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For Beals and Annett, a podium finish is still a heartbreak

Top Canadian finishers reflect on Ironman Mont-Tremblant, with Beals questioning whether he'll compete in Kona

Photo by: Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images for Ironman

Everything about Cody Beals emanates grace and good sportsmanship. Yet the two-time Ironman Mont Tremblant champion didn’t try to contain his disappointment Sunday with his third-place finish. At 8:14:13, it was nearly 16 minutes slower than his sub-eight-hour record on the same course in 2019.  

“I’m a little heartbroken,” he said after the race. “It’s still settling in, I guess.”

Beals, 32, of Guelph, Ont., has already secured his Kona slot, with his victory at Lake Placid on July 23. So he returned to Mont-Tremblant with one goal: to top the podium for a third time.

“This race is really special for me,” said Beals. “I have been coming here since I was a little kid. I have raced here close to 10 times now, between the 5150 and the 70.3, and now three Ironmans.”

MONT TREMBLANT, QUEBEC – AUGUST 21: Cody Beals of Canada crosses the finish line in third place after completing the Ironman Mont-Tremblant on August 21, 2022 in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images for Ironman)

“I am really proud of my swim,” he said. “I’ve been working very hard on that, putting in 30 km weeks consistently. I came out of the water with a fantastic pack. And then I just struggled on the bike, which has been a pattern this year for me. So, clearly, it’s back to the drawing board with the bike training.”

Beals ended up 10th off the bike, then clawed his way up the field, scoring the fastest run leg of the day — at 2:41:35, more than a minute ahead of the winner, American Collin Chartier.

“I rallied on the run, but not quite enough, with a field of this calibre,” Beals said.

Sunday’s race was only the second Ironman of 29-year-old Chartier’s career — and the first on an unabbreviated course — but Beals said he knew the unranked Ironman athlete would be the one to watch out for.

“Collin really flew under most people’s radar, but I had marked him as the guy to beat after what I believe was an 11th-place finish in PTO Edmonton, which I assumed came during his Ironman training block. So he was the man to beat, as far as I was concerned.”

Beals had had his eye on second-place finisher Josh Amberger, too.

“Poor Josh — the Australians have been stuck there for a long time during the pandemic, so he has barely been able to race off the continent,” said Beals. “They let him out, and he showed that he has not been wasting the pandemic, that’s for sure: very impressive fitness.”

The gentleman-triathlete also had fine things to say about Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches, the 29-year-old sensation from Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs, Que., who smashed the course record at Xtri Canadaman/Woman on July 3. 

“Those ultra events — much respect, but sometimes it is hard to know what the calibre of the competition is like. Antoine demolished that race, but I didn’t know what the context was. So evidently, that ultra training is working for him.”

“I think he put in a phenomenal performance today,” Beals said of Jolicoeur Desroches’ seventh-place finish. “He is working on his PhD right now, which makes it even more impressive. The rest of us are full-time professional athletes. He was right in the mix.”

MONT TREMBLANT, QUEBEC – AUGUST 21: (Left) Rachel Zilinskas of the United States, (Center) Haley Chura of the United States and (Right) Jen Annett of Canada celebrate on the podium after completing the Ironman Mont-Tremblant on August 21, 2022 in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images for Ironman)

Always the bridesmaid 

If Penticton, B.C.’s Jenn Annett, the second-place woman in Sunday’s race, didn’t actually use the word “heartbreak,” it was there, in the quaver in her voice as she dissected her performance.

“I thought I had a pretty good chance,” she said. “It’s hard, because I want a really good day in Kona, so I am in the thick of training right now. I have a lot of miles on my legs, and I had a really short taper. Honestly, my legs didn’t feel great on the bike.”

Annett was second-fastest on the bike course, behind Australia’s Renee Kiley, and with a marathon time of 3:09:38, just five seconds behind top finisher Haley Chura on the run. But that first-time Ironman victory once again eluded her.

“I was really hoping for that today, but Haley had a spot-on day,” she said.

Something to prove in Kona — or not

Annett has had to overcome adversity and more than her share of bad luck in the past couple of years — never mind losing two years of racing to COVID.

Her dream of a top-10 finish at Kona was trashed in 2018, when a rainstorm shorted out several competitors’ electronic shifters, including hers. 

“I was in the shape of my life,” she said, looking back. “I was stuck on the road for 15 minutes, and that put a damper on my race…. I ended up doing the whole race with just my rear derailleur.” 

The following year, there was another glitch at Kona, when a media motorcycle struck her on the course.

This year, COVID caught up with Annett in January, leaving her with lingering heart rate issues for weeks.

“My resting heart rate was well above 80, and I’d be running a snail’s pace, slower than I do a recovery run in, and my heart rate would be 190. It took a long time to come back from that.”

She only had eight weeks of solid training before Ironman Texas, then finally, a solid race in Des Moines a few weeks later that saw her take silver and nab her Kona slot.

“So things are getting better and better and better,” said Annett. “I can’t complain. I just wish I had that number one spot.”

If Annett has something to prove at Kona this year, Beals is not sure yet that he will even show up for Ironman’s premiere event.

“I am going to take a week and then decide on that,” he said. “The sands are shifting in triathlon. There are a lot of opportunities these days.”

“Kona may not have the prestige or essential nature that it once did for professional athletes. I have had some conversations with sponsors; they are all very supportive of whatever I choose. I see a lot of compelling opportunities.”

Deciding what makes most sense for his future as a pro triathlete is a good problem to have, Beals admits. Stay tuned for that decision.