It was the final hour of the final edition of Ironman Mont-Tremblant.
On August 20, as the last of over 1,400 triathletes dug-deep to finish before the 17-hour mark, four runners dressed in white hoovered in the darkness. Their feathered wings revealed their role as they took position – one very long hill and about 1 km from the finish line.
The angels were following a tradition originated by Ironman Mont-Tremblant run course coordinator Jacynthe Martin for the first edition of the event in 2012.
With fresh legs and whispered words of encouragement, they would accompany the last athletes in the final stage of their marathon, after a day that started with a 3.8 km swim in Lake Tremblant, and then a challenging 180 km bike course.
Athletes’ friends and family stood vigil beside the angels. Monitoring athletes’ trackers, each hoped their loved one would arrive in time to make it that last kilometer.
Trish O’Keeffe, Mont-Tremblant resident and nine-time Ironman finisher, had ridden lead bike earlier that day opening the run course for the pros, and accompanied Rachel Zilinskas to a 9:12:06 first place win. Now, her softly lit angel wings trailed behind her as she biked the darkened run course, closing it for the final time behind the last runners.
Just as she did a decade ago, Martin monitored the runners’ progress on her radio. With fifteen minutes remaining on the clock, the radio crackled. Two runners were approaching her team of guardian angels that would likely be the last to make it.
The angels swooped in behind the weary athletes. At first just walking, the pace quickened as the finisher chute came into view. Mission accomplished. The angels circled back to their post with time to spare.
Carried in on angel wings
They flew up and down that last kilometer. More than a few exhausted athletes found a second wind on their wings.
The crowd roared each time finish line announcer Jacques Galarneau shouted out into the darkness: You. Are. An. Ironman.
William Thompson, an orthopedic surgeon in Poughkeepsie, New York made it in. His wife Lauren had finished earlier that evening. As she placed the finisher medal on her husband’s neck, she was certain the angels were divine intervention.
With just a few minutes on the clock, the angels flew in Andres Torres. The Columbian finished his 12th Ironman that night, despite experiencing hyponatremia 130 km into the bike course.
And then the angels found one more. The angelic words were no longer whispered – they were shouted, “you are almost there, run.”
As they came into view, Galarneau cried out one last time “here come the angels… they’ve got a runner!”
The crowd erupted as Atul Singh gave it his all. In one last frenzied sprint he crossed the finish line with less than one minute to spare. The final finisher of the final Ironman Mont-Tremblant.
A resident of Princton Junction, New Jersey, Singh had a broad smile as he held his finisher medal.
“I may be the most awestruck Ironman ever,” he said. “It was a huge privilege to be with my fellow warriors on that difficult course and to have been supported by friends and family through it all. Thank you Ironman. Thank you Mont-Tremblant. And, thank you Ironman angels.”
Cathy Bergman is a four-time finisher of Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant 70.3 and was honoured to don a pair of white feathered wings for the last run of the Ironman Mont-Tremblant angels.