The day started pretty early. 5:30am to be exact. Despite what my roommate Gary might tell you, I did not sleep well. Just like a big race (or any race,) I was wide awake well before the alarm went off. The plan was to do an easy 5.5 mile run to the pool, swim the daily minimum (3k,) run 1.5 miles back, and then depart for our 75 mile bike ride to Whistler. It sounds like a big day, but compared to what's coming, this is nothing.
The run to the pool was pretty uneventful. John lead us out in order to keep the pace reasonable. We mostly followed the path around the lake and had some pretty nice views of the city. It's probably an understatement to say that Vancouver is gorgeous. Water and green stuff EVERYWHERE! The temperature at 6:15 was even tolerable! My legs were a little stiff and my ankles were tight, but things loosened up midway through. I could tell that they wanted to GO, but I resisted as best I could. http://www.strava.com/activities/182617662
The pool we swam at was 137 meters long. For a comparison, a long-course pool is 50 meters, so this thing was massive. Except for the advanced calculus that we had to do in our heads to figure out how long 3k is, the long lengths made counting fewer laps much easier. Once we got ready, John laid out the plan: 10 lengths (1370 meter) race. Alright, game on. I went out hard and got on John's feet in second place. The pace was strong but manageable, and I held on for four lengths. But then the pace picked up and five people passed me. No, I didn't blow up, Mark! Finishing in 7th wasn't amazing, but I didn't dig myself into a hole either. After the fun "race," we did a 1000m "bands-only." What is bands-only? It's torture for swimmers. Take an old bike tube and tie your feet together and try to swim. I wouldn't call what I did swimming; it was more like a fish dying. I thought I was cheating by doing a butterfly kick, but from what I hear, that was par for the course. Afterward it was just a short jog back to the hotel.
We had a quick breakfast and were out on our bikes by 10am. John lead the way out of Vancouver and kept the pace low to keep the group together. We snaked through Stanely Park (gorgeous!) and took a bunch of side streets that you'd only now if you were a local. Once we got out on the main highway, John dropped the hammer. For the most part, everyone was able to hang on. His pull lasted quite a bit longer than I expected, and after the first aid station, I didn't see him again until Whistler. After a few lead changes with people hammering at the front, the group was starting to spread out. I'm not sure if it was the pace or the endless flat tires, but 50 miles in, the lead group was down to four. And then another flat brought us to a halt as well only to be passed by another group. I decided to hang since the dudes I was with were pretty cool.
At that point, I realized there was very little point to pushing hard to the finish. I was still really fresh from sitting in all day, but the first day was not the day to be a hero. I tried to stick with a few guys, but the hills were starting to eat into their legs. I wasn't crushing it, but I was still gapping them. "Save it for tomorrow" became my mantra as I was enjoying the scenery and taking pictures. http://www.strava.com/activities/182613980
Speaking of which, the scenery was breathtaking. I've seen gorgeous mountains, but I was blown away. It's hard to adequately describe how nice they were, so hopefully my pictures turned out alright.
Lunch was waiting for us when we got to Whistler. Recovery smoothies and turkey wraps with avacado were on tap, and our rooms were ready for check-in immediately. It's incredible how awesome the support crew is here.