Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report

Disclaimer:  Ironman is a long race and apparently this race report is following suit.  I apologize of the length but it was an eventful day in Canada!

A year ago, I attempted my first Ironman branded race at IM Mont Tremblant and left with my tail between my legs and a DNF.  This year, I headed north looking for a bit of redemption from last year and a way to salvage the current crash-shortened season.  I am generally a confident and level-headed competitor from my years of high level racing, but I would be lying if I didn’t see this weekend as a bit of a commentary on my ability to race Ironman successfully.  Luckily, I was able to come away with a solid 4th place showing and some valuable long course experience.

My pre-race swim venue.
Ed and Sue Boyle acted as VIP sherpas for the trip and made the drive seem easy.  We arrived at the home of Mark and Caroline Pedicelli Thursday afternoon and immediately felt at home.  I took a swim in the lake, which was “not that cold” and spent the rest of the night thawing out and planning out the days leading up to the race.  As a testament to the great people around me, the lead up was perfect and I found myself enjoying every bit of the Ironman experience.  The pre-race banquet was absolutely incredible and every person I met in the community was more friendly and welcoming than the one before.  For anyone on the fence about making the trip to Tremblant, book your tickets now.  By the time race day rolled around, I was ready to go.

Focused and Ready
Race morning started with heavy fog and the promise of hot, humid conditions later on.  The swim was relatively tame and I took the initiative to set an honest pace early.  By the halfway point, 4 or 5 of us had established a gap but I wasn’t interested in pulling the entire swim.  I swung wide and waited for someone else to lead the charge.  Brian Fleishman took up the pace and the two of us were able to get clear of the group.  I found Brian's pace to be a bit quick toward the end and backed off a bit as I reminded myself that it's a long day.  I’ve also been having calf cramping issues on the swim for over a year now and didn't want to test my luck!  Brain easily pulled away and took about a minute lead into T1 while I still managed to come out ahead of the chasing group behind me.  Of note, the top 3 swimmers were all wearing BlueSeventy Helix wetsuits… Coincidence?  I think not.

Photo By Robert Mahaits

After a long, loud run into transition, I hopped on the Dimond and set off on a conservative pace to wait for a few of the chase group to ride with.  I knew strong cyclists like Jordan Rapp and Lionel Sanders would be coming, so I kept to my power and settled in.  Earlier than expected, Jordan came by and I was surprised how quick he was moving.  I was in a bit of a bind knowing that my plan was to be conservative and knowing that jumping on Jordan’s pace would help put distance on the other chasers. I made the decision to stick to the plan and watched both Jordan and Paul Ambrose pull away.  Knowing it was going to get hot, I kept my First Endurance EFS Pro intake up and ticked off the miles.  It proved to be the right decision as no one was going to compete with Jordan on the day.  He was in a class of his own and he deserves a big congratulations on a gutsy win.  

By the halfway point, my power was perfect and I felt strong.  I had reeled in Brian and was closing on Paul.  Once I closed the gap, the two of us traded off a few times before I was gapped on a long hill climb.  I had the first of three shifting problems with my Di2 randomly shifting out the big chainring and dropping the chain to the inside (despite having a chain catcher installed and a brand new chain!).  I had to dismount and fish the chain out of the frame before jumping on the bike and quickly giving chase.  It was frustrating because around that time Lionel caught up and I moved into 4th.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one with bike issues as Lionel had both a flat and a caught chain that caused him to lose 4 minutes from when he caught me.  I put my head down to catch Paul again only to have my chain come off twice more on the steep hills on the end of the bike loop.  I survived the rest of the ride and came into T2 in 3rd place and feeling fresh (if not a bit frustrated) off my relatively conservative ride.

into T2 feeling smooth!
Photo by Robert Mahaits
(*Interesting note:  getting my bike out of the car after the race, the chain was literally snapped in two... so something was definitely wrong!  I think I'm lucky to have finished the ride!)

Starting the run, I had Paul in my sights and after a few kilometers we were running side by side.  We held a steady pace for the first 10k and I slowly started to pull ahead halfway through the first lap.  I was relaxed, comfortable and easily clicking off the miles through the half marathon.  The crowd support and volunteers were phenomenal and I was absolutely positive that I could continue the 2:50 pace for the back half of the marathon.  The heat started to really increase so I dumped as much ice as I could into my Wattie Ink suit.  I slowed slightly and was passed by Justin Daerr with about 10k to go.  I still felt strong when I heard Lionel Sanders coming up behind me.  I waited for him to pass and was shocked to see Paul Ambrose come flying by instead.  He made a tremendous comeback from earlier and was running strong.  Lionel also passed me and I found myself in 5th when I was in 2nd less than 10 minutes earlier!

I knew my pace was slowing and my body was cramping but I forced myself to maintain contact with the guys ahead.  With about 3k to go, I started to come back a bit on Lionel who seemed to be suffering.  I gave all that I  had left to make the pass look easy and didn’t look back.  The last 2-3 hills heading toward the finish were probably pretty ugly and I envision the battle between Lionel and I looking similar to a nursing home walker race.  I was able to hold it together enough to make it to the finish roughly :30 ahead in 4th place.

Happy to be done!
Photo by Robert Mahaits
My time of 8:41 wasn’t what I had hoped for on the day, but it is considerably better than last year’s DNF halfway through the bike. Everyone ahead of me is a past Ironman champion so I know I’m in good company.  There are always lessons to be learned and problems to fix, but overall I am pleased with the day.  As only my 4th full distance race, I’m still learning and am looking forward to improving in the coming months and years.  Next up is IM Chattanooga in 6 weeks.  As soon as I start walking normally, I’ll start my preparations to move onto the podium.

Thank you to the Pedicelli family for their fantastic hospitality and to the Boyles for the incredible sherpa help.  As I mentioned earlier the Mont Tremblant community was absolutely fantastic and the race that they put on is head and shoulders above any other race I’ve done.  Thank you to my fantastic sponsors and to everyone who sent well-wishes while I was up North.  Anytime I connected to Wifi, my phone would get notifications nonstop.  I’m truly lucky to have such tremendous support and i hope you all enjoyed following the race.  More to come!

Thanks for being there to catch me Ed!
Photo by Robert Mahaits


  1. nice work out there Eric. Great to hear of your battle with Lionel in the back half of the marathon. I suspect your Ironman racing will keep getting better and better.