ITU Long Course World Championships
ITU Long Course World Championships After a 30+ hour journey, I arrived in Pontevedra 8 days before my main race, so had plenty of time to adjust to the time difference and settle in. I traveled with two other members of the Australian Age Group Team who quickly became my great friends, as for the many other Aussies we met along the way. The first day we woke up nice and early, and were surprised that we were the first ones out and about, however it didn’t take us long to settle into “Spanish time”, and before we knew it we were waking up at 10am, having plenty of siestas, and eating dinner at 10pm. During the week, I had a chance to ride the bike course, swim in the river and get a few runs in which were all in picturesque locations on the west coast of Spain. We enjoyed the days in the lead up, which were filled with eating, relaxing and light training... the perfect taper! Before I knew it, it was time to pick up my race bib and toe the line for my first ITU World Championships. I went into this race with no expectations except to race my best possible race and give it everything I had, being my last race of the season. During my experience at the 70.3 Worlds in South Africa last year, I learned that World Champs courses are not made for records to be broken, and this was no exception. I had studied the course profile and knew that the bike course was predominantly climbing and after riding the course, it was evident that it was going to be a tough day. This time however, I felt prepared for it, and knew I had done the training to do my best. Race morning came and I was ready to go. The day before the race, my mum and dad had flown in, and I was excited to have them here to support me. There had been anticipation all week about a shortened swim due to the cold water temps (13 degrees) but I had everything crossed that it wouldn’t be shortened. Unfortunately on race morning, the officials made the decision to shorten it from 3000m to 1500m. While most Australians were really happy about the decision, this certainly did not work well in my favor with the swim being my strongest leg. I had swam in the water in the Aquathlon a few days earlier and thought it was fine, but that was the decision that was made. As soon as I dived in the water, my whole face and hands went numb due to the cold water, but after a quick warm up swim I felt ok and ready to go. The gun went off and I was able to find a clear path. Earlier in the week, I had seen the times from the other events and thought the swim times looked significantly slow, even the elites. When I started swimming I knew why. It was directly against a current and extremely taxing, meaning my pace was over 30 seconds slower per 100m than usual, but this was to be expected. When I looked at my watch and seen 33 minutes, my first thoughts were “oh my god, that’s slower than my easy training swims, why did it take me so long, have I come last???” I ran quickly through T1 when my Dad told me I was the 9th female overall. This gave me a lot of relief to find out that clearly everyone’s times were slower than usual and I was in a good position. Straight through T1 and onto the bike, I think I was the only person not to have my shoes clipped in to my bike, but I was still able to have a reasonably fast transition. The bikes were racked in age group order, and funnily enough as we grabbed the bikes, 4 girls in my age group mounted at the same time. I knew once I got on, that I had about 3-4km to get comfortable and get some nutrition in, before the never ending climbing started. It was nice having ridden the course and knowing what to expect, and before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the first big climb and it was time to start grinding. I knew what was ahead, I had done it before and it wasn’t really “that bad”. I felt good and couldn’t wait to get stuck into it. I was overtaken by a few guys but this was to be expected after my position in the swim. I’m a slow climber so the plan was to just tick away up the hills and save the big pushes for the flat and down hills. This worked well as I was able to ride the three lap course at an even pace, and not burn out for the climbs on the last lap. The bike course was by far the hardest course I have ever ridden in a race. This made it a different experience to a usual 70.3/Ironman bike course as there was minimal time spent on the TT bars and majority of the time spent climbing, with 2100m + elevation over 110km. I was really happy to be able to feel strong on the climbs, and give it my very best, whilst keeping in mind I still had 30km to run. While I was certainly not fast on the hills, I felt comfortable and my pace was a lot better than I expected. Although sometimes tedious, I enjoyed the three lap format on this particular occasion as it meant seeing my parents and the Tri Australia crew 3 times and getting to wave at / pass the other Aussies at various points. 4 hours later and I was descending back into town, starting to think about the 30km run that was ahead. Quick transition, onto the run and I was feeling good. The plan was 2km run, with 1 minute walks every 2km. I stuck to this religiously the whole race, even early on when I felt like I didn’t need the breaks. My pace slowed a little as the day went on and fatigue set in, but I was able to keep in nutrition and maintain a fairly consistent pace, which was a huge change from Ironman earlier in the year. It was a four lap run, with quite a few turns and hills through the streets of Pontevedra. The run is definitely my weak point and where I got overtaken the most, but for me, I was happy with how it went and felt like it was my best possible run for where I’m at right now. At 28km I knew that 5th place was a few minutes back and was able to relax and enjoy the final few kilometers and the finish line. I was really happy to finish 4th Place in the World for my Age Group. Overall, my first ITU World Champs was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to experience it again hopefully in Amsterdam 2020!