Mont-Tremblant 70.3 Race Report
Here is my (long-winded) MT70.3 race summary. I am writing this during the 14 hour drive back from Quebec to PEI so grab a coffee or something, this is going to be long. I owe you guys a substantial post!
First off, for in inaugral event, this half ironman kicked so much ass. Being my third Ironman 70.3 (I did Hawaii 70.3 in 2010, and Rhode Island 70.3 in 2011), it has also been my favorite. The course and scenery are stunning, familiar faces were everywhere due to the central proximity of race location, the volunteers excited and abundant, and the organization well thought through. All T’s were crossed, and I’s dotted when it came to race details. Tremblant is definitely ready for the full Ironman being hosted there later this summer in August. Ironman is everywhere; from the permanent course markers, to street banners, and welcome signs at retail shops. Triathlon has clearly been embraced by the village!
I did not blog a lot about my training for this race, simply because my professional life has been very busy and that takes priority over this blog. I will try to sum it up here!
For this event I followed (as closely as possible) the half ironman plan set out by Joe Friel in his new book, “Your Best Triathlon”. I promised a full review a while back, I’m working on it.
Very generally, I swam 2-3 times a week (2/week with Charlottetown Masters Club through the winter + 1 longer swim solo), biked 1-3 times a week (including coaching indoor cycling from October-April + 1 hour session mid-week + 1 longer ride on weekends), and ran 3-4 times a week (2 runs of 5-12k during the week + a weekend long run and T-runs off the bike).
The super awesome bike mechanics at MacQueen’s Bike Shop in Charlottetown (also where I coach indoor cycling in the winter months) had my Guru tuned up and running like a well oiled machine prior to the race. Thanks guys for all your help.
I finished the race with a PB swim, PB bike, and overall new half iron personal best. But the awesome day I had at Tremblant would not have been possible without the ever awesome support of the PEI triathlon community, my family, and friends. They kept me serious when I needed to be, and lifted me up when I needed lifting. I had so many people routing for me that I knew this day was going to be nothing but amazing. I feel truly blessed to be from such a supportive community and to have all of you incredible people in my life.
Magali Tisseyre has done a much better job at describing the course than I ever could, here.
The swim for Mont-Tremblant 70.3 took place in Lac Tremblant which borders the village. The water temperate was warm on race day (74.5 F), and the lake calm and clear. It was a beautiful swim, with buoys approximately every 100m, making sighting easy.
The much talked about bike course was equally stunning. The first 15km’s or so were rolling, with a very fast ~50km out and back on Highway 117 before heading to “the back 30”; 15 km’s of which are gradually ascending rollers (some as steep as 12%) and 15km of which was mostly descent, with one last steeper hill before T2.
The run was 5km’s of rollers on the way to the “Old Village” of Tremblant, then 10km’s of rails-to-trails, and finishing with the same 5km’s of rollers and a slightly decline down through spectator-filled Mont-Tremblant Village to the finish.
We stayed at an amazing 5 bedroom chalet own by my mother’s friend that overlooks the 18th hole of “Le Maitre” golf course. Couldn’t have asked for better accommodations.
One thing I did for this triathlon, and a reason why I feel that it was a success for me, was I made a “race day plan”, which is a recommendation from Friel’s book. About a week before the race I wrote out exactly what I was going to do from the time I woke up until I crossed the finish line (breakfast, morning transition checklist, mantras, warm-up, nutrition, pacing, etc). In the excitement of these races, sometimes I don’t think very well so having this etched in stone for race-day reference worked very well for me. I also wrote out specific, positive thoughts that I could “go to” during the race. For the swim those were things like “keep moving forward” and “enjoy”; for the bike, “kill it” and “push”; for the run, “find a rhythm” and “it will get easier after this hill”.
Day before the race I did a 500m swim, 30 minute ride, and 15 minute run, all on the course, starting at 7am, which was the race start time. This gave me a good idea of how the sun would shine on the lake on the morning of the race, landmarks to look for while sighting, how to get my shoes on and up to speed as quickly as possible on the bike, and what the first few kilometers off the bike would be like.
My goals for this race were: enjoy the swim <45 minutes (in a dream world goal: sub-40), bike my heart out (in a dream world goal: sub-3 hours), and run sub-2:10 (in a dream world goal: sub-2 hours), and overall, sub-6:19 hours, or a personal best. Achieving any of these goals would be a success, I thought. In my mind I had sub-goals, like not stopping during the swim, actually pushing hard on the bike, and not walking during the run. The purpose of all of this was to set up different measures of success to avoid the frustration I had experienced with triathlons in the past. I’m no sports psychologist, but I highly recommend this method. It certainly worked for me.
Per the race day plan I woke up at 4 a.m., had a bowl of regular instant oatmeal + banana + peanut butter, lathered up with sunscreen and body glide, gathered my transition bag and headed for transition for 5 a.m. I had way more time than I needed in transition on race morning, but always good to allow a buffer.
I did a 5 minute warm-up swim in the crystal clear Lac Tremblant before lining up with my wave for my W25-29’s age group start, which was the first wave after the pros. It was nice not to have to wait around and the race start at Tremblant was amazing; Snowbird salute and all, which was probably one of the most incredible things I have ever seen at a 70.3.
Swim – 42:39
I had a great swim for me; a personal best half iron swim by 5 minutes. Having just learned to swim 2 years ago, swimming is still the least comfortable of the 3 triathlon disciplines for me. That said, I was surprisingly not nervous at the swim start and really just excited to get the day started. The canon blew and I allowed the fast swimmers to go ahead; I was not here to race the swim. I enjoyed every minute in the lake, without any familiar panic sensations.
