Tuesday, 10 October 2017

September- The Crazy Roller-coaster of Elite Sport

September- The Crazy Roller-coaster of Elite Sport 

Hey team 

September was Another huge month of some epic exciting racing!! With the pinnacle of the season upon us, the world Championships / ITU world triathlon series grand final & a whole new ball game of Superleague Triathlon! 

Before I fill you in, I'll start with a bit of inside honesty, because I want to write a blog that gives a full picture, as the athlete life ain't all good times, fun & race highs. Don't get me wrong, most of the time it is (as you can probably tell from my previous blog updates over the years) but with the highs Come some lows, were you can find yourself pretty gutted, disappointed, frustrated, angry, & lonely on this crazy ride, and for me, one of my biggest targets for the year, left me feeling the later with some poor race execution & result. 

Leading up to this month’s BIG races endless hours of hard work were laid down as a squad! Setting the benchmark to worlds best standards, working to be the best prepared athletes we can be heading onto that start line!  But regardless of how race fit you are, how "race ready", how smooth your lead up has been or how well prepared you are, we are never guaranteed a sure perfect outcome! And as athletes when race execution & results don’t reflect all that hard work that goes on, both in training & behind the scenes each day, it can be pretty devastating & disheartening!

This is part of racing and I wouldn't change a thing! Life, and Elite sport is a roller-coaster ride, everyone would love more ups than downs sure, but how can you appreciate the joy without an understanding of the tough road it took to get there! Learning from it all to become better all-round people and athletes alike, more prepared for the next big race to tackle!! 

Moving on from that deep start to this monthly update ... (which is quite rare for me being a very upbeat kind of person I'd like to think haha) I'll fill you in on all the racing adventures that filled the crazy ride of September!! 

I had the oppourtunity to race in the Spanish Triathlon division 1 league for the Isbilya Trithlon Club’s “Sloppy Joe’s” Team at the start of the month. With the racing taking place in the far south of Spain in a coastal town called Pulpi on the Mediterranean, very close to the neighbouring African continent!

The weekends racing was a very unique format which I was excited to rip into, with some hot & fast racing! Competing over a super sprint course of 300m swim, 6km ride & 1.6km run, very similar to the upcoming Superleague Eliminator racing format I knew I would be competing in soon at Jersey, so it was a perfect chance to practice my skills & critical speed elements. The event started with 60 athletes, or 15 Spanish teams each with 4 athletes, all starting together on the gun, with the bottom 20 across the line knocked out, before having 30 minutes break to get refreshed, & ready in transition to race again, where the top 40 started, again over the same course before the bottom 20 were knocked out, leaving the best 20 females after another 30 minute break to race in a small finale!

 Using this event as an ideal prep race & a chance to sharpen up before World Champs I chose to hit the warm ocean swim & technical ride hard with the ideal option then to be able to shut it down on the run. Hitting my process goals well this managed to play out perfectly across all 3 races, using a small gap ahead out of the water to break away on the bike, riding solo before bringing it home comfortably on the run. Happy to take the overall win for the day & top points for my new team! Funnily enough, due to the late notice of racing for the team I didn’t have my own suit so I squeezed into Nat Van Coevorden’s suit who races for the team & so I raced under the alias of Nat for the day, so Congrats to Nat for the win girl, haha!

I always love the chance to explore new towns & coastlines when I travel to races! This was no different, using my Saturday ride as a chance to cruise 60km up the coastline, which was pretty spectacular with the desert like landscape portrayed against the blue tones of the ocean Med!!

It was back to Vitoria Gasteiz from here where I had my final 10 days before we packed up for the Summer and headed off to the 2017 Triathlon World Championships & World Triathlon Series Grand Final! Nailing down some solid miles and hard work to be best prepared as we headed to Rotterdam! Being my second year in Vitoria Gasteiz it certainly felt more like a second home & I loved the oppourtunities I had training within the Wollongong Wizard’s Triathlon Australia High Performance Environment with some of the best athletes & friends, excellent support staff & “magical” coaching!! I certainly look forward to getting back here next year to the Basque country, & have no doubts I’ll be missing the quiet open country roads to cycle on when I’m back training in Sydney!

