2017 ITU World Championships – Penticton Canada Race Report

The biggest athletic stage I’ve stepped on – and I should’ve rocked it. Instead, it was the worst swim of my life. With not a much better run – but decent.   I learned a lot. And (spoiler alert) came in #10 in my agegroup for aquathlon.  This was my goal, but I’m still super disappointed in the race performance, yet super excited about the lessons learned.

My History

For a little context, I am a baby in the world of multisport. In fact, I’m a newbie on running but a little bit more history into swimming.  I swam in high school, middle and dabbled a bit in college.  However, running and all things multisport were completely foreign – and still kind of are.  In June 2015, I did my first triathlon 10 weeks post-partum with child number five.   From there I’ve gone into the distances of sprint, Olympic, half ironman (70.3) and Ironman (140.6).  

For those that don’t know what multisport it – it is competition with multiple sports – primarily swim, bike and run.  They can include the standard triathlon discplines, aquabike (swim/bike), aquathlon (swim/run) and duathlon (bike/run).

With a huge shot in the dark, I flew to Santa Cruz, California in 2016 to compete at Aquathlon Nationals…and I qualified for Team USA – much to my surprise! So, I guess I was headed to the World Championships August 2017.

From there, I kept focusing on (what I thought was my big goal) of Ironman Maryland 140.6.  This race is still yet to come.  This season is where I’d learned that training for a full ironman distance and a sprint length multisport is so incredibly different, frustrating and downright irritating to a control-freak-type-A-personality.  Not me. Not at all. Nothing to see here. Ha!

 

Repping Team RWB also – an organization to support veterans through athletics

Travel 

One of the greatest parts of competing in a swim/run competition is minimal preparation. Read: No bike prep, ship, put back together, mechanical issues to avoid, etc.   I loaded up with a few pairs of shoes, tri kits, and swim stuff (wetsuit, caps, goggles).  It was relatively easy packing. #winning

This made the travel to Canada, especially coming from East Coast United States, super easy.  Packed in regular carry-on bags (I just started using the AWAY suitcase with an in-case portable charger for my devices), snagged my passport, grabbed my husbands hand, and off we went!

Travel was low-key, low-stress, and downright enjoyable. We flew Air Canada and all the greatness they have to offer.  As a frequent business traveler for my career as a business consultant and self-made successful entrepreneur – traveling in comfort is super important to me. And they didn’t disappoint.

In fact, I was so relaxed and excited, I kept singing “Canadaaaa” to my husband, much to the dismay of the passengers around us.  Now, keep in mind, as a military dependent and business owner, I’ve traveled frequently, including overseas but I have actually never been to Canada. I was incredibly excited to be representing Team USA on this world stage, and getting to travel in a new part of the world.

Upon arrival in Kelowna, Canada, we were greeted with a bag pipe player.  How cool! No, it wasn’t just for us.  It was a little old man greeting his wife at the plane.  Oh, my heart!  I absolutely love time-tested love stories like that!  But it definitely set the mood for our fun trip in Canadaaaaaa!!!

Husband and I easily grabbed our rental car, while we watched other athletes struggling with bike cases, and took the one hour drive around Okanagan Lake to our bed and breakfast. (Note: This makes me nervous about attempting qualifications for Worlds in Denmark next year – I ‘m not sure I want to take my bike all that way but we will see. I’m entertaining the idea of using Race Day Transport.)

 

Team USA has a host hotel, but I decided to forgo being in the hustle-bustle and rent a little bed-and-breakfast just outside of Penticton.  It was run by a cute little German couple, with an awesome view of the lake, mountains and all Penticton has to offer.  OH, how have I not yet mentioned that this is winery land.  And when I mean winery land…I mean there are more wineries, one after another, than Seattle (or any other large metro area) has Starbucks. 

The roads of Penticton are lined with incredible vineyards, incredible wineries and incredible bistros.  Yes yes, I know this is a race report but traveling for racing includes the experience.  The food and wine were an elemental part of the experience for this trip. I highly recommend.  Keep in mind, Penticton is a very small town.  There are lots of outdoors things to do but I’m not sure we’d rush to go back with family.  For a couple get away and race-cation, it was awesome.

