Monday, June 25, 2012

IM70.3 MTB Race Report

The adventure began on Friday at 7am as Rikki, Suzanne Zelazo (another fast Pro from Toronto) and me crammed all our tri gear, including 2 bikes, numerous helmets, smelly shoes (at least mine were!), etc. into a packed Jeep and headed to Mont Tremblant. Highlights of the drive were definitely the ferry that took us (in our car) across the river and the beautiful scenery of the Mont Tremblant region. The detours our GPS took us on were also quite amusing.

On the Ferry!

Once at Tremblant we were greeted by the extremely friendly Pierre and Sylvie from Auberge Le Lupin B&B ( From the moment we arrived we knew we were in good hands. Pierre brewed many amazing americanos for us any time we wanted, made a special pre-race dinner of delicious pasta, let us dry our wetsuits in his personal laundry room and did many other helpful things. Both him and Sylvie were always going above and beyond to make sure we were well prepared for our race. Sylvie even made us delicious oatmeal cookies to enjoy after our race! Le Lupin was located about 1km from transition (in the village) so an easy walk and away from the noise - it was the perfect location. I will definitely be staying at Le Lupin the next time I am in Mont Tremblant.

After a day and a half of the usual pre-race routine (check-in, super intimidating Pro pre-race meeting, taper swim, bike and run) there was nothing left to do but relax and get mentally prepared for the race. I chose to watch an inspirational movie called "Coach Carter". This movie is based on the true story of a basketball team who made it to the state championship tournament, despite many odds against them. It stars Samuel L. Jackson and a number of cute actors (bonus!). There are many inspirational quotes from that movie, but this one is probably the best (and my favourite):

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

I replayed this line from the movie several times. What I took away from it was this: during my race I should not be scared to show off my fitness, I should not be scared to really try hard, and I should not be too scared to give the race everything I had. The latter part of the quote didn't apply as specifically to my race tomorrow, but a long term goal of mine is to serve as an ambassador for the sport of triathlon and get as many people involved as I can (especially kids). If I can "shine" tomorrow I thought, maybe I can inspire others to as well (just hopefully not my competition!).

After finishing the movie I fell asleep visualizing the the race in my head. I visualized the best case scenario, the worst case scenario and I troubleshot my actions should something go wrong.

It seemed like I blinked and then my phone alarm was going off, signaling the start of Race Day. I scrambled in the dark to get my gear together without waking Rikki. I went down to breakfast and Pierre had my americano ready for me :) I chose to stick to my usual pre-race breakfast of bagel and PB with banana, but added one of Sylvie's homemade muffins to the mix (couldn't pass them up!). Can't hurt right?

Not much later I was biking over to transition with Suzanne. Weather was forecast to be hot and sunny all day, so I didn't need arm warmers! Good thing! After setting up transition I headed over to the swim start with my coach (who came all this way to watch the race! Great support!) and Rikki. I did my usual swim tubing set to activate those powerful (?) muscles in my arms. Coach said that turned a few heads and people looked intimidated..good! Standing at only 5'4 and 115lbs means I need a scare tactic! hah.

Swim Tubing - Intimidating?

Next, I put on my awesome Blue Seventy Helix! It has less material around the shoulder area, so makes it super easy to rotate the shoulders. This is especially beneficial as it doesn't make wearing a wetsuit too different than swimming in a regular swimsuit. This allows you to maintain a good swim stroke. I would totally recommend this wetsuit (and you get them at my favourite Toronto Tri Shop, Enduro Sport!).

After a cool pre-race show, featuring the Snowbirds demonstration team, we were lining up for the swim start. I tried to stand by Magali as I knew she was just 20s ahead of me in the swim at Mooseman, so I would be able to swim with her. A cannon signaled the start of the race (cool!). It was a lot more chaotic than the start at Mooseman - not only was this a beach start, but we were also starting with the men. I was swum over by men and they cut me off from the lead pack of swimmers. It was quite frustrating. The first 200m or so I spent trying to get around swim packs that had passed me at the beginning of the race. Eventually I found myself in the lead of the second pack and then I was somehow alone and watching as the lead group (all men) swam about 75m ahead of me. I felt great in the water, but I was disappointed that I didn't have a fast pair of feet to follow in order to conserve my energy. Oh well. As I approached the last buoy before heading back into shore I was a bit blinded by the sun and actually had to stop, take off my goggles, and figure out which way to go. Damn. This allowed the two girls behind me to catch up and now they were drafting off me. My next mistake was veering to the wrong side of the swim exit. I headed left and the other girls headed right. I quickly got back on course, but was in second place now. It would have been cool to exit the water first. A possible goal for Rhode Island.

