ITU Long Course World Championship - 5th place in Age Group

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ITU Long Course World Championship - 5th place in Age Group

This was the race I have been training for for the last 2 years! It was cancelled last year but luckily it went ahead this year.

Normally the Long Course Championship for ITU is a different distance than Ironman, I guess just to differentiate themselves somehow. But I prefer the Ironman distance which is what it was this year! Every now and then they choose a venue of an existing race for the championship and run it at the classic full distance of 3800m (2.4mi) swim, 180km (112mi) bike and marathon run of 42.2km (26.2mi). 

Team Hungary by the Canals
Hungarian friends, left to right: Peter's coach, Zoltan; Peter (World Champion!), Dora, referee; Zoli and myself

I wanted to do this race for a lot of reasons. I expected to absolutely love it, the venue, the atmosphere, the whole experience. Of course, nothing can compare to my National Championship win of last year and I expect that nothing ever will, it was just such a magical race. But I will always keep hunting for races that can come close to that experience.

I have wanted to do a Challenge Family race for a while now, and Challenge Roth is on my bucket list for upcoming years, so having Challenge Almere near Amsterdam, The Netherlands be the home of this race was very exciting and it didn't disappoint.

My Hungarian crew chief, Zoli came from Hungary and I flew in from Toronto on Friday for the Sunday race. I find that the flight screws up my biological clock anyway so jet lag is not really an issue.

Zoltan Schmidt and Viktoria Brown
In an Ironman race I can't accept any help during the race, but having a friend like Zoli there still makes a big difference!

We arrived Friday afternoon, did some food shopping and headed to our AirBNB, that was it basically. Saturday I was hoping to do a short ride, a short swim, athlete check-in and bike check-in. But it was raining when I was going to do the ride in the morning, so we just headed to the venue, checked in and I decided to ride there.

That's when I found out that my rear break was rubbing. On Zoli's suggestion I headed to the QR booth to ask for help and they didn't disappoint. Quintana Roo is the best bike company ever! Their customer service is second to none and even their dealers are the most amazing people. The Dutch distributor diagnosed that my rotor was bent which must have happened during the flight and simply gave me his own so I could race and even let me keep it so I can ride my bike until I can buy a new one. I really appreciate kindness.

We got a Hungarian Team photo done with the 3 Hungarian participants and the Hungarian referee who is also the amateur coordinator for the Hungarian Triathlon Association. Our paratriathlete, already 2-time World Champion, Peter Boronkay won his division and became World Champion for the 3rd time!

Team Hungary Triathlon
Team Hungary: Zoltan Balint, Peter's swim coach; myself; Peter Boronkay, PTS5 World Championion!; Dora Kemecsei, 7th AG

Unfortunately I was quite stressed over the race and had zero sleep the night before. It makes no sense since I am not a professional athlete so it is not my living that depends on my results! I'm just doing it for fun, and other than the few friends if that, nobody cares where I finish! It must have been that I had been literally training for this race for the last two years so it was a big one for me. Still no reason to be as stressed as I was but no reasoning would calm my brain.

I was just really hoping to reach the podium, since this was the first time ever that I felt I was strong enough to have any chance of doing that. Two years ago I finished 12th in my age group and although I underperformed, even if I raced to my potential, I would have only finished around 8-10th place maybe. But I improved a lot since in every discipline.

For months leading up to the race it seemed realistic to shoot for the podium. I knew that Johanna, the Norwegian girl was out of my league, but the other two girls, Sara from Sweden and Julita from Poland were both similar in abilities to me. The reason I didn't sleep that night was though that about a week before the race two last minute entries showed up on the start list and they both looked really strong! Anja from Germany and Theresia from The Netherlands. So at this point there were 6 of us for the 3 podium spots and I saw my chances slipping away.

ITU WC transitionRacked and ready

Race morning was uneventful, everything was good and around 8am we were off for a long day. I was one of the last ones to go into the water with the rolling start, so I was pretty sure that there could be nobody finishing behind me and ending up in front of me in the rankings.

Swimming is my weakness so that's why I just didn't bother getting into the water fast. I figured this way I will save myself some fighting and it was mostly true, but because the swim consisted of two laps (with no run-out to the shore) I still got swam over a few times. So I just practiced my hard kick after the first one and sure enough they left me alone. Nobody wants to be kicked in the face! 

A scary thing happened during the first leg. I was drafting off a girl, we turned towards the final straight before coming out of the water. Then I suddenly see her go straight down towards the bottom of the lake - it was really deep. She was basically going down vertically, so I grabbed her one ankle and pulled her back up. I was so scared, I thought she was in trouble. 

