Monday, October 22, 2012

Impromptu trip to see ITU World Championships

ITU Flyer

So on this past Friday, I decided to spend the long Labor Day weekend in Auckland watching the ITU World Championships.  For those that don't know or care, I like to do various distance triathlons.  I'm working my way up to an Ironman in the next couple years.  The ITU is keen on the Olympic Distance (1500m swim, 40k bike, and 10k run), but this weekend had sprint as well.  How did this come about?  Well, I was reading the paper during morning tea and saw a good article on the weekend's events.  I thought to myself, when am I going to be near this type of opportunity again.  So I darted back to my desk and looked at buses to Auckland.  Yes, I know I don't like buses, but they are cheap.  I look at my options and it wouldn't get me there until after the elite women have already gone and most of the U23 men's race would have been completed.  So I contacted the last rental agency that we used and got a car for the long weekend.  They were even kind enough to pick me up from work.  I then booked a dorm style room on  Seemed like I went from doing a little biking over the weekend to darting up to Auckland in about 10 minutes. 

Andrea from the New Zealand National Team.

I decided to wake up early and head up to Auckland before 7am.  The drive was very peaceful and I was graced with some awesome driving weather.  No rain and the wind was almost non-existent.  The sun was out for most of the drive as well.  Driving through the Kaimais is always fun and then looking off the road at various tramping tracks and little reserves.  I put a mental check next to each one to pursue at a later date.  For right now, I'm a man on a mission.  I'm about to see if the Kiwis can defend off some stellar competition on their home turf.  I get to Auckland and locate the parking ramp behind the hostel ($40 for 2+ days of parking btw).  Its early so you can't check in until after 1pm.  Saturday I watched the U23 women and men as well as the elite women.  The course was laid out in the CBD so it was very spectator friendly.  I used it to my advantage to wander to different vantage points throughout the race to get a better feel for the choke points.  The swim was uneventful in the sense that it was 2 laps next to Queen's Wharf.  Not much to see other than splashing and swim caps.  The bike course consisted of 8 laps of a hills and sharp turns.  It reminded me of the Stillwater Crit course for Nature Valley Grand Prix.  The run course doubled up over part of the bike course and the athletes had to do 4 laps. 
Kris Gemmell broke away for 3 laps on the bike ride.  Epic

The weather on Saturday was warm with a chilly wind, but Sunday was cold and at times rain was pouring down.  So the elite women lucked out with their weather and the men got drenched and I believe the bike was slowed because of it.  For both days, I was particularly interested in seeing how the riders would cope with the corner of Victoria and Queens after coming down from Albert Park.  It is a pretty honest descent with lots of generated speed into a 90 degree turn.  I saw a couple people get close to smacking the barrier and a couple shouts for riders to slow down.  I personally didn't see anyone go down, but I saw the missing flesh on more than a few of the junior girls and stains on shorts of both the elite and junior men.  I also so the aftermath of what I suspect to be a mechanical issue for a Russian athlete as he slammed his bike to the pavement.  He then put it over the guard rail and claimed his DNF.  I have to give mad props to the junior athlete from Mexico that was pushing very hard.  I could tell she was noxious and just wanted to puke as she laid crumpled on the ground with 2 fingers down her gullet but nothing would come out.  She was trying to wretch and was shaking a bit, but she was not going to get any relief.  An official came over and I suspect asked if she wanted to withdraw.  Her answer was an emphatic no.  She pushed him away and tried to regain her feet.  She managed to get up only to stumble to the barrier where she leaned for a couple of seconds before willing herself the final 300 meters or so to the finish.  

A flash of Gwen as she passed by.  She went on to claim 2nd.    

I met a couple interesting people this weekend.  The first were Kevin and Lilia from Seattle.  She was an age-grouper racing on Monday in the Olympic distance and qualified in Vermont.  She has also done the 70.3 Championships in Clearwater and Las Vegas.  She also recently made the jump in the age categories to the dreaded 30-34.  Good luck to her.  Next was Mike from Saucony New Zealand.  To say I met him this weekend, would be a lie.  I met him a couple weeks ago at a product training session with Macpac, but we did talk for a little bit.  Next is the woman, I forgot her name, who imports Hammer Nutrition products.  Since my favorite gel in the market is Hammer, I'll be placing an order with her.  We talked supplements for a bit and she asked what I was going to be using for the race this weekend. I told her I was just up to watch as it was basically happening in my backyard.  She also let me sample a product similar to Accelerade, which I can't find here.  It has a combination of protein and carbs, but also includes some fat.  It tasted like a dream-cicle.  If my order of Accelerade doesn't get here by Wed, I'm going for a jug of Perpetuem for my K2 ride this coming weekend.  There were a couple other Americans that I chatted with and I didn't get their names, but they all assumed I was there to race.  I wish I was as it was an amazing course and very well organized.  Its not often that I'm a spectator at these events.  Maybe I'll volunteer in the future if I'm not racing.  Finally, I talked to a gentleman name Bill Vann from Michigan.  He told me about his daughter Kate, who took up triathlons in college after being a competitive swimmer all her life.  Told me about their trip to Hungry and other ITU events and that there are 2 younger gifted siblings as well.  Kate, hope you did well.
The outside of my newish place.
Anyway, I'm back in Tauranga now after a whirlwind of clapping, cheering, and shivering in the rain.  I have to say, I've gotten a lot of use out of my rain jacket.  It has a permanent spot in my bag where ever I go.  It looks like the ITU season is kicking off in Auckland in April and then a race in Japan in May.  Would be interesting to be an ITU volunteer groupie.  I wander if they subsidize travel and of course my fooding bill. 

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