Last year I had the privilege of racing off-road triathlon in Czech, Germany and Hawaii, with both Germany and Hawaii being World Championships. In both races I was beaten meters from the finish line by my New Zealand opponent. Although my mountain biking was strong, I was an average swimmer and due to many previous running injuries, my run was nowhere close to where it should have been. After being adamant I’d never ever train through a Cape Town winter for another international race (or local for that matter), having a 6 week break from training and with a fresh body and mind I decided I had unfinished business to settle. I started training for X-terra Grabouw, which was the qualifier for the X-Tri World Champs in Sardinia Italy. Winning my age category got me a spot in the SA Team and I was now on the path to revenge. There was lots of hard work ahead. A brutally cold and wet winter and the closure of Tokai forest due to the fires, made training really hard and it took some good mates, a supportive husband and loads of mental chatting (and a very pushy coach) to get me through.
I did various local races like Big 5 Knysna and 70.3 Durban to stay motivated and focused. Two months prior to Worlds I was given a fantastic offer to train on the watt bikes in the Altitude Chamber at BikePlus. I hired a personal trainer, increased my swimming squads to improve my swim, gave up all junk food, wine and bread. For those who know me, I love junk food, wine and bread! Feeling strong, amped and lean, race day loomed and we were off to Italy.
On arrival I discovered my opponents were also feeling strong, amped and lean – how was I going to pull this off? I decided to just do my own race and ignore my competitors (whatever!!!.... anyone who gives you this advice is lying, it’s impossible). I believe part of my success on race day was having the opportunity of riding the bike course at least 3 times prior to race day. There were two brutal climbs where I battled to keep the front wheel on the ground and 2 portages, the first one of about 100m where I slung my bike on my back and ran/hiked up. Being 5’2” and weighing all of 47kgs it was not an easy task. The swim was going to be non-wetsuit (oh vey), and the run was 3 laps of beach sand. This was daunting to say the least.
Race day: All in our nations colours with our names splashed across our tri-suits, there was a lot of checking each other out. The vibe was fantastic, the beach colourful with all the tri suits and banners, nerves and tension palpable. It was time and we all lined up on the blue carpet facing, the thank goodness, very flat sea. Then it was ‘on your marks……’ and everyone went!!! What happened to the good old ‘on your marks, get set…. gun….’? Well we were in Italy I guess! After a few seconds of thinking everyone had jumped the gun, I realized they were actually gone…eish! Fortunately my swim went well. I had an Italian girl swimming next to me and although she was a tad faster than my comfort zone, I decided to hang in with her and stuck to her like glue. I had a great swim and was now on my way to the bike leg. Running into T1, I immediately saw that the bike of the NZ chick was gone – she was on the bike leg already, damn! I didn’t know where any of my other oppositions bikes were as the racking had been very mish mash. I had a relatively quick transition and an awesome bike leg (I was so grateful for those watt bike sessions). One of our SA supporters shouted at me as I was starting the 2nd lap of the bike leg that NZ was just ahead. I put foot and caught her on the first big climb of the course. That for me was revenge feeling sweet ~ I went for broke. It was going to be a very hard day in the office.
I got into the transition, put on those running shoes in record time and headed out onto the dreaded sea sand run. On the morning of the race my husband had sent me an sms that said “Run Forest Run” (for all those who have seen the Forest Gump movie will understand totally). Not ‘have a fab race’, not ‘good luck’, just those 3 words. The run was 3 laps of 3.3kms, which was 2kms of soft beach sand and 1.3kms of singletrack through a caravan park. On lap 3 running off the beach I turned around to check who was looming and there she was…..the bloody NZ chick on my tail. Well I remembered my husbands words and boy did I run. On downloading my data later I discovered I ran into the finish area in a 3min33 – Forest ran! I was not about to be overtaken. She had piped me in two World Champs and she wasn’t getting this one. What an amazing feeling to run across that finish line (at pace, note) and take a gold. My job was done
I’m one very happy athlete – thank you Claire. Now time out to chill and think up next years adventures!