26 Athlete's Lucy and Luke Fletcher take to "The Rockies".
We signed up for this race in November of last year thinking it would be a nice "destination" race to do and leave the kids at our home in Nanaimo, BC with my parents...this was probably on the back of having completed our first 70.3 earlier in the year (2011) in Singapore. It was also set to be our first real race back post adopting Dylan and the 6 months break from training we had in the latter half of 2011...I also only realised (after the race) it was my 4th ever triathlon - the first being a 70.3 in the blistering heat of Singapore, the second a HK Sprint Tri in May 2011 and the third an Olympic distance in Bintan earlier this year.
Anyway we set too in January under Coach Andrews very focused training regime but both Luke and I found it incredibly tough to keep to our weekly schedule - we both work, we have two toddlers and have a rule that our weekends should be spent with our kids....needless to say we struggled on, week after week feeling we were letting Coach Andrew down as we knew we could not get the hours we needed in, to top it all I became very sick on two occasions which put pay to any training for a couple of periods of 2 weeks.
Anyway on the high of a great result in Bintan we were very focused on Calgary not least the prospect of it being a holiday as well. After arriving in Nanaimo we soon realised that doing any TT training on the bike was going to be a challenge the week before the race so our bike sets were on our mountain bikes instead and they were slow and short. We did one short and very cold swim in our wetsuits in the sea off DeCourcy Island, BC in fear of being mistaken for a seal by an Orca whale as they had been spotted there a few days earlier. Run training was fine if a bit hilly around our house! I came down with yet another cold and swollen glands and felt rubbish.
We departed with a sigh of relief on the Friday afternoon before the race and arrived early evening at Comox airport on Vancouver island to get our flight to Calgary. What we did not realise is that Comox is probably one of the smallest airports in the world. We had a great flight into Calgary watching the Olympics opening ceremony via live satellite on the plane and watching a stunning sunset over the Rockies (photo attached). If there was ever something to spur you on the Olympics had to be it. To top it all driving into downtown from the airport we saw the Olympic flame burning from the top of Calgary Tower next to the hotel which was pretty cool.
Saturday morning of the race we woke and after seeing the disappointment of the Olympic mens road race we set off for a good breakfast and more tylenol for me. Thankfully registration was in our hotel as was the race briefing which was very short and to the point. You know you are in cowboy country when the race organiser turns up in a huge white stetson. We were warned at the briefing that the temperature of the lake was about 15 degrees....I was not looking forward to the swim. As we had made the mistake of not hiring a car we took one of the 3 laid on yellow school buses out to Ghost lake and T1 with our bikes. It was a long 60 minute drive from downtown and when we arrived the bikes in the trailer were just a mess, thankfully minimal damage done although our plans of a swim, bike, run last training session were dashed when the driver promptly told us we had 15 minutes to deposit our bikes and he would be leaving back for the hotel. Given its so far in the middle of nowhere we had no choice but to quickly put our bikes into the very tight transition area and then dip our feet into the stunning but frigid lake and then hop back on the bus for another wasted 60 minute journey back into town and the hotel. We had also I might add had to leave out T2 kit bag at T1 for them to take to the T2 that evening so we had no running kit to do anything either.
We managed to grab a very bad early meal, I was feeling pretty ill at this point with a cold and possibly altitude, and tucked up in bed very early. Alarm went off at 4.30 and we quietly prepared for the start of the day, the staff at the hotel had opened the amazing little bakery early so we grabbed breakfast and then even got marked up in the hotel by the amazing support crew (who were by far the best of any race either of us have done throughout the course of the weekend). Off we went on the 5.15am bus (another 60 minute ride). We bumped into Dom in the hotel and he was on the same bus as us. It was freezing, we drove past a mall and the neon light flashed 9 degrees for the outside temp and I was only in my lycra shorts...spot the Asian based athletes!
We arrived and then headed straight to load up the bikes with nutrition and do a quick check and get into our wetsuits. The pro start was at 7 so there was very little time from arrival to getting ready before we had to clear transition. That being said everybody was very helpful and always with a huge smile. The pro's kicked off, the water was supposedly 15 degrees but felt colder to me, Chrissie was there watching Tom Lowe race sadly we did not get to see her although he set a new record on the 94km bike course (yes longer than a regular 90km course).