Exiting the Swim

The run from the swim exit to the bike was about 500m. I was sprinting the whole way, wetsuit still half on, with my coach running beside me! My heart rate reached 192bpm and this was definitely the most intense part of the day. Luckily T1 went way smoother than in Mooseman - got my wetsuit off while putting on my sunglasses and helmet. BOOM! I saw Suzanne approaching her bike while I was leaving T1 so I knew she must've had an awesome swim. She learned to swim just over 5 years ago. For all of you out there who think you need to have begun swimming at a young age to be good at it - erase that thought from your mind!!!

The bike course was just beautiful - newly paved roads, wide shoulders to ride in, great scenery. Not only this, but I was feeling really great. It's hard not to feel great on a Cervelo P3, but I felt extra great. I had energy in my legs and a desire to really push this leg of the bike. After Mooseman 70.3, my coach and I decided that this race would be all about the bike: a 90K time trial and then see what I had left for the run. With this thought in my head I kept pounding on those pedals. I also used the advice I learned from Pro Cyclist, Ed Veal ( Thanks to him I was able to ride smarter: I knew how to approach a corner with speed, knew how to descend fast and knew to approach those hills. Ed taught me "free speed" which is almost as crucial for these races as bike fitness is. The last 20km of the bike course is a series of rolling hills and is probably the most technical and difficult part of the course. Since I had already rode this part of the race in a pre-race easy bike, I was extra confident that I could finish the bike leg super strong. The fact that I was still in 3rd was also a huge boost! The last 5km I got passed by an amazing cyclist, Jessie Donavan (also on a P3). I still got off the bike in 4th which was HUGE for me! T2 was pretty quick (except didn't get my feet out my bike shoes in time for the dismount line!) and before I knew it I was off on the run.

Heading into T2

The run started with a lot of uphills in the first few kms before settling into a gradual downhill on a nice trail. Jessie had to serve a drafting penalty after the bike (which I actually witnessed and don't agree with) so that meant I started the run in 3rd. At around the 4th km I had actually moved into 2nd! I couldn't believe it. I was feeling pretty good, but I knew that I was fading fast. Unfortunately the thought of taking any gel or sugary drink made me nauseous so I stuck to water. At the 10km turnaround I was still in 2nd but the girls in 3rd and 4th were closing in on me. The gradual uphill on the way back was making my quads burn and my legs were feeling more like bricks than springs. The nauseous feeling in my stomach was growing and I knew that it would take everything I had just to finish the race. I wish I had been able to find that extra energy to stay in second, but I am hoping that will come with experience and more run training. I got passed during the 14th - 17th km, but held on to 4th till the finish. The last km is usually the hardest, but luckily at this race it takes you through Mont Tremblant Village and is all downhill to the finish! My final time was 4:40, just 2 minutes behind second place!

Suzanne finished in 10th even though she had been doing hard training up to the race (and then she ran another 9K when it was over!) and fellow team mate, Faye, came 13th in her age group in her first ever half-ironman! Other WattsUp athletes also had great performances at Tremblant, Welland Tri and Half and I wish them huge CONGRATS!

To sum up the weekend: I couldn't believe that I managed to make the podium in my second Pro race. In my mind, I was true to the quote in Coach Carter. I gave the race everything I had in the hopes that I would "shine" and I think I did. I know that if I learn to dig a little a deeper I can shine a little brighter. And if I'm lucky - those of you reading this might be inspired to do the same.

Endless thank you to my sponsors: Turner-Tomenson Wealth Management, WattsUp Cycling, Enduro Sport, Cervelo, Steve's Ebars, Blue Seventy AND to my absolutely amazing husband for being the most understanding and patient man I have ever met (Rikki, please don't sell me for beer like the shirt says!)


Suzanne in Transition


Coach with his athletes (me and Faye)

On the podium

Cool bridge!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Adventures in New Hampshire

I have been in my PJs since my arrival back home last night. It is now 2pm! I woke up this morning, cleaned my extremely dirty and sandy bike, did laundry, unpacked, took out the I finally have a chance to relax, collect my thoughts and write about this weekend's race. My first race as a Professional.

The adventure started on Thursday afternoon when Rikki and I began our road trip. On usual Indian Standard Time, we embarked on our journey an hour after we had scheduled. This meant we ran into some crazy 401 traffic. Luckily, this also meant that Rikki had some time to complete some work before we crossed the border.

After about 6 hours of driving, mostly through beautiful and quiet upstate New York, we arrived at Ransom Bay B&B and were asleep within minutes. The next morning we were greeted by the super friendly, Rick, the owner/chef. He cooked us up some amazing omelettes and brought us croissants fresh out of the oven (see below)! After our delicious breakfast and a quick walk around we were on the road again, but this time to the race site!


Feeling strong before my race

The next few days were filled with the usual pre-race routine: check-in, eating, sleeping, some light swimming, biking and running...oh, and tons and tons of rain that was expected to last until Tuesday. Not only was it raining, but cold too!

