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Iron Woman, Iron Man: The Novel of the Competitive Lifestyle

Iron Woman, Iron Man: The Novel of the Competitive Lifestyle

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Iron Woman, Iron Man: The Novel of the Competitive Lifestyle

235 pagine
6 ore
Dec 1, 2006


Marc-Alain, an ex-junior hockey player and now an employee of the Canadian government, is struggling with the end of his 30s. He has minor physical ailments, decreased interest for his job, etc. But his life is about to make a radical change.

Catherine likes her work, but is confronted with the day-to-day difficulties of family responsibilities, career and love life.

Their discovery of the triathlon plays an important part in the solution of their problems. Both will learn, with the help of their triathlon colleagues and their trainers, to appreciate the demanding sport, which will become slowly a way of life if not the reason to live.

From one small competition to the next one, they train for and compete in their first Ironman - 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of bicycling and 42.1 km of running.

Their path to the Ironman blends the happiness and teamwork of competition with the miseries of training and their day-to-day lives. This books gives you an understanding of what it takes to train for, and participate in a demanding physical activity.

We are four authors but we wrote like one this true novel. We hope that it will enable you to grasp better the mental and physical dimensions of an athlete.
Dec 1, 2006

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Iron Woman, Iron Man - Bernard Caron


Chapter 1 - September - December: A second chance

It was like any gloomy September morning when the sun is slowly replaced by clouds, and summer greenery - like a grizzly bear - is preparing for its winter sleep. Marc-Alain had been up for a good half hour when morning newscasts started filling his little apartment in Gatineau, Québec, with the first sounds of the day. He had trouble sleeping over these last few years, even though only 37 candles lit up his last birthday cake. It was the back pain – perhaps because of the excess weight he had put on since he left university or because of the fall he had taken a few years back while skating on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa. At the time, he had felt nothing, but the pain had started a few days later. Of course, he had not bothered to see a doctor. No time for that! And the thought of waiting eight hours in an emergency room to end up being told to go home, rest and take two antiinflammatory pills had convinced him not to go.

After watching the news for about 20 minutes while sipping his second cup of coffee, Marc-Alain started thinking about the day ahead, another monotonous day similar to so many in his life, so organized since he had entered the Department of Justice in Ottawa as a young computer specialist. That was 10 years ago and, looking back, all these years seemed to merge into a rather dull daily routine, lacking challenge or surprises. In his office at 8:30 a.m., he started reading his emails and answering the urgent ones. He collaborated with some of his colleagues on a project. And at 4:30 p.m., he took the bus home. At first, work had seemed an interesting challenge but, after 3,694 days of doing more or less the same thing, Marc-Alain had lost his motivation. While reading the newspaper at lunch the day before, he had learned that male civil servants were the most unhappy workers in terms of their work. He wondered whether he were part of the statistics.

Marc-Alain finished his third coffee while grumbling a bit about the day’s headlines and getting ready to catch the 7 a.m. bus. He was never hungry in the morning, he just ate a bun or a donut at the 9:30 break before swallowing a cup of soup and a sandwich at lunchtime. Sometimes, if he had the time - or rather if he took the time - Marc-Alain went for a walk downtown during his lunch hour. It was an activity he appreciated every time, even if it was often difficult for him to put on his shoes and leave the comfort of his office.

The return home was rather painful that evening. The bus was too full, there were no empty seats, an old woman kept complaining and another individual was emitting odors fit for an enormous garbage dump while two young studs were talking a bit too loudly about their conquests of the night before. Unable to endure this any longer, Marc-Alain decided to get off the bus three stops before his home, thinking a little walk would do him good. This is how, without having wished for or planned it, he started reflecting on his life. It was a long time since he had asked himself where he wanted to be in 10 years. He was approaching 40 and was preoccupied with many things: his work, his love life, the slow deterioration of his health, the kids he wished to have.

While walking on the bicycle path connecting Cité des Jeunes Boulevard to des Hautes-Plaines Boulevard, Marc-Alain noticed, for the first time, how beautiful nature was in his new neighborhood. He had been single for nearly two years now and had just recently moved to this area. After 15 years of bliss with Julie, everything fell apart. Even now, he could still go through some difficult moments, especially when seeing two people in love on the street reminded him of their happy days together. He still saw her from time to time, but that was all.

Luckily, he had a large circle of friends: his work colleagues, his friends from community college and some from the local university who worked in the region, his hockey gang that he still met from time to time. They all had done a good job supporting him during his grief. No effort had been spared to help him forget Julie.

For once he noticed the nature around him. Plenty of magnificent green trees, trails, small lakes, birds singing, wildlife. And all that only a few minutes from his place. And Gatineau Park, with its 50 kilometers of trails, its perfect asphalt, its forest! Fresh air, nature, that’s what I’m lacking," Marc-Alain thought. He knew, like everybody, that health is important.

