Name: Jené Shaw
Title: Senior Editor
Allow me to interrupt my post-race “eating whatever I want” window to type up this report…
As soon as we set foot in Penticton, I felt incredibly welcomed by everyone we encountered. This race weekend was just a big love fest—between the mayor saying it was “destiny” to meet Felix, to the heartfelt gratitude of the Challenge Family for the athletes and volunteers—there were more hugs, thank yous and tears than I’ve ever seen at any race.
I swear to you locals wouldn’t stop thanking us for coming to their town, or asking us to sign race posters, or offering to help us find something. Countless businesses proudly hung Challenge Penticton banners, and many others changed their marquees to cater to triathletes. (My favorite? The Greek restaurant that posted “Let us carb your load.” Oh, Canadians.)
The windy and consequently choppy swim slowed me down and made sighting difficult, so I exited the water slower than I think I should’ve (1:10). But I know I’m at least a slightly better swimmer than that, and when I found out that the pro leaders got out around 55 minutes, I was at peace knowing my fitness wasn’t really well represented. Not a huge deal.
As soon as I got onto my bike, I realized that my Garmin had mysteriously taken “speed” off the display, and because I’m too dumb to figure it out on the fly, all I had the whole ride was elapsed time and mileage. I’m fine racing by feel—it’s what I’ve done all year—but it could’ve helped a bit mentally.
You can really ride the first 40 miles fast and effortlessly, and even the dreaded Richter Pass was nothing crazy. It was those rolling suckers in the middle where you can’t stay aero, but you also don’t get enough satisfying downhill momentum to carry you right back up. I think around mile 75 was when I started getting pretty fidgety in the aero position, my body started feeling bonky (hmm, a foreshadowing?) and my pace felt much slower. Thankfully that long downhill at the end perked me back up a bit.
I have to say that having less competitors on the course was fantastic for bike purposes. I didn’t waste energy weaving through people or having the awkward cat-and-mouse game per usual, and it felt more like my own race instead of a race to avoid being in someone’s draft.
As I was leaving T2, I thought I heard the announcer say, “Our first amateur female is heading out on the run course!” Huh? I kind of laughed it off and headed out shaking my head. But as I started counting the girls coming at me from the out and back, I realized that the six pro women had passed and then… no one else was there. Where I stand in the race will probably never change my pace or approach, because, let’s face it, I’m not that fast or competitive. But it felt pretty good to be cheered on as a top 10 female. One woman passed me around mile 15 and another one after mile 20, and when I crossed the finish line, they said I was the third overall amateur female (thank you, small field!). While I was letting that soak in, I got another big, warm hug from Felix. My 11:13 was a huge improvement from Ironman Lake Placid last year (11:57) and still a PR from my best in Arizona (11:23), so overall, a huge success athletically!
I guess I can’t talk about the race without addressing the post-race. Fun times ahead!
After I finished, I spent the next 90 minutes lying on the ground with my legs up, drinking chicken broth and chatting with my friend Dan, a Team TBB member who had finished a loooong time before I got there. I was still lying there when Julia crossed, and we stayed there talking for a bit before we eventually got up to find Holly and go home.
In a timespan of about three seconds, I went from telling Julia, “I…don’t…feel so good,” to fainting. I woke up to about 10 med tent volunteers around me who put me in a wheelchair and got me into the tent for an immediate IV. I don’t remember a lot of it, just that they kept asking me my name (and mispronouncing it back to me, which I didn’t have the strength to fight), and telling me that my blood pressure was extremely low. After poking and prodding and giving me two IVs that didn’t change my condition, I remember getting moved to a stretcher, getting in an ambulance, and arriving at the ER.
For the next few hours, they kept a third IV going while they did a bunch of blood and heart tests. It took a while to get me back to talking, for my (already pale) skin color to return to normal, and to keep any food down. By about 11 p.m. I was back to myself and enjoyed a celebratory hospital meal of a packaged muffin, processed peanut butter and apple juice. Jealous?? I can’t explain exactly what happened, and it will take further investigation with some doctors here, but hopefully I can get that figured out. I left around midnight and woke up feeling fine. The doctor said I was only allowed to go wine tasting Monday if I kept the ratio of water higher than alcohol. Deal.
I’m so proud of Julia and Holly for a host of reasons, and this experience wouldn’t have meant nearly as much to me without them there. Thank you so much to the Penticton community for being so welcoming, and to the Challenge Family for putting on a spectacular event that I’m so excited to see grow in years to come.