2015 ITU LD World Championships – Race Report!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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all racked and ready to go in transition!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Transition on race day, and Team Canada helping out Team Mexico!

Swim: 1500m, 33:12

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.

Bike: 120km, 4:13:04

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!

Run: 30km, 2:59:17

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!

Finish: 7:56:58

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!

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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!

Motivation Monday and The Final Countdown

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shenanigans while relaxing in Stockholm

Hej, hej! I’m in Stockholm today, heading to Motala tomorrow. The big race is 5 days away and… I’m a little nervous and mostly just happy to be here. As I mentioned in my last post, I know that I’m undertrained and life has been crazy lately, and I know it’s going to be a bit of a sufferfest on Saturday. That having been said, I’m loving Sweden.

Yesterday, after I arrived I explored a bit and then met fellow SOAS ambassador Carolin and her boyfriend for dinner. Unfortunately, in the photo below my hair did not get the memo to behave itself and after a few weeks of salt water, sun and sweat it is not happy with me, haha! We ate at an awesome restaurant called Tradition, which serves typical Swedish food. I had Swedish meatballs, duh. SO GOOD.

Me and Carolin! 

It was really nice to have an insider’s take on what to do in Stockholm. This morning I went on a run to Djurgarden, which is a big park/area close to my hotel. Then, I explored, shopped, hung out in a park and generally enjoyed the city of Stockholm. It’s really beautiful!

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the old town (Gamla stan) and getting my caffeine fix at Espresso House

Sometimes I find it hard to muster up the motivation to train while I’m in a strange place. Earlier this year when I was bouncing around all over Canada, it wasn’t so bad because my hotels had treadmills, and it was easy to ask people for running routes, etc. But when I’m way far from home, the total unfamiliarity + language differences + culture can make it seem overwhelming. In Croatia when I went running people generally looked at me like I was bonkers. A friend explained that in the smaller fishing villages, people tend to be pretty active just living their lives (fishing, working outdoors, etc) so it’s unusual to see someone out running just for the sake of running. Call me crazy :). Anyway, what I wanted to say was that even though it’s hard to find the motivation, once I finally DO get out there, I feel a million times better, and it’s such a great way to see a new place.

I don’t have much else to report other than loving being in Europe again (last time I was here was 2012 – it’s been a while!) and feeling lucky to be exploring such amazing places. A part of me is also looking forward to going home, though, and settling into my life and routine in Vancouver.

More from Motala when I get there! xo

Home Stretch

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Hey hey! I’m posting today from Cavtat (somehow pronounced Sow-dat :), just up the coast from Dubrovnik in the south of Croatia.

After my last post, I set my personal record for most number of flight connections without a single glitch – 5!! After flying YVR –> YYZ –> CPH –> ARN –> ZRH –> SPU over 30 hours, I finally grabbed a cab in the middle of the night in Split, Croatia. I convinced the cabbie to lower the back seats and we tucked the bike and my backpack in. We drove to Bajnice, which is where the hostel I had booked is, and as soon as I was in my dorm I was SOUNDLY asleep. 12 hours later I woke up to 2 funny British guys (Tom and Dan), very sweetly trying not to wake me up from the other bunk beds even though it was the middle of the day.

I spent the first few days of my trip with them and their friend Drew (from Australia). On that first afternoon we hung out at the hostel, then took their rental car up the coast to check out the actual city of Split. It was nice to walk around and then to eat a real dinner (awesome seafood). Trying to leave the city, though, we got SO lost. There were basically no signs for the highway, so we drove the little rental car all up and down the hills of the city trying to find the D8… which we finally did, 45 minutes later :)

IMG_3984The next day was my last day at the hostel, so we hung out by the water all day. I relaxed in the sun, swam in the Adriatic, read, and generally went into total vacation mode. Both nights we stayed up wayyyy late (like all night) staring at the stars. Since we were in a little fishing village, there was almost no light pollution and I have never seen so many stars and constellations so clearly.

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Next it was time for me to head back to Split to meet the group I’d be cycling with for the next 5 days. I had a great time riding in the mornings, going to the seaside or relaxing in the afternoons, and enjoying longggg dinners of fresh seafood on the Dalmatian coast. I put my legs to work climbing (you can see the rides on Strava), earned some serious tan lines and met a really awesome person.

