Friday, October 26, 2012

Hawaii Ironman World Championship 2012 Race Report - October 13, 2012

Race Details:
3.8K Swim
180K Bike
42.2K Run

A bit overdue, but with all the post race vacation activities and travelling back to Canada, I just really didn't have the time to get this done in a timely manner.

We arrived in Kona on October 3rd, after a long travel day from Toronto.   When arriving in Hawaii, we were met by Brian Keast and Kim Fabian who are also from the Waterloo area.   It was nice to see some familiar faces so far from home!

I could go on and on about all the pre race activities and events, but if you are reading this blog you likely have seen much of it on the internet through Facebook, Twitter, etc. and already know how big and crazy it is.   All I can say is that the race week totally lives up to all the hype.   We arrived a full 9 days before the race and the time went by lightening quick!   There was so much to do and see, it was great.

That being said, I made sure to get a few quality workouts in leading up to the race and tried to take it easy and not get all caught up in the craziness.   I certainly didn't think that I did too much and I felt like I went into race day pretty well rested.

We (the family) had been getting up a lot earlier than normal all week before the race, so getting up at 3:45 race morning did not prove to be very difficult.  I had a decent enough sleep and was ready to get the show on the road.

I did my normal pre race routine of some coffee, half a bagel and some oatmeal and we headed down to the pier about 4:30 am, as it was going to be a bit crazy trying to find a place to park.   In the end, Deanna dropped me off and she went and parked the van while I did my thing in transition.

Upon arriving, I followed the bodies of athletes to body marking and then over to the transition area.   I made a quick stop at the Vaseline and sunscreen station to get lubed up.   As it turns out, using body glide or Vaseline is super important when swimming in a swimskin in salt water.   I learned this the first time in the ocean.   The rubbing is twice as bad in salt water compared to fresh water.   Just going into the race I had burn/rubbing marks in all kinds of spots from the practice swims.   I made sure to put a substantial amount of lube and body glide in these spots prior to getting in the water.

Once in transition, I got the bike all prepared and ready for action and then met Deanna and the kids just outside the transition zone to give her my pump and a few other things.   After some hugs and kisses from the kids, I made my way over to the swim start entrance, as this typically gets busy fast.   Sitting near the start, we all watched the male and female pro’s go off.   I also had a nice chat with Harriet Anderson, an athlete that has previously been profiled on the NBC airing of the race.   As it turns out, she ended up being the last finisher in this year’s race, finishing just under the 17 hour mark with only 30 seconds to spare or so.

Once the male and female pro’s were off, all of the AG athletes made their way down into the water.   I got in early, and actually met up with Chris Kraemer, also from Waterloo, as we made our way over to the pier wall to hang out for a bit before jumping in the water.

A short bit later, we headed out to the start line to wait for the start.   Chris and I swam out to one of the outrigger kayaks and hung on to it so we didn't have to tread water the whole time.   When we were hanging on to the kayak, we saw Brian Keast also hanging on to the same one, so we chatted a bit.  With about 5 or 10 minutes to the start, we got off the kayak and made our way over to the start line.   It was then that I saw Peter Buehlow from Bright for the first time.  What a coincidence!

We were all over to the left hand side of the start, but not too far from the front really, as the starting area really did seem pretty spread out.   Eventually, we all heard GO GO GO and we all started swimming.   I hadn't heard the cannon yet, but after a few short seconds, it went off and the race was ON!

I wanted to swim pretty hard for the first few hundred meters to hopefully get on some faster feet.   I pretty much swam as fast as I could, but maybe not as hard as I could, as there wasn’t a lot of space to move around.   I wouldn't say the contact was anything worse than any other race, but what was different here, was that the congestion stayed throughout most of the swim.   Unlike other races where the field eventually spreads out, there was only minimal spreading out in this race.   Despite that, I never found it to be too bad.  

The swim out to the first turn buoy didn’t seem nearly as long as it did when Chris, Brian, Kim and I did it a week or so before the race.   It didn’t come quick, but eventually I made it out there and around both the first and second turn buoys and headed for home.  

On the swim back, I felt quite comfortable and just tried to stay in a draft all the way.   If I had to guess, the second part of the swim was quicker than the first, and I actually thought my time might actually be a bit over an hour.   Therefore, I was a bit surprised to see 1:09 on my Garmin when I finally stood up to get out of the water.   Wow I thought to myself, that swim “seemed” quicker than that.   Nevertheless, I made my way up the stairs, through the fresh water hoses (which felt great to get the salt water off me) and then through the bike bags and into the change tent.

I was contemplating whether I’d spend the time to put on calf sleeves and arm coolers, but in the end, I decided to just skip them and leave them in my swim to bike bag.   Since we were allowed to have our shoes and helmet on our bikes, I really didn’t have anything to get out of my bag.   I just had to get my swimskin off and put it, and my goggles and swim cap in the bag and run to my bike, but not before getting rubbed down with a good amount of sunscreen by one of the many great volunteers on the day.   In the end, T1 took 3:36, which I figured wasn’t too bad given how far we had to actually run around to get to our bikes.

Onto the bike, we had to make our way up Palani to the “hot” corner before turning left and doing a short block around town, before coming back down Palani to the Kuakini Hwy out and back section.   It was very important to be extra careful here, as everyone was pumped up and just letting go on the bike.  It was easy to get carried away with all the excitement, especially due to the fact that at this point, everyone feels great and fresh.   I didn’t really have any issues, except one guy who yelled at me for not calling out “On your left” when I passed him.   It’s not like it was even close or if he had to move, so I’m not sure what he was getting all excited about.  I wasn’t about to do that every time unless it was necessary.

Eventually, we made our way back to Palani and the nasty little climb up to the Queen K where the real meat and potatoes of the bike would begin.   Once on the Queen K, and heading out of town, things seemed to be going along really well.   I felt great and was flying along apparently with a nice tailwind helping us out.   Unlike Tremblant, where I was flying past riders for the first 30K, here, EVERYONE is fast and passing people took a bit more effort.   I was closely watching my power, and as normal, it was a bit high at the start, which it normally is, so I thought that was ok.   I think that might have come back to hurt me later on, as matches burned early in this race, have a habit of hurting you later.