She came back up, I couldn't catch what she was saying but there was something in her hand. I said something along the lines of "I thought you were in trouble" and kept swimming. I think she lost something and tried to retrieve it but the whole thing happened very quickly and it was shocking to see her dive down. I hope she found what she was going for, my guess is that she did because she was holding something when I pulled her back  up, but I have no idea what it might have been. It looked like a swim cap, but it doesn't make any sense to dive down after a swim cap and those would float anyway, not sink. She also had her cap and goggles on (but some people double-cap), so it weren't the goggles either - I could understand diving after those because you can't continue without them. Maybe it was her watch, that is my only guess - there are white watches and that would sink. But I don't really know. Nevertheless, she was safe but I lost her draft.

ITU World Championship Challenge AlmereComing out of the water is always the best moment for me during the race - the hard part is over!

A year ago at the Nationals in a non-wetsuit swim I made it out of the water in 1:32 so I was hoping to be around 1:20-1:25 this time. I got out in 1:28 which I think means that my swim was weaker than a year ago, but the wetsuit helped me out there. It also might be the case that the difference comes from the water being choppy this time while last year we had the smoothest lake ever. 1:28 was the 3rd slowest time in my age group for the swim, but still a PB for me.

My transitions were somewhat long unfortunately. I didn't feel I was wasting my time or procrastinating and the first one wasn't even horrible, 3 of the top 4 ladies were faster than me, everyone else was slower, but in the second transition I was the slowest.

Once I get out of the water, the hardest part is over for me. I really like to bike and I'm good at it, I also love running and I'm getting better at it.

I jumped on the bike and was looking forward to sitting still for the next 5 hours and change. It was a really flat course so I spent 98% of my time in aero. There were a few turns but they were not too bad. There was a long stretch along the waterfront with tail wind where I was averaging 40 km/h+ (25 mi/h+) for more than 20 km (13 mi). There were some rougher patches especially the bike path full of horse turds that we had to navigate around. That was really tricky! And it wasn't short either...

ITU World Championship Challenge Almere bikeWhen I still had the strength to smile!

The bike was relatively uneventful. I had a certain power number in mind and I managed to hold it for the whole time although with more effort than I had anticipated. I had no idea where I was within the field, we traded spots with Sara a few times who was surprisingly coming from behind - meaning she had an even worse swim than I did!

At 34km (21mi) there was a sign showing 30km (18mi) that got me terrified! It predicted a 5:30-5:45 bike time and I couldn't get my head around how that was possible. Same thing happened at 40km (25mi) and 50km (31mi) and I felt horrible and confused, starting to panic over it. Then at the start of the second lap, which I knew was half way (90km - 56mi) my Garmin showed 90km. Spot on. Only then could I relax and know that my Garmin was right and the signs were in the wrong place. It was very stressful. So based on my avg speed I knew my bike time would be 5:12 if I kept it as is and I did.

I caught a few ladies from my AG but nobody who mattered - I knew that Anja, Johanna and Julita were ahead of me and Sara passed me too. She ended up with the best bike split of the AG and mine was second best.

ITU Long Course World Championship 2021No smile any more!

I went out for the run 4 mins behind Sara and Julita in 5th place. I knew Sara was a good runner but I didn't know what to expect from Julita. All three of us started out at the same pace with small shifts only. The run consisted of 6 laps of 7km (4.3mi). Seeing that we are all running at basically the same pace, I decided to just keep the effort and see what happens. There was no way I could have sped up even knowing how small the gap was. Any tiny mistake on their part could cost them a place. One potty break, one cramp, any nutritional problems or bonking and I can close the gap. 

I gained about 2 minutes by the last lap on Julita. I also lost 2 minutes to Sara so she was out of reach, now being 6 mins ahead of me. Julita was also still 1:40 ahead which was unrealistic to close in 7km. I gave it a last push for the first half of the last lap but there was simply nothing left in me. She also picked up the pace and finished that lap 20 sec faster than me, crossing the finish line 2 mins ahead of me.

ITU World Championship run
Keeping the effort

With a 3:36 run my final time was 10:28. I PR-d all the disciplines and the overall time as well. I was very happy with my effort and I'm still convinced that I didn't leave anything in it, this was the absolute best that I could do on the day. 

I find it hard to accept that this time, out of the 3 of us, I was the one coming in last, while it really could have gone either way between us, depending on nuances and just who is having a better day. Julita's transitions were 3.5 mins faster than mine and she beat me by 2 mins overall, so I lost that one in transition. But it would probably be harder to accept coming 4th and miss the podium by just one place than coming 5th! Theresia came in 6th more than half an hour behind me.

ITU Triathlon World Championship 2021
I like these ITU Championship races, so I will definitely try again next time, and overall I'm happy with how the race went and how I performed.

It was also great competing against such nice ladies, and I learned a few things again, chatting with them, and I'm really happy that I got to know them. 

What is next? I have my eyes on an Ironman in a few weeks so fingers crossed the recovery is fast and I achieve what I would like to get out of that one! 

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