Dale Tiessen admittedly took the Squamish Off-Road Triathlon a little lightly last year, but once he got a handle on what the event was, put a lot more focus on it for 2018.
The Whistler Triathlon Club member once again took third overall and won his men's 40 to 44 division, but trimmed over two minutes off his time. As well, he was just three minutes and 36 seconds behind winner Zoe Dawson.
Perhaps even more significantly, this year's race is an age-group qualifier for the International Triathlon Union World Championships, so he zeroed in on punching his ticket for the past year.
"I had set my sights on that right since last year, which was the first year in its off-road format," he said. "After I did it last year as a throwaway fun day, I thought 'That's a great race; I want to come back and do really well at that race.'"
The bike portion of the course was Tiessen's masterpiece, as he posted the fastest time of the day and quickly made up any deficit he faced after a slower swim than he'd hoped.
"I was not as fast out of the water as I would have liked, but I made up some ground," he said. "I jumped out of the water, I got on the bike and I moved quickly and passed a lot of people. I didn't get held up on any singletrack.
"I got out on the run and it was very lonely. I didn't see anyone out on the run at all. I knew who was probably ahead of me, but I didn't know who was behind me chasing me, so I just ran my own run and it ended up pretty good."
The off-road factor has its pros and cons on a personal level, Tiessen admitted.
"For me, it's definitely a strength. I'm stronger on a mountain bike than I am in a road triathlon format," he said. "But the trail-running format, I find it pretty challenging to run downhill.
"There's a high tripping hazard, you're going through rooty sections and there's a big risk of rolling your ankle. I find that the most challenging mentally to let yourself go."
Now that he's qualified for worlds, Tiessen will start preparing for the event in Pontevedra, Spain, next spring.
"Now I've got to start saving some money to go to Spain," he said with a laugh, adding that he's excited to represent Canada.
Other participants in the full race were: Dean Eggleton (first in men's 30 to 34); Trevor Hopkins (second in men's 45 to 49) and Louise Stevens (third in women's 30 to 34).
Meanwhile, in the sport distance, Crystal Steers placed second in the women's 30 to 34 event in her first-ever triathlon.
"I didn't expect it," she said with a chuckle. "It's nice to be familiar with the trails and being with the Whistler Tri Club, there were a few other people doing it."
Steers posted a solid time in the water, but considering it's her weakest event of the three, called it a win as she moved on to the bike portion.
"I do a lot of mountain biking and trail running, so the off-road element was the appeal for me," she said. "Once I got on my bike, I passed a lot of people and on my run, maintained my spot there."
Other locals who performed well were: Whistler's Nathan Smalley (first in men's 25 to 29); Whistler's Michael St. Eve (second in men's 35 to 39); Whistler's Joe Hunt (third in men's 25 to 29); and Pemberton's Petr Cagasek (third in men's 30 to 34).
Full results are online at www.racedaytiming.ca.