In this new column, Zoie Clift will be profiling race directors from various event brands and backgrounds. Stay tuned every two months to get to know a hard-working RD near you.
Last month, Ironman announced its second Canadian race—Ironman Mont-Tremblant—slated to debut Sunday, August 19, 2012 in Quebec. At the helm of this new Ironman on the block is race director Dominique Piché. The Ottawa native is loaded with an impressive resume that includes an extensive background in the event industry. He also happens to be a constable for the Montreal Police Service.
The new race, which sold out in just 10 days, joins the prestigious Ironman Canada, which takes place every August in the province of British Columbia. Fifty-one countries will be represented at the inaugural Ironman Mont-Tremblant, which is located in a picturesque resort town surrounded by mountains and lakes. Among those competing is legendary Pierre Lavoie, serving as honorary co-president of the event, and planning to make the race his 30th Ironman.
“When they gave me my pass and it said Mont-Tremblant RD, I had to sit down.”
So is being an Ironman race director something Piche has always wanted to do?
“Absolutely,” Piché affirmed. “This has been a dream come true and a deep honor. When I started in triathlon in 1995 I was working weekend after weekend putting on triathlons. When you start competing and putting on these things, Ironman is the Olympics for the business.”
Piché discovered triathlon through Bruno Barrette, his physical education teacher when he was a student at La Cité Collégiale in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. Barrette had many Ironmans and marathons under his belt and quickly became an inspiration.
“I was a good runner and Bruno asked if I could swim and I said yes,” he said. “So he took me to the pool. And then he said oh my god, you swim but you can’t swim.” (laughs).
It was Barrette that brought him to his first tri.
“His mental strength and family values were contagious,” Piché said of his mentor. “He taught me how to swim in a ‘straight line’ with patience, and always came back for me in a race to bring me to the finish. Piche added that following this first race, Barrette registered the rookie in his first marathon in Montreal. For many years after that the two continued to race together and share a passion for endurance sports. “Bruno has always been like a father to me and I’ll forever be grateful to him for giving me the flame and passion for triathlon,” Piche said.
Piché’s path to becoming a race director wasn’t a direct one. He comes from a background in downhill ski racing (as both competitor and coach). When he finished high school in the 1980’s, he didn’t want to go to college right away so his grandfather brought him to a technical school where he studied to become a Heavy Construction Equipment Operator. “I was so young that nobody wanted to hire me,” Piché laughed. He ended up on a tractor trailer hauling new boats back and forth from the U.S. to Canada. The next few years were filled with further ventures including buying an excavation company in the early 90s and a stint in the Canadian government.
Then law enforcement came into his radar.
“I always wanted to know what a police officer was doing,” he said. “So I decided to go back to school [Cornwall]. This is where I met Bruno. After two years at college I worked as a police in Cornwall from 1996-2000. But it was a volunteer job. So that’s when I started putting on events.”
While working at the Canadian Ski Marathon, a sponsor—Bombardier—offered him a job in their downhill grooming division. He did this for about five years, and after a small detour that included buying and selling some sports stores, he became a police officer in 2007 in Mont-Tremblant. He soon transferred to the Montreal Police Service where he currently serves.
For 16 years, producing events has been part of Piché’s life and he’s had his hand in various projects including the Corel Triathlon Series, the Canadian Ski Marathon, the Keskinada X-Country Sprints, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the Ottawa Marathon and the Montreal Police Bike Tour.
So how does he balance police work and race directing duties? “Know your limits, he said. “Be organized, surround yourself with key partners and trust their judgments and decisions.”
Piché also had a role in bringing the Ironman to town in the first place. When he took the Mont-Tremblant Triathlon back in production in 2003 (it had gone on for 18 years but had stopped at the end of the 1990’s) he worked with Marc Roy of Sportstats (the largest timing company in North America). “I told him this region is a natural venue,” he said. “And when you see the guys back south could you talk about this.”
Four or five years went by. Then, late last October, Piché got a phone call. “I will remember that call until I die,” Piché said. “Roy said, ‘Dom, you’ve talked about giving the Ironman a chance in town. Now is your chance.’”
As for the logistics of the race, Piché used words like “nestled” and “warm” to describe the venue. He says everything is close by, and you’ll be able to look around 360 degrees and see the finish, the Ironman village, the transition zone, the bike in-bike out … all the elements so central to the Ironman racing experience.
The 2.4-mile swim will be in Lake Tremblant and the two-loop, 112-mile bike course runs mostly through forests and mountains. The two-loop 26.2 -run route goes through the old village of Mont-Tremblant, adding a European feel to the course. Athletes are also scheduled to run on the Le P’tit Train Du Nord, a former railway bed that is now the longest linear park in Canada.
Moreover, $7.5 million is going towards investment and infrastructure for the race. “The Quebec government is going to repave and redo the roads for at least 75 percent of the course,” Piche said. “That’s going to give us wider roads and bike paths on each side so when the athletes come to train and acclimate they are going to have that bike path to secure them.”
Plans are to completely redo and widen Duplessis road. The main portion of work and new pavement is scheduled for Montee Ryan and Route 117. The bike course will also be completely closed to 95 percent of traffic and they are closing highway 117 northbound, which will give participants 40 km of complete highway access.
“We’ve got some good flat areas but just coming out of the transition zone you’ll be on Montee Ryan and start climbing a tad,” said Piché, narrating the course. He said he’s looking forward to seeing what people will call the climb on highway 117 north, and that they’ll name the hill after what sticks for athletes.
The Canadian government is also paving other highway portions at the far end of where the course stops. “The beauty is, there are so many possibilities,” said Piché. “So we will wait to hear what our participants say and will make it the best course for what they want for Tremblant afterwards.”
“We want to become a capital of triathlon,” he added. “Making it a family destination is our goal. I never thought in my life being an Ironman spectator that one day I would have the opportunity to do this. When they gave me my pass and it said Mont-Tremblant RD, I had to sit down. It was so overwhelming but (I had) a big smile.”
Main photo, left to right: Jacynthe Martin (run coordinator), Andy Giancola (WTC VP Global Sponsorship WTC), Patrice Malo (President, Tremblant Ski Resort), Dominique Piché (Race Director), Michelle Courchesne (Minister of the Québec Treasury Board and Co-Honorary President), Pierre Lavoie (Co-Honorary President), Pierre Pilon (Mont-Tremblant City Mayor).