Aug 19, 2015

Race Report: Ironman Mont Tremblant - August 16

After a disappointing run at Ironman Lake Placid on July 26th, I decided to take another crack it at this past weekend at Ironman Mont Tremblant. Because I wasn’t able to run nearly as fast as I could have in Lake Placid, my coach (Matt) and I both felt confident that I would be very close to (if not completely) recovered in time for Ironman Mont Tremblant. And I didn’t really want to wait until next year to try again, knowing the training I would have to do to get back to the shape I’m in right now. John (MacKinnon) was in a similar situation, so we made the decision to register (14 days before the race). My training schedule between these two races was fairly relaxed with two main priorities: maintenance and heat adaptation. As mentioned in my Ironman Lake Placid Race Report, it was very hot that day and my lack of runs in the heat this spring/summer likely played a factor. The recovery process went well and I felt strong and well rested during the week leading up to race day. The forecast was calling from 29C (35 with the humidex), which meant we would likely have to run again in excruciating heat. The day ended up being 31C (38 with the humidex) – which made for a very tough day both mentally and physically.

John and I racked side by side in transition.
 Swim: 1:05: 08

Mont Tremblant has a wave start where they send off groups of 300-400 participants (based on age/gender) on three minute intervals. The swim is a pretty straight forward one loop course in Lake Tremblant. As per usual, regardless of the start format, things were very crowded at the beginning. However, I was able to get into a rhythm fairly quickly. I drafted off of a few different swimmers during the first half, which allowed me to conserve some energy and go a bit quicker. At the half way point of the swim I took a quick glance at my watch and was very pleased to see that I was right on target at 31:30. I then made the turn back to shore and continued to feel strong and in control. The only difference from the first half was that we were more spread out, and consequently, there were fewer opportunities to draft. To my surprise, as I exited the water I looked at the clock to find that my total swim time was over 1:05. This meant (assuming that the distance from the shore to the first turn buoy is the same as the distance from the second turn buoy back to shore) that I swam the second half in about 33:30 (2 minutes slower). This was puzzling to me at the time, but I didn’t let it get me down. I knew there was nothing I could do about it, and that a minute or two could be made up fairly easily with a strong effort on the bike.

I exited the water in 39th place in my age group

T1: 5:02

The swim to bike transition in Mont Tremblant is one of the longest I’ve ever experienced. It involves about 700 meters of running, but fortunately, it is relatively flat. My time was 16 seconds slower than when I raced Tremblant in 2013. I figure this was because I put Vaseline on the ends of my toes to help prevent the kind of chafing I experienced in Lake Placid. All and all, things went fairy smoothly swim to bike. 

Bike: 5:19:07 (180k)

Being that I’ve raced Mont Tremblant before, I was fortunate to have a benchmark to shoot for. My time in 2013 was 5:30:06, and with two more years of training on the bike, I figured I could finish in under 5:20 (2 loops) if all went well physically, and mechanically with my bike. The goal for power output was again between 230 and 240 watts. Like Lake Placid, Matt also set a heart rate cap of 145, meaning regardless of what my power was, I needed to back off if my heart rate crept above 145 for any longer than a few seconds. I had my watch set to auto lap each 30 kms. The average during my first loop (90k) was 144 beats per minute and 235 watts (normalized power). I was thrilled to finish the first loop in 2:35, but the wind was picking up and it was starting to get really hot, so I knew matching that time on the second loop was going to be out of the question. Early on in the second loop my power output started to dip rapidly, but my heart rate stayed pretty much the same. I’m not usually one to complain about heat on the bike, but this was an abnormally warm and humid day. By the end of the bike (now about 1pm), it was 30C (36 with the humidex). I finished the second loop in a time of 2:44 with an average heart rate of 143 and normalized power of 216 (19 watts less than the first lap). Essentially, the warm temperature caused my heart rate to rise, which in turn decreased my ability to push my target power during the second loop. Regardless, I still felt strong coming off the bike and was thrilled to break my goal of 5:20.

I got off the bike in 17th place in my age group

This is a look at my power file on the bike.
T2: 1:42

The bike to run transition went very smoothly. Coincidentally, I went through in exactly the same time as I did in 2013. My only regret about T2 was that once I got out onto the run I realized that I had forgot to apply sunscreen. Usually there are volunteers in T2 that will put sunscreen on for you. I’m not sure if I just missed them, or if they just weren’t anyone with sunscreen set up in transition. Either way, my shoulders and legs got burnt as a result.

