Challenges during Triathlon season 2017

Latvian summers are short by default. But this one, if you can call it summer, was even shorter, not to mention - more colder, more rainy, more windy. And those jokes like: “Hey, what did you do this summer?” “Well… I was sick that day…” are perfectly descriptive. But, who cares about the weather if it's the day to compete?!

This year I have only four multi-sport competitions in my account: three triathlon starts and one duathlon. Yes, this time I will not talk about those competitions of single-sport, such as swimming, cycling or running. I started my season rather late - with the 'Vaidava triathlon' on 1st of July. Then there was the '2017 Riga ETU Triathlon Baltic Championship'on 13th of August. And last two competitions I had in Estonia: 'Joulumae Cross-triathlon' on 26th of August and 'Joulumae Duathlon, Baltic Cup' on 7th of October.

Vaidava triathlon

I have described Vaidava already, and you can read it here.

Riga ETU Triathlon 2017, Baltic Championship

2017 Riga ETU Triathlon Baltic Championship

After the last swimming competition a week before the Baltic Championship, I received questions from my colleagues and friends: “Do you ever lose?!” Then I realized, that since last year, in various competitions in Latvia, I have used to step onto the podium quite often (at least in my age group), and that might really seem that I never lose. But I do! And August 13 was one of the days I didn't have to go to the awards ceremony. Despite that, this experience made me feel more satisfied than other times.

First of all, it was my first start at a more serious level - Baltic Championship, Elite group (although there were not many girls to compete with). Since the moment I got into the Elite's list, I was preparing for a tough race and I knew it wouldn't be easy. But the most important thing was to do all the best I could and set the benchmark for myself. I guess I was so focused on the race and on everything happening around it, as it was my first official lining-up for the swimming course, coming out from the Athlete's tent… Hearing my name being called out… Exciting stuff… Well, because I was so into myself, for a few hundredths of a second I didn't even recognise my dad who was standing out there, next to the tent, taking pictures of me.

Secondly, it was an emotional feeling of being there - in the moment. I had my dad watching the race - and having him there was a very good surprise, because I didn't know he was coming. I had few friends there, supporting me all the way. I know that I didn't see all of them while racing (since I got out of the water I was like in a tunnel), but I definitely heard their voices that I recognized. Cool thing, that we were two with the same name - Baiba. And, hearing my name (even if it might not be meant for me) was emotionally boosting and even connecting my inner thoughts and voices in my head with the outer world and reality. Amazing…

And finally, that's also about the 'aftertaste' which you get when processing all what happened while slowly cycling back home… And you go slow just because you can't go any faster… Legs are sore. All stress is gone. Body and mind is calm. It's a relief that good work has been done. As I mentioned above, despite the fact that I was way behind the other girls, the race was satisfactory and it very nicely highlighted my weaknesses and pain points where I have to put in a lot of hard work during the off-season.

Joulumae Cross-triathlon

After Riga I put my road bike aside and went into the forests with my mountain bike, at least to superficially prepare for Joulumae cross-triathlon - rather mentally than physically. And, although I did one cross-triathlon last year in Jēkabpils, Latvia, I shall say that Joulumae in Estonia was a new experience for me.

Despite that it was summer (end of summer, actually), at those air temperatures that we experienced this summer, water just could not warm up. In the small lake that wasn't that deep either, water was so cold that it took my breath away when I first touched it. With my whole body. Jumping into the lake. Just after the start signal. Yeah… I didn't try it beforehand and it was also decided that those 500m I can do without the wetsuit. “Oh, but of course..! It shouldn't be THAT terrible… And kids are swimming almost naked there!” I thought. Well, it was an individual start with intervals of 5 seconds. I jumped in as the 5th and, despite the cold I could find my rhythm. Eventually, I came out as 2nd/3rd. But, in the mix zone I was a little bit too slow and couldn't catch the Russians, so I left as 3rd for the bike.

Terrain in Joulumae was more challenging than in Jēkabpils, especially the bike course that led through dry, sandy and mossy forest with lots of turns and hills. Quite a technical one, therefore, without much technical experience, I lost so much in not taking turns fast enough… At one point, I sat into the back of a guy that was not that much faster than me, so, for a while, we rode together. When I took a lead, I lost him when the course became less technical. But the last 3rd of the bike course was again the tough one - hills and turns - that's where the same guy caught me again and overpassed. Till the mix zone he was slightly farther than I, but we left for the running part almost together. Me - slightly behind.