Other Team USA benefits: Pasta party, massage therapist, chiropractor, on-staff doctor, killer Tri kits and uniforms.

 

We highly recommend the Hillside Winery and Bistro.  Their tapas and wine are on point.

 

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Pre-Race Festivities

We flew in around noon Penticton time and were given plenty of time to look around, get checked into the expo and relax prior to engaging in the evening activities.   If you ever get a chance to go – check out The Peach – it has these massive ice creams. I’m not much for ice cream but had to treat my support crew!

The first night we had the Parade of Nations, where all teams get together in their parade kits, show their country pride and march through the streets. It was a pretty awesome experience to walk behind a huge, waving red, white and blue flag on the verge of representing the USA.

When we had arrived in Penticton it was warm. The first night was EXTREMELY hot as there was no central AC in our B&B.  So much so I woke up the next day (prep day) with a massive migraine.  We took our rental car and hunted down a gas station for some meds.  It didn’t ease up.   My nose started to run from the headache as well – which, looking back, may have attributed to my swim issues.  However, race day the temperatures plummeted and it was freezing! 

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Race Morning 

Normally I spend every night before a triathlon restless as I’m worried I will miss my alarm, and unable to eat my traditional oatmeal the morning of.  No issues at all in Penticton.   I woke up, braided my hair, ate, got ready and off I went.  After competing at so many Ironman events I’m used to the long-lines and cattle prodding.  This event was completely not like that.  Remember, this is only individuals who have qualified in their home nations and countries can only bring a certain number of athletes.  The qualify and go is a huge honor.  Everything was centrally located along the Okanagan Lake shore in Penticton, which was hugely convenient and fun.  I had been able to get in a shake-out swim and run in the same water and on the same race path.

Nutrition: 

-2 packets of instant oatmeal – perfect for taking in hotels – just use the coffee pot to heat up water and use a coffee mug!

-packet of Tailwind Raspberry Buzz on way to transition and start

-a few Honey Stinger Chews (Pink lemonade) after standing around shivering for a while in the gate

-I had a banana but opted out for a short race

 

The Race

This is the most embarrassing and heart-sharing part of this race report.  I screwed up. And I don’t know what caused it.

I had no jitters. Nothing. I normally have some anxiety.  I had none. Even when we lined up on the cold, sand behind a hand-drawn start line.  Nothing. I was excited. I had prepared with my Coach, myself and my mind that I was ready to push threshold. I wanted top ten placement.  Nothing else would be good enough for me.

Off we went, into the SUPER shallow start.  I dolphin dove once, holy crap that’s a lot of rocks almost in my face.  Stand up, dolphin dive again.   Trust me I wasn’t the only one. We probably spent a good 25 yards of this dive, stand, dive stand until it was deep enough to even stroke.

 

This is where the train went off the rails. 

Remember, I have been a swimmer since I was 11. Eleven! I have never truly been anxious in the water. In fact, it is my happy place.  Today, I wasn’t anxious. Nervous. Scared nothing. But after the last dolphin dive. I couldn’t breathe.  At all.  Sometimes this happens going from warmer outside air to a colder water. After a few stroke it typically calms down and I get into a groove. This groove often results with myself being one of the first out of the water at the exit.

Not today.

I couldn’t breathe. I was choking. My entire chest felt like it was being crushed.  I knew I had to keep moving forward. The pack. MY pack was leaving me. This has never EVER happened. I’m always up with them. In the fray, fighting for the front placement. 

Not today.

 

I couldn’t even get my face in the water because I couldn’t breathe.  A combination of this breathing and the high chop, I just couldn’t breathe.  I kept breaststroking to get to the first buoy.  I told myself, just get there.  When I got there I said “screw this!” and took off the first top of my wet suit.  And started freestyle.  Oh yes. I was free. I felt great.  But, unfortunately, 1/3 of the race was already done at this point. 1/3 of the race in a short 1000m race is really small and doesn’t leave a lot of margin. 

