Bike time: 6:10, average pace: 18.15 mph
All smiles (most) of the time on the bike at Ironman Mont Tremblant!
The bike ride started right after T1 and the changing tent. First of all, the transition in the Ironman is wayyy different than any other race I’ve ever done. The ‘volunteers are AMAZING. There is no other way to put it. Simply AMAZING.
Once I ran my 400 yards from the swim to the transition tent, I grabbed my BIKE GEAR bag and headed into the female changing tent. Inside the changing tent, there are chairs where you can sit down and put on your shoes and there are volunteers to help you with anything you might need. I grabbed a volunteer to help me with sunscreen for the bike ride. She also helped me sort through my things and asked me if I needed anything from my bag. She asked if I wanted to put my arm warmers on and I said ‘no thanks’ I later regretted this… I could cry just thinking about it.
I didn’t spend much time in the changing tent at all. Once I had my helmet on and felt I had everything I needed, I put on some chamois butter to help with chaffing and I was on my way. The changing tent was right next to the bike transition, so it wasn’t too bad going for my bike. As mentioned before, my bike was near the ‘bike out’ which helped matters.
As I started to pedal, I went through my list of things in my head to think about for the ride. The goal was to PACE myself and to think about ‘Mile 23’ on the run. I had to think about what I would feel like 8+ hours from now… not just ‘right now.’ Thinking about Mile 23 on the run, helped me to put things in perspective, reminding myself that I had a VERY long day ahead of me and if I push too hard on the bike, my legs will be toast by the end of that run. One thing that threw me a curve ball was the colder temperature in the air. It was around 50 degrees and cloudy when I started the bike ride. I don’t know the exact temperature, but it felt COLD. My coach told me that because of the cooler temps, my heart rate data would be a false indication of my effort, and that I needed to go by perceived rate of exertion or RPE scale. He told me the race should be done at a 4/10 for the most part and I needed to think about this on the bike if my heart rate was dipping low. I am so glad he mentioned this because that was exactly the case. Since it was colder, I was biking in my recovery heart rate zone (under 125 bpm), but I definitely wasn’t riding at recovery pace. I kept checking in with myself.. ‘am I at a 4?’ and if the answer was I felt higher than an RPE of 4, I backed off a little bit.
I will get into the course a little bit here, and then I will jump back to how it all went…
First of all, the ironman Mont Tremblant bike course is literally PERFECTION. It is not only beautiful, but 95% or more of the course is shut off from traffic AND there is new pavement throughout the course. They seriously shut down one side of the entire highway for the race. They take pride in this bike course and it shows. I did not encounter a single ‘bump’ during my entire race… smooth sailing, like GLASS… literally the entire time. They had bike mechanics patrolling the course, but I honestly think I saw them help one person during my entire bike ride. if you like rolling hills, this course is for you. There was rarely a moment where I stayed in one gear for more than 5 minutes. You are shifting constantly to go with the changing grade. I liked the variation because it made it less boring!
The IMMT bike course is split up into four sections. I read a lot about the sections before the race, so I sort of knew what to expect. It is a TWO LOOP 56 mile course. Everything you see on the first loop, you get to see again on the second loop. I really liked this because I knew what to expect the second time around. The only thing is, the most challenging part of each loop is the last section where is it very hilly!
The total elevation gain is roughly 4,000 feet, but that is just approximate. Unfortunately, my bike Garmin did not record the elevation for the course, which is frustrating.
Here is a snapshot of the four sections:
Section 1: Montee Ryan – miles 1-6, 37-41
As you leave transition, you set out on Montee Ryan. This section was lots of fun because there are more spectators since it’s close to the race venue, therefore more people are cheering for you. This section is just shy of six miles, with rolling hills. In the opening segment, you zip around two round-abouts, I enjoyed that part. There are also some hills right at the beginning that catch you by surprise.
Section 2: Route 117 – out and back – miles 7-30 a.k.a the wind tunnel
Once you leave the Montee Ryan section, you enter the section of highway 117. As I mentioned earlier, they shut down the entire section of the highway for the race, which means it’s nice and wide. During this section, you have another series of rolling hills, but there is also opportunities to find a pace and stick to it. There are some big uphills, with the reward of screaming down hills. There are no technical turns on this section, it’s just an out and back, so you can really focus on your pace and your heart rate. The key here is keeping a steady effort and not push it too hard… you have plenty of hills ahead of you. This part of the course can pack a punch on a windy day (i.e. heavy cross winds). Luckily for me, it wasn’t too windy, it was just COLD, damn cold at that. Oh and I must mention, the mountain views are breathtaking all around you.
Section 3: The Short Ride through Old Tremblant Village– miles 30-36 (just shy of finishing the 36th mile)- out and back six miles
This part of the course was a welcome break from the hills. Riding through the old section of Mont Tremblant (which I guess used to be the hot spot before ‘new village’ was built), brings lots of spectators cheering loudly and holding signs. Most of the people yell in french which makes you feel like a bad-ass!
