Race Priority: A
Race Execution: A-
Performance Summary, comparing projections and actual data:
Note: My TrainingPeaks reports are linked to the hyperlinks above, where the words Swim, Bike and Run are shown.
- Breakfast: Hammer Bar & GU (330 cals total). 2 salt tabs plus vitamins.
- Swim: 1 GU prior to swim (100 cals total)
- Bike: 2 Scoops of Carbo-Pro plus two Salt tabs per 24 oz water bottle, in two bottles carried on the bike. 1 GU at beginning of ride, and at 1 hour and 2 hour marks for a total of 960 cals for the bike ride.
- Run: 1 GU at miles 2, 6, and 9. Salt tabs at 2 and 9. At least 4 to 6 oz of water (estimated) at each aid station.
Weather conditions: Partly cloudy skies, 81 degrees (peak) with 34% relative humidity (peak). Winds WSW at 8 mph. Starting temps were in the mid 50’s for the swim and the run start was 79 degrees.
- What went well: My bike strategy worked well overall. As I looked at the course I decided I needed to push the first 44 miles reasonably hard. Although there were hills in this section, they were longer and straighter overall. The last 12 miles were full of hills (and a 12% grade) and turns, and was more of a technical course, which I knew would slow me down. I was able to build up a good average speed entering the technical section, which helped my overall speed average remain relatively high (21 mph average). On the swim, the water was very clear which helped me draft better in the swim.
- What could have been better: I had a series of small things happen that were minor annoyances along the way, but overall I am pleased with the race. The small issues included getting my goggles kicked down, my rear brakes rubbing on my climbs, my chain falling off twice, and a side ache on my run.
- What I learned: Bike strategy is very important to overall performance, being sockless works well for 13.1 mile run in the heat, pushing the pace downhill at the end of run isn’t a good idea, and of I need to get my bike tuned up yet again.
- Overall Age Group Rankings: Total division (45-49 male) had 199 starters. Swim 66th, Bike 39th, Run 43rd, with the total being 35th (17.6%). I finished 322nd overall, out of 2068 people entered.
Race Report Commentary:
When looking at races for 2012, I wanted a destination race where we could vacation as a family and spend a little extra time in the area. My wife and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary in Mount Tremblant (MT) in 1999 and had a good time, so it seemed like a good venue for vacation / race. Based on the nice setting, traditionally cooler temps / low humidity, and relatively low altitude, I decided it would be my “A” race for the season.
To get to Mount Tremblant, we flew to Montreal and rented a minivan for what should be about an hour and forty minute drive. Flying in on Thursday afternoon before the race, we ran into standstill traffic in Montreal. It was a holiday weekend, so everyone seemed to be leaving work early. We probably had an extra 45 minutes getting out of the city, and then it is an easy drive to Mount Tremblant.
On Friday, I did a quick preview of the course. I found the distance from the swim exit to transition to be longer than expected, which would add to my T1 or swim times depending on where the timing mat was located. I viewed sections of the run course that were on the road to gauge the hills (steep but short or long but not steep) and skipped the area on the old rail lines assuming it was all flat. I also previewed the bike course, and found it to be a bit different than what I had expected, based on the profile. The first 44 miles had more and larger hills than I expected. The last 12 miles had more turns and shorter, steeper hills, but the 12% grade didn’t look as intimidating as I had anticipated. Due to the more technical nature of the last 12 miles, I still decided I needed to push the first section of the race harder as I knew I’d probably lose some speed and power in the last section of the bike leg.
I also checked in on Friday, shortly after they opened. As always, you stand in line, but probably got through the process in less than 30 minutes. The only odd thing was that they weighed me prior to the event, which hasn’t happened before any of my Galveston 70.3 races or for my IM at CDA. On Saturday I checked in my bike and went to the race briefing. The predominate language is French in the area, so the briefing lasts longer than usual as they have to give everything in French and English. I kept wondering if I was getting all the information, as the English sections seemed short and the French sections seemed to go on forever (actually they did a great job of switching back and forth with the languages).
