About the race…
Just wrote this on the Munich-Dulles flight:
There had been snow flurries all week, conditions were still firm leading up to the race leading me to switch my knobby Conti tires to low profile Bontragers courtesy of teammate Brian Smith.
Like most people I hate to be stressed out the morning of the race, trying to make last minute decisions. Having so much support on this team cut down on a lot of stress, especially being able to leave ski waxing up to our tech Peter.
But too often this is unavoidable.
We woke up to six inches of fresh snow leading almost everyone to put a knobbier tire on. I only switched out my front, mostly because I had had major issues with my rear tire holding air (this seems to be a frequent problem) and just didn’t want to deal with it.
We got to the race venue; it was still snowing with strong winds.
The run course, which was five laps equaling 7.4 k was shortened because of the conditions.
We got there later than planned because of the last minute tire swaps, which left us little time to warm up. For some reason we had to take all our stuff into transition at the same time, bike, skis, poles boots, bike shoes, helmet: quite the challenge.
The run was much tougher than anticipated. Even with my lightweight Xtalons and Yak Traks I was suffering in the soft snow. Carina Wasle and Rebecca took went out hard spreading the field out early. I was struggling around 14th place, trying to keep up with my other teammate Heather Best, criss-crossing on the groomed snow trail trying to find the firmest section to run in. Was it easier to run in someone else’s tracks or make my own. I found it best to run stride for stride behind another racer when I could. This never lasted. The running was relatively flat, but consisted of a gradual uphill followed by a gradual downhill zigzagging across an open field.
The bike course consisted of another loop with a significant climb. We did this five times. Having this climb was good, it reminded me of a shorter tunnel creek. Because I’m more used to spinning on the trainer at this point in my season, I felt like I was doing the same thing. But I think it worked as I was gradually picking off riders. Snow seemed relatively firm but slightly rutted on the climb. Scary patches of ice were shining through in spots that were easy to lose traction on. Of course following the climb was a downhill; luckily it was sprinkled with gravel but not so lucky for those who still managed to lose control and crash resulting in serious road rash. Tires were working well despite my rear tire still leaking air.
I caught up to Heather who stayed on my wheel until T2. I can’t say enough good things about the enthusiastic Austrian crowds watching the race. We got loud; go Yooouu SSSSS AYEE cheers every lap—thanks Obama for restoring international support.
Made it safe back to T2 without losing all the air in my tire, put my ski boots on as quickly as possible, grabbed my skis and poles and headed out on the ski. I had bits of cardboard stuck in my bindings to prevent snow from clogging them up as I ran in my ski boots saving a few valuable seconds.
I felt like death on the first loop of the ski but it got better. Started with a gradual climb and then a gradual downhill I had to V2 alternate on mostly. Repeat eight times, luckily we had counters. Snow was slow and so were our skis. I was V1ing most of the uphill. At this point it was hard to keep track of where I was in the race, was I passing or lapping other racers and were they lapping or passing me? I knew I was sitting right on the top-ten bubble. I was getting offered feeds every lap from Katie Baker, which was a huge help.
Crossed the finish line, I later found out, in 9th place. Rebecca had made the podium in 3rd; the highest finish ever for a U.S. athlete in a Winter Triathlon and Heather Best was 11th.
I then got to watch, and take photos of the men’s race, which is a treat as I am usually racing at the same time as the men these days. Reminded me of the good ol’ days of college skiing.
Brian Smith finished in a best-ever 12th place followed by Mike Kloser in 16th(?) and Carl Decker in 22nd. Kloser, who apparently is a legend in Europe for having too many world championship titles in too many different sports to count.
Next day was the relay, which consisted of a mini version of the race, with each athlete doing each discipline. Rebecca went first, then Heather then me, I was a little nervous about going last as I did not want to lose it for the team.
As expected Rebecca created a lead on the rest of the field before exchanging to Heather. Heather held her own but got passed by the expected-to-win Norwegian team, taking the some of pressure off me, although I still wanted to hold onto a podium spot. This would be tough as yesterday’s winner and countrywoman Carina Wasle was chasing me down.
The conditions were a lot firmer, a faster, than the day before. As I headed into T1 I was less than a minute behind the Norwiegan and three minutes up on the Russians in third. I was racing on my own and trying to race hard as it was a short course, only two laps of the bike.
As I headed into T2 the whole team was cheering for me in transition. Headed out on the ski, I could now V2 up the climb. I could see the Russian team behind me but was almost a lap ahead of the Austrian Team. I should have rest-assured but I was still nervous I was somehow going to mess it up.
Made sure I took the right turn to the finish where Neal gave me an American flag I tried to get straight to hold above my head as I crossed the line. Rebecca and Heather greeted me by hugs.