IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant Race Review
- Swim: B
- Bike: A-
- Run: B+
Athlete Experience: A
- Support: A+
- Logistics: A
- Spectating: B+
- Swag: C+
- Lodging: A
- Restaurants: B
- Hospitality: A
Final recommendation: This race should be on your bucket list, especially for athletes who like hills. Challenging but worth it!
The swim is a single-loop course in Lac Tremblant, about 5-10 minute walk from the transition area and lower part of the ski village. Water temps have varied from 68 to 74 degrees the past 3 years but it has always been wetsuit legal.
Prior to race day, you can do free practice swims Wednesday through Saturday, via the IM-branded hut next to the Mont Tremblant Beach and Tennis club. The club is staffed by friendly volunteers. They will check you in, keep an eye on your bags, and provide a changing area as well as a course review. It is a great perk on race week! Practice takes place only in a special marked zone (due to the many boats) so you will not get a real feel for the actual course you’ll be swimming.
The course is a single-loop rectangle and well-marked, with an exit from the village end of the lake behind a small peninsula. Although Lac Tremblant is beautiful from a distance, course conditions can be tough with any amount of wind. As the course runs almost a mile out into a very large lake, swells can kick up and you can feel like you’re swimming in the ocean (which can be challenging for weaker swimmers!).
The water quality is variable: the first .5 mile on the swim will have you smelling (or tasting) lots of gas and oil due to the moored boats nearby, then it clears up once you get away from the moorings, and you will re-encounter the poor water the last .5 mile from the exit. Coming into the exit, it is shallow for about 150-200 meters before the exit, so many swimmers stand up early and waste time wading through waist deep water to the exit. Try to swim until your hand is touching the bottom then dolphin dive if you can further towards the swim exit.
Up the exit ramp are wetsuit strippers and from there you take a right to run about a half mile down red carpet to the transition area. The run to transition is lined with spectators and a great place for your friends and family to watch for you coming out of the swim.
The bike course is challenging 2-loop course, with some steep climbs on the back end of each loop, but a great course overall. The pavement conditions are a dream and one of the reasons I keep returning to this race. You will find few, if any, rough sections of road. The entire course is permanently marked and easy to follow if you come up to train beforehand. Lanes are wide, and barring a few spots (on Montee Ryan bridges and Chemin Duplessis) where for safety reasons there is no-passing allowed, there is lots of room and riders don’t get bunched up. Aid stations are well-run and well-stocked.
After you leave transition, you head out on Montee Ryan (with lots of cheering and spectators at the “hot corner” to send you off). This section has a rolling hills and a couple of rotaries that are fun to fly through. The first 6 miles or so is an overall net descent, but with few flat sections on this course you may not notice – just be aware you’ll be climbing slightly on the way back.
The course then turns onto the highway 117 for an 24 mile out-and-back which is once again is a series of rolling hills. Despite it being rolling, the hills are long and of a steady grade making it a great part of the course to settle down and focus on smooth power output. This section is not technical, so you can pick up some speed on the downhill sections. The first loop tends to have little wind and be cool during the morning. By the second loop, expect the winds to pick up, If it’s a sunny day, it can get pretty hot out there with no shade. Even for a highway ride, the views on this section are pretty good.
The next section brings you back for a turn into the town (note: not the Village) for about 6 miles on a fun out-and-back which has lots of spectators in costumes, music blaring and shouts of “Allez! Allez!”. Then it’s back the way you came on Montee Ryan, around the hot corner (and the chance to see your friends and family) before it’s off to the final section of the course, the out and back climb and decent on Chemin Duplessis.
Chemin Duplessis is the most difficult part of the bike course. There are some serious steep sections to tackle on the way up as well as some sections on the way down. If you aren’t disciplined and ride over your power numbers on the first part of the course, you’ll quickly pay for it here. The way up has some short sweeping descents but is notable for the stair-step climbs as you get closer to the turn around. The descents on the way back can get fast, and in 2017 they made two sections no-passing due to accidents in prior years. Once you arrive back at the bottom, there is a short stretch of flat road with a couple of rotaries, then a short turn around for your second loop or into transition for T2.
This course requires patience and discipline: it’s easy, on the first loop especially, to go out harder than you should on those rollers then wind up suffering through after a windy, hot second loop that ends with a rough climb. Stick with your numbers, and it will pay off during the second loop.
