After a long yet scenic 6-hour drive to Montreal, Quebec, it was time for the second race of the season. This time for the iconic and hot ticket race IRONMAN Mont Tremblant 70.3! I have two “A Races” this year, and this is one of them.
This will be one of a few redemption events for me. While I did complete Muskoka 70.3 in 2019 within the overall 8:30 hour cut-off time, I was such a weak swimmer and incredibly novice cyclist. I never rode a bicycle in my life until the age of 30, yes not even as a kid. I fell so many times learning and my primary training was all indoors on Zwift, where I developed somewhat okay power, but zero bike handling skills. So I had no idea about shifting gears in Muskoka, walked up 2 hills, and didn’t make the swim/bike cut-off time. I made it a personal mission to improve everything, especially my outdoor cycling skills and swim.
I spent a lot of time in the later part of 2020 (after I recovered from my broken collar bone surgery, from a bike crash sigh), and the summer of 2021 doing long weekend rides up to 204km on hilly routes. I slowly build up a little bit of road confidence, and had rides with a few friends to loosen up the anxiety.
Coaches goals for the race:
Swim – aiming for 45 mins. “Again, the focus on straight swimming here. No number goals, swim based on effort (6-7/10) – enough to keep yourself warm, but not enough to leave you gasping for air. Seed yourself around 35-40min.”
Bike – aiming for 3:30 hr at 170W / 28kph. Use all your gears! No grinding up the hlls in your big ring. You should be little ring in the front, easy gear in the bag climbing duplessis. Try to stay aero as much as possible.
Run – aiming for 2:10 hr. Steady and controlled first 7km. Don’t get carried away on fresher legs here. Stay on top of nutrition. Miiddle 7km should start to hurt a bit, but still know you have an extra gear for the finish. Last 7km the goal is to be the one passing people, not the one being passed.
In our pre-race phone call, coach Miranda and I laid out some pretty doable goals.
I’m really fortunate to have friends also racing this weekend. Mark, his wife Shaunna, and my friend Catherine were there to embrace the day. The 4 of us did an early morning bearing of where our bikes were in relation to the swim, bike, run exits and starts, then walked quite a hike to the swim start at the tennis club.
The RACE [Official Time: 05:54:37]
SWIM (1.9km) – 43:43 min @ 2:15/100m
This is probably the most concerning leg of the race for me as usual. My intention was to take the steady and calm pace I had in Milton earlier in the month, but apply it to a distance 3 times longer. And I managed to do it! The water was a perfect temperature and pretty still. I sighted often and stuck to a straight line. I’m really happy the buoys were numbered and since I knew how many there were, I just counted them down. This really helped with my spatial awareness, otherwise I couldn’t really know how much felt I had. The only tricky part came after the first red turn buoy. The sun was shining straight in our face and it was almost impossible to sight the next buoy. So for the first little bit I had to follow the feet and splashing I saw.
Once I turned the second buoy, I felt really good because there is only way back to shore! That’s when I noticed I was most calm heading back in. Even though I saw athletes already stand and begin walking on the sand, I swam all the way up until my hands touched the steps out. I quickly glanced at my watch and saw it said 43 mins, woohoo under 45mins!
T1 (6:09 min)
It was a rather long way from the swim exist to my bike, so I calmly jogged and made sure to not just walk. Got the wetsuit off pretty quickly, but fumbled a little with getting socks on. I guess I need even more baby powder next time. Now off to this legendary bike course!
BIKE (90K) – 03:03.1 Hours at 29.98 km/h
Like every race I do, the main goal of the bike was to not crash, and not walk up any hills. But seriously, this course was a really good dose of toughness and pleasure. I didn’t notice the Montee Ryan part, the Hwy 117 was really fun and thrilling and Chemin Du Plessis absolutely lived up to the hype. I found the most challenging part “the wall” climb on the return on 117. That was a long steep hill with no shade. Whereas, Duplessis had some steep climbs, but they were often broken up with plateaus, a lot of forest shade, and a ton of cheering spectators! It felt really Tour de France style. For some reason, I couldn’t help but cry as I finished the climb. It was beautiful. There was 3 or 4 U-turns, but on one of them, I had a little dodgy moment where I skid onto the outside lane gravel, but made it back onto the bike. Someone yelled out “good save!”, phew!
