By Tricia Sherrard
In our trusty mini van filled with equipment and food for the weekend, Mom and I successfully smuggled my sister over the border and arrived in Mont-Tremblant to join a multitude of athletes and their support crews. Upon stepping out of the car, we heard the repeated thump of dance music from the Ironman Village. Certainly this was a forecast for the weekend, which was full of festivities and excitement. Mont-Tremblant is the stuff of snow globes; a small ski village in the Laurentian Mountains nestled between the mountain and Lac Tremblant. Traditional French-style buildings with brightly colored roofs house a variety of shops, restaurants and patisseries. While Emily was busy being stressed and fit, Mom and I loved dancing at a U2 cover band concert, devouring crepes, and exploring the village.
Race day greeted us with the perfect, mild and sunny day for a half Ironman. We hustled to the swim start to see Emily off and made our way to the transition-- not before enjoying the spectacle of athletes being hastily stripped of their wetsuits by volunteers. Emily swam a PR (right?) and was off on the bike! Smartphones at the ready, we anxiously tracked her and saw that she was crushing it.
After catching an Emily-colored blur zipping by with a short distance remaining, we headed to the transition, energized by the fact that she had biked her way into what we believed to be the top ten! There we were at transition, prepared to snap some action shots, waiting, waiting for her next split. But it never came. Blaming the cellular data connection only felt plausible for so long. Athletes came in droves through and transition, and still no Emily. We would later learn that she was on the side of the rode thwarted by a mechanical problem to be fixed by race support.
Wondering if we might have missed her coming through the transition, Mom and I found a spot through which the running route passed several times. Waiting, waiting. After about 20 minutes, we confirmed that she had encountered an issue on the bike. The cheerful intensity that had fueled our support crew status fell away. She was not going to make the podium, and she might not finish at all.
As there was nothing to do but wait to hear from Emily, we continued to watch the athletes come through, each minute feeling more upset that none of them were my sister. At that point I resigned to the fact that she was going to take a DNF for the race. Well, I was wrong! Eventually we made out a Breakaway kit in the distance, and recognized immediately that familiar, powerful running form we’ve known since her high school career. She was still going! Though she didn’t look happy, she looked fast. And furious.
Splits confirmed her incredible speed, and we cheered wildly each time she passed. My sister wins a lot, but this moment to me was more amazing than her near flawless racing resume. Running 13.1 miles on any given day requires backbone. How would you like to do it on one of your worst days following a 1.2-mile swim and 56-mile bike? Em went on to run her fastest half marathon, passing nearly 30 athletes in her age group, despite the mechanical issue that devastated what would have almost certainly been a podium finish and a chance to defend her World Champion title. That’s resilience. That’s my sister.