Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Worlds

I really thought I’d have more time to Blog and planned on posting every night but between sightseeing, having to walk everywhere and not having internet at the flat, that has been impossible. After a full day today (Saturday) it’s 8:30 pm and I’m just starting to relive the last three days.

Wednesday was a triple session workout, packet pickup and opening ceremonies; it was busy! We packed our regular backpacks; extra layers, water, snacks, and rain jacket. This time I had to pack my wetsuit, bathing suit, goggles, and swim cap. We were out the door by 8:00am. Steve tried hiring a bike again and after 5 attempts at different kiosks, we finally got the machine to work. We survived the traffic and intersections once again and made it to the hamster wheel for some power intervals. It takes us nearly an hour to travel 4 miles. The power intervals went according to plan. The first one felt ok, second one got better and the third one felt awesome. It’s been a challenge to train, while still catching up on sleep and sightseeing. I didn’t realize how much walking we’d be doing. I’ve got great fitness but walking sure does use different muscles.

We arrived at Hyde Park for my run session after Steve almost got run over by three double deckers negotiating a roundabout. On the way there we decided to find the team hotel so we weren’t searching for it the next morning.

The clock is always running while using the Barclays bikes so we returned the bike and found the hotel. We confirmed the team photo was at 6pm in Trafalgar Square. We went back to the same kiosk we returned the bike to. We tried Steve’s credit card several times both checking the balance and trying to rehire the bike. We tried my card and another one of his with no luck. We knew of two more kiosks inside Hyde Park; a 5-minute bike ride away. We really just needed a release code because we knew we still had time on the bike. The first kiosk had no bikes in it. I felt funny using it thinking people were wondering what I was doing. There was a gent there who explained the kiosks in the park were closed due to the race and the release code has to come from the kiosk you are hiring from. He happened to work for Barclays. Boy did I want to lay into him about our constant struggle. He phoned IT and explained our situation. It turned out the system was down at that time. I rode back to Steve but he wasn’t there. He had gone into the park to the other kiosk and ended up talking to the same guy I did. That wasted about 30 minutes of time and I had a little panic not knowing where he was.

Back to training. We had to use the north side of the park because the first race of the World Championships, the Aquathon had started. I needed to change into running shorts so I made a replica Presto Chango using my rain jacket and Team USA cycling jacket-worked like a charm! I wasn’t feeling super great on the run –stomach issues again and my legs were tight. Steve had me do a few knee-highs and butt kicks to loosen them up.

We were meeting Gina at the Lido, the swim area designated for athletes on the south side of the park. It was on the far shore of Serpentine Lake across from the stadium and limited to 100 swimmers. The dressing area was tiny and hot. I walked in to wetsuits, bathing suits, transition bags, mostly naked women, chatter from all sorts of countries and three stalls that were all full. The floor was soaked so I didn’t put my bag down. I changed and then had to put my wetsuit on in the lobby. Gina and Steve were able to come in to the swim area. We walked over the bridge and to the concrete shore. The water temp was 63, chilly but close to what I’m used to. A few athletes made comments about how murky it was, I chuckled inside because I was used to that too.  I swam a few laps with some quick bursts and did a whole lap at race pace. It was very choppy but that’s how it would also be on race morning. I forgot a towel but luckily Steve had a hand towel with him, which didn’t dry me completely. Back into the packed changing room where we all tried getting tights on while still damp. 



All United States Sprint athletes had to check in for packet pickup between 12:00 and 13:00 in the expo area. It was very crowded but we found our way. I picked my name out of over 2,000 racers and my number; 20478. I signed the waiver and went to the correct table. The workers were all so pleasant and excited to be there. The goodie bag had my race numbers, 3 for my helmet, one for my bike, one for my transition bag and my run number, which could have doubled as a sail, it was so big! We ate lunch that Gina had made and packed then decided to wait to walk through the expo until after my race. Huge mistake because I saw a nice London Worlds jacket I wanted (it was sold out by mid day on Thursday). We wanted to get back to the flat for a nap, dinner and had to leave for opening ceremonies by 5pm.




