I am the first to admit that I was really, really excited by my summer racing season this year. Three iron distance races in 8 weeks, 2 of those within 3 weeks….yep, I was ready to see how things would go! Of course, when I have planned all this out, I assumed each race would go *somewhat* according to plan. I know that tough days happen, but I truly wasn’t expecting all of the wheels to fall off quite like they did in Boulder. This definitely gave me some pause.
In fact, after some recovery at sea level we gave some efforts a go before heading back to 9,000 feet. This went…..so-so. I am the first to tell you that these moments are why having a coach, especially Hillary who has raced enough to know just about every feeling I encounter, is very, very important to me. “You know that if I shouldn’t race in Canada you just need to tell me that and I’ll listen, right?” I texted her, with tears of disappointment welling up in my eyes. Before they could fall, however, she wrote back – how was the workout? I gave her the dets. “Ah, not bad. We’re good!” Failure is ALWAYS WORSE in your own head. Always.
So, I went through the motions. I got back to Frisco and got through a quick week of workouts before heading to Seattle. Of course, one more wrench in the confidence was thrown in during my last swim workout when I literally just had to stop because my whole chest/back seized up. I thought I was having a heart attack (definitely was not). Once again, texted Hillary dramatically. Her response? “Oh! That’s good luck! Same thing happened to me the other year before Brazil!” HA! I was NOT getting out of this race!
Luckily for me, I also have some of the BEST triathlon friends in the world. Anabel made the drive up from Portland to meet me in Seattle for <24 hours, which I waited until last-minute to tell her would include a tough brick to get my legs moving at sea level once again She not only crushed it but never complained! The best!
Then, Cathleen, aka my west-coast triathlon partner in crime, got me all the way up to Canada. Despite my total inability to answer simple questions at the border, they somehow still let us through and we were in Penticton!
The days leading up to the race were super restful and easy, huge part in thanks to another amazing homestay!! I am so lucky that I keep winning the jackpot with my homestay situations, but Dave, Helen, Sarah, Leah, Cindy, Glen and Hayley (yep, it was a full house ) – you guys are rockstars!! From getting me to the race at precisely the minute I suggested, to including me in family meals beforehand, it meant so much and I really enjoyed getting to know your family. Unfortunately for you, this means you could be stuck with me for years to come
On race day, as about 30 pros prepared to put on their wetsuits, we were told that the water is 24C. I have no clue what that actually means, but I knew the cutoff was 22C, so out came my speedsuit. Luckily, I’ve developed some weird confidence with non-wetsuit swims this year so this strangely excited me. We also had a beach start, and beforehand they introduced each one of us by numbers. As we were announced, we had to jog into the start corral, over the timing mat. It was kind of like when they introduce boxers before their match, only we all are much skinnier and wearing swim caps on our heads. Nonetheless, we totally all did the “too cool for school” boxer routine of shaking out your arms and a slow exaggerated jog over to the corral. Very few smiles and waves, and determined not to be the one random pro out of place I just followed suit.
The swim was uneventful. I found myself in no-man’s land pretty quick. Luckily, this lake is GORGEOUS and the clear water and calm conditions actually allowed me to almost enjoy myself here! I came out of the water all by myself, but I saw there will still a few bikes around so I wasn’t worried, and I set off on the bike. The first 10 miles of the ride can only be described as me thinking to myself “I feel okay. No really, I feel okay. Do I still feel okay? I feel okay!!” Deathly afraid of the Boulder-repeat, after about 30 minutes I finally convinced myself that this was NOT going to be a repeat of that day.
This ride is awesome. Fair and challenging, but still with plenty of fast sections mixed in, the 5.5 hours I spent on the bike absolutely flew by. I was having fun racing again! At the out and back I was able to see my position. I was pretty firmly in 8th place, but I was definitely in the mix. This got me a bit excited as I climbed Yellow Lake (evidenced by my newfound QOM position on strava for that segment!) and then I got to enjoy the long descent back down to town.
T2! I knew I didn’t have much time to play around, so I got moving and out onto the run quickly. A quick loop through town and then a long out-and-back along Skaha Lake meant that we’d be running straight into a decent headwind for the majority of the first half of the run. My legs felt so-so. Again, not like Boulder, so I took that as a positive! But, they were definitely feeling the recent efforts. It was that same feeling of having to push through tired legs on a long training day. Doable, just not the most fun. Luckily, the run course is also fairly rolling so the mix of terrain allowed me to give some muscles a break. Huge thank you to Steph C who was out on the course giving me some encouragement when I needed it!
At the turnaround I also ran into IM Champ and friend Sara Gross. As I asked her how much time before the next girl, I made the turnaround and saw Cathleen coming at me. Oh, I guess that’s how far I had! Ha! I knew that meant it was time to dig deep, and with some cheers from my homestay family once again I headed back to town. Using the hills to my advantage, I managed to keep pace pretty well and tick the miles off. Before I knew it I was hitting the slight downhill in to the finish. One look back, and I slowed to enjoy the moment of the finish. I finally let the anxiety of worrying that Boulder was an indication of lost fitness and ability go. This was a good race. A race where I was able to run every step! That, in itself, was a win!
Ending up 8th place and taking home a check was icing on the cake. Post-race I spent some time in the beer garden and cheered in some of the final finishers. This town is meant for a race like this, and I truly hope it grows to its potential here with the Challenge Family. I’m certainly looking forward to next year, and already blocking off some time afterwards to enjoy the nearby wine country!
Thanks again to my homestay family, as well as those at Challenge who make racing such a great experience as a professional. And, thank you to SMASH and Powerbar for supporting me every step of the way, to Canada and back! I promise I keep packing my podium dress because one of these days I’ll be up there to wear it!!