A Day of Domination: Rapp & Ellis Lead Ironman Mont Tremblant to the Line

Mary Beth Ellis at the front. (Courtesy of Cervelo)

For the last two years, Mont Tremblant was the Ironman North American Championship. (To which my husband said, “Where is that?” If it sounds French and it’s in North America, I’ll give you two guesses.) But mid-August was a weird time for a championship event, so this year the North American title race moved to May and to Texas — which is basically the opposite — and Mont Tremblant became the place for last chance dreams.

With the final Kona qualification cutoff at the end of the month, Mont Tremblant is one of just a handful of races left to gather up as many points as possible. And more than a few of the pros on the start line were counting on that. The only problem is that as a P-2000 event now there’s not that many points to be had. What Mont Tremblant does have going for it is that with a $100,000 prize purse there’s a lot more money than at the other P-2000 Ironman events left in August. For first: $20,000, for 10th: $750.

Oh, and people like the course and it’s fast and stuff.

With a lake swim, a rolling bike and run, and a finish in the village — which is often called quaint or rustic — the Mont Tremblant course is known for its fairness and its beauty. Everyone’s always raving about what a great area it is to train in too (in Quebec, Canada, if you didn’t figure that out before), but since I’ve never been there I don’t know if it’s just one of those things people say — like “I don’t usually like wetsuits, but that’s not true with my brand new sponsor’s wetsuit that just makes the swim so much faster” — or if it’s actually true. What I do know is that, despite the late date in terms of a Kona training build, the race brought in a number of top names, including people who have already qualified: Lionel Sanders, Mary Beth Ellis, and Liz Blatchford. Also on everyone’s radar was Jordan Rapp, who’s had a rough couple years, but told TRS Triathlon beforehand that he finally felt totally fit and ready to really race again.

The Mary Beth Ellis Show

Mary Beth Ellis swam so fast that she caught almost all of the pro men, who started just three minutes before the women, and had the third fastest time of the day overall (50:22). Needless to say, she was the first woman out of the water. Following that motorboat performance, Liz Blatchford and Tami Ritchie were next, out of the water together just under two minutes after Ellis. Then came Karen Thibodeau about 30 seconds behind them. Defending champ Sara Gross was another three minutes back of that, though she was done for the day relatively soon after she got on her bike.

Ellis had originally planned on just doing Mont Tremblant leading into Kona, but if anything went wrong that wouldn’t have left her much time to validate her automatic qualification slot for Hawaii. So she raced IM Switzerland a few weeks ago, trained through it, and blew up on the run, but still validated her Kona spot. Now she’s in Canada, with a whole couple days easy leading into the race and a plan to win. And when Ellis is there to win, it’s tough for anyone else to take that away from her — not that Blatchford didn’t try. But Ellis simply pulled away on the bike and by a quarter of the way through her lead had grown to over three minutes on Blatchford. Liz Lyles and Thibodeau were another three minutes behind that.

It’s not that anyone else was biking poorly exactly. It’s just that Ellis was opening up a massive lead. By halfway she was seven minutes ahead of Blatchford, 12 ahead of Lyles, 14 ahead of Thibodeau. And Sarah Piampiano, Laura Siddall, Jackie Hering, and Jessie Donavan were all over 15 minutes behind Ellis with 56 more miles to ride (and lose time in). They’re fast runners, but not that fast?

The walloping slowed in the second half and Ellis’ lead grew less quickly. But, still. After biking a 4:53:21, she was (not shockingly) the first off the bike. Blatchford was just under 10 minutes behind that. For a bit, the real battle on the run seemed to be for third, as Piampiano blasted through the crowd into that third spot, but was then overtaken by Lisa Roberts. (Lisa who? Lisa-you-should-have-listened-to-the-TRS-Preview.) Roberts kept making up time, but Blatchford wasn’t slowing down either. And then here comes Hering into fourth. Basically, it was a race.

Ellis again slowed down drastically towards the end of the marathon, and Blatchford chewed into her lead massively over the final miles, cutting it down to under a minute as the finish came into sight. Still it doesn’t matter how you get there as long as you get there first. And, after a 3:20:02 marathon, Ellis broke the tape in 9:09:05.

