Before I explain how the days went, I better explain the couple days before… Ever since the Cherry Blossom Triathlon I’ve had a cough – a bad one. It just wasn’t going away. We got it checked out (along with Brock’s), and were told it was just viral and would go away soon. Still there. About 7 weeks after it started, and with a HUGE weekend of cycling about to happen, it was getting super frustrating, as my training had been limited and hadn’t been going really well because of it. The day before the first race, and I woke up with a fever, sore throat, and head ache. ‘Oh great’ is all I could think. The decision? No fever? Race. Fever? No race. I took the day off and planned to miss track in the morning so that I could sleep in and hopefully recover. Perfect! The next morning, I woke up without a fever, but still with the other lagging effects of whatever I had. Racing anyway, so better make the best of it!:)
Race #1 – Time Trial (22km)
The time trial was interesting, to say the least. Coming off of two days of no training, being somewhat sick still, and checking for a fever before the start in the rain, I didn’t know what to expect. Looking around, I immediately didn’t think it was my race to win. TT bikes, aero helmets, and speed-suits. Thanks to Luke’s generous lending of some of his equipment, I had race wheels on, as well as aero bars, although I had never used them before. With a 30 second time interval, and me going first in my group, I set off, trying to not let anyone catch me. I didn’t see anyone for the first 7 or 8 kms, but then got passed by two people before the turnaround, and another right after. I wasn’t surprised, but was disappointed every time I heard the ‘whoosh, whoosh, whoosh’ of the tires coming up and past me. Unfortunately, not long after one girl passed me on the way back, she went down to the pavement around a corner. I had just gotten out of aero when I saw her down. It freaked me out to the point where I slowed right down, since I didn’t see her move. I looked around and saw 4 or 5 adults running to her, though, so decided I wouldn’t really help the situation, and started to accelerate again. Thankfully, she was ok and raced the next day, but I rode a bit scared back to the start/finish. The one thing I noticed, however, was that at every hill, I gained back time. I was happy with that, as I have definitely worked on my hills over the past year. I finished 4th in the small age group, and third in Provincial standings for U19. Not my ideal race outcome, but I was happy to get to bed that night, hoping to rest and heal up for the next morning.:)
Race #2 - Criterium (22km)
The Crit was cool, scary, and fun all at once. I had only ever done one crit before in my life, and that was about 2 years ago after barely starting with BPR, and lets just say it didn’t go very well.:) After learning the rules, and scouting out the short 1.2km loop, it was obvious that there was going to be A LOT of accelerations, as each loop had two 180s per. Prior to the race, Luke told me not to work for anybody, but to stay up in the top 1/3rd of the pack so that I was able to neutralize any breaks. Due to there being smaller fields in both the U17 and U19 categories, they combined the two so that there would be a bigger group. After the first 3 laps or so, there was a major acceleration off the front, which somewhat shocked me, but definitely woke me up into the race early on. Most of the pack was able to neutralize the break, although I believe we dropped a couple girls. From that point on, there was an attempted break at least every 2 laps, but I was able to hang on for all of them, sometimes taking the whole straightaway to catch back on and others hanging in there. I started to realize that it was definitely my positioning on the corners that was causing me to have to max it out on each lap, so I tried to switch that up a little. At almost exactly the half-way point, I started wheezing quite heavily, partially because I could no longer breath out of my nose at all and was having a hard time breathing in general, and partially because I was physically taxed from the race already. Not long after that, at maybe lap 14 or 15, I had a decision to make. The group of girls who were quite obviously the strongest went off the front, and I was near the front of the group that was being dropped. I heard Luke shout at me “close it” and “this is it, this is the break” as I went by. I remember thinking to myself, “I can’t close it, I can’t even breath”, but I knew I had to get that out of my head. I changed around my thoughts into “I don’t want to bike the rest of this thing at the back or solo”. So I dug my head down and gave everything I had to catch the breakaway. Somewhat to my surprise, I did, pulling up several of the rest of the girls in the process. Latching back onto the wheel, I was exhausted, but super happy with myself. Whatever happened at that point I was happy with the race, but a strange sense started to creep into me that I hadn’t had before that point in the race. “I can win this” is all I started to say. The pace slowed slightly, but I’m sure we all were anticipating that to only be the calm before a major storm. With 2 laps to go, I made my way to the front, and went around the far corner in the lead, getting a really good line. I had a slight gap on the rest of the field, and so powered out of the corner. Suddenly, to my left, one of the girls who had been pushing the pace the whole time shot out and past me, and I new I had to get on her wheel. It took a max acceleration, but I did, only to see her immediately give me the signal to take my pull at the front. We had a gap, but I was spent, and although I tried, I just couldn’t do it. We were caught by the pack, and went around the last lap all together. Luke told me to head to the front, so that’s what I tried to do. Approaching the last turn, I was sitting in I think the second slot in the pack, but then the break happened. As I was preparing for the turn, a group went by me to my left, and half the girls responded, while the other half, like me, lost all positioning on the corner and any chance for a medal. It was a split second that determined the entire race. I had a poor corner, but a good acceleration and strong sprint to the line, passing a couple girls on the last stretch. I believe I finished 7th in the combined category, and 4th for my age group, although that translated into 3rd out of the provincial competitors. I was happy with the race, but felt like I could have been there to take the win. Three things I can definitely improve on from this crit for future ones are:
