Just two weeks before Challenge St. Andrews, I ran my first pro/elite triathlon race in Queretaro, Mexico. It went better than I expected. Despite having suffered an injury five weeks before and having trouble with my saddle during the event, I finished 8th overall. I had hoped for a top 10 finish but I never expected to get there. It was a bit of a shock, but gave me a lot of confidence going into Challenge St. Andrews. In Mexico, the prize money went 10 deep but in Canada only the first five would take home cash.
The town of St Andrews:
Racking my bike the day before the race:
Before the event it was unclear whether the swim was going to be wetsuit legal or not, since the water temperature was around 22*C (71.6*F) the day before. Then surprisingly and possibly due to the cold air temperature in morning, the water temperature went under 16*C (60.8*F), making wetsuits mandatory.
The pros were let into the water 15 minutes before the start, but with the cold-water temperature, I did not get much of a warm-up. The first few minutes of the swim I just couldn’t get my stroke rate as high as I wanted it to go. So I didn’t have the swim I was hoping for and came out of the water in 8th place with a pretty big gap to leader. There was a 400m uphill run to transition and I ran up that hill a bit too fast (I think that affected my run leg later on in the race).
Photo Exiting the swim:
Heading onto the bike leg, I caught some of my competitors very quickly and by 15km into the 90km bike route, I was in a group of three. At first it was a bit nerve racking riding with two other guys, having to make sure to stay the appropriate distance behind them in order to avoid a drafting penalty. Nevertheless I find riding in a group mentally helpful. Having someone else set the pace for you is helpful and makes you ride faster than you otherwise would.
At the second turnaround point on the course, I could see there were five guys up road. Which means my group was in places 6th-8th. I also noticed that we were less than 1 minute away from 5th. On one of the longer uphill rollers I went to front of my bike group and pushed the pace. By the fourth turnaround point, we had dropped one rider from our group of three. We had gained time on the 5th place up the road. Iain, the other rider, and I kept switching the lead, pushing each other and about 80km into the bike leg we caught Dan, who was in 5th, and passed him. Iain and I rode into transition together.
Coming into T2, completing the bike leg:
Going into the run. Here’s a quick preview of how it played out:
- First 15km, running like I’m invincible;
- Next 3km: Oh man, I think I started out too fast. Cramping badly now;
- Last 3km: Ran like a zombie.
Going into the run leg, I was hoping to run a faster time than I had done in San Gil (1:21 hr.). I wanted to improve on my run time since I had never run under a 1:20 hour half-marathon in a half distance triathlon. I got a bit too excited and started off running on pace for a 1:12 half-marathon. That was too fast. In doing so, I quickly dropped Iain who came off the bike seconds behind me. I also heard from my father and other spectators on the run course that I was in 5th now and only 2 minutes away from 3rd place. I started focusing on catching the guy in 3rd place but in the process I did not pay attention to my nutrition. Rookie mistake you say, all my fault.
It was a two lap run course and on the first lap I caught the two male pros up the road and moved into 3rd place overall. Unfortunately, going into the second lap just after downhill I began to feel some cramps coming on. I poured some cold water onto my legs and shortened my stride length. It did not help much.
By 15km into the run, my speed had slowed down a lot. Despite cramping badly, I pushed on hoping I could keep my spot. With 3km to go, I hit the wall. Now I was basically jogging. With just 2km left Iain re-appeared and passed me with very little effort. He flew by like I was standing still. I kept thinking, “I should have started off running the pace Iain was running” since he came off the bike with me. It wouldn’t surprise me if I were told I was barely running 5min per km pace (8min/mile) near the end. The uphill to the finish was especially brutal; I went from running to jogging, then walking, then running again as best as I could. Several people passed me, although they were age-groupers on their first lap.
Anyway, I was able to hold onto 4th place, John Kenny the 5th place male was coming quickly, but luckily he ran out of road and I held on to 4th place. The friendly race volunteers immediately took me to the medical tent. Big thanks to those volunteers. My dad came out to see me in the medical tent and took a nice photo of me:
At first, I was disappointed with my 4th place finish. I felt bad to be so close to a podium and then losing it all in the final stretch. Nevertheless I have pleased with a top 5 finish. Not bad for the youngest pro triathlete in the field. I know better races are coming and look forward to them.
Awards Ceremony Dinner:
Big thanks to Dripdrop for keeping me hydrated throughout the race: http://dripdrop.com/. FGXpress Powerstrips for keeping me pain free leading up to the race- http://powerpainrelief.com/. Oakland Triathlon Club- http://oaklandtriclub.com/ and Chris Van Luen for their enduring support. Thanks for that new aero helmet. I felt like a bullet on the bike with that helmet.
My next race is Ironman 70.3 Calgary,