Wake up was a casual 5:15am, not bad considering that’s a sleep-in from when I instruct spin classes at home! Holly and I spent the night in the Richmond Accent Inns, only about 15min away from the UBC race start, so we had lots of time to remain leisurely in our morning routine. I started off the morning with a bottle full of F2C Pharma Greens and drank that down pretty quick. Meanwhile, we brought our own coffee from Fernwood, as I never like hotel coffee, and that started brewing for the car ride over. My bags were all packed from the night before. I put on my race kit underneath a pair of denim jeans and a long technical hoodie, lathered up some shammy-butter [pro tip: I use the Her Butt’r, it’s full of calming lavender and chamomile!] and we were off to the races. Sipping the coffee in the car, we arrived on UBC campus at 6:34. Lots of time to check in and set up our transitions. Akemi, Vince, Dave, and Steve (all fellow Tri Nerds) arrived pretty much at the same time as us, so we traveled over to transition together.
It’s a very odd transition to set up in, since the first wave started at 7:30 for the Olympic Tri, there were some areas that were full of bikes and athletes starting their warm ups. The Duathlon was the second scheduled start at 8:30, but other events were scheduled to start all the way until 11:30am, meaning there’s lots of empty space for athletes who wouldn’t be arriving for a few more hours! Actually, Akemi and I were the only 2 Nerds racing the Duathlon. Holly was racing the sprint at 10:45am and Davey and Vince were relay partners starting at 11:10am! Steve, aka “Sherpa Steve” was team Sherpa, and team ‘Spirit’ officer! (Shoutouts here to honorary Nerd, Coach ‘Roo [aka Bryan Wilkinson], in charge of photography). No sign of Jeff yet.
Setting up my transition was easy. Duathlons take no effort. You wear your shoes. Leave your bike (I opted to leave shoes off the pedals today as I didn’t have elastic with me) and helmet mounted on the racks, and get ready to rock! I wasn’t taking any nutrition on course, nor was I carrying anything. For a sprint race, I generally take care of my nutrition before the start. I had one last bottle of UltraDurance mixed with 2 scoops of ElectroDurance (both from F2C) to prime my body. I still had 1 hr to go. Jeff’s bike wasn’t there yet. I finished my coffee, time for a bathroom break.
Fast forward through lots of chatting, reuniting with athletes who’ve been out of contact since the last event (back in September of before!). Lots of familiar faces (Allen, Dean, Ali, Diane, Kiah, Sofia, Ashley, and many others), all the while I constantly kept my eye out for Jeff and his bike. Time is running short, only 30 minutes to race start. Time to go get another coffee with the Nerds.
Coffee consumed. Caffeine levels are normalizing. Race start in 15mins. The bathroom beckons, one more nervous pee.
Still no Jeff.
Heading to the start line. My On CloudFlash shoes vibrant in the 8:20am light.
5mins to start. Jeff isn’t coming.
Adapting race plan…
Modifying outcome expectationsgoals…
Changes Complete: Set a new PB on this course. I need to race as though I was chasing Jeff the whole way. Jeff is here. Chase him.
New plan acquired & downloaded. We’re getting ready to go. Duathletes are all marched to the top of a slight hill where our start line is, and an unceremonious “3-2-1-Go!” sets us off!
I know what speed feels like, and through experience I know what my body feels like when I’m moving efficiently. I settle into a pace that starts off a little hotter than my race pace, but I know I can hold it, there are footsteps only about 2-3 meters behind me. Triathlon and Duathlon are just as much mental sports as they are physical, and I know I can break whoever it behind me mentally on the run, then physically on the bike. Right now, a show of power in the run while still setting myself up to achieve in the bike and final run is priority. Besides, we start the first 1.5km on a flat then light descent, so I tell myself “3:20/km is really no problem for now”, apart from that, Jeff could go faster.
With all the construction that happens at UBC, I don’t think I’ve had 2 sequential years of an identical race course. So familiarization is always done ad-hoc, using visualization and looking over the course maps. I know where the corners are, and I know where all the flats, hills, and descents are, but I can never 100% account for where there will be construction, and all the annoying effects it produces (gravel, potholes, filled-potholes, missing sidewalks, etc.). This year though, the run course was almost totally clear, except for the usually light gravel and dirt going around the rounded end of the run course. The first 5km I managed to squeeze out a 16:51, despite having to slow up a few times for gravel on corners. Fast, not my fastest, but then again, I’m still nursing an injury from being struck by a motorcycle last summer (that’s another story all together though). I whip down the hill into a hard 90 left turn to transition and rip to my bike. Did I mention this is my first race on a new bike? 😉 I know exactly where ‘Rainbow Dash’ is, I fasten my helmet, throw on my shoes (no flying shoes clipped in mount today), and rip back in the direction I came. several other athletes come in through transition from the pool, and 1 from the Du, hot on my heels, I only have a 20-30s lead on him. Run to the mount line, saddle in hand, I cross the line and hop on, gears are already in the perfect position for the incline start to the bike, I’m out of saddle and PUNCHING it up! Here we go!
