Tremblant 70.3 Ironman notes πŸŠβ€β™‚οΈπŸš΄β€β™‚οΈπŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ

After a few days of recovery, and before I forget, here are a few notes on the Tremblant 70.3 Ironman.

The short version (given there’s lots of details below) is that the course was fantastic and the race was really well organized.

Pre-race

This part was easy and the day prior to the race. There were scheduled times for registration and all we needed was the QR code from our online payment. With that, they handed over a wristband, timing chip, all sorts of stickers with my bib number, swim cap, t-shirt, and a morning gear bag for transferring clothing from the swim start to the run finish.

Next up was dropping my bike off at the transition. There were two stickers for the bike, both of which had my bib number on them and matched the number on my wristband. Staff at the transition entrance used these to make sure the bike belonged to me, before letting me in. Then I tracked down my transition spot, which was at the bike start end of the transition zone.

They also had a mandatory athlete’s briefing in the afternoon. As a first timer, this was really helpful. They talked through the overall course, showed some specific turn arounds and tricky spots, and then reminded us of the important rules. There were also repeated (and welcome) warnings that race day was going to be exceedingly hot (at least for recently hibernating Canadians) and that everyone needed to take precautions.

That was it for the Saturday events, other than finding some food and trying to get a good night’s sleep. Sunday (race day) started early, so that I could get the rest of my transition spot set up by 6:30. As with the bike, they checked wristbands before letting anyone in. I took about 10 minutes to get everything organized and visualize how I’d move through the zone.

Swim

Although the novelty might wear off after a few more races, standing on a beach with 2,000 other people along with a strong mix of excitement and anxiety is quite the experience. People were in and out of the lake to get in a warmup swim before the start and then the national anthem played just before 7. The pro men started right at 7, followed by the pro women at 7:05, and then the rest of us started at 7:10. We were all self organized into corrals of different expected finish times and I aimed for the back end of the 34-37 minute corral.

Rather than one big mass start, there was a gate system at the start of the swim that let six swimmers through every 10 seconds. This kept a steady stream of swimmers going through the start without a giant crowd. The only downside was that it took a while to clear the beach. The pro men had already started their bike rides before I’d even left the beach! I crossed the start line at 7:32.

Not much to say about the swim. The water was a nice, cool temperature and there were only a few spots around the half-way point where there was any significant contact with other swimmers. This was mostly because at that point we were swimming directly into the sun and seeing the buoys was really challenging. We all just kept swimming forward, assuming that anyone in front of us was headed in roughly the right direction and it all worked out.

I saw at least three people getting hauled out of the water by the safety teams that were paddling around in canoes and kayaks. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to need to quit the race so early, but safety is so much more important than pushing through and risking serious injury.

One challenge I had with the Milton sprint triathlon was significant dizziness at the end of the swim and, consequently, a challenge getting through T1 on the bike. So, this time I slowed down near the end of the swim and tried to more carefully move from vertical to horizontal while getting out of the water. This seemed to help; although I still felt a bit light-headed, it wasn’t nearly as bad as last time.

33 minutes for the swim was faster than I’d planned, though I felt good throughout. So, I wasn’t worried.

The swim ended with a 200m run into the transition zone. During this, I was able to wiggle out of the top half of my wetsuit, in preparation for the rest of the transition. Once I was at my transition spot, I pulled off the wetsuit and quickly consumed one caffeinated gel. Then helmet on (they’re really strict about not touching your bike without a helmet on), bike shoes on, and grabbed the bike to run out to the bike mount line.

Bike

The bike course was gorgeous. Lots of hills through Canadian Shield and forests on (mostly) smooth asphalt. There was a really steep downhill around km 16 that got me up to about 79 km/h and, since this was part of a loop, I also had to climb back up this hill on the way back. I’d been worried about this when looking at the map. But, in the end, it wasn’t so bad. I knew it was coming and just had to power through. The part that surprised me was the undulating hills in the last third. Despite the great scenery, these were really hard!

My coach had advised I keep my heart rate around 155 throughout the bike course. Other than a few of the climbs, I was able to stick to this. It was actually really helpful to have a specific target to keep trying to hit. Three hours on the bike can get rather tedious without something to focus on and there’s always a worry about pushing too hard on the bike and blowing up on the run.

There were four aid stations on the bike course. Given the heat warning, at each one I grabbed a 750mL bottle of water. 2/3rds of the water I sprayed onto my head for cooling, the rest I drank. They had kids at the end of each aid station with hockey nets and sticks. You threw the empty bottle towards the net and they stick handled them in for disposal.

I also had a 750mL bottle of electrolytes and 500mL bottle of water on the bike that I consumed throughout, along with two Stroopwafels and two energy gels.

