Yeah, that’s Alex in the header picture! It was supposed to be me, but I take good photos, while he is well….a sucky photographer! On a different note than usual I’m writing this race report in English. I met so many wonderful people on my way to the World Championships that I want to share my experience with them. Hope you guys in Romania won’t mind 🙂
Soooo, a bit of a background: I qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships after a race in March in Malaysia. Technically that would give me plenty of time to properly prepare for such an awesome occasion, but alas, it was not the case. I arrived in beautiful Mont-Tremblant, Canada, a week before the race, not so ready as I would have liked for the 1,9km swim, 90km bike and 21km run.
When race day finally came I was actually able to sleep through the night, which is a first. I think it had to do with the chilled vibe in Mont-Tremblant, basically we did nothing but train, eat and sleep the whole time we were there. Oh, and meet amazing people! 😀
The weather forecast for the race day was not very pretty, with a scary 7 degrees (Celsius) for the morning. Brrrr!! It was really cold at 6 am, when we had to enter the transition area to prepare our bikes, but luckily the start was 2 hours later, and it actually became quite manageable. My hopes for the race day were nice weather, a good pace, and ideally finishing in the top 50% of my age group. Looking back now at that last objective, the only thing I feel is: HAHAHAHAHAHHA!! I mean, this was the World Championship! I might get some good podiums in Romania, but these ladies were FAST! That placement would have meant to finish the half ironman in under 5 hours, and I am far faaaar away from such a time. Actually I don’t know any girl in Romania able to race that fast…..yet! We’re catching up on the times, but I think it will take us a couple more years to get there.
My strategy for the race day was to start the swim slowly, and then max it out on the bike and the run. The course was really challenging, with 900m of elevation on the bike, and a bonus 350m on the run. So basically nothing flat! Even though I qualified 6 months ago I wasn’t able to really fit hills practice in my workouts. I got all swamped in balancing my job, the training for my first full Ironman (coming in October), and preparation for the World Championships. Oh yeah, I also got married in the meanwhile! 😉 So lots of multitasking, and not very successful at it!
Usually even though I’m a slow swimmer (read appalling) I am able to catch up my fellow competitors on the bike and the run. I swam a decent time for my abilities, but that pretty much left me at the very back of my age group. I was caught up by two swim waves coming from behind, with some very competitive male age groupers. A few smacks and desperate gasps for air later I was able to move to the side and escape them. But this happened several times during the swim, and got increasingly annoying as we were approaching the exit from the lake. I could see the swim exit not far away, but getting there seemed to take FOREVER! I leaped out of the water (dolphin style, as Alex taught me, or maybe I was looking as gracious as a stranded whale) and I got to see a sign saying “WETSUIT PEELERS”. Cool! 🙂
Like a Formula 1 wheel change station, the volunteers were incredibly fast and stripped me right out of my wetsuit. And they were giggling the whole time, totally understandable. Imagine having grown men and women getting on their backs, like tortoises, and two people pulling their pants off!! 🙂
On to the bike! After a really looong transition I finally got to the transition tent, put on my helmet and arm sleeves and ran to get my bike. For the first time in a race, the bike shoes were already clipped on my bike! I always like to try something new on race day, contrary to all the advices about this practice!
