Wearing the Maple Leaf: World Age-Group Duathlon Championships Race Report

This race report has been a long time coming.

I competed for Team Canada on home soil back on August 21st and it took me over a month to get started on the race report.  I finally finished unpacking on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.  Let's just pretend I'm writing for a quarterly magazine and that this issue sums up my "A race" from the summer.

Team Canada 2017 - sprint and standard distance duathletes

Why the delay?  While it's safe to say my mind has been elsewhere -- concluding a long-standing and important volunteer commitment, enjoying vacation time and travelling for work, being but a few of the things that kept me busy -- I have also struggled to figure out the story I wanted to tell.  I will give it a shot...

As a World Championship taking place on home soil in Penticton, British Columbia, enthusiasm rippled among athletes online and in-person.  I received most of my event gossip through a group of friends who remained connected via Facebook, nearly all of us regular duathletes in the Skechers MultiSport Canada series.  We all traded race and travel tips to support one another. 

Speaking of travel, this time around, my mom came along for the adventure.  She may have been a good luck charm on our travels, because after our flight from Toronto to Vancouver was delayed, we were upgraded to business class!  I could get used to that!

Business class?  I can lay down and sleep in this thing?  What?!?

A bit about the race venue.  The view alongside the Okanagan Lake, the Town of Penticton is gorgeous.  We spent a lot of quality time relaxing behind our hotel, looking out over the water, reading or eating.  Venturing down the street, there was a quaint downtown with a couple of restaurants.  We also stumbled across the town art gallery, which was showing an exhibit of Indigenous art, in the spirit of reconciliation and providing a different viewpoint on our country's 150th birthday celebrations.

The view as we ate lunch on our arrival day.  

It would have been helpful to have a car to stock up on essentials and to explore more of the town and its surroundings.  Penticton is situated amidst wine country in B.C. and sadly, we didn't take advantage of our surroundings.

Penticton rolled out the blue carpet for athletes!

The vibe felt different compared to Spain.  I saw less of my fellow athletes, even if there were more of us on the team.  My theory is that being in our own country, we were more comfortable spreading out across the town to other hotels and AirBnB rentals.  One isn't necessarily better than the other, they're just different experiences.

But my mom would offer a different point-of-view.  She felt that we saw Canadian athletes everywhere and loved the experience of continually stopping and chatting, be it at the race expo, on the street or elsewhere.  (In fact, when we were later spending time in Vancouver, she said she missed bumping into friends everywhere.)

And to be fair, I joined a large Canadian group dinner on our arrival night and got out for training runs and rides with teammates nearly every day.  So there was no shortage of people around!

MultiSport Canada Ambassador Tim Doris and I outside the team hotel, just before a light run. 

Team Canada checking out the streets of Penticton. 

Kevin G, Tim and me at the Parade of Nations. 

Canadians truly came together to support one another when it came to our races.  For the first time, Jesse Bauer stepped up to the elite class and toed the line with the best from around the world.  We cheered like mad and he made us all proud. 

Jesse cornering just after descending the massive Vancouver Hill. 

Likewise, when the sprint distance duathletes hit the course, the rest of us got out there at the corners and on the hills to yell and ring our cowbells and show them some love.  That was a truly awesome experience. 

The men's 20-24 sprint du kicks off in a blur. 

Christian Vaillancourt heads out on the sprint bike leg - nice form!

And what about my race? 

I arrived in Penticton feeling strong and serene.  In the previous weeks, I was hitting my cycling targets and done running speed work alongside a local crew.  I thought I could have used a few more weeks of faster paces on the run, but there is only so much time in the calendar.  This year, I was blessed to have a ridiculously fun and full summer, which meant time spent on pursuits other than duathlon, including the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join the Governor General's Canadian Leadership Conference.

Still, my expectations had evolved as I prepared to race at this, my third world championships.  Looking back to the past:

2013 - My first experience on the world stage, I arrived via a roll down position, with no coach, and having suffered stress reactions in my shins in the spring leading up to the June race.  Goal: finish and not be last in my age group.  (Result: success!)

2016 - My second time racing worlds, I had invested much more time in coaching and equipment.  Wouldn't you know it -- I'm sensing a theme here! -- I received a last minute diagnosis of a stress reaction in my left femur.  Goal: celebrate the journey and the ability to race.  (Result: success!)

2017 - My lucky number three.  With several years of experience under my belt, I was fairly confident that I knew what to expect of the event.  Looking at the relatively flat course, reasonably sized transition and home country advantage, I aimed high.  My stretch goals: top ten in my age-group and/or a sub-two hour finish time.  (Result: read on to see....)

