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Ironman 70.3 World Championship Mont Tremblant Report

Ironman 70.3 World ChampionshipWhat is there to say about my second trip to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships???  Everything and yet nothing.  Nothing because, unlike many, I wasn’t there to “race” the event.  Rather, I was just stoked to have been fortunate to get a return trip, especially with the new venue.  For me, the prize was merely attending.  My performance, time, placement, or anything like those were all completely secondary.  I was there as a tourist and a triathlete!

But yet, being there was everything.  When I started racing in 2008, I literally didn’t own a bike or running shoes.  While I have a long history of swimming, I hadn’t swam in many, many years.  Yet, here I was, six years later, at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships for the second year in a row!

Ironman 70.3 World Championship

The view from our balcony… Umm, not too shabby eh?!?!

To make the whole experience even more special, I earned my trip this time.  Look, I know I earned it last year too but I didn’t race at Ironman Boise with the intent of getting a slot.  Frankly, I had largely given up on that goal.  I just didn’t think it would ever happen, even when it did.  This year though, I went to Ironman Panama with the clear, specific intent of trying to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  That was my goal and I gave it every single thing I had and truly earned my slot.  The fact that I did earn it made this year’s race, in the glorious setting of Mont Tremblant, my crowning achievement in the world of triathlons and I fully intended to enjoy every moment of it!

Ironman 70.3 World Championship – Mont Tremblant

If you ever get the itch to travel for a race, Ironman Mont Tremblant will not disappoint you!  It is one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever seen for a race.  Located in the low mountains, in a ski town outside of Montreal, it is idyllic.  Verdant, rolling hills, crystal clear lakes, spectacular weather, and local support that is the stuff of dreams make this a phenomenal venue and host city.  WTC should strongly consider having Mont Tremblant be one of a few destinations that are part of regular rotation for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships; it simply is that good.

Ironman 70.3 Mont TremblantIn addition to the stunning, natural beauty of Mont Tremblant, I was lucky enough to have my whole family with me, along with my Dad, my In-Laws, and my brother in law.  Their presence just made the trip that much sweeter and more meaningful for me.

Ironman 70.3 World Championship – the Course

How many sentences do you want to read about how incredible the course is???  Fine, I won’t write a treatise about it…  The swim is perfect.  With cool but not cold temperatures, much clearer than typical lake water, and easy sight-lines, you’d struggle to find a better setting.

Ironman 70.3 Mont TremblantThe bike course is tough but not brutal.  From a difficulty standpoint, you have constant rollers but only two actual categorized climbs, you can go fast with blowing through all your sugar.  Unlike nearly every other race I’ve ever done, we didn’t have a mere “Bike Lane”, we have full roads (and even part of the Trans-Canadian Highway) fully closed to traffic.  Even more pleasantly, the biggest section of the bike was on that Highway and it was repaved in 2012, yielding one of the best surfaces for riding.  A very small part (about 3 miles) through one of the local towns with a bit bumpy and rutted but that’s the only real negative. The rest was just great.

Traveling along the lake and then through the surrounding neighborhood, the run was, at worst, pleasant and, at best, awesome.  With towering trees, we had fairly consistent shade, reducing the heat factor significantly.  Like the bike, the run was also comprised of rollers but since we all were afoot, they were a lot less fun!  While the run seemed pretty tough, it was a great balance of challenging without being ridiculously difficult and I loved it.

Ironman 70.3 World Championship – Raceday

Since I wasn’t there to race, I approached the day far differently than normal.  My focus was much more on accomplishing two things: (1) I wanted to be proud of my performance and (2) I wanted to get done so I could transition to Tourist Mode.  While I didn’t care about placement, time, or things like that, I did want to race well.  But, I wasn’t interested in destroying myself to go five minutes faster.  That just didn’t appeal to me.  Conversely, I was extremely interested in becoming a Husband, Dad, and Tourist as fast as possible.  Mont Tremblant was such a killer destination and I wanted to be fully liberated so I could enjoy it to the fullest!  I know these seem like contradictory objectives, but for me, it just meant pushing but not like I normally do.  And with that, onto the race…

Ironman 70.3 World Championship – Raceday Morning

Ironman 70.3 World Championship

Just a little foggy…

Ironman Mont Tremblant 70.3 starts at 8:00am.  That’s right: 8:00am.  Can I just say a few dozens times how much I love races that start at a normal time in the morning???  The 6:30am (a typical start time for most 70.3 races) or event worse, 6:00am, or somewhat better, 7:00am, are just punishing after the race.  It isn’t bad getting up early to race that early, but the rest of the day is often a waste.  Given that I wanted to eat cookies, have some wine, and play with my kids, I LOVED the 8:00am and my wave start, 8:28am, even more!

