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!