Turns out, after paying for my business class ticket, I ended up getting a seat on the next flight as a standby. I was thrilled. I ran down to the gate, only to end up sitting on the plan for 90 minutes after everyone boarded. Apparently there were issues in Dublin a day earlier with the radar controls causing a chain reaction back up. So we sat, and sat and sat before finally taking off on our 45 minute flight. I ate the most expensive sandwich I've ever had... at the cost of my Business class ticket... and eagerly anticipated the trip being over.
However, because of the 90 minute delay I arrived to Dublin about 20 minutes after the race organized shuttle was scheduled to depart for Athlone. This meant camping out in a corner with a few other racers for another 2 hours as we waited on the next bus to Athlone. After a long bus ride, I arrive to Athlone just before 10pm. About 20 hours in transit... less than 2 days out from the race.
I was quickly whisked away to my homestay. A quaint little house located along part of the bike course, only about 1.5k from the center of Athlone. I had hoped to get a run and a swim in to shake out the travel but knew my options were limited at that hour. Still, I put on my run clothes and went on a short 15 minute run. I just could not bear the thought of going to bed without trying to run some of the flights and frustration out of me.
After 10 hours of sleep, I woke up ready to go. I had a great pre-race day. Went for a short jog, ride and then did a swim in the river where we were to race the next afternoon. The water was chilly and the currents were strong, but I quite enjoyed the water. It was so clear. I had a great time looking down at old cones and debris strewn across the bottom. Swimming in there really got me excited for the race since I knew that the weaker swimmers would struggle coming back into the current on both loops.
The pre-race meeting was quick. I was to wear #7 on race day. Headed to a small Italian place and grabbed a pizza. It has become a favorite for me before races. Then I mulled over the day to come. With an afternoon start, 3:30pm, I tried to plan out my day to sort out when to eat, what to eat and how to mentally keep myself from getting too excited too early.
ATHLONE ETU CUP! 4th PLACE!!
Rode down to the venue around 2:20 on race day (Saturday). Racked my bike. Did my little warmup routine. Was the first to jump into the river to swim. Totally ready to go and then... a car was parked in the middle of our race course! So, before we could start they wanted to find the driver to move the car because it was seen as a safety hazard for us. All lined up, we were now forced to wait about 20 minutes for them to sort out what to do. So, I cracked a few jokes, kept laughing at myself over all sorts of nonsense and tried to not get too wrapped up in the race to come.
Finally, we were called out on the pontoon. All the girls went left. I decided, in typical Jenna fashion, to start far right. With the current behind us on the first leg, it really was not going to matter where you were and I just knew I didn't want to be in the middle.
The horn sounded. We were off!
The start... in the Blue Seventy Helix closest to the camera!
I got away really well! I decided to swim uptempo until I separated myself enough from the chaos and from there I would settle into a rhythm. I rounded the first buoy and was ahead. Not only that, but I had not felt anyone around me at all. I put in an acceleration as we headed back upstream because I knew this would snap the chain if there was one. As I exited the water after lap 1, I was in the lead. I heard the announcer getting the crowd all fired up... they were cheering SO loud... and he said "Now watch this dive everyone... in 3-2-1..." and getting the boost from the crowd I flung myself off the pontoon and back into the water. It wasn't until I came around the far buoy for the 2nd time that I finally saw anyone. Two girls, Emma Davis and Lenka Zemanova were to my right and then there was a gap. So I slid over and tucked in behind, figuring it was my turn to sit in the draft for a bit. We exited the water together and ran through transition.
Leading up the BIG hill (8 times up on the bike, 4 times up on the run!)
Leading through the technical parts on the bike.
I had a great transition and was out on the bike quickly. We started working together. Emma and I both knew we needed time on the chasers so we were quick to set a torrid pace. However, the rolling hills combined with the headwind, really shattered the legs. Still, lap after lap we were putting in time on the 5 or 6 girls chasing us. It was really only me and Emma working since Lenka knew she could outrun us. A bit frustrating, but I wanted to give myself the best chance possible at a podium so I pushed through the pain and kept working.
Pushing the pace on the bike through transition.
Suffering my way to 4th and a 2 min 10k run PB.
At the end of the 40k bike it was still the 3 of us with a good 90 second gap to the chasers. I knew I still needed to go for it on the run so I took off out of transition as hard as I could. My legs were fried. So heavy and in quite a bit of pain. I tried to focus on my breathing and stay in contact with the other two women. I kept pace for about 1.5 laps before I fell back a bit.
Running with Zemanova and Davis.
The crowd was screaming, chanting and pretty much willing me forward. Eyeing the chasers, it seemed like they weren't making up any time. Still, I pressed on. Determined. But, by the start of the 4th lap I knew I was in trouble The Australian girl was closing and closing fast. I tried to get my cadence going but the legs were running out of gas. She caught me on the last time up the big hill. I tried to go with her, since I decided I would definintely throw down in a sprint finish for 3rd with her, but there was nothing left. I kept pushing and ended up in 4th about 8 seconds back of her.
Official Results with splits are available now on the ITU website.
1. Lenka Zemanova (CZE) 2:01.20
2. Emma Davis (IRL) 2:01.50
3. Felicity Sheedy-Ryan (AUS) 2:02.32
4. Jenna Shoemaker (USA) 2:02.49
I am quite pleased with the race and quite pleased with my performance. I really wanted a podium, but I think I can easily say that this was probably the most well rounded performance I have had in my career. I'm certainly feeling it today as every bone and muscle and inch of my body is aching... but it is an incredible ache and it leaves me hungry for more!
... plenty more to come... lots of pictures too... just have to sort out a plug situation for my computer... so check back soon!!
Thanks for cheering me on!