With a healthy, 30-minute lead in her age group coming off the bike leg, Cailla Patterson did something rather uncharacteristic.
The 45-year-old Kelowna triathlete resisted the urge to put the pedal to the metal and simply enjoyed her journey to the finish line at the 2018 edition of Subaru Ironman Canada.
“I got off the bike in a great position and from there it was surprisingly easy and fun,” said Patterson. “It’s not in my nature to pull back at all, when I get to the run, I usually hammer it. But I had a bit on an injury I wanted to look after, so I didn’t hammer it down this time and just really enjoyed the moment. When I was finished I was super happy.”
When all was said and done Sunday in Whistler, Patterson had won the women’s 45-49 division in dominating fashion—by more than 45 minutes—in 11 hours three minutes 45 seconds.
Age group athletes wait for the start of the swim portion of the #SubaruCanada #IRONMAN #Canada event on July 29, 2018 in #Whistler, #Canada. Photo by Tom Pennington #anythingispossible #IMCanada #IM703Canada #IRONMANCanada pic.twitter.com/N9oHuzS4b9
— IRONMAN Canada (@ironmancanada) August 1, 2018
In her 20th race at the Ironman distance—3.8 km swim, 180 km bike and 42.2 km run—she was fifth among all women competitors, while placing an impressive 63rd in a field of 1,626 athletes from around the world.
On top of it all, it was a scorching, hot day in Whistler, reaching temperatures of 35 C. More than 15 per cent of those entered in the race were unable to finish, an alarmingly high number for an event of Ironman Canada’s stature. For Patterson, the conditions were right up her alley.
“I love the heat, it doesn’t bother me at all,” she said, “but that biking leg, 8,400 feet of elevation, that was torture for a lot of people in that kind of heat.”
For someone who was told by doctors seven years ago she should think about choosing another sport, her performance at Ironman Canada was further confirmation for Patterson that she was made for triathlon.
In 2011, she suffered multiple injuries when she was hit by a truck while riding her bike. It was a painful and arduous road back, complicated by a torn ACL in 2012, but by 2014 Patterson was racing again and more determined than ever.
“Giving it up wasn’t really an option for me,” Patterson said. “To choose another sport, that’s not who I am. I love endurance racing. It would take a lot to tear me away from it.”
Patterson has learned to live with pain but considers it a basic sacrifice, a small price to pay to continue to pursuing her sport of passion. And she shares that love for triathlon with her spouse, Dale Patterson, who has completed 25 Ironman races during his long and competitive career.
As for managing the pain on a daily basis, the key for Patterson is remaining perpetually active, usually rising at 4 a.m., stretching extensively and climbing into the pool for a swim by 5:15 a.m. The further away she gets from that bike crash seven years ago, the more separation there is from the chronic pain.
“I’d say it’s more under control now, I’m not pain free but it’s improving all the time,” she said. “This race, it’s by far the best I’ve felt in a long time. It’s taken a long time to feel comfortable coming off the bike, but it’s getting there. It’s nice to feel more power and be able to train more.”
Patterson hopes that positive progression will follow her to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii this October for the Ironman World Championships.
Her personal best at worlds is 10 hours 52 minutes in 2016, a time she fully plans on bettering this fall.
Among other local connections at Ironman Canada, Brent McMahon, a two-time Olympian born in Kelowna who now lives in Victoria, won the overall title in 8:31:33.
— IRONMAN Canada (@ironmancanada) July 29, 2018
Kelowna’s Laurelee Nelson placed third in the women’s 60 to 64 division and 149th among all women in 14:30:22.
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