Run: 3:43:22 (42.2k)

I had a great run in 2013 (3:15), which made me feel even better heading out on the run this year. Although it was hot, I felt as if I had prepared myself both mentally and physically for what I had to do. Before knowing the forecast for race day, I figured if all went well I could run a 3:10 marathon. Then when it got closer and closer to race day, I adjusted my goal to 3:15 on account of the heat. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to maintain the pace needed for a 3:15, so at about the 5k point, I readjusted my goal to 3:20 – which would have gotten me across the finish line in 9:51. This is not exactly what I was looking for, but it would have been a personal best at the ironman distance by about 5 minutes. As it got hotter and hotter I found it increasingly more difficult to hold a decent pace. I then started experiencing some stomach pain, which only added to my level of discomfort. I came through the half in 1:42 and felt terrible. I was getting in plenty of fluids and calories, and dumping water and ice over my head at each aid station to try and cool off, but I felt as if I was fighting a losing battle. As I headed out onto the second loop, not knowing how I was going to muster enough energy to run another 21k, I seriously considered dropping out of the race. I then thought about John who was still out there battled, and all my family and friends who were rooting for me back home, so I tried to put that thought out of my head and take it one step at a time. By this point I was walking through each aid station to cool off a bit and get in as many calories as possible. All time goals mentioned above were now out of reach and I turned my focus to simply finishing. I ended up finishing the second loop in 2:01, which to be honest, I didn’t think was possible for me regardless of the conditions. On the bright side, I mustered up enough energy to pass someone in my age group in the finishing shoot, which ended up meaning absolutely nothing in the end, but it felt good J .


I approached the finish line in Mont Tremblant (one of the most exciting in all of triathlon I might add) with a completely different feeling than I did in 2013. I felt like I was on top of the world when I crossed the finish line two years ago. On that day, every aspect of the race went well. This year, I felt a mix of exhaustion, relief, disappointment, frustration, and pride all at the same time. I only had a few seconds to think about it and before I knew it, I was on a stretcher in the medical tent. The medical staff noticed that my balance was very poor so they pulled me aside. They checked my temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and sodium levels. Other than being a bit light headed and very warm, I felt okay.  Fortunately, after about 30 minutes, everything appeared normal and I was free to go.

As I waited for John to come in I called Lisa. One of the first things she said to me was “you must be disappointed.” I responded with “yes I’m disappointed, but it’s not the end of the world. I was very confident that I could have a solid swim and a good bike, but I knew trying to complete two Ironman’s three weeks apart (and pulling off a strong run) was a gamble. Then combine that with another scorcher of a day only decreased the possibility of me capping off the day with a strong run.” Despite the fact that I didn’t have a great race, I have no regrets about given it another shot. Now I won’t be left wondering what I could have accomplished. I learned a lot about myself this past weekend. Most importantly, I learned how to push my mind and body to a place where it has never been before.

John ended up finishing in 11:23 and I was absolutely thrilled for him! As disappointed as I was with my result in Lake Placid, I think John was even more deflated. In Lake Placid he had a strong swim and bike, but felt terrible on the run, and had no choice but to walk the majority of the last 10 miles. In Tremblant, he completing the run 72 minutes faster than in Lake Placid, and finished in a personal best time by over 16 minutes – good enough for 23rd in the 50-54 age group! Remarkably, this is only his third season in triathlon. He entered my office back in January of 2013 and said “I want to do an Ironman – let me know what I need to do.” Soon after he joined the CB Crusties Masters Swim Team, bought a bike, and got to work. He completed his first sprint (Ingonish), first Olympic (Guysborough), and first half iron (Miami) all in the same season (2013). He then set his sights on Ironman Frankfurt (2014), which he completed on another scorcher of a day in a time of 11:39. Now in 2015, in addition to the two Ironman’s, he also completed Epic Dartmouth half iron in 5:02 – winning his age group by over 12 minutes and placing 5th overall. I know I am getting way off track, but I thought this was very important to mention, particularly for those who think they are too old to do an Ironman. Great things can happen when you set your sights on a goal! 

Looking Back 

Now that my 2015 triathlon season has come to an end, I thought I’d close this post with a brief reflection on a journey that started on July 28th, 2014 (the day I registered for Ironman Lake Placid). Although I may not have achieved the results I was looking for, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. In addition, I know that I am stronger athlete, both physically and mentally.

I feel privileged to call myself a member of the CB Barbarians, CB Roadrunners, and Crusties Masters Swim Team. It is all of you that make it fun to swim, bike and run! In addition, there are many individuals who have contributed to me getting to the start line in Lake Placid (and Mont Tremblant) in one piece. In no particular order, I’d like to mention a few…

Lisa – although it was me who was training for the Ironman, Lisa also had to sacrifice a lot. From the countless suppers she ate alone while I was on my bike or out running, to the many evenings when I was in bed at 9pm after a hard workout – she was absolutely incredible!