My nap was pretty short and disruptive not at all refreshing and 10 minutes into it, Tami and Sinea had arrived and were excited to tell Gina and Steve about their day. Plus I was anxious about the ceremony.

Dinner was chicken, rice and green beans at the dining room table. I‘m so glad we rented a flat instead of a hotel room. It is much more comfortable. As I write this we are all relaxing in the living room chatting about our day and what we are doing tomorrow.

We had to take a train to Trafalgar Square, which sounds simple but with zones, platforms, different directions and hundreds of people trying to do the same, it's very overwhelming. We arrived at 5:30pm and saw way more Team USA jackets (about 400) than any other country. I realized after that we were there early for the Team USA photo at 6pm. We were let in yet given no instructions. After about 5 minutes we were directed to the stairs in the center of the square for the Team USA photo. That took about 15 minutes to gather and shoot. I chatted with a few teammates and squeezed in the frame. Gina, Steve, Sinea and Tami were on the upper deck watching from above. After the photo we all realized the ceremony didn’t start until 8pm and were frustrated we had to wait 2 hours in the drizzle. Some were going out to eat or back to their hotel. I walked back up to the deck and watched from above for a while as other nations trickled in. As the area filled in I went back down to meet more Team USA athletes. I met up with brothers from NC and their friend. They had been to Worlds in Beijing and Auckland and always try to get photos with all the nations. It was so fun running around, searching, trying to communicate while sharing the same feelings! I was excited to be in the parade of nations but found out that wasn’t exactly happening. One person was assigned to their country's flag, walked in the parade up onto the stage. It was still fun to watch and I got the chills a few times. I hopped in when the USA flag holder came by. We all said our goodbyes and I went back up with on the deck with my group.  We watched a performance by Stomp and met a man Bob racing for Team USA who Nordic skis in Jackson! Of course Steve chatted it up with him.




Thursday: Team USA meeting at 9am then bike and run openers with power intervals. Gina, Steve and I walked to the train station and took the train to the team hotel so my legs could rest. We arrived at the hotel at 9:10am. The meeting was in a conference room and on slide projector so we didn’t interrupt at all. They discussed everything for both the Sprint and Olympic distance. Number of laps for the bike and run (which he made us repeat several times), the flow of the transition area, the corral system for the waves, times we had to stage for swim, litter zones during the race, helmets have to be buckled before leaving the TA, and on and on. It was very informative and made me realize just how important this race was. I bought Steve Gina and I Team USA beanies and got myself some patches and stickers.

We watched the U23 elite women race. On the way back to the flat we let Gina hire the Barclay bike for Steve with hopes that she had better luck than us. Of course it worked the first time!
Lunch at the flat, I packed my race stuff and a took a nap. I mounted Gina’s Go Pro for the bike ride to Regents Park and more training. It was rush hour so hoping we got some good footage.

We arrived at Regents Park and as I was handing my pack over to Steve, a cyclist stared chatting with us. After a few minutes I had to excuse myself because we were on a time schedule. I had to check my bike into transition and have it inspected between 18:00 and 19:00. I did my openers and on every lap Steve was still stuck with the guy. This time the feeling was reversed. 1st lap felt great, and then downhill from there. I finished, saved Steve from the guy and told him how I felt, he said it was ok. We made our way to Hyde Park for the run. I changed in the mini Presto Chango and did my openers right where I would do them tomorrow, race morning. My legs felt great but my stomach still wasn’t feeling that good.

