Kelly Sharman on the Mountain Bike at the ITU Cross World Championships in Penticton 2017

ITU Worlds Race Report – Kelly Sharman

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a race report, but it’s probably time. After doing the Canadian National Cross Triathlon in Penticton last August and loving the bike course, I really wanted to race there again. I didn’t get a spot for worlds initially, but the door was wide open for anyone to join the team as numbers in this discipline of triathlon are pretty tiny compared to road tris. So I signed up and now I’m part of Team Canada and competing in my first Worlds! Yay! So now some backstory…
After feeling strong and fit for the last (and best) IMC in Penticton in 2012, my fitness slowly began to slip away, Not sure why, maybe the natural ageing process, maybe more of a focus on my work, maybe the warranty expiring in my back surgery from 2008 resulting in minor but ongoing problems with sciatica, maybe just a waning interest in training, maybe enjoying beer, scotch and pizza way too much—probably a combination of everything. However, I enjoy few things in life more than trail running and mountain biking, so I set out to train for Worlds and by the time summer arrived, I was motivated to race with a renewed energy and interest in triathlon. I jumped into the Elk Lake Sprint and had a pretty decent race, feeling particularly strong on the bike and not too bad on the run. Swimming, not so much, but it has never been my friend and now just brings constant discomfort in my spine, so I have kept the training volume ridiculously low for several years.
Arriving in Penticton for Worlds was like going back in time to my first IMC in 2006, but on a smaller scale and with a slightly more muted vibe. I wanted to take it all in. I prerode the course and went to all the Team Canada functions and spent way too much time on my feet before the race. Big mistake on both counts . Race day came, and the swim went as expected—ridiculously slow but steady. My swim cap came off my misshapen head and I was terrified there was some obscure ITU rule I was breaking, so I struggled to put it on just before exiting the water. Once in transition, I thought, “ OK, now’s my time to shine—all those Saturday morning rides at Hartland with Adrian and a few ex-HPR dirtbags are going to pay off!”. 10 seconds out of transition, several hundred ml of Gatorade spews out of my Camelback from a broken mouth piece. Good times. Turns out it was an easy fix and off I go! YEAHHH!!!!! 15 seconds later I notice my front tire has next to no air despite me meticulously filling in to 19.5 psi just minutes before the swim. I jump off and receive moral support from Mike standing by the road while I put air in my tire. I tell him it’s just more time for me to rest up from the swim, so actually a good thing! After what seemed like a 3 hour delay but was actually only a minute or two, off I went up the hill, forgetting the past and existing only in the moment . Legs, hips and back felt like garbage like they always do after a swim, but I thought , “Hey, only temporary, things will come around like the always do”. But not today. Back and hips started to cramp and tighten up and become really painful the more I rode, and once I hit the first major climb—a long twisting bit of 5k worth of singletrack that goes from the KVR up to the 1000m mark, I had nothing. Absolute disaster. I was getting dizzy and nauseous at even moderate inclines and was having difficulty breathing. I could push through the pain for a few pedal strokes but I was lame. I still can’t figure out why all this happened to this degree. I made the best of it and struggled up the long climb and ripped down the fast, flowy and delightfully gnarly descent with a big smile on my face. I was finally feeling good and making up time passing a few folks. The riding out here is so different from back home—open pine forest, smooth singletrack punctuated by rocky ledges and stunning views. It was perhaps the best time on a bike in recent memory, erasing the suckage of the climb. Once on the run my goal was just to finish, as the searing hip flexor /back pain returned and I was resigned to a walk/run/shuffle to the finish, up and down the bluffs above the marina to the KVR, finishing off with a 400m section THROUGH THE LAKE in knee-deep water, where a snake swam between my legs, as if to say, “I could put you out of your misery if you want!” I chose life, which was easy since it was likely a harmless garter snake. I saved my best performance for the day 50 m from the finish where Sandy informed me a competitor was closely gaining on me. I made that 70-75 year old American woman work hard for her medal, lemme tell ya…
All in all, one of the worst races I have ever done in terms of how my body felt, but the experience overall was great in so many other ways. Once again, racing is all about one’s ability to manage adversity and solve problems. It was great to be a part of the Worlds and represent my country in what amounted to a mini-Olympics. I met a lot of great people from all over and had a lot of fun in an amazing area full of good memories, old and new. I wish I could have stayed to watch everyone race long course, though, but I followed online.
Not sure if I’ll do another race like this for awhile as I’m liking trail running, mountain biking and the occasional cyclocross race much more than anything involving swimming. I’m still very grateful to be doing any activity like this after all my back problems, so every step, every pedal revolution and even every half assed swim stroke is a victory.