Because I’ve had a below average season so far, I decided to skip out on WTS Stockholm and race ITU Karlovy Vary, CZE (a lower level European cup) to get my feet back under me and gain some confidence leading into the long end of my season. I was able to travel with one of my squad mates, Vendula Frintova, who is from the Czech Republic which made for a much better trip. Despite the positives leading up to the race, I ended up coming home with another notch in my negative experience belt.
On Friday when we got to Karlovy Vary I ended up getting a sore throat and my sinuses were all clogged up. I didn’t think too much of it and went on with my normal pre-race preparations. On Saturday I ended up sleeping almost the entire day and was questioning if I was going to even race the next day. As the day went on I was feeling slightly better so I figured I would make the call the next day. On Sunday I woke up and was still pretty sick, but the same progression that happened on Saturday repeated itself and luckily my race wasn’t until 3pm so I felt better and better leading up to the race start.
When we lined up on the pontoon the rain started to fall, and at this point the water was well below non-wetsuit temperature but the call had been made and we were doing a non-wetsuit swim. To add to the cold water temperature, the air decided to cool off to a nice 12c/53f degrees with the wind picking up quite nicely – Not the most ideal race conditions.
The race course is really unique and challenging when the weather is perfect, so with the worst conditions possible (besides snow) this race was going to be extremely tough. The course has a three lap swim, then a 5k cycle from the lake to the town center; Once you get into town, you do seven very technical and hilly (21% hill at one point) bike laps. When you come into T2 you have to run down stairs with your bike and then on the run there are also more stairs, hills, and cobbles you have to navigate.
From the dive I felt pretty beat, and I couldn’t really get going because of how cold it was, but I still had a solid swim and a gap of about 15 seconds out of the water. Once onto the bike I rode strong but comfortable. My goal was to ride solo all the way to the town center and hopefully the chasing athletes would shed some slower riders and by the time they bridged up to me we would have a strong group to work with. I was taking every turn extremely cautious because even though the rain was falling, it wasn’t pouring, it was just enough to get all the oil on the streets to come up to tire level. I made it to the town center and then about 75% through the first lap of the course before a chase group of about six caught me. Once they did I was like “Alright let’s go”. An Australian pulled through, then a German, then no one, so I filled the gap and went back to the front. At this point we were going down a nice steep decent with a 180 turn at the bottom. As the speed picked up I knew I was going to have to start braking much earlier than normal and so I yelled to the group “watch!” and gave them the slowdown signal with my hand. Right after that I started to brake and nothing was happening.
There was a combination of things that were making this situation worse and worse. The first was that it was so cold I couldn’t feel my hands (I wasn’t even able to even shift into my big ring on the descent), and the second was that with all the rain my brake pads weren’t gripping on my race wheels at all. So coming into the turn I was squeezing my brakes as hard as I could but not slowing down. I tried to make the turn but it was going to be impossible. I hit the ground hard and slid into the barrier. I tried to stand up and get back on my bike but I couldn’t stand up because of my hip was pretty destroyed. Day over. Luckily I didn’t break anything or crash anyone else out, but quite a few other people crashed as well and came away with some broken bones. The day was chaos. Only 39 men out of the 75 on the start list finished the race. Guys were crashing on every corner (even a couple guys crashed on the corner that is only 500m out of transition, and guys were falling on the run course as well!).
Being sick and crashing is a pretty negative experience, but the positive I will try to take from this race is that it will make most other races much easier mentally and physically.