Wednesday, November 9, 2011

ITU Long Distance World Championship

Thank goodness I took that mulligan at IM 70.3 Worlds because it came in handy this weekend at the ITU Long Distance World Championships. For those of you that have not read the IM 70.3 Worlds race report, I opted for a "mental" mulligan for that race because I broke my derailer on my Speed Concept only 30 seconds into the bike leg resulting in only 6 gears to ride with and a mentally defeating day.
Luckily, ITU Worlds was going to be on the same course as IM 70.3 Worlds with some added distance and some tweaks to the last 10 miles of the bike course. I was ready for this race both physically and mentally. My swim had come together, I knew I could hold my own on the bike and I had hit my goal time a couple of weeks earlier during an 18 mile training run. I had made the decision not to travel down Vegas early for extra training on the course and in the environment because I felt the temperatures were not going to be a factor like IM Worlds and I had really good cycling & running training courses here in Boise. All I had to do was make it through my taper without wearing out my welcome at home.
As luck would have it, the night before race morning a cold front moved in bringing high winds and heavy rains. Consequently, race morning was ushered in with air temps at a bone chilling 39 degrees with winds 15-20 mph making it feel like I was about to participate in a Polar Bear plunge. I was looking forward to this swim because I felt I had made a lot of gains on my swim since IM Worlds and was eager to test myself in race conditions.
Unfortunately, because of the conditions, the combined air and water temperatures posed a high risk for hypothermia so the 4k swim was cancelled for everyone. The race would be changed to TT start by race bib # at 5 second intervals. This changed everything! I was prepared to race in the current conditions, like many others, and I even thought I might have a slight advantage because these were similar weather conditions I had been training in for the last 2 weeks in Boise. As a matter of fact, I know I’ve raced IM CDA, St. George and Boise at least a couple of times with similar conditions. No matter how much you prepare or train for it, it was still very cold and I know that there were others that were not very well prepared. The Saint had been watching the long-term forecast pretty closely so I was prepared for the conditions and was in much better shape than others. I felt bad as I saw some athletes starting the bike wearing plastic garbage bags to fend off the wind & cold. Cancelling the swim and pushing my TT start time out to 9am also added a whole new list of issues to deal with like what gear to wear on the bike to stay warm, nutrition, staying warm, race strategy changes and staying warm. 
To make the best of the 3.5 hours I had to wait for my start time I first needed to get more to eat then decided to dry my wet cycling gear I had loaded into my transition bag the night before and were outside when it rained. An important note to pass along here...the plastic cover on an aero helmet melts if left too close to a heat source for a long time. Yep, who would have thought? I felt better when I later learned that there were a couple of other ladies that did the same thing when I stepped away. It wasn’t melted enough that it made it unsafe for use but I guess I’ll be looking for a new aero helmet for next season. Staying warm before the race was priority and I was really glad I had my new Bontrager Thermal Windblock jacket that I got for my birthday just a week earlier. I’ll use it for winter riding during the preseason but I was glad I decided to pack it, just in case. If you need a winter weight cycling jacket I highly recommend taking a look at these, they are awesome!
At the start of the 120k bike the sun had made its way over the mountains and started to warm the unseasonably frigid temperatures, but only slightly. I still got the chills as I stood in line in the now 41 deg temps and waited for my turn. I tried to put on right combination of cycling gear where I would be warm, not hot, and would not create unnecessary wind drag. My TYR arm warmers were a must since stopping to shed excess layers would not be an option. I shivered and my teeth chattered  like fire crackers while I anxiously waited in line. I flashed back 2 months ago where I was in the same place but that race strategy was to stay as cool as possible and keep from overheating.  I welcomed the warmth my body would generate as I ground up 3,600ft of elevation on the bike course on my Trek Speed Concept which makes the bike my favorite part of the race. I absolutely love that bike and get in trouble with my husband when I try to tuck it in on his side of the bed at night. Only other Speed Concept owners understand how awesome these bikes are. Nothing else compares to the ride and handling of this bike and I recommend everyone take one for a test ride, whether you are shopping for a new bike or not, because it will be love at first ride.The TT start made it difficult to tell how well I was doing because there were other strong women that started after me. The Saint keeps telling me that my competitiveness and focus on winning can be a drawback to my racing because I may spend too much time focusing on what others are doing which can take my attention and energy away from my own performance. As much as I want to understand that my overall success is something I have no control over because I can’t control who I race against and how well they race, I just can’t keep myself from being a calf watcher. There is a fine balance I have to find when trying to achieve my own goals regardless of how others are doing. This still doesn't stop me from yelling at him for race updates as I go by too fast to hear his response. We somehow need to work out hand signals that he can do while he's wrangling the kids and taking pictures or I need to get him a scooter so he can cruise up & down the course to let me know if I need to make adjustments.