Also during this stretch, there were definitely times in which I found myself in some packs and forced to unintentionally be drafting.   When you get in a group of 20 riders or so, all not willing to back off that much, this is going to happen.   There were plenty of marshals out on the course and I saw my fair share of drafting penalties being handed out, so the officials were doing everything they could to keep things on the up and up.

Much Drafting?

A few of the packs I got caught up in (3rd from left)

Once we hit Waikoloa at about 40K, things seemed to spread out pretty good and my average power was about 258 with an average speed of about 38.5 kph.   My nutrition plan was the same as Tremblant, which meant a normal concentrate Infinite up front in my aerodrink and two bottles of 2x concentrate on my bike.   I’d say I finished the first normal concentrate in about 40 minutes, so that gives you a bit of indication how much fluid I was taking in.   

The aid stations were plentiful on the course with lots of fluids and other snacks.   I basically took a water at every one and if the bottle I was tossing wasn’t empty, I’d empty it on me to keep cool.   One lesson I did learn that day though was that I need to use a different water bottle holder on my frame.   The one I was using (and have used before) opens to the side to make it easy to get water out.   However , the opening was too big to properly hold the water bottles they were handing out on the course, as they would fall right out.   As a result, I was forced to store all my water bottles behind my saddle in my rear hydration carrier.   This was less than ideal, but I dealt with it nonetheless.   Throughout the ride, I would also supplement with some gels, bananas and the odd Bonk Breaker bar as I felt like it.  Under normal conditions, the Infinite would be close to enough, but these weren’t normal conditions, so I made sure to take on enough calories, as long as my body was feeling up to it.

Once off the Queen K we flew down into Kawaihae where we would begin our long climb up to Hawi.  The ride down to Kawaihae was super fast and fun, but it was clear we would pay for that later in the day.   I actually hit my fastest speed on this descent going 73.3kph at one point.   Climbing up to Hawi was tough, as the wind was very strong at this point, and pretty much a dead headwind into us.   It was at this point that Chris Kramer passed me.   He looked like he was riding well, so I didn’t even both attempting to stay with him.   Despite that, during the climb to Hawi, I likely passed more riders than those that passed me.   Once at the top, I made my way around the turnaround and headed back to town.

Often the wind in the descent from Hawi can be very tricky, as it normally comes from the side, but during our race, it was mostly a tailwind heading downhill, so we were flying.  I hit a max speed of 69kph at one point, and actually set a new 5K lap record of 5 minutes and 21 seconds with an average speed of 56kph during this descent.

Things were going along pretty well as we headed back to Kawaihae and the Queen K, but I began to notice a bit of tiredness starting to kick in as we made the long climb up from Kawaihae to get back on the Queen K.   I was hoping that it was just due to the long uphill, but as I began to head back along the Queen K, I noticed the power beginning to drop despite what still felt like a good deal of effort.   By this time, my average power had come down to about 240, which I thought was totally reasonable, given my 249 average power in Tremblant for the whole race.   This however, was NOT Tremblant, it was Kona, and it was HOT.   If fact, the average temperature according to my Garmin 500 for the ride was 34 degrees celsius.

Yah, not a bad place to ride your bike!

So at this point on the Queen K with about 50K left in the race, things started to get a bit dark.    We were all facing a pretty stiff cross/headwind coming in off the ocean that was really slowing the pace down.   With the wind and the net uphill throughout this section, the average speed for the next 40K was only just over 30kph.   I was getting passed by lot’s of riders throughout this section, which only proved what I already knew, that I was getting pretty tired.   Not a good feeling given what was left on the bike and of course a marathon still to run.

With about 40K to go in the bike, I actually ran out of Infinite, which is the first time this has ever happened in any race I’ve done.   I grabbed some Powerbar Perform and some Coke at the next few aid stations to keep the fluids coming in.

Eventually, I reached the airport, where it was a bit of a downhill back to transition.   I actually started feeling a bit better at this point as I watched some of the lead male racers making their run out to the Energy Lab.   They were already 20-25K into the run!

I finally made it back to T2 with a bike time of 5:16, a full 10 minutes slower than Tremblant.    I handed my bike off to another one of the great volunteers and again made the long run around transition to grab my run bag and get into the change tent.   

Hawaii Ironman 2012 Garmin Bike Data

I grabbed a chair and started pulling my gear out when the lid to my salt container fell off and I had to pick up all my salt pills.   Oh well, at this point, I had pretty much given up on any sort of time goal and just wanted to keep things in check.   I had some more sunscreen put on me and grabbed a few cups of Perform before heading out on the marathon.   T2 took a leisurely 4:12.

Right off the bat on the marathon, we had to start running up Palani.   The lower section isn’t too bad, but it’s still a hill.   I surprisingly didn’t feel as bad as I thought I would for the first few K of the run as we made our way through town and back to Alli drive and past Lava Java out to the turn-around.    

At about the 3K mark of the run, I ran past our condo where Deanna and the kids were hanging out.   It was great to see them and I gave the kids a bit of a high five.   

Under non race conditions, running here was amazing!

Some parts of Alli Drive out in the sun were smoking hot, as you don’t get much wind to help cool things down.   Pretty much from the first aid station, I was stuffing sponges in my shirt and squeezing water on my head. 

With about 1K to the turnaround, I saw Jeff Beech and not far behind him Chris Kraemer coming back.  I figured I was at least 10 minutes behind Chris at this point, but given how I was feeling, I had no idea if I could even make that up.   Eventually I hit the turnaround and started running back towards town.

Up to this point, I was pretty much just walking through the aid stations to make sure I got what I needed, but on the return trip to town is when I think I gave up a bit mentally, and started walking whenever I just felt too tired.   The closer I got to town, the more frequent this would become.   It was never for long stretches, but it was beginning to happen more and more.   I eventually made my way back past the condo where Deanna and the kids were still camped out.   I tried to put on a happy face, but I don't think I was feeling too "happy" at that point!

