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3rd at National Duathlon Champs!

3rd at National Duathlon Champs!

3rd at National Duathlon Champs!

Last week I road tripped to Montreal, a cultural hub in the French speaking Canadian province of Quebec, for Canadian National Duathlon Champs. Montreal is notorious for road construction. Since the city centre is geographically an island, traffic flow is already pretty confusing for an out-of-towner with the intricate web of bridges that connect the downtown area to the rest of the city. Add in the constant road fixing and detours on make shift roads and you have me covering almost 100km trying to drive the 7km to the race venue from the hotel. Thank goodness that was only for registration.

On the morning of the race, after only a 10km accidental detour, I made it the race venue but my traffic flow problems weren’t over for the day. My first clue should have been that the French race briefing was ten minutes and the English race briefing was about one. I had dutifully studied the event map, paying particular attention to the flow of transition, but, no matter who I talked to or what map I read, I couldn’t make sense of exactly what was going on.

I made my way to the start line, oddly located at the back of the parking lot, and then to my surprise a race volunteer starting calling for “duathlon olympic.” In a confused panic, I stuck up my hand and she told me I had better run to the start line. I had misunderstood the French announcement and was at the start line of the sprint distance! I booked it down a gravel road, all the while hearing the race director count down the final minute on a mega phone. I just made it to the front row at the start line, turned around, and the gun went off.

First lap of the 10km.

First run.

Normally, adrenaline powers my legs for the first kilometer but I was running on panic. As the elite men ran over me, I knew I had to slow down to my own pace and mentally get over that I had almost missed the start. I spent the next few kilometres in no man’s land but, as we passed the 5km mark, the front pack began to stretch out. Sticking like glue to my pace strategy, I caught up with the back of the front pack and clocked the second fastest 10km of the day.

With the first run done, I headed into the the maze of transition. With five other events going on at the same time, including an ironman distance triathlon, transition, just like Montreal traffic, was a nightmare. Our zone was at the back of a parking lot and by the time I was in the saddle, I had covered almost a kilometre weaving around racks of bikes, over concrete medians, and up a grassy incline.


Nine laps of the Gilles Villeneuve Formula One track.

9 laps of the Gilles Villeneuve Formula One circuit.

First time racing in TT position and with my new aero helmet. Pink is faster!

It was pretty exciting to ride on the Montreal Grand Prix track. The pavement was ultra-smooth and, apart from rider congestion, there was no reason to loose speed, even through the hairpin. I was ticking off my time splits but, unaware to me at the time, I was losing a grip on second. After a bit of a concentration lapse just over halfway, I managed to get back on pace but the damage was done and third and fourth place were hot on my heels.

I left the track with 40kms in my legs and rode to the dismount line. I flew off and, after a brief encounter in French with a marshall who thought my helmet was prematurely undone, I wobbled my way across the parking lot. After the mistakes in the morning, I wasn’t confident that I was running the right way out of transition and with marshals exclaiming directions en francais, I felt lost in translation and transition.

Happy to know where to go!

I knew exactly where to go!

After almost turning the wrong way, I found myself back on the gravel road for the final 5km and, unknowingly, I had slipped into third. I struggled to find a rhythm and the building fatigue in my legs threatened my tender knees. My pace yo-yoed and I fell off pace. Finally, I turned for the last 2.5km that stretched in a perfect straight line down the side of the Olympic basin. I forced my legs to pull something together and gradually picked up speed. By the last few hundred meters I was going full gas and peeled off the track to the finish line. I knew where to go that time.

I crossed the line in third, satisfied with my splits but utterly disappointed with my transitions. I had executed my strategy well but the several unexpected detours along the way lead me down a different road than I had planned. In the end, however, I was ecstatic to end up to where I wanted to be– on the podium– and I know that, just like the road construction in Montreal, it’s all work in the name of progress.

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