Gina met us at 6pm to take pictures and to watch the inspection process. I had to have my tri suit for inspection, my helmet buckled, my race numbers and my bike. Before I went in, each bike was getting inspected; brakes, wheels, shifters. Gina was ready to shoot video as I went through. The ITU official asked to see my tri suit and race number, looked at my helmet and then let me go through. She didn’t even look over my bike. Guess I just have that sweet look about me! The only thing I had left to do was rack my bike and bag the handle bars and seat to protect them from the rain. Gina was on the other side of the gate getting lots of shots. I walked over to grab the camera and get photos from inside TA of all the bikes.  I had to exit on the opposite side of where I went in. I met Steve and Regina there then we walked back to the flat. We made sure we timed it to allow the right amount of time for walking back in the morning. We decided it would be less stressful walking vs. taking the train. It took 25 minutes to get back.





Dinner was the same as the night before. I was surprisingly calm. I was blanketed with thoughts of what happens when its over vs. the actual race. Steve and I had a discussion earlier. I asked him if he thought it was realistic to place in the top three in my age group. He said I shouldn’t focus on placement. "Do your best and let the chips fall. If you place then that’s icing on the cake". I really worked hard all day to change my mental state. I’m here at Worlds, I’m going to do my best and enjoy it! We planned on leaving race morning at 6am. I couldn’t do my normal pre race workout, short bike, run and swim so I didn’t have to be there super early. Knowing I couldn't do my pre race workout before we left the States, Steve had me work on a run only warm up. Sinea braided my hair three different ways but it didn’t work with my helmet. Gina and Tami switched rooms with us for the night; it was much quieter in their room. Thanks for the sacrifice!


I read for a little while and slept until my alarm went off at 5am.

It felt like Christmas when I woke up! It was here, the day I had been training for, for the last year! Tami made breakfast and every one was up. I went into my transition bag to change into my tri suit. I had to tear it apart to find my suit. I panicked a little then remembered I used my daypack to bring it to TA for inspection. I opened my bag and it wasn't there! I took everything out, looked in every pocket and could feel my heart rate rising. I went back to my trans bag and tore it apart, still no suit. I ran up stairs to search my room, no suit. Now I’m really worried, I can’t race with out that suit. ITU rules state you must wear your country's team uniform. I looked in both bags again, not there. Looked all over the living room and bathroom, no suit. The tears began to fall and my stomach started turning. Gina was still upstairs getting ready.  I thought I must have handed it to her when I grabbed the camera in transition; a little hope came over my body. She came down and I asked her if I did. She said no, my heart sank completely and the tears were flowing. We dumped her bag out just in case, it wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere. I was in full panic. Sinea looked through pics Gina took the night before and it looks like I may have left the suit on my bike, or it dropped off hanging on my arm while I was taking pictures before I exited transition. I knew Officials were going through and checking transition so maybe they picked it up. If they did, where would it be? Tami wrapped my breakfast sandwich in a napkin, I grabbed a banana and Steve and I took off, ½ hour earlier then planned. I don’t think I said goodbye to the girls. I could hardly eat anything on the way. I knew it wasn’t in the flat so it had to be in TA or near it, I hoped. I ate just a few bites of the sandwich and the banana on the way there. Steve and I walked the quieter way and had to refer to the map once to make sure we were headed in the right direction. Steve kept me distracted discussing tactics and how to remember how many laps. I was thinking I might not be able to race. We reached the TA at 6am, I could see my bike from the outside but no suit. I had to check in again and show my suit and race number. I had my USA jacket in my arms and that was good enough to get through. Again I wasn’t thoroughly checked in. I ran over to my bike and it wasn’t on the handle bars……it was on the ground and soaked from the rain. My heart rate dropped, I smiled and gave Steve the thumbs up. I ran over to the bathroom and Steve was standing there on the other side of the gate. I told him my tri suit was blessed by London rain. He chuckled. Tried using the bathroom but nerves got the best of me and I couldn’t go. It took me awhile to get into the tri suit, Steve must have thought I fell in or something.

