Cultus Lake Triathlon
Sunday May 29, 2016: Swim 1.5Km, Bike 40Km, Run 10Km
My alarm went off at 5am and I carefully sat up in my sleeping bag as I listened for rain. I felt good, I guess. How are you supposed to feel before your first Olympic distance triathlon?
I went to the car, cautiously avoiding the puddles that had gathered during the night, and removed an oatmeal smoothie I had blended at home. It contained 800 calories. Last night I had loaded up on pasta as I assumed any good carbo-loading athlete should. Once my breakfast was ingested I woke my mom and we left for the race. My siblings were still sleeping in what I can only imagine were now damp tents.
The butterflies in my stomach felt familiar as we arrived at the start—good, I mused—maybe things would go well. I entered the transition zone and folded a rain cover over my running equipment—socks, shoes, number, and a Vancouver Canucks hat—in hopes of keeping them dry. The sky was grey and angry and threatened rain. The air temperature was 14°C, and the water was likely cooler. I put on my wetsuit and began to stretch; I watched others, curious about different pre-race routines.
With the help of my mom, I zipped up my wetsuit and hopped into the lake to loosen up. WOW! It was cold. The race could not start quick enough; a sentiment that reverberated across the field of anxious, cold swimmers. I positioned myself near, but not at the front of the swim pack—I am a decent swimmer, but not a great swimmer. After a few complaints of, “hey let’s get this race going, its freezing!” the race director gave the start.
Finally! The cold water had exacerbated the pre-race tension; the triathletes breathed a collective sigh of relief at the chance of finally getting to go. The pack took off in a melee of flaying arms and legs as everyone jockeyed for position. I swam towards the chaos, eager to prove myself. Shorty into the swim my arms were burning, but I knew I was not going to slow down. I tried desperately to get into the slipstream of another swimmer, but I found it very difficult. So I settled in for doing the swim on my own.
At 500 meters I was less than halfway, yet my arms were already burning fiercely. At this point swimming another 1,000 meters seemed impossible. I kept looking around for other swimmers, but continually found no-one. I was in no-mans land—a lonely place where an endurance athlete is left to fend for themselves—this suited me just fine. I powered forward; my attention on maintaining a smooth stroke. I rounded the final turn buoy and started swimming with a new zeal. I kicked harder and attempted to increase the turnover of my still burning arms. I wanted the swim to end.
I stood up quickly and felt the blood rush to new areas of my body as I tried to orientate myself while simultaneously removing my goggles, cap and wetsuit. “You’re in tenth!’ my older sister shouted, as she ran beside me to transition. Tenth? I’m not that fast of swimmer, am I? I got through transition quickly—the good news motivating me.
I cringed as soon as I started riding. Swimming had taken much more sap from my legs than I had previously anticipated. It took me five kilometres of despondent cycling before I felt like I was in a rhythm; the rain and wind continued to sting my bare arms and legs. The burning in my arms had now been replaced with a burning in my legs. It did not matter. I was in the zone, and cycling was by far my strongest discipline. My speed slowly began to increase as I cruised past the lonely, flat farms.
As the pain increased my mind began to wander. I started to wonder why I was pushing myself so hard. Why was I cycling at near maximum effort in the cold rain when I could be at home drinking coffee and reading a book? However, now was not the time for an internal philosophical conundrum. I brought my attention back to the present and quickly concluded that the pain was why I was racing. The kilometres continued to pass in the stinging rain as I remained low on my pad-less aero bars.
I eased off the gas during the final kilometre in hopes of having a smooth transition. I went through my mental checklist: socks, shoes, hat, and number. I undid my shoes and swung my leg over my bike like a dusty horse-riding desperado getting reading ready for a shootout. I produced a childish smirk when I saw my family in attempts to make them laugh. I quickly racked my bike then struggled vainly to tie my shoes. I started running and instantly got hit with a terrific torrent of terrible twinges in my stomach. Cramps! Running became much more difficult as my stomach felt sloshy, full and bloated. I had clearly eaten way too much food leading up to the race. I would have to remedy this for next time, for now, I settled into as quick as pace as my stomach would allow.
I ran along the sand that was adjacent to Cultus Lake, and through the colourful suburbs all the while trying to breathe out my cramps and maintain an even pace. I was daunted by how far ten kilometres seemed. I grabbed some water at the feed station and continued my steady pace. I felt good, all things considered, but I still had a ways to go.
After completing a long out and back section, I discovered how many runners were gaining on me. Within in two kilometres to the finish I got passed by a runner who was huffing and puffing rather loudly. I knew if I tried to match his pace then I would soon blow up. I did not like getting caught, but I needed to run my own race.
500 meters from the finish, the runner was still in my sight. 400 meters. After years of playing soccer I knew I could sprint. 300 meters. The gap was shrinking. 200 meters. I saw my family and was encouraged to run faster. 100 meters. My stomach was burning at a new level as I rounded the final corner and saw the black finishing banner atop a small incline. Ten meters to go I leapt past the other runner as he let out a bemoaned groan of disappointment and surprise at being caught so near the end. He tried to spur his body on, but it was too late. We both crossed the finish line in the same time and slumped over. The roles could have easily been reversed, and so in the good spirit of sports we shook hands.
I finished in a time of 2:17:13, nearly thirteen minutes under my goal time. My sprint finish was good enough for seventh overall. I was ecstatic. The race had gone well, but I knew my run and nutrition needed work. Perhaps this is why triathlons are so addicting; there is always room for improvement. I decided I would tackle this issue another day. For now, I wanted to enjoy the race festivities and the wonderful company of my amazing mother and four siblings.
Swim: 25:45, 1:43/100m
Bike: 1:04:49, 37.0Kph
Run: 42:43, 4:16/Km
Visit Dynamic Race Events for more information or to enter the race!