Race #3 - Road Race (63km)
Finally, the road race… With the combination of the two age groups again, the distance was only 63km: 3 loops of a 21km course, with each loop containing a hill 4-5km long right at the beginning. After the last two days, I knew who the strong riders were. My goal was to stick on their wheels at all costs, but that is easier said than done. Once the horn went, I got right on to one of their wheels, but to my surprise, we went out at a super easy pace, with plenty of chatter and talking among us. This made me even more nervous though, as I was just expecting something to happen. As soon as we hit the hill, it did. Gears clicked up, and I was suddenly in sprint panic mode to stay on. Having never ridden the hill before, I had no idea what to expect. It wasn’t overly steep, but just long, and it took a lot of energy out of me to stay there. I lost my wheel probably 750m from the top, and had to work like crazy to pull back onto it. Unfortunately, I pulled up 3 other girls who were behind me with me, but at least I was still in the race!:) Once the course flattened out again, the pace also slowed. I got my HR way down into my high FFA / low STF for a little bit during that time, and then the pace wound up. The rest of that lap was awesome. We pace-lined it for all the flats and rolling hills, and I led the group down the steep and corner-ridden descent, which was super fun! I absolutely loved the experience of working with a group of experienced cyclists, as almost all of the girls seemed to know exactly what they were doing, as we maximized all our work with minimum output. We went through the first lap together, but unfortunately didn’t stay that way for long. Half-way up the next hill, there was a gap between the person behind me and me. Suddenly, there was a gap between me and the person ahead of me too. It had happened a couple times already, and I had closed it, but for whatever reason, this one made a lasting impact. ¾ of the way up the hill, and I had lost the group. I could still see them just a little bit up the road when we reached the top, but it was just slightly too far to go after. Two of the girls behind me caught me, and we stayed together for the rest of the race. In all honesty, I asked myself multiple times, “could I have closed that gap one more time?” and my answer is that I probably could have, had I buried myself. I don’t know if it was unhealthy fear, or a proper calculation that made me not, but I do know if I could do it again, I would have tried to close it, whatever the consequences. But that is what this race was for: a learning experience. The rest of the race was long and quite boring to be honest. We slowed considerably, not on purpose, but without the group to accomplish anything else. I could tell that the motivation wasn’t really there, as the other two in my group were of the lower age and could guarantee themselves a podium if they just stayed ahead of the group behind us, but I couldn’t go solo. I began to cramp up in the middle of that second lap, and it progressively got worse until the end, despite me taking on quite a bit of fuel and electrolytes. When I stood to try to outsprint the other two in my group, I cramped up again, losing the sprint by a little ways. What did I take out of the race? Well, on a positive side, I saw how a group can work together and maximize their output. This is something I have noticed draft legal triathlon racing lacking a bit, as many people do not have the cycling experience to properly coordinate a group. It was super fun to be a part of, and a great experience for me for sure! On a learning side, however, it was great to see I could ride with these girls, but it was also hard to realize how I may have been able to close the gap and didn’t. Another lesson learned from the race. Finally, considering that I found out I had whooping cough after the race was over, I was pleased with how I was able to finish, but just frustrated at my lack of ability up-hill, where I found it the hardest to breath, despite knowing climbing to be one of my strengths.
All in all, this was an awesome weekend filled with ups and downs, lessons, achievements, realizations, and a few breakthroughs. It was exciting to hear that several of the girls who kept beating me are representing Canada at Junior Worlds coming up, so that will be fun to watch the results! Also, it was a neat weekend in that I got to see Brock and Lincoln do their entire crits, Brock finish an absolutely gutsy road race for a bronze, and Lincoln hammer the front of his pack by me before being outsprinted before the line. Different culture, environment, and type of race than triathlon, but its always fun to mix it up! The learning experience for all three of us from the weekend was also invaluable.
A huge thanks to coaches Luke and Stacey for their support all weekend (including lending us spare wheels and aero bars), Cannondale for the awesome bike I got to ride all weekend, and Dr. Snow from Valeo for continually helping me to heal up and be ready for events like this.
17 year-old Junior Elite Triathlete
Long Term Goals