Hot. Those are the words I have to describe Poland and Poznan on race morning. I'd venture to guess that by the time our run shoes were on the temperatures were well above 32 degrees celcius.
I tried to stay as cool as possible before race start, sitting in the shade of the athletes lounge before and after my swim warm-up. I figured my core temperature was going to sky rocket quickly wearing a black suit (note to self) as it was, why hurry the process. I enjoyed the 80's love ballands that were blaring through the stereo system. I wasn't joking - Poznan is something straight out of the 80's. Lady in Red a bit of Cindy Lauper... we couldn't help but laugh... not exactly pump up music! We lined up and marched out to the pontoon. This was humorous as the walk was quite far and the girls in front of me started jogging... I refused to... so the women behind me didn't know what to do.
Taryn McLeod, my roommate here, with an obligatory smile before the race... she wasn't so sure about this one!
The women all started lining up on the right hand side, so what did I do... I bet you can figure it out by now... I went far left!!! Unfortunately, they had counted wrong and the last competitor had to come stand to my left, so I wasn't on the complete outside, but I figured I could swim away from her quite quickly so I tried not to let it bother me.
The horn sounded. I dove in to the cool water. It felt SO good. Then I immediately got to the task at hand, ripping the swim apart. I pulled away easily and was out front. I felt a few taps on my feet as we rounded the 2nd buoy but just kept pushing the pace, especially out of each buoy. I wanted to see if I could weed out the field as much as possible. There was no exit between laps, so rounding the buoy and heading back out for lap 2, I was told later, I actually gapped the field momentarily. But Helle Fredrickson (who became my partner in crime for the rest of the day) swam up and bridged it. She tapped my feet a few times on the final lap which was great because it was just enough to remind me to keep the arms turning over and to keep pushing the pace. I exited the water in first.
The lake, used for sculling, where we swam.
I ran really hard to transition and didn't take any time to see what was going on behind me. I had one goal in mind, in and out of T1 as fast as possible, feet in shoes and off on the bike HARD! I didn't want a situation like Ireland where there was dead weight on the bike, so I was hoping this would continue to split the field open. I am proud to say I had the fastest T1 in a blazing time of 16 seconds! I heard a voice behind me, Helle, and the two of us took off. With about 10 seconds on a chase group of 4 we knew we had to go. So we did. It took a while to make the break stick. I knew that if we kept putting the hammer down that eventually that imaginary "rubber band" would snap and they would give up. 10 turned into 20 but then only 28, 32 and then finally 40. After about 5 laps we suddenly heard 1 minute and that minute quickly turned into 90 seconds, we were clear, and finally about 2 minutes by the time we dismounted.
I dismounted and ran into transition first. I quickly put my bright neon yellow Pumas on and charged out of transition. I don't think we quite noticed how hot it was when on the bike, but I quickly started to feel the heat. After about 600 meters Helle caught up to me and passed me. I was struggling and trying everything to keep my legs turning over. It took about 2 laps before the chasers started to catch me and one by one I was passed. I tried to stick with them but was suffering pretty badly. Finally, there was a group of 4 coming up and I refused to let them catch me, so heading out on the final lap I just tried to pick landmarks to focus on and pushed on the uphills even when I didn't think I could take another step.
A view of the start of the run course next to the water.
I ended up crossing the finish line in 6th place. I crossed that line and fell down. I was done, completely spent and really hot.
Although a bit disappointed that I couldn't pull out the 39 I needed to finish 2nd on the day, I raced from the front, without fear and hard for the whole day. I gave myself every chance to do well and I really could not have asked for a better go. This was race #3 in 3 weeks so I am really pleased with how well I held up physically and mentally.
With Helle (Denmark) after the race.
Now, I head to Southern Germany for about 9 days before racing in London on August 10th in the London Triathlon. That will mark my final race in my 2008 European Tour before I head back to the States. London is icing on the cake because the trip has been so successful already. I have built confidence, learned lessons and acquired an even deeper hunger for fitness and success in this sport.