Archive for February, 2014

The Wintershines Blizzard Triathlon

Every winter in Saskatoon, Potash Corp presents the Wintershines Festival. Various winter events are held including ice sculpting, an ice park, soup cook-off and a winter triathlon.

A couple of months ago, my Dad started having shortness of breath and a few other warning signals at work. A trip to his doctor and several tests later showed no heart problems, but his doctor recommended retirement or a long term sick leave. He chose to retire and made a commitment to getting healthy. He and my Mom have been busy every single day since, walking at an indoor track, weight lifting, cross country skiing, and skating. Dad is also starting to run, and we will run his first 5K together this summer.

The Wintershines Blizzard Triathlon features your choice of a 1.5 km snowshoe or 3 km skate on a speed skating oval, followed by a 7km cross country ski and a 5 km run. When I broached the subject of a relay team, my parents were immediately enthusiastic. Mom was apprehensive about the ski distance, but since it was simply two laps of a 3.5 km course and an un-timed, participation focus event, I assured her she could just do one lap if she wanted.  We all agreed that the Saskatchewan winter can be nasty and if it was colder than -20 Celcius with the windchill on race day, we just wouldn’t go.


Then this happened...

Then this happened…

This was the forecast for race morning. -24, “feels like” -34! Much colder than our -20 cut-off! An email from the race organizers confirmed that if the forecast came true the distances would be shortened, and there was a possibility that the event would be cancelled altogether. We talked and were relieved that the distances would be shortened if it got colder than a -30 C windchill. Funny, no one mentioned not showing up. 😉

Race morning dawned cold, but not nearly as cold as forecast. My husband and I bundled up the kids and were on the road to Saskatoon by 7:30 for the 9:00 start. Mom and Dad arrived at 8:00 and got us registered. We arrived in time to get a few pictures before Dad took to the ice and Mom got her skis set up.

photo (53)

This event was held at the Clarence Downey speed skating oval, near Holiday Park golf course. Skaters made ten laps of the oval, came to the indoor (heated!) transition area then tagged their skier (or changed into their ski boots if they were doing the event solo). The skiers made two loops around the golf course and then the runners made their way to the river, along the riverbank for a ways, and back.

photo (54)

photo (55)

In the end, Mom did decide on just one lap. We were in the “citizen” (un-timed, non-competitive) category, so it really didn’t matter. I gave her a hug and off I went for a run.

I generally don’t run outside when the temperature gets below -15, but I have run outside as cold as -20. Any colder than that and my asthma really acts up. A trip to the hospital with an asthma attack is something I’ve done before but have no desire to do again, so I play it safe. Because of this I was nervous about this cold run, but the air wasn’t actually that cold, it was the wind. Our running course was fairly sheltered, and happened to follow a similar path to the last bit of a long run I’d done several weeks prior. With my inhaler in my pocket, I set off.

It was very icy, but I had my “spider web spikes” on my shoes and they helped a lot. I’ve been training for a half marathon, so even my speed work runs have been slower than I would usually train at for a 5K. It was kind of nice though, to run an event with no pressure on myself. I stretched out a bit for the final half mile and crossed the finish line strong in 27:04.

This was a very well-planned and executed event. It was well organized, the route was well marked, and the chili afterwards was delicious! There were lots of marshalls along the run route to help direct runners, which was appreciated. My husband and the kids had left while Mom was skiing to go to swimming lessons, so I met up with them again later and we went home. The kids were a little choked that they missed Grandma’s finish and my run, but they got over it. 🙂

Thank you to the Saskatoon Road Runners Association and the Saskatoon Triathlon Club Inc. for putting the Blizzard Tri together. It was fun, and we’ll plan to come back next year.  If it’s no colder than -20. 😉