I have had my head and body buried in training for most of the last 6 weeks, so it was with excitement at the opportunity to actually compete, though also a certain sense of foreboding, that I entered myself in this morning's Vancouver Triathlon.
This is basically the reason I entered:
I am particularly taken by First Nations art, especially depictions of wild animals, the Orca being top of my list of favourites. The prospect of receiving a competition T-Shirt with the above image printed on it meant my entry was certain, regardless of the timing of the race in the lead up to my slightly more important, if less likely to be represented by ANY KIND OF INDIGENOUS CULTURE WHATSOEVER, race in Perth on October 25th.
I gleefully scaled back my training routine over the last couple of days, whilst unfortunately suffering insomnia as a result. There will no chance of that tonight. I enjoyed the lengthy process of gear-checklist-ticking which could be considered the fifth sport of triathlon, after the 3 usual suspects and general self-aggrandising. I managed to pick up a pair of aerobars for a lazy fiver from the local bike shop, a place so busy and popular they offered me the sidewalk to fit the bars myself! For that price, I was happy to call the pavement my workshop.
With everything tucked into my bursting backpack, and a hearty breakfast of homemade Bircher, stewed nectarines, 2 spoons of exquisite Olympic yoghurt and a cinnamon raisin bagel with real peanut butter (I wrote that out in full so as to experience again a little of the delight I tasted as I ate it) I set off along the wet roads of autumnal Vancouver, in pitch dark, for Stanley Park and the shore of Second Beach.
I racked my bike beside marvels of bicycle technology that surely could never have been envisaged by the original inventor of the humble velocipede.
Wooden Velocipede 1866 image courtesy of The Velocipede Museum, Delaware. Someone needs to update Wayne's World - "Delaware, home of the Velocipede...schwing"
My wooden bike had gained weight in the rain, and I wondered how it would hold up on the killer descents. But seriously, the ocean temperature was a chilly 16 degrees, making me glad I had brought an extra swimcap for a less vicelike icecream headache. We assembled on the beach, and I was thankful to find that the brilliant organisers had chosen bright orange "bu-eys" for the course, easily visible through goggles left constantly fogged by the vast temperature difference between my skin and the Pacific's 49th parallel. Not everyone found the bu-eys so easy to see however, and I experienced an unusual variety of schadenfreude as I caught 2 swimmers who were zig-zagging their way to shore. I clambered onto my bike some considerable amount of time after the leaders.
For an inner city course, you actually couldn't design a more picturesque venue than Stanley Park. Nor is there a better way to celebrate the foresight of the founders of Vancouver than to hold a manly test of endurance within the place dedicated by Lord Stanley "to the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colours, creeds, and customs, for all time". The 9.6k cycle loop skirts the perimeter of the park, past stands of Kwakwaka'wakw totem poles...
...alongside pounamu-green waters, and the inspirational bronze sculpture of Harry Jerome...
...before taking in a steady winding climb above the elegant Lions Gate Bridge, and a cracking descent back to second beach.
3 times round, I approached this circuit with vigour. I was passed only by a couple of bigger riders, and felt confident they would succumb to the pursuit of my eager feet on the run. What I didn't really recognise was how cold my hands were getting on each long descent. Straightening out of the corner onto the final lap, and passing the thickest mob of spectators on the course, I went over a bump in the road which caused my frigid fingers to bounce up off the hoods. As the front wheel twisted sideways beneath me the tire exploded with the report of a Colt, and I slid, mercifully, along the slick wet road, rolling from front, to left hip and onto my back, coming to rest in the gutter.
I stood up to a collective wince from the onlookers and expected that that was the end of the race for me. But along came the only two St Johns' first-aiders on the course, who cleaned and dressed my wounds while Good Samaritan Brian (to whom I dedicate the race), set about repairing my flat! Tube and body thoroughly patched, I received a wonderful ovation from the crowd who had seen my spectacular double twisting back. I completed the final lap conservatively, happy to be in one piece and still in the event.
The run was another lovely scenic loop, this time along the shore of Lost Lagoon and through towering forests of cedar and fir. I felt surprisingly good, unhindered by my extensive road rash. After the first lap in 19mins I decided to have go at posting a decent run time and quickened my step to record 36:57 for the 10k and 2:24:05 for the roughly olympic distance event, including the 12mins I spent "recovering" during the bike leg!
The post-race highlight, other than a kiss from Mrs R, was the delicious feast of athlete-favoured foods! What an insightful bunch the Multisports Canada organisers are: they had fruit and muffins, all conveniently pre-sliced, and then the piece de resistance: a line up of bagels beside enormous jars of nutella, peanut butter, and jams including Saskatoon Berry - more Canadian than even Maple Syrup! I was in heaven.
Lessons learnt for Perth: go hard, so as to best enjoy the tucker on offer when you finish; but unless you've got Spidey reactions and a Fairy Princess to grant you 3 wishes
you better respect the conditions or you might get a reminder of today that you'd rather never repeat!