It had been so long since he had been in shape. Selected by the Hull Olympiques of the Québec Junior Major League, he had played three hockey seasons with them before packing up and leaving for university, no professional team having shown any interest in him. Yet, he had done everything to be picked: training six days a week, jogging, stationary bicycle, muscular training, and substantial weight gain. A defenseman with an offensive nature, he was often part of the power play and was very strong in front of the net. The only problem was that he wouldn’t drop the gloves, despite his burly build of 5-foot-11-inches and almost 200 pounds. A few years later, while talking to an ex-coach from the league, he learned that was the reason no professional team ever invited him for a professional tryout.

Earning his living with his fists, that was not for him, despite the fabulous salaries in professional hockey. Instead, after being admitted in computer science at Université du Québec in Trois-Rivières, he had joined the Patriotes, a first-class team renowned through Québec and Canada as one of the best university hockey teams. During his stay, he was among the few players who had won two Canadian championships, one during his first season (1986-87), and the other during his final year, 1990-91.

Patriotes fans were still talking about the goal he scored in second overtime during the championship’s semifinal game against the team from Alberta. After two periods, the Alberta team was leading 5-1. But at the end of the 60 minutes of regular play, the Patriotes had changed what seemed to be a bitter defeat into an even 5-5. Marc-Alain had shot without warning, 40 feet from the net, into the left corner, causing euphoria in his teammates and the fans who had traveled to Toronto for the championship.

* * * *

By December he had decided to get back in shape. He had heard of the Outaouais Half Marathon, very popular at the beginning of the 1980s, which he had run for the last time in 1985, before a severe knee injury forced him to retire prematurely. That competition was a very popular race among running enthusiasts from all over Québec but, because of insufficient funding, it was abandoned.

Marc-Alain began his new training regimen by walking 10 minutes on the bicycle path five days a week. Now he felt the desire and the need to do more. During the holidays a family challenge arose. Marc-Alain called his older brother old man. That was all that was needed for the old man to challenge the younger one to a fitness duel. Another brother suggested running and decided to be part of the brotherly 10-kilometer challenge. They agreed on the 10-kilometer run during the National Capital Marathon weekend. It was closest to Marc-Alain’s home and gave the youngest – and the one in the worst shape – an advantage. Pierre, 41 and an accountant, lived in Montréal. He played hockey twice a week in a 40+ league, worked out two or three times a week and, in summer, rode his bicycle to work, a 30-kilometer (more than 18-mile) round-trip.

Claude, 43, lived in Drummondville, Québec, and owned a grocery store. He adjusted his work schedule to his sports ambitions. Like Pierre, he played hockey once or twice a week in a corporate league, and devoted his summer to his favorite sport, golf. And he never let a week go by without at least one 10-kilometer run.

This was no small challenge for 37-year-old Marc-Alain. He wanted to take advantage of his brothers’ overflowing confidence to show them what he could do. He found a 20-week fitness program for beginners preparing for a 10K run. Training was slow at first because he had to recover from overindulging during the Christmas and New Year holidays. He was incapable of holding the pace set by his training program, thinking that it was much too slow. He certainly couldn’t be seen running slowly and overtaken by older guys, fatter guys, or by women. Disregarding the recommendation written in large type in his training program - If you want to go fast, train slow - Marc-Alain adopted a pace slightly more intense than recommended, which rapidly led to fatigue and a bit of annoying pain in his legs. Luckily, he rapidly understood that if he wanted to excel on competition days, he had to grade his efforts and accept doing endurance runs more often than not. Weeks went by and training got better and better.

The pace was accelerating, he ran longer distances at a faster speed, and his morale was improving. For his first test after eight weeks of training, Marc-Alain was satisfied with his time of five kilometers in 31 minutes, 20 seconds.

Chapter 2 - May: A step back in

Race day finally arrived: a cool May morning, bright and sunny with a light wind, the ideal conditions for Marc-Alain to teach his brothers a lesson. Marc-Alain was convinced that if he could run the 10K in under 50 minutes, he would win the bet. The night before, while having supper and talking about training, he couldn’t help but notice the lack of intensity in his opponents. They had confessed running only two or three times a week at the most, for barely more than 45 minutes each time. When asked, Marc-Alain was evasive, not revealing the number and length of the training sessions he had slogged through - sessions of 20 to 75 minutes, three to five times a week, interval training, tests, long runs. He had really given everything he had. His brothers kept trying to learn more as they gulped down their chicken wings drenched in sauce and some fries while he ate tomato and basil pasta.

Really, Marc, we only have one life to live, it’s no big deal, eat some fries. It will give you strength, you’ll see. Remember the fries-eating contests when we were young, you were always the winner. O.K., let’s order dessert. What will you have?

Recalling these pleasant memories didn’t weaken Marc-Alain’s determination, and he resisted dessert.

His confidence peaked when he woke up this morning. Last night’s meal was well digested and he had slept soundly, dreaming he was running like a champion. A few hours from the start of the race, just before they left the house, he could visualize himself winning. The trip from Gatineau to Ottawa was short, a mere 20 minutes. The three brothers parked less than a kilometer from the starting line, a real achievement considering that 5,000 people were registered for the race. Then it was time for last-minute preparations: line up for the chip, a little warm-up jog, stretches, some water, a last visit to the toilet.

