The village of Mont Tremblant in Quebec hosted the 2014 edition of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship this past weekend, inviting almost 2200 athletes to test themselves on one of the most beautiful race courses in the world. Any competitor would agree that a better venue or race organization would be hard to find. From the course chosen all the way to the incredible post race awards show complete with Cirque du Soleil acrobats, the crew in Tremblant really set the bar high for whoever comes next to put on this race. I really was proud of Canada doing just an awesome job being the first country other than the US to host an Ironman Worlds. I was also impressed with all of the women in the pro field, particularly our top 3 finishers Daniela Ryf, Jodie Swallow and Canada’s Heather Wurtele. Added to Heather’s success, Rachel McBride and Magali Tissyere also took 9th and 10th place to keep 3 Canadians in the top 10- the best Canadian performance ever aside from Sam McGlone’s win. The depth in Ironman racing is increasing rapidly in the women’s field so it is great to see so many Canadian women doing so well.
My trusty steed - with our post race hosts John and Cindy cruising transition in the background.
My race was unsatisfactory. Coming off a solid training block, a series of great races punctuated by a great race and run in Lake Stevens, I felt confident that this would be my best performance ever at a Worlds. Then I crashed my bike, hard, a week out. I was lucky to avoid broken bones, so I thought/hoped/expected I had plenty of time to come around. I wasn’t my best but I was thinking I could overcome it. I didn’t. I just did everything I could with what I had on the day.
The whole race was sub-par but it really only shows on the run. I have great fitness so I did stay somewhere near the race the whole time. I still swam with the group and still rode with a group of strong girls. I didn’t have the race I trained for. I was sore and flat but still hoped it might come around as the race unfolded and I was really focused on doing my best. I swam/biked myself close enough off the bike to run for a solid top 10 in the race. I had plenty of top girls to race as I was with Magali, Svenga, Radka and Cat out of transition and I focused on having a run like my last race in Lake Stevens - aiming for top 10. But there is no hiding on the run and the race was over for me. My best running legs were needed - not my worst.
I finished anyways since a DNF is always worse that a beatdown and there were a lot of happy people out there racing. I wanted the experience of the whole race course regardless of my result. Now I can say that I finished the Worlds when they were in Canada… rather than just say I was in Tremblant. Haha! Consolation prizes.
My dad had the best comments when I discussed my disappointment with the day. He pointed out that part of the difficulty with being a goal oriented person is you can get terribly frustrated with yourself and with the goals, especially ones that push your limits. Goals are supposed to be just out of reach so that you can try to stretch yourself to reach them. It was never going to be easy for me to compete with the best in the World in Tremblant, it got harder when I crashed, and it hurts to fail. I am particularly raw when it comes to World Champ events because for a time I was a clutch performer and since then have experienced some major inconsistency at the big races. This year I did win two 70.3s wire to wire, podiumed a couple more, won a 5150 (and the chase) and remain undefeated at XTERRA in Canada after winning another Canucklehead title. So I have achieved some of my goals - probably because I set increasingly difficult ones. I wanted to go after this Worlds, I gave it everything, and I can use the dissatisfaction to fuel another opportunity which happens to be another Worlds. I am lucky to get another go.
Next is XTERRA World Champs. The training I have done for Tremblant should serve me well, I’m happy to get to fly to beautiful Maui and I am working hard to refocus the lens on that race. I was expecting a performance close to my best ever shortly before this race so I am happy there are still other chances to find it.
After the race we went and created a lot of happy memories. Starting with a fun evening with Brent’s homestay Cindy and John, Lance, Carolyn, Ben, Mike, Brent and I shared some war stories and laughs. The next day we hiked up to the top of Mont Tremblant, I got four hole in ones on the mini golf course, was lapped on the go cart track, ate a crepe big enough for four, all before heading to Montreal. Our trip to the city included summiting Mont Royal (twice- once as a last visit before flying out), cruising McGill, perusing St Denis, Mont Royal, St Catherine, St Paul and Sherbrooke Streets, taking in the Faberge egg exhibit at the Musee de Beaux Arts, eating at Avenue Café, experiencing Joe Beef (we got the smoked meat experience here – only it was salmon!!), touring Church of Notre Dame, Place des Arts, Place Jacques Cartier and Museum of Montreal, renting Bixi bikes to cruise all over town, enjoying happy hour in Old Town, shooting the rapids on the St Laurent in a jet boat and visiting Le Fauberge district for our last night and obligatory poutine order- I am not sure we could have done more with two days in Montreal. Montreal is kick ass. I could absolutely live there- in the summer. My only criticism is for such a cool and fancy town the coffee in Montreal is crap- I’m sorry but Nespresso is terrible.
