Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Champions Adapt-Hong Kong ASTC Triathlon

I am writing this recap from the confines of my bed, with my humidifier running, a cup of tea, and our house pup, Dobby on my lap :)

Over a week ago, I was thrilled to have finally made it to taper for the first time in a long time. I have always seemed to struggle with the final week of training before taper; my body is tired physically and mentally from pushing for so long and I tend to need to begin my taper early. Not this time. It was a brutal workout in which we did some parking lot races (crit style), and ended with 20 minute bike races but having my teammate, Amy Cymerman, to push me helped me greatly. It took about 1.5 hours to execute the whole workout, and I fought hard to execute a solid workout. It felt like a huge success to make it through that. After the workout I struggled with the normal exercise-induced cough; it wasn't until the next day I realized I was starting to become sick.

The timing couldn't have been worse, given I was set to depart for Hong Kong on Monday, October 16th and racing Saturday October 21st. I was extremely frustrated and feeling sorry for myself, but despite starting to get sick, I decided to board the plane. My health deteriorated during that 15 hour flight, which felt like torture. I am grateful that I had my mom with me for the trip. Unfortunately she fell ill too though. I did my best to rest and stay hydrated all week, sipping on my daily hydration mix from Infinit Nutrition.

how I spent most of the week
The two of us spent that entire week leading into the race in bed in the hotel room. I barely slept for the four nights leading into the race, as my cough got worse, congestion worsened, and I developed a fever. The whole week felt like a fog to me; I have never been so ill while abroad. In my heart I knew that the race was not going to go well, and I believed it was highly unlikely I would finish, let alone get to the start line. My Coach Ken Axford and my mom helped me find the courage to commit to racing, for I was fearful. I struggled to hold even 6 minute pace on my run during race prep, so I had no reason to be confident. My swim has been my focus for a while, and for whatever reason that was what felt the best all week, which was great!

My alarm sounded at 3:30 am on race-day, though I was awake already for hours with a cough. The athletes boarded the shuttle from the hotel at 4 am for the 35 min ride to the venue. I listened to music and closed my eyes, but couldn't seem to get the anxiety out of my mind. I texted Ken telling him that I was incredibly fearful and that "if I can execute today, I can do anything." He reminded me that I might actually surprise myself and that there was nothing to be afraid of, for my body will only give what it can. Ken has never steered me wrong so I trusted him. He gave me the courage to go out there when I was probably only 50% healthwise.

I did minimal race warm-up prep to conserve my energy, but I made sure to know the course and rode one lap of the bike course. The gun went off and my body knew what to do. I stayed calm and strong on the swim, and due to a cross current, I had to do a number of cross-overs before finding my position and getting on feet. Two girls broke away on the swim, but I exited with the lead pack for the first time! I couldn't believe it. I gave my mom a thumbs up.

Transition was a mess since it was the width of a sidewalk split in two, so only one bike could make it through at a time. I sprinted to try to stay with the top five girls, but was unable to pass others because of the narrowness. Due to the set-up of transition, this caused a split in the lead pack. We spent three laps chasing and we eventually caught the first pack on the end of the third lap. The two leading girls were still out front. I did my best to stay safe on the bike but there were some sketchy areas due to the nature of a narrow bike course and a language barrier between riders. I made a sprint to get to the front before T2, only to get held up by an ambulance which jumped in front of the pack. How frustrating! We slammed our brakes and the group came together once again. We all entered transition together and it was chaos for we couldn't pass one another and we were tripping over bikes and shoes.

I started out controlled on the run and built up my pace once I felt a bit better but I knew I couldn't run much faster than 5:50 pace given how my lungs and energy felt. I was determined to finish. I found my rhythm and I ran my way up from around 15th to 9th place. About 800m from the finish, my hamstrings began to cramp up; this was certainly related to illness and not my fitness. I knew I needed to stay calm if I wanted to finish. I was passed back by two girls near the finish line, and I crossed in 11th. I wasn't disappointed because I knew my body gave whatever it could on the day. I was physically and emotionally exhausted though.

Post-race my mom and I spent much of our time in the steamroom at the hotel (thank goodness for that) and eating + hydrating. Though we were both sick for the entire trip, I feel it was quite an experience for both of us being in Hong Kong for the first time and I wouldn't change what we went through because I feel these experiences make me stronger as person and athlete. I am learning that ITU triathlon is all about adaptability; champions adapt.


My key takeaways from this experience are the following:


  • trust your body and trust your coach- you've trained thousands of hours and your muscles know what to do
  • be relentless!!! Be mentally tough. 
  • life is 1% what happens to you 99% how you react to it
  • the mind is stronger than you think, and you are capable of more than you believe
  • if racing sick, do whatever you can to stay hydrated leading up to the race. Drink electrolytes and tea whenever possible.  I train and race with Infinit Nutrition. I also have a daily hydration mix which I sipped on all week.
  • don't push yourself to do pre-race workouts if you are ill. Limit all exercise and keep duration short to simply activate the muscles
  • when the gun goes off, turn off the negative thoughts, and allow your body to do what it knows how to do
I am eager to recover so I can be well enough to race Salinas World Cup this Sunday. Given my current recovery, things are looking up! I have never been more proud of a finisher medal than I am from the one I received this week. I now know that I am capable of anything I set my mind to. We all are.


Never been more proud of a finisher medal
mom and I post race

During call down


narrow transition











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