With the additional crowd support in town, I think I managed to run all the way back to Palani which seemed like a mountain to climb at this point.   It was tough to run up that hill during my stand alone training run, so I knew there was no way I was going to make it all the way up during the race without walking.   I pretty much ran for 10 seconds and walked for 5 seconds until I reached the top and the Queen K again.

The Queen K and Energy Lab section of the run is often said to be the hottest part, as there is absolutely zero shade to be had once you were up there, but at least the wind was still blowing, so that provided some degree of comfort.   I actually never thought to myself that I was really hot out there, just totally tired as hell!

On the way out to the Energy Lab, was back and forth with a bunch of people.   I’d jump ahead when I was running and they’d catch up when I walked.    Chrissie Wellington gave me some words of encouragement at one point that picked my spirits up, but overall, at this point, I was suffering and just kept thinking of getting to the finish line.

I finally reached the Energy Lab which was a nice downhill into a bit of a breeze.   I saw Jeff and Chris again as I made my way out to the turnaround point, and it was clear that I hadn’t made up any time on them and in fact, I was pretty sure I was losing time.   I made the turn and was now officially heading back to town and the finish line, despite the fact that it was still about 14K away.   I passed the special needs station, and athletes were grabbing stuff that I wish I had packed away.   If I get here again, I’m definitely packing a Red Bull in my run special needs and likely something else to eat too, as I was sick of gels at this point and had probably already had the equivalent of 4 cans of coke.

I finally got back up the hill out of the Energy Lab and was now on the Queen K again heading for home.   Not too long after this, Peter Buehlow passed me and we talked for a short bit before he ran ahead.   By now, I was playing games with myself, as running was becoming very uncomfortable.  So much so, my form was becoming very inefficient, as I battled with fatigue and cramping in my quads and calfs.  On the way home, I was picking targets or signs to run to before taking a little break.   It was like “OK, run to that yellow sign up the road and then we’ll take a short break” or “OK, let’s run 10 telephone poles and then we’ll walk one of them”.   Whatever would keep me moving was what I would do.

When I made it to the 23 mile marker and with only 5K to go on the run, I decided to take a short walk and my legs completely locked up.   My entire leg from my foot to my hip was totally seized up.   I couldn’t walk or even move hardly.   At that point, I spent at least 2 minutes working this out while people continued to run on by.   After a bit of stretching and squatting I was able to walk, then eventually jog again.

Luckily, it didn’t happen again, and I finally reached the top of Palani and it was almost all downhill from there to the finish line.   

It should be noted that for almost the entire run, I totally ignored my Garmin and didn’t care what my splits were or anything, as I knew it would just be totally disappointing.   However, with a few K to go, I started looking at my watch to make sure I got in under 10:30.   Running along Kuakini Hwy, I knew it was going to be pretty close, but I really wanted a strong (relative at this point) finish, so I tried to pick up the pace a bit as I made the turn off Kuakini onto Hualaliai Rd and eventually Alli Drive again for the final few hundred meters to the finish line.

I was at least able to think straight enough to try and get ahead of a few people to ensure that I got a nice clean finish shot at the line, so with about 100m left, I made my way past 2 other guys and luckily I had the finish line all to myself where I raised my hands in the air and was super thankful just to be done.   The crowds at the finish were amazing, but unfortunately, I didn’t spend much time hanging out, as the volunteers quickly funnelled everyone over to the recovery area.

I finished the run with a very disappointing time of 3:54:49, which is well off the pace that I felt I was capable of doing.   This basically completely took away any shot I had at going sub 10, which was the only “goal” I had there.   In the end, I finished in 10:29, which I guess is still a respectable Ironman time, but just not what I was hoping for.  
The whole experience from race week to the race itself was truly amazing, and I definitely want to come back at some point.

After getting a massage and 3 bottles of chocolate milk and bit of food, I exited and started looking for my family.   I eventually connected up with them and then got all my gear out of transition before making the long walk back the van.  

The finish line area was crazy busy and I really wasn’t feeling much like hanging out at that point, so we headed back to the condo.   I still wasn’t feeling very hungry and going to sleep didn’t work out so well once again after an Ironman.    I eventually got up and logged onto the computer to watch the final finishers online and finally grab something to eat.

The next day, we checked out of our condo in town and drove up to Waikoloa for 4 nights which was a nice change of scenery.   It was great to just chill out and hang with the family with no expectations of training or working out.   It was purely rest and recovery at this point.

So for next year, I think I might set my sights on a 70.3 Worlds qualification and head to Vegas, I just need to find a good qualifying event.  I’m thinking Syracuse??   We’ll see.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report – August 19, 2012

Race Details:
3.8K Swim
180K Bike
42.2K Run

I tend to have a habit of going into some of these race reports in a bit too much detail, and it take me days to find the time to get it done.   I’m going to do my best here to cover the day and how it unfolded in a bit more of an abbreviated fashion.

My entire family, as well as my wife Deanna’s parents travelled up to Mont Tremblant super early Thursday morning.   We had a really nice condo close to the swim start that met all of our race needs quite nicely, including a full kitchen.   The only downside were the 3 flights of stairs to get to the condo.   Not a big deal most days, but after the race, it was a bit troublesome.

In the few days leading up to the race, I did the usual race stuff like register, check out the expo and a bit of training.   Steve Good from Waterloo was also staying in the same condo units, so we did a few 25-30 minute practice swims together.

On the day before the race, I got out for a few quick sessions in all three disciplines.   About a 10 minute swim, a 20 minute bike and a 15 minute run.   After that, I got all my transition bags ready and did the bike and gear check-in in the morning.   In the afternoon, I took it pretty easy back at the condo getting in one last NormaTec session and just laid low.  

I had a bit of an early dinner at 5:30 which was some pasta, salad and half a bagel.   By 9pm, I was in bed with the alarm set for 4am, as the transition zone opened up at 5am.

