The Great White North triathlon is a fantastic event that always happens during the first weekend of July. There is a half Iron event as well as an Olympic distance. It’s always a very well ran race with great swag and volunteers. Michael Brown is the race director and he’s done a great job since taking over the race in the past few years. This was my first half Iron distance event since I did GWN the previous year. Last year I came in at 4:09 and I knew this time I would be very close to breaking the 4 hour barrier. I was a bit nervous coming into this race, especially since I had just come off a poor race in Wasa Lake three weeks prior. I had done a big training block in those three weeks, including an epic two days in the mountains near Nordegg. I might have overdone it when I got back from the training camp. Instead of taking a few days to let the big days soak into my body, I kept pushing it. I felt flatter than ever and was starting to lose motivation. Luckily, I dug myself into that hole with enough time to still crawl out of it for race day at GWN. The 5 days leading up to the race were more focused on recovery to make sure I would be feeling good for race day. That included lots of easy sessions, good food, foam rolling, hot yoga, and a great float at The Float Shack (thanks Float Shack!).
My wife and I headed up to Stony Plain on Saturday, one day before the race. I managed to squeeze one last lake swim in Sylvan Lake with some training buddies before we left. It felt pretty good and after a short ride and run in Stony Plain, I was ready to put my feet up and wait for my alarm to go off Sunday morning.
Race morning started for me at 5:30 am, two hours before race start. I put all my gear together, prepped all my nutrition, had a quick bite to eat, started sipping on a bottle with cordyceps and headed down to transition to get ready to race. I spent some time getting my bike prepped for the race and headed out for a short warm up run. This race has a different location for T2 when you get off your bike and you have to place your shoes there the day before. I remembered this and thankfully remembered to bring an extra pair of running shoes so I could get in my morning warm up. After my short run, I put on my wetsuit and headed down to the beach to wait for the race to start.
The swim was pretty easy and other than being more rough than usual for the first few minutes, I swam by myself for most of it. Unlike at Wasa, I wasn’t getting dropped by the pack, except this time they were swimming off course. I kept sighting the buoy and the pack 30 feet to my side and realized every one of them was taking the wrong line. I decided to keep doing my thing and swim solo but taking my own line. It worked out well, coming out at 26 minutes. After heading out on the bike, I noticed that my timing chip was loose and was riding up and down on my leg. I tried to tighten it without stopping but it fell off. I didn’t panic, but instead pulled off to the side and took my time putting it back on, making sure it would stay on this time. From that point on, it was all about holding power. I knew what power I put out on this course last year and was hoping to put out about 40-50 watts more this year. It was going well and I ended up passing quite a few guys on the bike, eventually working my way up to 4th by the end of the bike leg. Conditions were windy and quite a bit slower than last year. My bike time this year was 2:17, only 1 minute faster than the previous year, but I had put out exactly 50 watts more this time. I really wanted to break 2:15 on this bike course, but it’s all relative to the day and conditions and I was happy with my effort. For fuel on the bike, I consumed 2 gels, a bottle of Hammer Heed and half a bottle of water. Usually I would go through a bit more nutrition, but I just felt like I didn’t need it this race.
Starting the run in 4th, I ran past Kayle and she said I was 10 minutes back from the leader. I knew all 3 of the guys in front had a big lead on me and I also knew I was going to have to run faster than 1:14 to break 4 hours. I felt pretty good and started out holding 3:30’s. I was going to see if I had what it took to run my way under the 4 hour mark. I did my best but the pace finally dropped off a bit around the 10-15 km mark. Approaching the turnaround point on the last lap I saw that I had put a ton of time into 3rd place and if he blew up in the final 5 km, I might have him. Going through an aid station with 5 km to go, I took a coke from a volunteer and went for it. I finally saw 3rd place in the distance and kept the pace high as he got closer and closer. With about 1 km to go I really picked it up- I was going to have to run more than 45 seconds out of him. Unfortunately, he was able to hold me off, crossing the finish line 13 seconds in front of me and taking the final spot on the podium. I was happy crossing the finish line, seeing 4:01 on the race clock. I know I’ll break the 4 hour mark my next half. Checking the results later that night I was stoked to see I had the fastest run split of the day. Congrats to Jeff Symonds on his 5th straight win at Great White North. He’s grown an epic beard and it seems to be working for him! Thank you to all the volunteers out on the race course, they did a great job.
I’d also like to send a big thank you out to Four Sigma Foods and their fantastic products. I was consuming chaga and cordyceps like crazy in the week leading up to the race to make sure my body was healthy and ready to go. Also, thank you to The Float Shack in Red Deer for keeping my mind sharp and legs loose from my float sessions.