We headed to the ITU World Championships in our Aussie convoy on Wednesday the 13th , flying via Amsterdam. With enough time to settle into our Team Australia accommodation & become familiar with the environment & conditions there in Rotterdam before race day on Saturday the 16th for us U/23 Women, along with the Elite Men & Women’s World Triathlon Series Grand Final!

As many people know, the Netherlands is so famously known for its Windmills & Clogs, that’s because it’s also well known for its wind & rain! And we sure found that out first time, with some pretty intense Wind, Heavy rain & very cold conditions!! But we all were well prepared in both training, skills & with equipment to be world class in our behaviour in these testing conditions!

 I went into the U/23 World Championships ranked as Number 1 & was very honoured to wear the famous #1 Gold Numbers for my helmet & bike on race day. A bold statement brought in for the usual World Triathlon Series Circuit leader. After what had been my best 6 months of racing to date I was thrilled with my season so far & certainly proud of the accomplishment to wear that Gold number 1 starting position!

 I was just as proud to be presented my World Championship Green & Gold suit by Traithlon Australia’s very own Miles Stewart at the team presentation dinner, I know I can speak for anyone who has had the honour to represent their country, that it is always done with pride, joy & a great sense of accomplishment & I know I always strive to race my best in the mighty green & gold!

Race day came around quick, with us U/23 Elite women kicking off at 10am on Saturday morning! No surprise with the weather… we had probably the worst conditions of the weekends racing with heavy rain & freezing cold for our race, with water temps barely scarping 16 degree’s and outside air temp at around 14 degrees, not taking into account the chilly wind factor out on the course! Lucky we came well prepared! As many of us know each other from previous years of international racing it was a fierce but equally friendly environment huddling around pre race trying to keep as warm as possible before the line up! Starting as number 1 meant I was first onto the pontoon & first to choose my starting position, of which I went to the far right side taking slot number 1. I was fully confident in my preparation, training work over the past months in lead up & had clear process objectives I was looking to nail in the race!

Racing over a 2 lap 1500m chilly wetsuit swim, a 7 lap highly technical bike course through the heart of downtown Rotterdam, over narrow streets, cobbles, pavers & train tracks, and then finishing with a flat looping 4 lap 10km run.

I got off to a clear early start in the water with the advantage of being on the outside, minimising the clashing against other athletes on my outside, and having Sophie Coldwell, a terrific swimmer & friend on my left side. A few hundred meters in I was pleased, having establish clear water and was ahead of the main pack chasing behind. I could see a small gap reaching out ahead as the speedy Lopez from Brazil was taking it out. As we approached the first buoy of 4 at the 300m turn mark I found myself swamped from behind on the first buoy, I hadn’t established the space I was after to break clean around the buoys before the turn and was pulled back into the chaos. Unfortunately for me I hadn’t executed to the best of my ability here & at this critical moment it cost me, I went under dragged by the legs from behind & was fighting from there to get back up. Caught out of breath & certainly out of rhythm & not in a good place as many would know if you’ve raced a triathlon event or surf club ocean swim race, being in the middle of a scrambling flighting pack around the buoys is not where you want to be!! While you’re almost at a standstill the front swimmers are stretching out their lead in clean water ahead. I was furious with myself & in reflection, let my emotions get the best of me mentally at this point.

With another 1100m left of the swim I was concentrated on consolidating my losses here & making my way up the field towards the front as much as I could, but to my disappointment on the day I wasn’t able to pull myself back like I know I’m able to, being quite flustered and shaken round on lap 1 I lost more time among the chasing pack of swimmers to those leaders up front, exiting the water 50 seconds back with a very subpar swim, nowhere near the standard  I know I’m capable of executing! Quick to exit the water and on a mission through the first transition to get on the pack just up ahead on the bike!

