Really. I swear. The reason I have not blogged since the race (1 week…. oops) or since I returned from China (4 days…. oops again) is because I am so jet-lagged I can’t seem to sit down and create a coherent entry. I just ramble, so my apologies in advance. I am so tired that I can barely make it through the work day AND I have actually given myself some rest time. Now I’m getting antsy to get back in the pool and on the track so I know I’m nearly recovered.
I arrived in Beijing on Tuesday afternoon. While waiting for my luggage at the nearly deserted Beijing Airport, I met Andrea (a Canadian team member living in Los Angeles) and Cortney. Coincidentally, Courtney works out at TriFit as well and had arrived to race as a guide for Patricia Walsh (National champion in the T-6 Category). SIDE NOTE: I had such a great time getting to know Cortney and Patricia throughout the week! They both are great!
When I got to the hotel, Melissa and I decided to search for dinner (it was 8:30 so our hotel had stopped serving). We walked for a good 2 miles until we realized it was dark, we didn’t know where we were and it probably wasn’t the best idea. Thank goodness I had been concerned about what I would be able to eat in China so I packed lots of snacks. So dinner consisted of beef jerky, an apple and peanut butter I had packed. UHOH. I was already panicking at this point about assembling my bike. Since I’m so new to the sport I haven’t traveled all that much with a bike so I don’t know how to build it. Most learn to do it themselves but in New York I was able to take it to a shop down the street for them to build. Not so in Beijing. The USA Triathlon Team mechanics were about 45 minutes from our hotel and there was no way my bike box was going to fit in a cab.
Wednesday we had breakfast at the hotel. I survived. There were hard boiled eggs, bananas (Bananas! I never realized how much I need them for survival until this trip), and cereal. From breakfast we headed over to the ITU Hotel right down the road from us to meet the majority of the team to head to the Great Wall. Despite several bumps in the road we made it and it was gorgeous! We rode a gondola up the mountain to the wall. It really is an amazing site to see. From there we headed to the Jade Factory. Jade everywhere but most importantly a yummy meal. We were ravenous at this point (nearly 3 pm) so it could have been awful but I enjoyed it. The food was on the table when we arrived and there were veggies (yum!!).
When we finished lunch, we told the others to go ahead and we would grab a taxi back to our hotel since we were so close. Little did we know taxis are hard to come by. Taxi drivers also do not take kindly to the suggestion that we will just “squeeze” 5 people in. No go. So we got on a bus that we THOUGHT was going to take us back to the hotels. And then it got on the freeway. WRONG. FOr about 60 seconds of that time I freaked out. Then I thought, oh well. And enjoyed the ride with the Chinese commuters. Express bus to nowhere is what they should have called it. We finally get off in a not so nice area, only to see a large truck full of pigs. Hmmm, wonder where they were heading? We eventually got back on the bus and arrived back at our hotels. And we were on to bike building. Thank goodness for Travis who helped me build my bike (And also takes the credit for making sure I went to CAF’s paratriathlon camp).
Thursday morning we ate breakfast at Robin and Beth’s hotel which was much nicer than ours. Their buffet had delicious coffee and I had been majorly struggling without it! We had a meeting for all Paratriathletes in which they covered the rules and various aspects of the course. They mentioned that water in the reservoir was VERY warm (I think around 78) so this created a buzz in the room about whether or not to wear a wetsuit. Personally, I like wearing a wet suit, I feel I move better in the water but I do worry about overheating. We were also told that a decent amount of water would be added the next day which made me think it was likely to decrease the water temperature. From the meeting, a group of us rode our bikes up to the transition area. We were able to get in a swim which really helped me. I was able to get my nerves out even if it was just a brief 10-15 minute swim. We also rode a loop of the bike course (much hillier than I had thought) and walked through the transition area and run as a small group. Being able to do that increase my confidence SO much. I think that was part of the reason I was so nervous going into the New York race.
After that, we changed and headed to opening ceremonies. The event required us to go through security before getting on the bus. We paraded through the streets and the people of Beijing cheered us on. It was pretty fun! The food on the other hand was vacuum sealed and very strange. I think I may have seen someone eating a black egg type food. I refrained from eating this and bee-lined it to the pasta station. I don’t even eat pasta normally!
ONTO RACE DAY!! On Friday morning, we got up and ate breakfast. From there, we let the meal settle and relaxed. We both read and caught up on emails. Then, we headed out for our runs. I ran for about 20 minutes. It relaxed me a lot! But then we were twiddling our thumbs! Just waiting for 1 pm so we could go to the hotel to get bussed up to the race site… and then it was time!
We checked in but were not allowed into transition until 3pm because the U23 race was concluding. Inside transition there was much debate about whether or not to wear a wetsuit, if it was close enough to hop from transition rather than take the time in T1 to put my leg on, etc. I never questioned wearing a wetsuit because I had felt good wearing it the day before. But I went back and forth about hopping to my transition area. Finally, I decided to leave me running prosthetic with the ITU officials to give to me out of the water.
We lined up for the announcer to introduce us and then got out to the dock. After all the introductions, we hopped into the water for a deep water start and held on while some awful Chinese gongs played. It was like the Jaws music! I was in between the T-6 males and T-5 males, two competitive groups, so after the start buzzer went off I counted for a few seconds before I started. I didn’t want to be in the mess of people and get flustered when I was ACTUALLY FEEL CALM IN THE OPEN WATER! And it was a good idea! As soon as I started moving I felt great! I felt confident. And you know why? Those hard 8x200s in the pool really paid off! As I came out of the water, I raced to get my wetsuit off and once again had a difficult time locating a wetsuit stripper. The bike went well despite it being more challenging than expected. I felt like I was struggling on the bike only to find out that my back brake was rubbing after the race (DARN). I came out of the bike feeling good, I didn’t feel great because I was never able to get gatorade and I felt I could have used this to re-energize during the bike portion. But when I started the run I realized I felt good and pushed myself through the run. I tried to keep a good pace up but wasn’t sure how fast I was going. When I finished at 1:35:08, I felt great! And of course couldn’t stop smiling because I knew I had put my all into the race. I was incredibly excited before going up to the podium when I found out I ran around a 21:40 5k. That is all thanks to TriFit and my track workouts!
I was uncontested in my field and made the podium and got a gold medal. All very exciting! I had a wonderful race but wish I would have had some competitors in my field. In order to challenge myself, I tried to race against myself, females in other divisions who I knew were competitive and also pushed myself to race some of the men in my division.
It was such a wonderful experience to race in another country with a Team USA uniform on but mostly I loved getting to know all of the other paratriathletes.
A special thanks to everyone who has supported me through Nationals and Worlds but an especially big thanks to Gina and Bernard Baski, the staff at TriFit for all of their support, Triathlon Lab for getting me onto an awesome bike for Worlds, Challenged Athletes Foundation for the grant that has allowed me to compete in triathlons, my friends who are probably so sick of hearing about triathlons and me telling them that I CANNOT GO OUT and of course, my family!
Some closing thoughts on Beijing-
Thumbs up for Beijing: race venue (the same as the 2008 Olympic triathlon venue. GORGEOUS), watermelon- served at all the meals we had and I approve, and delicious duck
Thumbs down: toilets in the ground- it’s tough to squat with one leg, breakfast options, hard beds, crazy drivers (and I thought LA was bad), smog