For all the racing I’ve been fortunate to do, there is no location I enjoy more than Mont Tremblant. The village is ideal as a race venue. The organization, volunteers and crowds are all amazing.
As is our normal routine for this race, we drove to Tremblant on Friday morning. I was hoping to ease the Saturday chaos by doing race check-in when we got there Friday but there was a huge line-up, so I didn’t bother with that. We had a great dinner at our friends’ condo in the old Village on Friday night with 25 people! It was great to see so many people who we don’t get to see often, and had not seen in a while.
Saturday was very busy with race registration, short swim/bike/run, athlete briefing, bike check-in and packing gear for race morning. By the time we were finished dinner that night I was tired and ready for bed. I got a good sleep until about 4 am and then up at 4:30 to get ready.
Fortunately, I was calm for most of the lead up to this race and I was feeling confident. Regardless, it was nice to hang and chat with Dieter and Michael on race morning, rather than being in my own head too much. We had breakfast then made our way down to transition to get setup. When I brought my pump back to my room Carm and the kids were awake it was great to talk to them before heading to the swim start.
It’s always packed down on the beach and a little stressful getting through the crowds to the water to get a swim warm-up. Since having some panic attacks in the water several years ago, a swim warm-up is a critical part of my pre-race routine. It should be part of everyone’s routine. As it turns out I had plenty of time and I had a great warm-up. National anthem, CF-18 flyover and fireworks to start the pros. They do it properly for this race. I was ready to go. I seeded myself in the 29 to 32-minute start area and soon enough I was in the water to start the swim.
The rolling swim start (3 athletes every few seconds) was great and I could see that there was enough room to swim very close to the buoy line, so that is what I attempted to do, so I could take the shortest distance. Some previous swim times have been slower than expected, not because I actually swam slow, but because I didn’t swim straight and swam more than I needed to. Early in the swim some negative thoughts started to creep in (that can be the start of a panic) but I was able to deal with those and slowly my confidence grew. Even in the pool it takes me 500+ metres to find my groove, so this was not a surprise. As I approached the first turn (750m) I was feeling confident and ready to deal with the contact that comes at the turn. After that I was in race mode, feeling confident and relaxed, drafting off other swimmers and racing those around me for the remainder of the swim. When I stood up and looked at my watch it said 30 min 45 seconds and I was pleased. 1:38/100m pace. That’s a good swim for me. A good start to the day and a nice mental boost.
39 out of 417 in my age group. 252nd overall.
Wetsuit stripping went quickly and I ran the 400m fast to my bike through the noise of the crowds. Olivia ran beside me, waving and screaming, for about 200m. That was awesome!
Mental approach: Confidence. I know what I can do. Don’t let my brain talk me back from that. Keep pushing back the negative/conservative thoughts, and let the confidence grow as the race proceeds. Carrying over from the last part of the swim I was in race mode right away. My legs were feeling good and I had to pull back a little for the first few km to get settled in. My power and HR were in a good place immediately. A very good sign. First 10 km average power 214 watts (226 normalized), HR 161. Exactly what I was hoping for. Miranda, Adam and I had done several sessions with long intervals at this level of effort so it was familiar, but there is always the question about whether I can sustain it for 90 km.
Once out on the highway I continued to ride assertively. If I got stuck behind a group of people I would make the move to pass them all, with a bit of a surge. I did that a bunch of times. This is a departure from how I would have ridden in the past. Much more confident and assertive. Last year I was too tentative to pass through groups and I got a 5 minute drafting penalty. I was very conscious to avoid that happening again.
First 50 km average power 225 watts (normalized 231), HR 159. I felt, at this point, that what I was doing was sustainable, even though it was getting harder to maintain. In the last 20-30 km I noticed that I wasn’t passing people as easily as before. I took that as I sign that I was more towards the front and with some stronger cyclists.
Before heading into the hilly section on Duplessis I took most of the remainder of my concentrated Eload and Fly mixture, knowing it would be hard to drink through this section as it is either hard climbing or fast descending. My energy was still great and my nutrition had been bang on throughout. The hilly Duplessis section was a lot of fun, going back and forth with other athletes. Passing, getting passed. Climbing slowly, descending very fast. I love this section of the course, despite the tough climbs.
First 80 km (before descending Duplessis) average power 221 watts (normalized 228), HR 159.
I had been watching my power numbers throughout the ride but I didn’t know how that was translating into speed. It felt fast, but who knows. As I was getting close to transition I took a peak at my overall time and I knew it had been a fast bike and I was in a good position for a personal best. My mind immediately went to ‘maybe you don’t have to push it so hard on the run to get a good overall time’. Ummm no! I didn’t let that thought linger much, and it’s not really in my nature to run that way anyway.
Final power numbers – average 216 watts (226 normalized), HR 159. Those are the best power numbers I’ve had in a race of this distance. I don’t feel like I could have ridden any better on this day. Very satisfying because I feel like I’ve been on the verge of doing this but not quite able to do it before. Why now? On top of my regular training I did consistent strength work through the winter (more consistent than ever before) and riding with more confidence in this race.
Bike – 2:27:46, 36 km/hr, 12th in my age group, 85th overall. Moved up to 15th in my age group.
As I was running out of transition Olivia was running beside me and screaming like crazy…again. Awesome!
As soon as I was off my bike and running through transition I could feel that my legs were good. I don’t struggle for confidence on the run, usually, so when I started seeing my run splits a little quicker than plan, I decided to go with it. Maybe in hindsight that was a mistake, but at the time I was feeling pretty good, and I was still in a race mode. For the first 10 km I ran strong and passed some strong runners. I don’t remember the specific moment when things changed but somewhere out on the rail trail, around the turnaround I started to hurt. My energy was still good but I just could not turn my legs over as quickly. The last 8 km was a major grind. Getting to the end of the rail trail seemed to take forever, and it only gets harder from there. I was just going from aid station to aid station, convincing myself not to walk until I was at the aid station. My legs were sore and felt like they were stuck in glue. I focused on as quick a turnover as I could manage and getting nutrition from the aid stations. It felt like I was getting passed a lot (by people who I had passed earlier), but I had no ability to react to that. I was in ‘just get to the finish’ mode.
I did manage to pass a few people on the last few hills but I still wasn’t moving very fast. I suppose this is what it feels like to push to the limit. I sure feel like I went to my limit.
5 km = 21:20 = 4:16/km, 166 bpm (up and down hills)
5 km = 21:18 = 4:15/km, 171 bpm (flat)
5 km = 22:58 = 4:35/km, 174 bpm (gradual climb)
5 km = 24:33 = 4:54/km, 171 bpm (up and down)
Last km = 4:45, 177 bpm (up the final hill and down the middle of the village)
Overall run 1:34:29, 4:28/km. 30th in my age group, 148 overall. Down to 15th in my age group for final position. 105th overall in a time of 4:39.27.
I’m most pleased with how I ‘raced’ this race. It made for a miserable final 8 km, but that painful memory is already starting to fade.
Thank you to Carm, Olivia and Norah for the ongoing support and amazing cheering. Also, to the other friends who were cheering us last Sunday. It really helps.
Thank you to Miranda for the amazing coaching. You probably knew I could race this fast more than I did. To Christine for the athletic conditioning that keeps me injury free.
Thank you to my training partners, my clients and everybody at WattsUp, who provide endless inspiration.
Thanks for reading!