2 hours and 56 minutes on the bike was a few minutes faster than I’d anticipated. So, also happy with this. By the end of the 90km, my legs felt reasonably fresh, but I was glad to get off the bike. Things were starting to get pretty uncomfortable. This might partly have been because it was actually my first ever ride with aero bars. I wouldn’t recommend waiting until a race to try these out, though that was how it worked out for me. Overall, I’d say the aero bars were more comfortable than I’d expected, I just wasn’t used to them.

Run

T2 was straightforward. I racked my bike, took off my helmet, and switched to running shoes and a hat. One more caffeinated gel and off I went.

My plan was to maintain a 5:30 minutes/km pace for the run with an emphasis on keeping it slow after the bike transition (it is really tempting to start running fast off the bike). This was sustainable for about the first half. By the second half, though, the heat really started catching up with me and I had to slow down to around 6 minutes/km. I was super sensitive about pushing too hard in the heat and, consequently, jeopardizing actually finishing the race. So, I wasn’t upset about slowing down. I did see at least two people off to the side of the course being attended by medics with apparent heat stroke, which were good reminders to pace carefully.

I’d committed to myself before the race that I would walk through each of the 12 aid stations. At each one, one water went onto my head, another I drank, and then I grabbed a couple of cups of ice. I had a small ziplock bag that I put ice in to hold, while the other ice went down the front of the Triathlon suit. Like me, many of the runners were making lots of jiggling noises as the ice that had fallen down into our shorts bounced around. Absolutely necessary though, given the heat and humidity.

For nutrition on the run, I had two gels: one at about the 10km mark and the other around 15 km.

The run course was also gorgeous. We ran through a decommissioned rail road track converted to a multi-use recreational path through the heart of the Laurentians that included waterfalls and forested areas. Although not as shaded as I’d hoped, the course was great. There were also a few spots with sprinklers or fire hydrants spraying water. These were helpful for cooling down. I was particularly amused by the local resident that was lounging in a lawn chair with a beer in one hand and hose in the other. A bit of eye contact and thumbs up was all you needed to have him hose you down on the way by: so refreshing!

Kilometres 14 to 17 were pretty tough. I was far enough along to be pretty tired, but not yet quite far enough to know that it was almost over. Knowing my family was at the end, ready to cheer me on really helped here.

The last km of the run was an extra experience. You run right down the hill through the middle of the Tremblant village with spectators cheering you on from either side. Despite all the hard work up to this point, you really feel pretty energized for this part, especially when you finally see the finish line up ahead.

2 hours and 3 minutes for the run was just a few minutes slower than I’d anticipated. I was totally happy with this time, given everything that preceded it and the heat.

Post-race

The finish line funnels you into a big tent with picnic benches. There were plenty of cold drinks available, along with a plate filled with pasta and french fries. I grabbed a couple of waters and then made my way out of the tent to see my family. I was pretty focused on that point with seeing them and then getting into the lake to cool down.

My main goal had been to finish the race. That was accomplished. My second goal was to be in the top half of finishers. I managed to be in the top 1/3 for my age group and top 1/2 overall. So, I was very happy with my overall results.

I felt that I executed the race well. No issues with hydration or nutrition, along with an intentionally conservative level of effort to maximize my chances of finishing the race worked out well.

Two minor lessons learned: more sunscreen, I burned the back of my shoulders pretty thoroughly; and some more lubrication under the zipper of the Triathlon suit, I still have a pretty good friction burn in the middle of my chest.


The Ironman 70.3 in Tremblant was a fantastic experience! Gorgeous course – though you really have to like hills – and really well organized. Ridiculously hot on the run though πŸ₯΅. Thankfully there was plenty of ice at the aid stations. I ran most of the course with my shorts full of ice πŸ˜€.

A huge thanks to my fantastic race crew! Their support and enthusiasm were great, not to mention all their help over the past several months of training. Knowing they’d be at the finish line really got me through the tough kilometres 14 to 17 on the run.

Me wearing all the event swag (hat, shirt, and medal) with two thumbs upMy wife, daughter, and son, wearing Team Routley hats at the race start


Although a small thing in the context of the WWDC announcements, I like the upcoming changes to the Workout app in WatchOS πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ


Tomorrow’s race will be fun! I haven’t been in a proper event for awhile πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ

Race bib for the Toronto half marathon

COVID and Readiness to Train πŸ¦ πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈπŸš΄β€β™‚οΈπŸŠβ€β™‚οΈ

With two school-age kids, this seemed inevitable:

COVID rapid test showing a positive result

All things considered, my symptoms aren’t too bad, which I’m grateful for. Nonetheless, I’ve mostly been in bed for a couple of days to properly recover.