Also, is this what fueled her to the finish?

Ellis on the run. (Courtesy of McCabe PIerre)

Ellis on the run. (Courtesy of McCabe PIerre)

Blatchford’s 3:10:56 marathon brought her within 50 seconds of the win and she finished second in 9:09:55. Roberts had the fastest marathon of the day, just a handful of seconds slower than three hours. And Hering ran her way into fourth with the next fastest run.

1. Mary Beth Ellis: 9:09:05
2. Liz Blatchford: 9:09:55
3. Lisa Roberts: 9:13:45
4. Jackie Hering: 9:20:09
5. Karen Thibodeau: 9:38:13

Rapp Is Back

Brian Fleischmann started off his Ironman debut exactly the way you’d expect him to, by being the first to hit the shore in 49:16. Eric Limkemann, who has recovered from a bad crash at Challenge Knoxville earlier this year, was about a minute behind that, with Paul Ambrose another 45 seconds back. Jordan Rapp and Justin Daerr were next, about 30 seconds after Ambrose. (Daerr joked with TRS Triathlon on the preview show that he wasn’t going to know if he was recovered from his balls-y effort at IM Canada until we knew, which is to say until he actually was in the middle of the race.) The other big contenders, like Thomas Gerlach and Lionel Sanders were much farther back — three and five minutes behind Rapp, respectively.

The big question for a lot of people, and certainly for himself, was: Is Rapp really back? Well, pretty early on the bike, it looked like that was going to be answered. By 15 miles, he had ridden to the front and was opening up a large gap over Fleischmann. Ambrose followed and the two pulled away from the field almost as if it was easy. As the race went on, Rapp dropped Ambrose; Limkemann and Fleischmann sat minutes behind them (and minutes apart); and Sanders just kept up his nice steady pace in fifth and eventually into fourth. Sanders had said before that the only reason he was racing this close to Kona was to practice his nutrition strategy, and he would not be deviating from his plans — not even when he got a flat and a jammed chain. In fact, the surprisingly warm and muggy weather at least made him happy, since his goal was merely to mimic a certain warm and muggy island:

Fleischmann started to struggle on the second half of the bike, as is perhaps to be expected in one’s first Ironman. At least these guys are human. Or some of them are. While Rapp pulled farther and farther ahead, there was actually a highly competitive race going on for second through fifth, all within minutes of each other. Of course, it’s only competitive if you take Rapp out of the equation.

He hit T2 first after a 4:25:02 bike split, with over an 11-minute lead. Is Rapp back? Looks like it.

Ambrose and Limkemann came in about 45 seconds apart and were soon running together, but there really was no catching the leader today. Daerr followed four minutes behind them. And Sanders was behind that — presumably having eaten exactly what he set out to eat.

Rappstar in rap star mode. (Courtesy of Francois McCabe)

Rappstar in rap star mode. (Courtesy of Francois McCabe)

Rapp simply continued to open up his lead during the marathon, while Limkemann, Daerr, and Sanders continued on, all within a minute of each other at one point. It never seemed in question on the run, but Rapp still appeared emotional at the finish and relieved to nail his comeback victory, crossing the line in 8:17:37 after a 2:55:54 marathon. Daerr was, apparently, recovered enough to take second. Ambrose held on for third, with Limkemann in fourth and Sanders taking fifth. New question: Will Rapp go to Kona?

1. Jordan Rapp: 8:17:37
2. Justin Daerr: 8:36:12
3. Paul Ambrose: 8:38:12
4. Eric Limkemann: 8:41:33
5. Lionel Sanders: 8:42:13

If you enjoyed this Ironman Mont-Tremblant race recap, check out out Timberman 70.3 recap

About the Author

Kelly O'Mara
Kelly is a reporter and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She quit triathlon for a few years, because triathletes can be annoying, but now she's back into it and only hanging out with the non-annoying triathletes. She blogs about stuff at Sunny Running.