The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

Race Report: Montreal Olympic Triathlon

Two weeks ago, this race was almost a DNS (Did Not Start). But after some encouragement from Joe, Rob and Guylaine, I gave-in and decided to make one last attempt at a sub 2:30 Olympic triathlon.

Joe M, Dale W and I drove up together early on Saturday morning. I always prefer to arrive early and hang-around nervously on-site than hanging around nervously at home. We arrived and got checked in no problem. The race-expo had plenty of carbon bikes on display. The Cervélo rep had a good chuckle over my vintage (2004) aluminum P2K and took a picture for his scrap-book.

Our spot in transition was perfect. We were set up in a parking lot, right beside a large electronic parking meter, which was super-easy to spot on the run-in from the swim. Pre-race was nice, we checked out some of the fancy bikes (and wheels) in transition, then headed up to the track to watch the half-iron and full-iron cyclists. We saw Sandra for her 17/18/19 laps – she looked like she was having a ball. We heard about Donna’s crash and ran into Don who should be the winner of the CMC Support Crew of the year. Before I knew it, our race was ready to start.

The Swim: 1500 meters. The Venue: 1976 Olympic rowing basin. Straight out for ~700m, across ~100m and back down ~700meters. The water was surprisingly cool, but dead-calm. As this is the rowing basin, there are lane markers attached by under-water wire the length of the swim. I was able to swim almost directly over the inside wire, which kept me straight as an arrow the whole way. In fact, I only popped up to site a few times. The swim was fairly peaceful. When I emerged, my watch showed 28:00 exactly, which was just fine.

T1: Run up and over a little bridge, then ~150meters across pavement into the bikes. (There was a timing mat after the bridge, so I think my official swam ended there, and the bike+T1 time starts at that point); Sportstats split at that point was 28:32. As I approach the racks, I notice that Dale is already out on the bike course.

Wetsuit came off quickly (for the first time all year), helmet on, glasses on, 1 package of SpiderMan fruit chews into my shorts pocket and off I go. The run to the bike course isn’t too bad, and I mounted barefoot without much problem.

The Bike: 40 km. The Venue: Gilles Villeneuve Formula 1 race circuit. 9 Laps. (we traveled in the opposite direction of F1 race though)

This was going to be fast and fun. I knew it the second I hit the track. Instantly my speed was approaching 40, and it wasn’t dropping. Eventually, I would settle into a rhythm, and my lap speeds were averaging around 34km/hr (due to a slight headwind on the straightway along side the pits/starting grid).

“This is lap 2, this is lap 2, this is lap 2”; “this is lap 3, this is lap 3, this is lap 3”’ “this is lap 4, this is lap 4, this is lap 4” – you get the drift, I would repeat this in my head the entire ride, terrified that I would either do too many laps or not enough (Half-iron and Full-iron riders have electronic lap counters, the Olympic and sprinters are left to remember their own laps). Joe passed me on about Lap 4 or 5, so I was happy for him that he finished the 1500m swim.

“Complete and utter mayhem” is how I would describe the bike course. Conventional triathlon biking rules can’t exist on this course. The course turns to the left and to the right (often) – it’s impossible to keep slower riders to the right, and it’s impossible to always only pass on the left. Weaving, ducking and bobbing is the name of the game. Corners can get interesting – I was pinched and almost side-swiped a few times – it really is a wonder there were not more accidents. Sometimes I felt like I was in a “Need for Speed” video game.

For better of for worse, my 9th lap came and went, and I exited the track and made the jaunt back to T2.

T2: I dismounted bare foot again, and ran on the hard pavement to the racks. Dale was just changing into his shoes. “Fancy meeting you here”. I made a fairly quick transition. Guzzled down another package of Spiderman fruit chews and headed out to the run about 10 seconds behind Dale. Final time for half of T1 plus 40K bike plus T2 = 1:11:25 for a blended average of 33.6 km/hr on the bike – a PB by far.

The Run: 10K. 2 loops around the Olympic rowing basin. Into the hot sun. No shade.

I glanced at my watch as I started the run: 1:39:55 cumulative time. I knew I needed a 50 minute 10 K run to meet my goal of 2:30. That time is certainly achievable as a stand-alone 10K, but my average triathlon run splits are almost always slightly over 5:00 pace; I had my work cut out for me.

I hit the first kilometer marker and I was running like a man possessed. It was definitely possible. I caught up with Dale, we ran together for a bit. “Don’t let me slow down!” I told him. I was splitting each kilometer in the 4:50 – 4:55 range. I felt strong finishing the first loop, and wasn’t having any fatigue issues and I still felt mentally determined. The sun was tiring for sure. But when I hit 6K; I told myself, “only 4K to go” … and this is where all the weekly duathlon work paid off. The second run in the CMC duathlon is 4K, and I’ve run that 4K so many times, with only fumes in the tank, that I knew I was going to be able to finish this run strong. I was splitting my watch now in the 5:00 to 5:03 range. But at each mile marker, I was doing the math – and it seemed it would be impossible for me not to get my 2:30.

I crossed the line with a final time of 2:28:18. Absolutely Amazing. Dale came in just behind me, and Joe hobbled in a little later nursing his swollen achilles. It was a fantastic day for each of us.

So now what!? I’ve met my long-outstanding triathlon goal. Maybe it’s time to retire on top… just like Lance did.