Stony Plain, AB—
Rachel McBride, coming off a long hiatus from racing due to injury, and Nathan Killam, coming off a two-month hiatus amid the birth of his first child, cruised to victories Sunday at the Great White North Triathlon, a big-feel-small-town half-iron outside of Edmonton, Alberta. The GWN is something of a poorly kept secret. Canadian triathlon greats have made it a fixture on their calendar since 1991, with legends like Heather Fuhr setting the then half-iron world record back in 1993, and Jeff Symonds winning five years in a row from 2011 to 2015. It's always attracted high level professionals, but also puts on a fantastic event for the 800-1000 age groupers who attend each year on the first weekend of July.
Both Killam and McBride kept to formulae that have worked for them before: hit the swim and the bike hard and then run strongly to hold their leads. Killam exited the water about 40 seconds behind the leaders, and McB (getting to wear her Super Kitty custom kit for the first time in competition) tied for the swim prime with another strong female swimmer. From there on out it was the bike show for both of them, with Killam demolishing the men's field en route to a course record 2:05 (beating Jeff Symonds' old bike course record—no mean feat) and McBride winning the bike prime handily with her 2:20 split. The two then ran 1:21:49 and 1:29:26 splits, respectively, on their way to four- and five-minute wins over Shawn Wileyman and Fawn Whiting.
"It's always a wonderful feeling to get back to racing after several months away due to injury," McBride said, describing the race. "I am so grateful to be able to hit a start line and was really happy to come off with the win at Great White North! My race was pretty fantastic—I probably had one of the most solid, confident swims of my career, followed by one of the fastest bike splits I've ever had. My run is where I'm still getting my volume and speed up post-injury, so pace-wise it was a little off for the distance but honestly this whole race I felt like I could just keep going like an Energizer bunny—I'm definitely in Ironman mode which bodes well for Canada in a few weeks!"
Killam had this to say about his victory, before having to turn around and return to a 24-hour fire-fighting shift on Monday and his son, Aiden: "GWN was my first race as a dad. Life has been a bit crazy since Aiden was born on June 6th, but I've managed to get some decent sleep and some decent training in thanks to my amazing wife, who is seriously my biggest supporter and the best mom ever to boot! She's the whole package, and I'm a lucky guy. Training leading into GWN went fairly well. There were a few hiccups here and there amongst the diaper changes and occasional shitastrophes (seriously should be a word in the English language,) but collectively I maintained some semblance of consistency, and we gave my body a really long taper period so I'd be rested as possible.
"The swim didn't go super well for me I thought. My time was pretty good, and I wasn't that far back coming out of the water, but I thought I'd have swam better, the swim just didn't feel as smooth and strong as it has so far this year. But by the time I hit out on the bike, I was only 30 seconds down of the leaders. The bike has been my strongest leg for a while now, but my coach drilled into my head that I needed to be patient in this race. I made that my mantra throughout the whole race, focusing on just riding steady and keeping my head down, as well as using the course features to my advantage. My nutrition was bang on, and I never really felt like there was any fatigue or fading during the ride. My goal to be patient and ride a hair on the conservative side (compared to the rest of the racing so far this season,) paid off with a new bike course record and putting me into the run with somewhat fresh legs.
"Speaking of the run, I wish I had put socks on. So far this season I haven't really used socks, and my feet have fared fine. I felt amazing during the first of two laps, with a lot of spring in my step and my energy was booming. By the 12k mark I was starting to get some monster blisters on my feet, which were becoming very painful and affecting my stride. By then, though, I realized that I had a gap of about 6 minutes to second, and decided not to bury myself for the rest of the run, hoping to some higher power that the blisters wouldn't burst. Luckily I made it in without any further complications, and was really happy to still have a decent run and get a new 70.3 PR of 3:54 on a solid course, while having left some gas in the tank.
"I'm really happy where my fitness is at so far this season, and I'm really excited to see how the rest of the season goes. I can't wait to have my wife and newborn son out to my next races, I really found myself thinking about my little kiddo a lot while I was out on the course. I was so beyond stoked to grab the win in my first race as a dad, and was really proud to bring home that awesome Moose trophy for my son (although I don't think he knows what a moose is yet!). Also a highlight was getting to race with some of my favorite people, and standing on the top of the podium with my best buddy Rachel was the cherry on the whole weekend. Some final thoughts: GWN is a stunning venue and very well put together race, I highly recommend people come out to race it! My fitness is better than I thought it would be, especially after just having a baby. Patience on the course is a key to successful execution, and new baby energy is actually a thing!!
Champion Nathan Killam with Great White North Director Mike Brown—all photos courtesy of Ken Anderson Photography