Thursday, September 15, 2011

Race Report: Montreal Esprit

By Brendan Hall

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh Canadaaaaaaaaaa!!!  Let's be honest here...just for a minute and then we'll get straight back to fabrications and inflammatory rhetoric.  Half the appeal of signing up for this race is the location: Montreal.  And no, it's not because of the red light district, Judge Pants.  I just wouldn't have signed up for a late-season 70.3, after racing my first Ironman in July, if said race was in Newark, or Albany.  Montreal has been on my hit-list for years and the French-speaking citizens don't even blow smoke directly into your face before giving you the wrong directions just for fun.  Throw in a really unique/flat race course and a BTT All-Star squad of 15+ members strong and you've got yourself a perfect storm for shmoove moves and maybe even some light tomfoolery...we'll see...too early to tell.
A very spirited B. Kearney and I arrived to the registration tent around 4pm on Friday afternoon after 5.5 hours in the car and getting mildly lost downtown. The course itself is on an island in the St. Lawrence River (very cool) but even my razor sharp gps had a tough time figuring that out.  Now, it should be noted here that Brian chose to wear a Bruins t-shirt in order to remind our northern brethren who's boss around the NHL these days. Awesome...but also akin to sticking your head in an alligator's mouth for a family photo, so I made sure to walk a few feet behind him.
The expo was pretty low-key and generally set the tone for the whole race.  Registration took all of 30 seconds which was a nice change of pace from the typical Ironman bonanza of multi-table, triple-signature, body cavity searching. So, we grabbed our t-shirts and headed back to meet the team for dinner at the hotel.
Some decent pasta with chicken and two beers later, I headed up to the room to get my head and gear together. Beth Edwards, my roommate and good luck charm on the road this season, was busy doing the same with enough gear and nutrition for a 6-day trek across the Himalayas. In fairness, Beth was racing the full IM the next day (2nd place in her AG), so I found some space under the couch and got to work.
The alarm went off at 4am and it felt like I had slept for 12 minutes. I choked down the usual two bagels with peanut butter, a banana, Gatorade and two cups of coffee and we left for transition around 5:15. Once there, we ran into the rest of the team and were able to commandeer a whole section of the bike rack as there was no assigned spots by race number. Again, a very low key race.
Despite several trips to the rent-a-crapper, I was feeling pretty relaxed. My training had been a little sparse since Placid but I knew I still had plenty of fitness left over to get through the day, especially given the flat course. In fact, I was gunning for a new PR of 4:45.  Noah, Brett, Tony and I headed down to the swim start and got a quick warm-up in before the gun went off at 7:20. The swim is in the Olympic rowing basin and just like Placid, there were lane lines on the bottom of the shallow water, so I did very little sighting.  Just kept it steady and was out of the agua in 31:52.
The bike course is 20 laps on a flat Formula 1 race track with lots of twists and turns to keep it interesting. You could really hammer the first half but there was a super strong headwind on the latter half of the loop which at times slowed me down a full 10mph. I felt great throughout though and just focused on my nutrition.  Round and round and round and I was off to T2 in 2:30:27 which had me set up nicely for my PR theory.
You see, the run and I have never been great friends. We want to like each other. We really do but it's almost as if I'm dating the run's ex-girlfriend and we just can't get past it, no matter how many half-baked bro hugs we attempt.  I even buy the run new shoes every 3 months and yet, we always end up back where we started.  Just staring into the distance and pretending the silence isn't awkward.  Maybe in time and after some therapy we can get there but until then, the run should watch his back.  Yadi yadi, yada I put up a very underwhelming 1:49:02 with a grand total of 4:56:03 which was still a 16 minute PR.
Overall, this race was very cool and well worth the trip/expense. Race support on the course was a little shaky and the post-race meal was small portioned and all vegetarian but the race director was extremely welcoming and even set-up a BTT tent for us.  The flat and relatively easy course makes for a great late-season venue and you can't do much better than Montreal for a beautiful city within driving distance with plenty to do and see after the race.  I hope to go again next season.

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