Nick, Trish (my long time training pal & massage therapist) and I headed off for the long road trip to Mont Tremblant. "There's no Canada like French Canada"!
We racked the bikes on the back of the Subaru and before we even got a few hours in we were caught up in traffic that backed up for miles then just stopped. An axle had fallen off a large truck so they could not move it off the road. So, we were stopped and kind of aggravated when...BOOM! Yes...boooom! We were hit by a car from the back. I looked out the window to see if any cars where coming in the next lane, leaped out and ran behind the car to see how badly my BIKE was damaged. Thankfully, Nick had just upgraded to a heavy duty STEEL bike rack from Endorphin Fitness with a maintenance stand.
The bike rack is totally damaged, but the bikes and the people in the cars were all OK. The lady who was not paying attention and hit our car had some dents to her front end. I am so relieved that the maintenance stand took the force. The bolt came off on the other end and the steel plate was badly bent from the impact so it no longer folds but all things considered... we were LUCKY! Punky Bruiser is fine.
We stayed in 1,000 Islands NY for one night and then made our way to Mont Tremblant the next day. Packet pickup went off with out a hitch. I had a registration scare a few days before the race, not appearing on the "bib" list as being registred, but luckily it was just a mistake. All was good upon arrival. My parents came to this race too, so there was plenty of support crew along for this adventure. Their support meant the world and made my race even more exciting. We enjoyed the venue thoroughly. I pre-swam part of the course and met one of the coolest injury comeback heroes I know of, pro triathlete Jesse Thomas. He broke his foot a month before I broke mine and he shared his journey during the process from the break during Wildflower to coming back and winning that very same race a year later so it meant a lot to meet him in person! Also, those Picky Bars (his company) taste better than any other bar I've tried in my opinion. I of course I was a bit star struck which is hilarious because pro triathletes aren't exactly big celebs and I'm not normally phased by people so my family proceeded to tease me all weekend long, haha. I also pre-rode the toughest 10 miles of the course nice and easy and the steep, punchy hills really freaked me out, but I postponed the "worry" until after the race somehow.
They take hospitality towards triathletes to a whole new level in Mont Tremblant. I've heard amazing things about Mont Tremblant and this race production and location truly delivered. It was the best race weekend ever. The locals truly take deep pride in the event, are passionate about the race and really want triathletes to have a good stay. I was floored by the level of volunteer support and the genuine enthusiasm from this community. This touristy ski resort applies the same attitude they have towards skiers in the winter to swim/bike/runners in the summer with all the details thought out. I felt more than welcome. The pride of the community in their preparation and hosting of these triathlons just radiated from most everyone we met. There are permanent road signs marking the ironman course. They actually paved the shoulders of the roads with the best pavement I have ever seen for the athletes. Trish used the weekend as training and rode the entire course the day before the race meeting a few cool people and taking in the sights. Incredible.
That welcome feeling alone would be enough, but it is also stunningly beautiful. The mountain range is breathtaking. We rode to the top of the mountain on a gondola to check out the views. The Old Mont Tremblant village (along the course) is quaint. We went to a bike shop there, Cyber Cycles,which had coffee shop inside and were treated really well as I scrambled to take care of last minute needs. I love that place!
The ski resort itself near transition has a fairy-tale disney-esque feel to it with charming colorful shops, restaurants (a bit pricey) and hotels comprising the ski village. We never had to wait in a long line for dinner at the village. Our hotel was practically AT transition and had a kitchenette for convenience. The hill in the village was steep, but you could ride the gondola if you were really sore or trying to save the legs. The travel costs would be the only downfall about racing here but the beauty and convenience was unparalled.
I checked out my bike and set up transition then went back to the hotel to relax with Nick. This was something I've never been able to do before and it was wonderful. The walk down to the swim start from the hotel took about 20 minutes. I was in my wetsuit and warming up. They had a section set apart for athletes to warm up even after the pro start. This was wonderful as most of the time, once the race starts warm ups are over and there's no point in warming up just to freeze for an hour. With a race start at 7:00 AM and my wave not going off until 8:00, I appreciated this.
