Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mt Tremblant 70.3 Race Report, or, "Nothing can go wrong when you have a croissant in your hand"

Pictures are on their way, for now, time for some silent reading (or, if you prefer, go ahead and read my race report out loud, I don't mind).

I still find myself saying, "wow".  When I think of how to describe this race I really think of the word 'luxury'.  Now that's not just because it's saddled in the heart of the Laurentians, surrounded by European city accents, and croissants are standard fare.

It was luxurious in so many other ways.

Fast forward to race day.  I look out on a calm and pristine lake.  No waves.  Snowbirds are flying overhead, trails of red and white follow as they swoop up over the hill and across the lake.  I can't help thinking they look like a pack of triathletes starting out on the swim (well, the fast ones anyways).  The water is warm, warm enough to make me wonder, hmm, could it make a wetsuit cut off temp?  I wouldn't mind, seeing as my current suit has a fairly large hole in the shoulder seam and another beginning in the knee.  If the holes don't make me go faster they probably at least cool me down a little.  Or maybe I need a new one :)  In any case, my last race was at Ironman St George, and most of us know how that went.  This felt like a dream.  The good kind.

Oh, did I mention the Governor General was there to send off the pro start with a cannon.  Yes, yes he was.  Minor detail.  Thanks GG.

I'll come back to the action of the swim, but I'm on a luxury theme.  So, the swim is gorgeous.  The bike climbs up against some very posh golf courses out toward the 117 Nord, a lovely gently rolling divided highway that was shut down entirely to bikes.  Oh, and it was newly paved.  Starting to feel pangs of jealousy?  I think it's normal.  We have warm but comfortable temps (we had just passed through a heat wave of humidex registering 40C - not that I would mind but 25 C is quite delightful) and almost no wind.

We complete 2/3 of the bike and fly through neighbouring villages and everyone is out cheering.  It is infectious and it is fun!  You can't help but smile.  I smiled every time I could when I saw people out cheering on the side of the road.  And it is also St. Jean Baptiste day - big big holiday, as I was told, much bigger deal than a holiday like Canada Day.  Good timing - everyone is happy - makes for excellent cheerers.  And no one protested anything.

Then there is the run.  We cruise along the lake waterfront and up into the village where we are guided onto the P'tit Train du Nord, a finely crushed gravel (and often shaded) pedestrian and bike path that stretches for many more miles than we would run.  People pop out of bushes along the trail and they are still cheering - I am amazed.  The beauty of running up the hill to the trail is that you get to run back down!  Until you get to the village - but I will detail that momentarily.

And then there is the finish shoot - honestly no finish shoot has ever been more fun and more exciting!  You start at the top of the city centre and you wind your way down underneath the Cabriolet (city gondola) while being surrounded by fans packed right up to the barricades.  Old wine barrels with flowers line the ramp.  Everything is beautiful.

So if that doesn't persuade you, I'm not sure what will, but I felt like I dropped into a little triathlon dream at Mt Tremblant.  To top it off, I had the dream team of my best friend Marieke and her mom Willi supporting me all along the way - which starts days before and keeps going even after.  I really felt like the luckiest girl in the world.  

So, some of the nitty gritty?  Sure, why not.


We're told in the meeting the day before the race that it will be a run in beach start.  Alrighty.  Glad I didn't practice that.  I can run like a spaz though so I feel like it's going to be ok and maybe even fun.

BOOM!  I picked the farthest right side to run in - perhaps now in retrospect also picking the spot closest to the cannon may have had it's consequences.  Anyways, boom like I said and I took off running.  I could have been being chased by a pack of wild moose with rabies - I was moving.  I also did my first attempt (ever) at dolphin dives.  Actually fun!  3 of those and I realized other people were actually swimming so that was probably my cue to follow suit and swim as well.   Then I realized I was at the front of the pack and in line with all the guys.  What?!  "One of these things is not like the other"....

10 strokes in I was more comfortable with some people ahead of me.  Someone was even touching my feet (this is a strange sensation for a swimmer who was in absolute last in the last race I did.  Unfortunately the mentally of " you're only as good as your last race" kind of sticks.  So after hoping I would stick with the people ahead of me, a familiar sight, the big splashy pack swims away and I'm left with hope, "did I see someone splashing not that far ahead?".  

And here goes the thought train.  Hmm are they all really that much faster than me?" "Hmmm yes". "Well, the water is lovely".  "Am I working really hard or am I crazy?" "Stop panic swimming and relax".  "Only 5 buoys to go".  "I hope this swim time isn't a disaster".  "I'm last, but heck, it's ok b/c I can run".  The real gem though "If I swam faster I could be swimming faster right now".  Pure genius.

