Sunday, 26 August 2012

Mont Tremblant Ironman Volunteer - Race Day

Sunday I was slow getting started.  Most volunteers were up at 4am.  Anyone with a morning assignment had to hurry off.  I was able to take my time.  I spent the night with other volunteers on the floor of a classroom at the local high school in St Jovite.  A light breakfast was provided, and we took the city bus for a 20-minute ride to the resort.  Busses were free of charge for everyone all day.

The collection of shops in the center of the ski resort is known as the pedestrian village.  It is anchored by the clock tower.  Above and around the shops are hotels. That's the buildings you see in most of the photos of the resort.  Being hotels, you don't generally get a kitchen, so you are eating at restaurants.  The condos are all further from the action.  They are larger and let you do your own cooking in their kitchen.  Kitchenware is all provided.  The place known as the "old village" is the suburb of the Municipality of Mont Tremblant located 3 km to the west of  the resort, on Lac Mercier.  The run course goes from the resort's pedestrian village to the old village, where the P'tit Train du Nord trail is picked up.  About 10 km to the south is Centreville of the municipality, also known as Saint-Jovite.  The bike course goes through downtown St-Jovite.  They were amalgamated back in 2000 to become the single municipality of Mont Tremblant.

My plan was to hike a short ways up the ski hill and videotape the Snowbirds flyby.  I didn't make it for that.  I was still on the bus when I heard the jet.  It wasn't the Snowbirds either.  It was a single CF-18 fighter plane doing the flyby.  Still on the bus when the cannon went off.  Up the hill I went.  The lake was too far away to see the swimmers at all.  I could barely make out some water turbulence.  You could only tell exactly where they were by the flotilla of support boats.  When they passed turn-around, the course took them along the near shore, and they were entirely obscured by the trees.
The swim underway
I had 4 hours to kill before my assignment began, so I wandered the area.  I went to the shore at swim exit.  Wetsuit peeling looked like a fun assignment.  Swim cutoff was 9:20am.  By 9:10 there was still a dozen or so out in the water.  Cheers and general encouragement were really ramped up for the last few to make it.  I love that about Ironman.  The last ones to arrive get the most glory.  We all feel really happy for them to make it.  It was announced that if the swimmer could stand up near shore, it would be classed as within cutoff, even if they hadn't reached the timing mat.  Since the route is near the northeastern shore, it's shallow for a couple hundred metres.  The kayakers had a guy stand up way out there, but it was deemed insufficient.  When he finally made it to the beach, he was out and had his timing chip taken away.  I think there were 3 of them who didn't make cutoff.

Coming out of T1 change tent, athletes had their helmets on.  Helmets weren't kept at the bike like other triathlons.  I'm tempted to change into my bib shorts.  With my tri suit I don't need to change at all, but nothings as comfy as the bibs.  I could run in them after, or change into running shorts at T2.  I've done some long rides in the tri suit, and it gets hot in the sun.  

Special needs looked like a fun job.  When a cyclist arrived, a volunteer with a megaphone called out the number.  Runners then hurried to fetch the bag for that athlete.  It would be busy and exciting.
Special Needs Pickup - Bike
My afternoon assignment was working a crosswalk in the resort plaza (the pedestrian village).  It was busy.  The run path bisected the resort, so there were lots of people wanting to cross.  Sometimes there would be a couple minutes waiting for a sufficient gap between runners, in which time a couple dozen people would be lined up to cross.  They would sometimes barely clear the lane before the next runner arrived.  Each runner passed through the pedestrian village twice.  The fork where they were routed back for the second loop was right near the finish.

Here's another cool job -- runner escort.  Cyclists had a motorbike escorting the leader.  On the run, there were bikes leading out the top five runners of each gender. 
3rd-place escort awating the runner
My evening assignment was less of a chore.  I was at the crosswalk directly in front of the church.  In the morning, this lane was the run path from swim exit to T1.  In the evening, it was the arrival back to the pedestrian village for the runners.  Hardly anyone wanted to cross the road here, so it was simply a cheering station.  

My crosswalk for the evening
Around maybe 7pm a storm cloud passed and it poured rain for about 20 minutes.  There was a lovely rainbow up over the pedestrian village towards the end.  This left the runners soaked and cold.  I had the foresight to bring my waterproof jacket.  Staying warm and dry helped me maintain the energy to welcome everyone back to the village with cheers, fist pumps, and the occasional jumping up and down.  When I first arrived, there was a girl doing the cheerleading, and she had much enthusiasm and a seemingly unending supply of witty remarks of encouragement. When she left, I felt I needed to at least try to leave a similar positive impression on everyone. For first-loop runners, I promised to be there when they came back again, and I was.  I stayed past midnight, to see the last one in.  He had a bicycle escort also, and a flock of angels to carry him home (girls with angel wings tied to their backs).  As with the last few out of the water, the crowd was just wild for the last runners.  I could hear them across the lawn at the finish.

