Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Comeback: Mont Tremblant 70.3 Race Recap - The Bike

Now that my least favourite part of the race was over, I was on to the bike.  This was going to be a solid test of my cycling fitness and fueling strategy.  Because this was an early season race, G and I both felt that we would probably have some room for improvement in Lake Placid.   I knew this course was hard, well, parts of it were anyway, and that you had better not burn yourself out too early because the last 16km of the course is pure evil. 

I came flying into T1 and over to my rack which was very close to the swim entrance.  I had caught Clare, another TTC athlete on the run up to transition and her and I ran to our bikes together.   I dropped my wetsuit, goggles and earplugs, grabbed my helmet, buckled it up and yanked on my shoes.  My feet were a bit cold but I figured they’d probably warm up as the sun was supposed to come out.  It was still overcast when I headed out of transition to start the bike.  I ran out to the dismount line and hopped on Tom Sawyer.  I had put my bike in the small chain ring but realized that even in the hardest gear my legs were spinning too high.  They were raring to go.  So into the big chain ring I went. 

The First 30km:  Pacing myself

Once you leave transition, it’s flat for about 800m then you start to climb a smallish hill.  You descend that a decent clip into a round about and then you start a longer climb up Montee Ryan.  Montee Ryan has two good climbs and an awesome descent.  There is a no passing section on here as well.   I didn’t want to hammer the first climb so I just settled into a good rhythm, ticking my legs over at about 85-90 RPM.   I had taken a GU as soon as I got on my bike.  My plan was to fuel mainly with E-Fuel (roughly 2.5-3 bottles depending on how long I was riding for) plus 2 gels + 1/3 of a Lara bar if I felt like I wanted something solid.  Using primarily liquid fuel meant that I was definitely going to be hydrated.  It also meant that I was carrying all my fuel on my bike, which adds a bit of weight.  But I figured most of it would be gone by the time I got to the really hard part of course near the end of the race.

The first 30km - look at that descent!!! 

 I settled into a good groove, passing a few people, really trying to keep my effort level in check.  My target power was 180w and I figured with the hills on the course, I'd definitely end up somewhere around there.  I find spinning up climbs at a lower power rate really spikes my heart rate so I try to pedal at a slightly lower cadence to keep my HR down, which ends up spiking my power into the 200-215w range.  Yes, that can be hard on your legs if you’re not used to it, but that’s how I’ve been riding for the last few years and it seems to work for me. 

Once we got down Montee Ryan, we turned on to the 117.   This was where I knew I could make up some good time.  I knew there was a long grinder of a climb on the way back but on the way out, you got that amazing descent.  We had one entire side of the highway so there was plenty of room to spread out.  I was very aware of the race marshalls.   The last thing I wanted was to get a penalty for drafting.  It was very difficult to avoid people.  There were draft packs everywhere.   In fact, there were several instances where I was passed by a paceline of guys.  I was so annoyed at one group I said “nice paceline, cheaters!” as they went by me.  The most frustrating part was that even with that pacelining, they didn’t get that far ahead of me.  I caught a bunch of them on a climb again.  Idiots.  I was quite happy to see that a few of them got busted for drafting, as I saw them sitting in the penalty tent on the way back. 

I cooked along the highway, feeling really good.  I tried not to surge too much but I kept coming up on packs of people that were moving much slower than I was and in order to get by them, I had to pick up the pace a fair bit because you only have 25 seconds to make a pass.  When it's a larger group, you really need to make sure you are moving quickly.  This happened a few times in the earlier kms along the highway.  I figured by the time we turned around it would spread out.  

My fuelling was on point, thanks to my new hydration bottle, it was very easy to keep sipping on my drink.  My energy level felt good.  There was never any lag or spike in energy, it remained constant.  I did wish that I had put my socks on as my feet were actually quite cold.  The sun hadn't come out and there was a fair bit of wind on the highway.  The forecast had called for sun in the morning but instead we were greeted with a low lying mist and cloud cover that didn't start to break until we made it into downtown Tremblant.   My legs were also a bit cold but I figured that once the sun came out that would change.

I hit the turnaround and didn't unclip like I usually do.  I can't believe how much better my bike handling skills have gotten.  Thank you Morning Glory!  

The Middle 30km:  Finding my groove

Once I hit the turnaround, I immediately started climbing again.  It wasn't a steep climb, just a bit a long grinder.  I knew the way back to downtown Mont Tremblant was going to be fast, other than the big grinder of a climb.  My plan for that climb was hit the small chain ring and just click over the km's.  Don't burn too much power.   I still had a ways to go before I hit that so I stayed in my aerobars and kept the cadence up.  I was closing in on 1 hour on the bike so I was curious to see how much ground I would have covered when I hit the 1 hour mark.  I got my answer a few minutes later:  33.4km.  HECK YEAH.  That was much better than I had expected.   

