Hello! I’m back in Vancouver and I don’t even know where to start with this one – fair warning it’s going to be long :).
I arrived in Motala by train on June 23rd and found the house where I’d be staying. It’s owned by a sweet old man who speaks very little English, but he managed to show me around and gave me keys to the house and garage. I set my stuff down in one of the bedrooms, put the bike in the garage, and headed out to find some groceries.
Getting candy, donuts and chocolate at 7am the morning after the race :)
Hector joined me a few hours later, and Jen, Winston and Karmen arrived the next day. The five of us spent the few days before the race doing some light training (I did one loop of the run course and one of the bike course) plus getting organized, figuring out our race day clothing strategy, and meeting the rest of the Team Canada athletes.
cold swim updates
The main issue everyone was talking about leading up to the race was the weather (what else do triathletes talk about??). It was cold. The water temperature was barely 14 degrees, so the day before the race the ITU shortened the swim from 4000m to 1500. I was pretty happy about this given my sleeveless wetsuit, but I know that some athletes really perform well in the water and were bummed about this change.
all racked and ready to go in transition!
Team Canada checking in
The day before the race, we all checked the bikes into transition, had our uniforms + helmets checked, and lined up for the parade of nations! This was such a cool experience. The whole town was out cheering for the athletes and I felt so surreal being surrounded by people from all over the world.
Race morning started bright and early for me, around 5.30 am. The start time had been moved to 9.45 for my wave, but I was also delighted with… SUNSHINE! It was probably the best morning I’d seen since being in Sweden and I was really happy about it. Going into the race I knew that I was undertrained from graduating, the LMCC, moving, and traveling, and my goal was to have fun and finish. This really removed the pressure from race morning and I didn’t have too many butterflies, meaning I could really soak in the experience.
Race morning – tattoos, gatorade, and donuts… #trilife
The five of us walked down to transition, and I checked on the bike (all good!), pumped my tires, and hung up my transition bags.
The best part of the morning came when I met up with my parents, who flew in just to cheer me on. They are super supportive, even when they’re totally bewildered by my desire to complete races that take an entire day. The whole time they were yelling and cheering and waving Canadian flags.
Transition on race day, and Team Canada helping out Team Mexico!
Soon enough my wave was being ushered into the VERY cold water (14 degrees) of Lake Vattern. Immediately I wet my face and tried to do a quick warm up – we weren’t allowed into the water until the race was starting. When the gun went off I just went for it.
This was probably the hardest part of the day for me. I was so, so cold from being in the water and there were people EVERYWHERE. I think the wave was a bit big for the size of the start line, and instantly there were people swimming over, under, and all around me. I totally panicked. This is something that’s happened to me before in the water because the wetsuit can feel really restrictive, but this time I wasn’t able to get my head under control, and my heart rate felt like it was close to 200. I scrambled over to a buoy and grabbed it. I got my breathing under control and thought hard about pulling off my cap, which would signal the lifeguards to pull me from the water. In the end though, I told myself that I did not trek across the world with my bike in tow to give up 5 minutes into the race. I’m a good swimmer and I’d be fine. I started moving forward and finally found my rhythm, which settled me right down. Unfortunately, all of this kind of destroyed my swim split, so I got into T1 at 33:12. I’m ok with this! I think it was such a win that I kept going and I’m really happy I did.
I hopped on my bike wearing my tri suit, plus arm warmers and my team Canada jacket because I was so cold. Kind of dumb, because it was super sunny and 20k into the bike I was too hot for the jacket. Oops! I pulled off the road quickly and wrapped it around my waist… we weren’t allowed to pass things off to spectators but I so badly wanted to toss it to my mom! I was perfectly happy in the tri suit and arm warmers temperature wise.
About 100km into the bike I was officially in uncharted territory – I don’t think I’ve ever biked longer than that continuously. My butt can definitely confirm that I was not used to this :). I was on my road bike, so I had a bit of a disadvantage on this windy, flat course (a tri bike would have been much better) but it was amazing to enjoy the smooth roads and beautiful scenery. I struggled around 95km, but I’d put peanut m n m’s in my bento box, which cheered me right up!
I took 5 gels on the bike (1 every 45 minutes) and drank 1 bottle of gatorade plus another half bottle of Enervit, which was the Swedish electrolyte drink they had on the course. I also grabbed a bottle of water that I didn’t end up using. I’m happy with this nutrition strategy and I think it worked well for me, although as usual after a longer race I hope it’s a very long time before I have another gel.
When I finally came into T2 all I could think about was how happy I was to be off the bike!
Starting the run, I remember being afraid. 30km is a long way to go when you’re already 5 hours into a race and honestly I was just scared of having to do it. Luckily, my parents were still yelling away, and about 200m into the course, I found Hector, who was already on this 3rd loop! We chatted for a bit and he made me realize I could do it. I decided that I would break the run down into each of the three loops. The first I would do at a good pace, feeding off the crowd. The second, I knew I would suffer, and the third I would do at whatever pace felt comfortable and use the knowledge that I was almost done.
There were distance markers on the course, and I remember that when I got to the 9km mark, I thought to myself “ok, only a half marathon to go – you’ve done this so many times!” I started off strong and finished the first lap in about 50 minutes. I would have loved to maintain this pace but my left quad in particular was not having any of it, so I just did what I could. I loved being able to high-five kids and wave to people cheering for Canada along the way!
Finally I was done! I crossed the finish line, and the next few minutes are really hard to remember… I know my parents hugged me and a volunteer put me in a chair to take the timing chips off my ankles. I remember that I was shaking and someone got my team Canada hoodie and helped me put it on. I ate a bunch of chips from the post-race tent (OMG the salt craving) and eventually picked up my bike and walked back to the house with my parents. They headed back to their hotel pretty soon after (it was a long day for them!) and my teammates and I celebrated!
The biggest take-home I have from this race is to respect the distance. I was definitely undertrained but I think my reasonable expectations and good attitude still let me have a fun day. I have a feeling it’s one I’ll never forget :)
A HUGE thanks to my teammates + Triathlon Canada, family and friends watching at home, and of course Rob and the Koalas!