Marc Flageole finished 2nd in his age category (45-49 years old) and 14th overall in Tremblant's 2016 IRONMAN, which means he qualified for the IRONMAN world championships in Kona. Marc is used to Kona, as he has already been 11 times. Next year, he is aiming for a top 5 in his age category. Marc tells us about his race in Tremblant, his progress in swimming, and shares some tips for those of you who would like to qualify for Kona one day.
Näak: Congratulations on your performance in Tremblant's IRONMAN. What were your strong moments in 2016 during your preparation for this event?
I progressed immensely in swimming this year. Thanks to the Red Mist trainings of Swim Smooth, I built confidence in swimming, which I did not have in the past. While I was beginning to lose motivation in the last few years, these trainings brought me to another level, both technically and mentally. The Red Mist trainings are hard; you swim 4500m to 5000m. I had never done that before! Bart (the coach at Swim Smooth) is really motivating and his group is dynamic. There is always a goal for each training session, with a time to accomplish it... everything is well planned.
I also improved my technique. In addition to the Red Mist trainings, I was doing training sessions with Bart which focused solely on technique. Finally, I had swimming sessions in CSS (Critical Swim Speed) with Swim Smooth where I would swim 100 or 200m at high intensity. Unlike most people who swim 3 times a week and do the same thing 3 times, I was working something different at every training: endurance, technique, and speed.
Thanks to my progress in swimming, I was mentally prepare to fight in all three disciplines for Tremblant's IRONMAN. I knew that I was ready for one of my best performances. I had no doubt about that.
Näak: What courses have you done this year in preparation for Tremblant's IRONMAN?
Tremblant's 70.3 and Saint-Lambert's sprint triathlon. I tend to participate in very few races in order to maintain my motivation. When the race day approaches, I have missed running so much that I am excited to fight. On the starting line, I have the bit between my teeth!
Näak : How was the IRONMAN in Tremblant for you?
The conditions were not easy. The swimming course was hard because there was a southern wind, which was creating waves. However, I was focused and wanted to swim well. I swam the first 100m with a pack of 3 people who were much faster than me. Then, I followed another pack for 200m. But, they were too slow so I passed them and ended up swimming alone for 3000m. I did not see anyone from my age group after that.
Finally, I caught up to people and kept on passing people for the rest of the race. In the end, I finished the swimming portion of the race in 1:01, a very good performance given the particular conditions. I was 12th to exit the water in my age group, but I was used being 30th or 40th to get out.
For the cycling portion of the race, I finished with my best time ever. I had never completed the cycling section of an IRONMAN in under 5h before, even on easier courses. I've been running for a while, so I'm quite used to all kinds of weather conditions. Hence, the rain did not slow me down. However, I was on the verge of being cold (20 degrees Celsius with the rain). Lots of people got cold, and I'm happy I came out alright.
The problem that occurs when you are cold it that you can no longer maintain the sustained effort that is required to keep your body warm. Nutrition is important in such a case. Had I poorly managed my nutrition, I would've been weaker, and I probably would've been cold. I'm happy I managed to maintain a constant effort from the start to the end of the cycling course.
The running portion of the race went really well. I had strong legs from the start of the race. I adjusted my pace to 4 minutes 30 seconds per km, and I managed to maintain this rhythm during most of the race. It was my goal for the marathon. It started to hurt during the last 5km of the race. I slowed down and lost roughly 3 minutes at the end.
Näak: Were there times when it was hard for you mentally?
There were two tough moments.
When I was cycling and it started to rain: for fifteen minutes, I reckon most of us were thinking "Oh no, not 4h of cycling in the rain!". It's never funny when you go from being dry to wet. I had to stay focused to maintain my intensity.
During the last 3km of the marathon: my girlfriend was informing me about the time lapses between me and my opponents. I knew I had no chance of catching the person in first position for my age category (Nigel Gray, ex pro Canadian, he finished 9 minutes before Marc). I also knew that the person in third position for my age group was far behind and that they would not catch up to me. I couldn't see anyone in front of me that I could catch up to, and I couldn't see anyone behind me who could potentially catch up to me. It wasn't making me less motivated for the race, but after 9h of intense physical effort, I was in pain and I just wanted the race to end.
Näak: What do you wish to improve for the 2017 IRONMAN World Championships in Kona?
I'm going to keep on swimming this winter in a 50m pool in order to improve my swimming ability. In addition, I would like to participate in a training camp in a hot and humid location in order to get used to the weather conditions in Kona. Training with athletes who are stronger than me will also help me progress in cycling. I trained with Jérôme Bresson and JP Leclerc a few times this year. They are both much stronger than me, and it really helped me progress in that discipline.
Näak: You decided to skip Kona this year and to attend the race next year. What are your goals for Kona in 2017?
I decided to skip Kona this year to prepare myself for next year. I would like to go there healthy and rested. My goal is to finish in the top 5 for my age category, which I have not managed to do in the 11 years that I have participated in the Kona World Championships. My best result was a 15th place.
However, I must first qualify again for next year. It is getting harder and harder to qualify. There are fewer and fewer spots (3 spots per age category), and the performance level is increasing every year.
Without the support of my girlfriend, who is also an athlete, I could not have reached this level.
Näak: How do you organise your trainings?
I train early in the morning, in the evenings, and on weekends. Wednesday is my big training day. I take part in the Red Mist training in the morning, I go on a long bike ride in the afternoon, and I run. It has really helped me progress this year. For me, it is more beneficial than if I were to participate in a one-week training camp because as we age, we need more time to recuperate. Mondays and Thursdays are my rest days. In addition, I took 7 or 8 days off this year for big trainings.
Näak : If you had to give one piece of advice to those who dream of qualifying for Kona one day, what would it be?
The advice that I would give would be to not skip any steps. Familiarise yourself with shorter distances before trying out for an IRONMAN. Try out a triathlon sprint, Olympic triathlon, 70.3, and then take part in an IRONMAN when you feel ready. In addition, get advice from experienced people, and work really hard.
Qualifying for Kona has become really difficult and it has to be a real commitment. Not everyone can do it. For instance, it is hard for people who have young kids. In addition don't take your friends and family for granted. Without the support from my girlfriend, who is also an athletes, I could not have reached this level. Karine (Marc's girlfriend) runs marathons and has qualified for Boston next year. I will be in Boston and in Toronto to support her for her two marathons. We support one another during our races. It is really stimulating!
The support from my friends and family is really important. There is also a difference between doing it once and wanting to do it multiple times. For my part, I want to do it every year so I make sure my life and my lifestyle are compatible with my goal.
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