On race day I got up about 4:25 and had breakfast and started getting ready. I don’t like to think too much on race morning, so I have a series of lists that detail what to do when as well as having all of my gear packed in bags the day before (my lists are located here). At transition in the morning, I simply follow the instructions and get everything set up as planned. I had time to walk back and forth from run in to bike out and back several times to avoid any confusion later. I organized my helmet, shoes, glasses, etc. the same way I do on short courses to minimize time in transition. I packed all of my run nutrition in a small baggie, so I could just grab it and put it in my pockets during the first mile of the run.
Swim start at Mount Tremblant (MTB) was interesting. It is about a 10 minute walk from transition to swim start, which was longer than I wanted barefoot. Unlike Galveston, they had a lot of porta-potty’s close to swim start, which is nice for pre-race nerves. There was a lot of energy before the race, with music playing, aerobatic planes flying overhead, and a big cannon to kick off the the Pro’s. They had 11 waves to start, so each wave was around 200 people. My start was at 7:30, which is earlier than I’ve started traditionally.
Overall I had a good swim. My time at Galveston this spring was around 37 minutes, and my best time at Galveston was 36:00. I expected with cooler water temps and possibly some waves, that I might end up around 37:30. I was surprised to find the water temp was 74.5 degrees, and we had virtually no waves on race day. The beach start was easy and I didn’t get bumped around too much at the start of the race.
After a couple hundred yards I managed to get kicked in the left goggle, knocking my goggles down on my face. I stopped, cleared the water out and continued. The water was very clear with no algae or weeds this time of year. The water clarity allowed me to get close to other people without hitting them, which I believe helped my drafting. Coming back toward the finish line, the water varied in depth dramatically. At times the water seemed barely deeper than my hand depth, and at other times I couldn’t see the bottom. The water gets very shallow quite a long way from shore (maybe 50 yards) so many people were standing and walking early. I stayed in swim position and actually pulled myself with my hands on the rocks on the bottom until it was simply too shallow to even pretend to swim (based on my times and swim form… some people could argue I only pretend to swim all the time). I passed a few people in the shallow water, and felt like I was using less energy as well. I was thrilled to see my time at below 36 minutes coming out of the water, with an official swim time of 36:02. I stopped at the wetsuit strippers and they got me out of my wetsuit on the second pull.
The run to T1 seems very long, and is around a 1/4 mile. Although I was concerned about running barefoot that far (and hitting a rock in the road), they had the road cleaned off and more than half of the distance carpeted. I found my bike quickly, put on my helmet, sun glasses, and race number and ran out of transition. I keep my shoes mounted to my bike, which makes the transition much faster for me overall.
There are several corners getting started on the bike, and the first hill starts before the end of mile 1. As I started up my first climb, I felt and heard my rear brake rubbing on my rear tire. This had happend to me earlier this year, and ended up being loose spokes in my rear tire (which I had tightened about 3 weeks before the race). As I put power down the rear wheel deforms, hitting the brake pads. I reached back and loosened my brakes to see if it would stop the rubbing… but it didn’t. From that point forward my wheel would rub my brakes whenever I would put more than about 250 watts down, which was basically every hill on the course. I’m not sure how much effort it really cost me… the perception of the problem was probably greater than the actual impact. I tried to be a bit smoother on the hills, to minimize the impact as much as possible, and attempted to put it out of my mind. The course itself is very nice. Almost all the roads had been newly paved, and the scenery was very good, with lots of hills, trees, cliffs, and rivers to see. The first 44 miles have longer hills and relatively straight roads. The steeper climbs are around 6% grade (like Twister hill in Bluff Creek). I quickly found that most of the Canadians were kicking my butt on the climbs, but with my fairly agressive aero position, I was passing them all again on the downhill portions. The course also goes into one of the local villages, where the roads got a little rough and tight, but the crowd support was really nice. We then headed back toward