Edmonton, Canada; attracting elite athletes from around the world this past weekend. 99 Paratriathletes would race for spots on the podium. If you compared World Championships in New Zealand (2012) to this year in Edmonton, it was a whole different ball game. The atmosphere was different, the goals were different, and you really felt like you were at a World Championship. You knew everyone racing in Edmonton had to work for their spot at the start line and you knew the races would be closer than ever. With that in mind….
We got to Edmonton last Wednesday. With the number of age groupers also racing out in Edmonton, you can say our flight from Chicago was made up of mostly triathletes which also meant the number of bikes heading to Edmonton on that flight would be enough to overwhelm the airline. At this point we were just crossing our fingers both of my bikes would get on the flight to get to Edmonton when we landed. Once we got in Edmonton, both of my bikes were there waiting but my suitcase was not. I could handle that. The important stuff was there and everything I would need for the race was in my carry on. I guess I was just going to have to survive without my lululemon headbands for a few days 🙂 We spent Wednesday getting settled in and unpacking bikes. Thursday would be spent at the race venue (which was beautiful). We had a bike familiarization which calmed any nerves I had about the bike course. I had been able to ride the bike course for a few weeks prior to getting to Edmonton on a computrainer course. The large hill on the course seemed much easier in person compared to the computrainer which is always a good thing. I decided to hold off on the swim familiarization that afternoon and instead would swim Friday morning prior to our race briefing.
Friday morning was chilly, but a group of us headed to get in a quick swim! After swimming the course I just was not feeling the whole sleeveless wetsuit thing, my rotation just did not feel right so thats when the thought of swimming in only my lava (wetsuit) pants entered my head. One of the he pros about that would be that my shoulders would have full range of motion. One of the cons would be that I risked body temperature getting pretty cold. I told myself I needed to make that decision by the end of the day. From the swim familiarization we headed to the race briefing. This was the first time a paratri briefing has been under 45 min.
The rest of Friday we spent off our feet (in my case arms) and just relaxing. I had a quick chat with my coach Mark. We talked about how I was expecting the race to go and went over any concerns I had. It was then that I decided I needed to follow my instinct to swim in only my lava pants. I knew I needed to have a solid swim in this race to stay with the pack and all my best swims have been in my lava pants. At this point, I wasn’t going to risk anything and knew my body temperature would warm up once I reached the hills. I was much calmer Friday compared to thursday.
Saturday came & race day was here! We wouldn’t race until 4:15pm so we had most of the morning to relax and get ready. We headed over to the race venue to check in. I went on the bike trainer to warm up & then we headed over to transition. As we headed to transition, Gwen Jorgenson from USA had just won the elite women’s race. It was the first time an American has won the ITU Grand Finale race in 10 yeas so the energy throughout the venue was at an all time high.
Swim: The gun went off and I knew the first 200m I needed to find my speed quick. I was able to get into a draft till the second buoy but then I found my next gear and went for it. I exited the water knowing I was in third, right where we expected. I headed out on the bike with one mission- to catch those other girls.
Bike: I had a strong bike, I attacked the hills. I knew the hills were going to get tougher each lap but I knew that if I was conservative on the hills, my race would be done before I knew it. The downhills were fast, I’ve never hit more than 35 mph on my handcycle but I took full advantage of the downhills and when I saw 38mph on my bike computer the only thing I could think of was “ I really hope my braid doesn’t get caught in my rear wheels, otherwise I’ll be crossing the finish line with lots of hair missing.” I was able to make up some time on the two girls in front of me but I knew the girl from Italy would be on my heels. It was at the end of the 3rd lap when she came around and passed me. Yes, I was frustrated but I believed I could stay with her. She ended up coming into transition 2 min a head of me.
Run: The hills on the bike wrecked my shoulders for the run, but I pushed the pain out of my head and just focused on each stroke… literally one stroke at a time. As I was in the middle of my 1st lap, I heard them call the female PT-1 winner, Kendall! I don’t remember the run that much to be honest, I had one goal- to leave everything I had on the course; and that’s what I did.
Yes, it’s a bummer to just miss a podium spot but I had the race I wanted to. I had over a 4 min PR on the swim and was able to hold my own on the bike. Heading into this race, we knew a group of us would be fighting for 3rd place! I have had a great season with both my training and racing! It’s hard to say I’m happy with a 4th place finish at one of the last races but I left knowing I had had the race I wanted to. I can only control the race I have, I can’t control the race my competitors have. I also was able to leave knowing my weak points, which only means one thing- We have new stuff to work on in the next couple of months! All 5 of the PT-1 girls pushed the pace out there and compared to last year, we all pick it up a level.
The USA Paratriathlon team had a great showing with 3 golds, 1 silver, and 1 bronze. We had a great group racing last weekend with lots of great times being posted. With the season just wrapping up, I know we all already have lots of goals for next season.
Whats next? I’m back to reality of school & training back in Arizona. I missed the first week of school for Worlds, so I’m playing catch up at the moment. It’s definitely nice to be back! The Paratriathlon National Championships is right here in Arizona in 3 weeks! I’m excited to be racing on “home turf” in the heat! I’m also excited my dad will be coming back to Arizona for that race! October will be bring lots of excitement for some athletes and disappointment to other athletes; the announcements of which classifications will be racing in Rio is supposed to come out at some point in October. Like I’ve said before, this decision is out of our control and is in the hands of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). Whatever happens, happens. As for now, I’m lucky to be doing something that makes me smile this much.
“If it’s both terrifying and amazing then you should definitely pursue it”
Until Next Time,