The 30-34 women were off with a run into the water and a mildly aggressive start for perhaps 50-100 yards until everyone seemed to find their place and their space sooner than in most triathlons I've raced. I was in a good rhythm focusing on my stroke and felt great during this swim. The water at Mont Tremblant was in the upper 60's and was clear in the shallow sections. There was no chop, no current and no crowds.
The swim was a perfect rectangle going out straight turning around and coming back on the opposite side of a peninsula. I felt cleaner exiting this lake than I had been when I entered. It was the best swim ever. This lake is a dream come true for triathletes. My time was 35 and change which is great for me and if it weren't for the swim current at B2B, this race counts as a swim PR. I came out of the water, accidently stepped on a small stone that bruised my heel, but it was "OK" and then had the wetsuit strippers help me out of my before I was off to T1.
The distance to T1 is .30 miles. It was a long jog but I made my way through. There were a lot of zombie-like walkers from earlier waves clustered on the tight path and my pal Trish got a great shot of me weaving around them, pretty much squeezing myself along the path fence so as to make quick progress with out pushing them out of the way as I jogged steadily up to my bike. The run is long, but they carpet the entire path so its not painful leaving you with cuts or numb toes like at Beach to Battleship. 4:16 seconds later I was on to the bike!
Once my feet were in my shoes, I was ready to ride. I started my Garmin and... no power data found. I turned it off and back on again but it would not sense the power meter. I looked to see if it was paired with another athlete's meter but it wasn't finding any meter at all. I was so frustrated because I knew this course was going to be full of brutal climbs and I was full of race day adrenaline wanting this tool to pace me. I wanted to power data to help me ride smart and I was pretty darn mad! However, I thought about what coach Michael would think if I got off the bike and tried to fix my watch. I thought about my friend Shaun at Whistler with no power meter or my teammate Thomas at Kinetic Aquabike when his power meter magnet bounced off. I just decided to ride. I couldn't remember what my HR zones are because I rarely pay attention to heart rate. My HR seemed high from the run to T1 and the initial climb out of transition. Yet, I knew that the power meter has already taught me how to ride. I know what zone 3 watts "feels" like so I tried to hold that. Sure enough, post ride shows that I did in fact average in zone 3 for my heart rate.
In the first 25 miles I felt I was flying down the hills (thanks Rolf!) even the climbs were steep but my legs felt great. I started taking some risks and really giving up zero speed to "fear" on the descents. I'm really proud of the speed I held going down the rollers because normally I'm up out of the bars as upright as possible and often braking over 30mph. Coach Michael at Endorphin has been working with me on my ability to stay confident and controlled pedaling down hills. Finally, on this day, I was brave and able to have a breakthrough and tuck that little voice of fear into a tiny compartment and shut the door on it so I could race my bike both up AND down the hills. Not only was I sailing on down the hills but I was also having...FUN! The course is comprised of a few out and back segments of tenacious unrelenting rollers. The climbs were significant but they were on wide roads, with no pretty much zero traffic and the most smooth pavement with easy turns. Even one of the "U Turns" seen on the map is not a true, tight 180 degree turn.
Going out and even the middle section was a ton of rollers and long gradual climbing where it was also open and windy. Around mile 30 my hip flexor started feeling funny and my left foot was cramping. I took more gel and kept drinking my Osmo hoping it would go away with ongoing nutrition. I realized that descending and pedaling were not two things I do together in training so it could just be my riding style on the day being different than training. I also haven't faced climbs like that in my training terrain. I knew it wasn't "injury" pain so I kept pushing through it. In the last 15 miles I did not have any room to be worried about my hip flexor or cramping foot. Oh no, this is when the course became insanity level of tough. I was going up the hills at speeds in the single digits and I felt my cadence must have been around 50 even in my last gear. I was flying down them in the 30's and 40mph and really riding "strong" but it was mentally tough to keep pushing onward knowing more steep punchy rollers were coming my way. It was a roller coaster ride for sure with anticipation chugging along the hills, crest and bomb down fast. I will say again and again I LOVE my Coeur Sports fleet fox tri kit. I never thought about my clothes other than remembering I had sunblock or gels tucked into the pockets. I had been through enough, racing 56 miles on a tough course to be shifting around in my saddle so I'm always grateful when I realize later that I had no clothing related distractions typical for me in the past and can finally just focus on the race! I was definitely happy to move on to the next phase and RUN by the time this 2:49 minutes was over. The last few brutal windy/hilly miles of that course chewed me up a bit.