Race morning we woke up at 4:30am after an extremely good sleep in a very cozy bed. This briefly reminded me that I desperately need a new mattress back home and that the $12 Ikea pillows I currently own should be tossed in the garbage. Anyway, following that thought, I jumped out of bed and ran to the window...the rain seemed to have stopped (or at least it was lighter). I checked the weather report online and it confirmed what I had been hoping for: cloudy with some rain and some sun was predicted for the race. I was so happy! And it was going to be 14 degrees Celcius and not 12! Even better. In a rested and somewhat cheery mood I gathered my gear, we loaded up the car and headed to the race site. I enjoyed my usual pre-race meal of a bagel with peanut butter and banana, coffee and an advil :)

My newly cleaned racing machine!

Once on site I prepared my transition area: my Cervelo P3 was racked amongst 3 other P3s! Clearly the bike of choice by most of the other Pro athletes. I tried to find a way to place my arm warmers and windbreaker vest in a way so that they would stay dry if it started to rain again. I practiced putting on my arm warmers quickly, this was no problem - took less than 15s. Once I was satisfied with my transition area I headed over to the swim start. I met Rikki there and we both realized that I wasn't nervous at all. There was no real pressure for this race as I didn't have to worry about qualifying for an event or winning my age group. This was a new experience for me and I had no real expectations. I did have a few goals: top 3 in the swim, under 2:55 bike split, under 1:30 on the run and not to come last of the Pros. These all seemed like things I could achieve and it made me surprisingly calm.

Being tough before the swim start

Before I knew it we were being called to the swim start. I positioned myself close to Magali Tisseyre, because I knew she was a strong swimmer and I was hoping to have a strong swim. The official began to count down and the other Pros started dog paddling forward ahead of the start line...I just did as they did and soon we were off. It wasn't the usual washing machine that I was used to. No one was climbing on top of me or ripping off my goggles. Before long it was just 4 of us in the lead group who I later learned were Magali, Mary Beth, Amber and me. MB took off way ahead and Magali took off after her, leaving Amber and me about 50m behind. Amber backed off a bit and I swam the rest of the course about 50m behind Magali, not close enough for a draft (too bad!), but it made it easier stay on course that's for sure. This is my favourite swim course: there are buoys every 100m and it forms a rectangle with the shore line. It makes it quite easy to navigate and you can easily estimate the distance you have left on the course. The water temperature was perfect this year (last year half my body went numb!). I exited the water in 3rd - goal #1 accomplished! - and ran to T1. T1 was kind of a catastrophe. I had practiced getting my arm warmers on quickly a dozen times in the previous two days - but never with wet arms! They would only go on up to my elbows and as I began to get passed in transition I decided that would have to do. I strapped on my helmet and then was off on the bike (after more than 2 minutes in T1!)

The bike started out well, although it had started to rain again. I was feeling comfortable and wow, was my Cervelo fast, I felt like I flew through the initial rolling section on the bike. Then came the big 5K ascent...I had forgotten how tough this climb was and I was very excited to get to the top. The rain had made the roads pretty slippery and I was extra cautious on the descent. I watched a few of the fast male age-groupers fly past my down the hill, but I refused to let go of the brakes. The rest of the bike race continued and I knew I had not been prepared for such a tough, hilly course. I would catch people on the flat sections, only to have them take off on me on the hills or the descents. Although this may have been detrimental to me on race day, at least I now know what needs work in order for me to take my cycling to the next level: lots and lots of hill repeats...and going fast on the ascents AND descents! I did not meet goal #2, but this has only renewed my drive and desire to train long and hard and do whatever it takes to improve my biking.

My second transition went a lot smoother than my first (even though I couldn't really feel my feet). Within a minute I was out on the run course and in 9th. I had forgotten the run course would be in miles and didn't even think about what my splits should be per mile. I ran a 6'29 for the first mile and spent the next few miles trying to figure out what a sub-1:30 half marathon pace should be (I always joke with Rikki that the more I train, the more brain cells I lose!) In the meantime I passed another Pro and moved into 8th. At mile 4 I realized 1:31 was 7' per mile...I had been averaging 6'30 per km though. I was worried that this was way too fast and I would experience what happened in Vegas all over again. After this thought my pace did end up slowing to about 6'40-6'44 per mile (stupid brain!). I finished in 1'27 which met goal #3 and is the second fastest half marathon I have ever done (my fastest was a 1'26 and was a stand-alone half marathon). I still think I have a faster run time in me for the next race!

Overall, I think that the race went well, I came in 8th woman overall and achieved 3 of 4 of my goals. Most importantly though, I think that I justified my decision to turn Pro.

I would like to thank all of my sponsors for their support in preparing me for this race and my coach, Adam. Without their continued support I would not be able to do what I do. Next up: Mont Tremblant on June 24th.

A few more pictures:

Warming up the arms before getting in the water

Taking in the view of the swim course

Entering T2 (notice the arm warmers turned into forearm warmers)

Heading out on the run, I had just smacked my arm on the iron fence and am laughing at myself!