My overall goal was to come first in something. Anything. I just wanted to know what that feels like and see what I can do. I also wanted to complete my first standard distance triathlon.
I started the year with the Westshore Duathlon in April. 2km run, 20km bike, and a 5 km run. In 2016 this was my first duathlon and I came second! I think this sold me on triathlon and multisport. So obviously I was going to try and come back in 2017 to take first. Despite improving my time by 10 minutes I took second again. But I lost by a much smaller margin as well. First place was only two minutes ahead. Maybe I could have pushed a little harder on the last run? Maybe.
Next should have been the TC10K, but I was pretty sick so decided to sit it out. I could have run, but it would not have been a good time and I would have been sicker for longer. Sometimes you have to know when to say NO and preserve your health for the next challenge.
My next big race was the Langford Sprint Triathlon in July. A 500m swim, 23km bike, and a 5km run. This would be my second triathlon. Ever. So I was a little nervous. But I also knew that I had been doing some solid training since January. I was no longer worried about finishing the swim or completing the race as I was the first time. Now it was just how fast would I go and how do I stack up against everybody else? All in all it was a solid race and I came 3rd in my age group (30-34) and 10th male over all. I was pleased to say the least. Any day you wind up on a podium is a good day.
Next up was the Thetis Lake Swim (1500m). One of my swim instructors had recommended I do this years ago, so I was finally going to scratch it off my list. I also wanted to make sure I could do the distance in open water as a way to prepare for my first standard distance triathlon in August. I started off near the back of the pack. But I managed to draft behind someone going at a nice pace for the first half of the race (thank you!) and then I decided to make a move and try to push past at the first buoy. I was feeling good, I felt like I could go faster. And after that I was basically on my own except for a couple people who passed me doing a different distance. I finished in 32:19. Which was good enough for first place in my age group. I had done it! I came first in something. Except it didn’t even really dawn on my until a couple of days later. I think because it never even occurred to me that I might do well in a swim only event.
And now for my other big goal of 2017. The Elk Lake Standard Triathlon (insert ominous music). After the Thetis Swim I was confident I could do all the distances and I was looking forward to seeing what I could do. In January my goal had been to simply complete the race, but now I was starting to think maybe I should hope for a little more. It wound up being a non-wetsuit swim which would have freaked me out a couple years ago but now not such a big deal. Less time spent trying to peel that thing off before I get on the bike. The race was going well until the run. When my legs decided they were done working for the day. Basically my quads and hamstrings completely seized up and it felt like I was running on two wooden peg legs. I only stopped briefly to ostensibly throw out a gel pack and then I kept hobbling along as best I could. I was determined not to walk no matter how much it hurt. Eventually my muscles loosened up and I could pick the pace up. It wasn’t until kilometre 5 of the 10 that I started to feel like I was racing. And I managed to push the rest of the way around the lake for what was a strong but very painful finish. This was a strange situation. I had done better than I had hoped and estimated. But some how I was still disappointed in myself. I felt like I could have done much better. But for a first try at a new distance I learned a lot of lessons and it gave me some fire for training in the off season.
After my disastrous run at Elk Lake I am not feeling particularly confident in my running fitness. So Coach Sara and I decided to do a running focus for the next few months culminating in a half marathon.
In October was the GoodLife 8K. Another distance I had never done before. I would be happy with a time under 40 minutes. I surprise myself with a nice 35:31.
My season culminates with the Boundary Bay Half Marathon. I had been wanting to do this race for a while. I grew up in Tsawwassen and had walked this race course many times. It felt sort of like home field advantage. It is totally flat. The only downside is that it is in November and it is REALLY cold. It was 0 degrees when the race started. However it was a sunny day and it quickly warmed up. I wanted to best my previous half marathon time of 1:45:22. I pull it off with a chilly 1:42:58. I did learn that I need way more fuel than I think I do. More gels please! Maybe a pizza at the half way mark next time.
So that was 2017 in a nutshell. I’ll lay out 2018 real fast because this is a long post as it is.
Happy racing in 2018 everybody. It’s going to be a good year.
Stephen Woollard is a personal trainer and triathlete in Victoria, British Columbia.