31st August 2019: ITU Sprint World Championships in Lausanne - my second year of racing on the World stage with the best non-elite triathletes on the planet!
This year was totally different to last year for a couple of reasons:
1. I was no longer a newbie, having competed in the Gold Coast in 2018 (even though I was at the top end of my age group then)
2. I had been self-coaching since January 2019, mainly due to costs and also because I had moved to Perth and hadn't yet found a squad/coach that I was happy with. I also wanted to experiment on myself, using Training Peaks and using my coaching knowledge and skills. I am a coach after all!
So the pressure was on!!!
In summary, I had a week in the UK to get over jetlag then flew to Lausanne three days before the race to reccie the course and do all the pre-race admin that is essential in such a huge event. My aim was to come in the top half - an improvement on last years 43/75.
I was really pleased with my result: 27/85 in my age-group and 7/17 Brit in my age group.
Swim: 15:29 (27th) - need a minute off this
T1: 2:56 (38th) - must run quicker
Bike: 38:34 (40th) - lots of work to do here
T2: 1:53 (10th) - Yay, that'll do
Run: 24:26 (24th) - Not bad, need a few positions here too!
Overall time: 1:23:19 (27th)
All in all, a success. PLUS I felt GOOD in the race and felt strong in the run....always a positive indicator for me, as that's where I tend to flag and slow down.
So for those of you who want to read the detail of the event, the pre-race planning and general thoughts and observations of the race, get yourself a hot drink or glass of wine and read on......otherwise you can get back to work, the dishes, the laundry, the TV, or your training!
Wednesday before the race
I flew into Geneva and took the train to Lausanne. I had booked into the Team GB hotel, just for ease, position and convenience to the course and race venue. It was the most expensive hotel I think I have ever stayed in but decided I didn't want the hassle of being out of town and have to make my own way in each day. I also knew a few people who were also staying there. All in all, it made for a stress-free event - exactly what I wanted.
Having checked in I went out with fellow GB athlete Julie G (65-69) for a reccie of the bike course. There were a few GB team reccies planned for the following day but I didn't feel like doing much else today and figured the more times I can get onto the course the better. It was famously hilly and technical so I needed every advantage I could get!
Then an early night, after an impromptu social dinner with Julie and her hubbie and two Australian athletes I know from Swimsmooth Perth!
Today was an informal 'organised' bike reccie with a few other GB athletes - probably about 30 or so of us meandering around the busy Lausanne streets trying out the course and sussing out the hills. The main hill was approx 700m @ 12% incline only about 3 minutes into the first lap, I was Ok with that, but what I wasn't looking forward to was the 20% decline a little later on with a sharp right hand corner at the end of it!
After the bike I did my last run before the race - just 20 minutes with 6 x 20sec strides to keep the legs fresh. At 9am I was already boiling hot and sweating like a pig!! It didn't bode well for race day......
After a late brekkie and a very full tummy (those hotel buffets always become lunch as well), Jane arrived. One of my best mates from Uni, I invited her along the week before to be super support crew! She's a non-triathlete but great company, so it was really good to spend some time with her.
The afternoon was spent registering for the race - i.e. standing in line, collecting the race pack and picking up the oversized t-shirt that went to Toby! Then for some sightseeing of Lausanne.
After an interrupted nights sleep (5hrs....I hadn't realised my roommate snored!) Friday morning 0900 was the GB team briefing.
This lasted approximately 45 mins and the entire age-group team (over 300 from 18-85yrs) attended a presentation about the event - to include everything from how to rack bike to the details of the course and penalties. We have two team managers: one for the sprint and the other for the standard racers; both always present, supportive and invaluable. And both volunteers!
After another mammoth brekkie it was time for bike racking and then the swim reccie. This was also a useful exercise as it was a good 600m walk from transition to the swim start, so that needed to be factored in on race day. We did the reccie without wetsuits as the temperature was hovering around the 23'C mark and likely to be non-wetsuit in the race the following day (22'c was the cutoff). The water was gorgeous; flat, warm, clear. It was great to swim to the exit and practice sighting on specific landmarks, and know which buoys to follow.
The rest of the day was spent with feet up by the pool (and a nanny nap for me). The weather was hot and draining so it was important to stay out of the sun today, to be rested for tomorrows race.
Pre-race dinner for me is nearly always a salad with meat, usually chicken and an early night. Race kit and food was all set out for the morning so I knew I really had nothing to do except eat and go.
Saturday - race day!
