The trip to Tremblant was enjoyable and the experience was amazing. Even considering that we hopped in the car soon after the race ended to drive home, I still enjoyed the experience as much as I could have hoped for.
Knowing my favorite pro Jesse Thomas was here racing, I took his advice and shaved my legs. TRAIN HAIRY, RACE SMOOTH!
Special thanks up front to a few notable sponsors of the world’s best cycling club, HRRT:
– Contemporary Athlete, Bruce’s Pro Gold, Gu Energy, Chatham Brewing, Polar Bottle, Swiftwick, and Pactimo
Inspired by Big John, I put together a timeline for my expectations for the race, hoping it would help my wife & kids find me on the course:
Overall time expectation: 6:14 with a smile on my face (my final result wasn’t far off, but that smile part wasn’t close).
As typical, I woke up quite a few times overnight. I wasn’t a bundle of nerves for this race, instead a roving band of french-speaking revelers decided to get loud a few times right outside of my open window. Bleary-eyed I made my way downstairs for a cup of coffee (thanks Rebecca!) and a bowl of oatmeal. Eventually we popped into John & Rebecca’s car for a ride down the mountain. The skies were overcast, but thankfully there were no signs of the supposedly pending thunderstorms (spoiler: those storms never showed up).
I quickly got my transition area set up, despite the very cramped space allotted by Ironman (apparently I got quite spoiled by that Challenge race a few weeks ago). Transition was set to close by 7:15, but we noticed that the announcer was stating 7:00. I’m guessing this was all part of an effort to move people along quickly.
Now would be a good time to point out that this particular race schedule seemed ridiculous. I assume that the schedule was largely dictated by the need to close the nearby freeway as part of the bike course, and to do so for only the minimum amount of time. However, at this point I was left with over 1.5 hours from this 7am closing time until my wave started, while others had 20+ minutes more. I couldn’t imagine a schedule that was more opposite of a mass-start than this. I should add that the schedule quirks didn’t end up presenting any real difficulty for me, but it was tough to understand from the racer’s perspective. As a result of needing to kill time I ended up spending a good 30+ minutes lounging at the beach, using my wetsuit as beach towel, half-trying to take a nap. Eventually I gave way to the building excitement and found myself bouncing around, hitting the plentiful port-o-johns, and searching for friends in the crowd, before taking a required warmup swim in the suddenly chilly waters of Lac Tremblant.
Swim – 35:35 (1:52/100m)
Lining up next to Mark, the gun (nay, the Watervliet Arsenal manufactured 105mm howitzer) went off precisely at 8:36 indicating the start of wave 10 (40-44 year old males with last names starting with letters A-K). I had lined up in my usual spot, three deep from the front. I got out well, but soon realized that there were plenty of fast swimmers who had lined up behind me. The water was cool, but I promptly ignored it and did not regret my choice to forgo those swim socks I had recently purchased. Early on, I had to constantly battle for position, getting squeezed between two swimmers, with others pushing on my feet, on more than one occassion before we even hit the second buoy (roughly 200 yards in). The situation calmed soon enough and I found some feet to chase. Thankfully this guy was wearing a Freak of Nature wetsuit, which made him easy to find in the crystal clear water of Lac Tremblant. Reaching the first turn I increased my effort to assure that I wouldn’t lose him. That plan worked well enough through that turn, until I found new congestion in the form of swimmers from a previous wave blocking my path. The Freak Guy disappeared from my view. From there it was on to find someone else to draft off of, but, for quite a while, I was largely unsuccessful in this mission. Upon turning for home I realized that the wave behind mine had begun swimming past my group. Taking a breath to my left, I somehow identified Patrick Ryan in his Helix wetsuit (having just helped him reverse zip closed it shortly before the race started). Realizing it was him I said hello in an overly-friendly-open-water-swimming fashion, hoping that my game of grab-ass didn’t ruin his focus. I found another set of feet to follow and did my best not to actually make contact with those feet as we moved back towards shore. Soon thereafter I found myself in very shallow water, doing my best to stay prone as long as possible, noting a few swimmers that popped up on their feet way too early for my tastes. When my hand hit bottom I quickly popped up, placed my goggles onto my forehead, and made my way to the wetsuit strippers.