Section 4: Chemin Duplessis – miles 41-56 (end loop) – the big hills
Chemin Duplessis is definitely the most difficult part of the course. This hills are challenging but manageable. If you ride smart and don’t let your ego get the best of you, this section will actually be a lot of fun. The important thing is, not to get caught up with other people passing you on this section, they will pay for it on the run. For the majority of this section, you are going up a series of hills, one after the other. The hills twist and turn a bit and you feel like you are in some kind of amusement park:) I honestly had a lot of fun in the section, I definitely made th best of it. Once you finally get to the way top, there is an aid station at the turnaround, and then you get to bomb down all of the hills you just came up. There are one or two up hills on the way back, but nothing too bad! I rode with a 11-28 cassette and I did not come out of my saddle until the end of the second loop.
What the IMMT bike course was like for me:
I paced myself properly. From start to finish, I made sure to focus on my heart rate and my rate of perceived exertion, making sure not to over do it. I had heard of plenty of people getting on the run with trashed legs and I did not want that to happen to me. I can honestly say I maintained just the right amount of effort without going overboard. I got to the run and my legs felt fresh.
I stuck to my nutrition plan. I knew exactly what I had to eat on the bike and I stuck to it. I timed everything well and made sure I was drinking enough Power Bar Perform on the course. The only tricky thing was, it took me a few aid stations to get the whole ‘bottle grab’ down from the volunteers. Approaching the aid stations can be a cluster f$%k and it gets tricky. The first time I grabbed a bottle of Perform, I didn’t know they were sport tops. I thought it was a twist off top… I proceeded to take the entire top off and it literally spilled all over me (rookie mistake). You also have a short amount of time to dispose of your empty bottles, so you don’t get a penalty. They had hockey nets and people would stand with hockey sticks deflecting the bottles.. .this made things entertaining.
Drafting is no joke in the Ironman. I had experienced referees on triathlon courses before, but nothing like this. I can’t tell you how many people I saw get red cards for drafting. I was SO afriad of getting close to other riders because of this. A girl actually got a penalty for drafting off of me, which I don’t think she was doing on purpose. For those of you who don’t know the rules, they give you a 30 second window to pass someone. If you don’t pass within 30 seconds and get the proper amount of space, you will get a 4 minute penalty from the ref. There are actually penalty tents on the course where you have to stand for four minutes and wait out the clock. It sucks and I hope it never happens to me. I like to think that most of the time, this happens to people who just aren’t paying attention and aren’t deliberately trying to cheat.
I should have worn my arm warmers. During the first two sections of the first bike loop, I froze my ass off. I deeply regretted saying ‘no thanks’ to the arm warmers in transition. I would say for about 30 miles, I was REALLY cold. I did not change after the swim, so I had my wet tri tip and wet bike shorts. It was probably in the low 50’s at the time, and gusty on the Route 117 section. Lots of people were wearing arm warmers, and I wasn’t. I literally had goosebumps all over my entire body and I was shivering… really shivering. This is where mental strength became critical. There were moments during that section where I thought about stopping, I was freezing cold and my teeth were chattering. I worried that I was getting hypothermia (which I later learned a lot of people did!) and I thought I was going to have to get medical attention. I even thought about asking male riders for their arm warmers (ha, I was that desperate). In order to mentally get through the pain from the cold, I literally started to envision warm weather. I pictured myself on the beach in a lounge chair. I thought of songs about sunshine… ‘you are my sunshine, my only sunshine..’ I was actually singing that outloud. I was trying to convince myself that it was warm out. Thankfully, after about 30 miles, the sun started to peak through the clouds and I was off the open highway, but man that was brutal.
I peed 7 times on the bike. Yes 7 times. Thanks to the colder temperatures, every single bottle of sports drink that I drank, went through me… literally. The first time I peed was when I was REALLY cold and wanted a break. I stopped at the first aid station and used the porta pottie. After that, I knew I had to just keep moving, so I proceeded to pee on the bike… 6 more times. I could not stop peeing. Come to find out later, this happened to a lot of people that day. Since it wasn’t hot outside, we weren’t really sweating out what we were drinking… instead we were peeing it out. At least I knew I was hydrated, right? It just got really gross by the end… let’s just say I’m getting new bike shoes.
I (almost) met my goal time. Overall, I had a SOLID bike race. I kept my pace steady and strong. I did not get out of the saddle once, until the hills in Chemin Duplesis in the very end. The bike ride went by really fast.. honestly I didn’t know 112 miles could go by THAT fast. There is just so much going on, that you forget you are in a race or maybe that’s because I was having a lot of fun!
I wanted to break 6 hours on the bike course, but I am happy with 6:10. As a first timer, I think I had a solid bike ride. I honestly wanted to keep closer to 19 mph average pace, instead of 18.15 and I thought it was a good possibility, so I was slightly disappointed. However, I tried not to dwell on it because running is my strongest discipline. Now I have something to work towards for the next IM!
I had fun and I stopped to smell the roses. As challenging as this bike course was at times, I made sure to really take it all in and enjoy the experience. I made it a point to be GRATEFUL for what I was doing to be physically able to do such an incredible endeavor. I enjoyed my surroundings and treasured the moment… the beautiful rolling hills, the farms, the rolling river.. it was all so gorgeous. I did not take any of it for granted. I remember being around 80 miles into the bike ride and almost feeling sad about it being close to over. I wanted the moment to last forever.
I also painted a smile on each of my thumbs to remind myself to smile on the bike course:) While in aero position on the bike, you stare at your thumbs a lot because that’s where the shifters are:
Onto the run next….