On paper, the run looks to easier than it actually is.f The course heads away from the ski village and transition on Chemin du Village along Lac Tremblant before turning onto a bike/pedestrian path.
There is not much elevation gain, maybe 900 feet, but the series of short, steep hills that come in the first 3 miles after you exit T2 can be tough after coming off the bike. At this point you enter a small town
This is the point where things flatten out as you head onto the path. The path has a slight grade down on the way out and corresponding grade up, of course, on the way back. There are sections that are unpaved, but the surface is still firm with good footing. The path is pretty narrow, especially when runners are side-by-side. During the height of the run, this is an issue as the aid stations can get crowded and difficult to navigate. This section can make for some mentally challenging miles (at least for me) as the path seems endless with no view and vying for space with other. The benefit to the path is that you can get some welcome shade on hot days.
The turnaround point at the far end of the path is at approximately mile 6 and 19. You retrace your steps making up the extra mile through a series of dog legs. As you run past the swim exit, you head up a moderate hill. At the top, in front of a hotel, you can access your special needs bag.
Finally you arrive at the the awesome part of the run – blazing downhill through the ski village! This area will be jam packed with spectators cheering wildly. Be sure to have your friends and family tell you where they might be (i.e., in front of which restaurant, top, bottom, etc)- it is easy to run right past your crew with all the crowds. If you’re headed out for a second loop, you turn right and go for round two. If you are headed home, there is nothing like running down through that village to the finish and hearing Mike Reilly yell, “You are an Ironman!”
Athlete Experience: A
The support at IMMT is outstanding. The volunteers are amazing, from check in to swim practice to the course and across the finish line. They will greet you warmly in both French and English making you feel like a rock star the whole time. Each time I’ve been at this race, I’ve felt the whole town was happy to have us there and did their best to accommodate the athletes and their support crew. I got to experience the medical tent after the 2017 race.The medics were knowledgeable and funny even while dealing with the post-race craziness. Outstanding support the entire time.
If you stay in the pedestrian village, this event is incredibly easy logistically from both an athlete and spectator perspective. You can park your car underneath your hotel and not have to use it again until you leave. For athletes, packet pick up and the transition areas are right at the bottom of the village and an easy walk from any of the hotels.
Drop off for bags and bikes is busy Saturday but the line moves quickly. Double check your bag placement as both transition bags go in the same tent. It’s helpful to walk through the tent in each direction as as T1 and T2 are on opposite sides of the tent. This way you will have an idea of the layout on race day.
On race morning, special needs bags go in big boxes at the back of the bike area- again, this can get a little confusing so double check which bin you are putting which bag in! Morning clothes/post race stuff can go in bins that are at the swim start and will be waiting for you after you come through the finish line to get your medal.
Spectator Experience: B+
This is incredible race all around. Smooth roads for the bike, easy spectating for the support crew, great logistics and venue support, activities for the kids, incredibly friendly locals, need I say more? Whether you are doing your 1st IM or your 20th, this should one should be on your list.
This is pretty standard Ironman fare. You get your IM backpack and a few samples at check-in and your basic race shirt and hat at the end. Nothing special on this front.
The easiest place to stay is right in the pedestrian village. While listed as hotel rooms, most really are mini condos with small kitchens. If you bring groceries (or get them from the store just before town), you can avoid the somewhat overpriced restaurants in the village. There is a small grocery store in the village, but the prices are quite high and the selection very limited. A better option is to stop at the grocery store on the way into town
If you have kids, this is an ideal Ironman to travel to: large rooms with separate living areas and kitchens, endless fun things for the kids to do, and easy walking to spectate on race day. Gondola rides, mini golf, zip lining, luging and special kids activities are all right there.
I have not stayed outside of this area, but if you are looking for a cheaper option, there are many condos that are walking distance and shuttles if you stay in the town or village. The bottom of the pedestrian village is pretty lively and can get loud during the pre-race party Friday night. If you’re looking for a quieter area, look at hotels at the top or in town. The only drawback to staying right at the race site might be the cost of some of the more expensive hotels but I’ve found most are very reasonable.
In the pedestrian village, there is no lack of places to eat. Diable and Caseys are popular and have good but overpriced food. There are some pizza and pasta places as well as some sandwich shops. Pretty much your basic ski village fare. A reminder again to buy your groceries on the way in.
There are few IRONMAN race venues where you feel as welcomed as you will in Mont-Tremblant