Analysis: Along with Quassy two weeks prior, this was another PR swim for me. Credit again goes to Kevin and his team at Excel Aquatics for my improvements this year. I was relatively happy with the line that I swam, though I did criss cross at least one buoy early on.
Wetsuit in hand, I continued up the ramp towards the road with my eyes peeled for Leigh Ann & the boys — spotting them on the left side of the ramp. With a big smile, I high fived the kids, Leigh Ann, & Carrie too and then made the hike to transition. Learning from IMLP that I needed to avoid heel striking while barefoot, I kept myself up on my toes for the entire 600 meter run to my bike. From there I went to work and, while not fast, found myself to be efficient — ie. I only went to the ground once and came up with *both* my socks and shoes on.
Analysis: Carrying a wetsuit, in bare feet, with little desire to sprint, that 600m run was bound to take me nearly three minutes regardless of everything else. From there I was satisfied with my efficiency in transition, knowing that I still have plenty of room for improvement throughout the process.
Bike – 2:59:32 (30.08 km/h 18.7mph)
Goals for the ride: Normalized Power (NP) = 220 watts (~80% of FTP), max allowable ‘sustained’ watts ~300 (~110% of FTP). I knew that my ceiling was very much dependent upon the climbing required.
Besides the drive into town on Friday, I hadn’t seen the bike course as of yet. I had intently studied the course map, particularly the elevation profile. I wasn’t sure what to make of that though.
Section 1: Montee Ryan, Miles 1-6
I found myself riding enthusiastically early and tried to make a concious effort to lower my effort. But, this early section had a few climbs requiring me to put in more effort. Peeking at my power numbers I saw that my NP shot up to 225 (VI = 1.17) for this section, so my goal was to ride steady and keep it there for the rest of the day. Had a few power spikes at 400 watts with one as high as 659. Somehow my average speed through here was 19.2mph hitting a max of 40.3 on one of the downhills.
For this section, NP = 225 watts, VI = 1.17, Speed = 19.3 mph
Quick Analysis: All of these numbers were pointing to the fact that I had come out of the gates too hot.
Section 2: Freeway Out, Miles 6 – 20.5
Making my way out to the freeway, I found myself playing leapfrog with Mark Keeling for quite a while. He suggested that we make good use of our time together and requested that I tell him a joke. I came up with one about a divorce lawyer’s genie, and he responded with one about a lady celebrating her anniversary, alone. The guy riding just in front of Mark seemed quite confused about our strategy here.
The west bound lanes of Rt. 117 were closed for the race, with both outbound and inbound riders using it. I found that riding along the freeway was exactly how you might imagine it to be – everything was big and sweeping, including the scenery. There were two climbs in this section, the first of which was somewhat notable compared to the rest of the course. I went screaming down the other side of it, hitting 45mph (pretty much the fastest I am willing to go on a bicycle). From here I think I improved my approach, letting my effort become more steady. I put myself in aero position for some long stretches here, and the turnaround appeared sooner than I had expected.
It was during this section that I made sure to finish my first water bottle and grab a replacement. I also ate most of the Bonk Breaker bar I had stuffed into my bento box as nutrition item #1.
For this section: NP = 212, VI = 1.08, Speed = 19.8 mph
Quick Analysis: While my NP was under my 220 target, that VI of 1.08 is still too high. At the time I thought the ride was going nearly perfectly, it now looks like I was rather incorrect.
Section 3: Freeway In, Miles 20.5 – 36
Here is where I started to get uncomfortable. Soon after the turn around I began to notice a cramp deep in my hip / groin area. I’m really unsure how to describe this other than noting that as it became progressively worse, sitting on a bike and pedaling became very difficult. It got to where I had to spend time out of the saddle, and even began wondering if I was going to be forced to get off of my bike for a short break. Thankfully, things didn’t come to that, but my overall speed and power dropped considerably through this section.
I have experienced this once before, in the ’13 Big George race. Similarities between those two occasions are: (1) racing [obviously], (2) spending more time than typical in aero position, (3) aero over a false-flat, (4) My Adamo saddle, and (5) my 2XU tri shorts. Perhaps it is just one of these factors, but the issue is likely a combination.