Ironman 70.3 World Championship – The Swim

Swimming in Lake Mont Tremblant is phenomenal.  The temperature was perfect (mid 60s), the lake is pretty clear, and the sight-lines were generally really good.  We even had a beach start, sparring the need to get cold while wasting energy treading water between waves.

My wave was just my wave group.  Given that I am 42, I tend to have some of the most aggressive athletes in my starting wave at every race and Mont Tremblant was no different.  My plan was to wait until after the psychos had started and swam off.  I had no interest in competing with them for swimming space.  I think I was literally one of the last few people in my wave to enter the water.  I thought this would ensure a relaxing, enjoyable, and contact-free swim.  I was dead wrong.

Within moments of reaching water that was deep enough to swim in, I started to enjoy the physicalness of my fellow swimmers.  Whether being hit, punched, dunked, grabbed, pulled or kicked, they all seemed to view me as a punching dummy.  It was unreal how much contact I had.  I had intentionally started at the back of the pack for crying out loud! Yet, a-pummeling I received.

Ironman 70.3 Mont TremblantRegardless, I continued to ignore it all and just focused on being calm and swimming smoothly.  Each time I felt myself start to surge or step up my intensity, I would force myself to slow down and stay in control.  I felt great and just kept making long, slow strokes with a heavy focus on being sleek.

Eventually, I reached the two turn buoys.  No surprise, but the contact escalated at each.  I really didn’t understand why there was so much contact but mercifully I began to approach the swim exit.  With about 500 yards remaining, I began to up my effort simply to be freed from the water.

Exiting the water, I assumed my swim time sucked, given my attitude and all the contact.  Later, when I saw that it was a 31:04, I was stunned and pleased.  I figured I’d be around a 33 or 34 minute swim so a 31 and change was awesome in my book!

Ironman 70.3 World Championship – Transition 1

The path from the swim exit to the tent was long.  I would estimate we ran about 1/4-1/3 of a mile along paths and sidewalks before reaching the change tents.  Even though I didn’t care about time, I still sprinted like I was holding a bag of stolen cash.  My time was 4:34, which seems lengthy but was on par with the fastest people in my age group.

Ironman 70.3 World Championship – The Bike

Ironman 70.3 Mont TremblantHaving driven nearly all of the course, I knew what to expect and was looking forward to it.  My goal for the bike was simply to bike as I know I can.  I didn’t want to push it or dig an energy hole that would tank my run but I also didn’t want to Sunday Stroll for three and a half hours.  Pathetically, it became extremely obvious within moments that some of my fellow athletes didn’t share some of my racing philosophies, namely “Don’t Cheat”.

For the first hour or so of my ride, I was passed by literal pelotons of cyclists, some appearing to be fifty or more strong.  Every few minutes, give or take, another massive group of riders would come flying by, all buy one blatantly drafting with no apparent remorse.  Look, I get it: When racing, you want to go as fast as possible, but at least TRY to be subtle with your drafting.  At least pretend you aren’t drafting (even though we all know who is and who is not cheating).  It was ridiculous.  I didn’t really care, other than feeling disappointment at witnessing such lame behavior.  Eventually though, all the packs from later wave starts passed me.  (One little note, I asked as many other athletes how many people they saw in the penalty tents, and only ONE person said they saw a single individual.  Oh well…)

Beyond the drafting comedy, my bike was relatively uneventful.  As the bike unfolded, I set my target on having a bike in the 2:40s.  This seemed doable and reasonable, under the circumstances so I used that to stay focused and consistent.  I used every climb to work and recovered on the downhills, getting as aero as possible.

Eventually, I found myself on the last big section of climbs, about five miles from the bike finish.  Upon reaching the top and knowing I had nearly downhills the rest of the bike ride, I pushed my effort simply to be done with the bike and to enjoy rocketing down some curvy, rolling roads.  Gotta admit, even though I deviated from my “race plan” (if I can even call it that), flying down those hills was fantastic.  I felt like the bolt from a crossbow and it was awesome!

Reaching T2, I gave my bike to a volunteer and was done.  My bike time was 2:45!  I couldn’t have nailed it any better.  Given how good I felt after a rolling 56-mile ride, I was very pleased with my pace.

Ironman 70.3 World Championship – Transition 2

Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant

So happy at the start of the run…

Leaving my bike, I sprinted to my bag and then sprinted to the rows of chairs.  As I was about to sit, I noticed two things: (1) there was some liquid in the chair (random, I thought…) and (2) something smelled like piss.  Before my ass hit wet plastic (THANK GOD), I realized someone had urinated in the chair, presumably while sitting in T2!  What the hell is wrong with someone people!?!?!?!?  If you aren’t going to use the port-a-john, then just pee while running!  It was nasty and stinky…  Thus, I opted for a different chair (oh, and told a volunteer about the mess).  My T2 time was 1:30, about 30 seconds slower than the fastest pros.  Good in my book!

