I arrived in Osoyoos and I was thinking to myself “it’s not too hot”. I was proven wrong really quickly as I turned the A/C off in the car and rolled the windows down. I was welcomed by a very hot wind in my face that almost burned! A quick look over at the temperature gauge confirmed it: 41C (that’s 106F for my American friends)! I knew it was going to be a warm race and one of the main reasons Mark (my coach) and I had decided for me to participate in the Desert Half!
Being a short walk (5mins) from the beach where the swim starts, I decided to walk to the site in the morning of the race. This allowed me to do my mental preparation on the way in and enjoy the great view of the lake! I got into the transition area and did the usual routine on the bike and preparing the T1 and T2 areas before the race. Got into my wetsuit with about 15 minutes before gun goes off and jumped in the water for an easy 5 minute swim to get used to the water. The air temperature was around 30-31C. However I knew before like it will peak into the high 30’s.
The swim was two laps of a triangle shape course and it felt really good. It was the fastest swim I have done in a race! I did start a little faster than I was planning but got into my anticipated pace pretty quickly. I was feeling really nice at the beach after the first lap and was happy with my time too! Before I knew it I was back on the beach and running towards the T1 area. The beach connects to T1 through a tunnel, which I might add is very narrow and very low. I think I only had an inch between my head and the ceiling. It was good I noted that the day before as an enthusiastic jump over the 3 steps into the tunnel can leave you embarrassed with a pretty awesome headache!
Anyways onto the bike course, which was another one of the reasons we picked this race. Pretty much half of the bike course is on the IMC Penticton course which I will be attending at the end of next month. This is a great preview for the course and the best way to practice it: in a race! Before you know it you are at the bottom of the Richter Pass, literally a few km’s out of T1. Richter Pass for those who don’t know, is a nice and long set of hills with short flat sections that exits Osoyoos on the way out to Keremeos. These make one of the two main climbs in the IMC Penticton bike course and there is a love/hate relationship between and athlete and these hills. Love if you are prepared for them, and hate if you are not of course! These hills are then followed by a very fast and windy descend on the opposite side of the mountain and into the infamous 9 rolling hills which can be a challenge by themselves depending on how hard you climb Richter Pass. I was feeling pretty good at this point and was looking forward to the turn around just before Keremeos.
What makes this race a tough one, specially on the bike, is not so much going over the Richter Pass and the rolling hills. It’s the mental and physical challenge of knowing that you will have to go back over them to get back to Osoyoos! This combined with the heat getting into the high 30’s was proving why this race is called the Desert Half!
I was making sure that I took in enough fluids to be prepared for the heat in the run. Sometimes it can be deceiving how hot it is outside when you are flying on the bike and have a wind in your face. I had trained for this and had learned better since I neglected the nutrition on the bike almost a year earlier in Calgary and had to pay during the run!
Before I knew it I was on top of Richter pass looking over Osoyoos on my way back and was ready for my 70+ km/hr descend into town. Aside from trying not to bail, in my mind I was going through how I will go through the transition into the bike and was doing a quick mental check on how my body was feeling! Off the bike before the dismount line and as soon as my feet touched the ground, I got the confirmation of the heat as the black pavement was blazing hot!
Got my shoes on, out the T2 and my legs were feeling pretty good! I was running at the same pace as my previous half ironman a month prior and feeling pretty good. However I was not thinking too much about that heat and that was a mistake! A few kilometers into the run and I started noticing that the body is slowly trying to shut down. I knew I was good on my nutrition and it must’ve been the heat. I had to back the pace down and think about a strategy to cool the body down quick. I decided to walk through the aid stations and use as much ice as I can to cool myself down. It was about 3km or so of this lower pace and two aid stations that I finally felt like I was cool enough to pick up the pace a little bit. I knew I had to be careful and slowly bump the pace. A basic science experiment of equalizing the heat generated from my muscles and gained from surrounding and what can be absorbed by the ice in my hat and my tri-suit! It was at the half-way point that I was getting pretty comfortable with the pace and could bump up the pace a tad bit more on the flats and still keep that pace. Good thing was the course was two laps and I was already familiar with it at this point. It does make it easier mentally and you can plan easier for the ups and downs. Anyways almost six and a half hour after I started at the beach, I came through the finish line a few feet from the beach and I was glad it was done!
A quick walk over into the lake to cool myself down and the the legs relax and I was already thinking about why this race was over 40mins slower than the previous race a month prior! I did blame it on the heat at that moment and I knew the race was going to be slower due to that as well as the hilly bike course. However not until after the IMC and looking back at summer I will realize that perhaps the over-training on the bike had already started to had a negative effect on my performance even at this early, 6 weeks before IMC 2012!