Thursday 31 August 2017

Stockholm WTS 2017

Well, the last blog I posted here was Edmonton WTS. Since then I raced Montreal WTS the following weekend, over the Olympic distance (my preferred distance)  where I had a good race improving on my Edmonton result and finishing 24th.
I did actually write a blog post about it but it took me so long to get around to uploading it, that it was no longer really relevant; … It was no Shakespeare masterpiece so nobody missed out!

Following Montreal I flew directly back to Europe for an altitude training camp in Font Romeu, France (close to the French – Spanish boarder.) 
I spent 2.5 weeks living and training at 1850m above sea level until last Thursday when I traveled to Stockholm, Sweden.
(I will do a blog in the next week or so about Font Romeu as I have actually came back since the race.)

Stockholm has been a regular fixture on the WTS calendar for the past number of years but this was my first time, first time in the Swedish capital. I soon realized why this is a regular stop and an athletes favorite, with Stockholm being a beautiful city with a technical and interesting course with a little bit of everything; short sharp hills, cobblestones, tight corners and stunning historic buildings to race around.

Enough of my less than imaginative trip advisor review, I might as well start talking about my race before you go back to scrolling through instagram or twitter because I’ve gone over 140 characters already.

The swim was in front of the town hall, consisting of two laps, one large 1000m lap followed by a shorter 500m lap, exiting the water between each lap.
Unlike the swim familiarization the day before, the water was very choppy, which was going to make for a tough swim.
pc. World Triathlon

When going down to choose my pontoon spot I had in my head I was going to line up on the right hand side beside the best swimmers but as soon as I got there, I made a stupid decision and went far left as there was only 2 people to that side, and in the moment of panic I had convinced myself that with it being choppy I wanted to be near the far side so that I had as few people around me as possible. This did not pay off and I should have stuck to my guns instead of making spare of the moment decisions.
I dived in and instantly felt slow and labored with little get out speed, struggling to move forwards and fight thorough the choppy waters.
I managed to get bumped around, struggled to get comfortable, I got a knock to the face filling up one of my goggles and even ended up getting caught in the string that tie down the buoys while trying to get around the 1st turn buoy.
At the furthest point of lap 1 I don’t think I was far from being in the bottom 10 of the field, but I knew aerobically I was fit and once I turned to head back to the pontoon I made sure I had room to swim and moved through the field exiting around ¾ the way down. Heading into the 2nd lap I knew I still had plenty of work to do so I just had to put my head down and swim though, The good thing about being in a bad position when it is not due to fitness is that your able to swim faster than the people around you. I managed to crawl back a few places and exited the water around mid pack. I know its not ideal but it was an improvement on the shocking start that I got.

pc. Salud Aquawiz Photography

On to the bike and it was straight to work to pull back the leaders and get into as high a position as possible. Leaving transition I knew I was in good company on the bike with powerhouses such as, Blummenfelt, Mola and Bishop who I knew would all contribute. Our pack worked very hard very quickly, picking up stragglers ahead with the aim of minimizing loss to the lead breakaway.

It was a fast technical 9 lap course which made for fun interesting racing but you had to be switched on at all times. I was maybe a little too eager on the 1st lap and on one of the exits of a tight corner I started to pedal a fraction too early hitting the ground with my right pedal… not advised. I don’t really know how I stayed up but was definitely an “Oh Sh!t” moment. Due to that I was maybe a little over cautious on some technical corners as I didn’t want to take anymore risks but also because I had faith in how I was feeling that if I left a slight gap I could cover it easily.

The bike was fast and furious throughout but I felt strong and in control, for the most part, that was until the about 3 laps to go when camera men who were eager to get high profile athletes on camera probably weren’t as far away from the front of the pack as they should have been. An ok scenario when you trying to close a gap to the front, but when it lines the pack out and your not availing of the draft of the camera motorcycle, it makes for some fast km’s riding on the rivet.