Of course, I didn’t even need my alarm and was wide awake at 3:50am race morning.   I quickly made some oatmeal, had half a bagel and a banana with a cup of coffee.    By 4:45 I was out the door and making the “longish” walk over to the village and the transition zone for body marking and my final bike setup.

They started body marking a bit early and I got that done quickly and began setting up my bike.   Everything was going very smoothly and quickly, until I ran into an issue pumping up my front tire.   I pumped it up, then did the back and checked the front again and it was flat…..ahhhh…..not good!!    I pumped it up again and it very quickly didn’t hold air.  

I had to drop my cycle shoes off in the change tent, so I went and did that and came back, so I could calm myself down.   Once back to my bike, I played around with the valve extender and tried again.   This time, it appeared to be holding air.   I did the rest of the stuff on my bike (bottles, GPS, etc.) and checked again, and it was still good.   I gave it another 10 minutes to make sure, and sure enough, it was still holding air!   After that, I got out of transition, as it was starting to get busy and went back to the condo to get my wetsuit on and head to the swim start.

Back at the condo, everyone was up now so I got my suit on, took in a bit more fluids, chatted a bit and grabbed my goggles, swim cap and timing chip and left for the beach, only 100m or so away from our condo.

The swim start area was filling up quickly, so I dropped off my sandals in the morning clothes bag and headed to the beach.   Unfortunately, they weren’t allowing anyone to warm up, which kinda sucked, but I guess we were all in the same boat.

Shortly before the pros took off, a fighter jet flew by, and then just before we started, it flew by again the other direction.   Pretty cool, but I thought the Snow Birds for the 70.3 was better.

I managed to find a lot of my swimming buddies from KW at the swim start and we situated ourselves more or less on the left hand side, near the front.   I was thinking to myself “Great, OK, let’s stay on these guys feet, especially Bob Dawson, who is a strong swimmer”   Well, unfortunately when the race started, it was absolute chaos as expected and it was purely just survival.   I really wasn’t in much control of the direction I was heading, other than forward.

Swim Start

Another view of the Swim Start

I’d say by 400m into the race, it had calmed down, but unfortunately, I think I was pushed about 30-40 meters to the right.   When I started, I was likely 60 meters from the buoy line, but now I was like 15-20.   Oh well, carry on I thought.   Here's a cool video of the swim start so you can get an idea of what it was like:

By now, I was just following feet and swimming VERY easy.   I knew it was easy because of the draft.   I pulled out a few times to check the effort level, and sure enough, I likely could have gone around the guy or girl I was following with some effort, but I was happy enough to just sit in and cruise along.

At one point I remember thinking we were going out forever, as every buoy seemed to be yellow, but finally, we reached the first red turn buoy and I easily made my way around it, 5 or so meters on the outside.

From here on in to the next turn buoy and the final finish home down the other side, I just kept the draft going, and very comfortably cruised to the swim exit.  

When I stood up, I took a quick look on my watch and it was 1:03 something, which was OK, but I was hoping for more like 1:02.   Whatever, there’s still tonnes of racing ahead.   My official swim time was 1:04:13 good for 52nd overall in my AG and 277th overall in the race.   Nothing to write home about, but I felt great and made the long run to the first transition zone.

The LONG run to transition

When I got to the change tent, there were plenty of available seats still and lot’s of support from great volunteers.   I quickly got my wetsuit off, put my sunglasses and helmet on and grabbed my shoes and was off to my bike.   Instead of putting my shoes on in the tent and running with them, I carried them to my bike and put them on there.   I think that saved me a bit of time and decreased the chance of wiping out while running in them.   It was a bit cool in the morning and a lot of people were using arm warmers and toe covers, but I didn’t bother and about 20 minutes into the bike,  I knew that was the right decision.

Once at my bike, I did a quick check of my front tire and was very happy to see it still fully inflated.   I got my shoes on, grabbed my bike and was off!   T1 took 5:06, which wasn’t too bad given the crowds and how far we had to run.

My nutrition plan on the bike was similar to what I did at IM Austria last year.   Start with a normal concentrate Infinite in my aerodrink, a double concentrate bottle on the downtube and a double concentrate bottle in my rear hydration.   At the first aid station, I’d empty my downtube double concentrate into my aerodrink and begin grabbing water at aid stations to supplement.   Throughout the ride, I would supplement that nutrition with some gels, honey stinger waffles and bananas at the aid stations.   I had no issues with this all day, and it worked out great.   I also had a total of 9 salt stick pills on my bike that I would take throughout the course of the ride, about one every half hour.

I knew going into the bike that I really had to back off the watts, compared to what I did in the half back in June.   There I had over 300 watts for the first bit on the bike before averaging with 275 for the total ride.   That wasn’t going to work today.

For the first 30 minutes of the ride, and as we made our way out to 117, my watts were likely close to 260 or so, which I thought was still too high, however, the effort level didn’t seem too bad at all.   Eventually, I let that come down a bit, but surprisingly not much.

I felt really comfortable on the bike and was making my way past a lot of other riders.   After the cool section in St. Jovite and back on Montee Ryan, I managed to hook up with Chris Kraemer from Waterloo, a strong cyclist.   I rode with him back to transition and through the Lac Superieur section of the course, but once we finished the first leg of the bike, he began pulling away at bit.   I ended up riding the first half in about 2:31 with an avg. power of 255.   I knew I had to ease off a bit more on the second lap.

By the time I was back out on 117 for the second time, the race had really spread out.   I think I might have only passed one or two riders from the time I went speeding down the big downhill on 117 until I made my way back to it which was about 25K in total.   After the turn-around on 117 on the second loop, the wind had really picked up, and I was riding this part totally solo.

I finally caught Jeff Beech, also from Waterloo at the big hill on 117, and continued to pass a few more riders now as we made our way into St. Jovite and the large crowds for the second time.   I knew of a few riders that remained up the road at this point, and I passed by Ed Cyr and Scott Dickie, also from Waterloo, as they were making their way back to transition on the final lap of the bike.

