BITING THE ROLLER COASTER
ON THE ROAD to Ironman 70.3 Muskoka I questioned myself: Was I ready to meet the beast? I signed up for my first half Ironman on Dec. 16, precisely a year after a bike accident almost cost me my life. I was looking forward to that event, maybe as a way to celebrate the fact that I was still alive and hadn’t experienced any permanent physical dysfunction, other than the scars and the 12 missing teeth. It seemed like a good idea and I was up for a challenge.
I did not know then that my personal life was yet to take a few more dramatic turns. In the weeks preceding the race, training became tedious and I wasn’t eating and sleeping properly. I was drinking too much and missing a lot of training sessions. A few days prior to the event, I highly doubted my ability to make it. I hit the long road accompanied by my sister and father to take on my first half-distance race, one of the hilliest in Canada, with all of this in mind.
The race is set in the beautiful Muskoka countryside of Ontario. The race site and transition area were located in the Canada Summit Centre, originally built for the 2010 G8 Summit. As I picked up my athlete bag on the Saturday before the race I started to feel really anxious about the next day’s event.
In triathlon, swimming is my biggest challenge. When I joined Les Dynamos Triathlon Club in Montreal three years ago, I couldn’t really swim. I never imagined I would ever feel comfortable in open water. At my first triathlon in Gatineau, Que., I was almost dead last after the swim – I managed to get out of the water just ahead of an older man who did breaststroke. Ever since then I’ve always tried to do a pre-race swim to make myself comfortable. That’s what I did the Saturday before the race in Muskoka.
I remember that the water was warm with only a few soft waves. I started to relax and decided there was nothing to worry about: this first half-distance race would probably not be my best performance, but I’d be fine. I mostly spent the rest of the day working on my bike, before putting it in the transition zone and doing a short run. After a good meal and before going to bed, I reviewed my plans for the following day.
I was determined to do everything I could to get to the finish line. And I succeeded. The swim was OK. The bike phase was amazing, with its 832 m of climbing over 94 km (wasn’t it supposed to be 90?). The run was rough, but went great once I worked the cramps out of my legs (some athletes might remember me as the guy of was hitting his thighs). I was so happy that I almost sprinted the entire last kilometre.
I almost cried when I passed the finish line, knowing that a year and a half ago an ambulance was transporting me to the hospital where the doctors wouldn’t guarantee I’d make it through the night. Miraculously, I was given a second chance – and I will surely not waste it. Next up ? A full-distance race in 2018.
Frédéric Roy, 30, is a writer from Montreal. He trains with the Les Dynamos Triathlon Club in Montreal.
LEFT Frédéric Roy after winning the overall age group category at Ironman Muskoka 70.3