It was great to be able to do a race so close to home, which was one of the main lures to deciding to do this race. The start of the race was only 15km from the Hotel, which is where I ride regularly and the T2 and finish (there was a split transition) was only about a km up the road!
The Triatlon Vitoria race is a big race on the calendar for most Spanish triathletes, with the race last year also being the European Championships and this year the Spanish Championships. Recently it was announced that in 2012 it is the ITU Long Course World Championships! I will talk more of that later. As the Spanish/europeans are very patriotic – for want of a better word, their championships is quite a big deal, thus I knew there would be some solid athletes in the Elite division.
I made the decision to do the race as a training race and also to see where the fitness was at and what I still needed to work on. I have all eyes focused on Las Vegas 70.3 World champs, thus it was perfect timing 7 weeks out from Las Vegas. Considering this, I also decided to pull out of the race at the 14km mark (the run was 3 laps of 7km each). I decided to do this so that I would not pull up so sore that it would take me a week to recover and miss a valuable week of training for Vegas, as I figure that it is generally the last 7km that really do the damage in a Half IM.
Going into the race I did not taper the training off really, except from cutting my long ride back a little on the Saturday. I had had a good week of training and have been targeting ‘negative splitting’ sessions a lot in training, as I typically slow down in the 2nd half of all three legs of a long race, which is one of my weaknesses. Therefore I decided to race in this way as well, to push the second half of all three legs as hard as I could.
The day before and the morning of the race I had felt quite average which often happens, but not quite as much as I did, so I tried as hard as possible to put it to the back of my mind. The swim start was very unique, as all of the Elite athletes were lined up, me being the last number #57 (as the only non Spanish racer), then we were introduced one by one. Quite an experience and was interesting how my name was pronounced! Being the last number, I was in the worst position on the start line, as we all had to start in a line, but the #1 had a big advantage. Considering this, I decided that when the gun went, to run hard along the shore and jump in behind the best ranked athlete. I knew this was a good move, as they were going to be the best swimmers and it was the shortest path to the first can.
I had a ‘typical’ swim for me… I swam on the feet the lead group (just) for about half the swim, until I got pushed under water for one athlete next to me who decided to turn early. Thus I lost the feet of the lead bunch and lead the second group through the swim. I tried around with a lot of different things (stroke rate/pacing etc) as I did for the rest of the race, in order to figure out the best way to race Vegas and keep learning!
Once out on the bike, there were about 8 athletes all around the same mark. My riding has been my strength in recent times, but I soon found out that the Spanish race quite differently… I was thinking by the pace they were setting, that we were doing a sprint race…. Wow ee, I got to 30km and I was REALLY hurting. But decided to stick with the pace to see how it all unfolded. With about 25km to go, the ride headed back into town, straight into a head wind and it started raining. At that point the few guys that were left dropped off the pace a bit, but sticking to the plan, I decided to attack a little and rode into town a minute ahead and in 10th place.
The run was through an awesome park where we often run. It is on ‘trails’ which are only very slightly lose gravel, but so much better to run on than concrete or bitumen. It is a beautiful run through the park lands, with hundreds of spectators surrounding. I ran the first lap strong, then decided to push as hard as I could for the second lap. I managed to pass a few people and ran into 6th or 7th position. This was my first Long Course race where I had used Dextro products, I have used them consistently for the last few months, but not in a long race. During the race it was one of the few times I have felt so ‘even’ with my energy throughout and felt fantastic in the run, which is when it usually comes undone if you have got your nutrition wrong! I now have my nutrition 100% dialed in for Las Vegas and cannot say enough good things about the Dextro range.
When I came around for the end of the second lap, it was a little funny, as thats where I pulled out. Usually when someone pulls off to the side, they are being sick or grabbing their cramping hamstring. But I would have been smiling, as I was quite happy with my race, which I am sure plenty of people must have thought I was crazy or a weird Australian. So while it would have been nice to finish, I felt content in what I had achieved and learnt from racing. It is not usually in my spirit to not finish, in fact I have never DNF’ed before, but as I mentioned, I have all focus on Vegas, so can’t wait.
The Triatlon Vitoria (no I have not been spelling triathlon wrong… when in Spain!) was an awesome experience, so well and professionally run and a great course. I would STRONGLY recommend anyone who has even a thought of doing the Long Course Worlds here next year, to get here and get into it. The race organisers were great, as were all the volunteers. I will definitely be back next year, but for now, its 6 weeks until Vegas… So time to keep the head down.