Dreaming of, Travelling to, Racing in...... Rotterdam!
Rainy Rotterdam. We arrived in rain, we left in rain. Miraculously, the only day that it wasn't raining was race day.
A PNW (Pacific North West) girl at heart. This didn't dampen – excuse the pun – the mood.
This being my first world championship event I wasn't quite prepared for all the people and the set up. It was really a race week, rather than just a race weekend, or day. On arrival in Rotterdam, we saw ITU flags everywhere, and as race day drew closer there were more and more people donning their country flags on various articles of clothing. At the race venue itself, the transition zones and the expo, the energy and excitement was palpable.
Feeling very new to international racing I decided to go in with an open heart and mind, and just soak it all in.
3:30 alarm rings. Not enough sleep, but so it goes. Braid hair, eat breakfast, tattoos, go. T1 and T2 were separated by a body of water. So, on race morning, we dropped our run gear off at T2, then took a shuttle boat across the harbour to T2. At T1 we had to show the volunteers our team suit, and wetsuit for inspection and could then set up around our bikes (which we had dropped off the day before).
There were 90 girls in the 25-29F category all starting at once. It was an in-the-water start, so no diving off the pontoon like the pros and as soon as the gun went off, all I could feel was arms and legs and water splashing around me. The water in the harbour was actually quite calm the morning of the race (we had done a swim familiarization a few days prior where it was super choppy, so we were actually quite lucky), but there was a slight haze, which made sighting a bit of a challenge. The swim course was an out and back with a little knick on the way back - think “R” shape - and the going was hard from start to finish. Usually, my strategy on the swim is to get out front, draft for the first half and then surge on the second. I found myself stuck in a group of girls, staring someone in the eyes every time I turned my head to breathe and some kicks to the collar bone. Oh well. Still moving forward, but wasn't able to break free to get to the group in front.
Exiting the water, I heard coach Kyle's voice above the other shouts of encouragement “Let's go!,You are in the top 20!”. Later I found out he lied. I was 21st out of the water and he knew it, but I forgive him, knowing that he was trying to keep me motivated to stay in that leading group. The endless (about 500m) run into T1 seemed to last forever, especially because I came out of the water feeling way dizzier than I ever have. Once in T1, I struggled with my wetsuit a bit, but was sooner rather than later up and out on the bike course.
The bike course consisted of two crazy laps around and across some of the harbours of Rotterdam. There were 180 degree turns, speed bumps, narrow bike trails and cobblestones. Needless to say, intense focus was required. I tried to not let my mind stray, but I have a hard time sometimes not appreciating the awesomeness of my experience: biking at full speed along the canals of Rotterdam. I loved the technical aspects of the bike course, and being a non-drafting race. There were no big groups, but the course still got quite congested. With so many people out on it at once, varying skill levels and speeds I found myself holding back from the effort I had planned to put in.
Coming off the bike into T2 I think I felt every muscle in my legs go into pre-seize mode. I felt the cramps coming on hard. I knew I had to be careful so the run basically became about pushing as hard as I could without having my legs turn into steel rods. I heard Coach Kyle multiple times throughout the run, hollering at me to pick it up; and I tried my hardest not to back off when he was out of earshot/sight. I'm not going to lie – it hurt like hell. At this point I was beyond the “appreciating racing in the Netherlands” feeling and knew I just needed to stay strong and finish. I directed my breaths and the oxygen that came with it to my leg muscles and the side stitches that also decided to make an appearance, and miraculously was able to finish without the legs seizing.
Thankfully I have never finished a race unhappily. Each race I complete helps me learn more about myself – my strengths and my weaknesses – and motivates me more than anything to improve. I love how the sport takes everything out of you when you are racing, and as soon as you cross the finish line you feel a sense of fulfillment, like a bottomless cup of strawberry lemonade. I feel super grateful to have the ability to participate in triathlon and wouldn't be nearly as happy doing it if I didn't have the amazing support of Jonathan, Coach Kyle, Wahoo's swim club in Peace River and friends and family. Super excited to have been part of a world championship event and hoping it won't be the last!