Monday, December 3, 2012

Race Report: Sprint Triathlon World Championships, Auckland, New Zealand

To say I’ve taken a long time to post this race report would be an understatement. To say I’ve taken a wicked long time would be more appropriate, but still a bit of an understatement. It’s been more than a month and I’ve learned my lesson.

My plan was to write the report as soon as I returned to the States. Ha! I vastly overestimated my competence after 35 hours of traveling. “They” say it takes one day for every hour’s worth of time difference. That meant that it would take me 17 days to be with-it. Pshaw! (Or so I thought…)

They (who the Hell are the people who calculate these things anyway?) were right. I didn’t completely trust anything that came out of my mouth for the first week and didn’t dare try to write. By the second week, I was pretty sure I was making sense, but I still felt like there was a layer of fuzziness between me and the real world…And then I started cooking.

I made all these delicious things like quinoa stuffing, veggie sushi with edamame spread, sweet potato pie truffles, stuffed mushrooms and a delicious broccoli-potato soup that was vegan until we added parmesan cheese (we do that a lot). And I got really excited about sharing the deliciousness with you, but alas, I knew that posting recipes before posting my race report would be completely unacceptable to some of you. And so, of course, I procrastinated (just like I’m doing now). In fact, I procrastinated so effectively that I am left with no choice but to use pretty pictures to try to distract you from the blandness of this race report.

Team USA
Let’s see. We arrived on a Thursday. It was pouring. And sunny. And windy. And raining again. And sunny again. This pattern continued for the six days we were in Auckland. I’m used to sun and rain—and cold (it was about 45°F)—but wind has always been my bete noir. On Thursday and Friday, the winds ranged between 80 and 130 km/hr. Translation: When running into the wind, I made very little forward progress, but when I had a tail wind, I was flying. The effect was similar on the bike, with a headwind, tailwind, crosswinds and the occasional “upwind” that would catch the back of my aero helmet and make me turn my head. By Saturday, the winds had “calmed” (dwindling to 50-80km/hr) and stayed “calm” through race day on Monday.

The first few days were spent acclimating (a lot easier than on the way back), riding the course (on the left hand side of the road, of course), running along the waterfront (where there are lots of gorgeous yachts…all that wind is perfect for America’s Cup training), swimming in Auckland harbor (cold water with very low visibility), swimming in a gorgeous indoor pool called The Tepid Baths, meeting my teammates and, of course, eating.

On Saturday, we watched the elite women race. We saw rockstars like Sarah Groff and Andrea Hewitt do gorgeous flying mounts onto their bikes and watched Gwen Jorgenson go from 19th off the bike to a second place finish.

Sarah Groff

Andrea Hewitt
On Sunday afternoon, we checked our bikes in and attempted to get body marked. I say “attempted” because it started to pour while we were waiting to get body marked. I stood in the monsoon for about an hour and when I finally reached the body markers, they said they couldn’t put my age category (each age group was assigned a letter, women 30-34 was “F”) on my leg because my leg was too wet. Slightly disgruntled and entirely freezing, I returned to the hotel where my clever husband used a ballpoint pen to write an “F” on the back of my leg.

Race Day:

Like Nationals, we weren’t allowed a bike or a swim warm-up, but running around trying to find a porta-potty, coordinate with Pete to drop off one bag of stuff and find the bag drop to offload the rest of my stuff gave me plenty of opportunity for a light jog and a solid dynamic warm-up.

The Swim:

We lined up by wave on the pier and then filed down the gangway and onto the pontoon. There were about 120 people in my wave, all of the women 25-29 and 30-34. We were told to sit as soon as we got to an open spot, but we could only fill the first half of the pontoon. I sat with my feet in the water and splashed water on my face again and again and again in an effort to minimize the shock I’d feel when my face first hit the water. I was feeling pretty comfortable. I’d been doing this for a few minutes when a few women came over and apologetically explained that they had to squeeze in. I shifted my hips to allow them in. I was no longer comfortable.

Shortly thereafter, we were given the command to enter the water and, within 30 seconds, we were off. It was crowded. I hadn’t gotten a very good push-off from the pontoon and found myself swimming under, over and tangled up in other women for the first 300 meters. I finally got clean water as I rounded the first buoy. I focused on my stroke, flipping my hips from side to side, and stayed focused. I had no idea where I was in the pack. I saw a few green caps (my wave) in front of me and passed a few red caps (men 25-29 and 30-34). I reached the ramp onto the pontoon (which I couldn’t see until it was right under me), swam as far up as I could, got to my feet and started the long run along the pontoon, up the stairs, around the corner, along the outside of the transition area (dodging the trolley tracks), around another corner, into the transition area and finally to my bike.

7/62 AG
46/518 women
231/1208 overall

The Bike:

My transition was quick, BUT I can’t do a flying mount yet so I put my bike shoes on, grabbed my bike and ran (and ran and ran) out to the mount line, mounted my bike and took off. FYI: running in bike shoes is much slower than running barefoot. I will be doing a flying mount by next season.

The bike felt great. I was fierce and focused just as I was supposed to be. (For the first time ever, I’d written out a detailed race plan and ya know what? Everything went just as it was supposed to…have I mentioned my awesome mental skills coach, Dr. G?) The hills were just as long and/or steep as they’d been in training. The roads were a little wet and the wind was down to about 30mph. A few months ago, I would’ve freaked about riding in those winds, but with my newfound wind confidence (earned just a few days before, mind you), I was fine. I wasn’t alone, which was a nice change. As a swimmer who’s still figuring out this crazy biking thing, I’m typically alone for most of the bike. This time, I found myself surrounded by Aussies and Canadians (whose red uniforms were unfortunately a wee bit see-through). I nailed my dismount and ran and ran and ran (thank God I was barefoot this time) along the outside of the transition area (dodging more trolley tracks), around the corner, into the transition area and finally to my spot where I did what I always do in T2: racked my bike, put on my sneakers and started running.

40/62 AG
181/518 women
711/1208 overall

The Run:

The run course weaved around the Auckland waterfront. We dodged more trolley tracks, scampered over cobblestones and skidded along wet bricks. I felt good—relatively speaking. This was a sprint so it’s all done at balls-to-the-wall pace, which is fine, unless you actually think about it. I passed some people. I had no idea where I was in my age group. I could now see people’s calves. I passed some women with “F”s on their legs, some with “E”s, some without letters and some with unidentifiable letters. Around the halfway point, I met up with my friend David. His goal was to keep me from passing so I tried—and completely failed—to hide for a little while. I finally went for it with about a mile to go and held on for maybe two minutes before he passed me back. I stayed a few feet behind him until the final turn when he turned on some super-speedy jets and I grabbed an American flag from the Team USA coach.

20:57 (5.3K)
12/62 AG
68/518 women
459/1208 overall

15/62 AG (2nd American)
88/518 women (5th American)
517/1208 overall

It was an absolutely incredible experience. Thank you so much to everyone who helped make it happen!

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