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Crazy Conditions at Montreal Olympic Triathlon Swim

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Friday, September 21, 2012
in Uncategorized

 The Montreal Esprit Triathlon starts at 7 AM and is the first race to start on the big day of races in Montreal. During the day I completed my Ironman distance event, there was also a half Ironman (demi-esprit), Olympic, Sprint, and a Duathlon. All of these events are run on the same course. The only difference is the amount of loops each race completes. My brother-in-law and training partner Mike competed in the Olympic Triathlon. His race did not start until 1:00 PM.

During the 6 hours I was killing myself on the Ironman course the winds had increased dramatically. While I was struggling to keep upright on my bike in the heavy winds about a half mile from where he was standing, Mike was faced with the toughest swim of his life. The usually calm, no current Montreal swim course had turned into an angry sea with white caps and waves. The water was so rough every time I went by the basin and saw the water in the distance I thought for sure they would cancel the swim. Take a look at what Mike had to face at the "easy" Montreal Olympic swim course.

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Montreal Esprit Triathlon 2012: Ironman Dreams Come True

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Sunday, September 16, 2012
in Triathlons

Ironman Finish

Most stories of success end with a paragraph of thank yous and acknowledgements to family and friends that helped to make a dream possible. I am going to change it up and lead my story with that paragraph.

First of all I could not have accomplished my dream of completing the Ironman without a tremendous support team. Training for the Ironman is the hardest thing I have ever done and has consumed my life for 18 months. I would like to thank my wife Sarah for supporting me while I made my dream a reality. Thanks to my daughter Alyssa for all her support and grace as she listened to me talking about my Ironman training for the millionth time. Thanks to my parents, for supporting me since I was a 17 year old boy who wanted to start competing in some crazy sport called triathlon. A huge thanks to Mike for cycling with me every Sunday since April without fail and for traveling with me all over the country to compete in different events. Thank you to Mike's family for giving him up for the past 6 months. I know it wasn't easy every week. I want to thank all of my friends who joined me at Lake Mascuppic at various times (Pam, Mike, Rodney) and especially Claire, who I have been swimming with at least twice a week since last year. I once cancelled on Claire, and she made me feel like I was calling in sick to work....never missed another swim. I would like to thank Josh for letting me use his bike for 2 months with no questions asked. Many other people supported me with words of encouragement and advice over the last year and I would like to say how truly thankful I am to have incredible family and friends.


In 1989 I watched the Hawaii Ironman on the show Wild World of Sports and became immediately inspired by the incredible determination portrayed by the athletes as they struggled to complete the event. It was on that day 23 years ago that I vowed to one day complete the Ironman.  At the time I had only swam in back yard pools and ridden my bike as a means of transportation. So at the age of 17 I started the process of entering the sport of triathlon. In 1989 triathlons were not very popular. I did not know anyone who had completed one. I had to explain to most people that it was a race with a swim, bike, and then a run. Anyway...I bought the book Dave Scott's Triathlon Training and read it over and over. I read it so much the binding ripped in three places. I joined a gym and taught myself how to swim using several books and videotapes. I bought a bike and started riding. I had already done a lot of running because I played soccer in high school so starting a run program was easy. I entered my first triathlon about a year later. Fast forward to this year, I had completed 72 triathlons covering all distances with the exception of the Ironman.

For several years I have been talking about fulfilling my Ironman dreams as close to my 40th birthday as possible. Kind of a "screw you" to the aging process. For this reason I chose to enter the Vineman Triathlon on July 28th which was 4 days before my birthday. My Ironman dreams did not come true that day. (read the depressing story here) Despite the devastating DNF at Vineman I was determined to finish the Ironman, and I wasn't waiting around. A couple of days after Vineman I signed up for the Montreal Esprit Triathlon which is another Ironman distance race......


The Race

The Montreal Esprit Triathlon is held entirely on ILE Notre Dame which is a man made island in the St Lawrence River. The swim is in the Olympic Basin which was built for the rowing events for the 1976 Olympics. The bike is a circuit course on the Formula 1 Grand Prix race track. The Montreal Casino is in the middle of the track. The run course does multiple loops around the Olympic Basin area.

My swim

Weather was 73 degrees and water was 75. Montreal has a small Ironman field so all athletes start in one wave at 7 AM. The swim should have been my easiest of the season, but my time didn't show that. I purposely swam slow to conserve strength. Unfortunately, I took it too easy. I ended up 11 minutes slower than I was at Vineman. Effort level was right on but for some reason I must have "fell asleep" in the water because my time was way off. I did not waste too much time worrying about it because this is the Ironman. No one at my level cares about 11 minutes. The whole point of the swim was to finish and feel fresh for the bike. Mission accomplished.

