Girona to Tiszy to Astana
I have now been in Girona, Spain for a little more than 2 months and there is no doubt that I am still loving it here. I find that it offers the perfect location to train. We have a nice 50m outdoor swimming pool and also the lake of Banyoles that is only a 15 minute drive away for open water swims. For riding, there are endless unused roads to choose from and the further you ride and more adventurous you choose to be, the more options you are presented with. Then for running we have some lovely forest trails to run along, all of which are gravel paths meaning the impact on the body is a little less harsh. Again, there are many run trails to find since the old train lines (known as the Carrilet) have been covered and turned into paths to use for pedestrians. So as you can imagine I am in no shortage for places to take my training to!
Obviously, I am not only here in Girona to train, I also have some races which I have been taking part in. My most recent trip was to compete in two races, one being the Tiszaujvaros (Tizzy) World Cup in Hungary and the other, the Astana Asian Cup in Kazakhstan.
My lead up into the two races came together quite well. I knew that Tizzy would most likely be a hot race and thankfully for me Girona had also been turning on the heat with temperatures usually reaching mid-thirties each day. With my coach Danielle, we had done some extra work on the bike since we felt that getting a bit stronger would also help me with my running off the bike. We had also been doing some open water swim sessions with the American triathletes from The Triathlon Squad (coached by Paulo Sousa). I found these sessions really helpful as they had some stronger swimmers that could help push the pace. I was happy with the work I had done in the weeks prior to my racing and was ready to get going!
This was my third time racing the Tizzy World Cup. The format of the racing in Tizzy is slightly different to the contemporary triathlon having a semi-final sprint distance race on Saturday and a final sprint distance (where the best 30 athletes from the semi’s race) on Sunday.
I was ranked second in my semi-final amongst some other strong swimmers. This was a good thing as it gave the potential for a swim-bike breakaway and since it was the semi-final I needed to finish inside the top 9 to secure my spot for the final. I had a fairly strong swim coming out of the water just off the front group of 4. Behind me there was a larger group which I eventually dissolved into. We all rode well together to catch the front group and came off the bike together as a group of 12. Onto the run my legs were feeling surprisingly good. I felt in control of myself and could work to establish a position near the front. Once I knew that I had my position secured all I needed to do was make it to the end. I crossed the line for my semi-final in 5th position. I was happy with how I went, my body felt strong and I was excited to race on the Sunday for the final.
Out of both the days of racing, the final on Sunday was the one that I needed to perform best at. The post-race stiffness was quickly overcome by a light swim in the morning to wake myself up. Tizzy puts on the World Cup really well; each year there is always a massive crowd there to cheer the race on and this year was no different, which makes a great atmosphere and really motivates you.
Getting out quick in the swim was going to be crucial for the final since the first turn buoy was only 100m from the start pontoon. I had a clear start off the gun but as everyone converged towards the first buoy things started to get messy. I got held up a lot around the buoy and unfortunately this was the part which let down my swim sending me towards the back of the field. I exited the water and I could see that I wasn’t in an ideal position being in the second main group.
Throughout the 20km of the bike, our group rode really well and each lap we saw the time gap to the front group slowly decrease. With 3km remaining on the bike we finally caught the front group and a moment of relief rushed through my body knowing that the race could be saved. I had a smooth transition from my bike to run and exited amongst the rush of other athletes. Through the first kilometre of the run I moved my way up towards the front of the field and soon established myself at about 5th position. I was feeling comfortable with the pace that I had set and I concentrated on holding my form together. As I approached the halfway mark of the run I began to fatigue and slipped through the field a little. I tried to stay strong and hold myself together finishing up in 14th position as I crossed the line.
I was reasonably happy with how I performed. It was a solid outcome yet there was room for improvement.
From Tizzy I made my way over to an unfamiliar part of the world for me, Kazakhstan. I was actually really excited to be visiting Astana as it was somewhere that I had never been but I knew it would be very interesting. I had also done some Googling to see what I would expect, and the images of the city made me even more excited!
I arrived into Astana 4 days before the race which gave me plenty of time to settle into the new city and recover my body from my recent racing in Tizzy. My initial thoughts on the city were ‘wow’. Everything was so extravagant with the architecture having a slight futuristic feel to it, something which I anticipated from my recent research of the city. Moreover, the people in Astana were really friendly; they were always asking how I liked their city and whether I would come back which made me feel a like I fitted in a little more.
The race took place in Triathlon Park which had a purpose built running and cycling track adjacent to the Ishim River (which is where the swim for the race was).
My main objective for the race was to try and take it out hard in the swim and hope that I could form a small group to ride with and stay away from the rest of the field.
Since I was ranked number one, I could select my starting position on the pontoon. I went for the spot on the end which meant I only had one person next to me. I had a great start and could get into clear water straight away. I was able to stay out in front for the whole swim but I could tell that there were people close behind me, I just wasn’t sure how many there were. I came out from the water with a small lead on the next person and I soon realised that there were three of us that could form a group as we exited out of transition1.
We all worked hard through the initial stages of the bike to try and distance ourselves from the next group. I felt like I was pushing the pace and the hard work was paying off as we increased our lead up to 55 seconds. I had worked hard on the bike yet I still felt ready to execute the other third of my race. My body was feeling strong and I felt in control.
As I exited transition 2 I opened up a small lead to the other 2 competitors so I tried to extend my lead. I could maintain about a 15 second lead to the person behind me and continue through to the finish. It was a huge relief to cross the line in first and I was thrilled to be doing so.
I left Astana with happy memories. I had executed the race to how I wanted and as a result could win which was the plan. I had also really enjoyed my time in the new city and would love to return to race again next year if it fits into my race calendar!