The talk of town before worlds was certainly that bike course, you had to be hiding under a rock if you didn’t know how technical and tight that bike course was, without adding in the rain or the tricky road surfaces for a little extra spark! It was not an easy course to bridge up as a chaser, but an ideal course to get a break up front and stay away with small packs- the ideal in these conditions for safety. Fully aware of this I knew I was not where I wanted, nor needed to be if I was going to be a player & contender in this World Championship.

Once reaching the main course & starting the first of 7 by 5km laps I was in an established chase pack of around 8 athletes, having already dropped some athletes out the pack & picked a few more up who had never made that front group, with 3 of us working hard up front keeping the pace on & intent there!

We were riding well up front, holding our clear lines through the MANY corners & U turns, keeping out of the trouble & chaos behind as some athletes within the pack fell victim too, with several crashes on the wet & slippery road surfaces. After 2 laps the gap was staying stagnant at 40 seconds to the front pack ahead but on lap 3 at the start, one of the stronger US riders working the front of our pack came down hard on a sharp corner, lucky not to take down any other athletes. But that put a bit of a halt on our pack, even if it was subconscious I think everyone was a little more cautious after that!

From here, although still working hard to do my part with another strong Swiss Athlete up front, we started losing time. By the end of the bike through the glorious rain & freezing conditions we got off around 1min 50secs back, Significantly back in terms of contention with majority of the main players for the U/23 title all up there within that front pack. As disappointed, frustrated & angry with myself as I was at this point I was set on finishing strong with my head up! To take away as much positive from this race experience as I could, its not in my nature to throw in the towel!

Off I set onto the 10km run, feeling as if I was running with stumps as legs, I couldn’t feel either of my feet until the 5km mark where I had warmed up enough to feel the pins & needles kick in of freezing extremities. I surely wasn’t the only one with many girls post-race saying they felt similar or worse, sharing frozen fingers too, and some even had to sit down in T2 off the bike to be able to get their shoes on, some couldn’t unclip their helmets & others spent up to 5 minutes in transition crying & just trying to get their shoes onto head off onto the run, I think that speaks for itself on how hard the racing conditions were out there for everyone!

Off a tough bike with over 250 turns over the 40km I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to feel heading off on the run!! I was pleasantly pleased though & pulled together a strong run to finish off the job, holding my form & queues which have been a key focus for me this year.

Finishing my 1st & last U/23 World Championship off in 18th. A result I am not proud of. On paper I am disappointed, frustrated, angry and quite frankly shattered with that outcome. But in hindsight, now as I can look back 3 weeks on I am able to look past those raw emotions & see that this result, although no where near what I was after, doesn’t reflect my overall 2017 racing season, nor does it reflect my preparation and training that got me here, which I know are so much better than my performance on the day. A tough one to let myself down on, along with those that backed me to get here; my coach Mick, Triathlon Australia, my family, my brilliant sponsors & friends. But I know I am better than this & I’ll be back!!

Moving on from my own World Championships, I was able to finish the week with the Australian team off on a high watching & cheering on our Elite Men & Women & seeing Ash Gentle rewarded with a silver in the 2017 World Triathlon Series overall Standings behind 2017 World Champion Flora Duffy!!

I headed from Rotterdam on the train to Amsterdam the following day, which meant I unfortunately missed cheering on the Age group World Championships, but I was able to unwind & enjoy a recover day in Amsterdam, hiring a cruiser bike to roam the streets & explore the awesome city, along the canals, stopping along the way at a few museums & munching on some caramel stroopwaffels & delicious cheese toasties!

From the Netherlands I was thrilled to be heading to the highly anticipated first SUPERLEAGUE Triathlon Women’s event in Jersey.

 I was starting as number 22 in #IAMSUPERLEAGUE as #TEAMJEFFCOAT. Superleague is a totally new & SUPER exciting game changing event, kicked off by Aussie KONA 2007 & 2010 World Champion himself Chris McCormack! It is an event developed & run for the athletes, by an athlete & as soon as I heard that the event was looking to bring on board women I knew I wanted in!!