the main village and transition, and the last out and back section of the course. The last 12 miles gets interesting as it heads up the mountain. This section is also really filled with short hills and many turns, making it more technical than what I normally train. As noted in the race summary, I anticipated slowing in this area so I was targeting around 210 watts average in the first section, and expected to drop to below 200 in the last 12 miles. Based on some hill training I had done earlier in the year, I thought this would make my overall bike ride at less than 20 mph average. At mile 42 I had averaged 206 watts (NP 217) and 21.6 mph so I was close to plan. Going up the mountain was better than expected, since it wasn’t one long grind but a series of shorter hills followed by flats or very short downhill sections. Traffic got busy with people passing, but everyone was going 5 to 8 mph overall on the uphill sections. My brakes continued rubbing, but more exciting was having my chain pop off when I tried to go to my large gear up front in one of the downhill sections. I managed to coax it back on without stopping, but was cautious switching back and forth… mostly running in my small chain ring in this section. When we finally got to the turnaround, the remaining 6 miles was downright fun. Although there still were some uphill sections, most of it was downhill and I was generally riding 25 to 40 mph most of the way. The biggest challenge was the amount of people in this section, and difficulty in passing in the corners (going three wide at times). For additional fun, I had my chain fall off a second time on my way back down the mountain… but once again was able to get it back on without stopping. As expected, my power dropped in this section (there is a lot of coasting on the downhill sections where I wasn’t able to keep up pedaling) and ended up at 197 watts average (213 NP) over the entire bike ride. What I didn’t expect was that I ended up averaging 21.0 mph over the total bike leg, so I picked up about 6 minutes over what I had anticipated.
T2 went well overall. I ran my bike back, took my helmet off, put my shoes on (no socks this time), and grabbed my visor and nutrition baggie and ran out. Once on the course, I put my salt tabs in my right shorts pocket, and my GU in my shirt and shorts left side pocket. I grabbed water right outside transition, drinking one and pouring one on my head, with the plan to start nutrition at the first aid station at mile one.
My overall goal this year for the run was to average around an 8:05 pace. I expected to start at around an 8:15 the first mile and gradually pick up to around 8:00 per mile, with my HR ranging between 150 to 163 BPM. I also decided to try this race sockless as I was frustrated with how heavy my Kinvaras and socks had gotten in my last race when water logged. I also switched to K-Swiss Kwicky Blade light shoes that are hydrophobic (water repellant) and have plenty of drain holes, to see if it would help keep the weight down.
The race starts with a short but steep hill in mile 1, and then some relatively gradual climbs out to another small village. It was warmer than I had expected (80+ degrees), and at the first aid station I decided to focus on getting water in me and on me, rather than starting the GU right away. I took three waters, drinking two and pouring one on my head and body. My first mile was faster than I planned, at just under 8:00 minutes per mile, but I felt good overall (I still have trouble holding myself back on the first mile). I started my nutrition plan at the second aid station, taking GU and electrolytes. As I ran out to the village with the intermittent hills (mostly uphill), my HR went up to 162, but then settled back down to the mid 150’s when the course got flatter. There were quite a few people along the way cheering in French at us. They seemed very supportive… but maybe they were just smiling and saying go home stupid American… not speaking French I guess I’ll never know. There were quite a few people in the village with hoses that were spraying you with water as you went by, which was nice to keep my body temperature down. My big surprise for the run occurred after the village when we started running on the old rail lines. Unlike here where our paths are asphalt, this rail line was crushed gravel… which isn’t my favorite running surface. Although it’s softer to run on, it feels like my feet slip a little as I push off and I have historically run about 5 to 10 seconds per mile slower on gravel overall. The other thing that became apparent quickly, was that the small gravel was finding it’s way into my shoes… where I didn’t have any socks to protect my feet. I was a bit concerned how chewed up my feet were going to be by the end of the run.