Matt Ison – as mentioned in previous blog posts, Matt has been coaching Corey and I since August 2014. His expertise and attention to detail have helped me bring my cycling to a new level; and in the midst of training for Lake Placid, coached me to a personal best marathon (Philadelphia – Nov 2014) that I have been in search of for over five years.

John – he and I decided we would spin together through the winter months in my basement. Although he was grateful to have someone to spin with, I was glad to have him as well. We helped push each other through the tough workouts through the week and the long spin sessions on the weekends. If my Strava calculations are correct, we logged over 130 hours together from December to April.

Corey – from a broader spectrum, Corey has (for quite some time) pushed me to get stronger and faster at each of the three disciplines. He is an outstanding athlete and a great training partner. From September through June, we made a commitment to swim at the Y each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 630am. We also spent many hours together once the weather was warm enough to bike outdoors. There was actually one week where we did 21 hours of training – all of which was together. Let’s just say that Corey is a really good listener!

Jeff Lalanne – for those of you who don’t know, Jeff is one of the strongest cyclists in the province. He is also a wealth of knowledge, and is always up for ride, regardless of the workout. Each time I would call/txt him, he would ask “what’s the workout, what time, and where?” I would tell him what worked best for my schedule, and his response was always “meet you there!” It is SO important when training for an Ironman to have someone to do your long rides with.

Framework Cycle and Fitness Staff – Bill, Kenny, Doug, and Tyler have been great over the past year. They always do what they can to see that my needs are met.

Pearl Izumi/Shimano Canada– Patrick and Tyler have been fantastic to deal with over the past year. They have introduced me to an excellent brand that I will continue to support and promote - in particular the running shoes (which I spoke about in great detail in a previous post.)

Rebecca MacNeil – I have been going to Rebecca (Reid Physio) for my physiotherapy needs for several years. When my hamstring started to act up again in June, she bent over backwards to help me get pain free as quickly as possible. In addition to being a great physiotherapist, she’s also an accomplished runner, which makes her and even better resource for the Cape Breton running community. She understands the body and how it reacts when we run. If you go to her with an injury, she more than likely has experienced something exactly the same/similar.

Family – Last, but not least, I am very lucky to have such a supportive immediate and extended family. Although they often think I’m crazy for training so much and so hard, they are always in support of me, regardless of the outcome!

What’s next? – I’m not exactly sure. For now, I’m going to catch up on my time at the beach and enjoy what’s left of the summer!

Aug 9, 2015

Race Report: Ironman Lake Placid - July 26

After a full year of hard training, Ironman Lake Placid finally arrived! I was very happy to arrive in Lake Placid a full four days before the race. This gave us an opportunity to check out the course and get familiar with the area before the gun went off at 630am Sunday morning. With the exception of some trouble with my shifters (which involved getting a new pair installed two days before the race), the lead up to race day was both relaxing and enjoyable. I felt confident that I would have a realistic chance of achieving my ultimate goal of qualifying for Kona (the World Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii). Unlike qualifying for the Boston Marathon where you have to run under the qualifying standard for your age group, qualifying for Kona requires you to place well in your age group - regardless of your time. I figured based on the numbers that there would only be 3-4 slots in my age group (of the 50 total slots) - this would require a great race and likely a little bit of luck. For those who are not aware, final slot allocation is determined on race day based on the number of official starters in each age group. If there are no starters in a particular age group, then that slot will be moved to the next calculated age group within the gender. If an automatic qualifier in an age group chooses not to take the slot, or has already qualified, the next eligible finisher in that age group may claim the slot that has rolled down. I figured I needed to come top 5 among males 30-34 because I knew that Corey (overall race winner), who was also in my age group, would be turning down his Kona slot. Regardless, an Ironman is too long of a race to focus too much on placing - especially considering you don’t know very much about the competition. 

The Cape Bretoners are set to go. This is a shot after we dropped off our bikes!
Swim:  1:04:14 (3800m)

For those that are not aware, Ironman Lake Placid has switched to a self seeded swim start – which means you start the race when you want based on your anticipated swim time. I was hoping for a swim of 1:03, so I should have gotten in the water between the signs indicating 60 and 70 minutes. Corey (Deveaux) was hoping for a swim of 59 minutes, so I decided to enter with him rather than standing back waiting to enter the water by myself. When the gun finally went off it felt more like a mass start. It was very crowded with a lot of jockeying for space in the water. Looking back now, I don’t think my entering the water early made things worse. It sounds like everyone found the water very crowded.

The swim is a 2-loop course and after 1 lap I was very pleased with a time of 31:21. I’m still not sure what happened on the second lap. I felt as if I swam just as faster or even faster that the first loop. The only thing I can think of is that because we were more spread out on the second loop that perhaps I didn’t draft as much as the first loop. My time for the second loop was 90 seconds slower (32:51).

