Wednesday, December 12, 2012

ITU Worlds - Auckland

On October 22, I raced in the ITU World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand, having qualified last season. This was to be my primary A race for the season, but I contracted a weird virus called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome that caused me to miss a big chunk of training in July and August. At that point, the goal was to put together a late season rally so I could toe the line in Auckland. I had one training race (Portage Lakes) and some okay training leading up the trip. I went into the race happy to be healthy and somewhat fit. I raced in the 2011 World Championships, so it was helpful to have experience going into this race. But I knew the competition would be tougher due to the shear number of Australians and New Zealanders who were in the race. Since New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, they were just entering Spring. This meant 55 degree water and lots of clouds/rain. One person got hypothermia during the course familiarization swim. It POURED the day before the race during bike check in. Fortunately, the rain subsided in the morning and the course dried up; unfortunately, the wind was howling and the entire bike course was exposed and along a shoreway. This was only the second saltwater swim and the first that had significant waves. The beginning 1/4 and ending 1/4 of the swim were in a protected bay but the middle half was in some serious chop with a current. I apparently found the worst of the current because my swim time was significantly slower than ever. I felt that I was swimming hard. Maybe it was my fitness…maybe my technique sucks for rough conditions…or maybe I was in the worst part of the current. All I know is that I lost a lot of time during that middle half of the swim but caught some folks on my way in.
The bike course was a 2-looper with lots of hills in the first half and a flat windy section for the last half. I was happy to have the hills, but heading up to the biggest one (17% grade and approximately 150 m), I hit something, causing my rear wheel to cock against my chain stay. I knew I couldn\’t stop on the hill or I\’d never get going, so I forced myself to the top and hopped off. I fixed the wheel, hopped back on, and realized that the my brake caliper had also twisted and was rubbing. I got off, fixed that (at one point the brake pad slipped off because the screw had fallen off, so I had to fix that, too). At that point, I was pretty pissed, but then my brake cable became loose from the shifter and it my rear derailleur wasn\’t shifting correctly. One thing after another! I had to push the cable back into the shifter anytime I shifted, and sometimes it didn\’t catch. I can honestly say that I\’ve never had a mechanical issue during a race, and that day I had 3. The wind was a big challenge and the majority of second half of each loop was into the wind. Needless to say, my time sucked.
Heading into the run I knew I was out of contention but I wanted to give a good effort in order to have something to hang my hat on. I went out hard and noticed that a lot of people were struggling. The run was flat with lots of twists and turns. I was able to pick people off constantly. It was good to see several other Team USA folks out there, including the coaches who knew us by name. I finished with a respectable but not great run split. My overall finish was middle of the pack for my age group.
Typically I would have been more pissed about the mechanical issues and daunting wind, but I was happy to be racing at all given the health issues and I was psyched to be racing in New Zealand.

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