The rail course is flat and mostly straight, as you would expect. It’s tree lined so sometimes shaded and sometimes in the sun. It was hot in this section and had very little spectators, so it wasn’t the most fun to run. This is basically 6 miles, with a couple of aid stations along the way to break it up. I felt like the aid stations were a little further apart than advertised, or maybe just further apart than I would have liked. I continued to drink one or two glasses of water at each station and poured one or two glasses on my head or body along the way. It’s 3 miles out from the village and three miles back on the rail lines. The course then stays on the rail lines and goes another out and back along a lake for about a mile, and then back to the village again. I was happy to be on asphalt again, and happy to again have crowd support (and their spray hoses). They were really cheering everyone, which was nice to have later in the run.
All along I was ranging between about 7:55 to 8:10 on my paces, with most miles between 8:00 and 8:05. My HR was running in the upper 150’s. I decided on the way back to the main town that I could try to push a bit on the downhill sections. This worked well on the first couple of hills. As I was just shy of mile 12, I decided to push one of the steeper downhill sections, and ended up with a really bad side ache.* Sometimes I get side aches and can just push through them, but this one was bad enough that I couldn’t breathe normally and ended up just panting. My pace dropped considerably, and I was just plodding along trying to catch my breath for about a half mile. I decided to stop at the last aid station and walk a little to see if it would help. I drank water and started running again, pushing up a short hill that leaves the transition. My side ache subsided a bit, which was enough to allow me to get back to normal breathing and running for the rest of the race. We had one last steep hill getting back to town before the finish, and then a nice downhill section through cheering crowds to the finish line.
As a whole, I was very happy with the overall results. It was a new PR for me, taking about 8 minutes off my last race. I came to the finish fast enough that my family missed me with the camera, as they weren’t expecting me yet (a good problem to have). After the race I poured about a 1/2 of a teaspoon of gravel out of each shoe, but fortunately no blisters or bleeding on my sockless feet… so my sockless strategy turned out to be a success as well. The K-Swiss shoes also did a great job of draining and not getting water-logged during the run.
Thoughts on the Mont Tremblant 70.3:
- This was the first 70.3 race run at this location, and they did a great job organizing the event. Crowd support was very good, and they seemed genuinely happy to be hosting the event.
- The swim was very straight forward, with very clear water. I’m not sure if it will build up algae for the full IM in August, but it’s great in June.
- I liked the bike course, as it has a lot of variety. There are longer hills, short steep hills, and sections through villages, so there are different things to see along the way. The roads are mostly newly paved, making it a smooth ride overall. I still don’t have a good handle on the overall elevation climb on the course. MapMyRun said only 1800′ of climb, which was clearly incorrect. My Garmin 500 (using barometric pressure) said about 3000′ of climb. TrainingPeaks corrected the total using topo maps to 4100′ of climb. GarminConnect corrected the total to around 4500′ of climb. In the end it doesn’t matter as none of the climbs are that tough and it is a nice course overall.
- The run course on the road is great, with good crowd support. I didn’t care for the rail line section, which makes up more than half the course… but that’s because I don’t care for gravel. I think they could use one or two more aid stations along the way.
- The overall course isn’t particularly spectator friendly for your friends or family. The problem is that they fully or partially close a lot of the roads, so it would be very difficult for your support people to see you anywhere other than the main village. Of course T1, T2 and the finish line are there and the bike route does come back through the main village, but they basically limited to seeing you at these points in the race.
- Overall I’d recommend this course as a destination race. If your family is into walking and hiking, we found a lot of nice trails to walk in the mountains surround the main village. The area also has a very quaint European feel. The only other downside is that this area can be expensive overall. Food in the main village is pricey, but is more reasonable if you dine in some of the other small villages in the area.
* After the race I read a couple articles online that mentioned that side aches can be caused or exaggerated when running downhill. The theory is that running downhill increases the forces on the body and internal organs, triggering the side ache. Since I was near the end of a longer run, my running form was likely poor, probably making the situation even worse. It clearly hit on the downhill, and actually felt a little better when I ran back uphill later.
I’ve had several people ask me about this race as a destination race, so I’ve added a few additional pictures at the end to give them a feel for the Mount Tremblant area.