I’m not sure when the issue went away, looking now it seems to have lasted only 5-6 minutes total. I simply found myself riding normally again and soon was making a big climb, trying to simply spin my way up without needing to mash my pedals. There was an aid station near the top, but I realized that I was not short on water and continued on. It was through here that I ate the peanut butter crackers (qty. 5) as nutrition item #2 from my bento box.
For this section: NP = 190, VI = 1.10, Speed = 18.1mph
Quick Analysis: Here I worked through some suffering, but kept my cool and worked my way through it. My power began to drop from this point, so that was worrisome.
Section 4: “Town”, Miles 37 – 44
This section of the ride was deceiving as I fell for the temptation to think that the ride was “pretty much finished”. That was far from true though, despite looping past some fans in the town of Tremblant (think: where they hide the post office) and back into the village (think: where they hide all seven dwarves), past transition even. Here I dug into my bento box again and grabbed the peanut butter crackers which I had been looking forward to eating.
I did see the aftermath of a bike crash as I was exiting Rt. 117 noting two bikes were in the road but only one cyclist. Until we doubled back along the route, I hadn’t realized immediately that one cyclist was in the gulley having traveled a long, long way without his/her bike. An ambulance was responding as I made my own turn toward the village. Naturally my thoughts are with that athlete, hoping for the best and a speedy recovery from what looked pretty scary.
For this section, NP = 196, VI = 1.18, Speed = 17.5mph
Quick Analysis: My power was still low of my goal, VI was high likely influenced by the multiple changes in direction as well as the crowd support.
Section 5: Hill climb, Miles 44 – 50
Now it was GAME ON, climbing this hill had been in the back of my mind for months. I had missed my chance to pre-ride this section of the course, leaving me to wonder how tough the hill would be. All I had to go on was conflicting internet-based sources, 1000 feet and a 16+% max grade?
I’m happy to report that in reality this climb wasn’t so bad. The steep sections were few and far between, broken up often with downhills even, letting me catch my breath. I simply put my bike into my 32 tooth gear and spun my way up.
For this section, NP = 233, VI = 1.18, Speed = 14.7
Quick Analysis: Pretty normal climbing, I felt well prepared for it. I feel like I got up the hill without doing too much damage to my legs, and at this point was still rather excited to get off the bike and run.
Section 6: Downhill (sort of), Miles 50 – 56
Hitting the final turn around on the bike course, it was time to speed my way back the way we had come. Over my entire climb I had watched with envy as cyclists went flying down that same hill. The route was rather straight and provided quite a long field of view ahead. I kept pressure on the pedals until I exceeded 30 mph and didn’t feather the brakes even once. That is until another athlete decided to ignore everyone around her, despite my very loud cries of “PASSING LEFT!”. Eventually I was able to zip by her but found a few steep climbs remained on the way to transition.
For this section, NP = 213, VI = 1.35, Speed = 20.3 (max 44.6 mph!)
Quick analysis: I should have exercised patience considering that wiping out at 40 mph was going to ruin my day….just not worth the risk.
I finished the bike thinking I had just ridden it almost flawlessly. I entered transition knowing my race clock was sitting at 3:45, and that a two hour half-marathon would give me an unexpected PR.
Diving into things now, some days after the race, I found a strikingly similar situation addressed by coach Joe Friel which sheds some light on the idea that I hadn’t executed as well as I had thought….
“What these VI numbers tell me is that you were surging a lot—in and out of corners in town, into head wind, up and down small hills, when someone passed you or you passed others, etc. Surges sap you of energy very quickly and also play havoc with your gut’s processing of fluid and fuels. Steady state pacing is a far better use of your energy. I expect your long rides did not have nearly this high of a VI. They, just like your race, should have a VI less than 1.05. Until you can do that it is unlikely that you will ever produce your best possible long course ride.” – Joe Friel
Oh, the feeling of trying to run into transition, carrying a bike. I can hardly describe it. I am happy to say that I did not fall on my face though.
Run – 2:24:33 (6:51 / km)
I saw some friends on my way out of transition, but noted that i was already feeling uncomfortable. My stride was not smooth, and it really took quite a bit of focus to make any improvement.