Mens wave went and Dom and Luke were not seen for dust, Women's wave was next then newbies. I was well warmed up in the wetsuit and seemed to have gotten over my initial cold water shock, had managed a few warm up strokes and was feeling pretty good. The horn sounded and off we charged, I was doing very well and was in the top 10 ladies until "PANIC" hit and I literally stopped dead in the water at the first bouy. I could not continue, I panicked so much I could not breathe and all I could think was that I was not not going to finish the race and was going to let everyone down - what a waste. Thankfully a support boat spotted me and hauled me to the side. The 2 guys on the boat reassured me telling me I would not be disqualified for holding the boat, they got my confidence back and me breathing again and off I set. By this time I was pretty much at the back of the pack....not where I had hoped to be at this point in the race. It was also bloody frigid water and I had a pounding ice cream headache despite the 2 caps I was wearing. Anyway I managed to slowly get back into it and regain a few lost places but I knew I had a ton of work to do on the bike if I was going to get anywhere near the time I wanted and even then it would be a challenge as I knew my run was weakest.
Coming out of the swim for us all was awesome, we got hauled out of the water by volunteers who undid our zippers, even the race organiser was knee deep in the water wearing his stetson pulling people out and onto the wetsuit stripping mats, a chilly change into the bike kit and off up the hill to collect my bike and run to mounting. Off I set on what I can only say was the most incredibly beautiful ride of my life. I loved every minute, my bike went well, I felt great and I only got passed by 2 people in the entire course so I was very happy. The course was a lot hillier than expected but the amazing rolling lush green prairies and ranches were just stunning as we headed southwest to Calgary. The roads were pretty ok although there was a 15km bone rattling section before Cochrane which was pretty slow and hard work. The support along the course was immense, the most memorable bit for Luke and me was an old couple of ranchers who sat at the end of their driveway in their golf cart cheering everyone on - just superb. The police were fabulous and incredibly supportive and even got whooped by some blokes in their truck as I cycled past. Felt great and I cruised into North Glenmore Park and T2.
Having not been to T2 at all, I had no idea what to expect, I was very rapidly ushered into my bike slot and then had a personal assistant literally unpack and repack my bag while I got ready for the run - she was wonderful. I knew at this point I needed to do a 1.45 run to get the sub 5.30 time I really wanted but I also knew having been ill the week before it was a tough ask, I possible went too hard on the bike - who knows. The run was just long and hot for me, the promised cool and shade never materialised and there were killer hills. To top it all being passed by a lady the same age as my mum just made me so depressed. I saw Dom and Luke dart past pretty close to each other and I knew I had to dig deep and just keep on going. The only light was the amazing people at the aid stations, Luke said one lady chased him down the hill putting cold sponges down his back, I am sure Dom and others had the same great experiences. The support crew went above and beyond on a blisteringly hot afternoon, they were awesome. The run itself for me was far from exceptional it was one of my worst half marathon times and I think even worse then my split in Singapore, I was pretty bummed but so relieved to cross that finish line and see Luke.
My takeaways from the race were cold but stunning swim, amazing bike (although for Luke not so great especially as I almost chicked him) and a long hot run at the end of it all but throughout amazing support and some amazing people - Sister Madonna, the Iron Nun was racing, she competed at the age of 82. She didn't make the cut off for the swim, but was allowed to continue. Sister Madonna crossed the finish line to many cheers and tears. They had run out of medals when she finished and another competitor walked up and gave her own. Despite it being a very small race in relative terms to those in Europe (~675 competitors) the standard was very high but so was the degree of sportsmanship.
I know Luke and I felt so relieved tucking into our Alberta steak that evening and would have been even better to have had the kids there to support - next time for sure. A huge thanks to Andrew for all his perseverance with 2 difficult and at times reluctant trainees...but I am chuffed to bits with my 5th place in my AG and new PB's for us both but I also know I could and should have done better. On to the next...