“Maybe today is the day…”
That statement pretty much sums up the way I race—I tend to start my races with an optimistic pace, possibly a bit on the suicidal side, and hope that I’ll make it to the end before I blow, or at least most of the way.
I accept that I likely will not make it all the way, but maybe, just maybe, I will on that day.
And so goes the Montreal Demi-Esprit 2010 edition.
I jumped in the water for a bit of a swim warm-up, and I felt like I had swim paddles on my hands with my wetsuit. My arms felt awesome and I could feel every bit of water I could ask for. Woo, hoo! It was a good sign.
At 44, I was one of the oldest in the elite category, and defending champion from 2009. Also in the field were Chuck Perreault who has been on fire this year, Jerome Bresson (2nd last year), Pierre Heynemands (former Esprit full record holder and 40-44 AG champ at IMUSA), Eric Roy, Simon Malo, as well as many other ‘fasties from Quebec’.
The horn blew and away the 20 of us went. Everything clicked and I think I had a touch free start. Eric Roy started behind me and got on my toes. I jumped on a set and swam in 3rd spot (or so I thought), all the way around the course. I thought I was third, but it turns out Chuck Perrault was 2min clear. He was so fast, I didn’t even see him get away.
I followed Pierre H out of the water, who followed Jean-Francois Perron, with Eric still on my toes. Eric was a bit slow out of transition, and I gapped him, but Pierre and JF were as efficient as I was, so we started at the same time.
After a quick transition, it was off on the bike and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. This is one of the most fun rides of the year for me. Certainly, zipping around the perfect pavement at breakneck speeds is one of the highlights of the season.
From the moment I got on my Trek TTX, my legs felt like they were firing on all cylinders. I could not ask for more. Still, JF simply rode away from me, possibly never to be seen again.
I pushed harder, redlining myself and thinking, as I almost always do, that if someone else can ride that fast, I have to try. I checked the wattage output on my Polar power meter and it read over 300. I knew anything higher was suicidal over 90k, so I set that as my limit. I would try to ride at 300 into the wind and 270 or so with the wind. For many laps, this was working to keep Eric at bay. He had not caught me, and normally he would have. I kept pushing and then I heard it—the race announcer called out his name. He was on the other side of the hairpin turn. Simon Malo was just behind him. On the next lap, they were in the same spot, but then I heard Jerome Bresson’s name called out. A lap later, he blew by me. I shook my head as we passed Steve Thomas who was also doing the Demi. Steve was rolling fast at 42. I was doing 48. Jerome passed me at 50kph with very little noise. In no time, he was gone. At 40k, I checked my split—56:40.
OMG! A lap later, on my 10th lap, half way, I pressed the lap button on the Polar: 1:02:48. OMG, OMG, OMG!!! I can’t do this! And yet, I was, and others were also doing it. Some were doing it even faster. If I wanted to beat them, what choice did I have?
I kept rolling along, pushing 300 watts whenever I could. When I saw my speed slowing, I reassured myself by looking at the watts: 300 or more was enough to keep people from catching me, and Eric still had not done so. I had passed a lot of the Ottawa crew: Dev, Tim, Steve, Louman, Jen, Ian, Chris, Andy, as well as many others. They were all vocal in their support. I was not. My eyes were crossed and I could hardly think straight. I appreciate the support and apologize for my lack of acknowledgement. I was otherwise occupied.
At 16 laps, it finally happened, Eric got me. And Simon as well. Simon kept the pedal to the metal and went by Eric and I, then I passed them back. I’d be damned if I was going to be in front of these two monsters for that long then let them go so easily.
Going into the 17th lap, I was in front in the hairpin turn. I aggressively pedaled through with a big lean, and after so many varied events on this track and likely 300 laps, I hit my pedal on the ground. The back end of my beautiful bike lifted and flew about 1 meter before landing back on solid ground. The Continental GP 4000’s stuck like glue and I stayed upright, no worse for the wear, though a bit more cautious. Whew! That was not a ride I would recommend.
I lead the rest of the lap, and then Simon took over. On the last lap, Eric put the hammer down as he skillfully (or miraculously) threaded his way through a large, large group of riders. Simon was able to follow well, but after they got through some of the tight spots, the eye of the needle closed up on me. After 2hrs of ballistic pedaling, I was detached by slower riders getting in my way.
Eventually, I found my way through and buried myself deep, deep in the red zone to catch back up. I closed the gap on the small hill at the far end of the loop and was able to recover on the downhill (for lack of a better description). I was breathing like a freight train, but was back in touch.
I was able to recover by the time we hit the end of the lap and head to the t-zone. I looked at my Polar and it read 2:05. Goodness me, I thought, I could stop right now and be totally satisfied with my day.
I had no idea how I was going to run off that ride, and yet, I had no idea how I had just ridden so fast, and other guys were in front and still others were coming after us. What choice did I have but to try?
I have learned that I need to wear socks on the run for a longer event. This is certainly the case if I have another event in the near future, which is the situation. I took no risks in this regard. So, after dawning my socks and shoes, I grabbed my visor and was off at the same time as Eric, who was not planning to finish the run portion. He was only going to run 2 of the four loops since he has an IM distance event on the horizon. Simon, on the other hand, was fully intent on finishing, and so it started.
My legs simply worked. Once out on the trail, they moved with more and more fluidity than I could have hoped for. Maybe today was the day…
I had gapped Simon and was able to see red shirted super cyclist Jerome with Jean-Francois following him closely. Chuck Perreault was long gone, at least 5min ahead of me.
I ran comfortably quickly (it was, after all, a half marathon to go) and just after 8k, I passed JF and took over 3rd place.
With 3 laps to go, I had no idea of the time gaps to anyone in front of me, or if anyone was coming up fast from behind. I was running well, so coming up fast was not likely, but they may have been coming.
At 2 laps to go, Kat and Kevin told me I was 1:45 down on Jerome. I doubted I could close that, but picked it up just a bit. If he was going to crack, it would happen soon, and I wanted to be close enough to stomp on the pieces. With one lap to go, they told me I was 1min down. It was then that I could finally see him on the other side of the basin.
I told myself that if I was ever going to make the move, this was the time. I psyched myself up, put my head down, and shifted gears. Hard. I was closing fast and aiming for the red shirt in front of me. It was coming back to me quickly, so I thought he blew. I got close, and then realized it was not him. I got another, but it was not him either. At the far end of the basin, with 2k to go, I was within 10 seconds of a white shirt…with a red front. It was…him.
He glanced sideways and saw me. My element of surprise was foiled.
Jerome picked up his pace and matched mine.
I tried harder and nothing happened. Again I tried harder, and nothing happened.
And then I ran out of gas.
He began to pull away. Every 100m seemed to be worth another second in his bank.
With 1km to go, I visualized myself shifting gears and opening it up to 110% and blowing by him with just meters to go. All I needed was one kilometer 15 seconds faster than all my others. Surely I could do that with the motivation I had to catch him.
Apparently, I did not.
That’s all it was, a dream. It never happened. I had no juice left and Jerome ran a fantastic last 2k to hold me off.
I finished the day 3rd overall, in a new best time of 3:55:24. I rode the fastest 88.5k of my life and ran a 1:20 half marathon. I beat a lot of young guns and am very, very satisfied with my day.
It turns out that this was one of the days I would hold things together. The other guys were simply faster. There is nothing I can do about that but congratulate them on their superiority and try again next time.
Thanks to Danny McCann for making this race possible. He’s been at the helm for almost as long as I can remember and it’s gotten better and better every year.
Thanks for reading.