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IM Mt. Tremblant 70.3 2015

Never trust a weather report! Despite dire predictions of rain overnight with thunder a possibility, race day for the 2015 Ironman 70.3 Mt. Tremblant dawned with warm temperatures and only patchy cloud. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We arrived in the pedestrian village at Mt. Tremblant on Wednesday, which is probably earlier than necessary for a 70.3, but it was nice to have some extra time to do nothing. The pedestrian village is a picturesque collection of hotels, restaurants and a few shops built on the side of a hill. The hill is quite steep and a small gondola, called the Cabriolet, whisks people up and down during the day. The village is a great venue for a race—concentrated in a small space, lots of accommodation that’s booked through a central website and activities for non-racing members of the family. The only downside is the 18% sales tax on anything you buy there. The drive took about eight hours from Caledon with stops along the way.

On Thursday morning we went for an easy bike ride. We had spotted a paved bike trail that we’d not noticed on previous visits. Anyone who knows me knows that I do a significant amount of my bike training indoors on a trainer, so riding along the busy Monte Ryan, the main road leading into the pedestrian village, was not something I was looking forward to. The bike path turned out to be a beautiful treed ride that went alongside a river. There was even a landscaped picnic spot. Definitely something to explore further on another day.

On Friday morning we ventured down to the beach for a swim. It was a chilly morning with some wind. There were whitecaps on the water. The posted temperature was 61 degrees Fahrenheit (16°C). Not too bad. The choppy water was a bit challenging, but fun to swim in (other than the gallons of water that went up my nose).

I went for a very short run on Friday too. I had been nursing a sore knee (that may be the result of accommodating a toe that I stupidly broke several weeks earlier). It seemed okay, but it was not liking the uphill walking I’d been doing anytime the Cabriolet was not running.

On Saturday there was a 5150 race and we watched part of it. Later was the bike check-in, which involved much covering with plastic (full bike covers are not allowed; I had my chain and handlebars covered in garbage bags) because of the predictions of rain, rain and more rain. As an aside, most people had just covered their saddle—this puzzles me. You are wet when you come out of the swim, why bother covering your saddle?

So, back to race morning. No rain. No wind. The Cabriolet was running by 5 a.m. This meant we could go down with our gear and our pump, set up, get body marked and then come back up to the room for our wetsuits. A definite bonus. I had a luxurious spot on the bike rack because the woman who would have been beside me hadn’t shown up. In a 70.3 you set up by your bike not in bags as you do in a full Ironman race.

The swim was uneventful and even comfortable with the 20 start waves (4 minutes apart) spreading us out in the water. There was no sun so sighting was even easy. I was grateful to see wetsuit strippers though; cold water messes up my balance so having someone lower you to the ground, whip off your wetsuit and pull you back up again is definitely a big help. There’s a 500-metre run from the swim exit to transition, but they had nice soft red carpet the whole way. My knee wasn’t especially enjoying the barefoot run, so I took it easy.

I was slow in transition as usual. I took the time to dry my feet. If they go into my socks wet, they get cold and stay cold all day. I already had a plastic bag down the front of my shirt to block wind on the bike. This is thanks to a tip I got last year. I may not have needed it because the day was warm, but I figured I could always ditch it at an aid station.

The bike course in Mt. Tremblant is surprisingly tough with the nasty climbing coming at the end. But the road quality is excellent and it’s wide and closed to cars, which is a huge plus. As another aside though—“please don’t ride on the shoulder” they said over and over again in the pre-race meeting. They even had a picture of people not riding on the shoulder. What did most people do? Ride on the shoulder. So, I often had people passing on my right because I follow instructions! We had a few spots of rain early on, but then it stopped. We still had no wind and I made good time for the first 60 km. At about 70 km the route goes a little way through a nearby town called St. Jovite. The road there has lots of manhole covers (I know, I know, there’s a new gender-neutral name for them, but I can’t remember what it is just now), so even though there’s a festive Tour de France vibe, I was happy they had shortened the distance we rode through town. The real climbing starts shortly after leaving St. Jovite. And it continues. And then there’s a bit more. Why did it never occur to me until about 80 km in this race that I should get a cassette for my bike that has something bigger than 25 teeth on the back? If I do this race again, I’m getting a granny gear for sure. After the turnaround at the top of the climb, the return to the village is quite fast.

On to the run. So here is where my lack of training (one thing and another conspired to interrupt my training, including the broken toe and the sore knee) really showed itself. My legs had nothing in them coming off the bike. I also felt like I hadn’t taken in enough calories, so I had a gel and hoped my legs might come back. They didn’t. Not even the nice cold Coca-cola they served on course helped. I walked up the hills, but I did run, albeit slowly, the flats and the downhills. The run ended up being quite hot and steamy even though there was a bit of shade. The race organizers had also added a special treat at the end—the run course now goes up to the top of the pedestrian village before turning for a long downhill to the finish. I understand it, it now passes quite a few restaurant patios that were filled, but it was just nasty. Oh well, the spectator support is truly amazing here.

My knee gave me no trouble until about 18 km where some long downhills start. It wasn’t bad though, and really wasn’t an issue. And my calves were threatening to cramp from that point on too, but they never did.

I was very happy to get to the finish line. This is probably the hardest a half has felt to me. But coming here I wasn’t sure whether I would be biking or running at all, so it was a successful day. One disappointment though—no poutine at the finish!

One last note, the volunteer support in Mt. Tremblant is also amazing. Something like 1800 volunteers according to the pre-race meeting (which may include the 5150 race, but it’s still impressive). It’s a hard job being out there all day and staying enthusiastic (while fending off blackflies if you’re on the run course).

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