The only two bodily issues I had was I noticed my lower back start to have some pain after the 117 climb, but this went away on its own. And that my right foot hurt because I tightened the shoes too much.
I did noticed quite a lot athletes flatted out, and I only recall seeing about 2 service vans. Pretty scary, so I’m making it a goal to learn and be prepared to fix a flat tubeless setup as best I can.
The bike course is iconic and maybe I can better pace or bump up my nutrition for Duplessis and in the final 2 climbs, I feel I like I got really close to my legs cramping up, but luckily they are rather short segments.
With all the climbing, I was really surprised and pleased that I completed this in 3:03hr at 29.98 kph. I could have totally got 30kph average if I didn’t feature on at least two of the descents…next time haha. Good cadence above 80 rpm as well.
The highlight of this race for me was actually seeing Lionel zip by me!!! As I was heading out on the 117, I saw the pace car approaching from the other direction on the other side of the road. I was like…”omg who is leading?” and surely enough, it was Lionel Sanders himself. Usually, when I get into a dark place in a race, I think of Lionel Sanders training videos and keep telling myself “no limits”. Today was quite remarkable. Just seeing him lead the race and realizing that I was sharing this exact same course with him, and other amazing pros like Tamara Jewett, Jackson Laundry, and Cody Beals gave me such a surge of adrenaline!
T2 (3:35 min)
I guess I was slightly disoriented because I almost racked my bike in the wrong spot twice. But quickly found my spot. Got everything off, put my running gear on, and now it was my time to shine.
RUN (21.1KM) – 01:58:09 hr at 5:36 min/ km
I always feel the most at home and in control in the run portion of a triathlon. The entire and day to prepare me for the run. I had an initial feeling off the bike to pee, but decided I could hold it and see what happens. Turns out I never needed it.
This run course was also stunning. And part of it is on the famous Petite Du Nord marathon trail. However, this route did have quite a bit of hills as well. Oh did I mention it felt like 40C?! It was a hot day for everyone. I was lucky that coach Miranda recommended the Omius headband that some of the pros use as well. It’s heat sink tile made from space shuttle material that diffuses heat keeping your head cool. It totally works!
My goal was to start the run strong but then lock into a steady pace. I only slowed down at aid stations to splash and sip as much cold water as I could. We broke this into 3x 7km segments and I feel like I met it to plan. I picked off other athletes rather quickly and pretty much for the rest of the race.
There were definitely moments where I felt like run/walking, but I knew I could do better. Every time I looked at my watch I had to keep calculating and knew I had an opportunity to sub-2 this half-marathon. So I stuck to my paces. I was planning to light my match in the last 5km, but the last part was pretty much uphill, where I saw a lot of people break down and walk. So I did light a match, I didn’t quite get a long sprint finish like I wanted, but feel like I ended strong.
The last 1km back into the Village was absolutely breath taking and wonderful. I roared into the finish chute, crossed the line, and was exhausted and so thrilled, and so very happy. I met my friends in the recovery tent and I cried with them. I did it.
This was my first 70.3 in official time!! The funny thing is that I think was racing against the wrong clock because when I finished I saw the overhead clock say 6:27, in which I was pleased to get sub-6:30. But my friend showed me that I actually finished in 5:54 hours!!! Sub-6!! I really couldn’t believe I did that. I think that actually one of the best feelings was knowing that I didn’t have to worry about making any of the intermediate cutoff times like in the past haha. I’m a new triathlete now!
I ended up doing better than all the goals I had and more so. I learned so much from this experience as well. And this triathlon community is the best.
I cannot thank coach Miranda Tomenson enough. Her training plan is the exact perfect dose. I trust it, and I trust her. I still have mind games with confidence though. Heck, she probably believes in me, more than I believe in myself! I need to work on this, but it’s slowly coming along!
Well now I have a Muskoka 70.3 in only two weeks…probably not the greatest schedule idea ever, but we will see how I feel. This will be a “B race” at best and give me a chance to try out an upped version of my race nutrition.
I still want to swim at a 1:55-1:59/100m pace in open water so very badly! Since I know I can sight and swim straight and calm at this distance, I will try push the effort a little more in Muskoka.