2010 Dextro Energy ITU Triathlon World Championships
September 11, 2010
Excitement and nerves ran through my body as this year's World Championships got closer! It was Friday, one day before race day, and it was pouring rain! We had already been in Budapest for a week though, site seeing, adjusting to the time zone, and enjoying the delicious Hungarian food- the fresh bread, pure and creamy milk and cheese, and amazing eggs! My husband, John, my new guide, Heather and I had gotten to spend some time together, and had gotten a chance to go for a run with the rest of the USA team as well.
It was time to head to transition to check in Shadi! The rain kept coming down without any signs of a break, and it was cold! So I decided to ride to transition in my wetsuit! I must say, it was a brilliant idea because it kept me warm, mostly dry, and definitely drew some attention from the locals! I think I probably looked like a penguin!
Thankfully, John played "Traffic Cop" for us as we rode through the busy streets of Hungary making our way down to transition—he was running ahead of us and blowing a wistle he had somehow thought of packing in his bag! It worked! Cars would stop to let us cross, and we got to transition safe and sound; Heather and I even got in a couple of practice break-aways, and U-turns before leaving Shadi in transition!
The alarm went off at 3:45AM, and we woke up to find that it was still raining! I tried not to think about the rain, and went on with my usual routine: Start having some breakfast, hot shower, begin dressing, pack and check packed bag, finish breakfast, finish dressing, check bag again, etc. At 4:30AM John and I met Heather in the hotel lobby and headed out to our cab that would take us to transition!
A moment of concern struck – the driver didn't want to head towards our transition area because he normally prefers to take passengers who are headed to or from the airport! After some coaxing, he reluctantly agreed to take us to transition! Relief!
As we drove to transition, I thought about how this would be a unique race for me in many ways. It was the first time I would be racing a triathlon in pouring rain. It was also the first time I'd be racing a triathlon with a new guide! Heather and I had met just three weeks prior to the race, and had only gotten a couple of bike rides in, two runs in, and not much swimming time together! But I took a couple of deep breaths and reminded myself about why I had chosen Heather as my guide! She was a strong triathlete herself, had picked up guiding me and riding Shadi almost instantly, and though she may have been nervous she was calm and moved with confidence! This is key because we work as a team throughout the entire race, and thus feed off of each other's energy along the way!
The taxi came to a stop, and let us out a couple of blocks away from our transition zone! Minutes later we were setting up our gear alongside Shadi, checking the tire pressure, having my blackout glasses inspected by ITU IPC members, and reviewing our exits and entrances from transition!
I took a couple of bites of a banana, zipped up my wetsuit, and Heather and I headed off to swim start! The water temperature was 15 degrees Celsius, just around 60 degrees Fahrenheit! It was cold! No sooner had we picked out our spot on the pontoon and sat down, when the announcement was made that we could enter the waters of the Danube River! Seconds later, the horn went off and the race was underway!
The first 100 meters or so are always tough for me. I get nervous about having to put my head in the water as it means I lose the ability to hear what's around me! I also need to relax and slow down my breathing. Once I do those things, I can start to settle into a rhythm!
I swam, and swam, and finally heard some magical words from Heather, "we're approaching the 1st Bouie of the set of buoys at the half way point." My feet and hands were cold, but I could still feel my fingers and toes! "Great" I thought, "Now just keep swimming!" I swam and swam, counting stroke after stroke and kept telling myself to relax, to breathe and stay calm. Heather's encouraging words conveyed that we were making progress! Finally, she said, "We're approaching the 1st Bouie of the last set of buoys!" For a moment I thought she had said that we were only approaching the 1st set of buoys again! My heart nearly stopped beating! I asked, "What?" Heather answered, "Coming up on the last set of buoys." Now that sounded better. Then came "About 50 meters to go!" I had swam 50 meters plenty of times before, so I knew I could make it! I continued swimming, counting my strokes, till I heard Heather say, "We're there, can you stand?" I flipped onto my stomach, did a couple of freestyle strokes, till I was able to stand! Heather and I linked arms, and ran out of the freezing water! Onto the swim deck area we went, where I called for "strip, strip!" Instantly John and Justin (our honorary team captain) were stripping my wetsuit off, while Heather was also getting her wetsuit stripped by John Beeson (the Co-chair of the Paratriathlon committee)!