Once on Montee Ryan for the second time, I caught up to Scott and we rode together for a little bit until I pulled away just past the huge crowds around the transition zone.  

I rode the Lac Superieur section a bit easier this time, and tried not to fry the legs too much.   After finally reaching the turn-around point here, I knew the hard work on the bike was essentially over, as we got to fly back down the hills to transition.   I kept the cadence high on this return trip to get the legs ready for the run.

Checking my garmin data, I rode the second half of the bike just over 2:35 with an avg. power of 239.   I finished the ride with a total time of 5:06:36 with an avg. power of 249 and feeling pretty good.   The ride was good for 7th best in my AG and 30th overall in the race and I had moved up to 8th in my AG overall for the race.

Once off my bike, I handed it over to another one of the great volunteers at the race and quickly made my way to the change tent again to get ready for the run.   I think someone yelled out before I got off the bike that I was about 33rd overall in the race at this point, so there was obviously no crowding going on in the change tent at this time of day.   Once again, the great volunteers in the change tent helped me with by T2 bag and in no time, I had my socks and shoes on and was ready for the run.   I decided to carry a large salt stick dispenser with me on the run which had 6 salt capsules in it.   I figured I’d take one every half hour or so.   I carried nothing else and would take something from every aid station that I passed.

As I crossed over the timing mat to start the run, the crowds were cheering and since there wasn’t anyone else around, it was all for me.   Very cool and motivating way to start a marathon!  

At this point, there were only two athletes that I knew up ahead of me.   Chris Kraemer, who had a killer bike ride and Ed Cyr, who had a great swim and followed it up with a very solid bike ride as well.

I was feeling pretty good at this point, and just focused on being as efficient and smooth as possible to minimize any fatigue on the run.   As I passed by the condo resort we were staying at, I got a closer glimpse of my family who was there cheering.   My oldest son was on the sidewalk and he came over and gave me a high five as I passed.   I was also told that I was about 4 minutes down on Chris.

Getting a supporting High 5 from Holden

I kind of had the run broken into sections.   Obviously, since it was a two loop course, we’d deal with each loop at a time.   Within each loop, I broke it into two parts.   The section out to the P’tit du Nord railway trail, and then the trail itself.   Going to and from the trail is the hardest part of the course, as there are some nice little hills to deal with (both down and up).

My plan was to try and run close to 4:30 kilometers as long as I was feeling ok, and this was pretty much what I did through the first 5K over to the railway trail section, when I looked at my Garmin and it showed a 4:27 avg. pace.     Once on the trail, I caught my first glimpse of Ed Cyr a couple of hundred meters up the trail.   I tried to stay as smooth and comfortable as I could and I finally caught him at about the 8K mark.   We had a few words as I passed and then carried on with Kraemer as my next goal up ahead.

I didn’t see Chris until we nearly got to the turn-around point at the end of the trail.   I passed by him as he was on his way back and he was looking comfortable.   I made my way around the turn and through the aid station that was there and headed back.   Chris was maybe 200m ahead at this point, and I finally managed to track him down by about the 11K marker.   We said a few things which I don’t remember at that point, and off I went, with nobody else ahead of me that I knew.

As I headed back on the trail, I passed by many of the other racers from the KW area.   The Team Energi triathlon team had a big turnout at this race and I saw lot’s of them on the course.

Eventually, I got off the trail and back on the streets (and hills) and headed for the village area.   Heading back, there were lots of racers on the course now, and as I passed by our condo for the second time, I got another glimpse of the family and was able to give both my kids a high/low five, which was great!  

I finally made it back to the village area and the huge crowds that lined the run course along the pedestrian village.   There weren't many racers at this point finishing their first loop on the run, so most of the cheering was all for me again.    The crowd was huge and loud and it was a great feeling as I started my second loop.   After going through the timing mat, I checked my watch and my pace was still on about 4:30 and a total time of about 1:35 for the run.   That was great to see.

As I exited the village area, I passed by Chris again, as he was making his way into the village.  I figured I was at least 5-10 minutes ahead at this point.   

Now on the second loop, the course was significantly busier, as I was passing people who were on their first loop of the run course.   It was good that there were always people out there, but it made it difficult a bit on the trail and at some of the aid stations.

I eventually passed by our condo and family for a third time, and picked up a bit of extra motivation from the kids and other supporters that were there.

I was certainly feeling a lot more fatigued at this point, and I did begin walking through some of the aid stations to make sure I got what I needed and took that short little “break”.   Eventually, I was back on the rail trail and was in the thick of things with runners.   Sometimes it was hard to get around people with runners coming the other way too.   When I made it to the 30K marker in about 2:17 I remember telling myself…ok, almost there…a simple 12K run…you do this all the time!....yah right!

After making the final turn-around point at the end of the trail, it was time to head for home.   I started to employ a strategy of running from kilometer marker to kilometer marker and when I hit it, I did a short 10-15m walking break where I would stretch out my arms, which were also beginning to get tight.   In addition, my hamstrings felt like they were on the verge of cramping, but luckily they never did.

Finally, I got off the trail and back on the road, where there continued to be tonnes of crowd support and other racers to keep me moving along.  The uphills seemed especially hard now and the downhills almost as equally hard.   Everything was beginning to hurt, but I knew I only had about 5 more K to go and I was in such a good spot in the race.   My avg. pace actually dropped from 4:35 at 30K to 4:40 at 38K, so things were starting to slow down.

I finally made it up and over that last hill before the village (which at this point seemed like a mountain) and before I knew it, I was entering the narrow running chute of the pedestrian village.   Again, there was a bit of traffic here with people finishing their first loop, so I had to navigate my way through this section carefully.

When I entered the finish line chute all by myself, the crowd erupted and I was so excited to see the finish line!  I ran up to hear Mike Reilly call me an Ironman and I raised my arms in excitement and RELIEF!!!  

I checked the clock and it read 9:44 something, but I was quickly told this was the pro race time, and my time was actually 10 minutes faster, so 9:34 and change!!   Oh yah, I was happy!!