My first experience with the grape Aligote.... great suggestion from Joe Beef
Thanks Mark Andrews from Trek for the on- site race support. Thanks to Ryan, Ben and Mark from Shimano for the hospitality and the cheering. Thanks Blue Seventy wetsuits and goggles for another solid swim split. Thanks to Champion System custom apparel, Powerbar nutrition, Cobb Saddles, Rudy Project helmets, transition bags and sunnies for the support on and off the course. Thanks Powertap for the cheers and the ability to analyse (and sometimes over analyse) the numbers from my day. Thanks to my home supporters Trek Pro City and Synergy Health Management. And thanks to my family and friends for supporting me with messages before and after. Much love back to you all.
I have written a blow by blow account of the race for Triathlon Magazine Canada and you can read it HERE. This race report is more about what has been different behind the scenes to create this race. If you don’t feel like reading my other report and just want to know what happened the guts of it is that I put myself in a strong position to win the race with the fastest swim and bike, but finished it off with a strong run as well. Liz Lyles, a very strong pro and a fabulous runner, was only able gain just over two minutes on me in the run which is easily my strongest run of the year. It was a good day.
The background is that the race fell after a really successful block of three weeks where I really pushed my limits in training. I had a solid week to recover to the race but I am excited to see what happens when that block really starts to settle in. I have a lot of people to thank (well besides MC for putting up with like 95 hours of training in three weeks- I was a barrel of monkeys worth of fun I bet- love you baby! xx) and I would like to talk about some of them below.
First is in the swim. I have had a banner year of swim development which is only right now starting to really show in my races. I love the Blueseventy Helix which is why I asked to be a part of Blueseventy’s program, but I have also really benefitted from medium-small sizing. Changing to a smaller wetsuit has been very, very good for my wetsuit swims. I did have one swim where I wasn’t allowed in a swimskin and I believe my Champion System elite trisuit rocked it. These suits are a great choice if you are planning ITU rules events or Canadian races that may not allow any swimskins.
I have had a group of athletes in Victoria to swim with who are very dedicated. The most frequent training group I swim with is Clint Lien's- my training partners are Steven Kilshaw, James Cook, Sara Gross, Kate Button, sometimes Karen Thibodeau and in open water- Brent McMahon and Danelle Kabush. In and outside of the swims I do with them, I have periodized the swim training I am doing overall in order to swim more, and then swim more quality. Sometimes it just isn’t enough to mindlessly follow what the masters or even a triathlon swim squad is doing. You have to be sure it fits in with what you are doing around the swimming – it doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Each session, even a swim session, matters. I think I have been much better at recognizing that and I am sure I am swimming better because of it. So that is why my swims in races are getting better and I managed to be first out of the water twice. Not all of them are great, but some of my bad swims were followed by an average race as well, so it can be a canary in a coal mine.
Second, my riding is improving because of a commitment to programming philosophy from the Pacific Cycling Center. Houshang Amiri is a brilliant coach who has taught me a lot of things but the one thing you really can’t teach is patience. Sometimes I would push too much intensity, too soon, when I wasn’t seeing the immediate benefit of aerobic endurance training. Houshang is the master of creating aerobic monsters. Svein Tuft is probably Houshang’s most famous athlete but I can honestly say that working with Houshang has made me better as an athlete and a coach. I am self coached for triathlon but really, self coached athletes need to be smart about who they learn from in order to be good self-coachers. You may want to consult www.pacificcyclingcenter.ca to see if any of his camps or programs work for you. A winter of training with Houshang’s group followed by a block of incorporating his work into my program late season has been very effective for me.
