Saanich triathlete places fifth at Worlds

Lauren Babineau fifth in age group at championships in Mexico while Saanich's Brennen Smith finishes 51st for junior men

Lauren Babineau grabs a bite of food from a fuel station during the run portion of the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Championships in Cozumel

Lauren Babineau grabs a bite of food from a fuel station during the run portion of the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Championships in Cozumel

A pair of Saanich triathletes were among the top Canadians at the ITU World Triathlon Championships in Cozumel, Mexico over the weekend.

Lauren Babineau, 27, continued her best year as a triathlete with a fifth place finish in the Olympic distance category (1.5-kilometre swim, 40km bike and 10km run) in the uber-competitive 25 to 29 age women’s bracket. Her time of two hours, 11 minutes and 38 seconds was also the tops for Canadians in her group (Britain’s Emma Deary won the bracket in 2:06:25). More than that, she nearly made the podium in the same type of sweltering heat that forced her to abandon the World Duathlon Championships in Spain three years ago.

“I’ve had a poor race resume in the past with races in the heat, and [Sunday] was a challenge like never before. ‘Hot’ is an understatement, and I finished well,” Babineau said.

Saanich’s Brennen Smith, 19, who trains under the same coach as Babineau, came away 51st overall amongst junior men (19-and-under).

With a water temperature of 28.5 C, it is imperative to be careful not to overheat. Smith managed a strong swim and came out within seconds of the lead swimmers, about 10th out of the water. Unfortunately, his race began to slide when he lost a handful of precious minutes with mechanical issues on his bike. He finished the bike two minutes back of the leaders and had an overall race time of 58:54. American Austin Hindman won the junior men’s in 54:02.

“For the bike section I was stuck in the small chain ring the whole way,” Smith said. “I lost contact with the front pack and from there my chances at a top-10 were done. But that’s the way it goes sometimes, otherwise I’m happy with how the season went.”

Aside from Cozumel, Smith had a promising season. He was second and third in the national junior series races for Edmonton and Montreal, respectively, and was the U19 top finisher at the Vancouver Sun Run with a time of 31:54.

For Babineau, overcoming the heat was a ‘victory’ in itself.

“The last 5km run [of the 2013 World Duathlon Championships] was the hardest run to finish in my entire athletic career to date,” Babineau recalled. “The hot weather sucked the life out of me. I hit a wall. I literally collapsed over the fence. If you would have seen me leaning over the race fencing, you would have seen how broken I was.”

Hence, the local sales associate is happy with her Cozumel results. Leading up to race day, she did everything in her power to stick to her training regime with a nutrition and hydration plan.

The ocean waters were so clear she was nearly distracted by the colourful fish below her during the swim. She then had one of the top five bike splits out of the 500 or so women at the triathlon.

When it came to the heat, it was 32 C with no shade. Put bluntly, it was like running in an oven, Babineau said.

“I grabbed three cups of ice water as I ran by each aid station. One I threw over my head, another down the back of my neck, and the last one I attempted to drink as much as I could while running.

“I would have liked to have nabbed a podium position… however, fifth in the world is a pretty cool feat.”

Babineau is now left to contemplate the next steps of her athletic career. As an open age group competitor, she was eight minutes back of Canada’s Sarah-Anne Brault. The latter, a former Victoria resident and a 2016 Rio Olympian, was the top Canadian woman in the elite race with a Cozumel time of 2:03:35.