Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ITU Edmonton World Cup Race Report

I realize that I am one race report behind, but the Binbrook Triathlon on June 8th was really just a great training day for me. It was an exercise in mental toughness more than anything, because I have never toed the line feeling so beat up and tired from training. It was a great opportunity for me to push through my own limits, and understand that you can walk away from a race/training session feeling completely satisfied knowing that you gave it your all, even if you didn't perform your best.

So, heading into my 1st WC race, I essentially just had the Sunday as a rest day from training, after the ITU  race in Dallas on June 1st. I have been working really hard since then, day in and day out and have seen great breakthroughs not only in my swim, bike, and run sessions, but in my mental approach to how I treat training and racing too. That was a huge positive for me in terms of building my confidence coming into this Edmonton race, and standing on that start line.

Just to make my World Cup experience truly authentic, I was chosen to participate in both blood doping control on the Friday night pre-race, and then urine doping control immediately post-race on Sunday! I understand that it comes with the territory, but that whole experience is somewhat invasive (more so the latter of the 2), and really is just an inconvenience because the process can be so lengthy, especially when it takes 5x500mL bottles of water to provide a 90mL sample! Anyway, onwards and upwards.

The race itself took place in and around Hawrelak Park. Approximately 40 minutes out from our supposed race start time, it was declared a non-wetsuit swim (the water had been~18 degrees during the practice swim on Friday, so we were expecting it to be wetsuit legal). After our swim warm up was over, we were called to assemble in the transition area for introductions, and then a 200m run down to the beach to assume our start positions. Unfortunately, we were delayed twice (apparently the roads was not properly closed to traffic), which only added to my anxiety! It was stressful enough to be facing a field of Olympians, World Champions, and World Cup champions, against a back drop of cameramen and media, and uber-dramatic "the-world-is-coming-to-an-end-and-we-must-be-prepared-for-battle" music blaring. Finally, after a 30 minute delay, which of course felt like an eternity, we were assembled again and finally made it to our start line.
It's hard to see me, but I was starting from Position 8:)
The dramatic music played up until the moment where we were told to "take our mark", and then the horn blared a split second later. It was a quick hop off of the start pontoon, a couple of strides on the beach immediately into a shallow dive/half belly flop, and then ALL OUT flailing limbs and head dunks, for what seemed like 4-500m of the swim. My primary goal for this race was just to swim my guts out and see how long I could hang with this caliber field. I feel like I achieved this goal, and was right there in the mix until maybe 100-150m to go, where I started to fade a bit, and lost a bit of contact. Overall, I was within 20s of the main pack, which really is a huge breakthrough for me. I think that I'd normally be more than a minute back, and have never faced such a strong field before.

T1 was critically important, and it was ~200m from the beach to our bikes, and then another 50ishm to get out of T1. I have to say that despite having a great swim, it took SOOOO much out of me! What I really needed to do was have a little sit-down and rest at one of the park picnic tables, but instead everyone was running like Usain Bolt to get to their bikes! I just couldn't keep up with that kind of intensity, so with a relatively slow transition, I missed catching on to a larger pack of women for the ride.

Normally, the bike segment of the race would be considered a strength of mine, but coming right out of T1, we were headed straight uphill. I was still huffing and puffing like crazy coming out of the swim and transition, so this 1st hill just put me under. I was never really able to recover on this hilly, and at times, quite technical bike course. I had a fleeting moment of disappointment, as I just couldn't put out the wattage that I knew that I was capable of and when I just couldn't catch or bridge up to the other girls. I checked myself immediately after having those thoughts, and reminded myself that I've got to remember where and who I'm racing, and to take in and soak up the entire experience as being positive, because really, I was giving it all I had in that moment, and it wasn't for a lack of effort that I wasn't able to put out the wattage that I had hoped for.
Not having the best bike of my life, but at least my bike itself, "Sting" looked good:)
**Photos courtesy of the Edmonton Journal**

Each lap of the bike course had us coming through the blue carpet transition area, and it was amazing to have the support from the crowds in the grand stands and all over the race course. I was especially lucky to have my dear friend, Kristina Schultz, multiple time Age Group World Champion and former Professional Triathlete, round up all of her Edmontonian friends and athletes and have them cheer for me like I was the hometown girl winning the race!

The run course was 2 laps, consisting of the same, very first hill that we had to climb on each lap of the bike course. You've seen enough of that hill by the time you finish that race, and probably don't want to see it again until next year! I was happy to keep it together fairly well on the run, especially considering how I felt on and coming off of the bike. The Edmonton spectators and cheering squads definitely kept me going, and it really was an awesome experience and feeling to run down that blue carpet into the finish chute and cross the archway that was the finish line! I was smiling all the way down that blue carpet, and despite finishing pretty close to the bottom, I am thrilled to have my first World Cup race under my belt! You've got to start somewhere, right?

I'm feeling quite stiff and sore from the race already, and I'm pretty sure that I wrenched my neck in the swim, and clearly I have too much adrenaline flowing through my body to sleep, which is why I'm writing this race report at 3am...

I have to say a HUGE thank you to all of the spectators in Hawrelak Park for cheering today, John Selles, for graciously sending me to Edmonton to have this experience, Kris Schultz and her husband and kids, for all of their support and for housing me and feeding me this entire trip, and of course, to all of my teammates, training partners, coaches, friends, and family, who believe in me and who have helped to get me to this stage of my journey so far. I wouldn't be he here without you!


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