So, I excited the swim, pretty much in no man's land (but not enveloped by the next wave start at the very least!).  I saw my dream team of Marieke and Willi and as I ran by they said "only 5 min back".  What??  Really?  Yes!  I still thought I was last out of the water but I was so happy to know I was only 5 min back.  I can run 5 minutes into a lot of people, now the question lay in the bike.  But not before a pretty long T1.  I'd like to know the distance of how far we ran - I'm guessing 400m in a goofy wetsuit?  With one guy physically stopping me part way up the red carpet (but of course a red carpet), only a 5 second detour I'm sure, but I'm still not sure why it happened (a pedestrian walkway I think - but I think it's supposed to be the other way around - you stop people…?).  Anyways, into T1, goofy wetsuit dance, and onto the bike - vroom!


The bike was great - a fast mainly flat section with tons of fan support!  As mentioned, the whole side of the highway was closed to traffic.  No hiccups and they've never done this event before - quite remarkable!  To my surprise, as I biked along, another pro woman passed me - I was shocked - I wasn't last out of the water?  Consider my confidence boosted.  And then I saw one more girl at the turnaround coming behind me.  Really, I was in this!  Last race I spent 5 hours cycling before I passed one girl.  The race continued on and there was luxury of lots of space and very few people to worry about passing, and I could just ride.  Then coming up on someone who looked like another girl, I passed her at speed as well - racing was getting more and more fun!  I try to balance the line between control of my effort and pushing hard enough to find new limits every race.  So for me - a 70.3 is a lot of limit pushing - I am most comfortable at the Ironman distance and this really does seem like a short race for me.

The last 1/3 of the race is an out and back section of hilly climbing - short punchy hills up, and a lot of descent back down.  It was pretty quiet out there and I was often on roads not seeing anyone for minutes at a time.  But before you know it the turn around came and I was happy to be doing some very fun descents on the road home.  I had been working hard so I was hoping my legs would still be existent on the run.

Course a pied:

Into T2, I managed to do a spectacular double hip TFL (hip flexor) cramp while attempting to put on my socks.  This required some serious old man stretching to straighten up and stop them from seizing completely.  But, I 'pulled up my socks' and shoes, and for me, apparently out in record time (1:21 - groundbreaking for me).  Then super team was there to tell me I was 5 min down on 2nd place (it all comes back to the swim!).  I clearly knew how far ahead Magali was from all the other girls so I really wasn't too worried about that superstar.  But 5 min down from 2nd interested me.  But I had counted girls at this point and thought I was in about 8th or so (give or take some ambiguity "was that a guy or a girl"…).  If all girls wore pretty suits it would be so much easier….Honestly, no boys in Aquadivas!

So confused about what place I am (only for a few seconds did I think, 5 min down from 2nd? I'm in third?) I headed off and immediately got to start finding girls ahead of me on the run.  It's a bit of a tough slog uphill for the first 5km, but it's pretty, and a nice man had his sprinkler on full blast, and that was lovely.  Then there were more girls to pass on the trail - awesome.  I really have to say, I love the pass.  I'm a sneaker.  What can I say.  Actually, I think I was recently called a 'leap-frogger', a term I also like.

Into the woods and through the trail to somebody's grandmother's house I'm sure we went.  And then I passed someone to come into 5th.  5th was the money spot (the last place to receive a prize purse.  Awesome.  I had seen at the turnaround that 4th place wasn't that far ahead, and I'm ok at assessing run speed and I was pretty sure it was within reach.  And it was.  Then I was 4th.  The top 3 girls get lead bikes.  I had a lot of people encouraging me that 2nd and 3rd were 'just ahead'.  Oh the suspense.  I couldn't see them, but they're 'right there' (as so many people put it).  So, just keep running and see what happens - I was at 16km, the first time I was happy to know that I still had 5km left to run.  Which meant I had time to catch them.

I finally saw a bike, but then it went on a curvy section and the bike was gone - ugh.  I want that bike back!  I just kept going and finally took a look at third, and I was sure I could do it.  Finally on the downhill section back to home I saw her and I was making steady ground on her.  So satisfying.  I finally caught her, we both had encouraging words for each other, and I ran on.  And just like last time, I ran with fear of being caught.  I was feeling pretty smooth until I had to hit an uphill coming out of the Beach &Tennis club.  Oh my.  That was an example of ugly running.  Comedy!  But I knew at some point one more biggie was coming.  And when it did, I swore I was wobble jog crawling with the old german woman face at one point.  I don't struggle a lot with running, but boy oh boy climbing those was struggle city.  I got up them though - following the lovely volunteer biker (it really helps, not sure why).  Eventually we did a hairpin turn and I could look back to see if the girl was right behind me.  I didn't see her, but then wondered if maybe she was directly behind me, like the deerflies that were chasing me up the dirt road the day before - silent assassins!  There are no certainties.

