Monday, May 21, 2007

South Africa World Cup

I arrived in South Africa a bit worse for wear. The flight was packed and I felt like a sardine stuffed along with hundreds of other people in a too small tin can. I definitely didn’t sleep as well as I had on my flights out to Portugal and cringed each time the people around me coughed and sneezed hoping that I wouldn’t catch anything before the race. When I arrived in Durban, a childhood friend living in South Africa with her husband came to pick me up from the Airport. It was great to spent the first night with Ashley, her husband, and her family; it definitely took my mind off the race. On Friday morning, I woke up way too tired and too early to drive from Durban to Richards Bay for the race. When I arrived in Richards Bay, I got in a run, bike, and swim on the race course. I was feeling awful; exhausted, jet-lagged, and ready to go back to bed but managed to stumble through all the workouts. As soon as I got to my hotel that afternoon, I passed out and took a two hour nap before the race meeting. When I woke up I felt 100% better and on Saturday felt even more rested and ready to race. I tried to keep all my pre-race workouts easy and relaxed saving it all for Sunday. Then, I spent the rest of the day trying to stay relaxed. On Sunday morning, I felt good warming up on the bike and swim. I was ready for the gun at this race and had a good start but managed to get clobbered really badly during the sprint to the first buoy. Getting dragged backwards, clawed, dunked, swum over…it was mayhem.
But after the first buoy I broke free and had cleaner water and more space until the exit for the first lap. I overtook some girls in the front pack during the sprint out of and back into the water. I was swimming a bit close to one of the large German girls, I guess she thought too close and decided to place her hand on my back and give me a good dunk. After that I backed off and bit and slide onto her feet…no need to get dunked again. At the end of the swim, I was in the middle of the lead pack and sprinted onto my bike. This bike course was much better for me than last week; 8 laps of a loop with one pretty decent hill. I really went after the bike and worked hard on every lap. I ended up pulling along 15 girls for about 80% of the entire bike but didn’t even care -- I was on a mission to give myself as much time going into the run as possible. I had a little help from my teammate, Joanne, and a few of the other girls but didn’t want to waste any time so I put it all out there on the bike and keep our pace going. Unfortunately, we ended up lapping out 3 of my American teammates, one of the last lap was very upset with me and yelled at me. I was so focused on killing myself on the bike to get that lead going into the run that I couldn’t think about any distractions. But getting yelled at when you’re going after your best race is not very constructive and distracted me just enough so that as I came first into transition I tried to dismount my bike still going about 20mph. Don’t try this at home!
I lost control of my bike and it flew down onto the ground while I kept running. So I turned around scooped it up and only lost about 10 seconds with that whole fiasco. Once on the run, I could tell that I biked really hard; it was hot and I was exhausted. I tried to just keep going and hold onto my position in 15th place, at the back of the bike pack that I pulled around. I was cramping up and had the chills from the heat and dehydration. I just tried to focus on keeping my cadence and finishing. A few of the girls from the second pack caught me and I wasn’t sure my place when I finally made it over the line. I ended up in 20th overall and with one world cup point. It wasn’t the best race especially with the death march run, but I was happy with how I really went after the bike. When I finished my tank was on empty so I put it all out there on that day and did my best which is all you can ask of yourself. On the bright side, there is plenty of room for improvement. I definitely think I can put together a better race with a faster run and better timed surges on the bike to go for a breakaway instead of pulling along the lead pack. And it was very nice that a few of the girls in the front pack thanked me for all my efforts pulling our pack and keeping the pace fast. With each world cup, I have learned a ton and look forward to competing in more later this year and improving on my results.
After the race, I was able to see a bit of the men’s race but had to quickly get on the road to head back to Durban to spend a few more days with Ashley and her family. I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my time in South Africa and was able to see a ton of sites around the Durban area. I even got the chance to do a 6K open water swim off the Durban beaches, which thankfully is protected by shark nets. By the time I returned home, I was very excited to see Jeff and eager to catch up with my training partners and get back to some hard training in Boulder.

