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RACE REPORT: ITU LONG COURSE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
written by: Rachel Saks
posted: 6/2/03


ITU Long Course World Championship - Ibiza, Spain
May 11, 2003

Airline reservations.  Email updates from Tim@usatriathlon.  Cold training days.  Making travel arrangments.  Squeezing in workouts and trying to have a social life.  Encouraging "just checking-in" calls from Coach Karen (Ghiron).  Ordering Team USA uniform and gear (with pride and a smile).  Striving to make it to taper time.  More cold training days.  Going to WORLDS!

I must say that I felt like I was in a little over my head knowing that I had qualified and decided to compete in the 2003 International Triathlon Union Age Group Long Course World Championship in Ibiza, Spain.  Until last July, the longest tri I had done was a sprint distance!  I was sure the Mediterranean island of Ibiza would be beautiful, but the rest of the adventure was a huge mystery that would bloom into a wonderful experience I will be proud of for a long time.

Distances: Swim - 2.5 mi (4K), Bike - 73 mi (120K), Run - 18.6mi (30K)

The team hotel was the epicenter for much of the action and it was the team hotel for Australia, USA, Canada, and a few other countries.  Updates, schedules, race information, and group workouts were posted on the team USA bulletin board in the lobby.  Folks could mix 'n mingle over a pre-race open water swim, ride on the course, run along the beach, or just lounging by the pool.  As race day neared, I managed to meet many other people who would end up being a great support system on race day.  I was able to see the bike course via a group van ride, which was not only helpful, but beautiful too.  The weather improved to 70s and sunny as race day neared.

The traditional parade of nations was held Friday night through downtown Ibiza with all the participating countries in their parade uniforms.  Saturday morning Team USA had an official meeting where Tim Yount, the team manager from USA Triathlon, gave us the information we needed about the race - the course, the rules, the transition area, etc.  We all took notes, cracked a few jokes, and formed a cohesive group.  At the end of this two hour meeting, Tim reminded the 75 member USA crew that we should be proud to represent our country at this world championship - we've all worked hard to be here and that we should do our best and enjoy the experience.  Later that day was bike check-in at the transition area.  Finally, a glimpse of many of the other athletes - it was exciting to see such an array of countries represented.

4:20am Sunday morning - beep beep beep of my watch alarm.  Zzzzzzzzz.  4:25am beep beep beep of my watch alarm. Showtime!  Had breakfast with some new teammates, got my stuff, then took the shuttle to the transition/start.  I put on my wetsuit, got in a warm-up swim, saw that the weather looked clear and warm, and felt ready to get this thing going!

The swim was a 2.5 mile course around Ibiza harbor.  The yellow capped women's heat lined up at the edge of the pier and before we knew it we were off - a three foot jump (or dive to those who dared) into the harbor.  The water was just warm enough for a sleeveless wetsuit and swim felt great.  I breathed to the left and saw people cheering along a rocky pier and breathed to the right and saw a 16th century fortress atop a walled city.  Ibiza harbor had Walden beat hands down. Relatively calm waters, a good breathing rhythm, and stunning scenery made this my favorite part of the race.

Through transition it felt super to be cheered on by name from the people I had met during the week who were in the crowd.  It was also fun to hear people cheering in different languages, and volunteers yelled the drink choices to us, "Agua! Aquarius! Coca-Cola!".

The roads of the bike course were freshly paved and the scenery was phenomenal.  During the two loops of 60K, I thought about how so many people I know would love this ride!  The course was a lot of gradual up hills and down hills with several technical turns thrown in the mix.  At 30K we hit a 4K climb - switchbacks through the mountains.  I enjoyed the course, but by half way through the second loop I looked forward to getting to the run.

Although the run was pretty (3 x 10K loop along the marina, pier and Ibiza town) many of us were surprised to find that about half of it was on concrete.  You ever have that feeling once you start the run that you'd actually rather be on the bike?!  I knew that distance running on this surface this would suck every ounce of energy out of my tired legs, so I tried to concentrate on the scenery.  Since we did three laps and constantly saw the other racers, team USA continued to provide support for its members.  A man playing the bagpipes for the Great Britain team was also a comical sight to see (and hear!).

Getting through the three laps was a tough mental and physical challenge, especially as the day got later.  I stayed focused, and didn't stop to walk (in fear of not being able to start again!).  As I neared the end of the final lap, I absolutely could not wait to finish.  It had been almost 9 hrs.  Tim from USA Triathlon saw me as I was about 100 yds from the finish and creamed "Rachel, turn it up a notch!!  Turn it up two notches!!  Give it ALL YOU GOT!!!"  And so I did!  I finished strong and put this one in the books!

World's is a phenomenal and unique experience that I would recommend to anyone!