ITU World Championships – Beijing, China
Maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea I have ever had, deciding to hike the Great Wall of China the day before the ITU Sprint World Championships, but it was something I had always wanted to do and Friday before the race was my only good opportunity to go.
I woke around 3:45 the next morning to what sounded like dripping water, and dripping water it was, but dripping from the sky and a lot of it. A creature of habit, I never like to change my diet the day before or of a big race but since the this wasn’t that long I thought I would go for something different. I made this decision because getting a bagel in China, I thought it would be a difficult task and I didn’t want to stress about my breakfast. So when Gatorade sent me a box of their G Series FIT to try and give to my athletes and gym members, I thought I would bring some to China with me. BEST DECISION EVER! I now have my new favorite pre-race breakfast for traveling (and when doing races that last less than 1 1/2 hours. I ate the Banana Nut Chocolate PRIME (each bite is a 25 cal piece) with a packet of peanut butter. It is an irresistible combination, but also easy to get your pre-race fuel and know how many calories you have. (I even used on my bike the PERFORM on my bike and RECOVER’ed with the Mango Pinapple) It was the perfect for this type of race!
The rain in downtown Beijing it wasn’t that bad and looked like it might clear in time for the race, but as our driver took us to Changping where the course was, the rain only fell harder. It only took about five minutes of being outside before you were completely soaked through and chilled to the bone. Chilled is an understatement as the girls in my age group stood huddled like little puppies trying to keep warm as we stood in our bathing suits and bare feet in water to our ankles with lips turning blue and body shivering, on a race day like this at home I would have quickly chosen to have stayed in bed. But this was the World Championships and opting out was not an option.
As our frozen bodies hit the water we found the reservoir to be twenty degrees warmer than the air and after the first four hundred meters and your body getting too hot in the water. I had my slowest swim ever; however it didn’t get into my head because I was about to ride and the legs were feeling good. The warmth didn’t last long as the wind picked up along with the rain and I made my way through transition and onto the bike. Even though I came out of the water close to the back of the pack, I had already passed more than five girls by the time I had got out of transition.
Take a moment to close your eyes and picture what you would imagine an Olympic course to be like. Take that picture and make it ten times better. I have NEVER been on a course that was so perfectly laid out. The roads were in perfect condition. The scenery was mind-blowing, from the swim to the bike and on the run. The course could only have been more perfect had it not been raining. If I had called up China and said to build my dream course, I could not have made it better. The swim – easy to site, a perfect counter-clockwise rectangle. The bike – hilly, technical, engaging, but designed to allow you to be aggressive around every corner. And the run – flat, fast and multiple out and backs. It was a DREAM!
Exhilarating, fun, fast, yet taking the first lap a little cautiously with all the rain and not knowing how slick the nice black-top road was going to be, no since in taking yourself out on the first round, but I quickly starting making ground on the girls who had taken me out in the swim. As the first lap was coming to a close, I was ready to take the next round more aggressively and open up a can of whoop-ass (as one of my friend’s would call it). Then the unthinkable happened…I followed the flag. I was slightly confused, thinking I needed to go right, but the man with the flag was pointing me left so I followed. Next I found myself being forced to dismount my bike and run into transition. Stunned and even more confused, I tried to work backwards to make my way back out on the course, but I was forced to go forward, running through transition and rolling my bike, I could see from afar bike after bike going by me. Everyone I had worked so hard to pass were now passing me up as I was losing precious time. Two to three minutes passed by the time I get myself back onto the bike course to take on the second lap. I felt like I was at square one again but mentally I refused to let it destroy me.
One by one, I passed all those girls over again and tried to make up any ground I could. By the time I made it to the run my legs were not cooperating with my will and not moving as fast I would have liked them, but still held my ground by not letting any girls pass me. Running onto the course there is a grandstand where you get to parade up and down, which makes for a good time, where at all times see where people are and what is happening on the course. As the rain continued to fall, the turn-around point became flooded so you found yourself dodging men with bamboo branches who were trying to sweep as much water away as possible as others called out numbers to mark your laps because (they) couldn’t put down the timing mat. One lap, two lap, three lap and a half; as I made my final turn I went for the two hundred meter sprint putting all that was left in me out on the finish line.
And as quickly as the race had started, it was all over. I loved the course, I loved the race, I love the distance. Even with the ups and downs, altogether my race was once again an experience of a lifetime. I celebrated with my husband back in the city at a little hole in the wall restaurant in the middle of “Old Beijing” with noodles and a beer. After we couldn’t get a cab driver to pick us up we decided to walk toward our hotel (a few miles away and) wondered into a traditional open air food market and saw food I had never before seen.
The crowd…not so much, who could blame them for not wanting to sit in the cold rain. But to those who were there were amazing with every few hundred meters I would hear “go USA” or “SHAH”. I was impressed with the Team USA Coaches who where there cheering you on the entire way, yelling “GO KIMBERLY” every time I passed and coaching me through the final push down the straight away with runners behind me that I didn’t let pass.
Impressive time…not so much, in fact it was my slowest Sprint time since the first year I took up triathlons but there are no excuses. I tell all my athletes over and over to know the course, know where you are going at all times and there is reason for it.
Disappointed…not so much, I did the best I could at the time. I had the time of my life and loved every minute of it good and bad. I also tell all my athletes that – to enjoy every minute of your race. I still walked away with 13th in my age division and top American for the 30-34 year olds. The only disappointing part of the race is I lost my race metal that day, one of a few that I wish I had.
Year of the Hare – “The hare loves beauty, luxury or artifice. Take time to appreciate the small pleasures of this Hare Year 2011 as superb and somewhat rare opportunities to heal, relax, entertain, mend fences, because Dragon Year 2012 will be very powerful, shamanic, a wild, exhausting time.” My Year of Racing 2011 wasn’t my best year. It was a year that even though I traveled more extensively over-seas than any other year, going to unique and beautiful places, it was a lot more subdued than others and not as competitive. Broken bike, getting sick on a course, one hundred and five plus degree weather, thirty mph winds and making wrong turns doesn’t really set you up for a very successful season. As my triathlon season comes to an end for the year, I do look forward to what lies ahead for next spring as I take on my most FAVORITE RACES IN THE WORLD – Oceanside 70.3, one of the very few races I repeat as often as I can. Like Beijing, the course is a dream come true an engaging hilly bike course and a flat fast run. Hopefully my season for 2012 follows suit to the Year of the Dragon, just as this year followed character of the Hare Year.