Wow! Now that was a race! I didn’t have any idea who was going to win the race until 17km, and even then, I still wasn’t certain. But, I’m getting ahead of myself…
The build up to this race went really well. I had very little soreness the day after Ironman Texas, and almost no soreness two days after. This allowed me to recommence hard training just three days after the race. I did have a little bit of worry because I had quite a few sponsorship obligations in the three weeks leading into the race. If you have sponsorship obligations it probably means you are doing something right. Thus, I chose to look at it as a great opportunity to train hard when it’s time to train hard, and take care of the business side of things when it’s time to take care of business. I learned a lot in this period about time management and prioritization.
Another thing I was worried about was how well I was balancing training for an Ironman and a 70.3. The two are definitely different beasts, but I think I am beginning to find a good balance between the speed required to race a good 70.3, and the endurance required to race a good Ironman. In a way, having equal focus on both of the distances actually has a lot of benefit. The 70.3 doesn’t feel very long, and the Ironman doesn’t feel very fast.
The gun went off at 8am. I think this may be the latest I have ever started an Ironman branded race. The late start was greatly welcomed as I am not much of a morning person. It was a running start. I have only done a couple of running starts in my life. The last time was actually at this same venue, except it was the 70.3 World Championship. That one didn’t go very well. I took about three steps and then tripped on the water and face-planted. My goal this time round was not to face-plant.
I felt like I got out pretty well. I was immediately on feet. The pace felt moderately hard, so I had an inkling of hope that I was in a slightly faster pack than usual. At the first turn buoy I was able to make out some of the faces who were in the pack with me. I then realized I was probably in my usual pack, or perhaps even one slower. I immediately went to the front as I did not want to give up any time unnecessarily to the leaders. I was now leading a pack of about 6 or 7 guys- a situation I prefer not to be in. I exited the water in 26:58. Not bad and not great. I will say, I have been working with Tim Floyd from Magnolia Masters, and in the pool I am doing the best swimming of my life. Just three days prior to this race I was able to hold 1:12/100m for 10x100m on 1:55- and I wouldn’t even rank it in the top 50 hardest effort swims I have ever done. I have never been able to do anything close to that before. I am confident that soon, I am going to have a jump forward in the open water.
As I was mounting my bike Erin yelled to me that I was 3:55 down and in 15th place. I was very interested to see how the dynamics on the bike were going to play out. My intention was to hold as close to the power output I held at 70.3 Worlds as I could- 360w. I made it to the first turnaround at 33km averaging 354w and 45.2kph. In terms of steadiness of output, my normalized power for that time was 359w. I was actually quite surprised to find that I had pulled back a lot of the time deficit. At that point I was about a minute down. I continued to stick to my race-plan and at 48km I caught the lead pack.
With hindsight, this is where I made my first error. Instead of pulling up to the back of the pack and catching my breath, I immediately went for the pass. I held 445w for 90 seconds, and then 378w for the next 5 minutes. I looked back, and the pack was still there. I just couldn’t shake them. This is no surprise though, as immediately behind me was Jesse Thomas, and behind him was Tyler Butterfield and then behind him was Cody Beals. I have to guess that these three guys would make many “top-10 strongest cyclists in long distance triathlon” lists. Error number two came next. At 52km, when I realized I would not be able to shake the pack, I should have pulled over and let someone else do the work. Instead, I stayed at the front for the next 36 kilometers. With about 2km to go, Tyler Butterfield came by me and I came into transition in second place. My average power for the whole ride was 349w, with a normalized power of 356w, and an average speed of 43.3kph.