Now back to race mode. I had a warm up to do and had to be at the swim corral at 8:20am starting at 8:40am. I went out for my warm up before Gina, Tami and Sinea arrived. I wasn’t feeling nervous or antsy. I can’t explain how I was feeling. This was it!  This is what I worked so hard for and in less than two hours it would all be over. I was sad and had a hard time getting past that. As I put hard efforts in my warmup I could feel that I didn’t eat enough and that worried me. My legs felt sluggish, I was warn out by the stress of misplacing my suit. I finished up the last sprint and it was over! No more training, the next effort was racing in the World Championships! I ran back to Steve and the girls had arrived. They were just as panicked as I was. They too broke into tears once they got the good news from Steve, the suit had been found.







As we walked to the stadium, I pulled Gina aside and started crying, I was confused about my emotions. I wanted time to stand still. I didn’t want to race because it would be over. I couldn’t focus my energy on racing.  I cried some more and Gina said "I know there is nothing I can say to you to change this, you have to, it has to come from Meg now". I said to myself, Meg look at where you are; think of who you have back home cheering for you. That helped a little. We stopped walking when we reached the bathrooms. I got in line and Tami stood with me and gave me a pep talk-"you’re ready for this Meg you’ve done all the training just do your best". That helped some more. It was my turn. I stepped inside and looked in the mirror – I pushed out the sad thoughts and refocused them into good ones and pictured myself running through the finish. That race feeling was coming back.
I peeled off the suit and tried again, no luck. I wrestled back into it and headed out with a new attitude. I ate a power bar and put my wetsuit on. 10 minutes until staging for females 25-29. I prepped my goggles in the water fountain and took in a gel. They announced all yellow caps to staging area. This was it, no more Steve or Gina checking with me.




We were grouped in holding areas and moved about when the wave before us started. We were all the same –no tri suits to separate us by country just 84 women in black wetsuits ready to fight our way through the course. I chatted with Daniela from Germany. I could understand most of what she was saying, her English was great, it was the accent that got me. We shifted to the next corral and watched the men 20-24 line the pontoon bridge. We were next. We hadn’t even touched the water yet. The start was quick - On your mark, 2 seconds then a horn sounded. I knew that from a teammate who had raced on Thursday and from the team meeting. I wanted to be closer to the left side for a straighter line to the buoy. We were called to the dock, wow this is it. It felt awesome. As we shuffled down the bridge we each were assigned a slot. I ended up in number 60. After a few words I knew I had two Americans on each side of me. We were asked to sit down and put our feet in. It was cold. The girl to my left leaned over and said this is where the Olympians raced just one year ago. That gave me chills down my spine. We were directed to jump in the water; it nearly took my breath away. I dunked under a few times. I grabbed the dock and waited for the - On your mark. The horn sounded and I hit my watch. I swam as fast and as straight as I could. I only got kicked and swam over once. I made the turn around the first set of buoys and started sighting for the next yellow pillar. I could barely see it and I didn’t feel anyone around me to draft off. I just stayed in my rhythm, tweaking things here and there. I felt like I was the last one left in the water. I made the final turn to the ramp and kicked it up a little more. I exited the water and I wasn’t last!

As we ran down the carpet I passed a few girls before entering the TA.

Can’t keep my eyes open and its nearly midnight. I’ll finish writing in the morning.

It’s now 2:30am Monday and I’m now just getting a chance to write more. We are all up waiting for transportation to the airport. Our flight doesn’t leave until 6am but the company has over 2,000 athletes to transport so we needed to be ready by 2am.

