Al Marleau beats the odds

Al Marleau in action. Photo submitted

Conditions were definitely not ideal for the Long Course Provincial Triathlon Championships in Oliver B.C. on June 4.

We woke up to a blustery day for the 2km swim, 94km bike and 21.1km run, with whitecaps on Lake Tuculnuit indicating we were about to have a challenging swim to start the day.

I probably swallowed a litre or more of water through the choppy lake swim. Swimming is definitely the weak link of all the three disciplines for me, so to escape the lake swim feeling relatively fresh, felt good. However, an unusually long 4,500 meter transition up to the elementary school seemed like an eternity.

On to the bike into 20-30km winds, on a rolling and hilly ride, gusting at times up to 40km/hr made for a strategic ride. If I pushed too hard, I would risk blowing up my legs for the final leg of the triathlon, so I kept extremely disciplined, and managed my pace through heart rate targets. This was probably the hardest bike leg of a race I have ever ridden.

As I passed many on the course, offering words of encouragement, many commented on how difficult the ride was and they could feel the life being sucked out of their legs. Alas into transition for the final leg , a relatively flat two-loop half marathon run with a 2.5km uphill to the finishing line.

Those last two to three kilometres tested my already thrashed legs from the bike and run portion to this point. My quads were screaming, but knowing the finish was close, I persevered and crossed. What a relief. It was not a personal record , but my just over five-hour finishing time was good given the conditions.

I was not sure how I finished with regards to my age group and knowing this was the provincial championship, I was curious about my result. About an hour after the finish results were posted.

I was extremely happy to find out I had placed first in my age group for the provincial title! A very proud moment for me, especially knowing swimming is a challenge for me.

This was a confidence builder as I build towards the 2017 International Triathlon Union Multisport World Championships in Penticton in August. I will be competing for Team Canada as an elite age group athlete in the Sprint Duathlon (5km run/20km bike/2.5km run) and the Long Course Triathlon (3km swim/120km bike/30km run). This is the first time the multisport worlds will be held in Canada and I am extremely proud and privileged to be able wear the Maple Leaf and represent our country.

My strength is the duathlon, as I finished eighth in Australia two years ago, and hope to crack the top five this year. In the long course a top-20 would be great. I’m looking forward to having family and friends cheering me on in Penticton. As an almost 58 year old guy, who has run close to 50,000km and biked another 35,000km over the last 19 to 20 years, people often ask why I do it.

For me it is a passion, and I love to challenge myself, not only physically but mentally to push myself beyond where I think I can go. It is amazing what the human spirit can accomplish when you plan, commit and dedicate yourself to excellence.

And for me my performance has continually improved, so regardless if you may think you’re too old to start, you are not, and I am living proof of that. Putting limitations on oneself is a psychological barrier that we impose on ourselves.

Looking forward to competing against the world’s best!