A Championship Showing at the Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant
The Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant was added to the WTC partially as an afterthought to the full 140.6 event that takes place on August 19th, 2012 for the first time this year. For the organizers, it offered an opportunity to do a dry run on "half the course" and iron out various kinks before the "big show". But in the process, it seems that the "warm up act" surpassed most of the events in both the 70.3 and the full Ironman series.
I was on hand to take in the festivities, do the 70.3 and provide a bit of a preview for what athletes can expect in August while also giving a view into next year's 70.3. Frankly, in over 20 years of doing WTC events around the world, I'm yet to see too many events surpass the Tremblant 70.3. And that includes Kona, Roth, Ironman France and many others.
Years ago before Graham Fraser put an Ironman in Lake Placid, he almost put an Ironman in Tremblant, but WTC (rightfully) wanted an Ironman in the continental US. Those of us who have been coming here for years for tri training, XC skiing training and racing, and downhill skiing know what this place is like. Tremblant finally got to welcome the world to this playground. The world of downhill skiing knows this. They have all kinds of world cup events in aerials and moguls. Intrawest did a great job building up this resort starting in the mid 90's to what it is. Now the place is "better than Chamonix, in Quebec"
Dominque Piche has been organizing the local Mont Tremblant triathlon now for 10 year and in a conversation with Marc Roy, the President of Sportstats who does the timing for many WTC including Hawaii, the two formulated a proposal to table with WTC. The rest is history. Both the 70.3 and 140.6 events in Mont Tremblant for 2012 sold out shortly after they went live. Now the two had to deliver on the promise of a world class event. For the first year, the 70.3 event that took place on June 24th was done with great execution. To a person, athletes were extremely pleased.
Triathlons work well as vacation destinations when they happen in a tourist resort. For us, this means that a triathlon should happen either at a beach, or it should happen at a mountain resort. Both of these already have plenty for families to do outside sport, because the location inherently caters to tourists. In Mont Tremblant, the entire resort caters to the "après ski crowd". This means they want tourists spending dollars outside skiing on the mountain, between hotels, shopping amusement and other diversions entirely unrelated to downhill skiing. Add in a pristine lake at the base of a mountain and amazing roads, in a mountain setting, and you have the ideal setting to put down a "triathlon stadium". Events that happen around a lake and parking lot simply cannot compete with these types of full service resorts when it comes to the overall athlete experience when traveling with families and combining with vacation.
Race director Dominique and his team have a goal of setting up Mont Tremblant as a triathlon destination for not only racing, but as a training centre. The Ironman 70.3 was a great kick off to show case this. Tremblant always had downhill skiing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and golf in the summer. Now the goal of the local government is to make the place a triathlon destination. They are putting their money where their vision is. Not only did they repave a lot of the road used for the Ironman 140.6 and 70.3, but they took it a step further. In some places, to stretch their budget, they only repaved the bike shoulder, while leaving the regular auto lanes with the old pavement. This must have been the ultimate testament to the local government trying to attract the dollars of athletes.
Most race coverage focuses on the quantifiable results by professional athletes. For this report, we're trying to focus on the qualitative observations that lend themselves to a superior age grouper and athlete experience. Here are some areas that most athletes care about that we thought needed to be covered:
• Accommodations and Hotels: Which other Ironman venue can you stay at with something like 4000 rooms on the side of the venue with many more nearby within a short drive. In my case I rolled out of bed at a hotel at the top of the resort, walked 500 feet to the resort gondola and road it straight to transition. Got off the gondola and took 5 steps to body marking!
• Restaurants, shopping and distractions for families are pretty well endless. This is a downhill ski resort that doubles as a summer playground for a variety of items including golf. Move over Boulder and San Diego....seriously. Those of us who were already coming here to train for years now have our secret hideout exposed to the world. But we are happy for that!
• The swim start area is wide and was great for my wave start but would also work well with 2500 people. Marc Roy mentioned that for the full Ironman they will start 50-100m up the Lake in the water for the 140.6. For the 70.3 it was beach start. Water was awesome and flat as glass, but it can also be whitecaps here....but never so big that we'd have a swim cancellation. The walk to the swim start is 10 minutes. Plan for some time and footwear. The dry clothes drop off is at the swim entry point an very well done.
