim start, I looked to my right. The water conditions were calm and there was a mist over the surface. Truly gorgeous to be racing in such a beautiful setting and I was feeling good. 


It’s go time. It’s my time. It’s swim time.

The plan was to start slightly to the left and go out hard, getting into the second or third pack of swimmers. Positioning worked well, being very well placed right at the start of the swim. As the gun went off I was amped to give this race everything I could! As I dove into the water my goggles fell straight down my face. Off to a great start, I calmly (quickly) stood to re-adjust them and kept moving. The goggles still had some water in them from the first dive in, yet I kept swimming with it for a while to stay with the pack. About 150m in, I was in the pack and was then kicked right in the face which jolted my goggles off my face again. I decided to stop briefly to adjust them and remove the water. It worked out fine, as I was still in the pack and was able to maintain a draft off a couple of guys for the next couple hundred meters.

Approaching the first turn, about 200m out, I noticed a pack of bright pink caps reaching the turn around. This was alarming, as these were the caps of the female pros who had started 3 minutes ahead of me, suggesting that I was going out a little too hard. I dialed things back a bit, knowing there was a long day ahead and burning matches early on in the swim would cost me dearly later on. I settled and focused on my key mantras for the swim, maintaining a strong stroke through the turn around. There were moments where my focus would slip briefly and my mind would drift, thinking about other aspects of life. To regain focus I would visualize myself as Sum Yang during his 1500m world record swim (thanks for sharing Mitch) and try to execute the same level of focus he showed during that swim. Moving across the back section, the main pack I was in had moved ahead and I was now swimming with clear water in front of me with no pack and no drafting. Upon reaching the second turn, I really started to look for drafting opportunities, almost to my detriment. Zig zagging to try getting on the hip or feet of other swimmers.

With about 600m to go I decided to just hold my line and take advantage of any drafting if the opportunity arose. The swim exit was non eventful, with a strong kick over the last 200m and then spotting a big guy for the wetsuit stripping, as planned, went really smooth. The swim could have been better from a focus perspective, yet it was still pretty close to my goal time of 1:04-1:05 and it was time to ride (my favorite), so running into T1 I was smiling already.

Swim Time: 1:07:04 Overall Rank: 311/2,304 Age Group Rank: 29/99 

Photo: Swim exit, still catching breath… 


T1: Mont Tremblant has quite a long T1 with a 500m run to the transition tents. With wetsuit over my shoulder and a smile, I ran towards the transition tents. Transition was fairly seamless, with the key tip from Brandon (MIT Tri Team) to make bags identifiable with a solo cup over the draw string and then the fluro pink tape tip from Sue. It made things super easy to find.

T1 Time: 6:02


Bike (lap 1): At the center of the yoyo… 

Photo: Smooth road surface hey? 

Confident in my ability on the bike, I started out strong and feeling good. Typically I feel some soreness/tightness in the legs at the start of the ride, yet once settled I’m good to go, which was no different today. The early stages of the bike were very congested and ensuring that you stay outside the drafting zone was quite difficult. I exchanged a few words of support with fellow Bostonian (Michael Silva) in his Harvard uniform and he returned the favor noticing my MIT tri kit.

In the first few miles, I could hear/feel some slight rubbing of my brakes, yet when checking the front break they were all good. I considered stopping to check the rear, yet wanted to keep moving with the pack, so decided to shut it out of my mind and keep moving.

As we approached the highway after the first 10 miles there was a pack of around 10-15 guys going back and forth in position. The majority of them not adhering to the 7 meter drafting rules. I tried not to let the group bother me and just get settled into my own pace, following my targeted power zones etc. A little challenging at times with a few moments of needing to free wheel as the referee came to break up the group. The most interesting part was to see the temperament of the other racers in the early stages of the race. I was maintaining a constant pace and power output, yet every time I would pass a few of the guys, only a few minutes later they would come blowing past me to get back in front, only to be passed again a few minutes later by me moving at a consistent pace. I was feeling really strong and smooth on the bike as we approached the turn around on the highway.

