Just like stepping into a crowded, non-airconditioned elevator, arriving in Mexico encapsulates you with an instant warm hug. The intimate touch of the steamy air, leaving wet kisses of humidity on your skin is only the ground floor, or in Spanish, the Planta baja of this multi-story journey to race the Age Group World Championship. Despite the warnings about extreme heat, I was confident I could do this if I pushed all the right buttons, systemically working through the elevation of the race.
All aboard for the ‘Swim’
Welcome to the underwater glass-elevator experience. Keep all hands within reach of other people’s toes and continue to move forward in an orderly fashion.
1st Floor – Wave to adoring fans (ok, my obliged family) as I strut along the pontoon plank, pick a random number, jump into the 29degC flawless turquoise water. Feel like a winner before even starting!
Straight to the Penthouse – Woah! We are on the fast ride to the first buoy, seemingly located on the top floor. The current made me feel like I was a super swimmer. Lucky I wasn’t a sperm as I surely would have made something in the Carribean sea pregnant, thinking I was the first to reach that buoy egg, in record time! Alas, all the other 40 to 44year red capped sperms were also there.
Falling to the Floor – Who pressed the down button? As we turned the buoy to battle the current, there were a number of passengers who alighted at this point, making more room but less drag. A little smile and wave to the scuba diver photographers reminded me it was not a good idea to stop my arms pushing forward.
Up to the 1st Floor – Hey, when it feels like you are carving a path in a jelly pond, you make vodka jelly shots, right?! So for the first time ever (yes, I am virginal at some things) I searched out the champagne style bubbles coming from another competitors feet, popped the cork in the elevator and drank up that experience.
2nd Floor – After losing that lovely intoxication of someone else’s bubbles I found it harder, but somewhat satisfying to be moving forward, gauging my progress by focusing on reaching various coral formations.
3rd Floor – I was slogging away, no bubbles to ease the feeling that I had somehow ended up taking the stairs instead of the elevator, but happy with my progress, especially when turning the last buoy and pressing the exit button to run (ok, waddle) the 500m path to transition.
Where am I? – Oh, that’s right…at the Age Group World Championships! I was thrilled to see my family and felt the giddy excitement of racing truly hit me.
Planta Baja – Transition and getting started on my bike was the usual experience, that feeling like getting into a lift and forgetting to press the floor button you want, so you stall for a while until finally movement kicks in.
Next stop, the ‘Bike’
1st Floor – A slow trip across the cobblestone style exit of the marina to the road was a little frustrating but we were all in this elevator together.
2nd Floor – I’m flying, I love it. I have that fluttery anti-gravity feeling you get when you move up in elevator too fast and your belly leaps to catch up.
Back to 1st Floor – Hmmm, a not so long lost friend, Seb the saddle sore, decides to join me for the ride. My best efforts of pulling at my tri suit on one side, then the other, rearranging my butt, my labia, even my thighs, tugging at the leg of the tri suit and even a firm push directly on Seb and he wouldn’t budge. It became apparent that I was trapped with him for the rest of the ride, so I tried to ignore him but just like a snuggly packed lift, there was no escaping the invasion of personal space!
2nd Floor– I was spotting little conquests ahead of me and would aim to get closer, I passed a few people, including a group of 5 women who were blatantly drafting.
3rd Floor – I needed to literally floor it for a little while, as the aforementioned drafters had tried to hook onto me. I despise the idea of cheating, and to cheat using me is out of the question.
4th Floor – At the turn around point, I was happy to have my average sitting at 37km/hr, I was also buoyed by seeing the drafters given time penalties as I passed in the opposite direction.
Back down to 3rd Floor – For some reason, my mind fell back into old day-dreaming habits and I was close to having an intimate affair with the road (falling off), twice! I nearly rode straight off the side, with my wheel acting like a bucking bronco, wobbling and skidding under the influence of the gravel edge. Some cowgirl skills kicked in where I counterbalanced myself with my left knee at a 90deg angle and my shoulder dipping forwards (picture a moto grandprix rider cornering at 200km/hr…well that’s how I thought I looked anyway), but mostly just willing myself not to kiss the pavement. For the next few kilometres I chastised myself and had to literally calm my shaking body down.