Superleague isn’t your average triathlon, the formats are totally unique! It shakes things up! In Jersey we would be racing over 2 days with the Triple Mix format on Saturday & the Eliminator format on the Sunday! As athletes chose their start numbers themselves I was starting as number 22, because I have lived at my Home address number “22” for my 22 years of live & for me home is where the heart is!

Jersey is an island in the English Channel, home to 120,000 residents & part of the British crown. It is the only British land to be occupied by the Germans in World War 2 & has a fascinating underground tunnel system developed in WW2 with can still be explored today. The island’s coastline is spectacular, spotted with Grand Elizabethan Castles, lighthouses & scattered with WW2 battle forts. 

Jersey also boasts the second largest tidal difference globally, up to 14m in tidal difference from low to high tide which was fascinating to witness. Us athletes were treated like kings & queens & were put up at the Raddison Blu Hotel for the week in Jersey, not only was this top hotel directly on top of the race site, it boasted amazing views of the ocean coastline & the stunning Elizabeth Castle out my window! This castle highlighted the tidal ranges, as it was totally protected by water at high tide, only reachable by a boat… or a 1km swim, but as the tide went down slowly a footpath emerged along the sand/ ocean floor, stretching the 1000m walk out to the castle, where visitors could walk straight out to the castles front walls!

With the luxury of arriving to Jersey with 4 days until race day (which is generally unheard of)  I was not only able to explore the spectacular island sites & coastline but was rewarded with the chance to give back & engage with the enthusiastic & welcoming community of Jersey.

 I participated in a local Primary School Q & A visit, taking selfies, signing autographs & feeling like a superstar, also joining in at the local Jersey Traithlon club’s Junior Track session helping with the up & coming triathlon talent on the island, and taking part in local television media work & interviews.

Us athletes were also treated with a chance to really relax, have fun, & enjoy each other’s company & friendship, something which is quite rare on the usual ITU triathlon circuit! My group got the chance to chase some waves in the Atlantic, wow it was so good to be back on a board & in the surf!! Followed by a delicious seafood dinner & spectacular sunset! I can’t thank the Superleague Team of staff enough, us athletes were treated like royalty & the whole week was so rewarding, making the hurt of race day all worth it out there!

Another unique feature of Superleague is the pontoon line up for day 1 of racing, it’s a lucky draw pick, where us 25 athletes draw out a name & have the chance to place that athlete drawn wherever they want on the start line from position 1 to 25. In Jersey position 1 was clearly the ideal position, with the inside direct line to the buoy, where as position 25 meant an extra 2m swim to the first buoy on the outside line! The girls were honestly more brutal than the men placing each other on the far outside, I was luckily enough to be pulled out as the last of 3 names in the slot draw & the lovely Taylor Spivey put me in slot number 1, Thankyou!! Good Karma going her way!

Day 1 was the triple mix format, here’s a video to sum up how the racing worked-

Put simply it ran- 300m swim, 6km bike, 2km run- 10 min break. Run, bike, swim- 10 min break. Bike, swim, run- Winner of round 1! I was so excited to switch up the order of disciplines, reminding me of my roots in Surf life saving in the Iron women event where you would draw out of a hat the order of the race just before starting- swim, board or ski. Having watched the men race before us on the Saturday we were well aware of a little rule in play- the 90 second rule! This rule meant, if an athlete fell more than 90 seconds behind the leader in any lap they were out of the race & out for the day! In the men’s, this caught out 15 of the 25 men by the end of the day!!! With the races run as a pursuit, so you started the next race the time length that you finished behind from the previous race, it was going to be a tough days racing!! Lucky, we had perfect English Jersey weather on show, with sunshine, mid 20’s and not a drop of rain!

There was no holding back in the women’s racing that’s for certain! It was on from the go, a very chilly 16 degree swim, NONWETSUIT which was totally new for us, meant a startling dive in before a race to that first buoy which was critical  (as I knew all to well from the week before) 

Exiting the water first I was quick to get up the steep ramp to transition, knowing everyone would be in hot pursuit, finding myself in excellent company on the bike it was a fast & furious 6 x 1km laps on the bike, with our front group of about 8 getting a small gap off the bike, unfortunately I got off & felt like my legs had turned to lead, dropping back quick off the front group & finishing the first race 40 secs back from the leader & just holding off the chasers as we had a short 10minutes to set up transition ready for a run-bike-swim. One thing was clear- the leaders weren’t holding back! They were pushing the pace up front & once you lost time on them it was near impossible to make it back up, because while you were standing still they were always moving forward!