Sunday evening, a rumour flashed through the volunteer ranks that the athletes who didn't register on Saturday for the 2013 race were intending to come en masse to Monday's registration.  Theories were that they hadn't know about the Saturday registration, or that they had waited to see what the course was like.  This led to many of us arriving an hour early Monday before the 9am opening of registration for volunteers.  About a hundred of us packed the hallway in the Congress Centre.  One of the volunteer captains came and told us all to chill out.  We could see that obviously that we weren't about to sell out 2013, so no one had to worry about getting a spot.  Although Monday was officially for volunteers only, they let the athletes register also, but after the volunteers.  All others were told to take a hike.  They weren't taking registrations for the general public.  I was giddy with delight and babbled at the volunteer doing my registration.  There were no card readers, no receipts.  She just typed it into the computer.  My credit card was initially rejected, but she retyped the name, and it went through.  They should just give us an access code to let us register online ourselves, and have a few days reserved for volunteers and returning athletes.

Mont Tremblant Ironman Volunteer - Pre Race

On Saturday the 18th I arrived in Mont Tremblant for the second time this summer.  I signed up as volunteer at the Ironman race. 

Hill on Montée Ryan road

Saturday I went biking throughout the area.  I brought my commuter Fiori since the weather was unpredictable and I might end up leaving it out overnight or something.  The hill on Montée Ryan road is as awesome as I remembered.  I let my bike coast freely.  I don't have a computer on the Fiori, but the wind was blasting in my face like it normally only does up over 50kph, so I was really moving.  Then the speed wobble hit.  The front wheel and handlebars began making fierce oscillations.  I was in the drops, so I grasped tightly to see if I could get it to steady itself, but it wasn't going to happen.  I clamped down hard on the brakes and it quickly came down in speed, and I brought it to a full stop.  I don't suppose I've ever had that bike going that fast.

At the bottom of the hill is a crosswalk where Le P'tit Train du Nord crosses Montée Ryan road. Le P'tit Train du Nord is the converted railway trail used for the run portion of the triathlon.  Turn-around for this leg of the trail is just to the left in the picture.  They have really made the region inviting for triathletes.  Montée Ryan is a busy highway, and they installed these wide shoulders for cyclists.
P'tit Train du Nord crosses  Montée Ryan
They had a small number of 70.3 cycling jerseys remaining.  I bought one of those.  A sign announced, Mastercard and Visa only.  I had a moment of panic thinking that if my Mastercard was damaged Monday morning, I would be left without my registration for 2013. 

The starting cannon on display Saturday
In the evening, it was beer, beers, and more beer.  I couldn't believe how dead the town (St-Jovite) was.  The morning had the streets full with cyclists and cars with racked bikes.  Wherever they went for dinner, it wasn't here.  

Mont Tremblant ski hill seen from St-Jovite
This wasn't an all-hands vacation with my dependants.  I came alone and stayed with other volunteers at the St-Jovite high school.  Lights-out was 10pm, with everyone anticipating an early start on Sunday.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Mont Tremblant 70.3 Pre-race (2)

My dependents were just getting up.  We readied for the scheduled adventure.  The girls and I were booked for the Via Ferrata du Diable at the National Park.  They mounted climbing rungs all over the rockface.  You get a climbing harness for safety, and a guide.  It's as easy as climbing a ladder, but you are on a sheer cliff 200 ft. up.  The harness is a fall arrest.  If you lose your balance it will catch you on the way down, but doesn't provide any support for the climb.  It's not like the climbing wall at the water park where the attendant is pulling so hard that you are being hoisted up.  I don't go for easy sit with your feet up vacations.  You have to work for it.  Our beginner-level trail took about 3 hours.  The girls were great, with no problems traversing the course.  We were all very tired when we got back to the condo for dinner.  This was the only location in the entire trip where insects were noticeable.  It wasn't a problem.  We expected this and wore repellent along with plenty of sunscreen.  On my usual long-run route back home, there's a short swampy section where black flies attack.  I had some concern that either the Lac Superieur bike leg or the P'tit Train du Nord rail trail, since it is right by the lake, would have swarms of bugs, but there weren't any to be noticed at all.
Via Ferrata du Diable rockface

Bridge obstacle

Saturday morning was another early one for me.  I took the bike out for a short jaunt around the neighbourhood.  The village of Mont Tremblant, not to be confused with the resort's pedestrian village, is about 5 km away.  I would be biking and running through it again during the race.  It has a much smaller supermarket that St Jovite does.  For full-service banks and shops, you need to go all the way to St Jovite.  
Jen heads up

Looking down

No fear kid 1

No fear kid 2

Meghan reaches the bridge

Bridge obstacle #2

Saturday was a rest day. My time was taken up by registration, bike check-in, and benevole orientation.  That plus eating.  Lots of eating.  Bagels and a ton of white rice.  I've tried other day-before foods, including the typical pasta dinner, and I find that rice gives me the best carbohydrate fueling.  My dependents amused themselves around the resort, riding the gondola, riding the luge, browsing for souvenirs. I went up the gondola with them later in the afternoon. There it is.  I'm swimming there, biking over there, running there.
Orientation meeting

View from the mountain

Mont Tremblant 70.3 Pre-Race (1)

*** This is a companion piece to the Mont Tremblant Ironman 70.3 Race report published previously.  it seemed more important to write first about the race itself, since it would be several weeks until I got this posted. ***

