I always start these race reports with the best of intentions.
Keep it short and sweet but informative so others can learn from my mistakes and also from my victories. Unfortunately I get carried away in the moment, but I still hope one can learn from my blogs and reports. I am always happy to answer questions, and help where I can.
Read on for more on Confessions of a Doper in reference to Lisa Hutthaler.
This race was one of the highlights of my racing season and it did not disappoint.
In the lead up to the race I had 9 days in Morzine, France after the Alpe D'Huez Triathlon staying with some Loughborough Triathlon guys (thanks Gav Smith).
Morzine is a fantastic training base and many of you who follow me will know one of my favorite pastimes is climbing mountains. Yes it makes you strong, but I find it a semi-spiritual experience climbing steep mountains - endorphintastic :)
Heading into the race, I was feeling strong in all three disciplines swim, bike and run. I had a niggling potential injury on the run, so we capped mileage and managed it with self massage and topical anti-inflammatories.
I noticed new changes in my body composition - a new vein would pop up, or a muscle appeared more defined. Feeling strong is confidence building, and I attribute this to a number of things which i have done differently this year.
* New coach - less volume, more quality/technical work.
* Heightened awareness of nutrition - increased fat intake and other supplementation, especially Nordic Oil which I am convinced helps me recover (and also makes my skin glow!)
* Less stressing about what everyone else is doing. What works for one, does not necessarily work for another. Being introduced to the Pro triathlon world by Brett Sutton, I always hark back to traditional Sutto sessions for confidence. The 20 x 800m on the track for example and hard pool sets. But its the mix of sessions, & recovery that allow adaptation and growth, not the sessions themselves.
I was pretty nervous headed into this race, more than any other race this year. But one glance at the start list and you could probably empathise. I have always wanted to be competitive as a professional athlete.
Finishing 6,7,8,9,10th doesn't interest me. It frankly embarrasses me. I don't advocate this way of thinking. Its me and my somewhat unhealthy perfectionism - i'm competitive - I want to be the best. But the truth is, if you are racing a world-class field and are relatively new to the sport, you have to suck up some of the lower placings in order to progress up the ladder - I have learnt that being the best I can be on the day is good enough.
Nerves = No sleep, brain going over every potential mishap on race-day. Looking at the clock every hour and then when 4.45am hits - i'm already up and hit the pre-race routine.
Drive to race start - long walk from the car park - but i thought ahead and borrowed my boyfriends bike to cycle down, warming the legs up with no impact minus added walk time. I saw eventual winner and former Olympian Daniella Rhyff walking down, carrying a turbo/wind trainer - that is dedication to preparation (15-20 min walk & it aint light).
Then in T1 I take the cover off my bike to notice one of my front Di2 shifters is hanging off. It had been lose pre race (post crash in Italy) but mechanics advised it was woking fine and would be ok taped on. Perhaps someone had moved my bike & it had snapped off - still, despite hanging there, it was working so we re-taped and good to go.
Swim start - putting on wetsuit, noticed a hole in the shoulder, small but not insignificant.
Swim warm up - said hole got bigger - water started running in and sloshing through the wetsuit. I've had this feeling before when someone intentionally unzipped my wetsuit in a race last year. Panic gets you no-where, so i managed any feelings of impending doom (& the why does this always happen to me - largely because I know the answer ;) and swam to the shore & asked the organiser for duck tape. Duck Tape didn't stick & we were now 2 minutes before race start... so I started to tear at the arm, thinking i'd be better off without it.. finished the job with some pliers from the race organisers. It wasn't pretty, but it saved my swim.
We had a female only pro start with female age-groupers starting behind, & then descending male age-groupers.
This makes for a fair race as it means we're out there on the bike on our own, no draft effect from the faster AGers.
It also means the swim-start is far less aggressive. You can actually swim as opposed to playing a game of slam-dunk which mass starts seem to bring.
I went out hard, and the field split quickly. I was with a couple of girls, but saw feet disappearing ahead of me, & thought just go and try and hang on. Usually at this point, i dont have the change in speed & the feet drift further away, but i've been working on this - so i picked up my turnover and arm pull, hip drive and soon was back on feet and who-ever was swimming on my feet was gone. Good move - now I just had to stay there. The pace felt slightly uncomfortable. We weren't in a pack - just single feet & i could feel if I drifted back off the feet the effort felt harder, so i played a tactical game & stayed as close to the feet as possible, emphasising the back end tricep push of my stroke to get momentum from the cleaner water (water on the feet directly is disrupted, hence harder to catch and propel).
Part way through the course there is an 'australian exit' where you run on the beach for 25m and then dive back in. I could hear the announcers and see for the first time whose feet I was on - a Japanese ITU athlete, with Daniella Rhyff (also ITU) just ahead.
This surprised me and gave me confidence - just hang in there - the pace was around threshold but it felt sustainable so I just stuck in there to the exit. The armless wetsuit attracted a few stares on exit but hey - it worked!
The bike course here is challenging - in terms of hills, corners, descents etc.
I had been 'instructed' by coach to keep a ceiling on my power. This is the second race this year I have ridden with power, thanks to my Rotor Power Cranks and Tom (coach) thought I had overcooked the bike in Italy 70.3 & I paid the price on the run (I wasn't so sure about this because I knew how beaten up from the pre-race crash my run legs were).
