This was the first year that the Chinook Triathlon Festival took place in Sylvan Lake, instead of Calgary, and it included both half iron and olympic distance triathlons as well as a new pro chase event. In the pro chase event, it’s not only men vs men and women vs women, but men vs women as well. The pro women got a 12 minute head start on the men and whoever crossed the line first was the winner; it didn’t matter if it was a guy or a girl.
I was pretty excited about racing this format and knew I could place quite well if I could hang close to the lead pack in the swim. Race morning started off great. I was able to wake up in my own bed and drive to the race start in Sylvan about 2 hours before the gun went off. I racked my bike and was ready to go well before it was time to get in the water and warmup. My family drove down to watch me race and I found them before I started my warmup and was able to chat with them for a while. Before long the pro women were off and we had 12 minutes to warmup before our day began and we had to compete against each other, as well as try to chase some fast ladies.
The gun went off and our day had begun! This was the strongest field of pro men I’ve had to race this year and it was obvious from the first few hundred meters of the swim. I planned on absolutely gutting myself on the swim to hang with the lead pack as long as I could. To my surprise, I managed a good 5 minutes sitting at the back of the pack being pulled along by the stronger swimmers. It was at that point that I completely blew up. I was swimming near max effort to stay in the pack and not let a gap form and I started swallowing a lot of water. The lake was quite choppy and the angle to the first turn buoy made breathing quite difficult for me and when I started swallowing big mouthfuls of water, I immediately dropped out of the group and was left in no mans land. With the big group in front of me and a few of the slower pro men behind me, I was left swimming by myself and no longer had any snap in my swimming stroke like I did for the first 5 minutes. It was pretty frustrating to watch the flailing arms of the guys in the lead pack get smaller and smaller in the distance. I know open water swimming in choppy conditions is a weak point that I need to address before next season. Coming out of the water I knew the back half of my swim was quite bad and running through transition my friend confirmed my thought by telling me I was 4 minutes down from the lead pack of swimmers.
Being the first year in Sylvan Lake for this race means a new bike course! I love this bike course for an olympic distance. It has lots of good steep climbs, descents as well as a couple good rollers. Probably not the safest roads to ride on a normal training day, but fantastic course on race day when most vehicles know to be extra careful. Out of the swim and onto the bike course, I knew right away the snap wasn’t in my legs. I tried to push hard anyways, switching from big gears to small, seeing if I could get in any sort of groove and try to push some big power to try and catch some of the group. It was a weird feeling riding the bike course and not seeing any other athletes at all for almost half an hour. It almost felt like it was a training day and there were a couple times I would become unfocused and let my power drop. It was pretty cool at the turnaround point to see some big name pros like Heather and Trevor Wurtele as well as Matt Lieto, doing their thing and pushing big power. The first 30 km of the bike was less than spectacular for me, only able to push 30 watts less than I had during the entire GWN 90 km ride. Thankfully, my legs came around for the last 1/4 of the bike and I was able to finish the ride stronger and a lot faster than I had started. Coming into T2 I was flying and had one of my best transitions of the year and actually had the fastest T2 by almost 4 seconds.
Heading out onto the run course I knew I was quite far behind and would have to get to work if I wanted to finish in some money. My legs felt heavy but I got to work as best I could, trying to keep my cadence fast and slowly taking time out of the athletes ahead of me. On the out and backs is where I made up most of my time, surging to a faster pace, trying to look like I was feeling better than I was, and hopefully getting in the heads of a few athletes. At the 5 km turnaround all my family and friends were waiting and cheering for me so I picked up my pace and tried to look as strong and fast as possible, hoping it would carry on for the rest of the run. I immediately regretted picking up my pace as I had a massive stomach cramp slap me across my face. I was able to run through it for 1 km while having to slow my pace down quite a bit. After it went away I was able to run the last few km very strong and just barely ran my way into the 10th and final spot on the “podium”.
It was fantastic that my family and friends came to watch. It was a perfect day for a race and I really hope that the Chinook Triathlon Festival continues to grow in Sylvan. It’s weird because it’s such a good location, but it’s been such a long time since there has been a good triathlon in Sylvan. I believe the race director Jordan Bryden is committed to putting on a great race and growing it to new heights. The biggest thing I take away from my race is that I absolutely need to focus on my swimming over this off season. In a short race like this, losing so much time to a lead pack of swimmers will wreck your day before you even get on your bike. I’m still happy I was able to get out of my funk halfway through the bike and work through some issues on the run to sneak into the top 10. This will be my last race for the summer, as Kayle and I are busy moving out to Vancouver Island at the end of this month and starting our new lives out there. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am for no winter!!
Photo Credit: Josie Storbakken