Saturday, 26 May 2012

Madrid ITU WTS Race Report

Madrid-home race number 2. With a short drive from Vitoria, nothing could be more close to my new home for the next 4 months. When I first arrived I was unsure if we were there for a triathlon or to join the thousands of football fans settled down towards race site ( lucky for our very sound proof windows and their time losing!) With a total change to Dunkerque, Madrid provided us with a non wetsuit fresh water swim, a hilly and technical bike course and a flat run.

Having such a Spanish time of racing, I had the chance in the morning to run, swim and sleep before the race. I had to really optimise the chance throughout the day to eat at right times, rest in the afternoon and still have efficient time to get ready for the race. Waking up with a slight cold and sore throat, all I could think was it picked the worse time to come.

To race start at 5.46pm, I was positioned about half way on the start list meaning I still had minimal choices of where to start. All the main girls went to the far left but a few of the later numbers went to the far right. I made the choice to pick the right seeing if I could get a clean start and move ahead. Within the first 300m to the first buoy I seemed to have good positioning amongst the field getting minimal heads knocks and pulls. The first lap felt very crusiey but I seemed to be stuck behind feet that I couldn’t get around. Diving back in, in about 20th place, I wanted to move up. Within the next 300m it felt like a lot of the girls were on a stand still. A could see a small gap  in front of me and the next feet, so I put my head down and got within the bunch. From then on, I moved up in the field sitting in a comfortable 6th place out of the water. A long run to transition, I knew it was key not to muck around, unsure of how many girls were behind me.

Coming out of T1 in 4th place, with minimal  time to put the shoes on before heading 8 times up the hill. From the start, I did not want to move back from the front few girls as I did in Sydney as the hill can be a make it or break it and I was confident in my climbing abilities. Everytime as we reached the top of the climb, we had a very strong wind with no where to hide. As the wind was moving left to right we were riding very close to the right gutter. The ride was fast and it was vital to stay on wheels to hide from the wind and minimalize the amount of crank torque to get back onto a wheel. At about the 3rd and 4th lap, the pace picked up going up the hill. I was sitting within the top 6 girls and I was just thinking in my head hold on for dear life. I was unsure if I could go this pace for another 4 or so laps. The hill was sharp to begin, then turned a left hand corner where it ascended gradually. That was when we increased our gap on the chase pack. Within the next few laps, the pace settled going up the hill as different girls lead up. I had to be dominant and take control of what position I wanted on the ride over some of the other girls. Coming onto the final  lap, the girls started to be abit pushy but I keep my position, getting my shoes off early and mentally preparing myself for the run.

Coming out of T2, the pace was on from the get go as a lot of girls had positions, goals or markers that they needed to achieve to get their Olympic selection. My legs have probably felt the freshest they had felt in a while running coming off a hard ride which in itself it a positive. I felt good for the first 2.5km taking over a fair few girls and keeping within my ability. Within the next lap, my stomach started cramping and I felt my form started to drop. Taking in abit of my gel and water seemed to help. I am not sure what it was from…. A few more girls took back over me so I just tried to run with all I had left. Coming to the last lap, I just wanted to keep the position I had and run strong. Finished in 27th, I was extremely happy. Although gasping for air and water as it was so dusty, it was quiet hard to breathe for a lot of girls at the end. Its amazing how much you don’t realise it when you run till when you finish. Finishing at a late 8pm at  night, meant many hours of lost sleep as the body was still running on a major high.

This weekend has taught me a lot about being confident especially in riding in a good position and taking advantage of all the possible controllables. I got some great positive words from people I respect a lot in sport and gives me some indicators of what I need to work on and get stronger at to be amongst the mid field. Thanks to all the staff on the weekend for their support and encouragement on the course. Thanks to Alex Price, our physio at home who has now joined us in Vitoria for the much needed massage and post race recovery.

Article from the race:
http://www.trizone.com.au/20120527/natalie-van-coevorden-leads-the-australian-women-in-madrid-itu-triathlon/

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Dunkerque French Grand Prix


Dunkerque- French Grand Prix 1- Tri Val de Gray

Spending a week in Gray, east of France, to nothing more than 7 degrees and rain, I had the opportunity to meet my French team.  The week leading up to Dunkerque after long travel from Florida, it was time to adjust to the time zone or my way was wake up at 9.30 everyday and wondering where my day had gone. French was a whole new language that was very hard to catch on to with me half the time speaking my little knowledge of Spanish. I got some solid training in with the pool being minutes away, the roads being quiet for rides and finding trails in the fields just behind my French teams house. We drove to Dunkerque on Saturday, a long 6 hour drive, where the sun was out and I was ready to race.

My team, Tri Val de Gray considering of Barbara Riveros, , Sandrine Fariello, , Marie-Clémence Prat, Fabienne Hébert and myself,  were maybe not the strongest team but Barbara let me know the important values and I suppose our race tactics- fast swim to the first 200m buoy and basically on the rivet from there. I had no idea what to expect but from what everyone was telling me. The morning of the race, it was cold, wet and windy! Reminded me of Beijing take 2. Beanie, gloves, multiple layers of clothing and a freezing cold wind chill, the race was not going to go anywhere.

