road to rio

Road to Rio - Abu Dhabi

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I travelled to Abu Dhabi for the opening race of the ITU World Series last weekend.  Winter training has gone exceptionally well, with me showing much improved strength on the bike and the speediest swimming I've ever been clocking. Unfortunately for me, none of this reflected in my race on the day. You can train as well as you like but it's the performance on race day that matters. So what went wrong? I initially thought I'd just not been aggressive enough to the first buoy. However, after doing some post race analysis and watching the swim footage, it seemed that I'd decided to follow the girl in front of me at the first buoy, making a sharp turn in the wrong direction. We both corrected ourselves but, in turn, losing quite a few positions and instead of being in a nice top 20 position come the proper turn buoy, I was caught amongst the back swimmers. Not ideal! I missed the main pack, race over!

I spent the next few days feeling very frustrated with myself. However, the positive is that what I did is easily fixable - be more aware! I'm super excited to race again soon and to really go out there and put in a performance reflective of all the hard winter training. The funny thing too, is that this 'blip' has made me much more motivated than ever and I know that I am dangerous when optimally motivated and stimulated. They say everything happens for a reason huh!

Apart from the race itself, I had a wonderful time in Abu Dhabi. I am part of the Alameda O.N Triathlon team. One of our aims is to increase awareness and promote growth of triathlon in the Middle East & Africa. It was amazing seeing so many age groupers competing as well as junior athletes. We also had some of our own Alameda O.N development athletes racing and they managed quite a few podium spots between them, which is just fabulous.

Congrats must also go to my fellow countryman and woman - Rich Murray on his 2nd place, what a season opener....& Mari Rabie finishing well up the field, wonderful to have Mari back racing in strong form. Hopefully it will be a successful year for all of us South Africans.

It was sad to leave the beautiful sunny weather of Abu Dhabi but I was also glad to return to my training base in London to get some perspective and put my head down again for my next race. I'm excited to see what that will bring...time for me to unleash myself into 2016!

By Gillian Sanders

twitter.com/gillcurrsanders www.gilliansanders.com

Turkish Delight

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After my disappointing race in Chicago, I was adamant that I wasn’t going to end the season then and there. I had, in any event, planned to do a World Cup in Cozumel but binned that idea, recovered for a week and then put my head down for a last little effort at a World Cup in Alanya, Turkey. My running was feeling a lot better in the lead up and I decided to go and run a Surrey Cross Country league race the week before to test my legs out and hopefully get a bit of a confidence boost. I love cross country. It is brutal but there is something about it that I really relish. I ran neck and neck with another girl the whole way, with her just out sprinting me at the end. I knew I had my run mojo back!

It was my second time racing in Alanya. The weather and the sea are always incredible there, a beautiful, dry heat and warm, clear waters. I was really excited to race. I had one aim for the race – to finish my season on a high.

I had a bit of a poor swim which included a spectacular wipe out on the beach after the first lap and some carpet burn, it must’ve looked hilarious. However, I managed to make the main bike pack. We quickly caught a few leaders out front and I knew it would be down to a run race. I had a very slow T2 but made a decision once on the run not to go out too hard. My legs felt a bit sluggish and there is a steep hill to run up 4 times. I think I was 12th going up the hill for the first time and made my way through the field to finish 6th. I didn’t feel great at all and gave everything I could at the end. I was satisfied. Obviously I’d liked to have podiumed but 6th would do, mission accomplished – season finished on a high!

It was then all about having a big glass of wine, a juicy burger and watching the Springboks beat Wales in the Rugby World Cup quarter finals. Season over, time to relax and have a bit of fun.

After a day back home it was off to Bahrain, for sun, sand and heat. Blog to follow on that next….until then,

Gx

Chicagoland: Tall Buildings, Deep dish pizza & a big race

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I was delighted to get the hell out of freezing Edmonton and to lovely warm Chicago. There were 11 days between racing in Edmonton and then kicking off the grand final of the World Tri series in Chicago. I spent a week about an hour outside Chicago in a town called Naperville (ranked one of the best places to live in the USA in 2006). It was lovely. Massive wooden houses, perfectly painted with their manicured lawns and standard American flag on the porch. The Fox River ran through the town and the centre had some lovely little shops and cafes which I unfortunately didn’t have too much time to frequent.

The very kind folk at Lifetime Fitness Gym in Warrenville gave me free access to their facility for the week and I was able to put in some very good training (maybe a bit too much, but we’ll get back to that ;-)).

