photos courtesy of Paul Higgins
by Chris Bagg
If there's one thing we know about our Canadian pros, it's that they love to defend their home turf. Of the six podium spots at Victoria 70.3 last weekend, Canadians claimed five. Of those five, we're intensely proud that three were Wattie Ink. professionals: Super Kitty Rachel McBride, who won the women's race; Canadian bike legend Jen Annett, who placed second; and crowd favorite Nathan Killam, who finished third ("but first mustache!" as he pointed out on his Facebook feed) on the men's side of things.
By all accounts, it was a difficult, cool, wet day on Vancouver Island—perfect conditions for Canadian dominance, we're sure they were thinking on race morning. But you don't have to take our words for it—here's what they went through to get the goods.
"I'd kinda written off winning a 70.3," McBride said. "I'm doing Ironman now, and not focusing on this distance. I wasn't tapered for sure, but when I finished the second loop of the run I was only two minutes behind Jen Annett, so I thought I might be able to catch her. With about 6k to go I could see her, but I could also tell that my legs would seize up if I tried to run any faster. I kept it steady, and a kilometer later she was much closer, and I knew she was right there. With two or three kilometers to go I caught her, exchanged some pleasantries, and kept going. I knew that she had beaten Liz Lyles a few years ago after Liz had caught her late at Challenge Penticton, and I was worried that I'd given her the motivation to pick up the pace, but after a few minutes it was apparent that she wasn't coming with me."
What was different for you at this one?
"I had a lot of confidence going into the swim. I had resolved to stay with Jen Spieldenner, and I'd never done that before. I managed to only give her eight seconds by the end of the swim, so that was a huge boost. Heading onto the bike I know those roads really well from training there so much, which really helped, knowing where to push and where to back off a bit. I've also just started working with Jesse Kropelnicki for nutrition, so I felt really well fueled on the bike. I've been testing his protocol and tweaking it with different ingredients, and I've really never felt stronger during a race."
What are you taking away from this race?
"I'm taking away that I'm stronger than I thought I was. I just turned 40, and part of me thought that 40 year-olds don't win 70.3 races, but to me this race really proved what I am capable of doing. It's given me a lot of confidence going into my next set of races, what I can do when I actually have a rested body."
Jen Annett in her Axiom kit, crushing the bike, above, and crossing the finish line in second, below
Over on the men's side, Nathan Killam had his hands full with a murderer's row of athletes. Rising superstar Cody Beals, Olympian and multiple 70.3/Ironman champion Brent McMahon, former Victoria champion Taylor Reid, and the always good Stephen Kilshaw headlined a "nowhere to hide" kind of field. Killam—coming off another podium performance at Wildflower in May—swam with Kilshaw, turned in the second-fastest ride of the day, and then gutted out a tough 21k run (we're in Canada, remember? Metric system, yo) to hang on to 3rd.
"I knew I was gonna have to go for broke at the end of the bike," says Killam. "From the top of the climb to the end of the ride I managed to put two minutes into everybody except Cody. I felt terrible on the bike, and then all of a sudden I realized I didn't have a choice and I forced it. I redlined it the rest of the way. I think I was riding in the 330 and over range in terms of watts. I told myself 'This is where you make the money!' Once I got out onto the run I think I was running a little too comfortably, so I started squeezing the pace in corners and downhills until we got to the out and back, and then started to feel better in the second half of the run. It was a race with lots of high highs and low lows—it was really cold getting onto the bike and I didn't think my legs would fire, but eventually they did." On the podium after the race, apparently, Killam and Beals vowed not to spray each other on the podium with champagne, since it was pretty cold out. Here's what happened next: