- Published: 04 September 2015 04 September 2015
Whooo Hooo!!! Second in the WORLD baby! I’m really trying to tone up the stoke here and tone down the modest understatement that generally expect of myself – you know, as good Canadian – because, seriously, it’s a pretty big deal!
You can call it bragging, or you can see it as truly letting myself celebrate all that went into this result, and all that I managed to overcome to get on that podium. You could say we all got smashed by Daniela. That she’s the winner, while we’re all losers. OR you can think that we bettered our former selves by toeing the line in a big, competitive race, where losing is a risk (thus, making whole endevour meaningful), so we all come away having won something valuable!
As a professional athlete, focusing on the process (vs. a given result), is key to staying sane, but I sometimes fail to celebrate my successes properly! It is quite interesting how it works, really. You can’t care too much about how much people seem to care about your result or you’ll be guaranteed to be disappointed: By press coverage, the way details of the race are explained, by external interpretations of your performance… But you can, and should, care very deeply about all that went into your performance, and the new things you learned about yourself. The people that matter understand what it takes, and the rest don’t matter.
I think that we find the concept of wanting to win uncomfortable. I know I hesitate to put predictions out there because I don’t want to jinx myself. Plus, we truly do not know what will happen on race day, and modesty feels more proper; more admirable. But the intent to win, to really perform your best, is what it’s all about! Ronda Rousey puts it perfectly:
“I worked so hard to be able to think highly of myself. When people say, “Oh, you’re so cocky. You’re so arrogant,” I feel like they’re telling me that I think too highly of myself. My question for them is: “Who are you to tell me that I need to think less of myself?” People want to project their own insecurities on others, but I refuse to allow them to put that on me. Just because you don’t think I could be the best in the world doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t have the confidence to believe I can do anything.”
I am definitely learning that it’s okay to think highly of myself. To believe that I can be – wait – that I AM one of the best triathletes in the world. How fun is that!?
Outside of the race this trip was quite an eventful one, and I have some good stories to share, but really, the whole thing can be summed up with:
“Winning is not everything, but wanting to win is” – Vince Lombardi
Or to explain a little better:
“Winning is important, really important. But not for the reasons you might think. The winning I’m talking about is not about scoreboards, trophies, or championships. It’s what happens to a person once he or she has the desire to win, the intention to win, and the expectation to win… Winning matters because it will bring out the best in you and push you to your limits” – Stan Beecham
My time in Austria was a big lesson in the power of belief, of staying positive and of rolling with the punches.
I flew to Munich the Saturday before the race, got my rental car, and drove to Zell Am See. It’s a good thing that I know how to drive standard because, apparently that’s what you get with all the cheaper car rentals in Europe! It was definitely more fun to drive the windy, narrow roads that way. I was impressed with how vehicles slowed down and properly moved over for the many cyclists I saw along the way. Still, it was a long trip after barely sleeping on the plane, and all I wanted to do was check into my room, eat and go to sleep. Alas, I arrived at the rental I booked two months ago to find that they had given away my room!!
This is an exerpt from the massive e-mail I wrote Trevor about it… at 2:30 am, when I was wide-awake with jet-lag:
I’m still in disbelief that they simply gave away my room. The lady said she didn’t get a reply to a pre-payment deposit e-mail she sent yesterday – which I never got, but I would have been in the air anyway – so she rented the place to someone else. I was so pissed. I booked this months ago. Got a confirmation 3 days ago… thought all was fine. She obviously felt really bad and got on the phone with other people to try to help, but said I just had to go down the street to talk to the tourist office. As I walk around the side of the building, tired, hungry, frustrated, with tears in my eyes, who should be there but WADA testing people!
Of course I had that address in my whereabouts, with my testing slot for 7pm, and it’s pretty damn lucky we crossed paths. They could see that I was upset and I told them the whole story, crying like a fool, and they went to talk to the lady for me – and to ask that we use her bathroom for the blood and urine test!
So there we are in the hall of this place where I don’t actually have a room, doing a blood test etc. FML.
At this point it’s 8, the tourist office is closed, and I’m screwed in terms of getting groceries or anything. BUT, the lady calls a bunch of people while we’re doing the testing – I said that I needed a kitchenette not just a bed – and she finds me a place in a little town on the other end of the lake c/o a guest house manager that she knows. The drug testers for sure helped. She even offers to let me follow here there b/c there is a festival and the usual roads are all closed.
So ya I’m in this super small town in a little old guest house. Like a whole ski house. The guy said he’d give me a “special price” which made me nervous, at first, but I was relieved when he finally came out with a value. 50 Euros a night. Score! I guess I am closer to the far end of the run course now too, and it will definitely be nicer riding and running from here. The other place was right in the city and it was narrow and busy. Actually my biggest problem at the moment, other than no wifi, is that I’m totally starving! I made a couple bottles of ultragen but otherwise I had 1 meal yesterday, with the drive and the drug test etc. I need to find a bank machine, get some breakfast somewhere, get online to send this and re-do my whereabouts, get groceries, and then get some training done. Wow. What a cluster!
Quite the start to my trip! It also turns out that everything is closed on Sunday in Maishofen – the awesome little town just north of the lake where I ended up staying – which is great in general (stop working! Get outside!), but it meant I couldn't get groceries. I went in search of food and was super relieved to see that they did have some buns, ham, cheese and apricot jam at the guesthouse down the way laid out for breakfast in this big common room. No one was around to ask about it, and I was truly desperate at this point so I scarfed down a couple of them, figuring someone would appear eventually! Sure enough, someone appeared, escorted me to the place where guests were supposed to eat – I guess I was in the staff-room! Ha ha! – and got me sorted. 5 Euros for coffee, juice, more buns with ham and cheese and liver paste, which was actually super delicious, but at that point my right arm was looking appetizing!
Life was much better with food in my belly, and I put my bike together, and went for a ride. It was a gorgeous Sunday and so many people were out riding! I found a map of all the bike routes in the inn, and it was just magic being out on all these bike priority routes with green fields and cows with dinging bells and spectacular mountains in the background!
I swam in the north end of the lake in the afternoon and found a gas station that had some food I could make for dinner. Jet lag started to hit me hard, but I willed myself to stay awake until 8pm and then crashed hard.
Monday I woke up with the dreaded sore throat and a stuffy nose, and that horrible sinking feeling that all my hard work and chances for this race may have just flown out the window. I got sick before Oceanside this year and that whole experience was awful in so many ways. I had pretty serious freak-out moment, then told myself to stop being negative and chill the fuck out. Stressing never helps. I was determined that I was going to kick this thing, and I decided that telling myself I wasn’t sick was the best approach. I didn’t tell Paulo, I didn’t tell Trevor (until a little later) and I just did my training as per usual, giving myself permission to back off the intensity if I felt really bad. I simply didn’t want to validate the fact that I was sick by sharing with anyone. Still, every other moment I was curled up in bed with lemon ginger tea, or eating chicken soup. I spent hours either re-reading “Elite Minds” by Stan Beecham or “Rousey” by Ronda Rousey highlighting quotes like:
“My mom always said that to be the best in the world, you have to be good enough to win on a bad day, because you never know if the Olympics [or 70.3 Worlds!] are going to fall on a bad day”
“How you feel is entirely in your mind. Your mind has nothing to do with your environment. It has nothing to do with anyone around you. It is entirely your decision. Making a change in your life is as easy as making a decision and acting on it”.
I also spent a lot of time visualizing white blood cells attacking whatever it was that was in my body, or meditating on my breathing, willing my sinuses to clear… or else just trying to think nothing at all. If I started to wig out- I went for a walk here:
Pretty hard to be miserable in those surroundings!
On Tuesday felt worse, so I drove the course and concluded that I needed a new rear cog set with a 28 for the 14% grade on last 2km of the climb. Fortunately, they had one at a great bike shop (called BIG TIME – great name) just a 5 min walk away and I was happy to just work on my bike and chill. Wednesday was meh, Thursday a bit better and by Friday with the press conference, and pro meeting I was confident that I was going to be fine, and that, regardless, I was fit enough to have a great performance even on a bad day. ***
And it really wasn’t a bad day. The day before, I promised myself that no matter what, I was going to give everything I had each moment of the race.
[***Please let me be clear. I don’t bring this up to make excuses or imply that the race would have turned out any other way. I bring it up because it was significant to my lead-up and I learned a lot about the power of the mind. Getting to the start-line healthy is all part of the game and given the caliber of Daniela’s performance, I think best any of us could have hoped for was a smaller gap to first. Conjecture is just that. “What ifs” are a waste of time. Maybe if I felt AMAZING from the gun I would have raced too hard too early, blitzed my legs up the climb and finished off the podium… you never know.]
Sure. It definitely wasn't one of those magical days where your body just feels indestructible, but I was still able to execute a strong performance. I felt a bit off in the swim, and missed the lead group so I had to just work hard all on my own. It was definitely disappointing to see the bikes of my main competition gone when I got to T1, but I knew I had to just put my head down and ride.
It took me awhile to feel like my bike legs came around and rode fairly conservatively up the long climb ~20km in, which was part of my plan. My gearing, power and ability to stay aero made me confident that I could gain a lot of time on the back half of the course which was mostly downhill or flat, especially if I kept it nice and steady early on. The 15% grade on the descent didn't intimidate me too much because there is some good mountainous terrain in BC, but I definitely didn't take excessive risks there. I rode from 17th into 5th. It was motivating to spend most of the day chasing and passing people but it was really mostly just a long, solo effort. I was happy that I was able to stay strong throughout!
I was 5th in T2 and knew that Alicia and Magali were not too far up the road at the start of the run. It was a surprisingly hot and humid day with temps above 30oC, so the run was challenging in that respect, but the course was mostly flat. The few little hills in town happened where the crowd energy was the highest, and the cheers on course all day were fantastic! It did get pretty crowded on the second loop of the run and dodging age-group athletes and trying to get adequate fluids at the aid stations became and added challenge.
