LYNX athlete Graeme chose the Canmore Xterra Sprint to be his first triathlon event that he purposely trained for with goals in mind. In case you aren’t familiar with Xterra, it is off road triathlon where the 3 disciplines are swimming, mountain biking and trail running. This Xterra event was put on by Grizzly Mountain Events and was held at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park on August 6, 2017.
This is Graeme. And this is his story:
My first triathlon. Not really my first, but the first that I actually trained for and didn’t hydrate with red wine.
The Xterra race had been something I was interested in for a while. To be honest I was intrigued by triathlons but as a mountain biker and skier I had always loved the mountains so riding the road and running the pavement held very little appeal compared to being in the mountains.
The initial push was due to a friend registering for the event and finally thinking to myself that maybe this was what I needed to push me out of my rut. The training started with a bang, as it always does for me, but then work and vacation got in the way and my excuses led to a 3-4 week period of inactivity that had Coach Mary asking “is everything alright”? Yes, everything is alright I am just in France eating and drinking.
But I got back on the metaphorical horse and started training again. Again, not doing as much as I should but with the promise to myself that each new week I would complete all my prescribed training.
I have to say that being part of the LYNX Tri Club helped a lot. The group was so supportive. Every time I was asked “what races are you doing” I would respond with a tentative “just a sprint…Xterra in Canmore” which was immediately corrected by everyone to there is no such thing as “just”!
The first lake swim was a little overwhelming. I made a joke about having waterskied before so being in a lake shouldn’t be a big deal. Fun fact, they are very different experiences!
Night before the race
I wouldn’t say that I was overly nervous about the event. However, I was really nervous that I had everything I needed and that I wouldn’t lose anything in the transition area. My biggest worry was the realization that I never put my name in my wetsuit and I didn’t have a sharpie.
At the start, the race director said “if this is your first open water swim in a race you should hang back and let people get ahead of you”. When the starting gun went off I waited what I imagined was a full 20-30 seconds but in reality was likely only 1-2 seconds. I will say it was close to one of the worst swims I have ever experienced. It was fast by my standards but it did not feel good.
Off to transition and on the bike leg. The first 2km is on road before the rest of the race transitions onto dirt. The first few KM’s I was dizzy and couldn’t find the power in my legs; I was being passed by everyone. I tried to eat an energy bar and the first thought after a bite was “yeah that was a mistake”. While the bike ride was a grind on the up the down hills were really fun. A little confusion at one turn, the week previous my GPS had indicated we were supposed to go on a different route but the signs in the race said go right. So I did.
The second lap had a lot more of the Olympic distance riders on it so the course got a little more cramped but plenty of space to pass safely on the ups and some downs before getting into single track. What I noticed was that most of the participants were like mountain goats on the way up but a little less so on the way down so I was able to catch up on the downhill sections. That is until I tried to force a turn going way too fast and felt my front tire sidewall give out and a sad slide into the mountain ensued. A relatively quick fix of the chain and dust off of the bloody arm and leg and I was on my way again. Albeit, more tentative and aware of the negative impact of gravity!
Into the last transition for the trail run. Again I tried to take a bite of one of my energy blocks. Two bites and blah. The run is not my strongest event but for some odd reason I do enjoy running up hills. I like that I can slow down and just think about putting one foot in front of the other.
After a number of twists and turns on what is in all actuality a mountain bike trail with roots and rocks and berms you come out of the woods and into the biathlon hall for the big finish. You have the Canmore valley in front of you and the three sister’s mountain range behind you.
The race is really well done. The setting is beautiful and the fact that it is in Canmore gives you the feeling of an away race with the comfort of knowing that you are a quick drive back to Calgary if you forget something. The weather for the race couldn’t have been better. The course was dry but I can imagine it being relatively treacherous with wet roots and rocks. After all the training (though not as much as I should have) I think I am hooked and will definitely be signing up again for next year.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience Graeme! Your story speaks of the journey that so many athletes experience. Life sometimes gets in the way of training but it’s all a process and it should be fun. And, things don’t always go as planned on race day but that is how we learn and grow in the sport. I’m glad to hear you are hooked. 😀 🙌