While we were off galivanting about North Carolina, our man Laurier was off to BC for Ironman Whistler. For the record, I don't think I could do a sub-4 hour marathon if I was driving it in a car, so a full bag of propers to anyone who can do it after all of the tomfoolery that precedes it. Here is his report:
On Sunday morning at 7:00 am, the gun went off. It was the start of a very painful day for me and 2500 other fellas. The swim was crazy. It was a swim start, which, compared to a beach start, makes things even worse. We were spread on at least 150 meters wide, and at the first corner buoy, I was in the biggest funnel ever experienced. I managed to get out of the water in a good place, although my swimming skills are relatively average compared to the guys I try to beat on the line.
The bike was at least as challenging as I expected. 3 big climbs made most of the course, so managing energy really was key all through the split. We knew there as an hour-long climb waiting for us before the transition that could really make the run 42 km of hell.
With such a course, average speed of the best guys could not be very high. Most guys take it easier in the climbs to save their legs for the run, and very few are able/comfortable enough to smash the pedals in the descents and go 75kmh in the aerobars. I took a gamble and went all-in in the first 2 hours. It turned out well, as I started the bike almost 400th and was 58th after 100 km. but all that had big risks. As I'd been wisely advised, every watt spent pushing the bike over 45kmh were watts I would never get back, and the gain at this speed was marginal compared to the cost in energy. So I saved my legs over the next 90 minutes, making sure I was not over 300 watts unless it was worth it, planning for the last hour of climbing. All through the bike leg I felt very aero, both with the apparel and with the bike-wheels setup. I am used to riding a disc wheel for this kind of races, and many guys out there had such a setup. But the Rail 52s turned out to be perfect for this course. The gain in stiffness all through these long climbs was well above the marginal aero loss in the descents. The 52s are also lighter than a disc setup and feel more aero than most wheels of this depth out there. Plus, we got quite a bit of crosswind in the flat section, in which 52 mm deep wheels way outperform a disc, especially after already 3 hours of racing.
I must also admit that those were the most scenic kilometres I have cycled in the country. Breath-taken, both by the eyes and lungs.
It felt very reassuring to ride carbon clinchers on this kind of course. As it was a one-loop split, chances to catch race support were slim, so good to know I could change a flat in just seconds. Also, I would never have felt comfortable to go down these hills at these speeds with a tubular I had just changed on the side of the road. I was thrilled about the overall gains, both technical and mental, of the Rail 52s.
I managed to get off the bike in the top 5 of my age group, 36th overall. Legs felt good, so good that I had to pace my self after 4 km under 4"50/km and 38 km to go. Did a good first split, and knew that if I kept that pace I was going for the podium. And then - the wall. 25km done, 17 more to go, and the engine was turning off. It was a very hilly run course as well, I guess everything is pretty hilly here. I was cooked, and started calculating my finish time if I walked all the way. I kept being passed. I hate being passed. But couldnt help it. I just could not keep up. At km 35, after 10 very bad km and a few sips of cola, I felt the legs were giving me a second chance. I managed to keep a good pace all the way to the line and finish my 2nd and best Ironman to date with a 10hours 30 min chrono and. 6th age-group place and a sub 4 hour marathon.
Now i' m off to Vancouver for some sightseeing before returning to Quebec.