ITU World Championship 2008 - Paula Van Nostrand

For a sprint race report this seems terribly long..I'm sorry :) Where to start? This race was a "bitter-sweet" experience...I'm going to try to give the positive side first ...but then the gloves will come off and I and going to rant a bit just be warned!

Back in August last year I qualified for the World sprint triathlon...I was really torn as to whether or not to do this's a long way to travel for a sprint...the cost, the anxiety (will my bike be ok in transit???) and the impact on my Ironman training...all of these factors were playing into my decision...but then I think...Wow! I just qualified for the World Championships.... it's possible this will never happen again and it's being held in Vancouver! ...I get to be on "Team Canada" and represent the country. then when I told my mother...well that was it ...decision made..her response went something like "you'd better bloody go...I've told everyone you are going to the Olympics" oh my can I deny her the thrill of having a daughter represent Canada (even though I am British..recently turned Canadian and that this race would not be taking me to China )

John (hubby) was very supportive of what ever I chose to do So it's off to Vancouver...and rain...arrived in a massive downpour on Tuesday and that's pretty much the way it was for the rest of my time (until about 15 mins after my race when the sun came out It was really cool too...8-9c in the morning. I did go swimming the day before my race...everyone said that we just had to go in to acclimatize to the cold temperature (around 12 freekin degrees) It was shockingly cold it stung so much, it was almost felt like the water was boiling hot ...that's how much it hurt....but I had to go in, I did not want a repeat of my disastrous swim in Milton last week when I had a panic/asthma/wetsuit "too tight" attack I was hoping not to "doggy paddle for Canada" Lasted about 20 mins got out for a minute and jumped back in for about 5 more mins...I felt I was going to be ok.

Race morning Up at 4:45, taxi with John to Stanley Park where check in 5:20-6:20..way too early and pouring rain...I could have easily gone back to bed...but just kept thinking of how proud "me mam" would be In planning for transitions it was hard to know how to dress, with 8c air temp... I was worried about how cold I would be coming out of the water, but then it's such a short race..hopefully fast and furious...So wearing my team Canada tri suit (one piece) opted to put my arm warmers on and socks for the ride.

Swim About 60 of us 40-49 age group stood on the edge of the water women from all aver the World! Truly this was an international event(I was feeling very bad for the Australians, Mexicans, Argentineans, South Africans etc. that have probably never experienced water this cold (not that I have!)...horn went off and in we went...I was so scared at this point I don't even remember feeling the cold. Thankfully the water was calm for our race on was horrendously rough on Saturday.

The swim was mis- measured ...instead of it being 750m I'm told it was closer to 1200..ok for me ...I'm training for Ironman...but for those athletes that prepared for a sprint distance ...they were in for a shockingly long 750!! My swim was surprisingly smooth and strong (aside from freezing my bottom off ) The ocean swim for me was pretty good, not too salty, not choppy and the added bonus of having a seal swimming along side was a welcome distraction...I bet the seal was having a good laugh at all of these skinny (aside from me)triathletes splashing around in the frigid water.

t1 Exiting the water was something else ...I could barely feel my legs and my head was spinning... I felt completely drunk...staggered to the transition...had to sit down to stop myself from falling. Managed somehow to get my arm warmers on and socks ...absolutely no feeling in my feet, helmet straps were tough to clip together with numb fingers...but I did it...grabbed my bike and ran...and ran and ran...this was the longest transition EVER...whoever planned the transition area must have been swimming a little too long in freezing cold water ..their brains were clearly not used during this process...oh sorry...I digress.....I was going to try to be positive about this race ...but as I will explain in more detail later this was the worst event I have ever been involved....but back to the race...John was taking photos of me as I cursed and complained...Ill try and post some pics'll be able to see my frustration on my face

Bike Onto the 3 loops of Stanley park...uphill during the first portion and downhill on the way back to transition.

I found the course quite technical with a fair few turns, lots of paint on the roads for crossing etc, making it very slippery, and a pretty uneven in places road surface. Stanley park is a lovely location for a race but in the pouring rain I wasn't really taking too much notice of the scenery.

