La Baule is a town north west of France on the coast. A big festival atmosphere attracting athletes of all sorts across a few days of racing. After spending a good few weeks getting back up to fitness I was definitely feeling good and ready to attack racing again with some bite!
Saturday was a special format of racing for elites, with it being a handicapped raced, with a 7 and a half minutes advantage awarded to the girls over boys, at the start. Basically we race like scared rabbits trying to keep the boys at bay! Though still a little rusty on the racing front, this time I was ready to go and get amongst it, knowing I had logged some good sessions underneath me and had been feeling good. It would be a great test of how much I had progressed over the last few weeks. Improved I had! :)
With the worlds best triathlon swimmers pushing the pace, despite me having a reasonably good swim, I just missed the jump to front pack. Being a small field with no "numbers" to fill the gap I just couldn't bridge up on the bike, but was so close! I knew straight away this was going to make my life tough ,not only to catch the girls in front, but to hold off the boys behind that would be hunting us down! Despite having others with me on the ride, I was pretty annoyed not to see their face once the entire ride, and had to set about a 20km solo TT. Naturally thanks to this "team work" we exited T2 with a time deficit, but despite the hard ride, I clocked the fastest run of the day, letting me know my training had made a huge turn around in a few short weeks. I had made up some of that gap, and resisted all but 3 or 4 boys who outsprinted me in the final meters. Funnily, I had been warming up with friend, Stephan Justus and we were having a joke and pretend sprint finishes with each other...it actually came down to just that in the race. Dam he knew my tactics! :)
The day after I backed up my racing with another Olympic Distance race. Of course tired from the prior day I still put together another solid race. Exiting the water first! (Fist pump moment!). This race actually permitted boys and girls to draft off each other, which was novelty :) so thanks to the gentlemen for towing myself and 2 other girls around the course, we had a wheel to take the sting out of back to back racing. This time leading off the bike, it let me put a good run to use, to take the win on day two. Always a bonus in front of a big crowd.
I wrapped up the last few weeks in the French Riviera, Before it was finally time to start migrating home via 2 World Cups in Tongyeong, Korea, first, then in Miyazaki, Japan, the following week.
Good old Tongyeong World Cup. I have mixed feelings around this race. I am always excited to race it and have had both fond and not so fond memories... I have had to pull out with a broken foot, a rolled ankle, after a ridiculous running stack, and last year with a torn hamstring! on 3 separate occasions. This year I would nail it!...
Almost... Luckily I stopped bad luck in its tracks this year, with the bearings in my race wheel breaking on my final spin the day prior to the race! I thought something was being murdered inside my wheel! I am so grateful this happened 24 hours earlier and not one ride later in my race, especially as this was the best part of my race. I managed to bridge across solo on the ride to the front pack to put me in a position to try for a podium. To be honest I had been feeling pretty rough with jetlag since I arrived, and these are the races you have to dig deep all day. I was digging! I knew I was in great run shape, but I also knew my legs and body were still cactus from travel. Every step was a battle on that run. I was running with a ball and chain. So I pulled the ball and chain as hard as I could and opened up a gap to the small chase pack to sit in 3rd place, chasing that bronze medal. Unfortunately I got nudged out on the blue carpet by a fast finishing, track specialist, Renee Tomlin from USA. I didn't have the kick to match this day. 4th in a sprint is such a frustrating position, you sniff it, then reach for it, and just cant grab it! I would have to seek redemption next week in Japan.
Round 2 was a World Cup in Miyazaki, Japan, the following weekend. A week ahead of the race I knew I should at least be functioning like a better human being with another 7 days to flush out my jet lag! Many sushi rolls, and sound sleeps later I was feeling better in that respect. But seemed to have put some kinks in my body after all the travel that didn't want to come out. I bent myself in strange positions, poked, stretched, got a massage from a massage chair with a mind of its own! Nope, the kinks were not going anywhere in a hurry, (screaming Mayday calls in my head for my physio to appear!..my telepathy also failed haha) I really hate travelling on aeroplanes.
Miyazaki is a coastal city with a sporting culture, The hotel was situated in a beautiful grounds which made running pleasant for the week, and my personal favourite was getting cultured in the natural
Hot Springs in the hotel, and playing with a resident cat, after being starved on my pet snuggles from home for a few months!
Race day was tricky however. I didn't really feel the body firing race morning. Just flat, I felt tight and tense...still 'kinky' as mentioned above. Despite having done all the right things I was capable of doing on my own, there is no reason I shouldn't have been firing, but I often don't travel great, and was feeling it was one of these occasions where I hadn't reacted well to all my travels, having struggled to loosen off all week.
Everyone faces the same challenges, and I knew I was in good shape across all disciplines, so no biggie, I just had to deal with it. I had to warm into this one. I got focused and swam out to my deep water start position. Unusual for an ITU World Cup start. The swim was difficult, it was a slow, long, and just a challenging swim, with swell and chop. I was feeling horrid in the water. My muscles were tight and I just couldn't get a nice feel on the water. I was really battling, and it showed, as I lost touch with the lead pack early on. Something was just feeling so off, and I guess my frustration at this in the water didn't help, when I should have just relaxed. By the time I got out on the road, those of us who missed the pack had some serious work to do, with a wind picking up, and by shear numbers we had to work pretty hard to maintain our place. I was so happy to get off the that bike! Down by 3min40 into T2 I just set about running as best I could. A 'windy and windy' course kept it interesting as I chipped away time back. I had trained to be able to run fast at this race, and I did. But I had never planned or such a big deficit into T2, and couldn't make the impact on the race I had intended. I finished up in 19th.
It's always fun to race in new places, and I never take these opportunities for granted to race the best! That's what makes me tick, and after it being 6 months since my last World Cup, I was so genuinely excited to be back out there again dancing around the racecourse. I was certainly proud to get back on the start line after a year of walking on what felt like a jumping castle. But unless you choose to stay down you always bounce back up and land back on your feet, and my feet were ready to race. After Japan treated us to it's hospitality, good food, and for the most part good weather whilst there, I headed back to home sweet home!! ...just in time for the sunshine to come back again. Yes please!