The inaugural Subaru Banff Triathlon was a hit, although the weather certainly threatened to derail the event! It was a very chilly day in the mountains for a triathlon. In the days leading up to the race, the lake water temperature was a bone-chilling 12-13C. I think they threw in that 13C to boost the athlete's confidence, as race morning it was of course only 12C. BRRR! Add to the mix the air temperature, which was around 7C in the morning, and what do you get - a COLD race! The race director announced the day before that the swim was shortened to 750m, which was a relief to all.
Some of the logistics of this 2-transition race were a little sketchy, as no vehicles or spectators were permitted at the lake/transition 1, which required shuttles to transport athletes back and forth from T1 to T2. Bikes had to be checked in the day before the race, which required parking at the overflow lot (about 5km from the lake and transition) and then biking up. Which was mostly uphill! I must have looked pretty funny cycling up in yoga capri's, a hoody, and an aero helmet! Once I arrived at the transition, I was asked to remove the gel I had taped to my bike, just in case there were bears around overnight! Now that's something you don't hear everyday at a race!
Race morning: when I stepped outside of the condo, it was drizzling. I was hopeful that it wouldn't last long. Geoff dropped me off at the 2nd transition, and then planned to go back to the condo as spectators weren't really allowed at the swim start, and spectating on the bike wasn't feasible either. I dropped my racing flats off in T2, then waited in the shuttle line up for about 20 minutes. Once I arrived at the race site, I still had plenty of time as the women weren't starting until 9:08am.
I made sure to get into the ice-bath water about 15 minutes before the start in order to 'acclimatize' myself to the temperature. If you are ever faced with an extremely cold water swim, I would highly recommend doing this. Also, a neoprene cap is a must in water colder than 13-14C. It definitely helps A LOT. Getting into the water was still a complete shock. My feet and hands were throbbing, and my face was extremely painful. I paddled/walked around in there for about 10 minutes, then stood at the start line, shivering uncontrollably and teeth chattering like crazy but feeling somewhat adjusted to the cold temperature. Right before getting into the water, it began to pour. Ahh, perfect.
I got off to a good start with minimal contact and had clear water [which was very short-lived], with several women very close by. They ended up starting the Olympic women 3 minutes after the Olympic men started. Um. WHY? By the first turn buoy, the lead women had already caught up to the tail end of the men, and it became a washing machine of bodies around the turn, which I am not typically accustomed to! The stretch from the first turn buoy to the 2nd was the same, dodging bodies left right and center, and most people just do not swim straight! The 2nd turn buoy was worse than the first. My entire face and mouth were completely numb while swimming, and I ended up swallowing a lot of water as I just couldn't feel my mouth. It was the weirdest thing ever, and not in a good way! I was REALLY glad when the swim was over and I could run up the huge hill to transition. I was out of the water 2nd female by 2 seconds.
The swim to bike transition was pretty slow! I wore arm warmers under my wetsuit, put on a short sleeve bike jersey, and had borrowed toe covers for my cycling shoes at the last minute (thanks Bo!), but didn't wear socks. I had trouble fastening my helmet as my fingers were numb, difficulty getting my gloves on, and wasted some extra time trying to stuff my wetsuit, goggles, cap into the plastic bag (volunteers were not responsible for doing this). My gloves were absolutely drenched right after I put them on. I was onto my bike in 2nd place (I found out later), behind the eventual winner (pro triathlete Magali Tisseyre), who had a very quick transition as I didn't even notice her.
It was pouring for the entire bike ride. The bike was a 2.5 loop course and somewhat technical, with all the downhills and uphills, and dodging athletes when passing. I was okay for the first loop, then progressively became colder and colder and quite miserable (cause let's face it, who likes to be cold). I rode as hard as I could in order to stay (or get) warm. I was pretty conservative on the huge downhills, though, as the roads were soaked and I didn't want to risk anything. Other than the cold and the rain, the bike was fairly uneventful. I only saw one woman (from the Olympic race) during the bike as we went back and forth a few times, with me eventually gapping her during the last loop and getting into T2 in second place overall with about 20-30 sec lead over 3rd. On the ride back into town toward T2, I was so cold and miserable I actually contemplated not doing the run. Those thoughts were promptly pushed out of my mind as I neared the transition and finish area and heard all the people cheering.
When I got off my bike, it was like I didn't have feet or something. Weirdest sensation. My feet were complete frozen blocks of ice, and it was a very uncomfortable feeling running on them on the pavement to my transition area. My T2 was SUPER slow as I had extreme difficulty getting my shoes on! I removed my gloves, and my fingers were frozen and numb, as were my feet, and I couldn't push my heels into my shoes for the life of me! Finally I was able to stuff my feet in there, and grabbed my race belt and started off on my 10km. I started out in 3rd position due to the slower transition. It felt like my right foot was not completely in my shoe, but when I looked down everything seemed okay. I was pretty frozen for most of the first 5km. I started out really fast in order to attempt to warm up, and somehow was able to hold the pace!
My run was awesome! I was only passed by one woman during the run, in the first few km's. Making progress in the run department! I ended up feeling just great, and was able to push the pace the whole 10km. I never wear a watch anymore, so had no idea of my time, but ran really hard and felt like I didn't slow down. I really liked the run course, 2 x 5km loops, with a few out and back sections and really scenic. Turns out I ran a personal best 10km time by about 30 seconds! And the course was definitely not short judging by the top woman's times :-) Which means I should definitely be able to run faster than that in a 10km running race!
I finished 4th female overall, 1st in 30-34 age group (the top 2 females were in the Elite category), and 20th overall, including men (out of 343). Which I am very pleased with, as this was a competitive race.
Here are the only pics that got taken all weekend....
With the beautiful mountain scenery in the background, running down Banff Ave toward the finish chute (behind the red jacket guy)!
I can't help but notice the toques, jackets and long pants all the spectators are wearing!
And for all you 'numbers' people (if there are any - I know I am!):
Swim: 8:37 (which was obviously shorter than 750m!) - 2nd female
Bike: 1:07.27 (4th female) - 38km
Run: 45:06! (8th female)
Total: 2:06.28 (4th female overall)
Overall results are posted here.
What a great race! I would definitely like to come back again and do this one, even in the cold. It is a beautiful, pristine setting, and it is very rare that you get to participate in a race in a National park!
The weekend of racing did not end there - I raced the Rotary Run 10km this morning (in support of suicide prevention). On tired legs, I actually had an awesome run and felt like I was really cruising and could push the pace the whole 10km. Turns out I ran 46.08, a little slower than yesterday's PB, but I'll take it! I was 5th overall woman today. I had planned to do this race just to participate, knowing that I was racing Banff the day prior, as the cause is very important to me.
And man, are my legs ever going to be sore tomorrow!