Now, there are plenty of other athletes out here already, several events have already started, some have even finished. I know I function better as a chaser rather than a leader, so I use these athletes to fuel my energy. Every athlete I pass renews my energy and strengthens my mental fortitude. I push my quads to the precipice of lactate overload, but I know my body well, I know this course requires strong and steady climbs and descents through the rolling hills of SW Marine Dr. and there will be big wattage efforts coming out of each of the three 180 turns on the laps. I see athletes ripping past me on the return, and every time I’m within sight of a turnaround, I choose one to catch (and release). I look at aero-position, leg size, and facial expression to choose worthy foes. Even if I don’t catch them before the next turnaround, I stick on them until I do succeed. The 180 degree turns make the overall speed a little slower, but I still pull a 34:03 out on this course, which was just over 20km, with little cause for panic. Everytime I feel the burn of lactate on a climb, I imagine Jeff pushing with one leg through Kona after his crank arm snapped, and I know I can do this. I rip along the straightaway that leads to T2 with high spirits, knowing I have about 1-1.5 minutes on the next athlete, and start mentally preparing myself for another sub-17 5k effort.
As I rack my bike, ditch my helmet, and change my shoes, I hear faint cheers. I hear my name, but I’m too focused to fully register or acknowledge. As I stand up I take a quick glance in the direction I hear them, recognize my friends, teammates, and partner, I flash a smile and a ‘shaka’ and keep pumping my arms and legs towards the T2 exit. Starting from the bottom of the hill, it’s a 40-50m climb to get back up on the course, and for the last 5km I know I’m going to have to dig deep to keep the gap and even push for more. My goal is under 17min again. I know I can, I’ve done faster before, but even as I start my second run, I can feel a hot spot forming under the ball of my injured foot, and a slight twinge in the ankle, calf, and knee of that leg. I take a glance at my left fore-arm: Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, is depicted in half-lotus, urging me to release the stories I tell myself, the obstacles of self-defeatism, and push as though I had no obstacles but the physical ones before me. I trust in the mantra I start to repeat in my head, “I am light, I am strong, I am fast.” That’s all I need. Today is a good day to earn a gold medal and capitalize on the good fortune that has set upon me. I draw fuel from the thought too that the sooner I finish, the sooner I can be of assistance to my clients/friends/teammates. I charge forward, gazing straight ahead of me. Fire in my heart, fire in my lungs, fire in my legs, I charge. Honestly, the last 5km seems more a blur than the first 5km. Delirium, flow state, or perhaps some psychological coping mechanism to mask the actual pain you go through in these events, restricts my memory of the event itself. I fade in and out of formed memories here, I know the course, and mostly I think I recreate the story every time I try to recall it, what I do remember is feeling the pain in my right leg as I ran along the central pathway right past the descent to the finish line, (a devilish trick the race director played on use, where we run past the descent another 300m, have a turnaround, return those 300m, then descend the 40-or-so meters down to the descending finish line), I try to pick up the speed here and definitely remember the resounding ‘Nope’ my quads replied with. I try to maintain a strong pace, but can’t push more than a 3:35/km. I reach the turnaround, pull a 180, and pump my arms as best I can to encourage a faster turnover in my legs (fyi – this is a worthwhile tactic, given our quadrupedal ancestors bestowed us with some strange qualities that continue to affect us, such that increasing the rate of your arm movement can subconsciously increase your leg movement rate as well), I crank out a hard 90 degree turn left onto the quick descent, feel my speed increase, slam into a braking 90 degree left turn again at the bottom, and struggle to push as hard as I can for those last 5m to the finish line!
I pant, out of breath, limp-walking to the volunteer to take my timing chip, thanking them for their time, and proceed to the all-you-can-stomach snack bar, grab a banana and a vitamin-infused water, and trudge through the finish expo. Unceremonious of a finish as it is (this is generally how wave starts end, as everyone starts at different
times, it’s difficult to tell if Who’s in first, What’s on second, or I Don’t Know in third), I congratulate myself looking at my Garmin. Even though it was a slightly changed course, I finished in a time of 1:11, 3 minutes faster than my 1:14 from last year (an unfair calculation as the roads were very wet last year). I was very pleased with that, a good reminder at the importance of off-season base training, and that I still have a lot of work to do before this season truly opens in another couple of months. Now it’s time to watch the other nerds race, and refuel!
I sign up for a massage, go to the campus café and get myself a soy-latte, and start preparing my friends for their events coming up! I saw Akemi whizzing past me on her bike, (we’re all fairly conspicuous in our hot pink race kits) and know she will only be another 20-30 minutes or so until she finishes, pending no mechanical or GI issues (fingers crossed). When Akemi comes ripping in through the finishers chute, big smile on her face, sweat dripping down, I cheer and head closer to the finish line! All of us (Holly, Ashley, Sherpa-Steve, Brian, Davey, and Vince) celebrate with her! But she has only one thought on her mind… “So, when are the donuts…?” 😊