The Mont-Tremblant course is known for being hilly, yet the majority of the hills are followed by some solid descents allowing for recovery. As I had ridden the course multiple times before in both the 70.3 seven weeks earlier and back in October, I knew what to expect. Just after the first turn around on the highway, I saw Billy Hafferty from the Boston tri team who I’d met a few weeks earlier. We exchanged a few words of encouragement and discussion on how each of us were feeling. Billy mentioned that he was “hanging in there”. I was feeling quite strong and pressed ahead of Billy up the hill. As we approached the second aid station, I swiped a banana and tried to swipe a second yet was unsuccessful, fortunately I still had a few on board. By this stage the pack of guys with me on the bike had reduced down to about 6 and we exchanged position a few times as we headed towards St-Jovite. Once through St-Jovite and back onto Montee-Ryan heading back to Mont-Tremblant, I took the lead of the pack and just put my head down, getting into a groove. Just before heading into the back section of the course, I took a slight look back, noticing the pack had split up and there were now only two guys within visual distance before starting the hilly back section. Through the back section, plenty of matches could be blown and there is still one lap to go. At the base of every climb I would put it in the smallest gear possible and just spin up the hills, ensuring not to blow out the legs. The strategy worked and I felt fresh starting the second lap. The first lap was completed in 2:33 @ a normalized power output of 249W. 

Photo: Getting settled in the early stages of lap one

Bike (lap 2): The lonesome lap…

At the start of lap 2 there were still 3-4 guys with me from the large pack on lap one. Not even 5 mins into the second lap 1-2 of them stopped at the special needs station and I’m not sure what happened to the others, yet they were no where to be seen. I just put my head down and pushed out hard seeing if I could maintain a power output of 255W (NP) for the second lap. Getting into my own zone, it took me 45mins-1hr to realize that I hadn’t seen anybody since the special needs station at the start of lap 2. I was now out on the highway, with no one in sight behind me or ahead of me, aside from one female pro who had stopped with a flat tire. This is where things got a little boring and a little lonely, just cranking through the wind on the 117 (highway) with no one around, it was actually kind of peaceful, apart from the fact of needing to pee.

My plan was to pee on the bike, as I’d practiced it well in training. Yet when you’ve been crouched in the same position for 3hrs with a seat providing some pressure on your groin, it can be a little challenging to get your bodily functions to work as normal. After about 30 mins of built up pressure, I was finally able to relieve myself on a nice gradual descent. Interestingly, not less than 30 seconds later I had the first guy pass me in about 45 mins. He rides by with a huge smile on his face. I turn to him with a grin, saying “Oh boy does that feel good!” Strange little moments you share with other participants out on the race course.

Upon reaching the turn around on the highway and feeling much better having relieved myself, I was still feeling strong and putting out some strong watts (250W+ NP). With a long way to go, I felt it would be wise to dial back a little bit and maintain a steady pace without blowing too many matches before the run. The journey back to town was also a little more fun, as I started to catch some more guys ahead of me on the bike and I saw a few more Boston tri kits floating around. Through St-Jovite and back on Montee Ryan for the final time, I needed to pee again! With only 30 mins on the bike to go and all hills, my opportunity wouldn’t come until I reached transition. I just put up with it and shut it out of my mind as best I could.

Heading into the back hills for the final section of the bike course, I started to mentally prepare myself for the run, thinking about my running mantras and just focussing on starting the run right. This was particularly helpful, as it made me stay focussed on not blowing my legs out in these final hills. Once again, it was the smallest ring and just spinning up the hills. Second lap completed in 2:39 @ normalized power output of 242W.

Bike time: 5:14:12 Pace: 21.39/mph Watts: 244W NP Overall Rank: 69/2,304 Age Group Rank: 8/99 Strava File 

Photo: Getting ready to dismount into T2


T2: “We have an Aussie in the house…"

As I dismounted from my bike, I hear over the loudspeaker “Oh we have an Aussie with us!” followed by “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi” as I run through transition. It was a nice little pep up and some motivation before starting out on the run course. I saw (heard) Patrick’s family as I entered the tent which was also nice.

T2 Time: 2:44 


Run: The real fun begins…

Exiting the tent, I got a glimpse of the clock, 6hr30. Right on pace with my goal time and feeling really fresh for the marathon ahead.

Nicolas Warren you are awesome! For those of you that don’t know, Nicolas is one of my closest friends in Boston and it was his friendship and encouragement that got me into Triathlon. It was so awesome to have you right there on race day. As I exit T2, Nicolas is charging down the run shoot, shouting “Samuel!! You’re in 8th place!! You’re in 8th place!! Go and get them!” Prior to the race I was not sure about needing or wanting updates on my position, yet this was a great little boost and Nicolas’s enthusiasm flew through me like it was my own blood. 

