A Nelson triathlete who travelled halfway around the world to race for Team Canada in the World Triathlon Championship says the event was the best and most challenging competition of her life.
The New Zealand race was Denise Uhrynuk’s first time competing internationally.
“People in the Kootenays look at me and think I’m a hardcore competitor, but I was peanuts compared to some of the athletes at Worlds,” said the 47-year-old, who races Olympic distance triathlons, which consist of a 1.5 kilometre swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run.
She qualified for a spot in the race after finishing in the Top 10 of her age category at last year’s Kelowna Apple triathlon.
Uhrynuk spent eight months training for the event, competing in five BC triathlons as part of her preparation, before flying to Auckland a week before her October 22 race to spend some time practicing on the course.
When she arrived, the weather was unusually nasty, and she found herself training in strong wind and rain. As race day approached, there was a risk organizers would be forced to shorten the swim portion of the event because of high ocean swells and a drop in the water temperature.
“It was actually really scary. During training, there were times when I thought the wind would blow me off my bike,” Uhrynuk recalled. “The water was so rough, with two to three foot waves. I couldn’t even see the buoys [that mark the swim course].”
Given the challenges she met with during training, Uhrynuk decided she would be happy just to make it through the course safely.
“I’d gone there with ideas of what I wanted my time to be, but after seeing the conditions, I knew none of that was going to be possible,” she said.
The morning of the race, there was a break in the rain and officials allowed the full swim course to go ahead.
Uhrynuk said the conditions were still pretty rough. She had trouble staying on course and the waves slowed her down, but she was out of the water in 35 minutes.
“My head wasn’t really in the race until I rounded the last buoy, then I started thinking, okay, I can do this.”
The bike course took her one hour, 22 minutes, then she was into her strongest leg of the sport: “I let out a whoop when got off the bike, because after that I knew I was going to make it through.”
She finished the run in just 45 minutes.
Her official time, including transitions, was 2:49:51. She finished 39th out of 74 in her age category.
At the same time Uhrynuk was competing overseas, her family and members of the local triathlon club she helps coach were at Finley’s watching her live results.
“It meant so much to me, knowing people back home were cheering me on,” she said.
Uhrynuk hopes to compete in future world events, when they’re hosted closer to home.
“It was a great experience, and I’d love to do it again,” she said.