WTS Yokohama, once again the third round of the series, and for me my second after skipping WTS Bermuda given its proximity to the Commonwealth Games.
After a heavy focus on sprint distance racing, an extended taper for the Commonwealth Games, a week off, and three short weeks to refocus and get some fitness back into the body, to say I was apprehensive heading into Yokohama is an understatement.
It’s never easy getting back into the swing of things following a high but fortunately for me I was so exhausted from all the hype during and after the games that I was greatly relieved to return to the normal grind – the attention post games made training feel easy!
I was so incredibly excited to race on the Gold Coast that in contrast in the days leading into Yokohama I felt flat and unmotivated. I was also unsure how I would go racing an Olympic Distance not having quite the ideal amount of work behind me leading into the race. Yokohama was certainly not my “A” race for the year though; just my starting point for the second part of the season and a good chance to kick myself back into action post the games.
I was admittedly a little scared of embarrassing myself on course but my coach left me with the words of advice that the big pressure race of the year was done, this was now my opportunity to just race, to take some risks and have some fun.
If there’s anything I’ve learnt in the past couple of years, it’s that the first 200m of the swim is everything. Casting all thoughts of the rest of the race (even the rest of the swim) aside, I dived in and got off to a quick start. While having a lower start number and being stuck in the middle of the pontoon can seem to be a disadvantage, it can also be advantageous. On this day it played in my favour; being surrounded by weaker swimmers I had clear water almost from the gun and was able to see the packs forming and choose where I wanted to go. About two thirds of the way to the first buoy I saw the blue and pink caps of Flora Duffy and Katie Zaferes (the top 8 ranked athletes are given colour coded swim caps to make them easily identifiable to spectators, and conveniently other competitors). Knowing that was where the race would be I merged over to the left and slotted into the group. Rounding the first buoy I lost a couple of positions as I hadn’t lifted my kick enough and ended up with swimmers on top of my legs dragging me down. It didn’t cost me too dearly though and I was still safely inside the front group. Exiting the water at the end of lap one I was sitting in 8th and in contact with the leaders. A solid position to be! Fatigue was setting in by this point though, and possibly some lack of work starting to show, and I struggled a little in the second lap, slipping back a few places to exit the water in 12th.
Legs and lungs screaming as I ran up the ramp to transition, I could still see the leaders and I knew the next couple of minutes were critical. A smooth transition and I was away in the group onto the bike. Immediately the pace was on. I found a wheel, did up my shoes, and jumped ahead as I saw gaps starting to open already. Before long a pack of x had formed with Flora and Katie together up the road.
Now recent history would predict that that would be the last we would see of the leading duo. Refreshingly however our group contained some strong and motivated legs. We could see the pair ahead not pulling any further away, and after some prompting to work together, and keep the turns short and sharp, we began to reel them in. Early in lap 3 the catch was made and we became the leading pack of 9.
At this point we had a solid gap of 40 seconds to the chasing pack. We continued to work together but the intent and intensity waned a little and we only gained another 35 on the chasers over the remaining 6 laps to give us a lead of 1:15 onto the run. With some very fast runners in the group behind, this was not quite as much as would be ideal. On reflection it was probably at this point at which the advice to “have fun” was ringing loud and clear, with that to “take some risks” long forgotten when it should have been heeded.
Instead of drilling the group to keep the pressure on and gain as much time on the chasers as possible, I was content with doing my share of the work with the group working as it was.
I felt surprisingly good hopping off the bike after 40km and settled into my pace straight away. Nat Van Coevorden and Emma Jeffcoat bridged up to me after my early gap out of transition and we ran together for most of the first lap. They dropped off the pace as we approached the end of lap 1 and sitting in 6th position, I set my sights Laura Lindemann up ahead. I could see her starting to fade and eventually caught and passed her just past the halfway mark. I was still sitting in 6th however as Ashleigh Gentle had run past me from the chase pack. With more chasers coming I was conscious to keep the pace up, setting my sights on the next up the road, Jodie Stimpson.
I was caught by a few more runners from the chase but passed Jodie on the final lap of the run to put me in 10th. I rounded the final corner onto the blue carpet with the finish line in sight ahead. The spectators lining the course started yelling to me “sprint, sprint” – someone was coming. I didn’t know who, and had no idea how far behind they were but not wanting to concede any positions I lifted my rating as much as I could and raced towards the line. It seemed an age away and my legs would to go any faster as Laura Lindemann, finishing strongly, passed me on the line.
I finished in 11th. One position outside of the benchmark top 10 finish I have set myself for WTS races this season. A solid and satisfying result, an enjoyable and exciting race, and a good kick start for the rest of the season.