It was a long transition but it was equal distance for everyone. We shared it with the Olympic distance and the Paratri. I had a great T1 and headed down the chute to the mount area. There were three of us trying to clip in into our pedals and I was the fastest and rode by. I got up to speed and dropped into my aero bars. It had rained overnight and was drizzling so the roads were very slippery. We had three laps to complete that we had to count and remember on our own. At each turn around it was a tight 180. The course was pretty flat and not as crowded as I thought it would be. There were over 2,000 racers in a 4-mile loop. I stayed out of my bars for every turn on the first lap to get comfortable. I could hear Gina and Steve every time I went by and that gave me a little boost. There were alot of crashes and I didn’t get caught up in any of them. On the last 180 turn around I came in too fast and my rear tire slid about 6 feet but I was able to control it and stay upright. Trying to keep track of your laps was very tricky but Steve and I had a plan; feel and figure it all out on the first lap and then hammer hard on the next two. The last turn before taking the road back to TA was split in two, the inside was for laps and the outside was your last lap back to TA. Not everyone is racing on the same lap. I was riding with a group who was on their last lap and I almost followed them to the outside but cut back in at the last second remembering I had one more lap to ride. We had worked on cornering before we left NH and I felt confident in my bike handling skills. It really helped and there were quite a few racers who were very nervous about the corners. With about three minutes left I rose my cadence to prep my legs for the run. The rain made the TA very slippery so running for three minutes in bike shoes was a challenge. Though it did help my legs loosen up for the run. I ran out of the chute passing a few more racers.  There were no mile markers on the run so it was very hard to pace yourself. My legs felt great but my stomach wasn’t feeling awesome. I picked off a few men and women and just kept my pace steady. It felt so cool to hear the fans yelling for all the countries, even better when I heard my name several times. The first run lap went right through the stadium, which felt amazing. On the second lap I was passed by a Brit and tried to keep her pace for as long as I could but she disappeared after a few minutes. I passed a few Americans and encouraged them the best I could. Before the race I had exchanged emails with Megan Lebuner a girl in my age group, but hadn’t met her. I came upon her during the run with about five minutes left and cheered her on as I passed her. As I came back into the stadium I saw three girls and wanted to catch them before the finish line and I did get one. I turned the corner into the crowd and finish line and said to myself this is it! I sprinted the last 50 yds. I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch 1:17 then I almost got sick. That was it, that was what I trained so hard for and for so long!


I filed through the chute, got my finisher medal and saw Gaye Gould. A local Glen woman who had met with us and gave us some travel tips and ideas on what not to miss while we were here in London . She too was in London babysitting her grandson, Henry. I didn’t think I’d see her. She was so proud of me and was elated to know I didn’t crash on the bike leg. She emailed me this:
What an experience!!! The conditions were abysmal (a fine London drizzle making everything very slick and dangerous) and I witnessed 3 cyclists coming off on a particularly slippery corner, just over the Serpentine Bridge...and heard later of a fractured collar bone. I'm sure there were many more than that. I saw Meg exit the water from the swim, although, in truth, I could not tell which precisely was her...it's amazing how similar they all looked. I then made my way to the bike/run transition area. What a delight it was to see Meg starting the run, looking very strong and uninjured after her 22 km ride. With the earlier crashes, I had been worried. I saw her momentarily when she finished, long enough to say "well done," and to confirm that she had no injuries at all, and then felt happy to disappear.  I hope that wasn't rude, but I wanted to leave her in the care of her team. How delighted they must have been. I felt honoured to have been witness to a remarkable achievement by an astounding young woman. What an asset Meg, and her team, are to the Mt W area!!! 

Fantastic work, Meg! I shall follow your future exploits with great interest. Safe journey home.

The chute led me back into the crowded expo area where every other athlete from all over the world was looking for friends and family. I wandered around a little; I was exhausted, wet and covered in road grime. I spotted Steve’s neon yellow Circle Tri hat behind the smiling faces of Gina, Tami and Sinea. I ran over and hugged Gina and tears started rolling down my cheeks. They were all so excited at how well I raced. Steve gave me the biggest longest hug ever –he was so proud! I showed off my medal and we found a place away from the exit. We took some pictures, checked results and took in all that had just happened. Only the results for Age Group 16-19 were posted. Sinea and Steve logged on their phones for online results. I finished 14th in my age group out of almost 80! I also met my primary goal which was to be first American  in my age group out of 10. It was surreal.


