ITU World Championship Race Report

Barbara Rober on run at the ITU World Championship in Chicago

The race went something like this…On your mark. Go. Swim. Run. Transition. Run. Cycle (aka dodge potholes). Run. Transition. Run. Sprint to Finish. Done. Seem too fast? For me, it was a blink of an eye.

For those of you who saw me in the weeks before I left for Chicago, I was pretty flustered trying to get everything prepared for this race – my first ITU Age Group World Championships. Needless to say, I was happy to get to Chicago early (with my bike and baggage unharmed) and be able to focus on the last few training sessions, picking up my race pack, familiarizing myself with the course, and soaking in the atmosphere.

The morning before the race I couldn’t eat – I was so nervous – until I did the famous 20/20/20 and realized I was ready and just really excited to race! Race morning I left plenty of time to set up my (extremely crowded) transition area and had some time to sit in the park and relax before warming up. Finally it was time to put on the wetsuit and be corralled in through the gates (feeling a lot like cattle). Shane managed to find out that one of the Canadians in my age group used to swim for a college (thanks for the stalking tips Nancy!) so I tried to stick close to her for the swim.  However when we got into the water she went straight into the really tight pack. I wanted to avoid getting elbowed and kicked so I stayed slightly to the left. I barely had time to think (some were even turned facing the other direction) when suddenly, “on your mark. go!”. We were off! About half way through I realized that I was going just a bit slower than someone to my right. I made the move to get on her feet and thankfully she was very good at sighting so I could just focus on swimming and breathing. I was surprisingly calm the whole swim. Soon, I was out of the water and making the 360m run uphill to transition. It was long, but that worked in my favour as I sprinted past at least 6 people, maybe more. My wetsuit came off super easy as I had practically applied glide like sunscreen. There was no room for my wetsuit in the crowded transition so I just dropped it on the spot and quickly went to put on my helmet.

First small hiccup, my cap had tangled in my hair and I had to rip it off (along with a good chunk of hair – ouch) to get my helmet on. I grabbed my bike and made my way through the sand pits all in between the bike racks to the exit. I vaguely remember running past a woman frantically screaming “help me, I forgot my helmet!” as she ran back to her spot, poor girl looked devastated but I don’t know who she thought was going to help her…then another girl dropped her bike at the exit and ran back to get her race belt. I was so thankful that I practiced transitions with helpful tips from Rob so those things did not happen to me.

My transition onto the bike was OK. It was so narrow and I had one person trying to mount to my right and one to my left, practically ON the line. I managed to squeeze between them and run about another 10m past before jumping on my bike quite smoothly. Unfortunately as I put my right foot in my shoe, the elastic on my left shoe somehow broke and I needed to put my foot on top of the shoe until I picked up some speed and could get my foot in. When things settled and I put my foot in, my top strap had come out! I had to do the entire bike with less pull power with my left leg.

The bike was three laps and short (just over 18km) so I went as fast as I could given the conditions. On the first lap I discovered that there were potholes and bumps and very narrow sections, just wide enough for two bikes side by side – not a lot of passing room and nowhere to go to avoid the bumps. I passed quite a few females in my age group but it was so hard to know how many were in front. There was a head wind for the last 2 laps that slowed me down to 31km/hr in one direction but I tried to take advantage of it in both directions. With all my concentration on avoiding obstacles, I forgot to drink my water and barely finished half a gel with 1km left on the bike and the heat and humidity was increasing. I actually got a “wow” and a cheer from the crowd for my graceful dismount into a run with my bike. Again it was a fairly long run to transition and I had a much smoother transition to the run.

I didn’t run as fast as planned out of transition and I let the heat get to me mentally. I think secretly I didn’t want the race to end! I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t keep track of my pace and didn’t stick to my goal time. I didn’t even pick out athletes in my age group as I approached the turns. And then, all of a sudden I was about 400m away from the finish and I heard the announcer say “6th Place” and I thought, “What? Only 6 have finished? Maybe I can still make top 10?” and with that I sprinted to the finish. I passed a couple women but couldn’t quite catch the one that finished 3 seconds in front of me! Despite being a bit disappointed with my run time, I had such a great race overall and I am proud to have finished 8th and top Canadian in my age group! It was such a great experience…but if (when) I am to do this all again, it will definitely be for a longer distance! It went by way too fast!

Special thank you to my personal pack mule Shane for packing and unpacking my bike, carrying my bags and bike around all over downtown Chicago and always being there to support me. I really couldn’t have done it without you.

Also thanks to Mike for preparing me for the event with training sessions, advice and answering my numerous crazy text messages when I was in my frantic state trying to get ready in the weeks leading up to the race!

And finally, thanks to all you wonderful, inspiring HPR athletes for making training so enjoyable!

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