With my dependents in the van, our gear in the overhead carrier, and my racing bike on the back, we headed out before dawn Thursday morning.  The weather that week had been very hot and humid.  We ran the air conditioning on full for most of the trip.  Everyone was advised that this was to be a low-expenditure trip, so they shouldn't expect to see us pull into a plaza of fast-food restaurants and have everyone stick out their hand to dad for funding.  It was Tim Hortons bagels for lunch.  The big expense was for the lodging, so everything else would be done on the cheap.  The drive went smoothly, with a range of music, and a couple driver changes.  My squire Jennifer happily got a long turn at the wheel.  
Bike in back


Jennifer was driving the leg from Ottawa to Mont Tremblant.  We were headed off the edge of my Ontario map, but the highways shown made it seem that route 315 would be the most direct.  What a nightmare.  It turned into a twisty gravel road through the hills.  For many kilometers it went on with steep drop-offs to one side or the other of the road, and hills and turns obscuring the way ahead.  She wasn't impressed with my navigating.  It was like one of those Google Maps blunders that gets the family stranded in the woods and eaten by the mutants.  Except that the occasional farm was well-kept and presentable.  And there were routine signs indicate school-bus stops.  It must take the kids hours every day to ride this road.  The gravel put a heavy layer of dust all over the bike.
Gravel road to nowhere

It's hilly around here

We arrived at the check-in center around 2pm and got our condo assignment.  Official check-in is at 5, so on a busy day we might have had to wait.  Stepping out of the car was into the oppressive heat.  The unit was basic quality, so it was not equipped with air conditioning.  Perhaps you normally don't need that around here, but today, as with the week preceding, was over the edge.  I got the code for the WiFi.  Maybe some internet would take their minds off the heat.  We doubled back up Mont Ryan road to the supermarket at St Jovite for supplies.  The unit is over $200 a night, but doing your own cooking makes up for that compared to restaurants.  Also, it was important to me to keep tight control over what I ate, so I would be in peak readiness for the race on Sunday.  The condo was gorgeous, with a high vaulted ceiling in the living room, a good-sized TV, and clean bathrooms. It didn't have the two single beds I signed up for, so the girls would be sharing the king.  A king is huge, so they wouldn't be near each other.  All of the condos were set up with the balcony facing downhill toward the lake and the ski hill.  It was about a 10-minute walk to the resort village.  We did a quick reconnoiter that night.  They were still doing construction.  The new pavement for the bike course is going to be sweet!
Construction Thursday

Bike racks

Friday morning, the alarm rang for me at 5.  The early mornings were a part of race prep.  With my dependents all still asleep, I headed out to hike up the ski hill.  Initially, the trail was shallow enough for an easy jogging pace.  Trying to maintain that was unreasonable, and by the time I got to half-way I was vomiting into the grass.  Then came the steep part.  It seemed like a slow plod up the top half of the hill, but my heart rate was nevertheless maxed out.  These were diamond ski runs, steep enough to require occasional hands-and-knees scrambling.  It was a marked trail, intended for this purpose, but the warnings to bring plenty of water were correct.  It was quite a workout.  There was hardly a breeze at the foot of the hill, but up here, a cool wind served to dry the sweat.  
The resort's pedestrian village from above

Climbing day

Almost to the top

For someone accustomed to the flatlands of Upper Canada, this view was tremendous.  The gondala wouldn't start operation for a few more hours, so the trip downhill was also by foot.  
The dreaded Lac Superieur


Enjoying the view

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Ride For Heart

Attended the Ride for Heart this year.  It's the second time I've done this ride.  They close the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway and allow us to bike on them for a few hours Sunday morning.  It's a fundraiser for Heart and Stroke.

Here's me and Meghan ready to go.  The forecast was for rain, and it was lightly coming down when we left, so I took my commuter Fiori.  It gets wet a lot already, and has a fender. 
You get to see all kinds.  This guy was riding his bamboo-frame. 
Okay it's hard to make out the picture.  My idea here of using the HD video mode and taking crops from the footage isn't working out so well.  It's a picture of a guy with both daughters on a tandem trail-a-bike.  That makes three of them all together.  I love that!  I would totally have had one of those if I had known they made them.  That would have been 15 years ago, and maybe they didn't back then.  I had a Bell carrier that I plopped my kids into.

 Off the starting line, we are in the trench running beside CNE grounds.  It's a shallow uphill climb to the raised Gardiner Expressway.

 There's the CN Tower in the background.  Also yet another skyscraper going up.
 Not a bit of rain all day.  I should have brought my racing bike.  No matter, it was a great time, and I can keep up with Meghan just fine on my commuter.  She's on her Specialized trail bike.  I swapped out the knobby tires with some large-width city tires, so it goes fast on the pavement. 

 The sun was in and out all morning. 

Out along the Parkway there's a couple half-decent hills, including the climb from river level up to the Gardiner.  We used the 50km route, which is from CNE grounds all the way out to the 401 and back.  Basically the same route as used by the triathlon July 22. 

Thanks to everyone who donated to my team.  Shout out to Ted who came along with us.  It was his idea!  Hi Ted.