 I decided not to do a swim warm up as the water was a fresh 12 degrees and the outside not much warmer. I did dry land exercises to stimulate swimming processes. We were the last team on the pontoon, having no choice where to stand. Barbara spoke to me as using this to our advantage. Before I knew it and even think about diving into cold water, the gun went off. I put my head down and swam straight across the field, trying to get infront of them before the battle at the first buoy. I got a few knocks to the head but nothing like I expected. The next part of the swim I was trying just to follow feet and keep my stroke rate high. Before I knew it, I could see the blue carpet to get into transition. Coming out in the first few girls,  I could not feel my feet or hands but wanted to keep with the main pack of girls!

From Huatuclo, I knew there was no time to muck around. The ride was technical with corners and 180 degree turns. The ride seemed to be okay- it had its intense moments especially into the tail wind and other times it seemed to be just rolling the legs. We had about 15 girls in our pack, trying to keep near the front to avoid trouble as the road was wet and girls skills levels were dodgey. Being quiet tall, especially into the head wind, the many small girls did not give me any benefit being behind them with the strong winds! After 5 fast laps and plenty of accelerations, I got off my bike near the front. Being near the end of transition, I had to dodge lots of girls running out. Coming out, top 6 out of transition I tried to get good pace early as my feet still were so numb! Within the first 500m, Emma Jackson and a few other girls went past me. Felt like I was running on the spot! The running had many corners and accelerations, making it also interesting. The first 2.5km felt very fast. Going around for lap 2, I felt like I lost some rhythm with 2 more girls going past me. That was probably the most disappointing moment of the race. Coming down the last 500m, it was all or nothing. Finishing in 11th place, was exciting and I look forward to racing more as it was a lot different from ITU racing.

The word I learnt the most in french was froid (cold)- even with multiple layers, I felt like an ice berg. Thinking about the cold was second to me with a lot of other processes coming into play before that in my mind were more important. Thank you to my French team, Tri Val de Gray for looking after me so well and I look forward to more racing to come.

 


Sunday, 6 May 2012

Huatuclo World Cup

After 2 weeks of training for the conditions that Huatulco was going to present us with, we went to Huatulco , only 6 months after our last visit. Not much had changed, it still felt like we were on a holiday looking over the crystal clear ocean.  Taking the few days before relatively easy, I really wanted to smash it up! I felt like I was ready with training in the heat feeling good and strong.

Race morning, it once again was an early start to avoid some of the heat that Mexico brings. Down on the swim start, it was time to rock and roll. With the always daunting heart beat music, the gun went off to run into the warm, salty water to complete the one lap of 1000m and one lap of 500m. The water was a warm 28 degrees- never complaining about that. As soon as I dived into the water, basically a huge face plant, my goggles came off. I had to stop for 2 seconds to put them back on but I quickly moved up to the front pack of girls. I sat on a few feet with the swim feeling comfortable and strong. Most of the swim, I was next to Flora Duffy. Not sure how many girls were around me. I just wanted to keep with that front pack.  Running into transition, there was 2 girls just behind.

Running out of transition to start the 8 laps of the hilly bike course, I wasn’t quick enough to get on the wheels that were just ahead of me and BAM my day was over with the front pack. I looked behind and there was no- body even close. The next pack of girls were over a minute behind. That 10 seconds extra, and I didn’t do it. Probably could not be any more frustrated with myself as I paid the price the whole race.  I rode by myself for the first 2 laps- riding up the hill strong and doing my best on the flats. Finally the 2nd bunch of basically the rest of the field caught me. The temperature was getting warmer- SRM had 47 degrees from the heat of the road. The girls did no work at all, sitting up, no one rolling through and consequently we were losing about 30 seconds per lap. The 24 % gradient hill wasn’t as daunting this year as I expected and knew what was coming for me.  I wanted to keep good position on the bike especially going up and down the hill as some of the skills of the girls were shocking and dangerous. Coming into T2, it was going to be a runners race with who can run after the heat and hard bike had affected them.

My day to me, did not get any better as I felt like I was suffering from the start. I felt strong going up the hills but I just had nothing to give on the flats- no speed and heavy to the ground. Pretty much all the girls that were in my bike pack just keep getting further and further away. It annoys me even more when the front bunch of girls did not run that much quicker and in my head I should have been there. Taking a drink from every aid station and carrying ice in my hands to try and cool my body day was important as the temperature was not getting any cooler. Finishing a very disappointing 20th was not how I wanted to finish today. I have learnt my lesson way too many times this year and riding in no mans land was not fun. Flora Duffy spoke to me after the race about her experience when she was my age. It gave me a good insight into how I felt many times this year and she gave me a few ideas on how to overcome these “barriers or challenges”.

People say don’t be too hard on yourself but that’s how I am. When little things I should have learnt by now go wrong, it’s frustrating and a negative experience. Its not worth the tears or anything like that as nothing will change it. Just something that I need to be 105% at next time. I knew that I had a good chance to perform on this course. Although I did not have the race of my life and times were quicker than last year, I am still feeling the effects of the heat and the killer hill on my legs today. Better things to come……