When he signed up to compete in the Vancouver Triathlon on Labour Day, Gary Martin was looking for just the right way to cap his season.
The Pemberton resident got it as he enjoyed the Stanley Park-based course. Oh, and he won his 40-to-44 age category while taking an 11th-place finish overall.
"I wanted to finish off the season with something fun. I hadn't done that race before, but I'd heard it was a pretty grassroots, nice and mellow race," he said. "I thought it would be a nice, interesting one to do."
Martin had previously done a Vancouver-set triathlon beginning in Coal Harbour, but appreciated the opportunity to start out at Second Beach on the other side of downtown.
"I had a pretty good swim, but I wasn't quite sure how the swim was going to go because the tide was going out as we started, so there was a bit of a challenge swimming against (it)," he said. "The course was a triangle — we went out, across and back.
"When we made the turn, we faced straight into the sun as it was rising up above the trees, so it was hard to see the beach and hard to see where you were going."
Martin and the field all eventually made it to shore and transitioned to the bike section.
"I'm strongest on my bike but I tend to get carried away because I enjoy it so much. I always have to try to hold things back a little bit," he said.
Martin acknowledged the run course was tougher than expected, but he powered through to complete an age-group sweep of all three sections of the race.
"You think it's a pretty flat course, but there's a couple steep climbs in Stanley Park," he said, noting the incline near the overpass is a particular challenge near the day's end. "I had a pretty steady first lap and then the second lap was just tough. I did that final climb and was 2.5 km from the finish and I just gave 'er everything I had."
Meanwhile, Whistler's Trevor Hopkins took the men's 45-to-49 division while placing 19th overall. He also had difficulties during the swim, but different ones than Martin.
"There's a lot of big rocks in the water, and when you can't see in the water, a lot of people cut their hands and feet," he said. "I stopped bleeding halfway through the bike ride, but it looks worse than it is when water hits it."
The rocky start left Hopkins in ninth in his age division after the swim, but he won both the bike ride and the run to overcome the gap.
"I wanted to place top five," he said.
Hopkins noted this event was a warm-up for the Xterra World Championships in Maui next month, which he qualified for after placing fifth at the Xterra event in Victoria earlier this year.
As a regular in Hawaii, Hopkins knows the weather could play a role, citing last year's race where heavy rains can transform the terrain.
"When it rains in Maui, their mud is incredibly slick and sticky," Hopkins said. "It gets to the point where you have to walk your bike because so much mud gets on your wheels that you can't turn the wheel."
Also in the Olympic-distance race, which comprised a 1.5-km swim, 37.6-km ride and 10-km run, Whistler's Joan Novak was sixth in the women's 45-to-49 division.
As for the sprint distance, which was half the distance of the Olympic event, Whistler's Travis Martin took 12th in the men's 25-to-29 event.