Heather and I linked arms and ran off to transition. We put on our bike gear, unracked Shadi, and headed out of transition on to the bike course. There were still some big rain drops falling, the ground was wet, and there were puddles galore! We mounted Shadi, and were off! Our start was cautious, but steady, and we eased into a nice rhythm.
The wind felt cool and brisk as we rode along. Our riding path wasn't very wide, and since the ground was so wet, we decided to slow down a bit at each of the 4 U-turns on the course. Along the way we got encouraging words from fellow competitors too, "You girls look great", "Nice work! Good luck!", which definitely makes you feel good! I also felt great because as we neared transition and the end of the bike leg of the race, I checked my watch and found that we had just averaged 20 miles per hour on Shadi! This is the fastest I've ridden her in a race to-date!
We dismounted Shadi, ran into transition, and quickly slipped into running sneakers! Again, my favorite part of the triathlon was finally here! Suddenly though, a moment of panic! I couldn't find my blackout glasses! Racing without them would not be possible! Thankfully, as I yelled for help from Heather, she and John spotted them, and now we were ready to go!
Out of transition we flew taking a hard left, a hard right, another hard right, and we were on the race corse. After 200 meters or so I could feel us starting to relax, our breathing starting to settle into a nice easy rhythm, and our strides lengthen out. The rain had stopped, I was quickly warming up, and a few more spectators were now scattered along the corse! The run was fairly flat, and quite open as all of us racers were spread out along the way. We began to pass a runner every so often, getting stronger as our run went on! Heather was a natural on the tether, nice easy but clear movements/gestures to which I could easily respond. She gave me plenty of notice about the water stops as well, though I opted to pass up the water.
The run corse was very scenic. Early on we past the famous green Liberty Bridge; it is known for being the shortest road connecting Buda to Pest, and for the 4 masts decorated with bronze statues of the Turul bird. Shadows of the Queen Elizabeth bridge could also be seen along the way. On we ran, goodness the corse felt like it was a bit long! As that thought crossed my mind, Heather said, "We're taking a right soon, coming up on the Chain bridge." The bridge, with its beautiful guarding lions, was the first permanent bridge between the two cities, and its completion was supervised by architect Adam Clark.
We were almost finished! A serge of excitement ran through me as we made a hard right to go across the Chain Bridge. I took in a deep breath, and soaked in the moment- Heather and I were running on historical grounds, and making history. This was the largest international paratriathlon competition to-date, with 85 paratriathletes representing 15 countries. We were half way across the bridge, and I could hear the crowds cheering! Another thrill of excitement!
Sensing the energy, we sped up. Off the bridge we made a hard left, down the narrow corse path for roughly 100-200 meters, made a U-turn, and headed for the finish! It was tight as we wove our way past and through other runners. We could hear the announcer now, and the spectators were cheering us on! Sticking close to Heather, our fore-arms touching so I could feel and follow her movements, we began to sprint! I could hear the beeping mats up ahead, and Heather saying "almost there, go Ivonne, mats!" As we crossed the finish line, the clock read 1hour and 34 minutes, and the announcer was calling out my name saying "For the USA!"
I felt an amazing sense of honor representing my country, especially on this day, and at that moment also felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment, gratitude, and happiness. It was a fantastic experience racing with Heather! Despite the weather, we had finished strong, smiling, and had won the Silver metal!
An enormous thank you goes out to Heather's family for supporting Heather in her willingness to guide me at the World Championships. A special thanks to Heather for her commitment to guiding me and making it possible for me to compete at the 2010 World Championships, and for making time to train with me! You are a natural at guiding, a strong and determined athlete, and have great energy and calmness! To my husband John, your support and encouragement are powerful and motivating! To John Beeson and Justin, thanks for leading the USA team, and for everything you do. Finally, to all of you who have supported and encouraged me, and who have trained with me, or helped me work out at the EDC and the community Center- much appreciation and gratitude to you- training and support are what makes racing possible and successful!
Thanks for reading!