Photo: Exiting T2 pointing at Nicholas

Now its time to break the run down into a few sections:

1km-4km: I couldn’t run slower…

I felt a million dollars and was moving so fluidly I couldn’t even slow down. This made me a little nervous as I was running about 15-20 seconds per km faster than my target pace this early in the race. I tried to slow myself down, yet was finding it challenging. I saw Isabel and Colin at km 2 as I smoothly climbed one of the early rollers. I was smiling from ear to ear, loving every second of the race. Feeling settled and still smooth 20mins in, I take in my first serving of dates. Still all smiles at this point.

5km-15km: The gambler in me comes out…

After taking in the first serving of pitted dates, the built up pressure of not peeing for a while started to catch up with me (I was thinking to go in T2, yet completely forgot) as I started to digest the dates. As I ran past a few porta potties and an aid station at km 5, I say to myself “I’ll be fine just keep moving”. By km 6, a small situation begins to unfold. The type of situation my friend Colin (aka Bruce) likes to call “The Gambler”. I needed to fart to release some of the built up pressure, yet wasn’t sure what would happen if I did. I took a chance and for a split second thought I was going to be on the losing end of this bet. However, my luck turned around and I held on to win this hand of cards.

At km 7 I took advantage of the porta potties this time around. 40-50 seconds later I was back running again and feeling much better. This is a lesson learned that it is much better to run free of any discomfort, versus trying to push through the discomfort in aid of losing time. I was running much better, yet this section would prove to be the toughest of my race physically and mentally. At the next serving of dates (taken every 20mins), only a few mins later my stomach flared up again, not bad, yet if I kept eating it would continue to get worse. Following the plan B, I dialed back on all nutrition for a few km’s to let my stomach settle. With the pain still lingering at km 12-13 I decided to take in some flat coke to settle things down a bit. It worked well and I started moving with a little more freedom.

At this point, I gotta give a shout out to my awesome support crew out on the run course, Isabel, Eleanor and Colin! They were everywhere, riding up and down the run course, cheering me through the trees and just being in the right spot at the right time, when I really needed a boost. Also, the run course is phenomenally beautiful. Set alongside Lac Mercier and running on the old decommission railway line the Parc de Nord. Just beautiful!

On my way back into town I had seen my friend Billy again. Billy was looking strong and we exchanged a few encouraging words.

15km-30km: The power of William and Chloe’s smile…

Approaching the village on my first loop, I started having flashbacks from my surging finish in the half ironman, only 7 weeks prior. It gave me a real boost and there was real sense of happiness for being out on the course really pushing myself. Also, I knew I was about to see 4 of my most favorite people in this world, my brother, his wife and their two gorgeous little kids Chloe and William. I spotted them up ahead and started waving, putting my arms out like an aero plane and charged towards them with a huge smile. Passing by, I gave both William and Chloe a little tickle before tackling the last hill into the village. It was the boost I really needed. Check out their little “Team Sambo” Ironman shirts below. Enjoying the jumping castles too :) 

Photo: William and Chloe enjoying the jumping castles in their Ironman shirts.

If you haven’t seen or heard about the run course at Mont-Tremblant, it is definitely something to experience. Imagine a little cobble stoned French Village, lined with little shops and crowds cheering you all the way through the chute. Not to mention that it is a 600 meter downhill run through the village. You can’t really complain to the race directors about this finish line. I saw Nicolas and Kosta for a high 5 as I enjoyed the village.

At the base of the village (the halfway point of the marathon) I took a spot check on my overall run time 1:52, which was slightly off pace for my target and I came to realize that it was going to be hard/impossible for me to reach my goal time of sub 10hrs. I would have to run a blistering second half to make it in time. For a moment this bothered me, yet a few seconds later I shut it out. This photo says it all at the halfway point, fortunately Chloe and William must have been standing right next to a photographer and as you can see I’m all smiles and waving as I start my second lap.

Photo: A wave and smile for William and Chloe starting lap 2 of run.

The early stages of the second lap would prove to be challenging, with the rolling hills and mentally struggling to find the boost to start running harder/faster and I was probably spending a little too much time assessing my pace/time etc. Once through the rollers and out onto the rail trail again (Parc de Nord) Isabel was there and gave me the heads up that Patrick was just ahead of me on his first lap, “Pat’s ahead, go catch him!!” was the shout out. As it peacefully starts to drizzle rain, whilst running through the (somewhat) forest, I saw Patrick up ahead, a moment I’d been excited about all day. A surprising little pinch on the bum and a “Oh I’ve been looking for that sexy ass all day!” comment from me, was the perfect comical moment as I pushed towards the turnaround point. With the words of encouragement from Patrick, “Go gett'em man!!” The peaceful rain eased as I hit the turn around and this was a slight turning point in the run for me.

