I'm really looking forward to this weekend. No getting up at 04:00 on Sunday and spending 12 hours on my feet as for the past six weeks (or so it seems). Bluenose, of course was an exception except instead of standing up for 12 hours I ran a marathon instead. Easy money. A weekend off. Then Navy Tridents as TD (12 hours on race-site), Cyclesmith Duathlon as RD (another 12 hours if you include the tear-down), Greenwood as a bog-standard line official (12 hours if you include the commute), the Edmonton World Cup (three hours jet-lag either way, 12 hours on site three days in a row and the red-eye home), another weekend off except I worked at actual work instead and then the St Andrews Tri-weekend. This weekend; nada. No work, no race. Maybe a little lie-in. The guys want to do a twenty-miler on Sunday; I'm all for it but I'm vetoing any start-time that begins with the number 6.
St Andrews was the last of the crazy string of races. There was a junior national series race on Saturday and a 1900/90/21 long-course on Sunday. I originally wanted to do Sunday's accompanying short-course (1000/50/10.5) but somehow got suckered in to TDing it instead. I'm still not sure how that happened.
Maybe there's a story in that we only had a team of six officials for the weekend: four from NS, two from NB. Who knows? I'm not even sure who I was representing on Sunday! Not TriCan. TNS? Not sure how I can swing that. Ditto for TriNB. Freelancing maybe! Whistle for hire :)
It was great to work with the Juniors on Saturday, I think I'm starting to get to know some of the kids. I know la belle is; after all she's the one who's been registering them for the last couple of years. I just get to check their bikes.
As well as some of the Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta teams there were other familiar faces too. The Nova Scotia Canada Games team was there too, getting some last-minute race-sharpening in and checking out their competition for Sherbrooke.
On Friday we drove to St Andrews and, by luck or judgement (I don't know which) our motel was next-door to registration and practically next door to TZ. Linda McLeod from TNS was the TD for the Junior and I got to HR, which for Friday meant attending the briefing, answering some questions, pre-checking some bikes and wheels and catching up with coaches.
While I was having fun with bikes and riding in a big-ass truck, MC was running registration. Again. She's got this down to a science!
The RDs, Garth and Helena Millar are expat Brits and great to work with. They had a lot of experience back home as RDs, experience those of us in blue vests and the fancy hats ignore at our peril. Hanging out with my countrymen had a deleterious effect on my accent though. I met a few other friendly faces too; Scott MacKenzie and John Russell from TriNB, who I'd run in to at National meetings before. It was great to work with them again. Tracy Shelley, as junior race series RD, was there too. We've kinda worked together before, but this was the first time we were on a team together. Nothing got by Tracy (even if I called her Shelley for half the weekend, she didn't miss that!) and she helped us a lot in the absence of a team-leader to oversee the fancy stuff.
Saturday was an early start. 04:00 reveille, TZ at 05:00. The Juniors are always nicely disciplined and need very little herding compared to age-groupers. Thank goodness! We got the ladies off in time and they didn't disappoint, blitzing through the course.
I can't remember much from within the race because with such a small team we were constantly rushing from one thing to another whilst simultaneously trying to do the officials thing. I was feeling more than a little stressed about converting the T2 run-out into the finish line in less than ten minutes after the last athlete left T2 but to my surprise we had it done so quickly we were actually twiddling our thumbs waiting for the first lady. Let's hear it for Garth and Helana's experience. It was also nice to have la belle out of registration and backing me up; I didn't have to ask, she just did.
The only fly in the ointment was the short reset time between the ladies and the men and unfortunately we started the latter ten minutes late. That's a bit of a big deal, but they were faster than the women, with the lead man in under one hour. Crickey!
One of the things about working a race at this level is that you get to use the whole rule-book. Most AG athletes are familiar with the swim, TZ, bike and run portions, but these only occupy the first third or half of the book. The rest is about running a high level race. For only the fifth time in my officiating career I got to break out the awards ceremony protocol (MC seemingly lives the Uniform appendices nowadays). It's quite surreal to go from bike-mechanic, line-referee to show-producer in the space of 90 minutes. I think we did a good job, even if the duck-tape wouldn't stick and we had to get two six-footguys to hide behind the gantry and hold the TriCan tapes, and St Andrew's and the Algonquin Hotel certainly gave a great backdrop.
The award winners didn't get medals though, they got original art-work from a local artist. Cool.
There's not much to say about Sunday's age-group race except that if it was this good this year, I can't wait to see what it will look like next year after Challenge drops off two containers of branded stuff.
As you've all undoubtedly heard, I ruled wetsuits out on the basis the water was between 26 and 28C. Never mind the "No Wetsuits" and "Really No Wetsuits" rules that WTC seem to have, this would have been no wetsuits under any code. I heard a fair amount of grumbling before the event, but no-one came up to me afterwards to complain.
Funny story. The NB athletes don't know me. So I walk into TZ just after 06:15 (yes we were late, but I was triple-checking the water temp) and announced
"Ladies and gentlemen: I am the bearer of bad news,,,,,"
and gave the spiel. No 'suits, no socks and so-on.
A little later one of the NB athletes comes up to me and says
"With your accent, even bad news sounds better!"
Cute. And no, she still wasn't allowed to wear one!
The draft-busters here were given a treat with two almost WWII-vintage motorbikes with sidecars, ammunition panniers, Brodie-esque helmets, the lot! La belle did over 100kms in one of Sunday, and I wasn't able to get a pic but here's Tri NB prez Paul Lavoie in the other one....
Very Escape to Victory. I told la belle if her pilot tried to jump the wire into Switzerland she should call me immediately or go in the cooler. Of course, comms with someone in a sidecar were awesome. We could talk and text no problem as she wasn't holding on to her pilot! It's the way to go. Plus, it's never felt more appropriate to call the shot-gun passenger on a moto the rear gunner!
Fokkers at 12 o'clock indeed.
The shadow of Mont Tremblant was all over this race. It was a great race and Challenge St Andrews (as it will be next year) will be a great event in it's own right, and it will stand in it's own right. However with many people either coming to it having done the 70.3 a fortnight ago or using it as training for the full IM in a month comparisons are hard not to make. One woman came into T2, flopped down on her tri-mat and said "that was harder than Tremblant", in an awestruck way. I heard many favourably compare the course to the Tremblant course; unrelenting rolling hills. Very little flat. Nothing too steep but the hills keep on coming. If, when, you come here for the race, forget that you're in the foothills of the Appalachians at your peril!
This didn't seem to deter the athletes. As they collected their stuff from TZ at the end of the day, they praised the enthusiasm of the St Andrew's crowd, the guerilla aid-stations and the friendliness of the town. I always say a measure of how welcoming a town is to a race is by the number of guerilla aid-stations and St Andrews wins hands down.
We stopped in St Hubert in Moncton on the way home; a Quebec resto la belle really misses. As your average OCD endurance athletes we usually stress a little at the sheer saturated fat content of BBQ chicken with fries and gravy but when we realized this was literally our only meal of the day, we settled down and ordered more coleslaw.
So thats that. Smashing weekend and I hope they ask me back next year; I'd be there in a heartbeat.