WTS Edmonton

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WTS Edmonton this year leaves me frustrated, and disappointed in myself.

Edmonton has in the past been very good to me.

It was here in 2014 I raced in the green and gold for the first time at the U23 world championships, where I finished 2nd both in the individual event and in the team relay.

A year later it was here also, I bagged my first WTS podium finishing 3rd behind Vicky Holland and Flora Duffy.

2016 was an “off” year, or rather I should say a year with more learning experiences than performances, but this year I was eager to have a crack at another podium.

Following Leeds I had a long 7 weeks before racing again here in Edmonton. After a solid start to the year, my coach, Stephen Moss, put the challenge to me to step up my training another notch to set myself up for an even better second half of the year. On the one hand, I just wanted to be told “you’ve done such a great job, keep up the good work”, that was I was doing was enough. On the other hand, I welcomed the challenge. It was scary, and I knew would mean going further beyond my comfort zone than I had before, but it was exciting.

The result was the best block of training I have ever done in my life.

Given the way the last 3 WTS races have panned out, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that Flora Duffy would once again try to (and almost certainly manage to) take the race up the road on the bike. It was my plan, or on reflection possibly hope, to go with her.

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The calm before the storm

Barring a minor tussle of arms going around the first buoy the swim was uneventful and I exited comfortably in the front pack. I knew the run out of the swim, T1, and the first 1-2km on the bike would be absolutely critical. I had a fast run to T1, quick transition and out I went onto the bike. Flora was right there, a mere 2-3 seconds in front of me. I had nailed the swim and T1, the part of the race I was least confident about, and was sure the rest of it would just unfold from there.

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Exiting the swim

A second or two lost with congestion mounting my bike, poor choice of when to put my feet in my shoes, bad positioning going into the hill causing me to lose momentum and I watched Flora along with Taylor Knibb get away.
Katie Zaferes and Kirsten Kasper were just ahead of me and I pushed to try and catch on however they remained a tantalising couple of seconds ahead of me for the entire lap. The girls I’d left behind going up the hill caught back on just as we were finishing the first lap and I rolled back into the pack to recover a little. The second time up the hill I moved to the front again and pushed the pace, finally making contact with Katie and Kirsten as we crested the hill.

As much as I’d been sure that the hill would break up the race our pack stayed the same for the remainder of the 6 laps, gaining time on the second chase pack behind us, but losing just as much time to the leading duo. It was almost as if I just expected the race to unfold the way I wanted it to without making it happen.

Yes, I rode hard.

Yes, I took my turns at the front.

Yes, I pushed up and over the hill.

Yes, I maintained a good position in the pack going through corners.

But in hindsight I did not do so with the intensity or intent required.

I did not feel relaxed or in control on the bike as I like to be, even (especially) when it’s hard. There were girls in my pack who I felt I should have been able to ride away from, and I came off the bike feeling physically and mentally burnt.

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Just relax!

Heading out onto the run I allowed myself to think of how much I was hurting. Of course I was hurting – it always does and it was a hard bike – but my mind went into the “I’m hurting” mode and it’s very hard to come back from there. I lost site of the process, of staying tall, relaxed, and focusing on my cadence. Sure enough, my run form fell apart and I watched as what was left of the race went up the road.

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After 3 laps that seemed to take an age, I ran across the line to finish in 13th. Not a disastrous result by any stretch, but a long way off where I wanted to finish, and what I believed I was capable of on the day.

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Feeling somewhat dishevelled at the finish

As disappointed and frustrated with myself as I am, I know that this is about more than just this race, this year, or even the next few years. Each race I learn something about the racing and about myself that I know will set me up to be better next time, in the years to come, and in (eventually) the rest of my life.

Honest reflection is not easy, and I’d love to just say “it wasn’t my day”, or come up with any plethora of excuses. But that would be to forfeit the chance to grow.

Seldom will a race unfold the way you want it to just because you’re in form and think it should. It’s about attacking the processes with intent and making the race happen!

For now though, I’m excited to have another crack this weekend in WTS Montreal!

Gillian


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