Back in July 2014, after competing in the Triathlon Standard distance Canadian Championship, I scooped a place on the national triathlon AG team and was automatically registered to compete in the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Championship in Chicago. The standard triathlon, also called the olympic distance triathlon, is a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run; it focuses on speed more than endurance. To be competitive you need to hold a fast pace from start to finish. Like most world championships, this is not a sign-up type of event, you must qualify to be able to race. You can qualify by finishing in the top 10 at the National Championship or by winning the regional championship. It also means that the athletes are coming in well prepared and ready to fight for every position. So it’s going to be a fast race with no room for errors.
On September 17th, after 10 months of planning, training and dreaming, it was finally time to pack up the bike and hop on a plane to Chicago.
Photo1 : Unpacking the bikes at the hotel with team member Dominique Matteau
The 1.5km swim took place along the bank of the very cold lake Michigan in Monroe Harbor. Although the start waves were quite small, about 80 competitors, compare the usual 200 or 300 at other events, the start was very chaotic for several reasons. First off, no swim warm up was allowed and it was a deep water start. Which means we have to hold our position at the starting buoy by swimming in place while the wind and the waves are pushing us back. On top of that, the swim course was very narrow and that lead to a lot of elbowing, kicking and grabbing in the first 250 meters. I manage to survive the chaos of the start and when I finally got to the first and only turn buoy, I started on the back stretch where I finally was able to swim freely and make up for some of the lost time. I got out of the water in just over 25min and started the long (800+ meters) barefoot run towards the transition area.
Photo2 : Swim exit
The 40km (37km to be exact) bike portion was flat, fun and very unique. It took place in the heart of downtown Chicago, through fully closed 4 lanes boulevards and underground highways. The 2 loops circuit took us from South Columbus drive to a tunnel and a maze of underground on/off ramps all the way to the a turnaround at the foot of the Chicago Bears home, the Soldier Field. I rode very hard, exchanging positions with guys from Ireland, Great-Britain and Mexico. After 57min of biking, I came into transition 2, racked my bike, traded my helmet for a cap and off I went for the run.
Photo3 : Riding on a urban highway
Photo 4 : Entering transition 2 (bike to run) with downtown Chicago in the background
The 10KM (10.6km to be exact) run was a 3.5 lap circuit on South Columbus Drive and around Buckingham fountain. I knew the running speed was going to be extremely fast and I had trained specifically to be able to sustain a high running pace off the bike. On the first lap, I was getting passed by left and right. At the start of the second lap, my “running legs” finally kicked in and I was able to pick up the pace to catch back some positions and finish the run just under 45min.
Photo5: Exiting Buckingham fountain on lap1 of 3
Photo6: Crossing the finish line.
In conclusion, I had a very good time in Chicago, before, during and after the race. It was a very good experience to race with the best from around the world. Not knowing in advance how strong the field was going to be, it was hard to set a goal in terms of position or ranking. Two weeks before the race, after I finished my last week of high intensity training, I looked back on the last 10 months and realise that I could not have trained harder while balancing work and family. So, I set these 3 realistic goals :
1- Go hard from start to finish.
2- A finish time of 2h15min.
3- To finish in the top 50% in my age group.
The first was achieved easily. Wearing your country’s uniform gives you extra motivation to push hard. The second was a close call with a total finish time of 2hours 14min 27sec
My third goal was also achieved, I ranked 66th out of 133 starter in my age group, I just made it ! On top of that, out of the 19 Canadians competing in my age group, I finish 5th. So, in the end, I was quite happy being ranked 66th in the world and 5th in Canada 🙂
Although triathlon is an individual sport, I do have a team that helps me to get ready for race day. A big thankP you to my coach, Dr Lalonde, who sets up all my training and seems to know when and where to push my limits. To my physical therapist, Marilaine, who always have a way to “fix me” when it hurts. To my wife Josée who helps me juggle the family schedule. To my numerous training partners, Sonia, Dominique, Jérome, Éric, Samuel, Christian, Mario, Jeremy, J-F and all the members & coaches of Trifort de Chambly Triathlon club. And once again to my employer, CGI; having flexible work hours and a work from home policy really does makes a huge difference.
Now the off season can start, hiking and skiing is on the menu for the fall and winter, Then I will start planning some very exciting triathlon projects for 2016.
Photo7 : The 520 members of Team Canada
Chicago ITU world Championship by the numbers.
Timex Factory Team
Canadian Triathlon National AG team