I was mentally shaken, physically shaken.  I almost DNFd (did not finished). I have NEVER contemplated that ever in my life. I’m not a quitter. Especially swimming.  In fact, kayak support had seen I couldn’t breathe and asked if I needed their assistance. That is scary.

I have no idea what happened.  My research leads me away from anxiety attack (none of which I felt, and none of the symptoms I had) and to SIPE.  I don’t want to arm-chair doctor diagnose myself but I don’t know what happened. I don’t. And I make no excuses. I just know that when I came out of the water I was FIVE MINUTES behind my goal. That is huge for a short race.

Luckily, I finished. (Not without problems as sighting was not doable whatsoever under the sunny, smoky conditions on the shore).  I only swam over by fifteen yards, which is a huge difference from my normal crappy-sighting of 100+ yards! Ha!

My husband later told me that he was concerned when he didn’t see me as one of the first and knew as soon as he saw me pop up out of the water that my body language was off – that I hated the swim.

 

On to the run 

Ran into transition, grabbed my shoes, visor and race belt – off I went! On to the pavement.

Y’all, the streets were lined with spectators, flags and cheers. It was pretty incredible competing against other countries.  Since I’m not an elite professional (HA!) and in age-group, there were a bunch of different age groups on the course.  The one thing ITU didn’t do that most multisport engage in is placing the age group of the competitor on their right calf. None of that happened here, so we were competing blind.

The race course was 2 laps down the FLATTEST straight course. This should’ve been MINE. The temps were around 52 degrees, it was chilly for spectators but amazing for me. I should’ve flown.  But, admittedly, I let the swim issues mentally get to me.  I didn’t run my fastest race, but it was a decent performance considering.

My favorite part was at the end – my husband handed off my American flag and the Team USA Coach Tim yelled “get the Canadian!” – I was neck to neck with a Canadian lady.  So I went for it.  We were about to hit the blue chute and I churned it down.  Garmin had me clocking 4:50/mi pace.  Which sounds fun but shows that I had too much left at the end.

I flew across the line ahead of her, American flag in hand.  It was over. The world championships were over.

That was it.

And it was a ball. 

 

 

After the race I moved into the finishers area, got our swag and food.  While talking to some fellow Team USA teammates my husband (rudely) interrupts and tells me… “hey..top 10”.

I had reached my goal.

Unfortunately, it’s not as sweet had I truly earned it with a stellar performance. Running the numbers, even if I had gone goal pace I would’ve only moved up 2-3 spots.  Nothing to get me to podium and I can’t change what happened.  It happened. I’m embarrassed, but now I just have to figure out whats up. 

 

The wetsuit was new (To me. It was a used one with a huge hole in the hip, ha!) but I had swam in it. I had swam open-water in the lake no problem. I have no idea what happened. But now it is time to figure it out.  In six weeks I start this journey all over again at a qualifier for 2018 World Championships in Denmark.  There is another (with a bike) in November.   Time to make some plans, figure out how to move forward.  Maybe a new wetsuit, Roka or anyone wanna help? (I semi jest. I gotta figure something out.  This one was a freebie I got through a trade group when I was trying to be frugal for this trips travel.  Unfortunately, I’m not sponsored – which is understandable at this level in age-group).

I’ve already made some game plans with the coach.  These include figuring out the water issue, strengthening my weak hip, backing off of ultra-triathlons next year and focusing on the world championships.  Would be nice to get national champion this year but I’ll still be in the thick of IMMD (140.6) training.  Long distance training is a completely different training than short, sprints.  I’ve learned that lesson.   I walk away from my first world championship with lessons, confused, and encouraged.

But, y’all, number ten ain’t bad for being in the sport only two years.  Takes a game plan and a way.

 

I can’t do all that I do without my village.  I love you guys- thank you.  

My aspirations of Olympics have never come true – and to be honest, I’m too old in this sport now.  It’s a bummer it took me so long to get it together. But, I spent my twenties having babies, fighting cancer and building my business empire.  That’s still worth it’s weight in gold.

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