I’d heard about this half ironman distance race up near Edmonton that everyone raves about as long as I’ve been in Calgary. So I was excited to finally take the opportunity to participate in the Great White North Triathlon in the small, cute town of Stony Plain this past Sunday. This race has had some super strong women winners over the past years with the long-standing course record set by the famous Heather Fuhr back in 1993. With great prize money (2500$ for the win) and 250$ primes for the fastest swim, bike, and run splits, I knew it would take a really solid race to come out on top against some motivated and tough competition.
On the morning of Canada’s 145th birthday, I lined up to celebrate Canada Day with roughly 1000 other participants on the beach of Hubble lake for an 8:00am 2km swim. In the biggest mass start race I’ve ever been in for a triathlon, I managed to stay out of the chaos and got around the first two buoys okay for the first of a two-lap swim. Considering it was a grey, cool, and drizzly morning, once in the water I felt amazingly warm in my wetsuit. I exited the water 52nd overall, and with at least 8-10 women in front ot me.
After adding arm warmers and a vest in transition to the bike, I was sure glad I had the added clothes, as the rain came down hard on the bike and hardly let up the entire time! I left transition with last year’s winner, Annett Kamenz, and knowing she is a super strong cyclist, my plan was to just keep with her as long as possible. WIth so many people I eventually lost sight of her but just worked on keeping a strong pace. Fortunately I was rarely feeling cold despite the rain and could focus on just riding strong. The bike course had few hills and is known to be super fast but with the heavy rain and wind the times were likely a little slower overall. Near to the 50 km turn around mark, I caught up to Emanuela Bandol, who let me know there were a few women 5-6 minutes up ahead, shoot I had some work to do to stay in contention! I saw Annett just ahead shortly afterwards, caught back up to her and we ended up going into T2 together 30km later. With plenty of fluid and Clif shot gels in me, I was feeling reasonably good for riding 90km in the rare time trial position for me.
I hit the run in 4th place and tried to find a good rhythm as my wet, numb feet and shoes sloshed on the pavement. A few kilometres into the run I saw my Coach Cal and the rest of the Critical Speed Racing team cheering crew. They told me I was 1:30 back from 3rd place. Turns out I was about 7 minutes back from the first two places but they didn’t want to tell me that yet. With three out and back turn around’s on the run I was able to check my own back splits and soon learned at the first turnaround that I was 6 minutes back from first. The leaders Tanya Salomon and Kelly-Lynn Marcotte looked strong to me so I would just go hard and see what I could do! No pace checking, I would just go by feel. I moved into 3rd place before the 5km mark. By the halfway point, I realized I had cut the lead down to 3 minutes, I just needed to keep up the same pace! Next time I saw Cal, I had moved into 2nd and was 1 minute back of first with about 4km left to go!
After the last out and back turnaround Tanya was in sight. With 2km to go, I caught up and passed. I was ecstatic to take the lead but at the same time I had to keep pressing because she was fighting hard behind me. The last bit was slightly uphill and my legs were killing me, but I was finally able to celebrate around the last corner to the finish line, with the amazing announcer Steve King bringing us all across the line! To my amazement I had run a 1:24:13, and the 6th fastest run of the day for the entire race.
A great race, I would highly recommend it! I’d like to give it another go on a warm sunny day! Congrats to all my friends, and training partners out there who completed the race!It is so much fun to do an event when knowing so many people! Full results can be found here.