My final run time was 3:17:06, good for the 6th fastest run in my AG and 20th fastest in the entire race.   My second run lap was about 12 minutes slower than the first, but that’s not terrible I guess, as I still got the job done!

At this point, I wasn’t sure how I’d done overall, but after grabbing a bit of food and getting a massage I ran into Deanna and she told me that I finished 2nd in my AG.   This was later changed to 3rd in my AG and 15th overall once the results got updated.   Either way, I was super happy with that, and that meant one thing!!!   KONA SPOT BABY!!!   YAHHHHHH!!   I decided to take my spot so the I'm off to Kona on October 3rd to race on October 13th.   It's going to be amazing!

None of this would have happened with the amazing support of my wife Deanna, who endured the weekend long rides and runs while looking after the kids.   She's been amazing throughout this whole journey.

I'd also like to thank the "Waterloo Guys (and Kim)" for the group support on the hard swim and bike sessions that we've done.   I'm also very thankful to have a great running partner in Darryl Huras from New Hamburg.   We've done plenty of long runs all winter, spring and summer to get ready for the hard work that comes at the end of the Ironman event.   I think the work I put in on the running over the last year really paid off in this race.

After the race, I ran into the race winner, Guillame Romaine from France in the village.  I certainly have a few inches on him!!   But he's got the speed!

Well, time to get back at it.   Kona is only 7 weeks away!   Wow!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mont Tremblant 70.3 Race Report - June 24, 2012

Race Details:
1.9K Swim
90K Bike
21.1K Run

I must say, sometimes I even surprise myself.   That about sums up this race.   It wasn’t a big priority race, as I wasn’t looking to take a world championship spot, but I did feel like I wanted to put forth a good effort and see how well training has been coming along.   I’m happy to report that it has been coming along well.

The race was on Sunday, June 24th in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, about 7-8 hours from home.   On Thursday, June 21st, I and two other Waterloo athletes, Scott Hamilton and Scott Dickie started our long journey to Tremblant.   We left after dinner on Thursday and our plan was to drive about half way there before stopping for the evening somewhere and finishing the drive up on Friday morning. 

It was a lot slower than expected going through Toronto (even at 8pm at night) so we didn’t get to Kingston until around 11pm where we decided to stop.   After checking a bunch of hotels and driving all over the place, we finally checked into the Peachtree hotel.   It was cheap and basic, but good enough. 

Friday morning, we got up, had some breakfast, stopped at Tim’s and were on the road by 8am or so.   We finally arrived in Tremblant a bit before noon and checked in.   Luckily, our condo was ready, so we immediately went there and unpacked all of our gear.   It met our needs nicely, despite the fact there wasn’t any air conditioning.   It had two bedrooms.   One had two single beds and the other a king.   The guys let me have the king (maybe for doing the entire drive up there!), so that was cool.   It was also only a short downhill walk to the transition zone, which turned out to be great race morning.

Once unpacked (except our bikes), we headed down to the race site to get a bit of exercise in and freshen up our legs from the long commute.   We drove down with our bikes and parked near transition.   All of us then grabbed our swim stuff and headed to the lake to check it out and get a practice swim in.    It was a bit windy on Friday and the lake had some good chop going on.   Despite that, we likely got a decent 1K or so swim in.   The water was quite warm and we really didn’t need our wetsuits to stay warm, but of course, we’d be racing in them, so we were going to wear them. 

After the swim, we made the walk from the swim exit to the transition zone to see what that was going to be like.   It’s a pretty long hike, but not nearly as long as Muskoka. 

After that, we got our bikes out of the van, and headed out on a 15-20K ride to make sure everything was working fine, and to see a bit of the course.   Most of the roads were freshly paved, so this was very very nice!  Riding on smooth roads is so much more enjoyable.   We rode out to the main roundabout at Chemin du Village and Montee Ryan and came back. 

The rest of the day consisted of checking out the expo, athlete registration and driving to St. Jovite to get some groceries.   The condo had a full kitchen, so rather than eating out, we ate all of our meals in.   This worked out perfect and allowed us all to eat what we felt comfortable with.  It was finally time to crash Friday night, and sleep came easily! 

On Saturday, Scott D and I did a bit more light training with another swim, ride and short run.   We also hung out a bit at the expo, and even managed to get a bit of pre race ART which felt really good.   We also took a gondola ride to the top of the ski hill.   The views from the top were amazing!  Other than that, we just laid low in the condo and all took turns using Scott H’s NormaTec recovery boots which felt awesome!   This might definitely be my next big purchase!

The view from the top of the mountain

All the bikes ready to roll in transition

Eventually dinner time arrived and we all made some food.   I had some whole wheat pasta and salad and felt well fueled.   Around 9:30pm, we all decided to shut it down.   I read for a bit before drifting off to sleep shortly after 10pm. 

I set my alarm for 4:15 the next day, and after a restful night sleep, race morning presented itself.   I quickly got up and made some coffee and had some oatmeal and half of a bagel with peanut butter. 

Just before 5am, we all left the condo and walked down to transition with our bags and to get body marked.   After casually getting all my gear setup on my bike, I just milled around a bit, checking out the entrance to transition from the swim and making sure I knew how to find my bike.  By 6:20am, they wanted athletes out of transition and making their way to the swim start.   I likely left transition around 6am and made the rather long walk to the swim start.  I’d estimate that it was about an 800m walk or so.

My Argon in transtion, ready to roll

Once at the swim start, I just walked around a bit before it got too crowded and checked things out.   Eventually, I got my suit on, dropped off my morning dry clothes bag and headed out for a short swim to loosen up and adjust the wetsuit.   I had purchased a new Xterra Vortex full sleeve suit not long ago, to replace my Zoot.   I found this suit much more comfortable and easier to get on and off.

Around 6:45, the opening ceremonies started with the singing of the national anthem in both French and English of course.   There were some greetings and introductions, and then we were all surprised to see the Snowbirds fly over head.   This was really cool!   They ended up doing this 3 times before the race actually started.