I knew this was taking it out of my legs and with being on the penultimate lap I knew I had to move up the pack to stay a little safer and in a better position for the last lap.
Transition was on the short steep hill so just leading into the bottom of it going on to the bell lap I moved up through the pack to around 6th. Climbing up the hill I was probably in maybe one or two gears two hard, but it was too late I wasn’t going to risk changing gears on a cobbled steep hill, this meant that on the brow of the hill I wanted to get on top of the gear and get my cadence up. This accompanied by the fact that, those riding at the front seemed to back of the pace at the same time resulted in me going onto the downhill with a gap; a gap that actually surprised me when I looked over my shoulder, so I committed, why not?
pc. World Triathlon

I put my head down and made sure I was going to enter transition, free from the chase pack to give myself bonus seconds leading into the run. commentators said, ‘I was maybe doing it to get a new bike sponsor for next year.’ NO, instead I was just riding my own non-sponsored bike and 2nd hand wheels I bought off a mate, taking an opportunity that  presented itself to me and making the most of it.
I managed to stay away and gained myself 11 seconds in doing so and in actual fact it was the easiest lap of all the 9 laps, as I could ride my own consistent pace, use every inch of the road as there was no one around me and also get on top of my breathing and enter the run as relaxed as possible.

pc. Viviane's Logbooklet
So after getting into transition alone, I made my way onto the run trying to settle into a strong pace, which was easier said than done. Legs weren’t feeling super fresh and when you start a run on a downhill cobblestone decent with not a single runner around you its hard to work out what pace you’re running at.
I wasn’t able to stay with the faster runner when they came charging past, and tried to hold onto a strong pace until I got caught by runners I could stick with and use to pace myself off, in order to get through a tough 10km as fast as possible.
Just to make things more exciting with this course, the finish line was at the top of the steep hill that we had negotiated 12 times already, it wasn’t going to be an easy finish. I approached the bottom the hill fighting for 19th,20th,21st, the two guys surged away from me as I felt I had nothing to stay with them on the hill, but as I got the brow of the hill I seen them slow dramatically and I said to myself, “I’m might throw up, but every place counts.” I dug deep and emptied the tank. I managed to spit the two guys.

pc. Viviane's Logbooklet
The difference between, 20th and 21st, prize money and no prize money, and a few extra all important points, all decided over a photo finish.
Thankfully I can come away saying I finished 20th. My highest WTS finish of the season and a great confidence booster leading into my last few races.

I’m now back in Font Romeu, for my final preparations for the Grand final (World Champs) in Rotterdam on 16th September.

I’d like, to thank Triathlon Ireland for sending me to these races, Stephen Delaney for his support and guidance during the weekend, Ian O’Brien, my coach, all my training partners for getting me into shape my current sponsors; On Running, Zone3 and InfoCrank and obviously my family for everything they do. 

Friday 4 August 2017

Edmonton WTS 2017

Edmonton WTS 2017

Photo Cred: Tommy Zaferes
I have raced in Edmonton every year since 2014 (World U23 Champs, WTS Sprint that past two years.) Its funny how a race venue is portrayed in your memory depending on the performances that you have there.
When you have a good race somewhere, you are always very willing to go back, even if it’s not primarily a racecourse, which suits you. Mentally it’s a place where you can have another good race, because you’ve performed well there once, you can always do it again.
Edmonton is one of those places. U23’s was my best race at a world championships when I finished 16th, the 2015 in Edmonton was my best race to date back then and was a big step forward, it was also the one race that allowed me to get high enough in the World ranking to be eligible for selection for the Olympics last year (or as a reserve in my case) and last year was my second top 15th finish WTS.

Although I haven’t had the results I have wanted this season, I still went into this race with an ‘I’ve always had a good race here’ mentality. The bonus to going to somewhere multiple times, is how comfortable you are with it, you know the good places to eat, the best places to train; it keeps things very relaxed and familiar and reduces a lot of thinking and stress that is also a benefit leading into a race.

The race was two weeks post Hamburg, I had a great week at home, which was fantastic after so long on the road this season. Nice to be at home but sad knowing the fact, that the 8days I had there, helped to double to total amount of days I have spend in Northern Ireland since leaving for America back in January.
Being on the road doing what I love is great at times and a fantastic opportunity, but it is not without sacrifices and being away from home and family for so long is definitely the hardest part of it all.
So I flew to Edmonton from home and arrived on the Monday night giving plenty of time leading into the race, to be able to get over any jetlag and just get rid of the travel from the body.