Riding as part of the Trek Factory team is an inspiring and motivating experience. I am lucky to ride the fastest machine outfitted with amazing Bontrager wheels with Powertap hubs, full Shimano Di2 components, the most aero helmet from Rudy Project and the latest and greatest saddles from Cobb Cycling. I am very privileged in this regard and it makes me very proud to be a fast cyclist who has the equipment to be even faster. I am lucky to have a Trek Concept Store in Victoria. The Trek Procity Store is full of amazing and dynamic personalities and I love those guys/gals to bits. Thanks very much for being a part of my support team for many many years. I have five races with the fastest bike split so far this year.. and I am not finished yet. I love being a fast rider but you can’t rely on your bike split to win the race.
Third and most important aspect of my racing to improve was my running. In order to run faster I first had to start practicing my nutrition with my Powerbar products on the run. This has made a difference. Then I asked my friend Marilyn to show me HOW to run as a participant in her www.mindfulstrides.com course. Huge benefit! With a bit of technical ability, I just put my head down and ran a lot, lot more. That is where Frontrunners Westshore comes in, helping me choose footwear that will keep me healthy and injury free. With more running, I was leaning on Synergy Wellness where I meet Jamie Grimes for weekly chiropractic tuneups and I visit Markus Blumensaat at Leftcoast Health for regular massage and stretching sessions. Without these two guys and Marilyn my hip would still be that of a 90 year old. Thank you to all of you! My last shoutout goes to Geoff McLaughlan, who has sadly (for me) moved to McGill to pursue his doctorate in math. He was my solid as a rock run training partner all summer and he will be missed by me and the swim squad for sure while he is gone!
So I am hoping at this point I have learned some things that are going to help further my development because I am planning to race first at a world class level in the ranks of 70.3 for the remainder of this season and then hopefully make the leap to full Ironman in early 2015. It is time but it certainly is not too late. Jo Pavey is very inspirational to me – she didn’t win any major championship event in running despite a long, long career which started when she was a junior. Recently, at 41 years of age, she won the Commonwealth Games 5km and then the Euro Champs in the 10km. Ladies, it ain’t over until you say it’s over.Plus I have USANA products to keep my skin and body young as a 20 year old!
So on that note of delayed retirement for an as yet undetermined period of time, I am a happy auntie and leader of Ironkids events. I had a lot of fun with all of YOUR children while in Lake Stevens so take a peek at this if you want to have a little giggle about how adorable your children are.
The Vineman event had a big highlight on it for me. I really enjoy the course, I really enjoy wine and I really enjoy tough race fields. Thus, the 2014 edition of this event was ticking all the boxes for me to get fired up.
This last block I focused a bit more effort on high intensity and as a result, packed in a few races to test the ‘fastness’. It started with a strong win in Saskatoon, another very strong day at the XTERRA in Victoria and now for my third week, meant to be the coup de grace, I had 3/5ths of a very strong day. I don’t have any regrets on how I raced in Vineman, I just know I did not have the run I felt I have built in the last few months. However like Tiger Woods said: "Winning is not always the barometer of getting better." I have consistently been at the front in races this year so it is clearly motivating.
I would like to thank Marc Kelley for being a super amazing homestay and race sherpa. I had the greatest support going into the race including an excellent tour of the course with Silvio, who works with the Cannondale pro men's team. I like motorpacing on a strong wheel in the days before the race so all of this was lining up perfectly. Thanks so much you guys. Also thank you to Dave and Amy Latourette who make Vineman the pro spectacle it is. Without their amazing support the pro field would not be as amazing as it is year after year so thanks so much guys.
The pro women's race is really changing. We have more and more strong women and thus the race is becoming more tactical. What is exciting for Canada is we have a lot of very strong cyclists and many of us are getting faster and faster on the run. Leading the charge is Heather Wurtele. For Worlds I think it will be very important for us to work hard to get up to the front. The draft rules are difficult- all the dropping back to stay within the rules slow everyone down and the legal distance is frankly, still drafting. So the front swimmers are legally working together and it will take some smart riding to get them. I felt that while I was in the group and unable to get away I was going slower. Racing has a lot more dynamics than you can see from an armchair. I think there needs to be some thought on what we are doing while we can't get away from each other to make sure that we at least continue to move forward as fast as possible!
