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.

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