On Sunday I raced my 5th Ironman 70.3 in Mont-Tremblant and my 12th half Ironman! As my first 70.3 and “home race" Mont-Tremblant holds a special place in my heart, and I was so happy to go back this year.
Spencer, my fiancé, and I drove (well he drove, I slept!) to Montreal late Wednesday night, then to my parent lake house up north on Friday where I got to keep tapering, resting and carb loading. It was nice to have a couple days off from work before the race, as I am now a working adult, not a student anymore! On Saturday we took our time and drove to the race, so I could check-in, drop my bike and get settled in our hotel. Most of the week prior to the race was hiccup free and I felt pretty good, which is unusual for me during taper time, but I'll take it!
I got to swim open water twice before the race and the water was manageable at around 60-62F (17-18C), but my feet were getting numb very quickly, which has been an issue for me in the past, I can't push on the bike because I can’t feel my feet and my quads are numb. I did come more prepared for that this time and brought ski feet warmer patch that I had planned to put in my bike shoes while I was swimming.
The 4am race alarm rang too soon, and the usual bad night of sleep before a race made for a very groggy Steph! Nothing new there though, I ate my oatmeal/cream of rice, banana, cheerios and electrolyte water breakfast, and headed to the transition early so I would have time to come back to the room (which was right next to the swim start) to use the bathroom for the xx time, lay down and keep my feet up. It was a pretty cold morning, but no wind. Thanks to summer solstice, it was already bright at 5am! I walked to transition, set up everything, got my numbers marked and walked back. It was fairly stress free and quick, and I ran into a bunch of friends and people I knew which was a lot of fun.
At 6:30, I headed to the start with Spencer, where I met my parents, he went on to the media/VIP dock area to get ready for his day of photography and I just hung out with my mom and dad. My mom and I said goodbye to my dad (unfortunately not racing due to injury), got our wetsuit on and walked to the swim warmup area.
The lake was pretty calm and around 62F (17C) kind of normal temperature for this time of year. I had my pre-race gel, jumped in the water to get "warmed-up", but mostly froze by butt waiting for the start!
I ran into Bash another E3 athlete and we just talked until it was time to start, which was nice and made me forget I was nauseous, stressed and cold! One cool think about Tremblant is the atmosphere, there is as many people cheering than athlete and the start is awesome with Fighter Jet flying over your head and fireworks launched as the pro men and women start. The self-seeded rolling start went pretty smooth and I put myself in the first half of the 29-32min swim time.My goal was too swim under 32min, but I wanted to be more around 31. I did 31:08 last year for 1900m (1.2miles).
And then, it was my turn to wait for the green light to go and I ran into the water, did 1-2 dolphin dives, still haven’t mastered those and started swimming. I tried to catch someones feet a couple time, but it never really worked so I just put my head down and did my thing. The swim was pretty uneventful, which is always nice, and by the time I reached the final buoy I was actually surprised that I managed to stay concentrated for the entire thing and push it. I usually get bored at about 20min and feel like time is dragging and I'm not moving. I got out of the water in 30:52 a swim personal record for me, which put me in 8th in my AG, a little better than my usual placement when I get out of the water, and I was really happy with my swim.
Let's be honest, my first Transition s**ked, (3:43) it was way too long, and my feet were numbed so it made running and getting into my shoes harder, thankfully the bike shoes were really warm! I'm usually good at transition, but that one was bad! Oh well…
I know this course like the back of my hand having ridden it more than 20 times in the last 6 years, but every time is different because the long stretch of road on the 117 is always a surprise in terms of the weather/wind conditions you're going to get. This year was no different and we had a nice little headwind in one direction. As you all probably know by now I got a new TT bike this year. I'm now enough over it to tell you that the reason for that is that my BMC got literally demolished (by me) when I drove into our garage with the bike on the top of the car… yes it was awful, I cried, and it took a while to get over it, but my generous parents and fiancé helped me get a new bike and I'm in love with my Canyon. So, all in all I would do it again… JOKES!! Anyways, the point is that I haven't rode a lot outside on this new bike, and in this new position thanks to a very long Maine winter. So, I did feel a little under prepared to ride aero for 90km, but the amount of work I have put in my pain cave on my trainer this winter, is more than ever so I did feel stronger.
My coach and I discussed some specific target power numbers before the race, and I was ready to try and push the bike more than usual and see what would happen. The goal was to be faster than last year, and I had this crazy goal to try and bike under 2:40… Obviously my power meter decided to disconnect 3km into the bike portion and I went back to riding with my Hear Rate number, but mostly by feel. I was really frustrated, but nothing I could do, so I kept pedaling and went on. I felt pretty good 2/3 of the ride, and made an effort to eat more consistently and more throughout the bike. I think it paid off because I felt like I was missing energy much less than usual, but I did slow around km 65, but tried to keep pushing. I finished the bike around 1min30 faster than last year, with a time of 2:43:21, but pretty disappointed with my ride as I know I can do so much better. Far from my A goal, but I guess still faster than last year. I'm hoping to work on that in the next 2 months so that I can ride better for Worlds in September.
