Race Report: 2011 ITU World Championships Age Group Sprint Triathlon

It’s over.  I’ve been anticipating this race for a year now and it’s actually done.  That was the most exciting triathlon I’ve ever competed in and any doubts I had disappeared completely.  Will I race at Worlds again?  I can’t say for numerous reasons but I will always have memories from this experience.

3:50 AM came too early this morning.  I wasn’t tired though because all the excitement and nerves I’d been holding back kept me wide awake.  As I walked through the hotel lobby and looked outside, my heart sank.  Rain…cold rain.  Nothing to do but head straight up to my room and search for a jacket and plastic bag.

Arriving at the race venue on the shuttle around 5:00 AM gave us about an hour and half before we were kicked out of transition.  My warm up plan quickly turned to a “stay warm” plan.  I set up my gear (bike shoes clipped in, bike helmet on bike with race belt, and running shoes in a plastic bag).  The rain was determined to continue throughout the morning so there was no need for sunglasses or a hat. A member of Mexico’s team let me borrow his umbrella while he set up and I waited for a pump.

I finally met the other two USA girls in my age group and we talked a little bit before seeking refuge in a tent with all the other racers.  Seeing all the other countries in their race uniforms gave me goosebumps and a surge of adrenaline.  Various countries were huddled together and nervous energy hung in the air while we waited to hear the water temperature (to determine if the race was wetsuit legal…it wasn’t at 77°F) and other race updates.

At 6:15 we stripped off the last of our layers and headed for the wind, cold, and rain.  We quickly lost any polite boundaries with fellow USA athletes and huddled tightly under a few umbrellas trying to conserve the last few minutes of warmth and energy.  This huddle expanded to other countries within my age group as we were corralled to the start line.  Instead of sizing up my competition, the weather conditions put us all shoulder to shoulder in a giant international circle. I’m a sucker for cheesy moments.

By this point my feet were numb while my shoulders and arms were sore from shivering.  After walking onto the plank several people immediately sat down to dangle their feet in the water.  I definitely copied to thaw out my toes.  I like feeling my feet.

Swim

I wasn’t prepared for the start horn because it went off shortly after we jumped off the pontoon.  This put me in the middle of the pack but I spotted the lead girl and caught up within a 100 meters.  We swam side by side until I found my rhythm and let my arms do what they do naturally in the water.  There were a few moments when I’d catch a glimpse of the mountains or temple and remember I was swimming in a Ming Tomb Reservoir.  My attention turned back towards the race and I focused on keeping a steady pace and trying to get a solid lead going into the bike.  The water temperature was perfect for me and I was thankful for an uncrowded course with no currents or waves. After a few turns, I was already swimming towards the red buoys signaling the finish.  The cold air and rain hit me immediately and I darted towards transition.

Swim time: 11:13 (1st in Age Group, 12th Overall)

Bike (21.6 km)

This was a challenging bike course for me but I had fun pushing myself on the rolling hills.  We had two loops for the bike course that took us all the way around the reservoir.  Immediately after transition was the steepest and longest climb of the course.  I was hoping the climb would warm me up but my quads were numb before the end of the hill.  Two girls passed me within the first few miles and then a few more after that.  This I expected because I have limited opportunity to train on hills and the bike is my weakest leg.  I was, however, surprised with how close I was able to stay with most of the them.  For a long stretch on the first loop there were four of us spread out (Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and me).  Keep in mind this was a heavily officiated course and drafting wasn’t legal.

The biggest rush came from hearing spectators along the course shout go USA and racing against competitors from other countries.  I wasn’t just trying to catch a girl in my age group; I was trying to catch Great Britain.  I had a glimpse of the honor our Olympians experience.

Between the hills and wet road my bike split wasn’t stellar but I didn’t lose as much ground as originally anticipated.  Coming into transition I missed the entrance marker and was frazzled for a few seconds as I made a U-turn and rushed to rack my bike.