My bike

The bike course was on the Formula 1 race track. Each loop is about 2.7 miles, and I had to complete 41 loops. The course is flat with the exception of one short hill that you have to do 41 times. Now about the time I finished the swim the wind started to pick up significantly. By the time I got on the bike course the wind was very strong. Since the course is a circle you face north for half the loop and south for the other half. About 30 minutes into the bike the wind was howling. Riding into the wind was very difficult, forcing me to downshift. At times it felt like I was going to be blown over. Making the turn to change directions on each loop put the wind at your back, and I would shift up 3 gears. As tough as the wind was on the first half of the loop, for the second half I was pedaling nice and steady and was comfortably riding 25 MPH. Many people were passing me like I was standing still. I really wish I could have seen how fast I could have gone on that stretch if I went all out. The wind made this course more difficult, but it really was a flat course.

My nutrition plan on the bike was radically different from Vineman. After receiving advice from many sources I decided to have a large variety of options in my special needs bags. During the bike I had the following....peanut butter and fluff sandwiches, bag of chips, mountain dew, electrolyte tabs , salt tabs , Gatorade, snickers bars, and water. Mike called this my "teenage diet" nutrition plan. It may have been unorthodox but there is one thing I had drilled into my mind for this race...I was going to eat and drink as much as possible on the bike. Sugar, caffeine, electolytes, salt tablets.....I wasn't trying to win any nutrition awards....I just needed to eat anything that would get me to that damn finish line. I finished the bike 50 minutes faster than Vineman and felt good. Mission accomplished.

My run

Bacause of my Vineman experience I was very nervous about how I would feel at the start of the run. The Montreal Esprit Triathlon run course has a short 2k section on a dirt road on the first lap and then all of the remaining laps circle the Olympic Basin where the swim took place. I had to complete 9 laps for the marathon course. I started the run feeling decent. I actually started running!! In Vineman I was dead at the start of the run and barely ran at all. My running was short lived as I needed a walking break at the 2k mark but when I had to walk I was walking fast and steady. Once I got to the basin I faced the same issues on the bike. Half of the course was directly into the wind and the other half the wind was at your back. I saw Sarah and she told me to treat the wind like a hill. Walk fast and steady into the strong headwind and then run as much as possible with the wind at my back. This method would conserve my energy and maximize my efforts when I could run. I stayed focused and continued this strategy for the entire race. At one point there was a torrential downpour for about 15 minutes and the wind must have been blowing 40-50 MPH. The rain stopped but the wind never let up all day. I didn't care if it started snowing..nothing was going to stop me. I ran when I could and when I couldn't run I walked. This race actually allows non-racers to run/walk alongside racers at the 12 hour mark. This was a big boost. Sarah was with me for the last few hours. I finally finished at 9 PM with a race time of just over 14 hours.

Finish - I'm an Ironman!

Post Race

I have dreamed about completing the Ironman for over 20 years. Finally finishing this race is an incredible feeling. Training and finishing this race is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I have incredible respect for anyone who completes an Ironman. The dedication, perseverance, and commitment is all consuming. The inner strength and focus required to keep pushing your body for 14 hours really can't be described. Even if you never have the desire to compete in a race like this I would encourage anyone to be a spectator at one of these events. Watching athletes of all ages, sizes, and abilities give everything they have to finish this race by the 17 hour cut-off is awe-inspiring. I am truly humbled and honored to be an Ironman Finisher!

What's Next?

I have been completely focused on Ironman for so long I forget what it is like to have other goals. I am going to take some time off and figure out what the next challenge will be. I will definitely be competing in a lot more events in 2013. Training for Ironman has prevented me from competing in a lot of the shorter triathlon events and road races I have enjoyed competing in over the years. Entering a marathon soon has crossed my mind. Can't rest too long!!

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DNF (Did Not Finish) at Vineman Triathlon 2012

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Monday, August 06, 2012
in Uncategorized

No one likes to talk about their failures, but blogging about them is a little easier. Last week I attempted my first Ironman distance triathlon at the Vineman in Windsor, California.  This was the culmination of a year of training and done with the support of my family and friends. Throughout the year of training, I never thought there was a chance I would not complete the race. Even though I knew how difficult the event could be and that in any long distance race there are a multitude of reasons why someone might have to drop out, I truly believed I would be able to overcome any issue and finish. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

As I reflect on my failure to complete the biggest race of my life last weekend, I have experienced the whole pendulum of emotions. I experienced the expected sadness and disappointment of not achieving my dream of completing the Ironman and the let down of having worked so hard without seeing the result. During my training I received a tremendous amount of support from many people. In the first few days after the race I felt like I had wasted everyone's time and energy, and I had let everyone down by failing. To see a DNF next to your name at the biggest race of your life is a tremendous blow to your personal psyche and self-esteem. I have a great network of family and friends, and I have received many messages and words of encouragement since the Ironman disaster. My uncle told me DNF stands for "Dave Never Fails" and I should keep my head high despite the disappointment. My mother said the truest test of my character is what I do right now. I let myself be sad for about 48 hours, and then I got back on my bike and went for a ride.