Ironman 70.3 World Championship – The Run

Ironman 70.3 World Championship

Not so happy any longer!

The run was a two-loop, out and back course through the verdant, pleasant countryside.  I’d been looking forward to it all day and was stoked to be there, feeling so fresh.  I knew my family was set-up about one mile from the transition area so I did my best to keep it mellow until I reached them.  Having them there and being able to see them multiple times on the run made me feel very lucky and happy!

Once I passed them, I mostly ran by feel.  I monitored my heart rate and pace, but more as a “how are things going” check, then as a guide.  I didn’t have a real time goals for the run, I just wanted to run and run well.

Slowly but steadily, the miles ticked past.  I kept a steady, if unimpressive, pace for the first four to five miles, but then began walking briefly in aid stations.  While the weather was perfect, the rolling “hills” were much more challenging than they appeared.

Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant

You can see the severity of the Village hill behind me!

Finishing the first loop and reaching the village, I was stunned at the crowd support.  The whole central village was packed with people at least three deep.  I’d never experienced anything like.  Even at full Ironman races there isn’t support like that.  I felt pretty lucky and special to have experience something like that, but was keenly aware that I’d better be ready to run at the end of Lap 2!  No way I was walking up the massive hill in the village with all those people watching!

Lap 2 unfolded much like Lap 1.  I loved seeing my family and tried my best to run.  I am sure that my approach to the race wasn’t helping my running speed.  But, the miles passed and eventually, I found myself on the last steep, but thankfully little, hill before the village.  Preparing my mind, I started running with effort and held that until the end.

Rounding the last corner and peeling into the “Finisher” chute was one of the most amazing experiences.  I could see my family and was overwhelmed with emotions.  My run time was a pretty unimpressive looking 1:53, but I am proud of that.  The run was pretty tough and I was not as prepared as I normally would be.

Ironman 70.3 World Championship – The Finish

Ironman 70.3 Mont TremblantOverall, I don’t know how to describe what Ironman Mont Tremblant 70.3 World Championship meant to me, so I’ll just try my best.  As I mentioned, merely qualifying for the event was, for me, a massive accomplishment.  In my mind, that was a big, big goal.  Two years ago, I felt pretty confident that I’d never be good enough or fast enough to get a spot.  In 2011 and 2012, I traveled to a few races with the goal of qualifying and, each time, fell way short (as in, not even close) and felt the crush of that disappointment.  To make those trips, I’d placed stress upon myself, but more importantly, my family.  Not only had I missed my goal, but I felt like I had wasted all of their time and energy to make it possible for me to go.  Getting a spot at Boise last year was great, but I didn’t feel like I truly earned it.  I felt like a spot had come to me rather than me taking it.  This year, however, was different.  I’d gone to Panama, set my mind on getting a spot, and never let that objective out of my sight.  If I hadn’t of gotten one, I would have been disappointed for sure, but I also would have been proud of my effort and I gave that race everything I could.  It was, and probably always will be, my greatest race.

But, being at Mont Tremblant was more than just qualifying.  It represented the culmination of a massive change in endurance focus in my life.  I’d spent 6+ years trying to become the best endurance athlete possible.  5am wake-ups, training camps, countless hours training, racing, and more had slowly but increasing consumed more and more of my life.  I didn’t start becoming aware of it until this year but once I was aware, I knew I had to make a change.

I wasn’t interested in being a triathlete first or even in being the best triathlete I could be.  Hell, I quit being a lawyer largely because I didn’t want to be a lawyer before I was a Husband or Dad.  Those two titles were the greatest two I have and I was failing them both with my athletic pursuits.  Don’t get me wrong, I love training, racing, and all that it represents.  But, it had become to represent too much for me.  My life had tilted far too out of balance and I never realized it was happening.Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant

How is this relevant to Mont Tremblant, you might be wondering???  Well, the first two familiar faces I saw after crossing the finish line were my wonderful wife and my dad.  Those two, along with my in-laws, my brother-in-law, and my kids had traveled at great expense and even greater pain in the ass to Mont Tremblant.  They weren’t there solely to watch me race (well, maybe my dad was) but they were still there.  Knowing that they were still there to support me, even with what I viewed as some failures on my part meant more to me than I can express.  I didn’t feel like I deserved having any cheering section but I still was fortunate enough to not only have one, but have practically the best one possible.  Having so many of the closest people in my life there at my biggest racing day ever was more than I deserved and will always do my best to be mindful of them in the future!

Thanks for reading and I hope my personal rambling towards the end makes sense!  🙂

Until next time…

Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant

I am incapable of loving him more than I do!!!

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