TJ Flynn’s Day at the Welland Long Course Triathlon

The Welland long course was on my radar for some time. New distances (56 KM bike, 15 KM run), an incredibly friendly swim course at the Flatwater Centre (perfect for a weaker swimmer such as myself), three loops of a flat, fast running trail and a little taste of things to come for MultiSport Canada’s Barrelman later in the summer.

I’d hoped to push some limits on race day. Sometimes, though, plans can come undone.

About eight kilometres into the long run at Welland the wheels came off. I’d been on the edge of the cave for most of the run, but quickly and forcefully something snapped. The lights went out. The remainder of the race was dark and ugly.

On training days I’ve tried to prepare for times like this. I’ve tried stocking the memory bank with items to help push beyond the pain: words of wisdom from my coach; the image of the finish line glowing in the distance; a few lines from an Irish rebel song. Anything to help get me through.

That Sunday morning in Welland, though, none of these nuggets of faith were available. In my jumbled state, I didn’t even have the good sense to go looking for them.

It’s difficult to recall the exact thoughts that were going through my head during those final few kilometres. Maybe it’s some self-protective mechanism to ensure I stay on this road, but I’ve only got two recollections.

The first came to me every time I passed the bleachers at the Flatwater Centre. Perched on the left of the run course was a guy watching on from a blue Fatboy Bed – one of those new, cool-looking blow-up beds that seem perfect for a music festival. My wife had sent me a link to these beds a week before but this was the first time I’d seen one up close. And now, each time I passed by this guy, I longed to climb onto the bed beside him and fall asleep. There was something very ironic about his presence and every time I caught a glimpse of him and realized I had kilometres left to run, my heart dropped a little.

The second thought was a little more unsettling. Back when the Welland long course was unveiled in the winter, it was clearly a great preparation race for Muskoka 70.3. I signed up for both and at Welland, a more manageable course in terms of topography, my struggles had the added edge of putting serious doubt into my mind for the Muskoka run. At Welland, I could see my run pace plummet with every passing kilometre, I could hear my body tell my mind to stop. If I was struggling in Welland, how bad would Muskoka eat me up?

Pinpointing the reasoning behind an implosion is a difficult task, but like clawing at an old wound, it’s one that has to be endured.

Welland was baking that Sunday morning. It felt like an oven. Maybe I was over-heated? Maybe I pushed a too hard on the bike? Maybe I ran too quickly out of transition? Maybe my taper was wrong? Maybe I didn’t hydrate at the numerous aid stations on the run?

I’ll never know the reason for sure. I can only speculate or presume that several little reasons contributed in some way to my demise.

When my race was done, I caught sight of a large, industrial looking fan that MultiSport Canada had placed perfectly just beyond the finish line – a very nice touch on a hot day. I sat down beneath it like some lost pilgrim seeking shelter and tried to cool down, tried to make sense of the heat and my run.

No answers came and sometimes they don’t, but we’ll push on. That’s the cruel beauty of this sport.