Us old-lady (50-54) sprinters had a sensible start time of 0935 so I set my alarm for 0700 (another poor nights sleep!), had a cup of tea and a pretty unpleasant Quaker oats quick porridge pot, put on my race tattoos (although very nearly forgot) and sunscreen and headed out to walk down with fellow GBR sprinter Sue R (55-59).
It's at this point that I'm never quite sure why I am doing this. I can stay calm and relaxed but inside I'm wondering who I am kidding, racing at this level! I don't really want to be there and certainly don't really want to be in the washing machine swim start (I hate it).I make excuses for myself and take the pressure off (thank goodness I'm not trying for a podium position), telling myself as long as I get top 1/2 I'll be happy, and 'just enjoy it, it's a fabulous experience'. In fact in the swim start pen I find myself 'coaching' a fellow Canadian athlete the exact same thing. She's doing her first ITU race and is very nervous!
Anyway, we do the final kit set up in transition, pump up tyres, put food in place and check out the transition layout to make sure we know the ins and outs for swim, bike and run. The other key point at this stage is to find landmarks around the bike so you can find it easily during the race. Precious seconds can be saved by NOT running up and down the aisles like a headless chicken trying to find your kit and not planning ahead!
Onto the start.........
There is a lot of hype in the starting pens which I want nothing to do with - jumping, clapping, waving etc with the MC. I just want to get on and race at this point.
Into the water"....dudum......dudum......dudum........"then the starting horn goes.....we are off!
87 in my age group and I expected a chaotic swim with arms and legs everywhere fighting for position. I put myself near the front in good line with the first buoy and in fact the swim was great - no fighting and kicking, alot of clear water and someone to draft off until she went the wrong way in the last 200m. Good job I'm OK with sighting and had checked the route the day before!
Out of the water and a long run to T1 - must've been 500m easily. I knew exactly where my bike was, so helmet was on quickly and a run out of T1 - another 600m or so. Off onto the bike course with no issues, and to plan.
The bike was 2 laps of 10k each. That first hill on Ave Ouchy says it all - a steady grind within 5 mins of getting on the bike really woke the legs up, and broke up any potential drafting groups. Then a wonderful downhill, 360 turn and back up again......some more fast downs then the 20% decline. This is when I realised I need to work on my bike pace and skills. I was getting a good draft off a fellow GBR of my age group for part of this, but come the downhill.....she dropped me and that was it!!! The next time I had someone to draft off I nearly followed her into transition after my first lap - rookie error I didn't see the signs for lap 2 and ended up having to stop at a roundabout and tuck my way through some barriers to get back onto the course!! whooops. At that point the race seemed to be in slow motion for me as I tried to figure out where/how I had gone wrong, and how to get back on track. It felt like 5 minutes of dithering around before I got back onto the course (was probably just 30secs!).
Although the bike needs a lot of work, I enjoyed the variety of this course - the hills, the turns and the scenery.
Now into T2, flying dismount at the line, run in, drop bike off, take helmet off and onto the run. 5k with more hills!
I felt great in that run - first 1.5k was flat and fast and I was holding a good 4:28min/km pace (good for me!) I knew that 20% incline was coming and although I hadn't planned to walk it, it seemed the most sensible thing to stride out, swing arms and take BIG walking steps. I think I conserved energy & legs and didn't loose speed. More ups and downs then the last 2k was flat and fast. I felt really strong and managed to pick up the pace for the last flat, and into the finish - wahooo!!!!
We are funneled through to the athletes recovery area but enroute there was a water trough full of female athletes cooling down tired legs, feeling exhuberant, sharing race stories and taking photos. Such a great community!
What have I learnt from this race?
Age group triathletes, whilst slightly mad, are an amazing bunch of people; inspiring, full of life and energy, positive and a whole lot of fun. I've made lots of friends on this journey.
I WILL be doing another ITU race, and having qualified for Edmonton I have set myself some lofty goals........why not?
My self-coaching has been successful but I need to shake it up this year by training with others more. I can do more.
I wanted to improve my transitions for this year.....tick. I also wanted to improve my OW swimming technique/tactics.........tick. Finally I wanted to improve my swim speed...........cross!!! this is still on my list for improvements this year - could do better!
So now for a month or so 'recovery'; no structure or planning of workouts. In fact Mr Sunshine is doing a 70.3 in December so I'll just join him on his longer sessions and get some mileage in for a couple of months (whilst I am working on my swim speed!)