My aim was to hold my position running just behind him till the finish line. But, guess what?! I couldn't… My legs after the bike were so shaken (that doesn't really happen on the road bike) that they just refused to function normally. You know - starting to feel the whole energy from muscles fading away, sensing some cramp-is-around-the-corner feelings. And I was just thinking with almost each step I did with my left leg down the hills: “Please, my lovely leg, hold me till the finish… No cramps in the quadriceps muscle, please!" Guess what?! I made it!

Joulumae Duathlon, Baltic Cup

My last competition of the season 2017 was duathlon (9km run + 38.5km bike + 6km run) in Joulumae, Estonia - the last stage of Baltic Cup. Needless to say that summers are short in Baltics and, sure, October is not the warmest month of the year either. The very morning seemed quite promising - cold, though, but dry enough… Well, at the end, the race turned out to be quite extreme and in my memory, this day will remain as one CRAZY day…

I arrived timely to Joulumae therefore I had plenty of time till my start in the afternoon. It was cold, almost winterly cold, and dark gray clouds were dancing dangerously above our heads. I kept my fingers crossed that the weather remains as it was - although cold, but at least dry. After registering, I had time to prepare the equipment, to get dressed, to check the race course, to warm up… And at some point, while I was in the car, it started to rain… Later it changed to hail... “Nooooo! It can't be happening! Oooh, poor little ones who are now competing! I hope this is over when I have my start.” I was really hoping that it's only a fleeting inconvenience.

The race was compactly organized in laps - 6 for the first run, 11 for the bike and 4 more for the second run. Apart from counting all those laps (especially on the bike), it seemed very nice, because in those weather conditions you don't want to be somewhere far away from the competition center. Running was in the trails of forest, but biking - on the road of the biathlon track. The only tricky part for the run was the turning point at the end of the lap, just before the next one. Because it was a 180 degree turn in a mixture of wet grass and mud. Asphalt was smooth, hilly, with lots of turns and covered with pine needles and autumn leaves. So, imagine what happens when it's raining. There was one climb at the end of the lap - steep enough to switch the frontal gear to the smallest chainring… But after this climb… Road was going down the hill. And that was something…! Small moment, just a second long… That ticklish feeling in the stomach… And the sensation of emptiness under my wheels... It was gravity loss... Amazing! In every lap, after that tough climb up-hills, I was looking forward to having that flying feeling!

I got drenched already during the warm up while exploring the bike course. Carefully as my aim of the race was to finish it. After the warm-up I put my bike in the mix zone, and decided to keep my gloves and jacket also during the race. The rain stopped at some point before the start. Thermometer showed 9 degrees... We were lining up for the start... Hail started when I was in the second lap of running. It stopped. Then it struck again. Then stopped. Then it started to rain and I don't know when it stopped… My arms got warm during the run so I decided to leave my gloves at the mix zone… And that was my mistake. Huge mistake! My hands froze so much that for the last 4 laps I couldn't switch the front gear back to the large chainring after the steep climb with my left hand... So I helped with the right one… I was thinking: “F*ck the front gear, I will deal with that somehow in case I cannot switch it anymore! Most important thing is that I am able to push the brakes when needed - that would be more crucial!” Quite successfully I dealt with lap counting and finally got to the mix zone where I then had to deal with my numb fingers. I got into my full-of-water-running-shoes without huge problems. But, ooooh, the most challenging part was to get rid of the helmet. Imagine that your arms are hurting badly, you are not able to strain your muscles but you still have to eat the rice with chopsticks, while wearing mittens. When it's all done, you have to run… Just four tiny laps… Initially it didn't seem much. Only problem then was that for a half of the distance I didn't feel my feet and had the impression of running with shanks…

After that kind of stuff, reaching the finish line is, of course, the orgasm of the day, because the ~2h40min race is done and all you want is a hot shower for hours! It was soon getting dark. Road home was long, but endorphins were making a party and I was soooo charged that I couldn't even sleep!

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