The lake is majestic, surrounded by mountains, and clear enough to see the bottom most of the way. Feet were easy to spot, and I drafted a bit but mostly relied on my own sighting; something I have gotten much better at since my first 70.3 two years ago! A word of advice to those doing the full in August: the final 25-50m or so of the swim are very shallow but the bottom is rocky and slippery. Some people tried to stand and run in, but it would be faster to swim until you can touch the bottom. I also saw some random things in this area like pipes, etc.
Overall I really did not exert myself on the swim; I would say a 3/10 level of exertion. I wore a wetsuit, took long strokes, and found it very relaxing. Next race I will push it a bit more in the water! I tend to forget this is a “race”.
Another great thing about this race: wetsuit strippers! Of course I took advantage.
T1 – 4:36
It was a LONG run from the swim finish to my bike in T1! I had a sweet transition spot, one rack down from the pros. My awesome “support crew” (my mom, stepfather, and stepfather’s niece + boyfriend) were cheering me out of the swim and up to T1. I would guess this was about a 500m run, since my bike was at the end of transition furthest from the “swim-in” chute. Did my usual shoes-on-the-bike thing.
Race number, sunglasses, helmet, bike, go!
Bike – 2:56
My #1 goal for this race was a sub-3 bike ride on what was dubbed a “challenging” bike course, and talked about amoungst athletes for months leading up to this event. In coaching my spin classes all winter, I threw hills in all over the place. I did lots of strength training, bracing for what I thought would be the hardest 70.3 bike course I’d done. So was it all it was cracked up to be? Unsure. I did a PB bike by 20 minutes. It was either hard and I was prepared, or it was not hard, naturually I want to believe the former. ;) Word on the street is that most athletes found it pretty fast. I think that is true for the Highway 117 section at least, which comprised about half of the course. But there was definitely a couple of small-chain-ring-worthy hills on the 117, and most of kilometers 65-80. My game plan was to get my avg speed up to 30km/h on the highway to give myself buffer for time I suspected I would lose on the back 30kms. I was at 31km/h average at 65kms, lost a bit after the 15k rollers/climb, but gained it back on the descent into T2. I am glad I trained on steep hills and was totally comfortable descending. The fasted speed I saw on my Garmin was 75km/h, though I heard of some people hitting 90km/h!
My favorite part of the bike course was the exhilerating out & back through St Jovite. The stretch is fast, and the crowds are crazy. It was incredible.
My bike nutrition was spot-on. 2 packs of Gu electrolyte brew, 2 Gu’s, 1 salt tab, and 1 pack of shot blocks. I grabbed 1 water at the 60k aid station on the bike course, and that was all. My left quad started cramping at 50k but I took more water and it resolved. My gearing was also perfect; saw a lot of people lose their chains going up the steep inclines. Been there, done that, lesson learned!
Starting in one of the first waves and having an ok swim left me with a feeling I have never had before in a 70.3: I was “in the race”. After passing a bunch of girls in my age group, I got the feeling it was just me and the guys. And it was. I was passed by 2 women in the 35-39 age category midway, but that was it for females. The volunteers shouted with excitement, “Go boys go! … and GIRL!!!” which I thought was cute. I crossed my fingers and held my breath for no flats, and it just happened to be a great day for me on the bike. Mission accomplished! I was very happy with this ride. Next year, I would push it harder on the bike. I really was just on cruise control, having a time. Again, must remember this is a “race”… right…
T2 – 2:00
The racks in T2 were kind of low and I had a hard time getting my seatpost underneath the rack, and fumbled getting my sneakers on, wasting a few seconds here but hey, I was not going for a win just enjoying the experience.
Run – 2:22
Haha! The run. What can I say? No excuses, but I definitely thought no matter what I could shuffle out a 2:00h half marathon. However, on this particular day my legs had had enough hills! It was a muscular endurance issue, not an aerobic endurance issue. My heart rate was low but my legs were like jello. To those doing the full in August: brick it, brick it, brick it! Long rides & race pace run bricks!
My favorite part of any Ironman 70.3: the run course aid stations. Little metropolises in the sun! Aid stations were approximately every 2 km’s and fully stocked with everything you could want; water, ice water, cookies, Ironman Perform, Honey Stinger gels, wafers, and gummies, and very excited volunteers. Many local spectators were kind enough to bring out their hoses and sprinklers (it was a hot, sunny day), which were welcomed refreshment. I do not usually wear socks during triathlon and I did get some blisters (unusual) from running through the sprinklers and also getting gravel in my shoes during the trail portion of the run.
Quebec athletes are very friendly and love to strike up conversation! But they do not like is walking! I could not walk with being “caught”. Whether it was another athlete, or a volunteer, somebody always seemed to be shouting (and I do mean shouting!) “Ne marche pas! Cours! Ne marche pas!” (“Do not walk! RUN! Do not walk!”).
Regardless, I walked a lot of the run but it was great to see familiar faces from the Halifax and PEI triathlon communities. This race brought everyone out. The crowds were amazing; it was a “National” (hehe) holiday weekend in Quebec so many, many people came out to watch the event. As I suffered through the final kilometer of the run, one very kind photographer snapped my picture and smiled, “A triathlete AND a model!”. He has clearly done this before. ;)
The finish is phenomenal; approximately 500m(?) of downhill spectator-lined chute down through Mont-Tremblant Village to the Ironman arch finish line. So cool! Little kids had their hands out for high five’s and the crowds were roaring. It had a “Tour de France” kind of feel to it with the cobblestone path!
And like that, it was over!
Total time: 6:08
A new half iron personal best for me by 6 minutes.
But the BEST part of this race? My friends and family that were there to share the experience :)
A l’annee prochaine, Tremblant!