So I kept within myself & soon had caught up to Anja Dittmer (2 time Olympian) and was out on the road on my own.
This is when the mantra - dont try anything for the first time in the race came back to bite me. I had run out of my PowerBar gels pre-race and so bought some from the Expo on the recommendation of a friend. Lemon-Lime GU.. I usually like the PowerBar gels of the same flavour so I thought, how different can they be. I empty 5 gels into a bottle & dilute with water - then have 1 caffeinated gel 30mins before end of bike.
First sip and all I could taste was TEQUILA! I detest tequila! Very quickly nausea became overwhelming & regurgitated some stomach contents over my shoulder.
Most my nutrition was in this bottle so i had to make the decision whether to rely on aid stations or try to get the gels down. So I changed my mindset - instead of tasting tequila I thought about what I associate with tequila - partying and FUN! So with each sip, put myself into a party vibe so as to detract from the taste. It worked!
So sipping, partying and thinking when would the power-horse Lisa Hutthaler (Winner of FOUR 70.3 events this year) catch me.. About 30k in she came past me like a train (she has caught me at 10k in Mallorca so I thought - progress!).. really strong... but then she didnt seem to pull ahead, so I kept her in my sights, catching up to her on the climbs and her pulling away on the descents.
On one of the longer climbs, I caught and was passing her - when she said.
"I am sorry for my past"...
(Lisa was convicted for EPO, HGH, Steroid misuse/bribery & served a 2year ban)
I looked over at her and then..
"Its 5 years ago - I have a daughter now, it changes things"
Yes Lisa, I can understand it does - but why now are you choosing to say this to me after keeping quite at all other races this year and last?
I said a few words which I cant remember (I was riding up a hill at 250Watts) and that we would talk further after the race and rode on and she kept within legal distance of me for a further 10k before pulling up to ask me how far ahead the other girls were after hearing a supporter shout to me.
Turns out Daniella Rhyf and Annabelle Luxford (Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Champ/ITU athlete and Olympian) were putting time into us - nearly 2 minutes.
Annabel told me post race that she was riding out alone and Rhyf caught her towards the end of the bike. Hats off to her for pushing the pace.
This surprised me as Lisa has been so dominant on the bike this season, i thought if I am riding ahead of her, surely I must be doing ok - but the bike caliber of Rhyf and Luxford is top class and I judged wrong. At this time I pulled ahead of Lisa, up one of the last climbs... but there was a piece of sticky plastic stuck to my front wheel which was rubbing against the frame - I took the decision to ride to the top of the climb (perhaps 4k) and take it off there so as not to break my rhythm.
I looked behind me when I stopped and I could see another two riders in the distance, but couldn't work out whether it was Lisa or another athlete/male pro. It turns out it was Cat Morrison.
Down the crazy fast descent to T2 - I reached 70kmph (a few gulp moments) The male pros were doing 100kmph!
On to the run in 3rd place perhaps 3 minutes behind 2nd and my first thoughts were - where is Cat? Being alone for the last 30k of the bike, I really didn't know how far fast runners like Cat were behind, but soon I would see, and then I thought, Game over! Cat is one of the best runners in the sport and the most tenacious. Despite coming back from a severe achilles injury she can still run a sub 1.20 half marathon.. whereas my best is 1.23. I have been running well in training but belief wasn't there - I did the sums, and instead of fighting for it on this day I patted her on the back as she came past and let her go. Could I have hung on, probably not - but I should have at least tried. I will do next time! Then I got word that Lisa Hutthaler behind me was fading and I ran within myself all the way to the finish for 4th place in a stacked field.
The crowds were fantastic and the run course really interesting, being 4 laps and full of twists and turns - yes it got busy on the last two laps, but thats the price you pay for 'interesting'.
A solid race - consistent in all three disciplines and a big step up from my race performances last year.
Mixing it with the big guns now as coach says.
Confidence is coming to race these girls and to fight back - seeing is believing as former coach Brett Sutton would tell me.
It makes a huge difference being at the pointy end of the race in the swim (thanks to @CoachDaz and BIG THANKS to Tom @t2coaching who put up with me!) as the race dynamic changes.
I held back on the bike and put a ceiling on max watts - but I had been posted new power figures in training, so in retrospect I should have dug a little deeper and used my climbing skills a bit more to our advantage.. but we live and learn and move forward to the next one.
The podium picture below shows - every one of the girls except me comes from an ITU/Short Course racing background. Two of them are Olympians. One is a multiple World Duathlon Champion. All are world class. Not bad company!
More pictures of the event here:
Huge Congratulations to Winner Ritchie Nicholls who is inspirational in his gutsy, no frills approach to racing. He is coach Brett Sutton's ideal athlete... no BS - race with heart and passion and eats MarsBar on the bike.
Lisa and I spoke at the finish line and she approached some of the other girls too. Her apology seemed very genuine. She and her boyfriend Andrew Fuchs (read more about their controversy here) were both tearful. At the awards, Lisa showed me her recent anti-doping tests results and offered to email me them. I feel that this openness is definitely a step forwards, and I asked her to consider doing a media interview with FirstOffTheBIke.com or SlowTwitch. She was reluctant because she fears the continued crticism, but has agreed to speak with Herbert Krabel at SlowTwitch so we will her her side of the story further.