Finally, the National Capital race started. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK! For miles around, you could hear 10,000 running shoes hitting the ground at the same time. A great crush of competitors, some smiling, others serious. Some pushing on the first line, the veterans were already taking the lead a few minutes into the race. Marc-Alain was mainly trying to keep up with his brothers, but quickly lost sight of them. His pace was good, he was feeling good, his breathing, his legs, everything was fine. He ran the first 5K in 22:12! Fantastic! With so many runners around him, it was difficult to slow down. He was letting the runners and the cheering carry him, and was already dreaming of his victory.

His pace started slowing down a little toward the 8K mark, but nothing to demoralize our neophyte. His heart was beating faster and faster, his breathing was increasingly difficult but that was not important, with only 1 kilometer to run, the end was near, and Marc-Alain was really proud. A slight sprint at the end to overtake four runners who had slowed down a little, and he crossed the finish line at 45:51. He was proud and jubilant, and kept waiting for his brothers.

He restored his energy with a bagel, banana, cheese, juice and a granola bar. He checked the results sheet while he waited. He was in for quite a surprise when he saw the names of Claude and Pierre before the 43:58 and 44:34 results! Stunned that he had placed third, he resumed walking without even checking his own ranking. How could these two old guys inflict such a setback to him with only a few training sessions a week?

For nearly 20 years he had beaten his brothers at almost any sport; he was always the fastest, the strongest. Hockey, baseball, tennis, soccer, he was always the best. But his brothers had never stopped; they had kept active over the years. And now, in 2003, the two turtles had taken the upper hand, leaving the proverbial hare far behind. He tried to hide his disappointment. Claude and Pierre noticed it nonetheless and skipped the nasty comments. They chose to congratulate their brother for his excellent performance on his first 10K.

The following day, Marc-Alain analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of his performance. He had lost, but he had to admit he loved running, following a training schedule, pursuing a goal, performing, sweating, and running faster. Besides, he had a lot more energy, was in better shape and had already lost 11 pounds. Sweating was good for him, the training sessions were sometimes very harsh, but the well-being he felt afterward was worth it. He was feeling good and his brain was asking for more. The 10K was just the beginning. He needed more. He loved running alone, but the idea of joining a club started running through his head.

Chapter 3 - May: A wrong turn

Marc-Alain kept thinking about how else he could challenge his brothers. During supper following the race, the three brothers promised themselves they would never again sit around and grow fat, as they liked to say with a laugh. They were going to mull it over during the summer and had already committed to do the Ottawa 10K again next year. Marc-Alain had many projects in mind, all intense activities involving a lot of adrenaline: ice climbing, rafting, sailing, skydiving, paragliding, bungee jumping.

He had no way of knowing his life was about to be turned upside down in the week following the run. On his way back from an evening with friends at la Cage aux sports, his monthly boys-night-out, he saw the red lights on the car in front of him. He applied the brakes too, but rather slowly. What was going on? In the distance, he could see police officers talking to a driver. There was a roadblock. Soon it would be his turn. What should he do? He felt a bit hot and looked for gum in the glove compartment. There was none, so he told himself, Doesn’t matter. There’s nothing to it. I can hold my liquor; I only had a couple of beers.

A woman police officer came to his car; he lowered his window and said, Good evening, dear! She looked fresh out of the police academy and she cast an icy glance at him, answering, Good evening, sir. While looking at Marc-Alain’s eyes, she swept the inside of the car with the beam of her flashlight. He thought a smile and a good joke might soften her up, so he asked her, Do you know why men like stories about blondes? She noticed Marc-Alain’s pupils were a bit dilated and did not contract rapidly. She also noticed his unnatural pronunciations. Since the woman officer wasn’t saying anything, he carried on with a forced laugh, It’s because they understand them.

The woman officer asked to see his driver’s license and the registration papers for the car. She signaled the other officer standing behind her to come closer. Marc-Alain looked for the papers in the glove compartment, then in his pockets. She asked him, Have you been drinking? While opening his wallet to get his driver’s license, he answered, One or two little beers.

The woman officer asked her colleague to bring the breathalyzer. Marc-Alain protested, saying Really, I don’t need this. I’m not drunk. She responded, You have to take the test, otherwise you will lose your driver’s license automatically. Marc-Alain blew in the device. It indicated FAIL. The woman officer asked him to get out of his car and follow her.

He was then taken to the police station to take the Intoxylzer 5000, a more precise test that confirmed the first verdict. Marc-Alain wasn’t laughing anymore. He blew into the mouthpiece; it made a clicking sound like a cash register typing a receipt.

The results came out on paper. They were negative. His driver’s license was suspended for 30 days, and he would have to appear before a judge. His car was towed. The police asked him if he wanted to call a family member, an acquaintance or a taxi to get home. He chose to call a taxi. A few days later, he appeared before a magistrate who suspended his driver’s license for a year.

Chapter 4 - June-August: An upgrade

A month after the incident, Marc-Alain was still frustrated and angry, but most of all he was getting used to his new life on a bike. He had fished his old trail bike out and brushed away the cobwebs. He was biking to work, to the grocery store, to the video store, to almost anywhere. He had no choice but to get used to it and was trying to stay positive with his situation.

He’d be in better shape.

It was environmentally friendly.


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