Portugal World Cup

My first world cup race of the season was in Lisbon this May. I was really excited for the race and eager to get more experience at that level of racing. I arrived in Lisbon on schedule, but my suitcase and bike decided to spend some more quality time in Heathrow airport. I guess the 8 hours of layover in London wasn’t quite enough time for my bag and bike to enjoy the airport. It was the first race trip during which my bag and bike have been lost; I was calm at first but started to get more nervous the longer the bags took to arrive. 36 hours later just as I was starting to get a bit manic, both bags arrived at my hotel. The bike arrived just in time for our team to go down to the race site. Unfortunately, our hotel and the host hotel were about a 30 to 40 minute drive from the race site through the confusing streets downtown Lisbon. Thankfully the USA team rented some vans to get us back and forth to the race venue on Friday. The swim was in an small open water lake with cold water; it definitely was going to be a wetsuit swim. The bike course wasn’t going to be fun. It included a 1K section of cobbles on each of the 8 laps as well as a technical section of tight 90 and 180 degree turns on carpet as the course snaked down and through an indoor pavilion. I would have preferred a tougher course with more challenging climbs but at least this race would be a good opportunity to work on my technical biking skills. The run was flat with varied terrain from cobbles to uneven boardwalk. After previewing the course on Friday, I wasn’t able to get back there on Saturday and to get to the race site on Sunday morning my parents and I rented a car. After I finished all my pre-race stressing and workouts, it was already the late afternoon. Luckily, my parents were able to see some of the downtown Lisbon sites while I wasted the day getting ready for the race. On Sunday morning, we got to the race in plenty of time thanks to the lite Sunday morning traffic and my crazy desire to get us up and going hours before the race start. I felt great on my warmups and was excited to get going. During the swim leg, I had the worst start ever….there was no time between the take your mark and the horn. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure that I was last off the pontoon. Despite the start, I had a great swim and stayed with the front pack the entire way.
From the swim to the bike, I had a good transition too and my wetsuit came off super fast. Once on the bike, I tried work really hard to catch a few of the swimmers that got out of the water a few seconds up on the rest of the lead pack. After the first two laps, it became clear that no one was going to do any work on the bike. I tried to get things going but it seemed that everyone’s strategy was to work hard and sprint through the technical sections then sit up and ride Sunday style for the rest of each lap. This was the worst possible scenario for me. Since I haven’t been able to run, I needed to keep the lead pack far ahead of the second and third packs. Sadly, all three packs merged on the bike and when we started the run there were almost 40 runners starting together. It would have been even more but there was a small crash on the last lap of the bike. I tried to do my best on the run but my lack of fitness with all the time off made it a struggle. I finished in 30th overall and 3rd American. I wasn’t very happy with the results but considering the way the bike played out and with the challenges facing my running training the last few months it was the best I could do.
After the race, I definitely decided in South Africa I was going to work my butt off on the bike and try to keep any lead that I could over the packs behind me. For the next few days, I spent some time in Cascais, a beach town outside Lisbon, with my parents and enjoyed getting the chance to explore the area. By Wednesday, I was ready to head to South Africa but sad to say goodbye to my parents.

Never-ending Easter

I arrived home from Australia on Easter; it was a never-ending Easter day as I left at 2am in Australia Easter morning and arrived 24+ hours later at 4pm on Easter in Colorado. Before leaving Australia, I saw my doctor there and received the MRI results that I had torn cartridge in my hip. I was given another 2 weeks of rest from running but allowed to swim, bike, and water jog. It is simply nice to know the problem and have a workable plan for getting healthy. On the bright side, upon my return to Boulder I found out that I got into the world cup races in Portugal and South Africa. Although the timing with my injury is not ideal, I am looking forward to this chance to race at the elite world cup level. Training in Boulder is always a challenge with the altitude. On top of that I had major jet lag and wasn’t able to fall asleep until 3am for the first few days back in Colorado. But by the end of the week, I was starting to feel normal again and was happy to get back to doing some great bike and swim workouts. And looking forward to starting to run on the amazing trails in Boulder as soon as my two weeks off were completed.

(Long overdue) Wellington NZ Race Report

At the end of March, I went on a short trip from our training camp in Australia to Wellington New Zealand for a continental cup race. I was really really sore from the Mooloolaba open race and wasn’t totally looking forward to making the trip since I was also battling an injury from February that had resurfaced with a vengeance. The week before the race I even went to get an MRI on my hip to locate the problem but wouldn’t get the results until after I got back from the race. I was happy not to know since my goal was simply to race my best and go after a good swim/bike combination.
I arrived in Wellington and went directly to my accommodation, a youth hostel. I was a little wary of staying in a hostel before a race since I didn’t want the stress of trying to sleep in a bunk bed with 3 roommates to each suite. However, it ended up working out fine and the women in my suite were very nice, friendly, and mature (aka thankfully not out partying till 4am).
The race course was excellent: the swim was in a choppy bay, the bike course had a challenging hill that we were to climb 5 times during the race and some technical turns, and the run was 3 flat loops through town. The day before the race I did my usual pre-race warmups and really enjoyed the bike course. For the swim, I went to a local pool and was feeling good but swimming very slow. Until I realized that the pool was long; 33 meters long in fact making what I thought were 100s into 132s. I breathed a sigh of relief with that news. For the rest of the day, I relaxed and got ready for the race. There were a four other Americans at the race; its always great to see some friendly and familiar faces.
Race morning was cool and rainy, my least favorite race conditions; but the rain abated before our race start. The wind however was not as cooperate and there were 40 to 50 mph massive winds making the swim extremely choppy and the bike treacherous. I was preoccupied with my sticky bike brakes and worried that they would be rubbing the whole race…so much that I wasn’t even as nervous as usual. At the swim start, I had a poor position but ended up with a good swimming coming out of the water in 5th position behind the fast swimming Americans and one Kiwi athlete. On the bike, I had a great ride and worked with two Kiwi athletes to real in all the fast swimmers. And on the last lap of the bike, I broke away and had a 37 second lead going into transition. I knew I would need it for the run. The run went well; I focused on keeping my cadence up and trying to run as fast as I could through the injury. I ended up 6th and was really happy with my swim and bike performances and was happy that I made the trip.

I headed back to Australia for the last week of my training trip; it was a great experience but I was also looking forward to getting home to see Jeff and get back to my life at home.