The swim start with the Snowbirds overhead

Finally, 7am rolled around and the pros were off at the sound of a massive military cannon, that was crazy loud!   What a way to kick off the first ever Mont Tremblant 70.3 race!

I was set to go off at 7:15 in wave 4, so I stood around and watched the 3 waves ahead of me head out into the beautiful and calm water of Lac Tremblant.

I think in my head, these were the goals I had for this race:
  1. Start near the front of the swim and try to get out around 31-32 minutes;
  2. Bike comfortably, but with some effort and try to finish in about 2:30 (36kph);
  3. Run in control, and focus on good nutrition and see how close to 1:30 I could get.

Overall, I was hoping for something around 4:35 as a finishing time.

At 7:15 sharp, the horn sounded and I was off.   The water stayed shallow for a bit, so I did a few dolphin dives before getting into my stroke and settling in.   I thought I’d swim fairly hard for the first few hundred meters to see who also wanted to go that fast.   After that, I’d try to find some feet to latch onto and drop the effort a bit.   This approach seemed to work out well and I was mostly in a draft all the way to the first turn buoy.

After making the first turn, it was a bit hard to see, as the sun was in my eyes whenever I would breathe to my right.   During this stretch at the far end, I started running into slower swimmers from early waves.   Despite this, I just focused on maintaining a comfortable and long stroke.

Eventually, I made it to the 2nd turn buoy and was headed back to shore and the swim exit.   It really started getting more and more congested at this point, and for the most part, I couldn’t stay in a draft.   This was mainly due to the fact that I lost my earlier one and it would seem that most people around me now were swimming much slower than me, so I wasn’t about to hook onto them.   I kept looking around a bit for the same colour swim caps as me, but there weren’t many to be found.   As a result, I simply just swam on my own to the swim exit.

About 100m from the finish, we had to go over a patch of rocks in the lake, that I could literally grab a hold of and pull me along, they were that close to me.  Eventually, I reached shore and stood up and walked/ran to the beach.

Once I got my wetsuit off my arms, I took a quick peek at my Garmin 310 and was pleasantly surprised to see about 30:20 as the time.   Wow! I thought to myself.   Rarely do I exceed my expectations in the swim, so I was really happy and began to make the long run to transition after an official swim time of 30:34, a 1:32/100m pace good for 26th in my AG and 146th overall in the race.


The swim exit

I was also assured of it being a quality swim when I saw Carlos Vilchez coming out of the water just ahead of me.   He’s a better swimmer than I am, so to be with him at this point was a huge bonus!

I quickly made my way to transition and my bike and easily got my wetsuit off and all my cycling gear on.   T1 took 3:41, which wasn’t bad, but not lightening fast either.


Exiting T1

Once on my bike and on the road, I got into my cycling shoes which were clipped in and started the 90K ride feeling good.   By this time, the temperature was comfortable and the winds were light.   The roads were super smooth, so I was really hoping for a great ride.

We never drove the course, so I didn’t know what to expect for the most part except the section on Montee Ryan from the village down to highway 117.   In a way, I like this, and was happy to just deal with the course as it presented itself.

My nutrition plan on the bike was simple and one I’ve executed many times before with general success.   I started with a normal concentrate Infinite in my Profile Design aerodrink bottle, and had another double concentrate bottle on my down tube that I would empty into the aerodrink bottle just before the first bike aid station.   I haven’t been using much in terms of salt stick capsules in training lately, so I didn’t have any dispensers with me on the bike, but I did dissolve a capsule in my aero drink bottle and two in my double concentrate bottle just to make sure I was topped up.   In addition, I started with a couple of gels in my Dark Speed Works bento box.   I would normally just take one gel before every aid station, and then grab a bottle of water to wash it down and keep with me to supplement my double concentrate drink.   This plan worked well on race day.

Once on Hwy 117, it was time to get down to business.   This stretch of road was freshly paved and was a dream to ride on.   Oddly enough, there was only one other rider who passed me since leaving transition, and he was riding faster than I wanted to go, so I didn’t bother trying to stay with him.   Other than that, nobody was really passing me, so I was riding all alone.   I did pass hundreds of people though throughout the course of the ride, which was always fun, and in a small way, allowed me to draft for a few seconds as I slingshoted around them.
The trend for the first 8K on 117 was uphill, but I never really noticed it as being that difficult.   At about the 15K mark, we hit the really fast descent where the elevation dropped 100m in only about 1 or 2K.   It was FAST and I think I hit about 75kph near the bottom of the hill.   That was awesome!

The next 12K or so were mostly flat to rolling to the 30K turn-around point on 117.   At this point, I figured there couldn’t have been too many more guys in my AG up ahead, as most of the people I was passing at this point were those in waves that started ahead of me.   In addition, I was able to see how many people were physically ahead of me in the race as they made their way back from the turn-around.   Personally, I was feeling good and very comfortable onboard my Argon E118.   The di2 shifting was super smooth (except for a small issue in the front chain-rings which I have since worked out).

I went through 40K in 1:01:20 or so, close to 39kph and feeling awesome.   Shortly after that though, the BIG 2K climb that I previously flew down was right in front of me.   It didn’t worry me much, and I just shifted to my easiest gear and spun back up it without much problem.   Once at the top, it was again, a fast ride back to St. Jovite where we got off of 117 and did a short 10K out and back through town.   The crowds were very supportive here and I had a lot of fun flying through town.

The only downside was that this stretch had the worst roads on the course, but still they weren’t too bad.   I’d actually compare them to the roads on most other races out there, but they certainly weren’t the freshly paved ones we were riding on up until that point.

I should also point out that my power started off pretty high on the bike in around the 300 watts range.   This eventually would fall as the ride went on and I actually managed to hold 275 watts for the entire 90K ride.   Again, this is much higher than I would go in training, but I have done this before in half iron distance rides like Muskoka and Grand Rapids last year.

Before I knew it, I was back at the race site and about to tackle one of the hardest parts of the ride.   At about 66K, we rode past transition on the final out and back section along Chemin Duplessis.   It was pretty much all uphill from 66K to the turn-around at 77K.