Since I’ve been monitoring my Readiness To Train (RTT) score, I was curious to see how COVID would appear in the metrics.

Thursday morning was the first indication that something was wrong. I completed what felt like a reasonably strong swim workout, only to suddenly feel really drained of energy while walking home from the pool.

Apple Watch screenshot showing RTT trending down and in yellow

After dragging myself home, we found out my son’s friend had tested positive. So, both he and I took a rapid test that confirmed we were infected.

Thursday night was peak symptoms for me, producing an abysmal RTT.

Apple Watch screenshot showing RTT very low and in red

All morning in bed on Friday helped a lot and then a much better sleep last night layered improvement on top.

Today’s RTT seems rather optimistic to me though. My planned intensity included a two hour bike ride and 20k run. Those are not happening! Today’s planned intensity will be watching the season finale of Severance in my pyjamas.

Apple Watch screenshot showing RTT trending up and in green

My experience with RTT is that it typically reinforces how I actually feel with, perhaps, the occasional early warning. Basically a second opinion that reinforces my intuition. But when we disagree, like now, I’m definitely following how I feel.


Although it seems like a luxury, $70 for always dry shoes is worth it. Especially with spring weather πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ

pair of running shoes drying on a shoe dryer

Completed an FTP test this morning. Important to do, though super challenging πŸ˜“πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ


Just fixed a small issue with my Elite Suito bike trainer: the magnets stopped working, so the resistance couldn’t be automatically adjusted. This is obviously a major feature of the trainer and particularly important for Zwift rides.

Fortunately, a quick conversation with their support team identified a fix that required replacing the trainer’s circuit board. Having recently built a gaming PC with my son, this wasn’t too complicated, though someone with less experience would likely be intimidated. The process took about 20 minutes and I took the bike for a quick Zwift ride to confirm all was well.

Although I’d much have preferred that the trainer hadn’t broken, Elite support was quick and helpful.


Indoor cycling πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ

The last piece of my training setup was an indoor bike trainer. Canadian winters aren’t great for outdoor cycling (-20ΒΊC with a blizzard just a few days ago, for example). So, I picked up an Elite Suito-t which is well reviewed and on sale at my local bike shop. This is a direct transmission model with built in power and cadence sensors.

I don’t have enough space in my house for a spot fully dedicated to cycling. So, I’ve got the bike a trainer tucked in a corner of the basement and then I slide our basement couch out of the way and move the bike in front of the TV when I’m riding. The compact size of the Suito definitely helps here.

Indoor bike trainer setup

The Suito came with a free month of Zwift that I’ve really been enjoying. Zwift has lots of group rides and workouts that are fun (though hard work!). Because the Suito is a smart trainer, it automatically adjusts resistance to mimic hills, as well as hit specific targets during structured workouts. Riding with a hundred or so people from around the world is inspiring and motivating.

Although I’m really looking forward to proper outdoor rides in the spring, this indoor setup has been great.


New bike 🚴

I knew going in that a first triathlon requires a lot of planning and gear, especially when you don’t have any equipment.

Given that the cycling component is the longest distance, it is important to have a good bike. Once I knew my size, the next step was to actually choose a bike. And, oh my, are there decisions to make.

As with most things, budget sets a pretty useful constraint. Within that, there’s finding the sweet spot between spending enough to get something good that you won’t regret compromising on later and spending so much that you’ve exceeded your fitness level and can’t capitalize any speed gains from the purchase.

My bike sizing was based on a Trek Domane and I figured that was a good place to start. The next choice to make was between aluminum and carbon fibre. The obvious difference here is price. This Global Cycling Network video helped me understand that an aluminum frame is more than sufficient for me. Spending a few thousand extra dollars to gain a few minutes advantage in a “fun” race is a bad choice. Consistent training is going to provide a much better advantage than the choice of bike frame.

Having made it this far, I figured it was time to start looking around for options, only to find out that COVID had disrupted yet another supply chain. There are close to zero new or used bikes in the market. In fact, there was exactly one Trek Domane AL 4 in Toronto with the next nearest one 200 km west in London. The AL 4 seemed like the right balance of cost and performance for me. So, that’s now my bike!

After all that, I now have the fanciest bike (by far) that I’ve ever owned and it is -20ΒΊC outside just after the biggest snow storm in decades. Rather than just stare forlornly at the bike for the next few months, my next purchase will be an indoor trainer, so that I can build up cycling fitness while winter carries on.


Bike sizing πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ

I’ll be spending many hours and a reasonable amount of money on a bicycle over the next few months. To be efficient, comfortable, and injury free, I want the bike to fit me closely. So, I sought the advice of Scott, a professional bike fitter.