After the trip landed me in Dubrovnik, in the very south of Croatia, I had originally planned to spend a day and then go to Stockholm. The combination of good company, good coffee and never ending sunshine, though, prompted me to extend my stay. So, I’m relaxing here for a few more days and then going directly to Motala on Sunday for the race (which will still give me a few days to settle in with the rest of the team). At this point, I have plans to run a bit but mostly I’m loving the taper and trying to eat like a reasonable human (is it normal to have ice cream for every meal?)

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I think I had forgotten how much I love the Dalmatian coast. Traveling alone has been a breeze as there are so many people to meet and the locals are really warm. The beaches are rocky, but if you don’t mind that, the Adriatic is unbelievably calm. Check out the yachts docked just outside the coffeeshop where I’m working!

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few days about the race and this summer. Logistically, Motala is still pretty cold, and the water temperatures are not looking good for a race day swim. I have a pretty strong feeling that if it doesn’t get cancelled altogether, the swim will be shorter than 4 km. The biking has built up some confidence (I really started attacking the climbs) so I’m hoping that my bike fitness is enough. I haven’t been running much, but I think by the time I get to it on race day I may be able to just power through. I had no illusions about winning the race, and I like my goal of showing up, having fun, and finishing the longest distance I’ve ever attempted.

Next stop, Motala!

Up, Up and Away

IMG_3898I’m at the airport again! This time I’m heading to Europe for some fun cycling and then – FINALLY – ITU WORLDS! At this point, I’m recognizing that I’m fairly undertrained for this race (not something I recommend) but I know that I’m fit enough to do it safely and that I need to have reasonable goals for it.

Firstly, I’d like to have fun and soak in the atmosphere of competing at an international event. I’m so pumped to be wearing red+white, and I promise to show you all the Team Canada goodness here (and on my instagram!) in the coming weeks. Secondly, I’d like a strong, well-paced bike, and thirdly, consistency on the run, even if it is slower.

In the meantime, here’s a really mediocre recap of how training/life has gone over the past week or so that I’ve been in Vancouver (9 days). I haven’t tracked my training as well as I usually do, but I have been pretty conscious about getting it in. The swimming took a bit of a hit, but other than that, I’ve been pretty good! I’ve been cycling a bit on my bike but mostly at the spin studio around the corner from me, Cyklus. The workouts are killer and the people are great. I also headed out for a run with the 8th+Cambie Running Room folks, which was a great way to see some of the Seawall on Sunday morning. My other runs have been solo but really nice. Add a bit of yoga (you know, carrots are nature’s candy), and I’m feeling pretty good.

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Evening views from my apartment – on this night the North Shore mountains are just visible

Two of the things I noticed immediately about living in an urban setting (with no car!) are that 1) bikes are a hot commodity (I can’t reply to Craigslist ads fast enough!) and 2) I walk A LOT. I’ve been easily taking over 20,000 steps every day that I’ve been in Vancouver, which doesn’t really count towards training but definitely tuckers me out.

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So far the best thing by far about living here is all of the fun outdoor stuff to do. On Friday I paddled out with a friend and we caught a bunch of crabs! It was pretty easy (especially when I didn’t have to do too much prep work ;) and such a fun day.

IMG_3895The other great thing about living here? The BEACH! Most people who’ve read this blog for more than two minutes know that I’m a total beach bum but I’ve never really lived close to one (except for a few months in high school). So I keep pinching myself that I LIVE HERE. These are regular views on my runs. 

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Finally, I spent the last day or so re-packing some stuff to head to Europe. Remember if you’re packing for a destination race (or a cycling trip like the one I’m doing first – reviews to come!), you can find my handy checklist here. I have an awesome 70L pack from MEC that has been with me everywhere (Europe, Africa, South America). I don’t think they sell the backpack anymore but here’s a similar one. Above is one of my favourite packing tips for when I’m traveling with my backpack. I pack outfits in 1L ziploc bags (stuff sacks from MEC are great, too, and more environmentally friendly). Then, I label the bags with the date, and easily grab the right one in the morning! If I’m going on a trip with a less rigid itinerary, I just label them “beach”, “city”, “hiking”, etc.

That’s it! See you in Europe!