ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Chicago 2015 - Last Race of the Season

Done. Another Season has come to an end – on the one hand it seems to have come very quickly, but on the other hand it seems like the season has been going on forever and my body is in need of some well-deserved rest.

On Friday, it was time for the final race of the World Triathlon Series, the “Grand Final”, in Chicago. We arrived a few days before and the weather forecast wasn’t looking pretty with predictions of thunderstorms. Even though the weather was beautiful for the first few days, the skies suddenly turned dark on Thursday evening and it started to pour down. It was so bad that the Junior boys’ race was delayed by 90min and then turned into a duathlon. We had waited until the evening to do the last bit of our training that day… but none of us fancied going outside, so the group run outside turned into a group run on the treadmill – with some of us even doing some pick-ups in the hotel’s corridors!

The plan for the next day was to lie-in for as long as possible to shorten the waiting time to our 5pm start. For some reason I woke up at 5am and decided to have a quick look on my phone… The start time had been put forward to 1pm because of thunderstorms in the evening! Well that was the lie-in idea out the window… I tried hard to go back to sleep for a little bit, but there just wasn’t any chance: I like being busy in the mornings before a race, so left myself as many of the little pre-race jobs to do for the morning as I could – not expecting to suddenly have 4h of my prep time taken away from me! But it actually all worked out alright and there was still plenty of time even with a 1pm start.

After Stockholm, I had met with Mark from T3 Triathlon to look at my swimming technique and see what and how I can improve it. Since then I’ve been focusing on improving my technique as much as possible before Chicago. Thus I was excited and keen to see whether it would already show after just three weeks. When the race started, I was feeling confident and swimming was feeling great! However about 100m after the start the girls on either side of me decided to start swimming into me and it went from swimming and focusing on my technique to trying not to take too many punches while still moving forward. The swim stayed brutal – it was even worse at the buoys and I even had to do a few breaststroke kicks to get myself up to speed after being pulled back once again. It was only with 300m to go that I had finally found some relatively clear water to swim in and I suddenly saw a gap to the chase pack ahead of me! Off I went trying to catch the feet in front… and I did! While I’m glad I did, and the fact that I managed to is showing me that I can actually swim, it’s also showing me that I have to learn how to behave in open water to avoid being held up by unnecessary punching. A lot of that probably comes down to experience and training to swim with people around you – so I’ll be back to see Mark and his crew again for some more “fighting” training and technique analysis.

The bike course consisted of plenty of dead turns (45 in total) and 90 degree turns (40 in total) with short bits of straight road connecting them – I have definitely seen more exciting bike courses, but at least it meant I always knew where everyone else was! I was in the first chase pack, about 45s down on the leading pack and we pretty much managed to hold the gap consistently at that until we hit the run.

And because we hadn’t done enough dead turns after the bike yet, the run had a few more to offer… When I got off the bike my aim was to put down a solid run and catch as many of the girls from the front pack as I could. That plan worked really well and running felt really good again, until after about 5k I started to slowly die… Nonetheless, I managed to finish in 21st place (overtaking some women from the first pack), a good enough result to secure my 20th place in the WTS Series in 2015!

So while I’m definitely happy with my result, I may not be entirely content. Cape Town and London have shown me a glimpse of what I am capable of and have left me hungry for more. However, after finishing exams there have been a few races that I am definitely not happy with, but at the same time those defeats have taught me more about racing and myself than any successful race could ever have done. I sometimes tend to forget that I am still one of the youngest women racing in the WTS series and that pretty much everyone else has had a bit more time to gain experience than I have had – but I don’t like taking age as an excuse.

I’m now very much looking forward to finally be starting my PhD in Oxford in October and having something for my mind to focus on again. Soon after that it’ll also be time to get back to work and I can’t wait to get back to working on myself and making the best of the lessons I have learnt this season.

© Sophia Saller 2016. All rights reserved. Impressum