With 12km to go, my original plan was to follow a pacing plan up until this point, then run the last 12km based on feel and if the opportunity presented itself then I would feel comfortable to “race” or just push the pace all the way to the finish. It is important to recognize that the race doesn’t start until this point. Going too hard too early can put you at risk of not finishing or finishing much slower you had hoped. If you’d burnt all your matches earlier in the race, like a few guys were doing on the bike.

30-34km: Go with the flow, just run, just run…

At the turn around on the Parc de Nord, I made a conscious decision to not look at my watch for the remainder of the entire race, not even when it beeped or alerted at me. Just run and enjoy the last miles of what has been an awesome journey. 9 months of training and preparation to get me to where I am. Just embrace every aspect of it and enjoy the last 12km of my first ironman.

My mind began to smile, reflecting on all the training, the build up races, the little (yet so large) motivational comments and quotes of inspiration shared by close friends, it was just awesome. My body started moving more freely (at least it felt that way) and I just ran. It felt so calming and soothing. Getting into my groove again, finding a second wind so to speak. I saw Zuzka (a fellow MIT Triathlete) on the way back in and she was looking strong. We exchanged some brief words of encouragement, which was another nice little booster. One of the benefits racing with fellow teammates. 

34-42km: Our own little IronWar…

Getting closer and closer back into town, I realized that I hadn’t seen Billy on the out and back section of the the Parc de Nord. I started to wonder: “Where’s Billy? Did he blow up? Is he ok? or did I miss him and he’s close behind me?” I was on the look out for him, so I was concerned that he had dropped off or had some issues. These questions played out in my head for 5-10 mins, before, all of a sudden I hear from behind me “Keep it going bud, only 4 ½ miles to go! Let’s do this!” It was Billy. He was moving well and went ahead of me by a few meters. This was the defining moment in the race for me: Who is going to show up today? Are you going to have the power to stay with him? Should I stick with him? Never a question really. I moved up alongside him as we entered the final gravel section of the Parc De Nord, with 7km to go.

Running shoulder to shoulder, double breasted, along the narrow track we went for the next 2km without saying much. My mind was digging deep, asking myself “Who is going to show up? You can either let this go or you can grasp the experience you’ve dreamed of thousands of times.” It was surreal to be placed in this position. I had meditated and visioned myself ‘racing’ the final stages of the Ironman, a thousand times over in the past 12 months. Ideally for a Kona qualification spot which was not the case here, yet that didn’t matter. I was fully alive and mentally ready to race!

For the first 2km of running with Billy, I didn’t really know how Billy was feeling, as I hadn’t seen his face and we exchanged very few words. As we approached the end of the rail trail (Parc De Nord) section, turning the corner on Chermain Du Village, there was a live band playing, apparently the same song, over and over according to Billy! This comment from Billy gave me a subtle sense of his mental state and fatigue. This is where the race really began for me, thinking, this is my chance to gradually wear him down as we approach the finish line, with a touch over 5km to go. The situation reminded me of the 2010 Hawaiian Ironman, that I had watched many months earlier. Chris McCormick and Andreas Raelert ran toe to toe over the closing stages of the race. Macca stayed about 3-4 feet in front of Andreas, to form a mental barrier and maintain control of the race. Right at the turning point of the corner on to Chermain Du Village (5.5km to go), I got a huge boost from Colin and Isabel cheering, and surged up the little hill with the plan to stay just in front of Billy and manage the pace for the rest of the race. Not over exerting myself, just gradually pushing the pace based on feel.

Photo: Billy and I turning onto Chermain Du Village for the last time.

I couldn’t see Billy any more, yet from time to time I would hear his breathing in the background getting slightly heavier and a sense that he was starting to hurt. The fact he was in a Boston tri suit also helped, as the runners coming the other way would shout out “Go Boston!” which would keep me updated on how close he was, depending when they would cheer. Isabel was riding alongside us shouting words of encouragement at both of us, encouraging Billy to take the lead and for us to work together, I remember this vividly “Take the lead Boston, take the lead, work together! You’re a team out here!” Little did Isabel know, I was not going to let Billy in front of me, regardless of any benefit from pacing etc.