Below is my race report of my failed attempt to finish the Vineman.

Vineman Full Distance Triathlon Race Report

Pre-race:  I woke at 3 AM after a good night's sleep and had a big breakfast and felt prepared mentally for the event. We had driven the bike course and saw the swim area the day before. It was a cool 52 degrees with no humidity. Perfect for racing.



Swim:  The 2.4 mile swim is in the Russian River in Guerneville, California. The water was comfortable (low 70's), and I was wearing a full wetsuit. The swim was a double out and back with the the "out" being against the current and the "back" being with the current. The start went off without a hitch but about 10 minutes into the swim the river narrowed and it started getting real crowded in the water. I have been competing in triathlons for over 20 years and in this race I was hit the most I have ever been hit in the water. Many people were swimming off line slamming into my ribs, banging my head, chopping my legs, etc. I had to continuously site and try to steer away from the chaos. None of this really effected my time but it made for an uncomfortable and irritating swim. As the swim waves converged I was constantly being passed by faster swimmers catching my wave or running into a "wall" of very slow swimmers from the waves ahead of me. Due to the narrowness of the river sometimes it was difficult to find some clear water. Another factor on this course is that in a couple of areas on each lap the river is extremely shallow. It was so shallow my hand hit the rocky bottom forcing me to stand up and walk for 2-3 minutes before it was deep enough to swim. Despite all of these issues my time was not really affected. I finally exited the water in 1:21.  I wanted to be at 1:20 give or take 5 minutes so I was right on track. First event done..I felt great and now onto the bike.


Bike:  The bike was a rolling course that traveled through many vineyards and small towns. In my experience when passing through large areas of farmland usually the crop is corn. This area was very similar only the crop was grapes instead of corn. The bike course is two loops with the only difference being about 8 miles on each loop.  The first part of the course was rolling with no major hills. The main challenge during the first part of the race was negotiating all of the rough road. I saw a lot of lost water bottles and an unusual number of flats during the first 20-30 miles. I was feeling pretty good and kept to my plan of just riding easy on the bike. I made it to the only big hill on the course, Chalk Hill, and made it up with about 90% effort. Surprisingly I was starting to feel better as the race went on. Miles 50-80 went by at a steady pace, and I was feeling good. It was about mile 80 that it started to fall apart. For some reason I started to feel hot for the first time and I started feeling bad. During the next hour I went from feeling decent to feeling terrible. I began to have major leg cramps and my speed dropped. I took a longer break at the next two aid stations, but I couldn't bring myself back. Finally, I stopped at an aid station about 3 miles from the start of Chalk Hill. (2nd time around) I knew it was going to be an extreme challenge to make it up that hill again with terrible legs cramps and almost no strength. I probably stopped for 10 minutes and then decided to go. Climbing this hill took everything I had to make it to the top. Once I crested the top I was relieved but I am sure my heart rate was over 200 BPM. I immediately pulled over and rested until I was able to get my breath back. The last 10 miles of the bike were absolutely miserable but I was finally done.  2nd event done....but barely hanging on...




Run:  The run course at Vineman is 3 out and back hilly loops. At this point in the day it was pushing 85 degrees, and I had just barely survived the bike. I was greeted in transition by my family who had made signs and were very excited to see me and cheer me on. They had no idea what kind of condition I was in or what a fight it was just to finish the bike. I tried to rally; I changed and headed out on the run...sorry, I meant walk. I could not run. My heart rate was still through the roof and I was struggling. Over the next few miles I tried to run the downhills but as soon as I returned to a walk my heart rate was so high I had to slow down to a slower walk or stop altogether to catch my breath. I knew I was in serious trouble. After the first 4 miles I stopped attempting to run at all. By mile 6 I had trouble walking. I was seeing black spots and walking any pace was a struggle. I finally completed the first lap (8.6 miles) and knew I was done. After speaking with a race official I was assisted to the medical tent and my race was over.

Post race and reflection: In the days after the race I relaxed and let my body recover from the event. I had the usual soreness, chafing, swelling (I was stung by a bee during the bike), sunburn, etc. Unfortunately, you still have to deal with those issues even if you didn't finish the race. At this point I will be re-analyzing my nutrition/hydration plan and try to figure out where I went wrong. My training was right on target, and I was in the best shape of my life. Completing the Ironman in my first attempt and having the story book ending would have been a dream. But life is not always easy. The reality is, sometimes we do fail....and guess what...we try again..and again..and again..until the goal is complete.  I will make my second attempt at Ironman glory on September 8th, 2012 in Montreal. I do not want to waste my current high level of fitness and I will not give up on my goal. I will finish the Ironman.

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