Sunday, September 7, 2014

ITU World Triathlon Race Report!

Wow, where to start? The anticipation of going to this race was crazy! So much planning, so much training, so much anxiety! Then it's come and gone in what feels like an instant.

Bill and I left for Canada and the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Edmonton on Thursday - my race wasn't until Monday. In retrospect it might have better to arrive a day or two later and then stay for a few days post race. That way we could have enjoyed Canada without all of my pre-race nervousness. I wasn't nervous about the race, like you are an Ironman where you are thinking did I do enough, am I ready?

I knew I was physically ready; I stayed disciplined and focused in my training and have seen the improvements this season in my bike and run in previous races. My anxiety stemmed from the logistics of this race! No cars allowed at or near the venue. You had to take a shuttle on the LTS (Light Transit System) over to the site. Figuring out when and where to catch the rail.....   AND then where to catch the shuttle....  and what time do we need to get to the rail....   AND how much time do we need to allow ourselves to get over to the venue.....  If you know me at all then you know that I wanted to "practice" on how to get there. We had to go over to the venue several times anyway for different things and so by race morning we were pros with the transit system.

Thursday afternoon we drove over to the mall in Edmonton, it's the largest mall in North America - being retailers of course we had to see it! Thursday afternoon at this place looked like a busy Saturday at the Galleria or North Park Mall in Dallas! It was crazy with people! We wandered around for a bit saw the indoor wave pool, the giant play area for kids, and the seal exhibit (poor seals living in a mall!).

I used Race Day Transport to get my bike to the race. But that meant driving it 3+ hours to Dallas to the participating bike shop. RDT did a great job with my bike and I would use them again in the future. I talked with one of the folks there yesterday about the drive and they told me that if we had 5+ bikes heading out of Shreveport for an event that we could arrange a pickup from a local bike shop!! The advantage was my bike was right next to transition and all I had to do was wheel it out. The only bad part was that once you checked it out of RDT it was yours. And I didn't want to schlep it back and forth on the buses and trains, so I left it with them for a few days. I was worried about it being out in the open but then noticed as we were leaving that they cover all the bikes with giant tarps at night.

 We had to check our bikes in on Sunday and they give you a one hour window per age group for this. (found out later that it is really more of a suggestion). My time slot was from 10:00-11:00 on Sunday. Checked it out around 9:30, and got to ride it back and forth on about a quarter mile of blacktop in the park before I had to take it into transition. Rode for about 30 minutes - did some pick ups to get the legs moving. There was another race going on and so I couldn't take it out on the course. Actually a lot of the race course was closed to cars for most of the daytime hours due to races going on so I didn't get to drive the course and see what it had in store for me. Just looked at the map and talked to a Team Cambridge guy who had raced the sprint. He gave me some heads up on the hills. At the pre-race meeting we were told that if you were from Colorado they were hills, but if you were from Florida they were mountains. I would say for me - Mountains.

Bill took this because I was next to the Japanese!  
Bike Check In - had to show your helmet, race number, uniform. They made me tighten the chin strap on my helmet. okay. Rack Q. During the pre-race meeting we were told that the transition area wasn't fair. No kidding it wasn't fair. My rack (since my swim wave was last) was the farthest away from the swim entrance, and the bike and run out. End of the line. So all of us old ladies got to run the entire length of the transition area 4 times more that the people on Rack A. Think it doesn't sound like much? A third of a mile in each transition. My Garmin showed T1 was .37 of a mile and T2 was .34 in transition distance, it took me 3:15, and 3:11 respectively . And why is this important? Only when it comes to me figuring out what kind of race I had (*I'll get to this later).

Walking the transition area with my new friend!

While I was racking my bike I chatted with a couple of the women in my age group nearby and found one who wanted to walk the in's and out's of the transition area with me. Kathy was from Canada and lived about 20K from the race. How nice is that? We covered every in and out and I felt so much more at ease afterwards.

Showing Kathy that the tents were across from our bikes.
No transition towels allowed so I checked around for a marker or something to help me find my bike instead of my pink Hello Kitty towel. Fortunately the red tents we had to pass under to get into transition were directly across from my bike, perfect land mark! Notice how we are on the absolute last row of bikes? The empty ones to the right stayed that way. The laminated numbers hanging by zipties on the racks were all wet and floppy, so I used a couple pieces of electrical tape to hold my number flat. Put a little piece on the bottom corner of the number too so I'd have something else to look for in transition.

Okay, done with all that pre-race stuff so now I could relax and get mentally set for the race. Oh, we did go to the pre-race meeting. It was okay - some good information covered. They allowed questions at the end of the meeting and geez..... some people ask some really strange questions. Mostly on things that were already covered and they must have been snoozing during that part of the talk. Or saying things that weren't questions but more like complaints. Nothing that the Team Managers could do anything about- really strange things. "The ankle strap is too thick." o-k-a-y..... We were told that if you wanted to wear something over the uniform it either had to be the team jacket or a clear jacket and that you would have to wear it during the run too. One lady complained that the only jackets left for sale for the team at the host hotel were too big. I loved when she was told that it had been for sale for months on the website. She said it again, and was responded to with exactly the same comment. Haha - loved that part!

Okay.. so race morning!