With about 3.5km to go, we exited the street for a moment onto this slight downhill path through the trees. At the top of the path, I picked it up a gear and heard a groan/loud breath from Billy. I pushed down the hill, and at this point my confidence started to grow and I could tell he was starting to really hurt. Still couldn’t shake him off though! As we entered back onto the street we were still close together and both pushing hard. I was burning too. Funnily enough, our friend Meg (who introduced Billy and I to each other only weeks earlier at Walden Pond), came running by in the other direction shouting words of encouragement for both of us.

Isabel sprouts up again, out of no where. With a little less encouragement or suggestion for Billy to take the lead, I think it went something like this “Crush him, don’t let him pass you! You’ve worked hard for this, push it all the way! Don’t let him pass you!! Crush him!!” The phrase “Crush him” may be a little extreme and not exactly what she said, yet it was intense, and for any of you who know Isabel, this is very much unlike her. It made me chuckle, even though I was thinking the exact same thing. My adrenaline started to rise as we moved closer to the finish, and crossing the little bridge with a view of the lake (where it all began 10hrs earlier) and the mountains in the back drop, I chucked my unused pitted dates away (thinking I need to be as light as possible for the final sprint), it was game time. Time to step up to the challenge and leave nothing in the tank.

Having raced the course once before I knew we had two short, but steep, climbs to go over the last 2km. Waiting for a surge from Billy to come at some point, I was trying not to blow my gas too early for the sprint finish, and didn’t really know where would be the best place to surge. Fortunately, I didn’t need to make that decision, as we passed the swim start and approached the first of the last two hills, a 46 year old guy (not Billy) comes bursting past me at a 100 miles an hour. Out of shock and the thought that this guy was Billy making his surge, my body just took off. Surging up the hill chasing this guy up and over. 

Photo: Samuel and Billy 2km from the finish. 100m before the surge.

The gas was on full throttle! Charging towards the finish with 1,500m to go. Nicolas and Kosta were there again, running alongside me for a couple hundred meters. Entering the final hill up into the village my friend Clint charged all the way up the hill with me, shouting “You’ve worked so hard for this, give it everything, leave nothing behind!!” It was a strange feeling, as I could feel my legs going into this state that they’ve never been before, just exploding and burning as I surged up the hill. Physically, I could feel the burn and pain. Mentally, I couldn’t feel the pain at all (well at least now, looking back on it).

At the top of the village, I got the chance to glance back down the hill to see if I could see Billy. From the quick glance I couldn’t see him. Now is when I realized that I about to finish (thanks to the 600m downhill village run :) ) and I flew down through the village giving it everything, all the way to the finish. Coach Bill had asked me to jump twice as high as I did at the finish line 70.3 (half Ironman), which I started preparing myself to do, yet my legs just couldn’t muster anymore. I was also shocked again, by a late surge from the same 46 year guy I’d chased up the hill, thinking it was Billy again. I took a little leap and slapped the clock as I crossed the finish line. 

Samuel Johns, you are an IRONMAN!! :)

Run Time: 3:40:12 Pace: 5:13 min/km (8:24min/mile) Strava File

Overall Time: 10:10:14 Overall: 94th of 2,304 Age Group 25-29: 9th of 99


The feeling was unbelievable. I put my arms up in the air and started crying (with some loud groans gasping for air) with tears of joy and accomplishment. Going into it, you can try to imagine how you’re going to feel, what you’re going to say to yourself. In actuality, you never really know how you’re going to feel or what it is going to be like. Isabel came shouting (again :)) over the fence pointing at me, “You did it! You did it! You did it!” which is a moment I’ll remember forever. Words can’t really describe the emotion, it was just awesome! Finishing an Ironman is something I’d dreamt about doing for a long time and to experience it the way I did, resulted in this outpouring of emotions. All whilst, trying to calm my breathing down after the 5km sprint to the finish. The last mile was a 6:40 min/mile.

Billy and I hugged it out in the finish line area. Sharing congratulations to each other on the epic finish. So appreciative to have shared such a special moment, with another awesome competitor and a great bloke. Billy, if it wasn’t for you mate, this race would have had a completely different ending, I guarantee a much slower one for me at least. Thanks for pushing my limits and sharing what was the best 25 minutes of my sporting life to date. Always at the infancy of what is next. 