As I headed towards the end of the first loop there was a fair sized crowd of people...this was very exciting for the race course was very lonely for the most part the only people on the bike course were very wet, cold and sad looking volunteers waving caution flags at the hazards on the course. Anyway, true to form, I started to make some "noise" as I approached the crowd...some loud whhooohhoooo's and yipppppeee's, just to get the freezing cold crowd this point one of the course marshals was frantically directing me to the right lane of the course...a little perplexed as I was sure I was supposed to go left to do my next loop...but he and the next couple of marshals were all directing me to the I went right...and to my dismay ended up flying towards the transition area ..I was off the course!!!...people (race officials) were screaming at me "GET OFF YOUR BIKE!!!!" I was completely confused but then in a moment of sheer relief wondered if I'd been disqualified...I was sadly quite excited at this prospect for a moment...this would mean I could just go back to my hotel room and have a nice hot shower...but then I realized...I'd done nothing wrong...I'd been misguided...

In retrospect, I'm thinking the race officials probably thought from all the screaming and cheering I was doing I must have finished my 3 loops You can't even imagine the confusion that followed...I had one official absolutely screaming right in my face "GET OFF!!! GO to transition!!! GET OFF YOUR bike!!!" started screaming back at him..."But I'm not done yet...I've only done one loop"..he didn't seem to care so continued to scream at me "Get off NOW!" Another official came ever at that point initially he was shouting the same but then he asked me how many loops I'd done..."1- I need to do 2 more...where do I go now???" The transition area was such a convoluted mess I could see a way for me to get back on course people that I know in the crowd are screaming at me ..."get back on you bike ....ride Paula ...the clock is ticking!!!"

Geeze ..that's all you want to hear while lost in a transition seemed like forever..but was probably only a minute or 2 wasted ..I found a way back on to the course and started to ride again...I'd lost a lot of momentum and started to wonder if I would be DQ'd ...firstly for going off course and secondly for screaming (and I'm quite sure swearing) at the took a good 5 minutes of riding before my knees stopped shaking. Let me tell you...I took the next loop a lot quieter No one passed me on the bike...that's always good ...although I was wondering how many women in my age group must have passed me while I "chatted" with the official The rest of the bike went well, I think it took me around 39 mins.

t2 a little better...hands and feet still a bit numb though.

Run Again a convoluted course...but I managed to just follow the other runners...this time uneventful:)

Had no idea where I was placing ....didn't know most of my competitors so just went as fast as I possibly could without puking Had a good strong finish..with apparently 2 or 3 women form my age group hot on my heels...I had no idea So, finished...1:32:59- 6th ...can I say IN THE WORLD???? in my age group very very happy to be done and not DQ'd ....Shocked at how well I actually did do....remember ...I'm the former 220lb couch potato...that didn't like to sweat.

Now for my rant...I try to be a very positive up-beat person so I'm sorry if this sounds like I'm complaining...but I feel strongly about this and just want to vent a little bit ...hopefully I can move on after I've had my say and get back to just feeling very proud of what I have done. You really don't have to read this ...but if you are thinking you ever want to do an ITU might want to read on... Let me just tell you ...the race became rather ridiculously the time I paid team fee, race fee, uniform fee, race outfit, the tally was up to $800...and that's before the cost of flight and hotel and car rental etc. Yes, I know it was my choice to do this, but the way that the pricing was revealed to us was rather unfair...

Someone is making huge amounts of money on this race ...and it's certainly not the athletes, don't get me wrong I don't race for money or "kick backs" I race because I love it....I work hard to earn money so that I can do this sport and feel very lucky to be able to but when I see day light robbery ...I can't be quiet. Overall it really was the worst event I have ever raced in. I can honestly say I will NEVER race ITU again...We are so lucky to have the Subaru tri series..they are so well organized and professional we have been spoiled...and I will never complain about the cost of an Ironman race again....Ironman is worth it's weight in gold. I could go on and on ...but I have a bike ride to do ...

Thanks for reading ...I welcome your feedback.

Cheers! paula