“If there is no struggle, there is no progress” Frederick Douglass
I flew out of Iceland on Thursday the 27th July, 4 days post-race. It was a 2-3 hour flight to Copenhagen and then a 1hour flight on a prop plane to Gdansk. I hired a car at Gdansk airport and it was about a half an hour drive to Gdynia. I loved Poland straight away. Gdynia is a fantastic city. It has a great shopping strip, beach with restaurants and bars along the water, beautiful parks, its clean and pretty and has all the amenities you could possibly need. It’s the kind of place that would be easy to live in and I had a great time just going about my training and being able to explore a new city in a new country while swimming, biking and running.
The weather was unseasonably warm while I was there. There were a couple of days in the high 30’s but mostly it was around 25 degrees. I didn’t realise how seriously they take their triathlon in Poland, nor had I looked into how big the race was having being preoccupied with Iceland. There were over 2,500 registered to race and everything meticulously organized and well run. There were 9 females on the pro start list and over 25 on the male side. The pro briefing on the Saturday went for an hour with about 60 odd people in the room including TV cameras etc. And then there was a “pro parade” down at the finish line where they called us out one by one and there were hundreds of people there in the stands clapping and cheering. I met a few other pros prior to this and we shared stories. Everyone was so positive, supportive and welcoming I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
The one downside was bike racking was between 5pm-8pm! So Euro! Haha. By the time we finished the parade it was around 5.30pm so I racked my bike at about 6pm then did a transition walk through 3 times. I didn’t do this in Iceland, I’m so used to having someone to “follow” in AG racing! So, lesson learnt. This time, I studied the course inside out and back the front and literally walked both transitions numerous times.
I was feeling much better physically and mentally about this race than I had in Iceland and was excited for race day.
It was a later start than usual with the pro males going off at 8am then the pro females at 8.02 and the age group athletes at 8.10am. I got there really early got myself organized and got in the water for a good 10-minute swim warm up.
The swim was in the sheltered area of the beach/bay and was a wetsuit swim. It was pretty straight forward rectangle shaped course. We have worked really hard on my swimming this year particularly when I was injured and unable to ride or run for 4-5 months and I really feel like it’s starting to pay dividends now. I managed to stay with the two leaders until about half way and then fell off the back with 4 other girls. The last 3-400m was quite choppy but nothing serious and I felt pretty good in the water. The two leaders were out about 60-90 seconds before everyone else then 6 of us all came out of the water within 30-60 seconds of one another. I was stoked to be out in that position.
There were 4-5 of us within a minute or so exiting the water and running in then out of the change tent. This was probably one of my best transitions yet in comparison to my competitors. In and out in 2 mins and only 20 seconds slower than the leaders of the day and I actually had a faster T1 time than some of the girls! First time for everything!
The first 10km or so was quite technical, lots of cobblestones and turns (my favourite thing! Haha) with great crowd support as you rode out of town. I had ridden sections of the course 3-4 times in my training during the week so I knew it well and felt comfortable and confident straight away. The first 15km or so was flat then you hit the outskirts of Gdynia and the undulating sections. This is the kind of course I feel I am very suited too. There is a 50km loop in the middle that is a mixture of some punchy hills and rolling undulations. Nothing difficult at all but enough to slow you down. I didn’t see a soul. I focused on my nutrition and fluid intake and basically pushing as hard as I could.
The plan was just to go as hard as I could on in the swim and on the bike in this race to see how close I could stay to my competitors then see what we had left on the run. I was feeling strong and in control and kept thinking I must be catching someone soon knowing we had all been so close in T1. Finally, at about the 40km mark I spotted someone! I was catching one of the female pros ahead of me. I passed her at about the 45km mark and then some of the stronger male age groupers started to pass sporadically at about the 50km mark. I turned off the hilly loop section which meant there was 20km to go.
It got quite windy for 10km or so but I kept laughing to myself thinking it was nothing compared to Iceland a fortnight prior! I had a giggle to myself after the race when I spoke to a few other athletes who were asking how I found the “crazy winds”. 10km of the last 20 was fast and flat and then the last 10km or so was technical again through the city. I felt like my bike was going to fall to pieces riding at 35km/h over cobblestones! I knew I was coming into T2 with 2-3 girls behind me, and I also knew there were 2-3 girls only a couple of minutes ahead of me so felt pretty happy that I had executed the race so far to plan.
