Ironman Mont Tremblant Race Report: Bruce Thompson, 1st in M60-64!

150 150 Rich Strauss
Bruce Thompson, M60-64 AG winner and Kona Qualifier!

Bruce Thompson, M60-64 AG winner and Kona Qualifier!

Short Version

I finished in 11:05:45, 1/54 in M60-64 AG, 326 OA.  I earned a slot to Kona. Overall, I had a great day, setting PR splits in all three disciplines. I was able to finish the run strongly, and re-take the lead at about mile 20.5 of the marathon, but I didn’t actually know I was in the lead until the finishers chute.  It was awesome to be racing with so many ENers, and I hope I was able to give our team some on course encouragement.  Finally, it was great to see all the PRs, including my brother JT & David Salzman who both broke 12 hours for the first time.

Long Version – I’m going to Kona.

Training –

I followed the Long Term Ironman Marathon Improvement Plan.  It is a 9 month plan focusing on run frequency while building swim and bike strength.  My training went very well mainly because I stayed healthy and mostly injury free since Sept 2013.   My only little thing was a slight tenderness in back of my left heel where the Achilles attaches, something I’ve had trouble with in the past.  It flared-up in late July so I cut back my last long run to 10 miles instead 15 to go easy on it.   In short, I was in the best triathlon shape I’ve ever been in, and the extra rest could only help.

Pre-race –

My brother JT and I arrived in Mt Tremblant on Thursday am after driving up from Montreal.  We got our bike from TBT, went for a short recon ride with several other ENers.  On the ride, my Garmin wasn’t showing my watts since it had begun to rain.  The last time I got caught in the rain (Grand Rapids HIM in June) the same thing happened.  I guessed that my Garmin 500 had a leak and the water was getting inside to screw it up.  I was worried since more rain was in the forecast, but I knew I could race using HR since I’ve done that before. We then went to the team dinner.  Wow!  It was so cool to see racing prowess of EN collected in one spot.  Love the pre-IM team dinners.

On Friday we went for a short swim early.  Saw David Salzman (one of my EN training buddies from Chicago) and met David’s uncle, Mike Wien.  Mike is the Vice President of the US Triathlon Association, and a 4 time Kona qualify.  He also is in my age group.  Yikes, he is fast and experienced, but also a really nice guy.  We knew we’d be racing closely against each other on Sunday.  I was bib 681 and Mike was 682 so we were even racked right beside each other.  Interesting!!  We then went to Patrick’s 4 Keys talk (nice job P), & got lunch.  At lunch, John Withrow said I could borrow his extra Garmin 500.  I went for a short ride to test that John’s Garmin worked with my Quarq power meter.  Everything was working fine. THANK YOU JOHN!!

Saturday, we got checked in and I did a short 12 minute run because I was feeling anxious.  Needed to just sand off my rough edge since I hadn’t run in 4 days to let my heel rest up.  Early dinner & then to bed by 9.

Race Day –

JT & I were up by 3:45.  I had my usual pre-race breakfast: 2 bananas, 2 bagels, 2 bowls of cheerios and coffee.  Yep I like a big breakfast.  Headed down to transition.  I put the dry Garmin 500 on my bike and got it synched.  Everything was working but I was still worried since rain was in the forecast.  After a quick stop back the hotel, JT & I headed to the swim start for the EN picture.  I was great to see the team assembled again and ready to rock.  I ate a Powerbar about 45 mins before my wave start and finished off a 20 oz bottle of Infinit.

Swim – Goal Time – 1:12 to 1:15.  Actual Time – 1:12:38

We were able to get a quick 3-4 minute warm up swim in and then headed to the start.  As usual, JT & started beside each other but quickly lost sight of the other.  There was some bumping but it was nothing like the mass IM starts I’ve been in at CdA and WI.  I was actually surprised but how smooth it was.  I found some feet and just followed along.  The only trouble I had was that I started to come up on slower swimmers for earlier waves and had to negotiate around them.  I got one kick in the face from someone, but just made sure my goggles were on right and kept going.  I just cruised along after the two buoys.  Nothing special happened.  I just swam and drafted where I could.  I did notice some of the faster female swimmers over-taking me towards the end of the swim.  Wow, some of them were really fast.  Overall, it was the fastest and easiest IM swim I’ve done.  The water temp was perfect and the visibility good.