I had 12th/120 in my AG for my bike split and also got off the bike in 12th place. It appears I made my way to 17th place in the first 5 miles, worked my way through the field to 7th, then back down 9th but lost a few places in that agonizing back end section where I was trying so hard to balance conserving energy for the run with the fact that I felt I was going to "tip over" if i went any slower. This section really got in my head after the race and will be tough to pace for the ironman. The hardest part of this course comes at the very end. I have since purchased a different cassette which should offer more gears than the 25 teeth I was using and increase my cadence so I have more stability. Also due to winds I'm not sure if all riders would want a disc. I loved riding my new Rolf wheel but it is windy, as a side note.
T2: When I looked to rack my bike, another athlete's bike was on my spot. I know you can get "penalized" for misracking a bike and I didn't want to get in trouble for moving another athlete's stuff OR for misracking my bike, so I found a volunteer in transition to put their bike back in their spot. This cost me time, but it did give me peace of mind becuase I did not want to spend the next 13 miles worrying about my bike placement. I still had a fast 1:45 T2, chugging my salty Osmo preload formula to avoid needing "salt pills" later and I took off for the run.
RUN: I set out feeling surprisingly good going out. It seemed like the first mile out of transition was one steep climb. I paired up with another athlete who had bright pink compression socks and we matched pace for a few miles. (Due to the hills, I wish I had compression socks too for this run as my calves were feeling tight and I know hills put a strain on the plantar fascia. Luckily, my feet seem to have upheld just fine, but its something to consider as I saw a LOT of athletes with these socks and I was super envious of them.)
We made our way up that hill and set off along a skinny road where there was some cars traveling next to us. However, eventually we were on a nice shady run path. I suspect the first few miles were a false flat descent and the way back up was hot and slower. The path became somewhat boring, but there were plenty of well stocked and organized aid stations along the way. We weaved along paved sections and section of crushed rock/dirt which was packed down enough not to affect pace. We passed that bike shop I love which gave me a little mental boost, but I will say that the last 5 miles were brutal for me. My pace dropped significantly in the last 3. The hills were definitely steeper here but I suspect my legs were shot from the low cadence work on the last ten miles of the bike. Hopefully, the new cassette will allow my legs to spin on the bike and offer some relief for the ironman in August. The views were breathtaking and spectacular making the hills almost bearable. I recall around mile or 10 climbing to the top of a big hill and looking out at the mountain range beyond. Breathtaking! The long undulating climbs where I hope to be able to dig deeper next time were worth it for the scenes of the picturesque mountains and for the most thrilling race finish I've experienced. The very last section is a fun down hill while the locals are yelling, "Bravo!" as you wind through the village able to see the finish line from the top.
It was super fun! I finished 11th in my age group with a half marathon time of 1:48:18. My heart rate and pace dropped in the last 3 miles with all the hills as there are more climbs in the seconds half. I didn't expect to negative split, but I'm disapointed I didn't dig a little deeper here. Overall, I am happy with the race and definitely looking forward to returning to Mont Tremblant this year. I'm glad I won't underestimate the course come 140.6 miles. It will be my toughest race to date.
I didn't expect to beat my FL time at this course and considering my PR from Eagleman before this year was 5:25 I am thrilled with my progress as this is a hard & hilly course. I just have a lot more work to do to get ready for these hills. The beauty and well run production is worth it. This is now my favorite race of all time! I'm so happy I get to go back for ironman and 70.3 worlds!