Any triathlete will tell you that completing an Ironman takes an ability to think on the fly and adapt to changing situations.
But Dre Morel probably had something a little different in mind.
The lifelong Whistler resident had always planned to propose to partner Melissa Schneiderova sometime on July 29, which was this year's Subaru Ironman Canada.
But how and when ended up changing on the day.
Originally, Morel was going to propose sometime after Schneiderova had finished, as she was projected to finish about two hours after he did. However, old hip and knee injuries flared up about a month before the race leaving him wondering if he could even compete.
Morel wanted to complete the triathlon before getting on one knee.
"Everyone was saying 'It's just a race.' Yeah, it was just a race, but I had another plan," he said. "I did the swim, and my plan was if I could make it through the bike, I could walk."
The nagging pains slowed his pace, and when the couple caught each other going opposite directions, Morel decided to change his plan.
"I saw Mel when we were passing each other. She looked fantastic and had a lot of energy and I was struggling. She told me 'Don't push it, it's not worth it. Don't injure yourself more. Wait for me and we'll finish together,'" he recalled over coffee at Blenz with Schneiderova by his side. "A lightbulb clicked in my head: 'That's a much better idea.'"
So Morel changed his plan on the fly—and his new plan meant he needed to somehow get the ring from his mother, who was volunteering at the finish line. While he was keen to finish with his love, he needed to get the ring before she could get close enough to get a sense anything was afoot.
"It actually made me run faster because I saw my sister and all her friends with their bikes. I knew I had to get there and tell them to get the ring off my mom," he said.
He asked one of his sister's friends to collect it, which she did, but when she met him at Lost Lake, she had the ring—but no box. His sister got the box to complete the package, but stored it in a hat on her handlebars as Schneiderova bore down on Morel with about five kilometres to go.
"We came to the last one or two kilometres, where there's an aid station. Mel just went for a last bathroom break, so I grabbed the box," Morel said, adding that he stored it in a Coke cup.
"Oh, you had the box in there?" Schneiderova asked him—hearing some of the story for the first time.
"I had the box in the cup," Morel confirmed.
"Oh my God," she added.
"It was on my left side, and then Mel came out and I made sure she was on my right side. I grabbed her hand and made sure, 'Oh, you're staying on this side,'" he said.
However, Schneiderova became suspicious of the cup, wondering why he didn't toss it when he had ample opportunity. Morel eventually threw it out and had to hide the box in his hand, though bystanders spotted it and could get a sense of what was going on.
Schneiderova, who moved to Whistler in 2016, said she didn't get a sense anything was bubbling. She knew that Morel planned to propose sooner rather than later but admittedly, as she was in the final steps of a roughly 225-kilometre triathlon, that wasn't where her mind was focused.
With the element of surprise still on his side, Morel settled on the red carpet approaching the finish line as the best place to pop the question.
"It was the final stretch and I saw that no one was in front of us and no one was behind us," he said. "I just ran in front of her, did the whole one-knee thing, and didn't get an answer from her. She was just in shock."
Added Schneiderova: "It was a very hot, long day and I was definitely not expecting to be asked that question. Obviously, I said yes."
Adding to the fun is that it was the first time the couple's family had all been together at the same time.
As for the future? There are no wedding plans quite yet, but both were leaning towards completing the half-distance race in 2019. But they'll always remember the year they spent training for this year's race, and what it did for their relationship.
"If we can make it through all that training together, we can make it through anything in life," Morel said.
Added Schneiderova: "We learned so much about ourselves as individuals and also as a couple."