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Sulong PinoyIronman Mont-Tremblant finishers

by Norman Aceron Garcia

  Triathletes Melody Balane and Murray Vanderpont
Triathletes Melody Balane and Murray Vanderpont
    Triathletes Murray Vanderpont and Melody Balane

Let’s us meet fellow Winnipeggers Melody Balane and Murray Vanderpont, who recently accomplished the Ironman race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) held in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec on August 20, 2016.

How did they get into triathlon?

Melody’s triathlon career began went she decided to see Coach Wanda Mathers to learn how to swim back in the winter of 2011, when she was 41 years old. She quickly found out that in order to work with Wanda, she had to agree to aspire to become a triathlete. Wanda knew that Mel had a strong background in running and martial arts – the perfect candidate for triathlon.

Murray decided to give triathlon a go after watching triathlon during the Pan-Am Games held in Winnipeg in 1999. That was coupled with turning 40 in 2000 and noticing a lack of fitness and increasing pant size. Having always been a swimmer, and having enjoyed running in the Manitoba marathon relay, it seemed like an interesting and exciting road to better fitness.

What made you decide to take on Ironman Mont-Tremblant?

This was a joint decision by both of us. Having done the Ironman distance race of 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and 42.2 km run at Challenge Penticton in 2014 together, and having heard so many excellent reports about the race from other triathletes, we decided to visit Mont-Tremblant during the 2015 race as volunteers. We fell in love with the race venue. So after spending several days checking out the course and taking the pulse of the community, plus full day of our vacation volunteering in the transition tents, we signed up as competitors for 2016.

What were your specific preparations for the race?

We built a training program around the workouts available through Manitoba Masters Aquatic Club, and other bike workouts available from various triathlon clubs. With the help of coach and trainer Fern McIver, we developed a 24-week workout plan that provided specific workouts six days per week, with a steady build towards race day. Through the winter off-season 2015-16 we attended regular strength training sessions, Master’s swims, track workouts at Max Bell, indoor bike trainer workouts with two triathlon clubs and yoga on occasion. We also were very disciplined to warm up before our workout and stretch for 15 or more minutes afterwards. We also made efforts to maintain good nutrition by eating home prepared meals, and by limiting our intake of junk food, baked goods and alcohol. The other preparation was to try as much as sleep as possible in our busy lives.

How was your performance overall in Ironman Mont-Tremblant?

Because we had chosen to run the race together, our finish time was the same, 14 hours. We were thrilled with this result as it is almost 60 minutes quicker than the same distance race we completed together in Penticton in 2014. However, because we did the race together, we could not maximize our personal performances. Murray started his swim with the men +50 age group six minutes ahead of Mel who started with the women 40-49 group. Thus Murray waited for Mel in the swim to bike transition. Mel on the other hand had incredible energy for the run and could easily have done the marathon much faster than her run time indicated. However, we stuck to the plan as team M&M and finished together.

How do you manage your time between

working full-time and training for the Ironman?

The two critical things to have firmly established are: being fully committed to the goal of completing an Ironman and having a reasonable training plan, detailed day by day that you are committed to follow as closely as possible. It is all about discipline to follow the plan and being firm in your self understanding that you want to do this thing and are prepared make the daily decisions necessary to move you closer to your goal. It is also very important that you communicate to family, friends and your employer that you are training for Ironman. They need to understand how important this is to you.

What’s your most indispensable gear?

This is a difficult question because triathlon is very “gear” oriented. But if forced to choose, Mel and Murray agree the bike is number one. The race involves riding 180 km distance. This takes most riders between six and nine hours to complete. If you don’t like (maybe that should be “love”) your bike, the sport could be rather joyless. Training involves about 10 long rides in excess of 100 km. This is on top of two shorter rides per week for 24 weeks, plus indoor sessions all winter each lasting a minimum of 1 hour. So, you spend an awful lot of time on your bike. It works best if you have a truly “loving” relationship with your bike. A close second is the wetsuit. A good wetsuit helps you look forward to those 60 minute and longer open water swims. The wetsuit keeps you safe and comfortable. And frankly, most of us look better in our wetsuits than we do in our swimsuits. Everyone looks awesome in a wet suit.

What’s your favourite workout?

Both Mel and I agree that any group workouts make our favourite list. While training for Ironman Mont Tremblant, we had the privilege of training with many other triathletes including several Sulong members. These triathletes kept us motivated, inspired and laughing. Winnipeg has a tremendously inviting, inclusive and supportive triathlon community.

Norman is a member of Sulong Triathlon Group. For more information, please visit our website at and like us on Facebook at Sulong Triathlon Group.