Mt. Tremblant 70.3 Race Report

Discomfort Zone Head Coach and founder Mike Coughlin

by Mike Coughlin

When I was growing up, our family took ski vacations to Mont Tremblant North of Montreal, Quebec. I remember being awed by the beauty and challenge of the region. 3 decades later, I found myself awed by beauty and challenge again at Ironman Mt. Tremblant 70.3.

It was raining in Tremblant as the three of us prepared for Ironman Tremblant 70.3I traveled to the event from Guelph with Mike Mahoney, an athlete I coach who was doing his first 70.3 and would be taking course notes for his first full Ironman 8 weeks later. Jocelyn Fillipini was another athlete of mine doing her first 70.3, and my support and wishes for a great day were firmly with them both.

My personal race goal was simply to finish healthy, an uncertain task with a nagging hip injury that might require pulling the plug. I never recommend sacrificing long-term health for a finish, and I had mentally prepared all week to follow my own advice if necessary. By race morning, I was at peace with this reality and ready to have as much fun as my body would let me – it was go time!

The most difficult part of the day came before the starting gun even fired. A triathlon moment I had feared for many years had finally come to pass, and for the first time ever the body marker wrote “40” on my calf. I won’t even turn 40 for 2 more months, but we race our age at the end of the year. If you think that 40-44 is any easier than 35-39, think again.

It was raining in Tremblant as the three of us prepared for Ironman Tremblant 70.3The 40-44 wave was the largest of the day, which made for a congested start, though nothing like the full Ironman start in 2012. I started far left and dolphin dived through the pinch point by the docks to find clear water and then drifted into the pack from the outside. After a number of recent debates regarding hip-drafting vs. feet-drafting, I used this swim to practice both and found that hip drafting is more effective, but only with a draftee who swims straight and has a similar stroke rate to yours. I had no such luck, so by the end I was drafting feet, enjoying the fresh clear water of Lac Tremblant, and preparing for the long run to T1 which went off without a hitch.

Onto the bike, I was in my happy place. The rainy weather from the previous day had broken and left a mist hanging over the mountains that was spectacular. I was looking forward to riding this course, and it did not disappoint; with flat aero sections, long aerobic climbs, and steep twisty leg-sapping hills, Tremblant had it all. My ride was going well and my hip was behaving but I could tell that there would be no fireworks today – you can’t fake fitness! I cheered on my fellow competitors including Mike and Jocelyn, and prepared to tackle the road to Lac Superieur.

The signature Lac Superieur out and back is in the final 20km of the ride and begins near transition with a sea of spectators partying and cheering loudly. Reality then sets in as the steepest hills on the entire course are waiting just around the corner. I knew this section was coming, but I was still surprised by how tough it was. Pacing was pretty much a non-factor; this was about survival. However, my hip was strong enough to let me push hard, make my legs burn, and then rocket the downhill curvy sections like I was on a motorcycle – woo hoo!

It was raining in Tremblant as the three of us prepared for Ironman Tremblant 70.3Dismounting the bike, I moved smoothly through T2 and onto the run course through more cheering spectators, high-fiving kids the whole way. I knew the run would be a long slow one, but I was still grinning ear to ear – I love this stuff!

My first victory was immediate: I was able to run! I was prepared for this likelihood and had promised myself not to let my competitive instincts get the better of me – the goal of this run was to enjoy it and finish without injury, which meant going easy and stopping regularly to do hip exercises. I handled this mentally by turning my attention outward to the course and those around me. I saw a close pro race, heated battles in multiple age groups, and the wide range of passionate, hard-working and fun-loving athletes that make our sport so great.

I had covered this run course last year on my cross bike while coaching at the full Ironman last summer, so it was easy to mentally break up the 21km: 5k of hilly roads with lots of support, 11k of flat forested crushed cinder trail on the “Le Petit Train du Nord” rail trail, and 5k of hilly roads again back to the village. The weather was overcast and relatively cool (especially compared to those racing in Welland and Syracuse the same day), but the humidity was high and it would still have been easy to overheat. It was my first time wearing our 2013 Discomfort Zone triathlon racing kit from Champion Systems, and the new APEX fabric did a great job of shedding moisture and staying cool – we picked a winner there. They were also the brightest kits on the course, which easily allowed me to see Mike and Jocelyn from a distance and cheer them as they powered through to their first 70.3 finishes in style.

The happy Ironman Tremblant 70.3 finishers, June 23, 2013In the closing kilometres, I realized that I had managed to hold my body together and have a positive experience in an event that was unlikely to happen for me at all. I was passed by more than 300 people on that run course, but snaking my way through the cobbled streets of Mt. Tremblant Village with cheering spectators on either side, it didn’t matter. Coming to the finish, I smiled in the knowledge that I had met my goal and had fun doing it.

Live your Dreams!


PS – One last word about the organization of this event. I have raced more than 100 events around the world and this is THE finest triathlon event production I have ever seen. Put Mt. Tremblant on your bucket list – you won’t regret it.

One Comment

  1. Amanda says:

    Great report! I was there training last weekend and am so looking forward to completing my first Ironman there next month. Climbing the hills (I refer to it as the Mountain) out of transition I realized that section of the course is what makes it the Ironman and I am so excited to get there on race day.

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