Photo Cred: Tommy Zaferes
The days leading into the race went smoothly with the body feeling good and looking forward to getting and opportunity to race at the highest level once again. Unfortunately this race was another Sprint distance race; far too many on the circuit this year, in my opinion.
Anyone who watches the races regularly will have noticed that Edmonton has a very different swim course to most, which thankfully I have always found suited me in the past. The course is in a very small, shallow lake; almost more a duck pond than a lake. It is a beach start which allows for no more than one step before hitting the water instead of the more common pontoon dive. Once in the water it is not very far to the 1st buoy before taking a dog leg and loping around the back of a small island.

At the weekend I chose to stand to the right hand side of the starting line, which has always been notorious for having a slight disadvantage than the left hand side, in distance to the 1st buoy. Regardless I had decided that’s where I was going and I so did some of the top ranked guys before me, so I wasn’t too worried.
The weather was completely different to all other years in Edmonton, two years ago it was 7*C and on Saturday I stood on the start line in 27*C heat with a non-wetsuit swim (I would have much preferred the cold miserable weather).

I got a good clean start and very soon I found myself leading the charge from the right hand side, joining the left hand side arrowhead at the 1st buoy in around 8-10th position, which had been led out in blistering pace by Richard Varga.
I started to feel the pace on the back straight struggling to hold good form as the pace was very high but still know I had done the hard work and got myself into a good position to start with.
I was happy to hear afterward when I watched the race replay that it was the fastest non-wetsuit swim in WTS history, so I didn’t beat myself up as much about feeling the pace learning that fact and as I exited in 12th out of 50+ guys I mustn’t have felt as felt bad as most.

I was in a world of hurt non the less exiting the water at the back of the lead pack and struggled to have a fast transition which left me in no mans land for the start of the bike but I was glad to be swamped by some big names such as Gomez, Mola and Murray to be brought back up to the front.
The rest of the bike pack was pretty uneventful, even on the new harder course which involved negotiate and pretty hard hill 6 times.
When I say it was uneventful that doesn’t mean it was easy, far from it, this race was full gas from the gun. What I mean is that it stayed together and nothing of much significance occurred. That was until the last lap when I got a little TV time, not necessarily on purpose.

At the bottom of the hill I found myself at the front of the pack and quite close to the camera motorbike, I moved across onto the back wheel of the motorbike to keep the pace high with minimum effort and in doing so found that I had got myself a gap from the pack. I just wish I had committed to the attack as soon as realised I had a gap. I hesitated, as I knew I would have had to solo the last half lap by myself, that hesitation hampered my chances of making anything of it. In hindsight I wish I had of tried, I wouldn’t have finished much further down than I did. What’s the worse that could have happened, I still managed to get demoralizing comments from ‘Triathlon Live’ commentators at the fact that Mola wasn’t going to be worried about my run speed.

At the very end of the bike I made an attempt to get a little gap leading into transition but it was missed timed and a little too early, which resulted in me approaching the dismount line mid pack.
Don’t worry I don’t have much detail to go into on the run section of the race. From the 1st few steps I knew it was going to be a struggle, little did I know that those 1st few steps where probably the fastest few strides of the day, it just got worse after that. I struggled to get on top of my breathing, specially exhaling. I was shuffling along with shortness of breath unable to get into any rthymn and far from comfortable. I’m not one to pull out so I was left to trot around as I watched the rest of the field run into the distance as I stumbled across the line in 32nd.

Another frustrating performance, with a swim and bike to be pleased with but a run, which hindered a good final finishing position.
I am getting myself into the mix and my training has reflected a good performance is just around the corner, its just about putting all the pieces of the puzzle together…
I am currently sitting with my feet up in a hotel room in Montreal preparing to race on Sunday, this time an Olympic distance WTS, my preferred distance.
I am feeling good and loving the city of Montreal, this weekend its time to put it all together on the streets of this fine city.

Available to watch on BBC and
Saturday, 5 August
18:20-20:55, BBC Red Button and online - women's Race (23:00-01:35, repeated on BBC Red Button)
Sunday, 6 August
18:20-20:45, BBC Red Button and online - men's Race (23:00-01:25, repeated on BBC Red Button)
Monday, 7 August
09:25-11:50, BBC Red Button - men's Race (repeat)
14:00-15:30, BBC Two - World Series: Montreal highlights