The agony of defeat is not nearly as wretched as the race itself, just ask Dallas Cain and the other survivors of the Subaru Ironman Canada triathlon held in Penticton on Sunday.
Over 2,800 athletes stood in the water and on the beaches of Okanagan Lake waiting for the start of the 3.8-kilometre swim; the first leg of the triathlon that also includes a 180 km bike ride and a 42.2 km run.
Little did they know what conditions awaited them somewhere down the road, conditions that would force almost 300 to quit and many more require medical attention.
But despite the 36 C heat, blustery winds and the sun beating down on racers like a hammer, Cain had his best finish ever, placing 18th overall and 16th among professionals in what was one of the most demanding races he has ever entered.
“I feel a little bit like I was in a good car accident right now,” said Cain on Monday. “The time wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but given what the day gave me, I was really happy with how I placed and how I dug in and just kept moving.”
The Rossland triathlete did not break the elusive nine-hour mark, finishing the race in nine-hours, 26-minutes and 44-seconds. Only seven racers beat the benchmark, including Penticton’s Jordan Rapp who won the race in 8:28.09.
Cain came out of the water in 26th place after a 1:06:35 swim, he moved his way up on the bike with the 16th fastest time, 4:55:07, and continued to advance during the most difficult stage, the marathon, putting up the 14th best time, 3:20:57.
“I struggled in the swim and road the bike as intelligently as I could to set up a good run. I got off the bike feeling okay and kept moving up in the field – I went through some guys who were very good and doing it for a long time, so that kind of gave me a lift.”
But the merciless heat compounded the physical toll of such a race.
“You’re running and it’s a weird place you go to mentally when you’re that dehydrated and staring at the lake. You can hear the waves crashing and you’re like 10-feet from the water, and your brain is saying, ‘Come on, jump in the lake.’”
Cain has raced in Ironman Hawaii and he says even the heat of the tropical island was not near as stifling as that in Penticton.
“The heat was a dry, windy heat. It was the toughest one I’ve done for sure.”
The psychological strain was almost as hard as the physical, as Cain willed himself through to the finish. The experience of 13 races helped, as he made his way through the pack, staying focused until the end.
Part of Cain’s motivation was his brother Ryan who also entered and finished second in the amateur and 19th overall, just over six minutes behind Dallas.
“He helped to keep me moving just to make sure I beat him,” laughed Dallas.
At the finish line, Dallas collapsed. Although he says it wasn’t serious, he couldn’t keep down any fluids so was attended to by medical attendants and re-hydrated.
As he lay in the medical tent, he watched “the carnage of people being brought in.” Ambulances unloaded dozens of would-be triathletes as attendants cared for those seized, contorted and exhausted.
But he kept an eye on his watch until Ryan finished and they could “celebrate” their mutual accomplishment – for although it wasn’t a win, it was certainly a victory for both Cain brothers.