I was still feeling really good closing in around the halfway point.  I was starting to get into unfamiliar territory with my tri suit - I hadn't worn it for anything longer than 40km but I made sure I had used chamois cream and body glide to protect my delicate undercarriage.   At 45km I was still feeling ok but I had a sneaking suspicion that things would be different by the time I hit 60km.  I kept trucking along.  The big climb was coming up so I thought I'd take my 1/3 of my Lara bar before I started climbing.  There was a huge group of guys that had passed me on a descent and I caught pretty much all of them on this climb.   When I got to the top, I saw the penalty tent.  It was JAMMED.   The race marshals weren't messing around.

I booked it along the next section of the highway.  It was a long undulating descent that flattened out to an off ramp which we took into downtown Mont Tremblant.  There were a TON of people out cheering.  We did a little u-turn in town and then it was back towards Montee Ryan.  The big descent that I rode down on the way out, I had to ride back up.  So, it was back into my small chain ring again.  I knew what was coming up and I wanted my legs to be ready for it.  The race had definitely spread out by this point.   I noticed that I had only been passed by two women.  Lots of guys, but only two women.  I felt pretty good about that.   In retrospect that didn't really mean anything other than those women started after me and were faster than me on the bike.  I had no clue if they were in my AG or not.  That's the thing about a rolling start is that you have no idea who you're racing.  

The Final 30km:  Into the hills

I was watching my Garmin again as I was getting close to the two hour mark.  I hit 66.8km in 2 hours.  I was exactly the same speed as on the way out, ha ha.  How's that for consistency??  I was still averaging 33.4kph.  My goal was 32-32.5/kph so this was much better than I had anticipated.  That being said, I knew I was going to lose some time in the last 16km of the ride.  

The last 30km.  The km from about 68 to 78 are just plain brutal.  
My tri suit was really starting to be uncomfortable as was my left glut.  That oh so familiar nerve pain was rearing it's head and my glut and upper hamstring were aching.  That did not bode well for the run but I tried not to think about that.  I was getting closer to making the turn from Montee Ryan onto Chemin des Voyageurs so the hard part of the race was closing in.  Aside from the tri suit, I was still feeling pretty good.  I know I spent a large part of my day smiling.  How could I not after last year?

I rode past transition towards Chemin Duplessis.  I was totally shocked at the number of people that were out spectating through here and all the way up the road.  The first climb was lined with people.  It was amazing and it totally gave me an extra boost.  I powered up that first climb just fine.  I was trying to remember how many climbs there were on the way out.  I figured at least 6.  The second one comes right after the first and it's short and steep so I had to get out the saddle for that one, even in my small chain ring.  This section of the course reminds me of the first part of the Muskoka course.  Just bloody brutal.   I passed another photographer and waved and he made some comment about me not working hard enough, ha ha.

I continued chugging along, trying to spin my legs as much as possible through here.  Even in my easiest gear, I still had to get out of the saddle to get up some of the climbs.  This section is SO hard.  My quads were absolutely screaming at me towards the last big climb.  I was lucky if I was doing more than 10kph.  I was a little concerned that perhaps I had gone a little too hard earlier on.  Nothing I could do about that now except hope that I don't cave on the run.  I noticed that my Garmin wasn't matching the signs on the race course.  I seemed to be roughly 2km behind the course signs.  Oh well,  that just meant I'd be off the bike sooner, ha ha.

I hit the last climb and as I came around the bend I saw the turnaround.  Once again, I made it around a turn without unclipping!  WHEEEE!   I knew the way back to transition was going to be way faster than the way out.  When I looked at my Strava results for that segment, I was over 4 minutes faster on the way back, ha ha.  There was another no passing zone on Duplessis, at the big sweeping descent due to a couple of very serious accidents that have happened at previous races.  Luckily when I hit that zone, there wasn't anyone in front of me so I took full advantage of that and pedalled like mad.  Before I knew it, I was back into the crowds along the bottom of Duplessis and turned back in towards transition.  I jumped off my bike at the dismount line, glanced down at my Garmin and was shocked at what I saw.   2:42 and change.  Holy crap.

I crossed the timing mat and ran into T2.  

Official bike time:  2:43:01 for an average of 33.13 kph.   For the data geeks out there, my normalized power was 182w.  Pretty much where I thought I'd be.  I was hoping I'd have HR data to share but for some reason my HRM didn't work after the swim.  Probably due to the amount of body glide I put on in the morning, ha ha.  

I consumed 2.25 bottles of e-fuel, 2 GU and 1/3 of a coconut Lara Bar.

I managed to gain 13 spots from the swim to the bike.  I exited the swim in 23rd, came off the bike in 10th.  

Not too long ago I could only dream about holding a pace like I did for 90km.  My cycling has seen massive improvement in the last year.  Looking back on last year, had I not gotten injured, I don't know that I would have put as much time in the saddle as I have.  It's certainly paid off and I still feel like I have some more gains to make, especially climbing.  Which is good because Lake Placid ain't flat.

I'll be back tomorrow with the final leg and some post race thoughts.....

Thanks for reading!

~ Coach PK

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