Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How to finish an IM with grace despite being given an unfair penalty - IM Canada Whistler RR

This was my 8th Ironman in total, 4th one branded as IM Canada, and 2nd one located at Whistler. Having raced the inaugural race in Whistler back in 2013 and volunteered in 2014, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, atmosphere wise. It was exciting and a huge home field advantage for me unlike any other destination races I've done before. The whole triathlon community was up here it seemed.

I got suckered into signing up with Flo, a newbie to the sport, and I was lucky to experience a good chunk of the race rollercoaster emotions with him along the entire road trip. Eric and Katrina also kindly offered their place for us to stay, so the decision to do this race this year was a no brainer.

This was a truly international field in my age category, only a third (39 of 115) are representing the home country. Because this race attracted a male Pro only race, the race was also a male-dominated field, I finished 74th overall, and yet surprising 73rd male. Cracking top 100 was my 'realistic' goal and this was my second time achieving this. My 'dream' goal was to crack sub 10 one day...maybe this day was today?

Two big differences from 2013 and this year was the self-seeded swim roll out start instead of the mass open one in 2013. The exact run route also changed slightly, but the general two loops concept with the final stick leg around town to the finish was the same. In addition, a new 70.3 distance was added to this race this year. This did created a little confusion for placing and who was or wasn't competing against you. In the end, most of the 70.3 athletes did beat me to the massage tent (as they should be). :)  

I hope this doesn't come across as too much sour grapes, but there has been one issue that's leaving a small distaste in what was a very positive experience this race weekend.

Given a penalty for blocking is one item of discussion, but to be told to serve an incorrect penalty and at the wrong location is another. Fortunately, at least I think I tried my best to handle the uncomfortable situation with grace and hope this is a good lesson for all of us, and accept that sometimes mistakes do happen in officiating our sport of triathlon. Many riders also said some encouraging words to me, that that call could have easily been called on any one of them.

The Blocking Call

Between kilometres 100km and 140km known as the Pemberton Meadows is a mainly flat section of the otherwise hilly terrain on the bike route. I was riding without problem until this flat section when riders were catching me only by the masses. I would try to open a gap to avoid drafting when they do catch me and then accelerate to get some "open" breathing room and ride individually again. 

Near the 140km at the end of the meadows, an official shake his head at me and asked me to serve a 5 minute penalty at the next penalty tent. I was a little curious to what had happened and he said I intentionally blocked someone trying to pass my front wheel. The gap I had intentially left opened with the rider ahead of me was an invitation for others to try to pass me. When one rider struggled to pass me, I accelerated again from the group and hence, blocking, was called by the official. There was plenty of road, I think maybe it was seemed as unsportsmanlike trying to prevent someone from passing your own front wheel, but of course you don't need to ease on the gas until the passer do pass your front wheel.

Trying to not argue with the official, I accepted the 5 minute penalty and asked the official where the next penalty tent was. He said the next one was in Whistler back in transition 2. I think this was disheartening knowing your at the time fast bike split was going to be tainted with a penalty. It also throws your game mentally because this was my first penalty at any race. Luckily there was a tent just before the hill back to town, and the 5 minutes was happily served. I had a good laugh with the race official there in the tent which shaded the hot conditions.

Only after the race, I also checked out the official TriBC rules, and it seemed to me that blocking is in fact a smaller penalty a stop-and-go violation. Anyways, I've taken a closer look at the rules with a bit more clarity now and know better for next time. In the end, I got a little break and ended up catching a lot of the riders with my flury of fresh-er legs up the hill back into town.    

By the time I got to the run, friends were cheering and I had forgotten what had happened. I walked most of the aid stations due to the extreme heat. The aid station near the golf course, I got a great boost in energy seeing Rob and Karen giving water and encouraging me. It wasn't a PB result but it was a overall PB for this course on a hot day. I applied sunscreen and yet still managed to miss some spots, which were too painfully made obvious the next day...sigh and ugh and double ugh.

Here's a graph recap to compare my efforts in 2013 and this year: 

Thanks for reading and until next time.


  1. You are such a diplomatic guy! It doesn't surprise me one bit that you dealt with this rather strange penalty in such an honourable way. That's you, Winston!