Bike time:43:56 (5th for the 1st lap and 7th for 2nd lap in AG)

Run (5 km)

I was excited for the run despite my frozen feet and numb legs.  This was a fast course because it was the same track-like surface used in the 2008 Olympics and there was a lot of energy.  Did I mention we were at the same venue? Kind of cool right? We had a 0.17 km run out to the run loop and then had to run three times around the 1.33 km loop and then a 0.85 km half loop to the finish.  Are you confused?  So were a lot of people

Out of transition, I spotted a GBR girl from my age group that had passed me on the bike.  My pulse picked up even more and I held back slightly to feel out the best pace.  Once my legs warmed up a little, I let myself push and reached deep to keep the fastest pace I could hold for three miles.  Between passing and getting passed by people all over the world and hearing “Go USA!” cheers I was filled with excitement as I rounded each turn.  I saw my boyfriend, Alvaro, and our friend, Shay, finishing up their race and knew they were just as excited.

I stayed close to the GBR girl and pulled up aside her two times only to have her surge further ahead.  She made me work the entire run.  It was fun to watch Alvaro finish as I was on my second loop.  A guy from the GBR team caught up for him and made for as an exciting finish as they battled back and forth to the finish line.  Both him and Shay finished well with solid times and places for the course (Alvaro at 13th in his AG with a 1:12 and Shay at 19th with a 1:14). Good job boys

The adrenaline kept me pushing hard until the finish line.  I couldn’t believe the race was over.  I let the experience sink in for a few moments and then sought food, water, and warmth.

Run time: 21:49 (7th/8th in AG)

Total time: 1:19:56 (7th in AG and 35th Overall)

Overall, I am happy with my performance.  I didn’t let up the entire time and didn’t let conditions interfere mentally.  My goal time was to beat what I did at nationals (1:15) but it was a more challenging course so I’m not upset.  My goal place was top 10 which I did 🙂 Would I change anything?  Sure but I did my absolute best.

After the race, we all tried our best to keep warm but my hands were shivering so much that my coffee kept spilling and I couldn’t even take a sip!  We took a few pictures and recapped with people we’d met throughout the week from the USA and other countries before heading for the shuttle.

Thanks again to everybody that has supported us!

*Pictures will come when I have a better connection.

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12 Responses to Race Report: 2011 ITU World Championships Age Group Sprint Triathlon

  1. Courtney, thanks for sharing so much through your blog and taking us all with you on this trip. Congratulations on a great race. I’m writing this from out on the Seminole Trail this morning as the Blue Dolfins are getting a run in before swim practice. Joe had who ever wanted bring their bikes for a ride afterward.

  2. Colleen says:

    Great job, Courtney! Send my congrats to Alvaro and Shay, too. You all rocked it. I’m so happy for you.

    Now that I have more time, let’s plan some Tampa-SRQ training 🙂

  3. That is absolutely amazing to place 7th at an international competition like this!

    (but yeah, it’s kind of not fun getting passed by people on the bike. the curse of the fast swimmer)

  4. Congratulations, Courtney! I’ve been following your blog through Meals and Miles, but thought it was funny when I opened my USF health email and saw an announcement about your race. I’m in the Adult MSN program, but also did undergrad at the CON, too:)

  5. So awesome Courtney! I can’t imagine what it must have been like to race in such a huge event like that & to place as high as you did against international competitors? Amazing!

  6. Mike says:

    Sounds like the race of a lifetime. Very inspiring. Cya when you get home. Uncle Mike

  7. Pingback: {Guest Post} Group Cycling (Part 2) « 321delish

  8. Meghann says:

    Congrats Courtney!! I can’t wait to hear the play by play in person!!! 🙂

  9. way to go rock star!!! so impressed with your perseverance through the wind, rain and cold! looking forward to the pics when you get a chance to post them! 🙂

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  11. Laura says:

    Freaking awesome! Congrats!

  12. Beth says:

    I’m so impressed! Congrats on an awesome race and a high INTERNATIONAL finish!!

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