Mentally I tried to break the race down into digestible pieces. The first piece was going to be a simple 5K. I knew that the course generally turned uphill at the halfway mark, so I didn’t want to start out too hot. That was not going to be a problem though as my first mile ticked over at 9:29. For comparison, a two hour half-marathon requires faster than 9:10 pace, and at the beginning of this run I was worried about going out too fast. Well, those lofty expectations came crashing back down quickly.
I knew all was not lost, as I reminded myself that I entered the day with no expectations and just because I found some in the middle of the race shouldn’t make this any less enjoyable. The part where I still had to run twelve more miles, that is what made it less enjoyable.
I hung on for a while, doing my best to avoid walking over the first few miles. My goal was to hit the 5K mark and then reevaluate things. Instead, I found myself walking at the next aid station, somewhere early in Mile #2. I grabbed water, Gatorade, and put some ice in my hands as the day had suddenly grown rather warm. What happened to the overcast skies and threatening thunderstorms? From there I just kept moving ahead, trying to get my stride to become more smooth (trying).
Around that first 5K mark the course moved onto a very nice bike path for the next six miles as an out & back. It was much wider than those local to us in Albany, enough that three runners in each direction could try to squeeze past one another at once. I did struggle with this from a few angles as I had started to get to that irritable stage of running.
At this point my memory becomes a little blurry. I was likely bonking, but my stomach had become mildly upset and I had chose to stop taking in any calories lest I need to break the run into breaks between the port-o-johns (ala IMLP 2014). I remember seeing nearly every friend and fellow triathlete from home at one point or another. Rebecca gave me encouragement as she went past me. After the turnaround at 10K, I saw Greg heading the other way and knew he was making great time. He hustled past me soon after, bubbling with excitement and race endorphins.
After that turnaround the path seemed to grind in a false flat for quite a ways. I could no longer resist the urge to walk and gave in multiple times. I was working hard to reach the 15K mark, but it just wouldn’t come. “Just run to the next kilometer mark”, turned into “just run to that tree up there”, followed by “you’d better not be walking still after you pass that tree….wait, no the other one further down”. At this point I was quite overheated and noticed that my tri jersey had become too tight. I dropped the zipper pretty low relieving that pressure and continued to chew on and hold ice at every aid station.
Making my way off of that bike path helped turn the tide. However, I had an odd development take place, where my knee began to hurt when I walked, but not when I ran. It wasn’t so much pain as an odd discomfort as if my knee cap wasn’t tracking correctly. I chalked it up as a weird race situation, and realized that if I could run without this happening — then I should. From there I knew the layout of the course and fought my way through it. From mile 9 on I did well to avoid walking, except for the aid stations (naturally). As I neared the end of the race I became determined to avoid letting the hills break me and refused to break stride.
Finally making the turn into the village, I was buoyed by the excitement and had no trouble running up that last hill to the top of the village. In the village the barricades and other athletes made things a little precarious but I was able to keep myself under control, despite the sloping downhill into the chute. I had my eyes peeled for Leigh Ann, Jacob, and Ethan and spotted them just before the chute and was grateful to finally hit that finish line.
Run Summary / Analysis:
Not much good to say about this run. It was ugly from the start. I may have done better if my bike effort was steadier, but I was under-prepared to run on race day and there’s no hiding that fact.
Here’s a look at my TrainingPeaks chart from the run:
I did plenty of same-day analysis over the course of the 2:24 that I spent running. I decided that I hadn’t made any critical mistakes on race day, the mistakes I made began in February with my general lack of enthusiasm and decidedly low running volume. I had convinced myself that I was logging enough miles, but really failed to bring any intensity to my run in recent months. Running hard is hard, and besides some occasional hill repeats I largely avoided it. So, advice for myself here, all future training will include a heavy dose of tempo, some speed, and plenty of transition runs, despite my level of disinterest.
Big Picture View
Mont Tremblant was amazing and I really fell in love with this place. The course was beautiful, the support was incredible, and dare I say it, the experience rivaled that of Lake Placid. I have no doubt that I will return to race this one again. I can go on and on here, but I seem to have done that already talking about the minutia of the race itself.