Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My 2013 Race Report

Cozumel Pre-Race Report: 

In a last minute decision 12ish weeks ago, I changed my mind about staying home for the summer. I wasn't ready to do any European racing at the time. I wasn't even ready to integrate all that much with the athletes over in Spain, but I had a feeling that if I wanted to race this year I was going to have to take some risks to make big things happen. Libby and the coaches supported me to go to Vitoria, Spain despite everything, and off I went. Upon arriving, Kyla Rollinson agreed to take me on and coach me alongside Jaime Turner's group. We both agreed that racing in the fall would be the goal, but that we wouldn't rush the progression to make it happen. If I was capable of finishing a triathlon by the fall, I would get myself in the action and prove to myself that I was still a triathlete for 2014. But no panic training.

Building up in Vitoria was a huge shock to the system, but definitely a game changer. By a combination of on-site treatment & personalized programming, I was finally turning into a full time athlete. I came home at the end of August convincing myself that I still had plenty of time to get in race shape, but time sure flies when there isn't enough of it.
Bike fit in Vancouver with Noa Deutsch & Sea to Sky ride

The two weeks after stepping off the plane rushed by in a flurry of trying to keep my knees happy since my in-flight sleeping contortions seemed to have thrown everything out of whack. Treatment, recovery, fitness maintenance, and strength & mobility were the priority. Rollering & yoga hours probably > training hours.

Long Ride back on the Island with Emma! 
 Training back on the Island was lovely, but soon enough the pools in town shut down for their regular fall maintenance. My remaining teammates who weren't already on their yearly-break (or booking another knee surgery like poor Alex) flew off to London, and soon it was just the Hoopster and I trying to meet up for chilly open water swims wherever our training schedules matched up. School started up again and everyone was getting excited about pumpkin spice lattes, and cross-country running, and I was just trying to pretend it wasn't happening. C'mon guys racing season is just starting!!! IT'S STILL SUMMER HERE!! no panic training...

Chilly Morning at Thetis Lake
 Luckily, I only had to get through a couple weeks of juggling classes and OYO training, plus a minor back-to-school cold, and what I felt was an unseasonably rainy/chilly September, before I packed up and shipped myself off to Montreal for a week of training with coach Kyla before Cozumel World Cup.

This was a very good idea.

You see, I had taken one look at the Cozumel start list and was in a bit of a panic. I ever so briefly considered switching races to the Continental Cup in Puerto Rico, but no, that was an Olympic distance race, and I had already decided that a sprint in the heat was what that the body was ready to handle. The plan was to set me up for 2014, not cause any setbacks. It had to be Cozumel. As Kyla told me, "Those are the girls you need to be comfortable racing anyways, might as well start now!"

I believed that I belonged in that race, but it was coming up so fast! Since I was mostly training on my own back home, I couldn't find any objective evidence to prove to myself that I would survive in a World Cup race. I need a new power meter, so I didn't have power to tell me if my bike fitness was improving. I loved swimming in the lake, and was super grateful to my aquasphere suit for keeping me warm and oh so floaty, but I didn't really know if I was swimming fast or not. And because I was doing my running on trails through the trees, my Garmin files were usually all over the place ( issues related to my technological abilities may also have been a factor). I was about to head to the hottest WC of the year, with heat being my biggest weakness, against a field of athletes coming off their London fitness, and I didn't feel even remotely race ready. So it all came down to the Montreal pre-race week. Maybe just one week of panic training?
Polar Bear's Club in Montreal

Atwater Market in Montreal
Visiting Kyla & Javier and their gang of athletes saved my life. Firstly, it was gorgeous Summer weather there. Thank goodness! Being back in triathlon mode allowed me to rally up some confidence while I put school to the side for a while (well as much as possible. I did end up doing a timed quiz on my phone in the dark in the passenger seat of car, which did NOT go overly well, but otherwise I don't feel too far behind). The minimal pool swimming in Victoria hadn't been the best for my speed, so we spent the week sharpening that up. I did my last big run workout before the race, on flat ground for the first time, and really surprised myself with my times. Javier worked his butt off to teach me how to corner on the bike. Kyla & Javier went out of their way to get me to massages and physio and the awesomest Spa ever, so I could cook myself in a steam room in a last ditch attempt at heat training. One day, Kyla even got a local bike shop to put a power tap on my bike for a workout to get an idea of where I was at. "You're going to be ok on the bike," she told me afterwards. I didn't totally believe her, but was glad she thought so. Finally, a couple of the big names started to drop off the startlist. It was still going to be a fast swim though, so I was feeling the pressure to not screw it up since I had been consistently swimming this year. My recent workouts hadn't been anything spectacular though, so it looked like I was going to have to just believe in myself.

Heading down to Cozumel, I set aside most of my anxieties and decided to have fun. I couldn't control how I compared to the field, I just had to focus on racing, enjoying it, and if I got absolutely owned then I would know that I had work to do for next year. Worst case scenario (other than death) I got a trip to Mehico and a break from school out of the deal!

