Monday, May 21, 2007

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.

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