As soon as I dismounted I had a TV camera crew right in my face! They ran with me to the bike racks then chased me into the change tent and had the camera pointing right at my feet! If that doesn’t pressure you to have a good T2 I don’t know what will! They were televising the race live on local TV and everyone was going berserk because aside from the first 2-3 girls the female pro race at that point was quite close. It was awesome fun. Thankfully I didn’t make a dill of myself and ran out of there without incident.
I didn’t feel too bad running but I also knew it was going to be a huge challenge to run well off that swim and bike. The run course is tougher – its 3 x 7km loops and the first 2km of each loop is a gradual incline about 2-3%. Straight out of T2 and heart rate straight up! It’s a rectangular shaped run with the first two sides uphill, then a short side slightly downhill and the other long side flat. Challenging elevation aside it’s a great course! It goes along the main city street which was lined with spectators either side and then along the beach and park. Stunning. My pace was ok for the first lap but I was battling. I got passed by the 3 girls I was ahead of within the first 10km. It was warm, about 25 degrees so I just focused on keeping cool at aid stations and pushing as well as I could. I was willing that last lap to come around, I was hurting badly and the uphill on that last loop was a killer! The crowd support was incredible everyone was calling out and cheering right up until the finish line.
I spent about an hour in the recovery area and chatted to a couple of the other pro women and men. What surprised me most was no one even cared where you finished or what your time was. Everyone was so friendly and it was really cool to chat about what we liked or didn’t like about the course or how we felt about our race. There were lots of smiles, support and comradery.
I drove home and had a shower and got changed and sat down to think about how I felt. I hadn’t even looked at my times or anything up until then. Of course, it’s a pain in the backside coming last. It doesn’t sit well with me at all and it’s hard not to get down in the dumps about it for a moment. But I could either choose to be grumpy about it and fragile and upset or I could choose to be motivated by it. I chose the latter.
I spoke to my coach on the phone for half an hour or so and we talked about the positives and the negatives. I was so fired up that night to get home and get back into training and improve. I have a huge fire in the belly. To race pro you just need to be another level of “strong” and I have every intention of getting a whole lot stronger before my next race.
All in all, I left Gdynia a pretty happy girl. I had just completed my first 2 pro races 3 years after starting the sport, I got my butt kicked and learned very quickly what I need to do to be more competitive going forward, I had had used the time away to really think about what I wanted for my future in this sport and how I was going to achieve my goals, and, I had just travelled and spent time in 2 beautiful countries on my own.
I left in a very positive head space and welcomed the couple of weeks of recovery that were coming my way before I knuckled down again and got to work.
You can view the official 2017 race video HERE
Course & Host Location Overview
Simple course to navigate, good water temp, wetsuit swim, beach start, minimal swell and chop
A great mixture of some fast-flat sections at the beginning and end with some challenging hills and undulations in the middle. I would say this is a good course for strong bikers. I think it was around 800m elevation gain
Just to clarify here I would give this a 4/10 in terms of the suitability of the course to me as a runner but it’s a 9 if I’m being objective. It’s definitely a runner’s course with the incline on each loop. The crowd support and course layout is phenomenal. There were aid stations with music pumping! According to the athlete guide 177m elevation gain
Perfectly laid out and easy to navigate. Carpeted. Lots of space. Short and easy
Awesome! Amazing crowd support the entire race, Particularly the run!
Pretty much perfect weather for racing and for enjoying in the lead up to the race. Minimal wind. Mid 20’s most of the week.
Host Location – Gdynia 9/10
Easy to get around, excellent shopping strip, numerous shopping plazas, 3-4 indoor pools in the vicinity. Good riding out on course, lots of pretty places to run. SO CHEAP!! Everything was so cheap. Car hire, groceries, accommodation. My air BNB apartment was only $800 for 10 nights and groceries for 4-5 days only about $70! Clean, safe, pretty place.