When I was suffering at the end of the run, I had one clear thought which was “Today is a good day to die!” I told myself that I would rather die than lose 2nd place. Now, of course, this is fundamentally untrue. If someone said, would you rather win then die or live a long, happy life with Trevor? I’d pick the latter for sure, and it annoys me when people have slogans like “victory or death” regarding a sporting event, because, really that’s ridiculous. BUT, those types of thoughts are really about fear, and about not fearing death; not fearing laying it all on the line. We all die sometime! Just go for it!
Arguably, I could have made different decisions during the run – like slowing down a lot more at the busy aid stations on the second loop to make sure I got more fluids – and I wouldn’t have ended the race so massively dehydrated and over-heated, but I did what I thought I needed to do to get into 2nd place, and stay there.
I read this quote the day before the race and it really resonated:
“At the beginning of the race, you light the candle. Your goals is to burn the candle all the way down until it begins to flicker. Then, just as you cross the finish line, take the risk of letting the candle burn out. It’s true – most runners don’t want to die during the race. The idea is to preserve nothing and sacrifice everything. That is what “flying” is all about. You have to leave the safety of the ground and take the risk of crashing”.
I flew, I took the risk of crashing and it got ugly, but I was really proud of myself for giving my all. I was totally unaware that I had crazy legs in the finish chute that almost “buckled like bambi”. I collapsed in the shade and got taken away on a stretcher but I felt bad for keeping everyone waiting so I rallied for the podium medal ceremony. I was not really ready. We had GIANT glassed of beer and I was so dizzy I had to concentrate hard on not toppling off the podium.
The Ironman crew – including Paula Newby-Fraser and Andrew Messick - were all there, and they we wonderful looking out for me. Giving me signals to make sure I was okay, and reassuring me that I didn’t need to feel bad when I got super emotional and apologized for making a big scene afterwards. In fact, Andrew helped take me to medical and when I was blathering on told me exactly what I needed to hear, and exactly what Paulo and Trevor would have said which was: “All due respect, but you were just second in the world, so shut the fuck up”. It was brilliant and caused me to smile and then laugh so hard that I got a pretty wicked full-diaphragm cramp which was highly unpleasant. Ha ha.
From there I got a couple of IVs and was quite happy to have my drug testing chaperone to visit with. She spoke great English, had been to Ontario before, and was a delightful person to have around. She definitely got full points for being super understanding and patient because she was stuck by my side for hours: through medical, searching for the VIP area to get my dry clothes bags, and all through the press conference before we could finally get to drug testing. She had to run to catch her train. The same lady that met me in tears on my first night in Austria was there for drug testing at the finish, and it was nice to come full-circle. She was lovely and so happy that my trip turned out well after rather inauspicious beginnings!
By then it was 6:30, I had to walk 2km to get my bike out of transition, and then ride 30min back to my place in Maishofen to shower. By then it was 7:30, and awards were at 8. Ha.
It’s funny, right? I was just 2nd in the WORLD CHAMPS, but life is life, and when your loved ones aren’t around to share it with, it’s a bit of a bummer, and keeps what really matters in perspective.
The next day I planned to meet with my squad mate Taylor Reid, who was also there alone, so we could go up to the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier. First, I went to go sign a poster for the nice people in the Maisofen tourist office who I met leaving awards. They took photos and gave me a lovely book of local photographs. The Big Time bike shop folks also came over to take a photo because they were stoked to find out who I was. I was happy to give them back my unused CO2 cartridges. Then I went to the Inn to settle my bill and although it was only 9 am, there were 3 older gentlemen with cauliflower noses sitting at the bar, smoking and drinking beer. They got all excited and started talking to me in German and pointing at the TV. I guess they watched the race the day before and recognized me. It was pretty funny! Warm fuzzies all around. It is nice to savour those little moments where people, outside the sport, appreciate that what you do is rather extraordinary.
My time in Austria ended with a wonderful trip, to what felt like the top of the world, where we met more awesome people who did the race and were out loving life. It’s pretty fun to be scrambling up a mountain top holding on to a cable at over 3000 m and meet some super friendly guys from Chile who follow you on Instagram and are super stoked to get a photo! We also met two American guys at the summit who were taking cool photos with a wind-up, old-school, super-wide-angle, film camera. They took some shots of us and let me play with the camera to take some of them. It was also fun to meet Canadians from Montreal who hiked up to spend the night at a cabin in the mountains… and it was especially hilarious to meet one douchey American guy who said that if I was hiking today, I clearly “didn’t try hard enough” in the race. Hahahahahahaha.
Taylor and I had coffee and cake, then hiked from the lowest gondola down. It took a wee bit longer that we expected, and had us a little freaked that we were totally going the wrong way at times, but was a glorious way to end the trip. Life is pretty spectacular!!
I couldn’t do any of this without my incredible sponsors namely: Saucony, Cervelo, First Endurance, The Island House Nassau, Enve Composites, Smith Optics, Aqua Sphere, Manitoba Harvest, Sports Stats, Power Tap, Cobb Cycling and Normatec.
And of course my wonderful friends, family, coach Paulo, and Trevor. Thank you all so much for all that you do!!