I was excited about the opportunity to race in China when this race first came out. I took a nice recovery week after Timberman in August, then went into a high volume training block. I raced frequently during the season so I didn’t have time to build in a training block like this. I knew I was going into this race in great shape, but I also knew there were so many unknowns I would be dealing with, including jetlag. I did what I could to get adjusted and gave myself the best possible chance to do well, but I took pressure off by knowing this race was a little bit of an experiment. Plus with Brian going, we thought it would be a great place to spend our anniversary!
The support here was amazing. Ironman did a great job at this inaugural race, and the Chinese soaked up the experience! Roads (2-3 full lanes) for the bike course were fully closed and there were 15,000 security guards and over 90km of fencing along the bike course.
Swim was in Swam Lake, which was a shuttle ride away from the hotel that most athletes were staying in. The second transition zone was in Wanda Park, where the hotel district was. Swan Lake was a nice body of water to swim in given the circumstances and was very spectator-friendly, bringing hundreds of spectators to watch. Nearly 2,000 athletes were competing, and over half of them were first-timers! There was also a large percentage of age groupers there who were gunning for a Kona slot. We had quite the mix of athletes, but everything went very smoothly during the race, running exactly on time and with no hiccups that I could see.
We had a small but competitive group of pro women. There was a group of 4 that started off together. Heather and Radka pushed a fast pace, and I lost contact with the leaders. My shoulders felt loose and comfortable and the pace I was holding was not strenuous, but they were just pushing a faster pace than I could keep. I lost more ground to the front 3 during the last 500-m. My form felt sloppy towards the end and I was just looking forward to getting out of the water!
T1 – exited the water with some stairs. We had our helmets in bags and had to run through a changing tent and discard our swim stuff into the bag before heading to grab our bikes. Having never gone through this before, I was totally off my game and very slow through transition. I tried running and stuffing my bag at the same time, but ended up dropping everything which just cost me more time. I had mentally gone through this transition process before racing but was not smooth going though it race day.
Bike – legs felt tired starting out, so I just took some time to get up to speed. Eventually I just put my head down (I looked up
every once in awhile!;) ) and focused on my breathing and strong pedal strokes. Spectators lined the whole course – it was unbelievable! I tried to use this amazing crowd support as fuel. Maybe 45k in, I saw lots of racers up the road. I kept doing my thing and putting power to the pedals, and I was just reeling them in. I felt strong nearing 60k when I fully caught up to the group of 7-8 people. I relaxed my pace for a few minutes contemplating what to do. The line was spaced apart just right, but I didn’t want to stay where I was. So I put in a bigger effort to pass everyone. At the turn around to head back for the final 30km, I had clear space in front of me again and just continued on, now in the lead for the women’s race. I was tiring a little towards the end and we had a decent headwind now but I continued pushing hard. I had a film person near my side for the entire last 30k (the race was live broadcast across China). I wonder if they caught me blowing snot rockets! ;). Finishing off the bike in 2:20:31 was good enough for the fastest split of the day. I felt solid and was excited to see my hard training pay off!
T2 – same deal as T1 with the bags and changing tents. This one went a little smoother. The top 4 women came in at once.
Run – The leaders took off fast and I followed. I wasn’t sure how my legs were going to be after that ride, but I felt great. I tuned everything out and enjoyed the empty course for the first loop of the run. The second loop was a little more con
gested but it wasn’t too bad and the others racers were all so encouraging as I ran past. I ran a consistent effort, tiring at the end, but still holding steady. I finished in 3rd, my first podium! Radka, Emma, and I were awarded with flowers and champagne on the stage right after. An amazing experience here in China. This race has a great future!