T1 – I passed JT on the run to the T1 tent.  He yelled “Hi”; I yelled back but kept going.  We had agreed before the race that we wouldn’t stop and wait for each other unless one of us was hurt or crashed.  He looked good.  When I got to my bag, Mike Wien’s T1 bag was already gone.  Crap, he was already ahead of me.  I put on my prescription sunglasses, helmet, arm warmers, gloves, and grabbed my shoes.  I ran to my bike holding my shoes since we were racked close to the bike out and I didn’t want to run that far on wet, slippery ground in bike shoes. When I got to my bike, Double Crap!!  Mike’s bike was gone.  Put my shoes on, grabbed my bike and took off after him.  Goal: 6-7 minutes depending on how long the run from the water was. Actual: 8:06

Bike – Goal Time – 5:35.  Actual – 5:43:23

Got mounted and was ready to chase him down, but…..the Garmin wasn’t working.  Nothing!!  No power, no HR, no cadence, no speed. Nada.  Just a blank screen.  Ok, I said to myself, “stay in your box, just re-start it but keep pedaling”.  Tried that & nothing but blank screen again.  Hmmm….Tried again…and this time I got HR, cadence and speed.   Alright, I knew how to race with those metrics since I raced my first year in EN on HR.  Let’s go.  Apparently, some time while I was trying to get the Garmin working, I passed Mike Wien without seeing him.  After the race he told me I passed him early on the bike.  But since I didn’t see him then or ever on the bike, I thought that he was ahead of me the entire 112 miles.

I knew from my training that I could race an IM at HR of 130-140 depending on the temperature.  Since it was cool (57F), I targeted 135 for the first hour and 140 for the rest of the ride.  I was a little chilly at the start but anything more than arm warmers and light gloves would have been too much.  I took a sip of 3x concentrated Infinit that I had on board and got aero.  Time to work.

I really liked the IMMT bike course.  Great roads & scenery, and just enough terrain variety to keep it interesting.  Nothing much happened on the first loop, except that I had to pee much earlier in the ride than I expected.  Must have been a combination of the 20 oz of Infinity 10 minutes before the start and the cooler temp.  Anyway, I had to pee a total of 4 times just on the first loop.  I have to stand up to pee so I lose some speed doing this but at least I don’t stop.  On the first loop, I do remember passing several ENers who were either in earlier waves or faster swimmers than I.  I checked in with each one as I passed and wished them luck.

For nutrition, I took at banana at the first 3 aid stations and sipped my Infinit.  Since it was cool I knew I could process the extra calories and wanted to stay completely fueled to fight off any chill I might get.

At BSN, I took off my gloves and arm warmers, and grabbed a full bottle of 3x Infinit, and bagel.   I was feeling good but didn’t really know how I was doing.  I didn’t know how long it took me to get the Garmin working so I was sure of my bike split time.  I decided to just keep my HR in my target range, fuel myself with Infinit, bananas and bagel, and stay aero as much as possible.   The time would be whatever it is.

At the little loop at Saint Jovie, my right lower back began to get tight.  This surprised me since I’ve never, ever felt tight there on a ride, usually it is the other side.  So I stretched some, got out to the saddle to pee again, and kept going.  I made sure that I ate another banana and finished off my bagel before going up the hills to Lac Superior.  I also drank most of my water so I wasn’t hauling two full bottles up the hills.  That was a clever tip I got from Tim Cronk at the EN dinner.  Thanks Tim.

The last climb up to Lac Superior was no fun.  Clearly harder than the first loop and I had to stand several times to turn the crank, while on the first loop I stayed seated the entire climb.  I was glad to make the turn to the downhill section and let it rip down the hill.  By this time, I was riding with guys who were mostly in the 35-39 or 40-45 AG who started in front of me.  So I knew I was doing ok, but I never saw anybody in my AG the entire ride.  Ironman tracker shows I went from 8th to 1st so clearly passed guys in my AG.  Better get those glasses checked.

T2 – Goal – 3:00.  Actual: 3:15

Nothing special here.  Just feet out of shoes in last ¼ mile, off the bike, run to bag.  I didn’t notice if Mike’s bag was gone or not, so I just assumed he was ahead of me.  Put Body Glide on my toes, socks and shoes on, fuel belt on, then grab my “go” bag and start running.

Run – 3:58:23, 1st half  as 1:58:58, 2nd half as 1:59:25

My stated goal was to break 4 hours on the run, but my secret goal was to run sub 3:55.  For my AG, 3:55 is the Boston marathon qualifying time and I wanted to see if I could qualify for Boston in an IM marathon.  It was going to take a perfect run for me to do that.

Coach P said to be very careful the first 2.5 miles of the run since there were several very steep hills.  So I did take it easy at the start.  I felt good overall even though my legs were tight the first mile, but began to loosen up by end of mile 2.  My first 2 miles were at 9:30 avg pace, which was slightly slower than my target for my LRP + :30 but it included a quick :30 stop to pee in porta potty (ok I can pee on the bike but I don’t on the run as I don’t want my socks and run shoes to get wet as I’ll get bad blisters)  After 2 miles I just settled in to my target pace of 8:50 and HR of 135.

