Gushe takes Guelph Lake sprint triathlon again

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – The master was back and he did just that – mastered the Guelph Two triathlon course.

Len Gushe of Mattawa added to his legendary status at the Labour Day sprint triathlon in and around the Guelph Lake Conservation Area when he won Saturday’s Subaru Series event for the ninth time.

“I’ve raced here 25 years now,” he said after winning in a time of one hour, 26 minutes and 8.2 seconds. “This started in ’92 and I can remember the races in the ’90s. They were always competitive. You had guys like Simon Whitfield and Jamie Cleveland here in the early and mid ’90s. Those were fast races back then. There’re always good guys every year — they’re different guys, but they’re fast. For 25 years this race has been well contested and I’ve had reasonably good results here.”

The race features a 750-metre swim, 30-kilometre bike ride and seven-kilometre run. After getting out of Guelph Lake in second place behind former Guelph Gryphon varsity swimmer Jessey The Elf (his legal name) of Waterdown at the end of the swim, Gushe built a lead of nearly three minutes by the end of the second leg thanks to posting the quickest bike segment of all. However, that lead dwindled to 12.7 seconds at the end as Elf tried to chase him down.

“My races turn out to three-kilometre sprints – just a suffer-fest,” Gushe said. “All the way from the turnaround to the finish line I just have to gut it. Ultimately, I just do my best and if he catches me, he catches me and if he doesn’t, that’s fine. I do realize he’s trying his best and so am I. That’s part of the joy out there.”

However, the 54-year-old Gushe admitted he was surprised when he saw how close Elf, 22, was to him at the turnaround for the run. The Guelph Lake races on both the bike and the run are out-and-back affairs so the competitors can see exactly how close their nearest competitor is to them.

“You go out on the run with a two-minute lead, you’re feeling pretty confident and you get to the turnaround and you see the lead’s 30 seconds, you realize he’s made a minute and a half on me in half the run and he’s only got 30 more to make,” Gushe said. “You just do the math like that and you realize, OK, unless I can somehow will myself to up the pace, he’s got me. At that point, it’s just an all-out go for the last 3k. It hurts, but in a sense you’re getting chased so there’s that motivation.

“If I had a two-minute lead at the turnaround, there’s no way I would’ve run that hard in the second half. I’m coming here to just race myself and do my best, basically, but there’s a certain amount you can push yourself and then when you get a dynamic like that, you’re going to get an extra two or three per cent out of yourself just from the sheer competitiveness that every guy has got inside him.”

Elf had both the fastest swim and fastest run, but was ninth fastest on the bike.

A competitive race is why Gushe competes in the Guelph race.

“When you come here you know it’s on,” he said. “Very seldom did I ever have a minute’s win. I either won by seconds or I didn’t win at all. Either way it meant for a hard, hard race from start to finish. One of the pleasures of coming here is you always get that at this race.”

This year was his slowest winning time as he returned to the sport after an absence of five years due to work commitments. He’s a physician and two other physicians at the practice he works unexpectedly left, leaving it short-staffed.

With time off to compete in triathlons and to keep other areas of his life intact, Gushe figures it will allow him to work longer than most.

“I’ll probably be one of these guys that puts in 50 years,” he said. “I’m not working as hard as most physicians do so. Most physicians are done by the time they’re 65 or 70, but I’ll probably be one of these guys who’s still going into his 70s if they let me.”

It’s possible Gushe could be swimming for the Guelph Marlin Aquatic Club in the future, something he has done in the past.

“I swam masters with the Marlins in ’05,” he said. “I quite enjoyed that. I’m thinking of doing some masters swimming, maybe next year. Up north, unfortunately, there’s no clubs so I thought maybe I’d call (the Marlins) up and say ‘Hey, you still running a masters’ club because I need a team.’

“You can go to races as an unattached swimmer, but there’s not much joy in that. You’re a solo effort and the camaraderie of being on a team is much more pleasant. Yeah, I’ll be looking for a masters swim team pretty soon, I suspect.”

Sharon Gallant-Pierce of Hamilton was top female finisher in 24th place with a time of 1:38:42.0. The race had 399 finishers.

Mike Stanley (1:13:14.5) of Stratford and Melissa Cooper-Vanderbolt (1:20:05.5) of Milton were the winners in the sprint swim-bike.

Scott Finch (1:25:08.5) of Kintore, Ont., and Kim McAdam (1:39:46.3) of Mississauga were triumphant in the sprint duathlon.

Tristen Jones (32:38.2) of Peterborough and Kira Gupta-Baltazar (37:40.5) of Kleinburg were the Try-a-Tri winners.