I did have a small incident on one of the climbs, when I accidentally shifted gears on my front derailleur when I was standing up going up a steep hill.   I ended up dropping my chain and I had to hop off my bike to get it back on.   Trying to get going on the steep hill posed a bit of a challenge, and although I was quite upset, I tried to stay calm.   Eventually, I got going again and likely only lost 30 or so seconds.   Like I said, I had my bike back to Braun’s the day after the race and they got me squared away, so I shouldn’t have the problems I did with my front derailleur for the full Ironman in August.

Once I made the final turn-around at 77K, it was a super fun and fast ride back to transition.   This part was mostly downhill, and I could really get some speed up and fly down the rollers that we climbed on the way out.   I stayed mostly aero throughout this entire section.

Finally, I arrived back at transition and got out of my cycling shoes and made a nice clean dismount at the dismount line.   Overall, I finished the 90K bike in 2:23:01 at 37.8kph which was 1st overall in my AG out of 213 and actually 8th overall in the entire race out of 1,700 athletes, so yah; I was feeling good starting the run.

2012 Ironman Mont Tremblant 70.3 Bike

I quickly racked my bike and got into my running gear and was on my way out of transition in 1:16, pretty much right on target.
As I started the run, I felt pretty good, but still didn’t have any idea where I stood overall in the race.   I was hoping for about top 5, and as it turns out, that’s where I was starting the run when I looked back at the results.
By this time of the day, the sun was out and it was getting warm, but I wouldn’t say it was hot.   I decided not to run with a fuelbelt, and instead, just grab what I could at aid stations as I felt like it.  I did run with my salt stick dispenser though to make sure I had enough salt.

The trend of the first 4K was slightly uphill, but I was actually running a bit faster than I would have thought, averaging about 4:08 per K.   It was at about the 4K mark that I hooked up with another runner from the M30-34 AG and we were running side by side and feeling good.  

Not long after this, we caught Scott Dickie who I could see just up the road from about the 2K marker.   We chatted for a bit before we continued onto the flattest section of the course on the P’tit Train du Nord railway trail.   This section was an old railway trail that was now just crushed limestone and quite nice to run on.

We were told that it was supposed to be nice and shady, but given the time of year (48 hours from the summer solstice), the sun was pretty high in the sky and the trees along the path didn’t provide much in terms of shade.   With very little wind, it was actually starting to get much warmer by this point.

I ran with this other athlete all the way along the path to the turn-around point just before 10K, as we continued to hold about a 4:07 avg. pace.  Once making the turn and coming back, I could see all the athletes up ahead of me and was pretty happy that there didn’t seem to be that many.   It was also at about this point that my lower quads started to feel a bit fatigued.   They never got to the point that they cramped up, but I could tell the effort from the day was starting to show.

As we made our way back, I continued to run with this other athlete, but at times just behind him, and sometime side by side.   Eventually, maybe around the 13 or 14K mark, I think he fell off the pace, and I was on my own.
I continued on, still holding a pretty good pace, and taking mostly water and cola from the aid stations.   I also likely took a gel in every 5K or so.   Also at this point, I seemed to be passing a lot of the female pros who started 15 minutes before I did.   That was encouraging, and kept me motivated for the final stretch.

After making a small out and back on the trail around the 15K mark, we got back on the road and were forced to push up some nice little hills until the 17-18K mark, where the trend was mostly downhill back to the main village area.   I’d say around the 19K mark and just before we had to do a nasty little downhill/uphill by the swim start, I passed another athlete that was in my AG.   Knowing he was right behind me really made me stay mentally focused right to the finish.

Once back on Chemin de le Chapelle, there was another tough little hill followed by a downhill and flat section past the swim exit area as we got to the final kilometer of the race.   Just past the swim exit area, it was a steady little climb for about 500m as we ran into the heart of the village area.   It was here where the course was funneled into a relatively narrow finishing chute and we ran past hundreds of cheering spectators.

Knowing the finish was just a short 500m sprint downhill; I pushed the pace more and was giving out lots of high fives to fans and kids that lined the course.    I haven’t felt like that since I entered the finishing chute at Ironman Austria!
The final finishing chute

Eventually, I crossed the finish line and gave a few big fist pumps of excitement knowing that I had just pulled off a new Half Ironman PB in 4:25:34!   I completed the run in 1:27:03, which worked out to a 4:07/K avg. pace for the 21.1K run.

Looking back at the results, I started the run in 5th place and moved up to finish 2nd overall in my AG and incredibly 16th overall in the race. 

I actually turned out to be the 5th fastest age group athlete in the entire race.   10 out of 12 male pro’s beat me and of course Magali Tisseyre, the only female pro to go faster than me.   I’m cool getting “chicked” by her, since she is one of the fastest female pro’s around and has previously finished on the podium at world championship races.

official results from

 After crossing the finish line, I made my way to the massage tent to get a light massage and to cool down.   Eventually, Scott and Scott came through, and after grabbing some food, we walked back to the condo to chill for a while and check results.   Scott Hamilton brought along his NormaTec recovery boots, so while the other guys went and got their bikes from transition, I sat in them for 30 minutes, which I think really helped with the recovery after the race.   Other than a little muscle soreness, I really did feel great!

After packing up the van, we headed down to the transition zone for the awards at 4pm, where I chatted with some friends and grabbed my AG award.

At about 4:30, we were back in the van and on our way back to Ontario.   It turned out to be a long ride home, where we had about 3 hours of steady rain as well.   Eventually, after dropping off both Scott’s in Waterloo, I got home and into bed about 2am!

So overall, I am very happy how this race turned out and very much look forward to the full Ironman back in Mont Tremblant in August.   This race gave me the confidence I needed to make a real solid attempt at getting a Kona spot at the full.   I was going to race in the Peterborough half ironman, but I think I’m just going to focus on longer training sessions as the final few weeks tick by leading up to Ironman Mont Tremblant on August 19th, 2012!   I can’t wait!