I managed to take off without breaking my neck, and put the shoes on while pedaling. Saving precious seconds! This only thing was that judging from the very few bikes left in the transition, seconds were not going to be enough to catch my age group! My heart sank, I was begging to worry that I would literally be the last to finish in my group 🙁
Nevertheless, I rode, and rode hard. The hills were killing me, and it felt like everybody in the race was passing me. I was only able to catch up on people on the descents, which never EVER happens to me. I am usually conservative, but this time I was pedaling like crazy for every extra advantage. I was horrified to find myself in the middle of a big group of people not much after the beginning of the bike leg. There was a 7 meters draft distance rule (mandatory distance between the bikes), and a 4 minutes penalty if you don’t respect it! I freaked thinking I might get a penalty and slowed down behind the group. At first I though they were grouped because we were climbing, and they accidentally got that way, but soon I saw a huuuge group, about 60 riders coming back on the other lane, and they were obviously drafting. This happened again and again, even with referees passing by on the motorcycle. WHAT.THE.EFFF?! I mean, this was the world championship, and it was blatant cheating, and I was honestly shocked to see so much of it! So for the triathletes in Romania: se pare ca se intampla si la case mai mari 🙁
Meanwhile, focusing on my own race, I was getting more and more depressed about the fact that everybody seemed to be faster than I was. The last 15km were the hardest, with lots of ups and downs, and my legs were already burning. I gasped thinking of the hilly run that was still to come! I kept the pace a bit slower for the last 10km, hoping to keep a dose of freshness in my legs.
I managed to leap of out my bike shoes while still riding, and got safely in the transition zone where we had BIKE CATCHERS. How cool, volunteers were taking the bikes from us, I didn’t have to waste time racking my bike. A quick change later, in my running socks and shoes, and off I was. Barely did I get to run for a 100 meters, when a big hill already started. I felt like dying! The crowds were super nice and encouraging, but I was just crawling up the hill. Pfff, if this was to be my rhythm, then it was surely going to be a loooong run! I got a quick kiss from Alex, who was on his second lap, and heading for the finish. I must confess he didn’t look very good at that point. Later I found out he had cramped since km 60 on the bike, and poor guy was really struggling 🙁
I, on the other hand, managed to get some coke (yes, as in coca-cola) in my system, and after the first 5 km I actually started to feel alive again. Surely, those hills were still killers, but I wasn’t crawling anymore. And I loved the descents, I just let me legs fly and gravity did its job! The last km was right in the center of Mont-Tremblant village, climbing on cobblestone with a 24% gradient. Holy-balony!!! Luckily the crowds were really big there, and the music and the vibe was full of energy, so it helped in giving that extra push.
Then I started the second loop, and I met again my friend, the big hill from the beginning of the course. Bleah! But I kept eating gels and drinking coke, and I was determined to finish in full force! I started running faster, and funnily enough, my feet seemed to be able to catch up the pace. After km 15 I felt like literally flying. The downhills were so speedy that I had to be careful not to face plant of the pavement! I was excited knowing that I might have that elusive negative-split on my run, which was UNHEARD of in my previous races! Km 17 passed by, still a few hills to go. I was wondering what my final time would be. I didn’t take a watch, because I get obsessed with the numbers, and I noticed it is more confusing than helping in a race. I just race by feeling! Km 19…just a liiiitlle longer! The soles of my feet were burning, but I was so close, so close! Finally that last hill came, the ridiculously inclined cobblestone, and it was only downhill from there on the last hundred meters. I was flying! My speed was really good, and I was passing everybody hoping to catch a good spot for the finish photo. Vanity…my favorite sin! Somehow I saw a hand stretching out a flag, and the back of my mind registered to get it. It was Alex, so I was able to run the final meters holding the Romanian flag up. #SoPatrioticOfMe
I crossed the finish line and there were no.words.left. I gasped for air, still not believing it was over. Two minutes after I started shivering, and felt nauseous. It was my body’s turn to punish me after what I had put it through. I met Alex and told him I think I did 6hours 20min, one of my worst times ever. It was the number I saw on the finish board as I crossed the line. He laughed and reminded me that was the time from the first start wave, and I was more than half of hour behind it. He checked online and gave me my real time: 5h46m56s. Almost 10 minutes off my best race before. Wow! WOOOOW!! I couldn’t believe it! The course was very challenging, and having that time here was incredible for me. But, still…not good enough for my top 50% objective. I was in place 108, which means I still have A LOT of work to do! 😉
Check out a video overview of the race, and notice the WETSUIT PEELERS:
Loved the whole experience, and thank you all for your support! You know who you guys are, but I just want to mention hubby as I owe him lots and lots of GRATITUDE for all his patience and support. I love you, Boo! :*