14 September 2009

Home Again


I arrived home from the Gold Coast this morning at about 2:30am and I was (I still am) a tired, sore, a little bit grumpy, and disoriented wreck. We traded 26-degree sun for a fog, and right now at 10:30am it's grey and grim outside.

Not quite the welcome back I might have hoped for...

If you follow me on Twitter, you might already know that I won my race on Saturday at the ITU World Triathlon Championships. It was the result I've been dreaming of since about 2003, but of course like everything in life I didn't have it all my own way.

Actually, maybe I should start from the very beginning - the Aquathlon. Firstly, that's a stupid word and it's borderline impossible to say without sounding like a retard, but anyway. I found myself on the start line of this event on Wednesday afternoon at 4pm, not really knowing what the hell I was up to. I was the only Paratriathlete (a newly-coined term developed for triathletes with disabilities) entered, and since there was no provision for this, I was due to race against everyone else, in my age group.

Uh oh?

I got off to a pretty comfortable start and had the surprise of my life when I started passing people in the first 2.5km run. I felt a combination of confused and excited, but it wasn't until the 1km that things really started to work out for me. Within 200m, I had passed at least 20 girls in the water and I'd lost count. Feeling pretty stoked with myself, I headed out on the second run with an inflated sense of self.

A couple of girls passed me back in the final run, which sucked, but I managed to get my finishing sprint on and complete my race strongly, so overall I felt like a pretty happy camper. Later on in the afternoon I checked my result online and found I hadn't come last (yay), in fact I'd beaten two other girls in my 20-24 age group, as well as 48 other women in the event. I felt like I had it all made for Saturday, and spent my last two days before the race fine-tuning in the pool and on the bike. I mostly ignored a niggling calf injury, after all, most of my life is spent battling with this - it comes with the territory when you run like a spaz.

On Saturday morning I rose at 4:20am, with a 6:45am race start. I went about my morning routine as usual, pedantic as ever, and by race start I was raring to go, convinced I had the entire field in the bag.
And for 1500m, I did. I was out of the swim more than four minutes before the next girl (I was fourth overall out of the water, behind a guy with a "vision impairment", a below-knee amputee, and a guy with something else wrong with him who managed to overtake me in the last 50m), but a crappy transition where I struggled with my wetsuit, my bike, my chocolate milk, meant that people were going to be catching me sooner than anticipated.

I rode what felt like an amazing bike leg, though I admit I felt quite daunted by the increasing number of age group athletes (their waves started 20 minutes after mine) on fancy bikes out on the course. Seriously, age group athletes take themselves very seriously. So seriously in fact that it's a little bit sad. I saw guys on $15,000+ bikes with disc wheels and other adornments not even seen in the elite ranks. It was a little ridiculous.

After completing my 40km, I ran through the longest transition ever, bike in tow, and went about sorting myself out for the 10km run ahead of me. It all went pretty well for about 2km until I was unexpectedly shot down with unbearable stomach pains. I'm serious, I was on the brink of tears for another 2km before I sorted myself out. By now the sun was out in full force, the road was hot, the crowds were huge and vocal. Since we had our surnames printed on our uniforms (a stupid ITU rule), some spectators even cheered me on by name. But I did not have fun on the run. Some of the roads in Queensland are banked, undetectable if you're on a bike or in a car, but enough to piss you off when you're busting your ass trying to win a gold medal. I struggled, but the second lap was definitely more successful than the first, and I felt a surge of relief when I saw the next competitor in my division heading out on her second lap when I was entering the final 300m. And then, for whatever reason, everything disappeared and I was able to pull out one of those marvellous sprint finishes that I really shouldn't have been able to, given the conditions of my run.

Upon crossing the finish line I was handed a finisher's medal and accosted by several of our team managers who seemed determined to cater to my every need - one even took off my race timing chip for me. I was kind of looking forward to bending over and doing that, but never mind.

So then my Worlds was all over and now I'm a curled-up ball of tight muscles and unwashed hair. Mmm.

What's next?

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