Gina signed me up for a massage and I changed clothes. They when to buy some London apparel and souvenirs. There was a jacket I had seen two days ago that I wanted and asked them to get it for me. I met up with them only to find out they were out of the smaller sizes in nearly everything. It was only day two of the event. I was so disappointed but happy that Gina and Steve found their jacket sizes.

We couldn’t remove our things out of TA until the last racer was out on the run. Tami and Sinea decided to start the 30 min walk back to the flat. It was after 12pm when we started lining up to get into TA. It was like herding cattle. While we were waiting, Gina shot some great video. I’ll add it when I return to the states.

It is now 3:30am and our ride to the airport is still not here. Glad we got up at 1:30. Tami took a turn waiting outside in the chilly wind then Sinea and now me. Steve, Gina and Tami are now trying to get a few minutes of sleep in the living room.

They called us into TA by race numbers and luckily I was a low one, I was the second group called. Although my number was 20478 they take the first two numbers off. They let us in but we still had to wait for the last cyclist to complete T2. We all cheered as she came through, she was in the 65-69 Age Group. I chatted with the two Americans next to me who were also the ones I ended up starting the swim with on the pontoon bridge. We chatted about our races and jobs. After 10 -15 minutes we were free! We filed out and said our goodbyes.



The Paratriathlon started at 2pm, so Steve, Gina and I watched T1. It was very impressive. Some blind racers have guides that swim and run tethered and ride tandem. The communication between the two has to be right on. Making the switch at T1 while blind and then negotiating the chutes on different surfaces with bike shoes at race pace was intense to watch. The next group out mostly had prosthetics or limb deformities. They raced like champions.

We made our way back to the flat and my emotions were like a roller coaster. I was so high that I raced and placed so well in the World Championships, very proud of myself but was so sad it was over. We toasted my success and I had my first sip of alcohol since Easter and then went out to dinner to celebrate!

Update on my writing scene- still dark, still no ride and two intoxicated gents are making their way down the sidewalk and are peeing in the trash/light post across the way. Looks like Sinea dozed off on the stairs.
So we waited until 4:20 and made a phone call. They said they were at our place at 2:35 and waited 8 minutes. That is not possible because we were up and on watch at 2am. I expressed my disappointment and he said to grab a taxi and we’d discuss reimbursement at a later date.

Our flight was departing at 6:40am so we were pressed for time. We walked the 10 mins to the train station and found a cab. We loaded 13 bags, a bike box and 5 people in the taxi. Steve has the picture and is on his way to Boston so I will add the photo and video when I get it.What a site it must have been to see this taxi.

The race was an amazing experience having raced with the best Age Groupers in the world. As my brother Austin said via Facebook -Great job Meg!  You were the first American in your age group. So your the fastest 29 year old in the country. That's a hell of an accomplishment! That feels incredible. There is talk of me racing next year in Edmonton Canada. Negotiating the city of London was not the most enjoyable and the daily cloudy drizzle got old quick. But we are now pros at reading street maps and I feel much more comfortable riding the train system and dodging Doubledecker busses.

Now off to Ireland!

It's Monday at 9:45am in Ireland and I'm just now posting the Blog. 

5 comments:

  1. Meg! Thank you for taking the time to write such a comprehensive and entertaining blog - unbelievable. You put us right there with you. Thank you. What a fabulous and successful experience you've had. Well done and congratulations!
    Howie

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  2. Phew- thanks Meg, and CONGRATULATIONS!! There are some lovely parts of GB that are no where near as congested- hope you get to visit them one day :)

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  3. Sounds like a great experience Meg...hope to see you on the ice soon!!Tony

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  4. Meg..How great to find your blog and read about your incredible race adventure and see some of the pictures. Congrats on your results! I was thinking of you while Lili and I were on our cycling tour through the Pyrenees. I knew you'd rock it!!! Hope to catch up with you this fall on one of our cycling trips in NH.

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  5. FĂ©licitations! What a fantastique finish, young woman. (Tell Austin Mme says, "Bonjour!"

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