Transition area open from 6:00-7:15am. My swim wave: 9:43am. Air temperature 41 degrees. Hanging around outside for almost 4 hours. Only brought one pair of running shoes, my racing flats. Mistake.... no shoes to run and warm up in- running in UGG boots.... not really practical. Found refuge in the Boathouse building! Warm. Thank goodness! But way too much chatter from all the other nervous triathletes. Have you ever noticed that when talking with other triathletes that most sentences start with " I "? A friend of mine and I were talking today and she had a great point... if you want to tell your triathlon stories over and over again.... WRITE A BLOG! Hahaha... love that!!! p.s. She writes a blog too.

We had to assemble 30 minutes before our wave went off and be "escorted" to the swim corral by a guy playing the bagpipes wearing a swim cap and goggles. Classy. We get over to the corral and I realize that I forgot to take my gel, but right before my wave goes off I see Bill on the other side of the fence about 7 feet away. Was able to ask him to get the gel out of my bag that he's carrying and he flings it to me, and I actually caught it!! People around him applauded!

We line up with one foot against the blue "blocks" and wait for the starter. During the pre-race swim a couple days before a girl and I practiced our starts, figuring out how many steps before we should dive into the water. I was also told that the time between when they said "take your mark" and the gun was really short, so I was ready. Bill caught this picture of my wave start!

See the girl closest to the camera in the streamline? That would be me!
About 100 yards into the swim, I start thinking. And then I start to get the wetsuit panic. It's not good. I reach around and unzip my wetsuit to let some cool water in and it feels better, then reach back around and try to zip it back up and I can't get it. Now I'm really upset. I came all this way and I'm thinking that I'm going to have to get out of this thing and swim in the 62 degree water without my wetsuit. I managed to swim over to the first paddle board and get him to zip me back up and swim on slowly. I even freaked out a little again and looked back to see how far I was away from the paddle board because I considered going back to it. But it was already 20 yards away, so I put my face in the water and forced myself to swim slowly and calm down. After another 200-300 yards I was able to get a grip on things and pick up my pace a little. After that I was fine and tried to swim hard for the 2nd lap of the 1500 meters.

Me, freaking out!
As I came out of the water and was running to the transition area I saw Bill and he told me I was 7th out - now that really surprised me because I know with all the freak out I lost a bunch of time out there. (It turns out I was 8th out of the water in my age group, one girl had yanked off her cap before Bill could count her.)

2 loop course around this little island.
LONG transition... over a third of a mile. I took the time to put on some gloves (didn't want the Tri-Tyler race experience again with frostbite hands), and headed out onto the bike course. Two loops on a tough course. Couldn't get my gel off my bike, I'd taped it on too well, so I passed on that. Glad I brought the
e-Fuel for the bike bottle so I really didn't need the gel. I passed a lot of people, got passed by people, and came to realize that if you live in a country where you drive on the left hand side of the road you don't know where to ride if you are racing in a country where they drive on the right hand side of the road. Where we live we call it "blocking". I can't tell you how many people from Great Britain and Australia that I had to pass on the right. Either that or it is the triathlete entitlement attitude where it is Worlds and I can ride wherever I darned well please. At any rate, I let that go and had a great ride! It was tough - there was a hill just out of transition and on the second loop I looked down and was going 7 mile per hour. Other hills I ran out of gears on the decent, but managed to average 21.1 mph!

Back in to the long transition and out onto the run. It was a two loop run with almost 2 miles of each loop on trail. Hard pack dirt trail through some really nice woods. I took my e-Gel right away since I hadn't been able to take one on the bike, initially was planning on taking it halfway through the run.  On the plane ride to Canada I finished reading "Born To Run", and while I don't advocate the whole barefoot running thing I did take away 4 little words that helped me on the trail. "Light, Easy, Smooth, Fast".  And it worked. I had the best 10K run that I've ever had in an Olympic distance triathlon. I passed so many girls and just felt awesome. On the last loop in the last 1/2 mile or so of the run I went by some spectators and one of them shouted out "NICE RUNNING, SPANSEL!!!" Finished with a 7:48 average!! (prior best? 8:00 per mile).

This is what hurt looks like.
Sub 2:30 with a wetsuit freak out, hilly bike, and almost 2/3 run on trail, and extremely long transitions.  I'll take that! (*taking out 4 minutes from the transition runs would gave given me a 2:25:30 - that's a PR too!)

I'm a firm believer in looking to what was good and what went right in your races as opposed to what was bad and what went wrong. I know that I went into this race more prepared than I have ever been for a short course race. I'm so very pleased with my race and have zero complaints! Here is what I looked like coming across the finish line. Do you think I was happy?

I found Bill and we went to the Beer Garden! Someone told me we could see results online and I pulled up this! I don't know if you can see it, but it said I was 5th in my age group! I have to admit I got teary eyed when I saw it. You see with our wave going off last in the swim, I was honestly worried about finishing last in the entire race. Was hoping to finish somewhere around mid pack with my age group. Secretly wished for a top 10 finish but really didn't think it was possible. I got to enjoy what seemed to be a 5th place for a day, and then online results showed that I was 8th in my age group. A little let down after the exhilaration of thinking I was 5th but still a top 10 finish and 5th American!!

What a fantastic experience!  Loved it, even with all the drama of my nervousness. Here are some photos that we took during our stay in Edmonton!

My handsome husband!

In the winter this lake is an ice skating rink!
Awesome little English Pub where we ate more than one meal!

Really pretty trees in Canada!

A big thank you to my sponsors!  Team Cambridge and my friend and Team Manager, Scott Eder.
Scott Eder Sports.  Sportspectrum and Matt Brown! Cobb Cycling, John Cobb, and the Cobb Mobb! Eternal Water, and ICEdot! You guys, rock!!