The 2019 ITU Multi Sport World Championships were held in Pontevedra, Spain and was a whole week of events – sprint and standard duathlon, cross triathlon, aquathlon, aquabike and triathlon so something for everyone! The festival ended on 4th May with aquabike (Wendy and Tamsin) and long distance triathlon (Sorrel). Traditionally these long distance races are 3 x Olympic triathlon but it was shorter in this edition at 1.5km swim (reduced from 3km on race morning due to cold temperatures), 108km bike, 30km run. Pontevedra is Javier Gomez Noya’s hometown it felt like the entire community had come out to watch the race. Here’s a race recap from the three of us. Thankyou to everyone who supported before during and after the event!
What were your goals before the race? Wendy (WD): Just to finish and enjoy the experience at racing at a World Championships.
Sorrel (SW): Finish...literally that. I just about qualified so I knew that everyone else in my race category would be the people that always finish ahead of me in a race so all I wanted to do was collect the medal at the end and have an amazing time, soaking up the atmosphere.
Tamsin (TE): In this order 1. to finish 2. to enjoy it 3. to not come last.
What were you most excited / worried about?
WD: I was excited by the variety of nationalities that would be racing, racing at the same time as the elites and just the whole event. I was most worried about not making the cut offs, being significantly slower than everybody else and the hills. Pre-race chat on Facebook had created unnecessary concern about the bike course. Yes, it was hilly, but it wasn’t extreme.
SW: Most excited about going to a festival type event with so many other international athletes around, it made being part of a GB team really good as everyone looked out for each other and seeing all the other teams together made it feel that little bit more exciting....it really didn't dawn on me that I was at the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS until I saw the Japanese team (of which there were loads!) rock up to registration en masse!
What was I most worried about.....not finishing. I twisted my ankle the week before the race, to the point it was black and blue and so swollen I couldn't wear shoes for 3 days. In hindsight, this took the pressure off everything as all I really wanted to do was finish!
TE: I was really worried about the bike course being crazily hilly. It was advertised as 2100m of climbing and I didn’t know that I’d make it. The level of worry left no room for excitement which in hindsight is a real shame.
How was your training regime leading up to the race? WD: As a coach, I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but I didn’t have a plan or a coach! Due to personal reasons and a health issue, my training had not been at the level that it should have been at for such a major race. I only booked the flights a couple of weeks before going, as I was so undecided about going. General good fitness and three weeks of panic training and only 2 freezing open water swims took me to Pontevedra!!
SW: Pretty good - everything was really consistent and I just kept plugging away and ticking off all the sessions. I had begun to get a bit bored with all the long training rides and runs so was keen for it to hurry up and be race day, but then I also wanted to put it off as long as possible to get more training done, don't we all! I had a good taper before the race so arrived feeling fresh and raring to go (ankle aside!)
TE: Lots of long steady swims and so many hill repeats on the bike. I am pretty bored of the hills near my house!
Did you do anything differently racing in another country? WD: Not really. I have a triathlon spreadsheet and packed carefully so I didn’t need to do any last-minute shopping or rely on local nutrition.
SW: Packed sunscreen! I also planned my own nutrition as you couldn't get hold of the race nutrition in the UK.
TE: I didn’t want to pack my bike up as there was no way I could put it back together in Spain so I paid for a company to ship it for me. It wasn’t that much more expensive than the cost of a bike box on a plane and was easy to arrange. I would highly recommend their services.
What was your nutrition strategy and did you stick to it? WD: I use Tailwind, which is a complete drink, meaning if you drink enough, you don’t need additional nutrition or gels – as I’m not always very good at eating whilst racing. However, I also took fig rolls and wine gums to supplement the drink, with a cut up marathon bar as a treat each time I passed the reservoir. The feed stations did run out of water which would have been lovely to chuck over my head as it was really hot.
