Back in February I locked in competing in Challenge Penticton at the end of August. Since February I had happily been working towards the race which always seemed so far away. However when I arrived at the Auckland International Airport it finally hit me what I was about to set out to achieve and it finally felt real!
Upon arriving at the Kelowna Airport, Chris met me at the airport in a monster truck! A trip around the area uncovered the stunning scenario. Little did I know that that would be the last that I would see of the surrounding area due to the smoke from the fires in Washington.
My week in Kelowna was the perfect lead up into the race. It was spent relaxing at the lake side, mixing and mingling with some awesome like-minded local triathletes, exploring the area and drinking lots of coffee.
The local authorities were advising not to go outside or doing strenuous exercise so it was decided that I wouldn’t ride any of the course when Chris and I did a course recce. This is how bad the smoke was:
Arriving in Penticton two days before the race, I was forced out of denial about the race being in two days. Unusually for the area, it rained on the Friday and Saturday before the race which kept the temperature down and cleared the smoke. At registration I realised just how few people were competing in the full and was given my “red armband of courage” which became the way to separate the full athletes from the half and team athletes.
Race morning rolled around and the sky was clear! We could clearly see the hills on the edge of the lake for the first time since arriving in the area. The weather was slightly cooler than what was normal but that suited me compared to the 30+ temperatures that it could have been.
We all entered the water in front of the big Peach on the waterfront and it was an airy feeling being in the water with the other athletes when it all went silent and the national anthem was played and sung! Next thing I knew, the gun had gone and we were off.
The swim was in Lake Okanagan and was pretty flat and warm! Unlike most triathlons there was no washing machine effect so it was a lonely 3.8 swim but Ogopogo didn’t eat my toenails.
Out of the water and I was onto the bike. I had been warned about the “honest” bike course due to the climbing including the “Seven Rollers of Doom” but had also been told it was one of the most amazing courses around.
Having driven the course earlier in the week I knew what I was in for but was happy that I would have stunning scenery to keep my mind distracted. Enjoying the scenery while not pushing too hard, the 180ks went fast. There were some good climbs but also some awesome downhills. The second half was a lonely 90ks, at one point I wasn’t sure I was on the right course until I had an official motorbike ride past me so I knew I was on the right road, phew!
Soon enough I was back at the big Peach and into transition. A quick switch of my shoes and I was off onto the run. Mentally I had split the run into three 14 kilometer sections: The first 14ks was an out and back along the canal. This was my first opportunity to see other athletes out on the course. Everyone was so supportive! Occasionally a team runner would effortless glide past, and I had a chuckle with another athlete that it was “cheating” to be partaking in a team while we were doing the full event.
14ks down, 28 to go! Leaving the big Peach behind for the last time was a good feeling. There were about 5ks through the town and then it was a run along the lake side until the turn around. I was looking forward to the section of the run that was along the lake edge as I knew mentally I could forget about being in the hurt box and enjoy being by the water.
Arriving back in town (and running towards the big peach for the last time) was an amazing feeling! A slight downhill for the last couple of kilometres made it feel “effortless” as I neared the transition area. Mum and dad were waiting in front of the big peach and it was then that it sunk it what I had achieved! Around the back of the transition area and into the finish shoot, the noise was deafening and the atmosphere was fantastic.
A brunch prizegiving was held the next day and was another fantastic opportunity to mingle with athletes and celebrate achievements. It was such an awesome event, everyone was buzzing!!