T2 arrived, and I was finally off the bike, which is my favorite time! Thankfully my second transition was much faster 1:21 and I was ready to run. Nutrition wise, I don’t remember 100%, but I had a cliff chew sleeves (so 6 blocks), I think 4-5 gels and then a full double concentrated Gatorade and 2.5 water bottle. I had gels every half hour drinking water every 10-15 minutes and alternating with the Gatorade.
I love the run course the first and last quarter are rolling and hilly with a lot of people cheering on the side, but the middle is fairly flat on a bike path. The path is only for the runners and it’s much quieter, so you can get in the zone and just suffer with 2000 of you closest friends! At this point, the sky had completely cleared up and was completely blue with the sun shining, pretty much just the perfect condition to make a run hot and hard! I got out of transition and I was pretty disappointed and mad about my bike split, so I figured I would try and go for it on the run, like really go for it why not,… Well I probably started a little fast but the HR wasn’t as high as I would have expected (168-170) at a speed around 7’s, 7:05 (4:25-4:28) so I kept going. Around halfway through I did start to fade and feel pretty bad so I forced myself to slow down more than I needed so that I could try and stay around that slightly slower speed and be consistent instead of fading more and more. Kilometers 11-18 were a real struggle I was feeling really hot, nauseous and light headed and saw a couple stars, but I just put one foot in front of the other and just stopped looking at numbers, while trying to eat, drink and throw water and ice on my head. My HR was slowly creeping up, but the pace stayed fairly consistent, though much slower than the first half. I managed to run a decent last 2-3 km and “sprinted” to the finish line! I had a full pack of the scratch lab sour chews, eating 1-2 every other mile or so a gel halfway through the run, water every aid stating and base/Gatorade every other aid station.
The energy in the last half mile or so is crazy, I just love it and all of a sudden you have this sudden burst of energy to finish. It’s like no other and I already can’t wait to race there next year! I finished the run in 1:35:18sec (or about 7:16min/mile 4:31min/km for the number nerds like me!) a PR half marathon in a 70.3 and only a minute or so slower than my all-time half marathon PR, but I haven’t run a standalone one in years…
This brought me to a time of 4:54:34, my second ever best time in 70.3 (best 70.3 was much flatter) and a course PR! So while I had some disappointing moments like the T1 and bike it was overall a great day. I finished 3rd in my AG out of 82, with the 2nd fastest run time, and 12th amateur female out of over 900 with the 6th faster run time. One day my bike will have the same stats attached to it (one can hope!)
My coach asked me 3 positives and negatives after the race and I figured I’d share them…
1. I’m happy I went for it on the run even though I could have probably started a little slower and have a better second half, it might have even been a little faster overall. But I went for it and managed to pull myself together mentally and physically and ignore the pain and discomfort and keep running. Also realized I wasn’t going as slow as I though, as it felt like I was running 8min/mile (5min/km) or slower but I actually was going much faster than that!
2. Another thing is that I usually struggle to stay concentrated during the entire race and expect for a little bit on the bike I did a better job at staying in the moment and focus.
3. Finally, I think we are heading in the right direction and I’m definitely seeing some improvement, meaning what we are doing is working and I can’t wait to get even faster!
1. Honestly, I just need to get faster on the bike, but I need to learn how to race faster, I think the second part is the crucial one as I’ve put out number that shows that I can do better and I’m really disappointed in my bike performance.
2. I need to manage my stress better prior to the race, it’s stupid how nervous and nauseous I feel before a race!
3. My T1 sucks so that’s definitely something I can’t repeat, but then I’m usually good at transition, with my T2 being 1min21…
So yeah all and all it was a great weekend of racing with my friends and family, I put out a race that I was mostly proud of and I had so much fun. The hard work I’ve been putting in the last 6 months are paying off and while it might have not always been easy dealing with training, health, work and personal things, I’m proud of my commitment to my passion since the beginning of the year. I would never be there without my fiancé Spencer, who has been pushing me during training, or out of bed at 5am… helping me manage my health and IBS and supporting me mentally, aka bringing me back to reality when I get too anxious, nervous or spiral out of control! Also thank you to my parents, who even across the border are always supporting me and helping me. Coach Jorge and E3 triathlon for the constant support and for reassuring me when I panic text you because I messed up or skipped a workout and obviously for making me faster! Thank you to Irwin Wheels for making my bike look great but making me faster, still need to work on that!
Cheers and on to the next one