Leah Blok has raced triathlons with her father, John, for years.
She would regularly get the jump in the water, but he'd find his way past her on the bike course or, occasionally, during the run portion.
But at the off-road Xterra Canmore Triathlon Festival on Sept. 2, Leah finally got the best of her dad, completing the 1.5-kilometre swim, 27-km bike and 10-km run in four hours, five minutes and 53.8 seconds (4:05:53.8), just over 17 minutes ahead of her father. Both Bloks were third in their respective age divisions—Leah in the women's 35-to-39 and John in the men's 60-to-65.
While she was thrilled to finally take one off her dad in their third time in Canmore—which both said was their favourite course on the circuit—Leah explained there were some other unusual feelings.
"It was a little unnerving," she said with a laugh. "Usually, he catches me pretty close to the start of the second lap on the bike. He's definitely a faster climber on the bike, so it was pretty unnerving when I got to the start of the third lap and I hadn't seen him yet. The entire next lap, I kept looking behind me waiting for him to catch up with his usual, 'Hey, how's it going?'
"He didn't get there and I wondered if he was OK. I was thinking he must have fallen or something must have happened. Usually when he passes me, I can relax and just enjoy the rest of the race because he's already past me, I've already lost."
The closest Leah had come to beating John was just last month in Oregon where she held the advantage late. She credited her time at the BC Bike Race in July for helping to boost her bike skills, as seven consecutive days of action increased her skill level dramatically, though left her pedalling at less than capacity for about a month afterward.
"At the beginning of August, we did the Portland Xterra and he passed me with about two kilometres to go in the run. He beat me by about 35 seconds. I could see him when he passed me the whole time, and I just had no energy left to catch him," said Leah, who now lives in Squamish. "He secretly stepped up his training ... I heard from two different sources that after that race, he started training really hard. But so did I."
This time around, she got off to a strong start in the water, but said it wasn't easy as cool temperatures left her feeling numb and struggling to breathe. John said he also had issues with the swim, which put him behind pace.
"My bike and run went reasonably well. I was third place in my age group, but except for the swim, I beat the other two in the bike and the run, so the swim was really hard for me," said John, who lives in Whistler. "Normally, it isn't. Normally, I swim reasonably well, but I don't swim cold water reasonably well.
"In the cold, I am surviving it more than I am loving it."
While bemoaning the swim, John also gave his daughter credit for her performance.
"She deserved it," he said. "This time, I never caught up to her. She's worked really hard for it in the last two years, so I'm pretty proud of her. She did great."
The elder Blok added he may have delayed the inevitable last year, as Leah put up a stellar time at the International Triathlon Union World Championships in Penticton last year after he decided not to participate.
"I have a feeling she would have beaten me in that one, too," he said. "Her game was really picking up last year and she's gotten even better."
While both are obviously fiercely competitive with one another, with their covert training and misdirection, the Bloks also enjoy competing together as a family.
"It's like doing it with a really good friend," John said.
John has eyes on reclaiming bragging rights next time out, but Leah said her next goal is to beat her dad in a half-distance Ironman 70.3 race.
"I took him down on a mountain bike. Now it's time to conquer the road bike," she said.
McMillan completes Ironman 70.3 World Championships
Whistler's Ash McMillan completed the Isuzu Ironman 70.3 World Championships race in South Africa on Sept. 2.
Competing in the men's 45-to-49 division, McMillan finished 39th out of 337 racers in a time of four hours, 38 minutes and 56 seconds (4:38:56).
McMillan also competed at last year's race in Tennessee, but said this year's event was an improvement over 2017.
"It was one heck of a stage and possibly even better than the Worlds in Chattanooga last year. Definitely a much larger attendance in athlete numbers and a far stiffer competition in numbers," McMIllan said over Facebook Messenger. "(It was a) tough ocean swim, challenging bike course and a test of a run—true championship course."
Martin 10th overall at Vancouver Triathlon
Compared to 2017, Pemberton's Gary Martin improved his time and overall standing at the Vancouver Triathlon Olympic-distance event on Sept. 3. However, in a twist, he slipped from first to third in the men's 40-to-44 division.
"There was a higher calibre of my age group there," he said.
Martin completed the race in 2:14:29, an improvement of five minutes over last year, and he added it was a particularly impressive feat considering the morning's winds.
"The ocean was really, really rough. The swim was some of the worst conditions I've had since I've been racing," he said. "You couldn't get into any kind of rhythm or anything, you were just getting bounced all over the place.
"The tide was coming in, so we were swimming against the tide a lot as well."
Martin said the bike and run portions were more sheltered and not as affected by the wind.
Fellow Pembertonian Colin Richardson took 50th overall in the Olympic event while three Whistlerites, Josh Flynn, Elizabeth Peacock and Hannah Dunmore, completed the shorter sprint distance race.