The bike course is very hilly, a perfect course for a World Championship…you are either going up or going down which suits my riding style just fine. I love hilly courses and I love them even more when I have all my gears. I replaced my deralier after the mis-hap at IM 70.3 Worlds and appreciated the smooth shifting of my SRAM Red. This course starts with warm-up a 2.5 mile loop around the western portion of Lake Las Vegas resort and then good 1 mile 5% climb out of the resort and onto the highway. There are a couple of 10%+ climbs at miles 11, 19, 26, 32, a killer 12% at mile 54 and then one more 10% at mile 56 but they are all short with none of them being more than 0.25 mile. The winds were pretty wicked in some sections of the bike because you are totally exposed to the elements. Had this been any other race I would have thought some of the guys I passed that were waving all over the road had come directly from the craps tables on the strip. Total elevation gain for the race was over 3,600 feet. I stuck to my race plan of pass everyone in front of you but don't get passed and finished the 75 miles in 3:52:28 for the 11th fastest amateur time. Looking back on the race I could have and should have gone harder. I was too conservative partially because I didn't have reliable results from September to make sound adjustments and because stonger riders started behind me and I didn't have anything to tell me that I would have been passed had we exited the swim together.

I came out of T2 feeling a little winded but confident that if I hit my run pace that it should be good enough for a podium finish. The 30k run was on the same course as IM 70.3 Worlds but added another loop to make it a 4-lo0p course with each lap being ~4.5 miles. The wind and the cold temps of the day were not playing nicely with my asthma and my chest was tight as I ran downhill towards mile 1. I fought hard to keep the pace through miles 2 & 3 but couldn’t quite shake the feeling of having an elephant sitting on my chest. I backed off my pace a little bit but kept thinking how it felt so unfair with the wind blowing in your face as you ran uphill.  Knowing this was going to be my last race of the season, I had to push through the pain. A multi-loop course is kind of nice to help you recognize milestones on each lap but then gets confusing by the second lap with so many people on the course and not knowing whether you are actually passing people because they were in front of you and are falling behind or if they were already behind you and were now just being lapped. My 18.6 mile run ended up about 10 minutes off pace with a 2:24:05 for a total time of 6:18:48 and good enough for a nebulizer treatment in the medical tent, 1st in my AG by almost 4 minutes, foot cramps that wouldn't let me walk, 9th OA and 5th American female. It was also a good day for Team USA as we took home 17 world titles and 36 overall medals including Jordan Rapp winning the men’s elite title and Meredith Kessler claiming 3rd in the women’s elite race.
This was the end of my 2011 season so I’ll take a week off before starting my 2012 preseason training. Next year is another iron distance year so I’ll be looking to claim another ticket to Kona; I have some unfinished business from last year. I still need to sit down and look at races for next year to decide what new venues I want to try out, maybe Lake Placid or something in the mid-west. This was my first ITU race and my overall impression of this racing organization was not a blow my mind, make me want to come back again type of experience. It was a fun experience but of the large international triathlon race companies, Rev 3 still takes the cake when it comes to meeting my expectations as a racer. The others leave me walking away wondering where my $600 entry fee went. For 2012 I’m certainly going to try to race more Rev 3 races. After racing at Portland I kept trying to figure out how to go to more of their races; I just wish there were more in the western states. Next year’s ITU Long Distance Worlds is in Spain and despite my Spanish heritage I have no plans of trying to qualify .
This whole season was possible because of the great support I get from my family and sponsors. I want to personally thank Nick at Trek for all of his support this season. Trek’s Speed Concept is the bike of dreams and I am truly grateful for the opportunity I have to race for Trek. A hug and a thank you to Ryan at TYR for working with me again this year and making me part of the TYR family. TYR has brought itself to the front with their innovative and state-of-the-art gear from goggles, to carbon race gear to their line of Hurricane wetsuits including their new Freak of Nature [I sometimes wonder if they named that wetsuit after me]. Michael at CEP Compression for their pioneering lines of compression gear that make racing and recovery so much easier. K-Swiss and their running shoes that keep me going and to the local guys who see me every week…John & Crew at George’s Cycles on Fairview to keeping my Trek Speed Concept in optimal condition, Dr. Jim at Boise Valley Chiropractic for keeping me aligned, Dr. Dave at Physio Therapy for putting me back together after each race and last but not least, Peter at VESPA who has helped me get a handle on my nutrition this season.

I want to give a special shout out to Adam Ster from masterbodyworker and his Fascial Stretch Therapy [FST]. FST is a unique stretching technique that focuses on lengthening the fascia or connective tissues that surrounds all structures of the body. By involving the body as whole unit instead of individualized muscles it helps improve muscle strength and flexibility and decreases injuries. He came as part of the support staff for Team USA and worked my into his busy schedule on Thursday, Friday and then after the race on Saturday. If you ever have a chance to work with a certified FST therapist it is worth the time and money.