The inspirational last hour of Ironman

During the last hour of the Ironman (after showered and maybe taken a nap) you head down to the finish line to watch the real heros and inspiration of Ironman finish. To say it was “electrifying” or “inspiring” wouldn’t really do it justice. Something you really need to experience to believe it. Seeing people push their physical and mental limits for 17 hours and still be putting one foot in front of the other was amazing! The last competitor came in at 4 mins to midnight with a time of 16:56. Her entire run leg was completed in the dark, after 1hr22 mins in the bike to run transition. Epic stuff! 

Photo: Kayle, Patrick, me and Meg enjoying the final hour at the finish line. 


This was not a solo journey…

I’ll be forever in debt for the level of support and encouragement I received over the two year journey towards IMMT. Triathlon often gets a bad wrap for being a selfish sport, which is a little unfair when you peel back the layers on the life long friendships formed and support provided to others. Yes, at the end of the day finishing time is listed next to only one name, yet there are so many people who have had an influence on your achievements and experiences. This is one of the reasons why I love the sport and the community.

Patrick, you’re the voice: You’re naivety and curiosity to challenge the unknown is inspiring. Here’s how the story began, on what was Patrick’s last day at TripAdvisor before heading out to crush it at ROMP. (Keep in mind he had downed a few beers at this point of the conversation)
  • Pat: “Oh so what are your big goals for 2014? 
  • Samuel: I’m thinking of doing an Ironman! 
  • Pat: Which one and when? 
  • Samuel: Mont Tremblant in Canada, late August. 
  • Pat: I’m in! Let do it, send me the details. 
For someone who had never done a triathlon before and who could hardly swim 9 months before race day, you sure know how to step up to the challenge. The experience wouldn’t have been the same without ya mate! Epic swim time too! 

Photo: Finish line smiles with Patrick and Samuel, time for some food!

  • Jason Gootman (Tri-Hard Endurance Coaching): Your training plans, guidance and mentorship has taught me a lot about myself and triathlon. Thank you for listening and allowing me to grow in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Thanks to Will Kirousis your coaching partner in crime too, his support when needed was super helpful. 
  • Coach Bill (MIT Tri Coach): Ever since I rocked up on the pool deck at MIT, on a cold February night in 2013, you’ve been welcoming, a great influencer and a tremendous support for my development. Thanks for all the swim coaching and the Tuesday morning track sessions! 
  • Sue S (swim coach): You calming presence and depth of knowledge was priceless, thank you for being there every step of the way and teaching me to paint beautiful green lines. 
Race day support crew and awesome friends: I’ll challenge anyone to show me a better support crew than this one. Love you guys, thanks so much! 

Photo: Kosta, Kathy, Clint, Isa, Samuel, Eleanor, and Nicholas post race.

  • Colin Kennedy (aka Bruce): Where to begin? It starts with the Friday morning commuter rides in 2011, going out of your way to teach me the craft of cycling and what it means to ride with a mate, trusting me to ride 10cm off your wheel for hours on end. In V we trust. The brains of MIT are still trying to figure out how our surgery to be joined at the hip during the 2013 season workout so well, it will be a year I’ll never forget. From training together, bike setup, equipment advice, race strategy and friendship, you’ve always been there. It was so special to have you at IMMT charging up and down the run course! Looking forward seeing you shine at Cyclocross Nationals in 2015! 
  • Isa Brachmann: Your calming influence, both on land and water (where you really belong), along with your mental support was invaluable. You were there for each swimming breakthrough (crazy fist pumping at the end of the lane) and I’ll never forget the cold November bike ride where I don’t think you said anything, which was perfect. I was inspired to see you “cruising” in NOLA, smashing the swim and having a great race. New Zealand already feels special and we haven’t even arrived yet. Bring on the “You’re cruising!!” in NewZ! 
  • Eleanor Wiseman: Your daily inspiration, encouragement and beaming smile is priceless. There were many training and racing days where it lifted me to new heights. The early season running races fun, your thoughtful conversation and caring friendship I’ll hold dear to my heart forever, not to mention the skype dance moves. Thank you for playing a huge roll on race day wearing my Sammy K t-shirt and cheering through the mega phone. Looking forward to NewZ! “Lets do this shit!” 
  • Nicolas Warren: When someone (me) needed a friend, you were there and through your genuine care for others, you inspired me (and still do) to tackle my dreams. I will never forget your small act of kindness in early 2012, that was the spark of this journey and a friendship I look forward to enjoying for the rest of my life. To have you there running beside me during the last 1500m was truly special. 
  • Kosta, Kathy and Clint: From early days in Boston and our retreats in the mountains, you guys have really stood by me all the way. So awesome to have your support and love on race day! Thanks for making the journey! The finish line sprint from Kosta and charge up the hill from Clint was epic! Say YES to life! 
  • Anthony, Julie, William and Chloe: Hard to put my heart on a piece a paper because you guys would take up too much room! Thank you for your continued love and support! Seeing my little munchkins half way through the run was the highlight of my day. 
  • Arnout and Justin (there in spirit after an epic day at the IMMT70.3):Thanks Mr Flat Belly. 
  • Patrick’s family: Thanks for making the trek out from Colorado to support Patrick and I, your support was awesome! 

