This weekend my family and I made the pilgrimage from the Prairie flatland that is Edmonton, down through the foothills near Calgary, into and out of the Rocky Mountains, and finally into the vineyards and hills of inland B.C. and Penticton. All for 90 minutes of racing. Yes, I dragged my parents 2 days and 13 hours total of driving, one way, so I could run and ride my bike around Penticton for an hour and a half. On Mother’s Day weekend. Aren’t I a great son? That said, it was a fantastic experience that was a great way to start my duathlon season.
I knew going in that I was going to be pretty tired. I would also have been in the car for 7 hours on day 1 and 6 hours on day 2 before racing on day 3, which led to some tired legs on the morning of the race. I was not overly concerned however, because (a) I have ridden only 2 times a week on the trainer for the past 7 weeks and (b) this race was more about the experience than it was about anything else. The road trip alone was worth it. It was, in a word, stunning…I think I am smitten with the town of Golden, BC. The road up to Banff, through Golden and into Penticton was punctuated by way too many “Holy crap”‘s and “Oh wow”‘s from my seat.
Upon arriving, I pulled out my race set-up and went to recon the course. This was the first time I have ridden my TT bike outdoors since Lakeside last year. Note to self: if your first ride outdoors is on a twisty course, feet from a drop-off into a lake which then turns and climbs up a big ass hill with a corresponding sketchy descent, then you’re going to have a bad time. After riding the course, I was a tad terrified of what Saturday would bring. And by “a tad” I mean quaking in fear. It turned out that ride was just what I needed, because I was MUCH more confident riding the course in my aerobars on Saturday having done that on Friday.
Saturday dawned after a surprisingly good sleep and a very smooth lead-up to the race. I was the first one at the race site, as usual, and was set up with plenty of time to spare. After my recon ride, I decided that I would be undergeared with an 11-23 on the rear, so I had put on my 11-25 the night before. I was still under-geared…so I bought an 11-28. As it turns out this little grassroots race draws a pretty good field, with some of the local long course and ITU pros making their way out for a shot at the prize purse. Wandering around the transition area, I saw plenty of fast set-ups and evidence of sponsored athletes, so I knew that I would be in for some tough competition in my first du of 2015!
Fast forward to the start, the pace went out pretty hard. Not absurdly hard, but there were a few junior development athletes in the race who took the pace out pretty hard before turning a bit earlier than the full distance racers. I tucked in to the back of the lead pack of about 8, right on the shoulder of a dude in a Mexican ITU suit with Lesser printed on it. Apparently the dude is pretty good. Not to mention that Nathan Champness, Justin Birks and Chris Young were all waiting in the weeds, ready to pounce on a demanding bike course that they knew very well…
I entered T1 in 2nd place after averaging under my goal first run pace of 3:20/km on the twisting two lap run course. My intention on the first run was to get myself onto a clean course on the bike, and not have to worry about weaving in and out of traffic while I got some fluids in and got comfortable on my aerobars. After a solitary ride along the lakeshore, Champness passed me at the start of the climb, and Birks came past near the top. To be honest, after starting the climb it became a battle between me and the course. It was a tough grind, but I felt like I went 12 rounds with it and came out only slightly bruised and bloodied.. I was passed twice more during the ride, coming into T2 6th and in a decent spot to run my way into the top 5. Which would be a solid finish considering the pro field that turned up for the race!
Starting the run, I was about 30-40 seconds behind the 5th place athlete (the top 4 were pretty much long gone). I guess knowing the course like the back of your hand has some value (as well as being able to ride 40kph+). I focused myself on bearing down on 5th place, ready to call it a hard-fought battle if I could make the pass. The gap closed slowly (he was one tough dude) but I would not being denied. I eventually made the pass at the turnaround on the second lap, then kept the pressure on the rest of the way. I ended up finishing the race in over 1:31, with the extra climb on this year’s bike course likely adding 3-4 minutes compared to previous year’s results.
I can’t in good faith publish this report without a glowing report about the Penticton Triathlon Club and the organizers and volunteers at the race. It was a small race, a grassroots race, but it seemed like it was as much a part of the community as Challenge Penticton. I saw them out working hard to mark the course the night before, and I found out later that the local pros who raced also helped to design and mark the course. After I finished the race, the guy who won (Nathan Champness) sought me out and thanked me for making the trip to come race. I didn’t know I was such a well-known oddity at this race! At the awards they seemed to have more draw prizes than people at the race, so at the end the RD walked around and picked people at the bar to go up and grab a draw prize. He made a special effort to seek me out before I left and have me go and grab a draw prize. Then he made a point to talk to me for a little while, and complement me on my race that morning…even though he was in the middle of giving out awards!
The course was incredible scenic, and once I got over my fear of toppling into the lake it really was quite beautiful to ride along the shore for the first and last 7k. The hill part was BRUTAL, but the experience was something that I cannot get in any other place that I have raced. And the feeling of community was incredibly refreshing. Even the people just enjoying a day at the beach who made a point to stop and cheer us on while we suffered in the heat made it a great experience. If I have a chance to go back, I definitely will. I might have to go back just so I can get in the money! All in all, a great duathlon debut for 2015, and diversion from my heavy half marathon build. Thank you to everyone near and far who supports me in this journey, including my wonderful supporters Ignition Fitness, Skechers Performance and 3SIXTY5 Cycling (who have been amazingly supportive and patient as I chase after these foolish running goals during the spring). I was especially happy that my Papa was able to finally see me race a duathlon. Hope you enjoyed it! I’m in action again…tomorrow! In Red Deer for a quick 10k tune-up before starting my taper for the Canadian Half Marathon Championships in Calgary.
So until next time…keep Du’ing it!