I made a few errors on the day. First is I did not look at how the swim buoys were laid out and did not know that they snaked along the river back and forth. This made for lots of jostling and bumping. Rachel was beside me at the start and I saw her head for the far right to go straight. I should have followed. Instead I got pushed, shoved and at one point, dropped! OMG. Anyways, I managed to catch back up by the turnaround and the pace was very comfortable so I just resigned myself to a fast bike as pulling the swim pack is always dumb. Plus I saw Mel Hauschildt in that group so I knew I would have strong company once we got out.
Onto the bike… the women’s field at Vineman was full of “uberbikers”. A bunch of us are “fastest split” type of girls so it was not surprising that those of us out of the swim had a hard time getting away from each other. I think I was a stronger climber than the other girls but I was riding a smaller cog. This meant I was a pain in the ass on the flats because I was missing the one cog I needed and then would blast past uphill. Or, I am just getting back to the old Mel who used to climb very fast. I am hoping it was the latter but there is a consequence of the fabulously large 28 Shimano 11 speed cassette- you get some awesome gears to stay in big ring all day but you might miss the 11 one the downhills and one of the middle ones on the flats. I found I was stuck between a cadence of 95 and 85 all day and all I wanted was 90 ish. Still, I caught Rachel at the bigger Chalk Hill and we rode together to T2 with a small gap to Melissa. Trek bikes in for 2nd and 3rd!
Meredith outswam us by 2:30 then rode 15 seconds faster so she was clear out in front all day. Domination wire to wire. Nice work Meredith! I only know about the race for second place.
So out onto the run I felt so awesome. That bike was the least taxing I have had all year, my legs were fresh and I was thinking this is the day I am going to run the 1:22 I have been training for. I was so excited. I went out, looked at my watch: 3:45/km. Okay too fast. Slow down. Next mile 3:50/km okay comfortable just settle in. I settled in, eased past Rachel and Melissa ran by. Faster than me but not so fast that I felt the breeze of her wake ripping my shirt off. I decided to attach a visual bungee and keep to my pace. But at about 4 miles I went from all good to legs turned off. Not tired, not heart rate blowing to bits but guts exploding (more lady guts than stomach) and hips stuck. Could not run. 6 long miles of not being able to run, pace dropped by more than 50 seconds per mile and I shuffled along. Then at about 10 miles, legs unlocked a little, I pounded a bunch of Powergels and I brought the pace down 30 seconds per mile again to run it in at about 4 min/kms.
So other than the middle 6 miles of the run it was a fantastic race. The best I could have hoped for would have been to duke it out with Rachel a bit closer so it almost met all my expectations and I am satisfied with that. I don’t know if it was 3 races in a row making it a bit too much racing (my weakness is I would rather race than train) or whether it was just really bad timing of the month. I haven’t ever nailed the exact wrong day before so this was a first with that. Honestly, I think a lot of it was the latter because I had a big, fat, bloaty belly all day and I waddled a bit in the photos. It wasn’t that pretty.
So here we go for the last push of the season. I am going to take some time to really build the engine for worlds, test it at Lake Stevens, then giver to represent all of my awesome sponsors and Canada in Mont Tremblant. Somebody smack me if I try to add any more races please! Thanks for reading and thanks for the awesome feedback on my Vineman soccer video. The pro field is a great bunch of people and I appreciate them making my trip a lot of fun. I like to win the fun-having contest at every event if I can J
Thanks to Trek Bikes for the support, to Shimano Triathlon, Powerbar, Rudy Project, Bontrager, Champion System, Blueseventy, Powertap, USANA, Frontrunners Westshore and Trek Procity Racing Victoria.
I may not have the supermagnum from Vineman, but La Crema was not the only winery I got to visit. I spent an evening with my favorite winemaker, Chris Howell at Cain Vineyards. It is always so interesting to talk with him and the view above the vines is spectacular.
Cain Five is a wonderful consolation prize to a double magnum of La Crema :)
Oh and have you seen it?