Up to 4th Floor – I clawed away at one final conquest from my age group, a Japanese competitor. I loved identifying the competitor countries and trying to pronounce their bum names…this lady was named ‘Matsumoto’, which I promptly nicknamed Matsu as I wished her well when I passed!
Time to exit the lift into transition – There was the instant relief from my mate sadist Seb and a feeling of satisfaction at ending my ride at my goal average pace of 35km/hr in a time of 1:08.15hr. While I may not have been on the fastest elevator, seeing how many bikes were already parked in transition indicated that I was definitely in the top third of the field. I was looking forward to attacking this run, so I was running towards the closing doors of the packed elevator and trying to squeeze my way into my goal of top 10 contention.
Exit here for the ‘Run’
Straight to 2nd Floor – The first 2km of the run were a little off my expected pace but still around 4.40min/km, so I was looking forward to skipping a few floors and getting to my destination a little faster.
3rd Floor – I had started to slow, without realising and my 3rd km was at 4.53min/km. The alarm bells were starting to sound, despite my reluctance to push the panic button. I was confused, I wasn’t breathing heavily, my legs didn’t feel overly fatigued, I was maintaining an even pace, I just didn’t have that kick I needed to move to the next floor up. In fact, as my mate Matsumato overtook me at lightning speed (she ended up coming 8th), I felt like someone had overloaded this elevator and it was in ‘limp home’ mode!
Down to 2nd Floor – Every aid station consisted of the same routine, calling for the ice! I felt like a fashionista, setting the trend of the ‘lumpy look’ trisuit as I shoved ice cubes into my cleavage and they promptly relocated to various crevices (which at one point caused quite a titillating feeling as it slipped directly to my crutch). No new trend would be complete without jewellery, so I also used the ice cubes as rings, aka cheezel style decoration, running with sparkling molecules of H2O dripping from my fingers.
Back to Planta Baja – An unwelcome relative of Seb the saddle sore, Bobby the blister came to camp on the inside of my foot! I mistakenly thought he was a rock stuck in my shoe and employed years of drunken disco moves to wriggle him out, flick it with my finger and hop/kick/shake as I was still running, obviously without success, but I’m positive I invented some new moves for the dance floor!
Still on the Ground Floor – I played dodgems a number of times with the race carnage of competitors, literally hitting the ground. I was truly amazed at how people had minds strong enough to push their bodies that far (As seen with the whole Brownlee brother incident that occurred later that day…in a temperature that had dropped 2 or 3 degrees by then).
On the Travelator – Wow, this 33 degC heat certainly felt, um, hot. Very hot. With not one stitch of shade, my head had turned into an induction cooker and my skin was an inferno. While there was over 70pc humidity, I never once felt sweat on my body, it just felt like I was a potato being baked, with my insides getting mushy and my skin about to burst with heat.
Usually, when seeing my family during a race or passing particularly fervent supporters I tend to ‘lift’ my effort a little, but as much as I yelled, threatened and coaxed myself to run faster, I was well and truly stuck on the even-paced travelator, finally stepping off it at the 10.13km mark in 50:22min. I was excited and relieved to finish the race but if I’m completely honest, I was disappointed with myself. My aim was a top 10 finish, and after stalking times and training hard to be in the ball park of those sorts of times, I just wasn’t able to reach the penthouse on the day. After every race, when I’m showered, sitting in air-conditioned comfort, sipping cocktails I go through the ‘what-ifs’ and ridiculously believe I didn’t try hard enough. The truth is, I generally think that I am better than what I actually am (haha, yep narcissist to the bone) and while this can lead to temporary disappointment, it mostly motivates me to strive for improvement. I guess a time of 2:28.32hr and finishing 27th out of 70 in my AG isn’t that bad for my first attempt at the World Age Group Championships.
While, I would love to be enjoying the view from the top, my position on the Planta Baja means that the only way is up! Mexico has certainly reignited my wanderlust and I will be back, probably more for the daiquiris and taco’s than a race, but you never know! Always trying my personal best.