Condo Pool & View
From that point on, I was actually pretty calm! Every time I stepped out from the safety of air-conditioned condo into the steam-room that was Cozumel, I thought oh crap, but otherwise, I'd mostly gotten over being a chronic head-case. A small voice in my head was wondering why I was doing this to myself, but I mostly suppressed it and was pretty stoked to be in Mexico. My Dad came down to watch me race which was really great since I never get to see him! Craig and his gang helped me get settled, and then the day before the race, coach Kyla flew in to Cozumel. We did a final tune up in the pool, and for the first time in a long time, I felt pretty good in the water.

Daddio on the Patio

Cozumel Race Report: 

Race morning- Sauna air. Weather network was saying 'feels like' 42 or something crazy like that. Which is indeed what it felt like. The 27 degree water was crystal clear but treacherously brought up core temp despite feeling cool when you first dove in.

We were marshalled up, and way at the back of the procession, I stood wrapped in my frozen towels with an eload slushy, looking very much like I needed to throw up. The girls lined up perfectly from right to left, so I followed along and took my spot on the far left knowing I'd somehow have to get right. And we were off! I let the other girls do the sprinting and cruised along with them feeling pretty good about myself. I then looked up and saw that everyone to the right had already made significant ground on us. No wonder it had felt cruisy. I didn't bother wasting energy on worrying about it, and broke free of the limbs and bodies now pushing me under and pulling me back to surge up to the very large pack ahead. Right into the middle of the washing machine. It was chaos as always, but I didn't stress, and powered my way through as best I could. We were almost at the 475m buoy when I saw the break to front pack form. This was it! I brought on the legs and covered the empty water to latch onto the back going around the buoys. The last 100 meters I could see that front pack was really more of a line, so staying as relaxed as possible, I made sure to secure my position by gradually leap-frogging my way up the pack. I think I came out of the water in sixth or so, but felt great running up the ramp, and into transition I realized I was running next to Lucy Hall! What!?! That hadn't even been too hard!
I then proceeded to throw my cap and goggles clear over my box, and had to do an awkward dance around my bike while putting on my helmet to get my gear in the box. I made up for it with a sweet mount, and I think I exited the roundabout after transition in third or so. As our small pack formed, I realized that my best case scenario was actually happening. We just needed to stay away from chase pack. That lasted all of a lap and a half. I think most of the pack put in a good effort, but we didn't stand a chance with Spirig and co coming up from behind.

 As our pack doubled in size, I continued to stay pretty close to the front. Retrospectively, this wasn't the greatest idea, but I was focused on my pre-race bike-goal of rocking the corners. Which I did! Thank you Javier!! I was so good on one turn that I only realized I'd dropped everyone when I had taken the longest pull ever and NO ONE would pull through. So I was pretty proud of myself because I had been really nervous about my technical skills. As each lap progressed, I realized more and more that I belonged in this race. I did start to get the cold-shivers which is never a good sign when you're racing in a sauna, and regretted having frozen my water bottle so well, but all in all I felt strong and in control.

Then T2 happened which was the disaster of a lifetime. Without going into too much detail, I came into T2 relatively close to the front of the pack, and left WAY after Joanna, who was WAY behind everyone else. Bad news. The goal was to negative split the run, but heading out into the furnace feeling like a total brick, well behind everyone else, was a little hard on the ego. Soon I had caught up and passed two of the other girls who weren't enjoying the conditions very much either. After the half-way point, I felt like I was actually starting to run like I knew I could, and made up big ground on the next two girls ahead of me. Unfortunately with a km or so to go, I went into the soon-to-be-a-denatured-protein zone, and realized that if I wanted to finish the race, I was going to have to back it off or risk passing out 200 meters from the finish as I've done many times before. I settled down, and for a bit I wasn't sure if it would be enough, but luckily I came out of the danger zone and was able to cross the line without letting my form go, I had to let those two girls duke it out without me though.

Now I can no longer say that my last race was Beijing 2011, and I finally feel like I might be able to make a 2014 comeback after all. All in all, I really did surprise myself with how I felt like I belonged in that race. I realize it wasn't a WTS by any means, and my run wasn't very indicative of my actual running abilities, but I was thrilled none-the-less. I was happy to have managed the heat fairly well given my past relationship with hot races. Although, I hope that with a little more time & fitness I would have been able to run more to my potential even with the heat and humidity. I didn't have any expectations in terms of my result, so to be top 15 felt like a very good starting point to my racing season. And ending point too :).

Now I'm done for the season!!! Coach Carolyn Murray is back from her maternity leave, so I'm excited to be back to working with her and the squad here in Victoria heading into 2014. I can't thank Kyla Rollinson enough for adopting me this summer, and all the miracles she worked to get me healthy and to that startline. And for coming to the race! To my other coaches this summer: Alan and the Island Swim Program, and Jaime Turner when I was in Spain- Thank you!

Two Kylas
Super High Performance Director, Libby, who has been the one all along to remind us to back ourselves- Thank you so much. Thanks to the people who hold me together: Physios Marilyn Adams, Sue Lott, and Paul Macintyre, Chiro Brandon Cali, Dr. Levins & Dr. Keeler, and massage therapist Kim Ward! 
And last but not least my sponsors: Aquasphere, because that swim was all due to having awesome goggles, and the wonderful gang at Tri-It in Calgary for always believing in me no matter what crazy things seem to be going on.

Onto 2014!!