Scott has an interesting contraption that is the various parts of a bike, each adjustable, with which he can recreate any frame geometry. He started out with a Trek Domane as a reference point and had me ride it for a few minutes. Then with an assortment of rulers, protractors, and lasers, he measured me, moved parts, measured again, and optimized the fit. Once the fit was established, he generated a detailed report for me of all the various lengths and angles that I can use to confirm the size of any bike that I find.

I also learned that my tibias are longer than my femurs (not by much) which is not typical (most people have longer femurs). This ends up affecting my optimal bike geometry, since it affects the angle of my knee and hip when at the top of a pedal stroke.

Now that I know what size of bike to get, I’m on the search. The COVID-induced supply chain challenges are definitely affecting availability.


As a benchmark for upcoming training, my coach had me run a 5k time trial. This is also useful for determining my heart rate training zones. I started off too fast and paid for it near the end, but managed to hold a good pace from KMs 2 to 5 πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ


My first swimming workout πŸŠβ€β™‚οΈ

I’ve been in a pool with my Apple Watch before, though only either to splash around with the kids or with a beer at an all-inclusive resort. Today was the first time I’ve used it for an actual swimming workout. It has also been a long time since my high school swimming days back in the early 90s. So, an important day!

My coach gave me a straightforward workout:

  • Warm up 2 x 50m and 4 x 25m
  • Main set 10 x 50m with 20s rest and 10 x 25m with 20s rest
  • 2 x 100m with 1 min rest

As expected, using the Apple Watch was simple. When you start up the workout, it asks for the length of the pool and then automatically figures out when you stop for a rest. This shows up in the β€œAuto Sets” in the screenshot below. Based on this, it looks like my rests were longer than planned, though I’m not entirely sure how precise these are and when it decides to start and stop. Something to keep an eye on next time.

Screenshots from the Apple Fitness app of a swimming workout

I enjoyed being in the pool again and my muscle memory seemed to return. Way back in high school, I specialized in the 1,500m and was very familiar with the seemingly endless flip turns of a pool swim. One thing I need to work on is breath control. I’ve gotten very used to just breathing whenever I want and had some trouble getting in three strokes before breathing near the end of the workout. No doubt this will improve with practice.

I also need to work on my wardrobe. I was the only one in the pool wearing board shorts and no swim cap πŸ˜€


Breaking in my new shoes with some hill sprints πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ


After 2.5 years of faithful service (which, honestly, is far too long), I’ve updated my trusty Sauconys with a new pair. The red is a bit flashier than my usual style, but they’re comfortable πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ


Post COVID-booster recovery run πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ πŸ¦ πŸ’‰


A long run with fresh snow is a great start to a Sunday πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈβ„οΈ


Improving my running with a gait analysis πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ

In preparation for Tremblant, I had my gait analyzed to find out if there are any issues with my running form. I found the process surprisingly thorough and interesting.

Katie (a registered physiotherapist) started out with a general discussion about my running history and goals. Then she filmed me running on a treadmill for about five minutes. We set a fast pace, since that quickly exposes any sloppiness in my running. I have to admit that watching myself running in slow motion was a bit awkward, though my form wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined.

Katie identified two issues: too much side to side rotation of my arms and a pronounced dip on my left side.

The arms are pretty easy. I just need to be more mindful of how they’re swinging and focus on moving them forwards and backwards, rather than side to side. This better directs my energy towards forward movement.

The dip is more complicated. Katie tried a bunch of different strength tests to isolate the muscle and we found that my left glute was much stronger than my right, which is odd, given I’m right handed. To distinguish between strength and muscle activation, Katie tried an acupuncture needle in my right hip. Remarkably, just a couple of minutes later, I was then much stronger on the right side. We did another round on the treadmill and my hips were now nicely aligned.

This suggested to Katie that my strength is fine, rather it’s insufficient muscle activation that is leading to the dip. She prescribed some warmup exercises to help. I know that I have a deficient warm up routine (as in there isn’t one, I just start running), so this is a good excuse to improve this component of my running routine.

As someone that generally just puts on running shoes and gets going, I’m glad I put in some time to understand my gait and identify some opportunities for improvement. I hope to be running for many more years and this should help minimize injuries.


After likely too much deliberation, I’ve registered for the Ironman 70.3 in Tremblant. Although “only” half an Ironman, it is still daunting enough to make me both nervous and excited (nervouscited, as my daughter often says) πŸŠβ€β™‚οΈ πŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ


First snowstorm run of the season ❄️ πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ


Urban trail run πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ


Day 10: The bridges of my morning run πŸ“· πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ


A nice run along Taylor Creek πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ. Except for the hill up to Lumsden Ave near the end; that part was horrible


A quiet run along the beach this morning. Certain to be much busier this afternoon πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ


A misty run this morning πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