I told Erin the night before the race that I was really going to push my limits on the run. Last year I ran sub 70 minutes 3 times off the bike, and this year I have been nowhere near that level. I wanted to at least get closer to that in this race. About 800m into the run I entered the lead, but was immediately joined by Jesse Thomas. Not long after, I could hear someone else behind me but I was unsure who it was. Jesse started to drop back a little and then someone immediately came up on my left shoulder to fill his place. It was Taylor Reid. I can’t say I was surprised to see Taylor. He had a good race at Oceanside 70.3 in March, but I knew he was still working out the kinks there. I figured it was only a matter of time before he figured the distance out. It appeared he had figured things out for Mont Tremblant. Taylor and I have run hundreds if not thousands of miles together, as we were both members of the McMaster cross-country team, and team-mates on the C3 High Performance team. In a sense, it kind of felt like we were just out on another training run.
At about 6 kilometers Taylor’s breathing started to labour. I figured he was starting to hit the wall, so I started to surge. I put in a good kilometer surge and then the pace started to get to me. It was at this point that Taylor started to put in a surge. Fortunately, I still had a bit of gas and was able to respond. At the turnaround I was really starting to hurt. Taylor must have sensed this and put in another hard surge. This time I really contemplated letting him go. But, I then realized that I had vowed to push my limits on this run, and it appeared that we were approaching my limits. It was then that I fully committed to pushing myself until the end. Jesse was still right on our heels as well, and I had no idea how he was feeling. For all I knew he was just biding his time, responding to surges, waiting to pass us both.
In all honesty, even at 15 kilometers, I had no idea who was going to win the race. I started to think tactics for the finish. I knew there was a steep hill inside the village, about 500m from the finish line. I had decided that if we made it that far together, that was where I was going to make my move. At about 16 kilometers there was another turnaround on a short out-and-back section. I got the inside line going into this corner and came out first. I noticed that Jesse had started to fall off a little- maybe 4 or 5 meters. I also noticed that Taylor was taking a lot longer to bridge back up to me. We made a quick hard left another 100m down the road and that’s where I started to surge.
I could feel a gap opening up. I knew this was the moment. I pressed even harder. I’ve done enough races now to know that if you can get 20 meters or so, bridging back up this late in the race is almost unheard of. I didn’t allow myself to look back until 18k. When I did, I could see I had about 100m. I knew the elastic had snapped. But I could tell Taylor was very hungry, so I did not allow myself to let up whatsoever.
Coming through the finishing chute was awesome. Mont Tremblant has an amazing energy to it. It’s hard not to get fired up and feel a shiver down your spine. Plus, it brought back great memories of 70.3 Worlds last September. What made it even more memorable was watching my bro come through the finish in what has to be his biggest result yet. Taylor has to be one of the hardest workers I have ever met, so to see him finally start to get the results he is after was great to see.
By far and away that has to be one of the most fun races I have ever participated in. There is nothing I love more than pushing my limits, and thanks to Taylor and Jesse I was able to do that. The biggest lessons I learned in this race pertain to tactics on the bike. This is something that I have only very recently become cognizant of because it is only very recently that I have been in races with significant bike packs, as well as had any shot at catching those packs. I will say, from my experience having caught bike packs on several occasions, there is a significant drafting effect that occurs at the legal limit (12 meters)- particularly as you get into the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, etc. positions. I think the move to a lower wetsuit cut-off for pros (71.5F) was a great move that eliminates a lot of unfair advantage. The next logical step in my opinion, is to now increase the draft zone, at least for the pro race, where money is on the line. For the most part, staying outside of the draft zone is mostly an honour system anyway, as there is no way that an official can watch everybody all of the time. I really can’t see any harm in increasing the draft zone, to at least promote a fairer race. Why do I care? Quite frankly, I don’t really want to “sit in,” but that is definitely starting to cross my mind.
I’ve got to give a huge shout out to everyone for cheering and following along both on the course and at home. It definitely helped me get through the dark patches. I’ve also got to give a big thanks to all my sponsors. Without you guys this result would not have been possible. Next up is Muskoka 70.3 on July 5th. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there.
Also, thanks to Julien and Rob for the awesome photos. Check out their respective sites:
Thanks for reading and following along!