SW: Eat little and often on the bike and on the run. Did I stick to it...yes, but I also took on more water than I had envisaged, partly to drink and partly to tip over my arms and shoulders on the bike (especially just before the downhill section to try and cool off). I did take the course nutrition gels. 226er strawberry and banana is nice, 226er salted caramel is just foul!
TE: I find gels sticky and disgusting so only have solid food in races. My watch beeps at me to remind me to drink every 10 mins and eat every 20mins. Lemon Nakd bars are easy to digest and I keep a ball of marzipan for sugar emergencies.
What went well during the race
WD: The swim was challenging as the current was quite strong, I got stuck between people, a bit bashed up, but on the return leg I really tried to work with the flow and came out in 11th place. As the aim was just to finish, I tried to pace the 3 bike legs evenly and each lap was pretty much the same time, which I was really pleased with and finished in 14th out of 28.
SW: Everything went ok - I didn't have any specific performance goals, I just had my processes to follow of finishing off my stroke when swimming and keeping my head low (see, I do listen, coaches!), sticking to my power goals on the bike (nailed this) and getting through the run with a run/walk strategy. I'm pretty pleased with how things went and it was really nice to just do the race and not have any pressure about positions, times, performance etc...just go and pull on that GB suit, look up and enjoy the scenery, smile at the photographers, soak up the atmosphere.......and boss the finishing chute sprint.
TE: Pacing! I have learned the hard way that in longer races I need to hold back for the first 2 -3 hours. The 3 laps of the bike were pretty consistent speed which I’m very happy about.
What would you do differently? WD: Not worry so much about whether I would finish or make the cut offs. I had plenty of time! I would probably have raced harder knowing that I could do the distances easily and I wasn’t the weakest athlete out there and could have made up a couple of places. I would also wear a base layer to protect my back and shoulders from the sun. The women’s suit is very open and I suffered major sunburn, despite a lot of sun cream. I’d tried swimming in a base layer during one of my acclimatisation swims, but didn’t like it, but at the Europeans I will definitely be wearing one! I would probably arrive a day earlier too to give more time riding the bike course.
SW: Not twist my ankle in fresh air the week before! Seriously though, I don't think I would do anything differently......when I realised the race was on Saturday, I did change my flights so that we arrived on the Weds and not Thurs. In hindsight, this was a good idea as it meant I did all the race registration and admin on Thursday, recced the course etc and then could relax on the Friday without rushing about.
TE: Be more tactical in the swim. I fought the current more than was necessary and got caught the wrong side of a buoy at a turn so had to swim back to make sure I didn’t miss the it altogether and get DQ’d. Also, event swim hats always, always pop off my head after about 10 minutes. If anyone has any tips on how to keep these hats on I am all ears!
What was your best moment? WD: Overtaking Louise Minchin? No!! Definitely coming into Pontevedra for the last time to the finish – it was the best feeling ever!
SW: Part of the bike course reminded me of one of my favourite rides in Portugal - when I got to it for the first time, smiled to myself and thought 'do you know what, I'm actually having a good time'. And then going past the finish line/start of next run lap for the last time and shouting out to my spectathlete that I only had 8 km to go!
TE: About 20 mins into the bike I was lapped by the elite males. It was so cool to see Gomez and Terenzo Bozzone fly past.
Did you have any bad patches and how did you pull yourself out?
WD: It was the most relaxed racing I’ve ever done! Normally I talk to myself the whole time along the lines of “what the hell are you doing……what were you thinking of”, but I just loved the whole race. I don’t mind hills, which probably helped. Everybody was so friendly and supportive and I had some fun battles on the bikes with two ladies from the USA and we had big hugs in transition at the end! The support everywhere was amazing – some because we were in Gomez’s hometown and they had all come out to watch, but family and friends of athletes cheered for everybody.
