I learned a few lessons before the start line: tri-suits are really difficult to get in and out of. With pre-race nerves at full force getting in and out of that suit happened more than I'd like to admit. Start delayed 30 mins (as per Reinier interpreting there were horses on the course?) which meant sitting out in the heat just a little longer, but also gave me time for one final bathroom break. Sometimes what we don't expect to be a blessing in disguise turns out to be. Also, 91% humidity will cause you to sweat profusely even while standing in one place.
I knew very little about what was going to happen that day. I have been running for just a month and know that as a duathlete my bike is stronger than my run compared to the competition. My plan was to rely on the bike which meant pacing the first run correctly was the most important part of that race for me. I decided, once again, to run on feel. Be honest with myself when the pace felt too fast or too slow and adjust accordingly. Ren also suggested taking his coaches advice and dousing in water every aid station there was. So I did. I took a sip and dumped the rest on my head at every 1k aid station. One turned out to be gatorade so I was a tad sticky for the rest of the day. Oops! I finished the first run 1st girl and 17th overall, with a 3:59 per km average pace. I felt amazing and couldn't wait to jump on my bike. Nerves settled with that first run done and I actually found myself getting emotional when I realized just how strong my run had gone. Could I possibly win the Duathlon National title? Woah woah woah...don't get ahead of yourself Mel , I reminded myself (I talk to myself when I race). The race isn't even half over...
The bike course was exactly 20km long, which we were required to do twice. In just 40km we climbed over 500 metres of elevation. Ren always reminds me that even though I stress about how much hills are going to hurt, they hurt me a little less than most. Use this to my advantage. So I did. The course was a little chaotic with both Olympic distance and Long Distance triathletes riding the same course. I made sure to check the legs of every male I passed looking for the "DO" marker ("Duathlon Olympic") because for every one I caught meant my husband had caught them also. I lost track of how many I had passed, especially as the course got more congested, and guestimated Ren to finish around 3rd place.
The last run is more mental than physical. My legs were happy to move at a pace anywhere from 3:50 to 4:20 in that last run and I just let it happen. But my mind started to falter. I had to remind myself that it was just 20 minutes of my life. Suck it up! I did have the benefit of being able to pull back if necessary because I knew I was in the lead and it was unlikely that I was going to get caught in the last 5k. I was nearly sent the wrong way on the course, however, which caused the last 2k of the race to really weigh on me. Apparently language barriers mid race DO matter, because I had no idea what the volunteer was telling me and went on gut versus her signalling, and thankfully so! When I saw my husband at the finish line with open arms and a smile, I knew I had come in the right way. The other direction was for the Duathlon Sprint...thank GOD I went on instinct. Average pace: 4:09. Good enough!
I finished at 2:15 which was good enough for first female and 7th overall. Learning that my husband took 2nd for the men was a pretty surreal moment. We could share this victory together!
And so, using this race as a fitness tester for Worlds has left me more confident in my ability there. My run came back strong which I completely attribute to the bike fitness carryover and the mental strength I had built up during those 3.5 months off envisioning taking the National title. If you don't believe you can do it, your body won't believe you can either.
World's will clearly be a different ballgame. My goal there is to podium in my age-group (of course) but I also recognize that is likely everyone else's goal also. All I can control is what I do that day and congratulate those who may do it better. On any given day, there is always someone faster than you out there. It just depends if they show up that day or not. So, we celebrate the victories we get, and humbly accept the ones we do not. It makes the ones we DO get so much more victorious!