At each aid station, I took 1 or 2 cups of water.  I walked 10 steps to drink and then began to run again.   Then take a sip of my 2x concentrated Infinit while running.    Repeat at each aid sation.  I did one Scap at miles 1, 7, 13 and 20 as well to supplement my electrolytes.  Did this in prior IMs and again in training so I knew it would work.

At mile 10 or so, I noticed a very white-haired guy come upon me from behind.  I wasn’t sure if he was in my AG since he was wearing calf sleeves, but he looked like one us OFs.  I ran side-by-side with him without saying anything for about ½ mile then we came upon a hill. He pushed hard up the hill and I let him go, and stayed with my effort level.  He eventually got out of my sight, and I figured I’d either catch him later or he was having a better day than I.

At SN, I dropped off my fuel belt but picked up a small hand held bottle that had 2x Infinit it.  After that I just maintained my effort, said “good job” to every ENer I saw, and ran my race.  I saw Tim Cronk and Heather right at the start of the 2nd loop and they gave me much needed encouragement.

At mile 20 or so (about ½ mile after the last turn around on the path) I noticed the old dude about 50 yards in front of me, and that I was catching him at my current pace.  I came up to within 3-4 yards, stayed behind him for 200 yards or so to gather myself for the pass. When ready, I hit the gas and accelerated past him just when a whole bunch of people were coming the other way on the narrow path (figured they might get in his way).  I stayed on the gas for about ½ mile and looked at my watch…I was running 7:45 pace.  Whoa…so I took a look a back and the old dude was nowhere to be seen.  So I slowed back down to my 9:00 target pace and just kept running, drank the last of my Infinit.

I was able to keep an average pace of 8:55 for miles 22-25 but it hurt a lot.  I did some math in my head and figured that my 3:55 BQ time was out the window unless I could go back to running 7:45 pace again.  I tried but the legs just didn’t have any accelerating.  But I just kept going because I wanted to break 4 hours.  ENers Al Truscott and Claudia Langarica (who I frequently train with in Chicago) both told me in the week before the race that I was prepared to run sub-4…. I wanted to fulfill their confidence in me.

I struggled some up the final hill to RSN but by then I only had a few hundred yards to the finish.  As I came thru town, I spotted one of JT and my friends who had come up from NJ to cheer.  He was waving his index finger at me like crazy and shouted that I was in first place in my AG.  I didn’t really believe him and just sprinted the last bit to the end.  I heard Mike Reilly call me name and say I was the first 60-64 year old but I still didn’t believe him either.  Mike Wien had to be in front of me since I never saw him on the course.  Only when Mike Wien came into the finisher’s recovery area after me and very graciously congratulated me did I actually believe I won my AG.  Mike made the podium in our AG with a 4th place finish.

I ran 3:58:23 for the marathon.  My 1st half was 1:58:58, and my 2nd half was 1:59:25.  So I’m really pleased that I ran an even pace and only slowed down by :27 in the back half.    I came out of T2 with a 3:16 lead on 2nd place guy, he passed me at mile 10 on the run, and I passed him back at mile 20.5 and never saw him again.  In the end, I beat him by 4:31 so he really slowed down the last 10k while I didn’t. That’s what RnP say the IM run is about…not slowing down after mile 18.  That was the difference.  EN racing strategy and discipline works.

I stayed in the finisher’s area until David Salzman, JT & other ENers came in.  JT and I always wait around at the finish for the other when we race together.  I was so happy both David and JT…both went sub-12 and set PRs.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Trust your training and your body.  I just let my body take over on the bike when I had no power data.  Maybe I could have ridden a few minutes faster, or with a lower VI but I’ll never know.  I just rode by feel, HR and cadance. (I now think it was my Quarq, not the Garmins that were malfunctioning due to the rain.
  2. The Long Term IM Marathon Improvement plan is the real deal.  I know that it was why I ran so strongly at the end.  But it takes a big commitment to take on & stick with that plan…not easy.
  3. Just do your own race.  I thought Mike Wien was ahead of me the entire race but he wasn’t.  I just followed my plan for nutrition and pace and let the outcome be what the tri gods gave me.
  4. Even after 4 IMs in an EN kit, I continue to be amazed at the on course mojo we give each other.  Very special.

Thanks very much to a few folks who have helped me get to KQ.  My brother JT, my Chicago EN training partners Claudia Langarica, Matt Aaronson and David Salzman.  Rich & Patrick and all the EN teammates.  On to Hawaii!!


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