• Water today was 73F. By mid summer it could EASILY go to 76+, however, by August it will drop again. Please remember that days get shorter every week from now to August, so nights are longer, which means that water really starts to cool off in August. So plan on wetsuit, for the 140.6, but you never know.
• Transition....long run to T1. Fast transitions in the 3:30 range, slower ones in the 7 minute range. T2 was short. Many transitions in the 1 minute range even with 2000+ bikes in the Tzone
• The roads were pristine. Already covered earlier. Put the head down and ride!
• Everyone wants to know about the actual event course. The bike course was hard, but he climbs are distributed throughout the course. They come at you more or less constantly. In the first 60k you get lots of aerobar time on "kona style" rolling grades. In the final 30K is where the steep stuff likes....Most athletes will use every gear in a 34x27, but he good thing about the Tremblant course is that you almost get back all the potential energy you create on the uphills during the downhills. In the first 60K there is lots of big chainring stuff. In the final 20K you're basically in either your easier or your hardest gear!
• At 70.3 pace, you could hold your half Ironman 0.85 FTP power and get over most of the hills without any major spikes with the right gearing. Over a full Ironman, may of these hills will be that much longer in duration. People should not let how they felt over one loop skew their perception...also the fatigue from a 2.4 mile swim is a lot more than 1.2 miles. This will be a tough Ironman course. Anyway, general consensus with multiple measurements is that the course as 3100 feet of vertical over 90K. Not insane, but still quite difficult.
• The run course is not hard, but not easy. The hills are concentrated in the first 5K and last 5K...the middle 10k or so of the run is on a crushed gravel former railway bed with a very slight grade "coming home". Many loved the gravel, others found the slip a bit tough. Most found their times a bit slower than other courses, but the data that people collected showed 700 feet of climbing and descending on the run. That explains the slower times. Might be good to do some runs on treadmills at continuous 3% grade, because that is what one way of the crushed gravel trail feel like…a very slight subtle uphill that is barely detectable
• The finish of the run is awesome. You're running right through the centre of the pedestrian walking village, past the restaurants, pubs and shopping. Lots of stuff for families to do, while they are bored out of their skulls waiting for us to whisk by.
• The time of year for the 70.3 in late June and IM in late August are IN VACATION SEASON. This weekend in Quebec is the biggest long weekend of the year (St. Jean Baptiste) and the weekend of the 140.6 is in the third weekend of August during school summer vacation. While other race venues push us away to shoulder season when it is cold, and rainy and miserable and want triathletes in their community only when we will fill hotels outside of the regular summer vacation crowd, Tremblant is welcoming us into their community in vacation season when they can already fill the place!!!
WTC seriously needs to consider making this the 70.3 North America Championship. I'm not sure I have been to a better Mdot event. Perhaps IM France, then Tremblant then Kona and that is saying a LOT after 20 + years of Mdot racing all over the world.
....so don't just sign up for Tremblant for the 140.6. In fact, as a "half Ironman athlete" I encourage my peers worldwide to fly over here to do the 70.3. Don't forget that you are 90 minutes from Montreal and you're 100 minute drive from the Nation's Capital, Ottawa, where there is a ton of touristy things to do. Most importantly a 70.3 does not leave you drained like a 140.6, so you have plenty of energy to tour and see and party.
Dominique Piche, Marc Roy and the entire community of Tremblant just showed us how Quebecker's put on a show. No surprise, this is the same area that also holds the only Canadian stop on the Formula 1 circuit. Tremblant 70.3 was done to F1 standards.
So whether you are planning to do the full Ironman event or not, you might just want to come up to Tremblant to vacation and train. The team there proved that the 70.3 is a great standalone destination event. "Tickets" for next year's "70.3 Rock Concert in Tremblant" will go on sale on August 15th. And yes, that is a few short days before the Full Ironman Tremblant on August 19th. Given the success from this year, there is a good chance that next year's 70.3 sells out even before this year's 140.6 kicks off, and frankly given the job that the team has done and what I have seen in 70.3 events worldwide, a sell out in a few days for next year's 70.3 would not be a major surprise.
About the Author: Devashish Paul is a masters athlete based on Ottawa Canada who has been vacationing in Mont Tremblant for over 20 years doing all the sports that winter and summer have to offer at this venue. He competed in the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant to get the first hand experience to share with xtri.com readers.