I exited the water in 160th  place overall (19th in my age group).

T1:      5:08

Overall I was very pleased with my level of efficiency in T1. I took advantage of the wetsuit strippers and then ran the 800 meters from the beach to get ready for the bike. After many years of triathlon, I’ve learned to keep it simple in transition. I always say “don’t bring anything to transition unless you absolutely need it.” When I grabbed my T1 bag, I quickly ran to the change tent, put on my helmet and socks, then grabbed my bike, and headed for the mount line. Because my shoes were already clipped to my pedals, all I had to do what jump on and go.

Bike:    5:30:33 (180k)

Based on my training, my coach (Matt) was confident that I would be able to achieve a normalized power (NP) of 230-240 watts. Because there are a few good descents, the plan was to lap the power to zero before and after the descents and to not worry about power while going downhill.  For example, the descent to Keane was 10k and was very steep. I averaged over 60 kph on both loops without even pedalling. I just tried to focus on maintaining power numbers when I was not descending. On the first lap I did a great job of this with an NP of 231. Originally, I was hoping to be get through each lap in 2:40:00 so when I came through at 2:40:50, I was very pleased – especially considering I still felt great.

I had no reason to stray away from the plan for the second lap. I continued to feel great until about the 130k mark.  At which point the wind picked up considerable and it got the best of me temporarily. I knew this was going to have an adverse effect on my overall bike time, but I didn’t realized until the end just how much. After the race I learned that my NP was 228 (only 3 watts lower than the first lap), but my time was 2:49:43 (almost 9 minutes slower than lap 1). I was pretty disappointed at the time, but I had to put it in the past and focus on the run. I should note that once I talked to my coach, and saw the bike times of others at the top of the leader-board (almost all had a much slower second lap), I was more content with my effort on the bike. To view my Training Peaks bike file click here. In terms of fuelling, my goal was to consume between 350-400 calories per hour. I achieved this by consuming four bottles of Gatorade (180 calories each) and 15 Gu energy gels (100 calories each).

I got off the bike in 54th place overall (13th in my age group)

T2:      2:55

I don’t think I could have gone through T2 much faster than I did. I racked my bike, changed socks, put on my sneakers, visor, sunglasses, race bib, and then I was off. At that point I was glad to be off the bike and very much looking forward to the run.

Run:    3:27:29 (42.2k)

My original plan was to shoot for a run of between 3:10 and 3:15. Once I started running and realized just how hot it had gotten (27C), I figured a goal of 3:15 would be much more realistic. Although I was very hot, I still felt great and come through the half at 1:37.

I continued to feel great until about the 16-mile mark.  Unfortunately, the heat was starting to get the best of me. The fact that the spring/summer in Cape Breton had been much cooler than normal was not helping matters. My pace abruptly slowed from 7:15-7:20/mile to 8:00/mile +. I knew that the wheels had come off, but my experience had told me that there was very little/nothing that I could do. I just tried to stay as cool as possible and continue to take in calories. I was so hot at the aid station at the 19-mile mark that, after passing the water and ice by mistake, the only liquid left to dump over my head to cool off was coke. Desperate times call for desperate measures – I dumped two big glasses of ice-cold coke over my head. I’m sure I was getting some looks from the volunteers at the aid station, but at that point I didn’t care. From this point forward I walked through each aid station to give my body a break and to make sure I got in as many calories as possible. The final 7 miles was (more than likely) my toughest 60 minutes of running ever. I had also came to the realization that a Kona slot was likely not going to happen – which made it even tougher to finish as strong as possible.

Total time: 10:10:19 (24th place overall – 7th in my age group) Click here for full results

I was pretty bummed when I crossed the finish line because I knew a time over 10 hours likely wouldn’t be enough to finish in the top 5 in my age group. However, I was pleased to learn that, despite a time that was a lot slower than I was hoping for, I had finished 7th in my age group. This meant there was still an outside chance of snagging a Kona slot at the roll down. Unfortunately, I learned the next morning that it was not meant to be. Despite the fact that Corey turned down his slot, there ended up being only 3 slots, so the final slot went to the 4th place finisher in my age group. I was very disappointed that I would have to wait another day to attempt to get to Kona. However, I was proud that I finished 7th out of 190 in my age group, and 24th overall out of over 2400. And even though my time was slower than my last Ironman (9:56:21), I was pleased to place better this time compared to rest of the field. At Ironman Mont Tremblant in 2013 I finished 10th in my age group and 41st overall among age group participants.

Post race with my beautuful wife Lisa - who has been so supportive over the past year!