Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Triathlon World Champs- Vancouver 2008

This was my third world championship for Triathlon (2005 Standard Distance in Hawaii- 22nd age group and 2006 Long Distance in Canberra- 17th Elite) and 5th world championship in total (I competed at two Canoe Polo World Championships- Adelaide in 1996 and as the New Zealand Women’s team captain in Essen, Germany in 2002).

Here is the "site of the triathlon", this was where the race start, finish, expo and merchandise tents were set up. This was our view from our room... great location:

This race was a stepping stone towards my long term goal to medal at the 2009 World Championship to be held on the Gold Coast in September 2009… My goal was to get a top 10 result this year and to see what I need to work on in order to make the podium in 09. I came 10th this year so was very pleased to achieve my goal and now I know what I need to do over the next 440 odd days until the 2009 Worlds.

Triathlon is a summer sport (or that is usually the case) but I can tell you we did not get greeted with summer conditions in Vancouver at all. The race organisers told us to expect water temperatures around 16 – 17 degrees and similar air temperatures for the race. This was not the case. Vancouver was REALLY cold! The water temperature was only 11 degrees and the air temperature between 8 – 12 degrees… this did not include the wind chill factor. Most athletes were not prepared for this cold snap that hit Vancouver. Luckily I come from Wellington and that the two final weeks here were also pretty miserable. Given that, I still struggled with the cold and I was paranoid about getting sick! It was so cold that the organisers cancelled the opening ceremony and parade of nations as well. They didn’t want the athletes hanging around in the cold!

So as well as the cold I also had to deal with cycling, swimming and running on the wrong side of the roads/swim lanes and footpaths! This was harder than it sounds, has anyone tried to tumble turn the wrong way in a swimming pool? And never having driven on the other side of the road, the first roundabout I encountered on my bike was a mess! Once I got my lefts and rights sorted out my final 9 days of training went ok.

The Thursday before my race all athletes were invited to swim the course in an organised course familiarisation session. This was my first long session in the cold water and I was really shocked at just how cold the water was. I have never swum in temperatures that cold! I could barely manage 3 strokes before I had to pull my head out and stop! My breathing was a mess and I my feet, hands and forehead were all really painful… until they went totally numb that is! Here I am before the practice swim and very cold after the swim... down jacket, woollen hat, hottie, duvet, woollen socks and a cup of tea!!

Race day dawned and at 5.45 am I headed off to transition (1.5 km walk from the start line), although it was cold I really enjoyed the walk and it was great to clear my head. Once I set up my gear I headed back to the start line to get ready. I had decided to do a good warm up in the water, there were various schools of thought on this but I know how much better I am having got in the water.

This is me walking to the race start (by the way Vera's does great burgers for post race meals):

After about 10 or so minutes acclimatising to the extremely cold water I joined the other 80 odd competitors in my age group ready for the start. As we lined up ready to go I noticed that the wind had started to come up and the sea was looking a bit wavy. This got me excited as I am a strength swimmer and the rougher the conditions the better I am. Here is my age group race start:

Once I started swimming I realised how much harder the conditions were. The first 200 metres of swimming nearly bought on a cold water asthma attack for me and I had to hold back a back to keep that in control. I exited the water in 6th place. This was so exciting for me and the best ever swim finish I have ever had. The hard yards are paying off. Here I am leaving the water, my hands were so cold I decided not to finish taking off my wetsuit until I warmed up slightly!!!

The bike was 4 laps around Stanley Park with a hill climb and super fast descent each lap. Again a course that suited me. I really loved the ride, but lost 2 places here. Here I am on one of ther corners... and with my new helmet:

By the time I started the run I was nearly thawed out, my toes were still a little numb but I soon forgot that. It seems like a very similar refrain here but I really enjoyed the run as well... there was lots of little rises and one sharp rise which played to my strengths as an athlete. I also ran a triathlon 10km pb on the course, and was only 10 sec off my straight 10km run pb as well.
All in all a great day. I enjoyed every leg and achieved the goal I set 18 months ago. Who could ask for more??
By the way the emergency blankets on the finish line helped:

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