Training Partners and Other supporters:
  • My awesome family: The crew were lighting it up on the family facebook feed from afar! Thank you mum and dad for all the car rides to basketball, cricket and football etc. Life and this experience wouldn’t have been completed if it wasn’t for you. 
  • Little Nemo: Your shining (shivering) day around Manhattan was the impertise for me to take the leap on registering for IMMT. The beauty in the night sky and courage in the sunlight across the Catalina will never be forgotten and played over and over in my head during the last 20 km’s of this race. Thank you for giving me permission to shine :). 
  • Felix: Your last few hundred meters of the Boston marathon this year showed a level of humility and compassion for running that really touched me and inspired me on those long training days. Not to mention your courage through the journey of Ironman training, letter boxes and all. Thanks for the inspiration and learnings. If my race report is half as good as yours, I’ll be happy :). 
  • Zuzka: The definition of Ironwoman = Zuzka. Thanks for the company on the long training rides and the encouragement on race day. I look forward to seeing you in Kona one day, hopefully in 2015! Keep chasing that dream! 
  • Bryce: The man of few words, yet when you do say something it packs a lot of punch and is filled with learnings. Thanks for keeping me honest and stirring me up to push my boundaries. Your insights related to Ironman training really helped me get settled and focussed. Thanks for sharing and being an inspiration with both your Ironman journey and open water swimming triumphs, the next ocean should be fearful of this guy, just like the newbies in the fast lane of ant MIT swim practice :). 
  • Ben Rubin: Your encouragement and advice to become the best I can be is priceless. From the meditation teaching at Burning Man, to making me aware of mindfulness and guidance on forming good habits. All key aspects of my training I thoroughly enjoyed and owe you a lot for. 
  • Meg MacSwan: Happiness is surely a state of mind. You live by this value each and every day. The ice bath at Mass State was comical and still makes me chuckle. Thanks for the Walden training swims and for your beaming smile out on the run course. The courage you showed through your own journey to IMMT was inspiring and gives great strength to those around. Thank you for sharing your strength. 
  • Thanks to all those who supported me and joined for a few training sessions: Mitch, Sam, Maddie, Becca, Morgan, Allie, Dina, The MIT Triathlon Team, The MIT Cycling Team, JH, Ashley B, Ashley H, Justin G, Shaffer, Fan and Claire, work colleagues at TripAdvisor. 


Nutrition Strategy- 25 Banana Plan

For those interested here was my nutrition strategy for race day. Note my run strategy was altered due to suffering stress during the run:

4:20am- 4:42 Breakfast
  • Jar of Apple sauce 
  • 2x tablespoon almond butter 
  • 1x Banana 
  • 1x scoop of whey protein 
  • Sip 20 ounces of water after breakfast until race start. 
5:42am: Caffeine Pill: 250mg
  • 1 ¼ caffeine pill taken with water 
6:27am: Banana 15 mins before race start

Bike Nutrition:
  • ~1,000mg of sodium per hour 
  • 150mg of caffeine per hour 
Run Nutrition:

Per Hour:
  • ~1,000 mg sodium per hour 
  • 150mg of caffeine per hour 
Actions if suffering nutrition distress/digestive issues:
  • Step 1: Hold off on intake and let stomach settle, before starting intake again. 
  • Step 2: Sip little amounts of water to keep up hydration. Small amounts of water could help with dilution of carbohydrates. 
  • Step 3: Sip coke a cola and dilute down with water to settle stomach. (this was my approach from km 12 to 42) 

The journey continues! :) See you in New Zealand!

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