I absolutely love the city of Kelowna, so I was really looking forward to the race, but of course, I was also nervous about competing against the "big girls".
The swim takes place in Lake Okanagan and since the temperature hovers around 20C, it was a non-wetsuit swim as expected. It was a beach start, so they had a long strip of astroturf with numbered starting positions all along the beach. Once we had all been introduced and were lined up behind the astroturf, we could hear the dramatic orchestra music that you often hear on TV before an apocalyptic event. That's one way to get your heart racing before the gun goes off!
The swim start was utter chaos!! Limbs flying everywhere, everyone jostling for position, swimsuit being grabbed left and right. I managed to start the first lap of the swim in this "washing machine", but I started to lose some contact with this mass of women in the chase pack heading onto the beach after the first lap of the swim, before running back in for our second loop. I expended a lot of energy during that first lap trying to swim fast, but also because I was warding off all the body blows. Unfortunately during the second lap, I had last contact with that big group of women, and was swimming with just a couple of others.
The run from the beach to T1 felt like an all-out sprint, so I didn't even remember going over the Harmony Bridge, or all of the pebbles and rocks that leave your feet feeling pretty raw that I had remembered from my practice swim a couple of days earlier. I executed a bike mount without any serious drama and was off to start (and finish this time) the bike course.
The Elite bike course is pretty tough, and it seems even tougher when you're still huffing and puffing from the swim, like I was:) From the moment you hop on the bike, you've got less than 2km before you are hit with your 1st climb up Mount Knox, which is deceptively difficult. I definitely didn't find my bike legs until the 2nd loop or so of the bike course, because I was still recovering from that swim! We did 6 loops on the bike, which means you've got to do battle with Mount Knox 6 times for a total distance of 41.6km on the bike. Here is where I wished I could have hung on to that chase pack in the swim, so that I could have had a decent size group of women to work with and draft behind. I'm getting pretty used to pulling the entire bike course, but this time I was frustrated and vocal and actually asked one of the girls on my wheel whether she was just going to sit on my wheel the whole day, or was she planning on doing some work? Perhaps a bit snappy, but you can't just be the nice girl during competition in these situations!
I secretly celebrated when I went through that last corner where I had crashed last year, and was heading into T2 still rolling and upright. Another bonus was that I didn't do a face plant when dismounting my bike! My T2 was a bit slow though, because it took me a few attempts to get my bike to stay upright in the bike stand. One day, I swear I'll stop making these rookie mistakes! One day soon.
It started getting hot by the time I hit the run course, and my legs were feeling a bit twitchy coming off the bike. This was one of the mentally toughest runs that I've had so far this race season. I felt pretty good for the 1st 2.5km loop, less good on the 2nd 2.5km loop, and then on the start of the 3rd loop that evil devil who sits on one shoulder was screaming at me to stop running. He was trying to convince me to just jog or walk, but it was a good thing that I saw some old friends, Kunio and Ayumi not far into that 3rd loop. They were so excited to see me and they were cheering for me so enthusiastically that slowing down wasn't an option. Shortly after seeing them, and once it was just me alone with my thoughts again, it was a constant debate between the "good devil" that told me not to give up and keep on running, and the "evil devil" who just wants you to stop. I greatly appreciated having people cheer for me at various points of the run course, because I think that really helped me make it through to the end. I also pulled off an "Annie Bunting-inspired kick" at the finish, because I was so happy to see that blue carpet that leads to the Finish Tower. That run ended up being a very solid run for me in an ITU race, where I often blow up after an intense swim and bike, so that was a big positive to take away from the race. I ended up finishing as the 11th Canadian and 19th overall. With some improvement on the swim, I feel like I'm very close to having a very big breakthrough at the ITU level. Hopefully, with some more hard work over the next few months and the off season, it will come soon!
Shortly after crossing the finish line, I was informed that I had been selected for drug testing! How is that for some added post-race excitement? Perhaps it would have been more exciting and less of a burden for all involved if it hadn't taken me more than 3 hrs after the race to provide a 90ml urine sample. I last peed at 11am before the race, and it was after 5pm and more than 4L of water and/or Gatorade later before I could provide enough for a sample! That was probably TMI, so I'll stop here and say that I've got the Hy-Vee US Championships next weekend in Des Moines, Iowa. It's the "Mother of All Triathlons", well at least in terms of prize money, and it should be one of the most competitive non-drafting Olympic Distance races out there. I'm sooo excited for it!
|A laugh before the start to break the tension in the air.|
|Beach start. Paula Findlay is on the far right.|
|Pulling on the bike.|
|So happy to see the finish line!|
|Big smiles post-race with friend and fellow competitor Colleen.|
|Post-race hug from my biggest fan all weekend.|