LEXINGTON — Crossing the finish line of the Subaru Ironman Mont-Tremblant triathlon was the culmination of 40 weeks of training and years of dreaming for Lexington resident Tim Hilterman.
The race, which took place Aug. 18 in Mont-Tremblant, Québec, Canada, put over 2,300 athletes’ endurance to test with a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run.
Just a couple days following the race, Hilterman, 39, said he was in the process of recuperating, but overall, the experience was “fun.”
Of 2,378 finishers, Hilterman came in 528th place, with a time of 11 hours, 46 minutes and 19 seconds — well under his goal of 14 hours.
Hilterman was elated with his finishing time, saying, “It was beyond my wildest expectations.”
As an Ironman novice, Hilterman wasn’t exactly sure what to anticipate race day, but the weather was optimal, he had 40 weeks of training under his belt, and his wife, Abby, and four children were there to cheer him on.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. I was excited and ready to go,” he said.
The race started with a 2.4-mile swim in Lake Tremblant, giving athletes a clear view of the sheltering mountains.
Hilterman, who trained for the swim at the Mansfield Area Y, looked forward to the open water swim, as one who loves being outdoors. At one point during the swim, however, he said he experienced cramps in both legs. Thankfully, the cramping subsided and he kept going.
After exiting the water, he hopped on his bike to commence the 112-mile bike ride, continually reminding himself to pace himself.
Both the bike and run courses proved to be much hillier than he anticipated, but having the opportunity to see his family periodically throughout the event gave him the boost and encouragement he needed to press on.
The race ended with a marathon. Hilterman has run a couple marathons in the past. But having never completed a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride just before running a marathon, he didn’t know what to expect for the final leg of the Ironman.
“That’s where I faced the biggest unknown,” he said. “I didn’t know if I would run out of energy or get dehydrated, but I just tried to relax and had a pretty good first half,” he said. “As I came back through and saw my cheering squad after first half, I felt like I could go harder,” he said.
During the last four miles of the run, his muscles ached, he said, and every step was more painful than the last.
Fortunately, he knew his body wasn’t in danger, nor was his heart rate spiking.
“It was just a long day and my muscles were tired and they were telling me,” he said.
He thought to himself, “It’s just pain, and the faster you get done the sooner the pain will be gone.”
The realization that he was living out one of his dreams with his family supporting him carried him through those final steps.
“I knew Abby and the kids were at the finish line. I knew this life dream was happening. And I also knew there was a bunch of friends and family tracking my progress… so it was just an awesome feeling.”
On the last half-mile, Hilterman said he went numb — in a good way.
“I was no longer focused on my body or pain but realizing that I’m actually doing it. This is the finish,” he said.
All of those early mornings, brutal workouts, lack of sleep — all of it was paying off as he stepped across the finish line, hearing the announcer say, “Tim Hilterman of Lexington, Ohio, you are an Ironman.”
He remembers thinking as a recent college grad, “Some day it would be really cool to do (an Ironman).” For years, it was remained on his bucket list, but with the help and encouragement of his wife, he was able to put that dream into motion.
“Last year about this time, Abby and I were talking because my 40th birthday was approaching, my 40th birthday is in September, and we were talking about how we should do something fun and big, and the Ironman came up in conversation,” he recalled.
“And she said, ‘Hey, if you’re going to do it, let’s just do it.’ And so we looked into seeing what it would take, and decided to pull the trigger.”
Without Abby’s support, he said, none of this would have been possible.
“Abby deserves all the credit,” he said.
When it came to gear and training, Hilterman said he looked to others for guidance.
“I was just a rookie,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about a lot of this stuff, so I needed a lot of advice.”
Many athletes hire a coach when training for an Ironman, but Hilterman said he didn’t have the budget for that so he turned to the guidebook, “Be IronFit” for help. Hilterman said the book lays out three different training plans to choose from: “Just Finish,” “Intermediate,” and “Competitive.”
Hilterman chose the latter.
His training started in earnest in January. He worked out at the Y and at home on a bike trainer during the winter months. When the weather broke and he was able to get outside, he frequented the Richland B&O Trail.
His weekly training went from about six hours in the beginning to 20 hours during the peak phase, he said, on top of working and family time.
Sleep was rather sparse during that time. He said professional triathletes sleep between 8-10 hours a day. He was running on about half that (4-6 hours).
When asked what helped him stay motivated, he said he tried to “begin with the end in mind.”
“Every step was part of the process and I knew I couldn’t take the next step without making it through today, so whether it was a half-hour run on a Monday that was preparing me for a long one-and-a-half hour run on Friday, I knew I couldn’t cross the finish line on race day if I hadn’t put in the work,” he said.
Now, having met his goal, Hilterman said it’s helped him realize something.
“I think I’ve learned, it sounds cliche, but you can do more than you think you can do,” he said. “And I definitely am going to carry this experience into other parts of my life.”
Hilterman encourages everyone to see past any preconceived limitations.
“We can do more than we think we can. We just have to have a vision, we have to have perseverance, we have to have endurance,” he said. “And then take it one step at a time and don’t think that you need to get to your destination in one step. It could be a 40-week process, it could be a 40-year process.”