Race Day: World Winter Triathlon Championships, Early February 2015

Written by Olivier

Setting: Overcast yet -40 degrees Celsius, extremely windy, distances/event: 5k snowshoe, 12k speed skating and 8k cross country skiing for a total of 25k

The drive from Ottawa to Quebec City was a little bit long but allowed me to visualize my race and especially plan in my head my transitions between the events since you can lose a lot of time in you’re not cautious.

I knew going in that I would need to create as much of a gap with the strongest skiers during the 5k snowshoe (the first event but also my strongest) and hopefully that would allow me to relax during the transitions before the next event long track speed skating (my second strongest). I grew up on skates either playing hockey or on long blades racing in short track speed skating. I loved the rush of skating with almost no equipment at 45km/h on tight corners. Long track speed skating is quite different, not only are the distances different but also the corners are much longer. In addition, to minimize losing time during the first transition you have to skate with a ski boot (yes the same one you will then use for your last event), which is very different than your typical long track speed skating boot. Lastly, compared to the world-class athletes present at the race, cross-country skiing is my weakest event and that’s where they could make up some time on me assuming the first two events go according to plan. Even though this was my first winter Triathlon I had to plan everything and not leave anything to chance if I wanted to finish top 5.

Prior to race-day, I had the pleasure of watching my 62 year old dad race other Master athletes on the same course I would use the following day. So I had my race bearings, the right wax for my skis and although I didn’t try my skates I had been to Fresh Air to get my blades sharpened and I was ready to go…

As we lined-up in the blistering cold I saw the line I needed to take off the start and as the gun went off I quickly settled in the lead pack and kept pushing the pace while sacrificing the least amount of energy…It paid off, I created a small gap with the top contenders and eventually finished 2nd in the snowshoe and felt great going into transition.

Unfortunately, this was the end of potentially good race…The transition went so so, my fingers were frozen and I took a little bit more time getting ready to skate. As I finally clipped onto my blades and stepped on the ice…I took my first few strides and immediately knew something was wrong. I couldn’t push off, I had no edges on my blades!!! This meant it was going to be a long, slow 12k…I was so frustrated and devastated that the race was ruined for equipment difficulties. Anyway I kept skating at my own pace and as I got of the ice I felt a relief and decided to have some fun on my skis. The conditions were difficult but overall I had a decent ski and even caught more than a few guys that had passed me on the skate and eventually finished the race in 10th.

While I didn’t accomplish my goal of finishing in the top 5, I can keep my head up, as it was a great experience, I learned a lot, had a blast and it felt pretty cool to compete against pro athletes. I will definitely adjust a few things before my next world championship event and aim to be on the podium in 2016.

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