Nov 19, 2016
Last race of the year. I was excited to return to Australia and travel to someplace new, but honestly, I couldn’t wait for the race and the season to be over! The past couple months have been hard to train and recover and I know I’m ready for a break. The travel to the land down under isn’t easy either- you lose a full day, going forward in time 18 hours, and in effect a full night sleep because I’m just not a plane sleeper. Luckily, Chris and I landed in Sydney at the same time as Branden and Bri so we got our cars and made the 5 hour drive out to the Snowy Mountains together. We were all exhausted so it was a little comforting knowing that we could keep an eye on each other. It had finally stopped raining upon arriving at our little apartment in Jindabyne, so Branden and I set out for a short spin to try and shake out some of the travel fatigue while Chris and Bri set out for groceries. Of course, we got caught in the rain while riding, but were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow so I’m not complaining too much!
The Snowy Mountains and the Lake Crackenback Resort was a beautiful location to hold an event. The air and water were fresh and clean, mountain bike trails superbly fun to ride and the people were so friendly and welcoming. We had a great week training, exploring and enjoying the local towns, participating in the opening ceremony and parade of nations, and of course the race itself.
This was not my first ITU Cross Tri Worlds, but each one is different, and this one in particular was drastically different from most of the Xterras that we’re used to. The ITU has a lot of rules and timelines and feels much more structured. The race course was a lap format; a 2 lap fresh water lake swim, 2 laps of a 16.5km mountain bike course which consisted of mostly single track and was much more technical than most Xterras and the run course was 3 laps of 3.33 twisty, rough, undulating kilometers. We spent much of the week training on the course, getting to know the many twists and turns and rocky sections so that we could ride as smoothly as possible come race day. Because we all know that smooth is fast and in order to be smooth, you’ve got to know the course well.
Another difference between ITU and Xterra is that age groups and Elites race separately. I like that we each have our own start times because it makes for a more fair, clean course for everyone. Unfortunately, the Elites didn’t start until 2:30pm on Saturday afternoon, which is nice on one hand, but throws a wrench into your normal pre-race routine and you have to try and adjust accordingly. I did what I thought was best, but I realized later during the race that I probably ate a little too much in my pre-race meal.
There seemed to be a bit of confusion around the start area in the hour before our race. Transition was closed about an hour before so we had to get everything set up and then get out. It was a pretty hot day so nobody was in a great hurry to get into their wetsuits, and then when we did and got into the lake to warmup, one official yelled at us to get out. Apparently, swim warmup was supposed to be done by 2:00, but nobody seemed to know so another official let us go. We didn’t have much time though, because we had to line up for introductions at 2:15. You see, ITU announces each athlete by name and you take your starting position on the beach, followed by the heartbeat music, and then the gun goes off. So the women begin a few minutes after the men, which means we only got 10-15 minutes of swim warmup, then we stood around waiting for another 15-20 minutes. So when the gun goes off, you go from a normal, resting heart rate to heart and adrenaline pumping, near max heart rate into cold water and man does it hurt! To make it even harder, the first turn was nearly 90 degrees, and only about 50m off shore so everyone is sprinting for that first buoy, trying to get some space or get on someone’s feet and it’s just mayhem. For the entire first lap I felt like I was struggling to breathe, like I was wheezing and just couldn’t go as fast as I wanted. As I did the short beach run in between laps, I heard Chris yell to me that Jacqui was just ahead of me, so I knew I was having a decent swim and tried to get to her feet on the next lap as I started to feel a little better. I ended up drifting wide on the back side of the lap and lost her, so coming into T1 I was just a little behind, and in about 8th place.
Once on the bike, I quickly caught her and rode her wheel for a few minutes trying to settle into a relaxed, smooth pace. After a couple kilometers, I passed and then there was nobody in front of me for a while. I rode hard, and although I made a few mistakes and crashed once, I moved up to third place. Toward the end of the lap I was feeling really thirsty, even though I drank a full bottle, and my legs felt like they were getting fatigued so I took an extra Gu gel on the 2nd lap in hopes of energizing my muscles for the upcoming run. On the 2nd lap, I settled in and focused on riding at a strong, smooth pace without making the same mistakes I had the first time around.
I was out of T2 about 2-2.5 minutes behind second place and knew that catching her was out of reach, as she was probably the best runner in the field. I set out at my own pace, just trying to go strong and steady. My stomach quickly started sloshing and my body felt extremely heavy and tired. The run course was difficult too, not a lot of climbing, but lots of undulations, soft ground, tricky footing, a 200m river to run through, a 4ft tunnel to crawl through, rocks, ditches and mud to navigate through and a flyover with some stairs on each lap. I think my second lap was my best as I struggled to find the balance between going hard enough to not get caught, but not so hard that I would fade and end up getting caught in the end. Luckily, Chris was running around the course giving me time checks to the nearest woman behind me, which seemed to stay around 2:20. All I could think about during those 55 minutes was the encouragement and inspiration of my friends and family and the pride I wanted to carry out of the season, beginning the year with a fractured pelvis, and finishing with two 3rd place World Championship finishes. As I finished the final lap I was sure that I was safe in third place and tried to enjoy the finish on the blue carpet, but I was SO tired that I think I was stumbling more than running. I couldn’t believe I had held off the runners behind me with the fatigue that I had felt during that run- I was convinced that my run time was embarrassingly slow, but it turns out it was the 4th best. Not great, but not as bad as I had expected and I couldn’t be happier with another 3rd place finish. My goal was to finish in the top 3, as the two women ahead of me are outstanding and very accomplished athletes who I aim to beat in years to come, but will be no easy feat.
Sunday morning- the Mixed Relay.
Saturday was a late night, by the time I left doping control it was 8pm. We didn’t finish dinner and get home until nearly 10 and finally cleaned up and in bed after 11. Meanwhile, the mixed relay was scheduled to start at 9:30 the next morning, and we had to be there by 7am. We rolled into the race venue pretty stiff, tired and groggy, figured out our teams and did our best to warmup and get ready for an all out 30 minute effort of a super sprint off-road triathlon relay. Each country makes a team (or two) of 4 people: one elite male, one elite female, and one each male and female age group athlete. Each athlete completes a 200m swim, 5K MTB and 1.5k trail run, then tags the next team member to begin the next leg. While this sounds like and was a total blast, it was SO HARD. The fatigue from the day before couldn’t be shaken off and the legs just felt like concrete as you tried to push them to their max. I was the first leg for the U.S. “A” team and I tagged off in 2nd place. We ended up finishing 5th, behind two Aussie teams and two Kiwi teams…not bad for having a very small group of athletes to choose from! We all had a great time to cap off the race weekend, and call the 2016 season a success!
I can’t thank my sponsors and support crew enough; Chris did a great job as my “sognier” once again, and also took on the responsibility of handing up bottles in the Feed Zone for the Team USA Elites, in which he performed flawlessly.
My team Sierra Endurance Sports has been extremely supportive and encouraging all year, as have my sponsors: Reno Running Company, Nature’s Bakery, Altra Running, Pendola Training, Todd’s Body Shop, Hyperthreads, Optic Nerve, Stan’s No Tubes, GU Energy, Fox, Silver Sage Sports and Fitness, Planet Sun and High Sierra Cycling. I couldn’t live this lifestyle of training and racing without you all and couldn’t be happier with the success we found together this year!