Three days before the race I moved into the South African team hotel in downtown Chicago. Chicago is a wonderful city. It’s one of those places that you think, ‘Hey I could live here.’. Well maybe not when Lake Michigan freezes over in winter, brrrrrr. It’s got lovely beaches and parks and some fantastic cafes and restaurants. The architecture is pretty impressive and the people are pretty laid back and very friendly.

It was very humid and as a result, the place is known for its epic summer thunderstorms. They had to move our race forward by 4 hours to avoid us being frazzled by lightning in the lake. The organisers & ITU did an amazing job making some pretty substantial last minute changes and we had a very smoothly organised race.

That’s where any ‘smoothness’ ended, as my race felt far from smooth. I had an average swim and was in the chase bike pack 30 secs adrift. We didn’t lose any time but I felt absolutely dreadful the whole race, my legs had no power and I was hanging on for a lot of that bike. My run was even worse and it was just survival, finishing a disappointing 41st from 75 starters.

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I think I knew a few days before the race that something wasn’t quite right, my body just felt like it didn’t have any energy. I hardly had energy for my bike pick ups the day before the race. I think I may have over done it between Edmonton and Chicago. I was on my own and wanted to try and nail some hard run sessions after my calf injury but ended up nailing myself into the ground instead.

Never mind, that was that, I couldn’t have given more on the day. Knowing that, I made myself feel better by doing some touristy things. Scaling the tallest building in North America, going on an architecture tour, eating hot dogs and deep dish pizza and taking in a Chicago Bears football game. Great to just relax and let my hair down.

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I decided against racing Cozumel, instead electing to recover and then get some good training in before I tackle my last race, a world cup in Turkey, where I’m amped to finish the season on a high. Energy levels feel back up and I’m ready for action!

Jetset Gill

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If you'd told me 10 days ago that I would be racing in Edmonton this weekend, I probably wouldn't have believed you. Yet, here I sit, in Chicago airport, munching on a huge salad (USA portion sizes never cease to amaze me) , waiting for my connecting flight to Canada. Dan, my massage therapist and Matt, my physio, worked wonders on my calf & I was back on track (literally) with minimal time off. I'm extremely grateful to have an amazing support network & a very healthy body capable of repairing itself quickly.

So its Edmonton up this weekend and then the World Triathlon Grand Final 2 weeks later in Chicago. I'll be basing myself just outside of Chicago after Edmonton for training. Its extremely humid here right now so it will be great acclimatization.

Not being able to run for a few days has made me that much more grateful for what I do & to make the most of every moment & every race.

I'm really excited for this weekend & will check back in next week with some news & how the road to Rio is progressing.

The Final Countdown – 365 days to go

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The countdown is on. Exactly 1 year to go until the women’s triathlon at the Rio Olympic Games set to take place on the beautiful Copacabana beach on 20 August 2016. I’ll be taking you through my journey, week by week, counting down to that day when I’ll hopefully be there on the start line.

Olympic qualification differs from country to country. However, there are only a total of 55 spots available for each of the men’s and women’s races. You need to qualify your country slots and the way you do that is by racing all over the world for 2 years accumulating Olympic qualification points. I compete for South Africa. Our selection policy is that we have to be ranked in the top 48 on the Olympic simulation in order to qualify.

At this point I’m currently ranked 26th on the simulation. My world ranking is currently 21st. I’ve got to race my little heart out until May next year when I’ll find out if I’ve qualified or not.

Just 2 weeks ago I travelled to Rio for the Olympic test event. We got to race on the Olympic course and test everything out for next year. For some countries this was also a qualification race.

I can say without a doubt that this is going to be one spectacular venue and backdrop for a race. Rio is stunning, with beautiful beaches and incredible weather. Our triathlon course is certainly very challenging. It comprises a 1500m sea swim and then 40km cycle which consists of 8 laps, including a cheeky 20% climb thrown in. This is followed by a 10km run on the Copacabana promenade in the sizzling humidity.

It was great to race on the course. I collected some good power data from the bike course and can now address any weaknesses and tailor my training for that one day in August next year. To give you a little idea on the ‘epicness’ of the bike course, my power spiked at 715 watts up the climb (bearing in mind I’m 52kg in weight).

So here I sit, getting ready to travel to Stockholm tomorrow where I’ll be competing in another World Series race and looking to gather more Olympic qualification points. I’ll catch up with you next week with some more fun and games….until then!