We finally reached the apex of the downhill section, and the crowds began to form.  I tried to do my best look over your shoulder without tripping manoeuvre, still afraid, and still sort of in shock that I was about to come in 3rd.  So many people are screaming and  cheering and it really feels so good.  I am overwhelmed, and the run is downhill at this point and everything feels like gold.  It is such a good feeling.  I hope everyone gets to feel that good at some point in their lives.  And up to the finish line I went.  Lovely.  This time I managed to get 2 hands up to celebrate! 

No big drama, no tears, a lot of smiles and inspiration, and a lot of trying to decipher french tactics from the crowd (what did they say, 30 seconds or you're in 3rd or 3 more to go?….).  One of my favourite universal cheers being "Up-pup-pup-pup-pup-pup-pup" as you push yourself up a hill.  Really I haven't seen a community of people be more vocal or more encouraging - not just in the "way to go, you're doing great way", but also the "hurry up and run faster, you have to catch her" type of way.  These are serious sports fans!

Merci a vous!

I have to thank each and every one of the participants running out onto their run course who cheered for me and encouraged me to keep running and catch 3rd, and try to catch 2nd.  These people are working hard and they take the effort to go out of their way to spare a few breaths for me and cheer me on - I can't really talk (I tried, it came out like a burp/blap noise and I had a mini puke along the way).  But I truly appreciate it - and if you are reading this and you cheered for me (hard to miss - quite the snazzy suit) - write me a note and I'd love to thank you for it!  I remember cheering for the pros when I started and had always hoped they would have had a more animated response, but now I sort of get that you are just holding the line and even a few extra words are taking away from the main goal, so I get it now.  It never goes unheard, and I thank you all for it.

My other main thanks goes to our local homestay, who took on a gaggle of girls for the inaugural 70.3 event.  She provided a beautiful respite away from the business of then expo and a wonderful place to stay and enjoy the essence of Tremblant.  So a huge thanks to Barbie Staniforth for providing a home and getting us to meet some wonderful locals along the way.

What a day, what a race, and what a lucky duck I am to have the people around me that love and care about me and inspire me to be at my best.

And my bike Gabe worked his butt off too.  Somethings never change.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012


This is going to be difficult.

I have been wanting to, yet, at a loss to express myself as of late.  Lots of things have happened in one month, and as I usually love to sit down and write an update of funny things, challenging things, things that make you think, but these last two weeks have swept the rug right from under my feet.

I have had so many thoughts this past week and I continuously lost them in a disorganized and desperate attempt to keep things in order.  Imagine watching just one leaf twirl in a gust of leaves.  Try to follow that leaf all the way to the end of it's journey.  You can't.  I couldn't follow one single thought to the end of it's path either.  

I lost a close friend last week.  He died.  It's hard to even type the letters that form that word.  I have not been able to talk about it openly until now.  I haven't even been able to talk to some of my closest friends about it.  Somehow writing this on my computer is easier.  If I cry, it is to my computer.  It doesn't try to comfort me, it just lets me be.  I am sure you know the feeling of being sad, and having a kind person lend a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic face, soothing words…I just couldn't take anymore waves of sadness that come with the empathy of others.  I am still sad.  But I also have to find a way to make this real and honest, and not constantly struggle with something I didn't want to happen.

I can't yet write about him, or what I remember, or who this person really was.  I am not able to yet, I am still too sad.  It is nice to know that I am not alone though, in my love and fond memories of this person, in fact it really has been comforting to read an out-pouring of warm messages for him.  However obscure, the happiest I had been since he has died, was that I found out he was an organ donor, and saved 6 people's lives.  If he had a heart to give, whoever got his heart is a lucky soul, because that was one large and loving heart.

I will miss his celebration of life, which will be held at home, the day before I am racing at Mt Tremblant.  Going to a remembrance ceremony would be hard, but I think it would also help, bring back smiles that used to come so easily and have felt a bit pained, as of late.  I will have to find my own way, and the first step of that dawned on me a few days back, and it made me happy in what seemed like an absolute drought on happiness.  I will have him with me, as I spend the quiet moments that come before races, and he will tell me to kick some serious ass and then for the love of god, have a beer to celebrate.  I think I can manage that.  I needed to do something else, as well.

I am naming my bike, "Gabe".

I've never named a bike, I know other people do.  I've never felt an attachment that way.  But for me, this makes my heart warm.  And if someone walks away with my bike or it gets lost on this flight I'm on to Montreal, then my next bike will be named "Gabe" too.  Gabe will always be my bike.

I am happy on my bike.  I have crashed on my bike.  I have gotten dirty trying to fix my bike.  I have kicked my bike.  My bike has made me happy and has made me sad.  My bike can race or it can cruise.  My bike takes me where I want to go or it gets me lost.  I crawl up mountains with my bike and I fly down the other side.  I have weathered storms with my bike.  I am never far from my bike. 

Gabe will always be my bike.