Feeling much better on the second races run, I held my own and was on the bike in the chasing pack, aware that we had lost time as they got on the bike while we finished the run & we continued to lose vital seconds each lap on the bike before jumping off into the final leg, a swim! If a swim in the 16 degrees wasn’t tough enough in race 1, jumping in after a hard run & bike was tough, but that’s what I love about this style of racing, it’s downright tough!!! Exiting the water with a bunch of chasers behind me, we were all just on the 90 second cusp & didn’t have the time on our side to advance into the final round, caught out by that cheeky 90 second rule!

Cheering on the final 10 girls left in round 3 of racing, where Katie Zaferes took the round 1 win in impressive style!
Here is a video of the day 1 highlights!!

It was time for recovery, spin of the legs & trying to rest the body best we could!

Onto day 2!! The Eliminator format! All swim bike run-same distances as day 1 & same recovery time- 10mins. Here’s a video to sum up how the Eliminator racing format worked-

Unfortunately the almost summer like Jersey weather had disappeared & the typical English weather had returned, with cold & wet conditions!! With the technical 1km loops on the bike playing as a big factor out there come racing!! Unfortunately over just race 1 we saw 6 of us ladies come down! And another 3 the following races! It was a tough day in the office for many & unfortunately I was one of these, after getting off to a great start out of the water in race 1 & into the front pack.

Having my first ever crash on the bike viewed by over 500 million streaming live worldwide!!!! But Hey if you’re going to crash, why not do it in style! Oh boy my hip took a rough landing onto the cement & left me feeling very sore for a good 2 weeks after, not to mention the amazing rainbow of colours my hip, backside & ribs turned too.

 I fell victim to poor positioning & some external riders, as an athlete crashed on the front of the pack on the U turn, the rest of the pack following hit the brakes in simultaneous response & the rider in front of me reacted quite drastically, leaving me with no where to do but down, as I turned my wheel & braked on the slippery black tape that had been laid down- lesson learnt there, positioning in the pack is key, and even more vital in wet conditions!

An end to my day of racing as I got back on the bike & was set on finishing the race, getting off the bike & jogging it around the 2km run but I was out & done after that for the day & made my way to medical, soothing my sore body & pride!! Not for to long though before getting up to Cheer & scream in the final race of 3 in the Eliminator, which came down to the final run leg to determine who would take the first Women’s Superleague Title- going to superstar Katie Zaferes from the USA!!!

Here is a video of the day 2 highlighst-

But you’ll have to check out the Superleague Youtube channel highlights if you want to see my day 2 race 1 spectacular crash!!!

Check all the weeks highlights & action out on their Youtube channel-

I absolutely loved the fast, & furious style of racing! It was so exciting to mix up the format of racing & throw a spanner in the works because it means all the little things count & its anyone’s game!! It was awesome to see such an aggressive side of racing from the women too, we need more of this! I can’t wait to find out where the next Superleague event will take us too…. Stay tuned!!! Like I said, it’s a game changer! And I couldn’t not mention the amazing crowds & fans that flocked to jersey to watch the weekends racing, it was a packed course & stellar atmosphere all weekend!

What now? Well I am happy to be home, adjusting back to the Aussie Time zone & training life! Its always so lovely to return back home to family, friends & the comforts of home- for me, the beach, my horse, my favourite training spots & the best coffee at my local, 21grams!!
With a few more races to finish off the year for a bit of fun it’s nice to relax a little & take some time off the #ATHLETELIFE to enjoy all of the above!!!

Thanks for the essay read! That was my last BIG month of racing for the year so I had to fill you all in!
Until the next month’s update,
Enjoy this Aussie spring weather & extra daylight hours!

Em. x

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