Friday, September 12, 2014

Mont-Tremblant 70.3 World Championship race

Heading into Mont-Trembant, I had few expectations for myself, with the exception of ensuring that I enjoyed the race and stayed positive, whatever my body was giving me. While this season has not been terrible for me... I made it to the World Champs so no complaining... but it didn't go how I wanted and expected it to go. I've been battling with some nasal breathing issues and have felt as if I've had a low-grade cold all year. More on where I'm at with that later...

Rich and I flew to Montreal (via Chicago) the Thursday before the race. It was a long travel day but the delay in Chicago was made tolerable by bumping into Jen Harrison. I seriously barely noticed our 90min delay because we were too busy chatting away!

We had a pretty late arrival into Mont-Tremblant that evening (after ~90min drive) but since it was still 3 days before race day, I didn't become a stress case. We stayed at the Ermitage du Lac hotel in the pedestrian village and we loved it. A few hundred yards to Tri-Bike Transport, maybe 1,000 yards to transition and less than a half mile to the swim start.

Local bike shop in Mont-Tremblant

The lake where we would swim
We used the few days to do the usual check-in and race course reconnaissance. I wasn't feeling particularly sharp on the bike and run prior to the race but I was just going to go with what I had on the day... I have few aspirations of being competitive in this world-class field! 

In the lead-up to this race, all I heard about was how much climbing there is on the bike course... which I couldn't correlate with the fast bike splits that I'd seen for the June edition of this race in past years. There's almost 2x the climbing compared to a course like Vineman 70.3 but the bike splits are quicker. I realized why they were quicker... there are barely any turns on the course making it technically a relatively easy race. The last 10 or so miles are hilly for sure and we pre-rode this section but the rest was a series of rollers and flattish, perfectly paved freeway.

Race day dawned a chilly 43f so my fingers were numb (in spite of gloves!) after I spent a few minutes in transition pumping tires and installing nutrition, bottles and my bike computer on my bike. Fortunately, we just headed back to our hotel room to stay warm and relaxed until about 40mins before my wave... such a luxury to not have to line up for a porta-pottie!

I jumped into the lake for some warm-up yards but stopped my warm-up to watch the pro waves start their race. I was bummed to see that MBK did not get off to a good start tripping (or being tripped) as she entered the water and then having some gal clamber over the top of her!

Soon enough 8:16am came around and it was time for the gun... I lined up at the far left, having no illusions that I could swim with my speedy AG swimmer friends, Jen Harrison, Kristin Schweiger and Becky Paige. Kristin and Becky would end up as 1-2 out of the water for my wave. My 33:17 swim time placed me a distant 56th out of the water and my swim included being swum over many times by the green caps of the wave behind (M35-39?). 

On the bike I was excited as I knew this bike course could play to my strengths... great aero position and ability to ride steady over rollers and then just let fly on the flats (I may have to go back to IM Cozumel next year as I love just hunkering down and riding flats with few turns, I just love that course!). I had talked to Matt Dixon before the race and said that I was super excited for this course, none of the turns and corners that slow you down on race courses like Lake Stevens and Oceanside. 

Unfortunately, the reality of the race situation quickly took the joy out of the bike course experience. My 100+ age group of W40-44 started just 4 minutes before 224 M35-39 athletes, 8 minutes before 73 18-24 male athletes and 12 minutes before 248 40-44 male athletes. While some of those guys clocked me and passed me on the swim, a decent number of those 545 men would swarm past me in packs on the bike. It was ridiculous that a World Championship race was so tightly bunched from the start. In hindsight, perhaps the race course should have been reversed, starting us with the challenging rollers out of T1 and finishing with the freeway section. What's interesting about the packs (male and female alike) is that they seemed to hammer the uphill sections of the rollers and then just freewheel down the backside. In contrast, my steady watts approach and maintaining momentum OVER the roller would have me fall back from competitors on hills and then just fly by them on the downhills or have to put in a 20-60 second surge to get by the entire pack on the flats. Looking at my power file, my 20sec max power was 322w, 30sec was 291w and 60sec was 272w... some 20-30w higher than usual in a race situation.

On the return portion of the freeway leg, I passed a couple of the speedy swimmers in my AG, Jen Harrison and then Becky Paige and I briefly allowed myself to think I was having a solid race. Of course, I'm a bit of a one-trick triathlon pony so I knew it wouldn't last once on the run! I finally got back to town and was ready for the rollers. While the packs on the freeway were scary, this section was even worse given the narrower roads. I was almost ridden into the ditch on the right hand side of the road at one point as a pack of guys swarmed past me up the hill... maybe I should retract my earlier comment of reversing the course and riding the hills first since these guys seemed to ride together regardless of the terrain! It was in this section that I caught and passed Kristin Schwieger, recognizing her Soas kit and introducing myself as we rode the steep rollers. I also noted to myself that I made a poor gearing choice, having just a 25 cassette and wishing that I had a 27! However, the 11 was certainly helpful as I made the return trip down the rollers and flew back to T2. Bike time of 2:33:57.

Once on the run, I knew almost immediately that the legs were feeling as flat as they had done during our 5am jog earlier in the day. It quickly became a question of finishing with a smile, ending my season and focusing on getting healthy for next year. I was also intensely curious about the women's pro race, desperately hoping MBK was crushing dreams on her way to a win. Thankfully, within the first mile I spotted Siri Lindley and asked her for a race update. Thank you Siri! Little did I know at the time that Siri had been single-handedly updating the entire world about the state of play among the women's pro field via her instagram account since the World Triathlon Corporation had failed to offer live coverage. Yes, really... I also got a personal update on the women's race a few miles later when Mary-Beth Ellis, Heather Wurtele and then MBK passed me (of course, cheering me on and checking how I was doing as she went!). I completed the run in 1:53:02 and ended with a total race time of 5:08:00 and 42nd place in the world. Good to know I wasn't last!

Post-race it was fun to catch up with Blanco and a Portland-based EverymanJack (EMJ) team member and friend, Brian August and hear their race stories. I was also super excited to hear that Ritch Viola, the leader of Team EMJ had won M40-44 and was a world champion!

Team EveryManJack hosted a post-race Taco-fest
We went to the awards banquet to celebrate Ritch's victory and Meredith's 4th place position. The EMJ guys are an impressive bunch... I think 17 of them were racing Worlds but it was quite a crew!

Team EMJ
Post-race catch-up with Meredith

Team Witsup - Blanco and Laura Siddall

For those that are interested and have asked, here's the quick health update: I'm still seeing the allergist and trying to figure out what is going on with my breathing. For the past three weeks I've been on a "no dairy, no citric acid, no chocolate/coffee" diet. I relapsed quite a bit the night before the race (pizza!) and in the post-race chow down and I felt worse for it in the last several days. I just caught up with the allergist again and he started me on a food challenge. For one week, I have to eat as much dairy as possible with each meal... hello triple creme cheese, ice cream and chocolate milk!