Pre-race, I attempted to look up all of the 33 athletes in my age group.  Normally, that would make me nervous, but this time I had a burning urge to see who had comparable fitness (i.e,. my closest competitors) and those beyond my capabilities -- such as the reigning world champion, Olivier Fremy.  There were some mighty fast runners in my age group, but I noticed they didn't necessarily have comparably strong cycling skills, so my plan was to catch up on that leg and hope / pray to stay ahead for the final run.  I did the math and set those goals above. 

The run course was fairly straight forward in design, with laps of a 2.5 km loop, with a gentle incline in one direction (heading out from the start) and with the corresponding decline the other.  I knew the group would take off hot and it did, so I held on at a fast pace and eventually slowed to something a little more reasonable, hanging out and trading spots with Garvin Moses, a fellow Canadian and Ontarian.  Yet another Canadian, Moritz Haagar, held a consistent pace throughout and passed me, eventually finishing a minute faster.  Hmmm.  Maybe there is something to be said about immediately dialling in one's pace.

Out on the run course, with thanks to Andrew Mcleod for the picture. 

I eventually finished and was just five seconds shy of my 10 km PB.

The bike course looked similar to this, but with the additional of a technical right hand turn 
and a 180 degree turn on a side street. 

I entered the bike leg in 17th place in my age group.  I recalled a particular workout from earlier in the month that set me up perfectly for that kind of race situation.  As planned, I caught and passed five athletes that had beat me on the first run.

On the other hand, some cyclists flew by so aggressively that I watched them go.  ("They're not in my age group" or "I wouldn't be able to maintain that pace," I reasoned to myself.)  It makes me wonder what would have happened if I went with them.  I also lost time on the corners and the part of the route that ran in town along the lake.  In the end, I returned to transition feeling like I still had more fight in my legs, a sign that I could have pushed harder.

I arrived at T2 in 12th place, with a mumbled hello and thanks (sorry, race brain!) to Ontarians Natalie Wright and Angela Hofstra who were volunteering and cheering at the bike entrance.

Out on the second run, I held on and didn't realize that I had slipped to 13th in transition.  I appreciated hearing Jesse on the side lines, who encouraged me to bridge up to other athletes.  For a moment, I didn't think I could -- but then I did it.  The power of the mind in action.

Eventually, I found a British competitor in my age group, who turned out to be the person who passed me in transition ("How in the world did he get ahead of me?" I thought.)  I slipped up behind him, trying to run silently before making my move during the final kilometre.  Oops - a pair of spectators yelled "Go Canada!" and my cover was blown.  I took off in front of him, successfully snapping the elastic, and propelling myself to a new second run PB.

As I approached the finish line, I found Ontarian duathlete Carolynne Simons about to cross.  I put my arm on her shoulder and we finished nearly simultaneously, celebrating.  That was a fantastic way to end the race.

We did it!  (Photo courtesy of Carolynne)

Sitting under a tree in the shade following the race, I checked my results online and my heart sank.  I was 12th in my age group (later raised to 11th after a competitor was disqualified) and had finished over two hours.  But when I stepped back, took a breath and analyzed my race, I felt much better.  I had just completed a new PB by over 1.5 minutes, taken 11th place in the world in a very competitive age group and done so on home soil alongside friends and family.

Just as my goals have evolved over the years, so have my results at Worlds and I have little doubt that I've got more fun races ahead of me. 


Following the race, I joined a house full of Canadians for a well earned party.  The next afternoon, my mom and I flew to Vancouver for some rest, relaxation and sight-seeing.

Imagine this crew after hours!

What's next?  While I enjoy training, I love racing.  An event like this feeds that passion like gasoline on a fire.

Since the race, a couple of injuries have put a damper on the final couple events of my season.  I'm aiming toward the Overdrive duathlon this weekend, after which, I will put my feet up, enjoy a few evenings away from training, and then begin plotting my 2018 season.

While duathlon appears to be a solitary sport in many respects, it truly takes a team to make it happen.  I owe so much to my partner Rob for supporting me / tolerating me as I pursue this passion and to my mom for joining me on this journey to B.C.  Likewise, my thanks to coach Roger for putting up with me all these years and always encouraging me to push to new heights. 

My thanks also to Sweet Pete's in Toronto, which as a sponsor for my team with Ignition Fitness, has helped get my bike and cycling gear in fine form for the world stage. 

Special thanks to our team managers, Christian and Shauna!