SW: The run was really tough - it was a lovely route but I was just getting hotter and hotter. The temp peaked at 28 degrees and I wasn't ready for that at all. Run/walking turned into more of a walk/run and as the female waves started last, the course was getting emptier and emptier as all the males and speedier females were finishing, it was getting pretty depressing knowing that I was at the back of the field (logic didn't set in at this point and although I only had 10km to go and three hours to do it in, I was getting into a slump). The spectators really pulled me out of this slump - on a lap course it really was nice to see the same faces again cheering me on. Always, always say something to an athlete as they will definitely remember you as a spectator and more often than not look out for you again. There was one chap who shouted out 'Come on, Williams....I'm only gonna see you one more time now and want to see that smile on your face next time round for your big finish'. I could have hugged him when I saw him again for the last time!
TE: I don’t cope well with heat and after 3 hours on the bike felt pretty sick, I realised I’d stopped eating and drinking and although it was the last thing I wanted to do, I forced some food down and felt better almost immediately. If you find yourself feeling bad in a race or getting angry, it’s most probably due to a lack of sugar!
Anything different about racing at the World Championships? WD: Naturally the rules were a lot stricter. It was a non-drafting race, which on a hilly course with so many other athletes racing was quite challenging. You never seemed to be away from the Technical Officials on the motorbikes and the dreaded whistle was constantly being blown and cards issued. I thought I’d be getting a 5-minute penalty on one hill as I just struggled to overtake in the time allowed but got let off with a warning. A bonus was if you got a puncture one of the Technical Officials would contact one of the mechanics and they would fix your bike! Each motorbike had several wheels on with different rim depths and they would simply take your flat and give you a new wheel for the rest of the race!
The race was incredibly well organised. Once the revised start times were announced, they were kept to. In fact, a lot of people didn’t make it to the swim start line as they started the races on time, even if people were still getting in. I had been warned about this from the Aquathon the day before.
SW: No, I tried not to think about it as a World Champs as it was beginning to play with my mind and make me feel more pressure that I don’t cope well with. I decided to (try) think of it as just another race.
TE: Not the World Championships per se, but it’s worth paying up for the big events that race on closed roads.
Was it a big after party?
WD: The whole of Pontevedra seemed to come out for the closing party in the main square. Despite all the people, I managed to find a few athletes that I’d made friends with during the event. Following all the medal ceremonies, there were speeches by the outgoing committee as well as from Almere (Holland), where the 2020 championships will be held. A Queen tribute band of dubious quality followed!!
SW: I honestly couldn't tell you!! I felt fine after the race finished and collected all my things and walked back to our apartment we had rented and then felt soooo sick! Obviously the days exertions in too high a heat and taken their toll and I was nauseous and dizzy so had to lie down - I didn't even have the bottle of bubbly we had bought or the celebratory ice-creams!
TE: No party, but I definitely enjoyed finishing a race I wasn’t sure I could complete.
Any advice following the race? WD: I’m not sure if it is true or just Facebook chat, but a number of people had issues with their electric gears going flat overnight. We had to rack all the bikes the night before. Due to the high winds we were told to rack by the gear levers and not the saddle. Some people still racked by the saddle and tied their bike to the pole, but this was undone by the marshals. Another lady tried covering her bike, but the cover couldn’t handle the rack. Those with electronic gearing though found out on the bike course that the swaying of the bikes or the pressure of the gear levers on the pole and flattened their battery and they couldn’t complete the bike race. If you have electric gears – always have a charger for transition.
SW: Not all goals have to be time or performance based. Sometimes it is perfectly acceptable to complete a race for completing a races sake......just go and enjoy yourself, I mean how disappointed would you be if you raced so hard you didn’t even look at the scenery or enjoy the crowds or remember any of the course. Life is for living and remembering, not riding with your head down.
TE: Try and see the positives! In the lead up, I had done as much training as possible given work and family commitments and although I was putting in some good workouts all I could think about were the sessions I’d missed. In hindsight, I could’ve taken more comfort in my preparation and trusted my coach!
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