Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Subaru Banff Triathlon Race Report

First and foremost, for the record I raced the Subaru Banff Triathlon this year as a relay in the Olympic distance.  But last year I raced the whole Oly in fairly challenging conditions.  I wasn't going to write anything up on Banff this year but I thought I would for anyone racing it next year or just looking for something to read on a Wednesday afternoon...

The Swim

The swim at the Banff triathlon takes place in Two Jack Lake (by Lake Minewanka).  I would challenge you to find a more beautiful setting for a swim course in the world.  I truly mean that.  The only catch to this is that the water in September is very cold and the weather can be fairly variable.  Last year the air temperature hovered around 15C for the entire race, and the water temperature was about 10-12C so the swim was cut in half for all distances.  This year and the year before last year however, the temperature of the day was actually mid-high 20's, and the water temperature on Saturday was around 15C, so pretty close to Ghost Lake for anyone who did Calgary 70.3.  Chilly, but not bad.

At those temperatures I would definitely recommend wearing two swim caps, or even going with a neoprene cap.  Gloves and booties aren't really necessary but I wouldn't blame anyone for using them.  Ear plugs also help some since that sort of cold water can make you a bit nauseas.  Also a must for those temperatures is getting into the water a few minutes before hand and doing a warm up swim to get over the initial shock of the cold.  I can almost guarantee you, when you get in the water you'll want to get straight out and put down one of your best swim splits ever.

On another note, the exit to the swim is actually a bit rocky, so anyone who does wear booties gets a bit of a bonus of not worrying about stubbing their toes on a rock.

Transition 1
Pretty strait forward here, you get out of the water, run about 75m up a paved ramp to transition, run down the carpet (its a gravel lot) and grab your bike, and you're gone.

The Bike
The ride is 2.5 laps around the Minewanka loop for olympians (38km), 1.5 for sprinters (25km), and basically a downhill ride to Banff for super sprinters (12km).
Down and up and down and up and down
Le Maillot a Pois Rouges (Its the mountains!)
I don't need to say much that the profile doesn't say for me so I'll sort of leave it at that.  Total elevation gain is 136m, total elevation loss is 247m, so net you're going downhill 115m.  Its basically like doing two hill climb intervals followed by a 10 or 15 minute rest before a run.  I'd say strong cyclists/runners here can push  at 100% ftp up the hills and recover on the downhills and on the in lap to Banff.  This year I took the bike leg of the race and powered through it finishing it in about an hour with a TSS of 92.5.  For the non-power geeks that basically means I went almost as hard as I could for an hour.  And with the descent into Banff at the end I would have felt fairly good had I had to run afterwards.

If you're not quite as confident on the bike, I would say don't be intimidated by the bike course, its challenging, sure, but you're all in the same boat.  As you can tell from the terrain profile the climbs are actually a bit stepped, so you'll have breaks every few hundred meters during the climb, just sit up when your speed falls below 20km/hr, and get aero when you're above 20km/hr.  Any time you're above 50km/hr, just soft pedal and hide from the wind.

Transition 2
The last bit of the ride you'll be coming right down Banff Ave with crowds cheering you on.  The town and the volunteers have done a truly exceptional job with this set up.  Transition is towards the west end of town and its a fast, straightforward transition.

The Run
There is a small chance that when you go out on the run your feet may feel like blocks of ice, I'm not joking, its a really weird sensation.  Its not a big deal though, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

The bike was challenging but the run course pretty much follows the banks of the beautiful Bow River and as such is actually fairly flat.  For the olympic race its two 5km loops, for sprint and super sprint its just one 5km loop.  Lots of race support, lots of supporters, and probably one of the easiest best run courses around.

The finishing chute once again is right down Banff Ave.  Give it your all into the finish and smile for the camera!

Final Thoughts
This is one of the most scenic race courses you'll find in the world.  Period.  The swim is cold, but racking your bike in T1 and getting ready to swim race morning is one of the most surreal experiences you'll ever have at a race.  The bike is technical, but cyclists will love it, and if you have the opportunity to pre-ride the course, you'll probably actually enjoy it when you race.  And of course the run, its a quick tour of Banff which is just awesome.  This would be a top choice for a vacation race for anyone in Western Canada or the upper-Northwest of the US.

My coach, Todd Malcolm finishing our relay run
LifeSport Coaching who puts on the race does a really great job of this race, the post race food is awesome, the prizes are great, the volunteers are exceptional, and they get some great sponsors out for this event.  So huge props to them.

Also, I'd like to say thanks to my training partner Keith Blundell who busted out some HTFU and did the swim, and our coach Todd Malcolm who crushed the run in 38minutes.  We came first in the relay!

Finally, huge congrats to Lennina Pavon Cardoso for finishing your first tri out there, and Lily Sia Lu and Carly Louise DeBoice for kicking ass as per usual at the Banff Tri!

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