September 6, 2014
Last year I was reading Triathlon Canada Magazine and they had a list of the top ten triathlon races in Canada. On that list was the Banff Triathlon. After reading about the race and seeing a couple of pictures I thought this is a race I would like to do at some point. As I looked into it further I found the 2014 race date and noticed that it would fit in well with my race schedule, as I would be going to Edmonton the week before for the ITU World Championships. It seemed like a perfect excuse and opportunity to do a little travelling through the National Parks and then finish it off with the Banff Triathlon.
The Banff Triathlon obviously has a great backdrop of mountains, park and lakes and it was quite different from any race I’ve done before. The day before the race we were to drop off my bikes at the T1 by the lake. T2 was on the main street in Banff and we were to drop our shoes off there on race morning and then get the shuttle to take us the 10 minutes to the T1. There was a Super sprint, Sprint and Olympic distance events for this race all with different start times. It was nice to be able to walk 5 minutes down the street to the T2 in morning and drop off the shoes. Unfortunately, there was a long line for the shuttle and in the end I had to wait over 40 minutes to get on it and arrived at T1 much later than I had anticipated. This caused a little anxiety primarily because I wanted to get in a little run warm up to get the blood flowing before I got in the cold water!
The swim was in Two Jack Lake, which is a glacier fed lake and so the water that morning was only 13 degrees! As a result of the temperature the race organizers had to shorten the Olympic distance swim to 750m but the sprint distance of 500m remained the same. I was fortunate that last minute the race start was delayed by 10 minutes because there was sheep on the cycling course. That was a first for me to hear about before a race! This gave me a little more time to try and get use to the temperature of the water. I had thought ahead and had purchased a neon cap at the race venue in Edmonton. One of my best purchases!
There were just two waves starts for the sprint distances – one for the men and one for the women. There must have been about 250-300 athletes in each wave! I got off to a good start but about half way I started to catch up to the previous way and it became really congested and difficult to maneuver through the swimmers. I gulped some water a couple of times which made me stop and I had a couple of moments of panic but it was just because of the cold water I had choked on and then feeling some constriction with my breathing because of the wetsuit and cap. However, by this time I was facing the finish of the swim so I was able to calm myself down and think “just a little more and I’ll be out of the water”.
T1 was a little run from the water so I was able to pass a couple of women on the run up. The transition was really congested!! There was only a confined area for the transition and I think the race had higher numbers than in the past so there was very little room between bikes and even between the rows of racks. It was challenging getting out of transition safely but once on the cycling course it was great! The route was a loop and a half of a scenic route around Lake Minnewanka. There was a few little rolling hills and one large down hill which we were able to do twice which made for a fast bike!:) I felt pretty good coming out on the bike and I had ridden the course the day before so I knew it quite well. I knew I didn’t have a great swim so I had some women to catch up to! After completing the first 13 km loop I had passed a handle full of women. On the second loop I came upon a few more and I figured these women were probably the lead swimmers. On the stretch into town I managed to get ahead of women and entered T2 just behind one other women. In T2 someone had parked their bike on my running shoes (T2 was just as crowded as T1) so that took me a little extra time to get those on and I exited just behind 3 women who I passed in the first 200m on the run.
At one of the first turnarounds on the run I noticed another young girl ahead of me and I was unsure if she was in the sprint or super sprint. I felt a little sluggish halfway into the run and in the second half two women passed me. One girl was from Australia (had her team uniform on from Worlds last week) and she was running quite fast. The finish of the run was down the main street of Banff. The sidewalks and streets were full of people watching and cheering. It was a great atmosphere with the beautiful mountains as the backdrop.
In the end I finished fourth women overall and first in my age group qualifying me for the World Championships in Chicago next year as there was one qualifying spot per age group. There was quite a few people who were wearing their Team Canada uniforms from World’s and quite a few from other countries as well. I guess I wasn’t the only one with the smart idea of doing this race after World’s.:)
The day was absolutely beautiful! It was 23 degrees, clear and sunny although the morning temperature was only 4. If it had been cold and cloudy I probably would have had to dress differently after the swim but I was able to just race in what I usually do. Two days after the race, Banff had their first snow fall!
My experience at this race was terrific and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a challenge and an adventure.