Well, after a long winter of training the triathlon season has finally begun again! First race of the season… Junior North American Championships in Huatulco, Mexico.
I went into this race with my sights set high. My training had been going better then ever and I knew that if I could put it all together I could be near the top of the podium for sure. The only thing that I was worried about going into the race was my swim. Last year I was very inconsistent in my swim and it was hit and miss whether or not I made the front pack. I knew that if I wanted to achieve my goals for the season I would have to consistently make the front pack.
My worries were for nothing! My swim felt amazing… probably the best it has ever felt in a race. I guess all of my hard work paid off. I came out of the water in second; right on the feet of the leader.
Unfortunately my race went downhill from there. I jumped onto my bike in the lead pack and started taking my pulls. I am normally one of the strongest cyclists in the field so I felt very confident about the cycling leg of the race despite the ridiculously hilly course. Part way into the second lap of the 2 lap bike course I started to have difficulties with my breathing. This really surprised me because I have not had any asthma problems since December. I cut wheat and dairy out of my diet and this seemed to have fixed my asthma.
Anyways, because of my asthma my legs were no longer getting enough oxygen and, consequently, the bike suddenly became a lot harder for me. I wasn’t getting dropped from the pack but I was no longer able to take my share of pulls. I spent the rest of the bike trying to get my breathing under control with no success. Now it was time to run.
The run was what I was most excited for coming into this race. Lately in training running has felt so good for me. Just last month I ran personal best on an indoor track without too much effort. The running leg of the race should have been my strongest had it not been for my asthma. Within the first 200m of the 5km race I already couldn’t breath. It was all I could do to think about wheezing my way to the finish line. I finished the race in 4th place. After I finished I was taken to the medical tent where they gave me my inhaler and a cold towel. It took me around 3 hours after I finished to get my breathing completely under control again.
I am very disappointed to have come all the way to Mexico only to be brought down by my asthma. This was, perhaps, the most difficult race I have ever done. I have never had asthma problems for the entire 5km run before let alone during the bike as well. Running 5km without being able to breath gave me cramps in legs, stomach and arms, hurt my chest and made me very dizzy and light headed. Also, it was very difficult for me to watch the leaders. They had very good races, there’s no doubt about that but I know that I can run as fast as them. I don’t know if I would have beaten them or not but I wish I could have had enough oxygen to try.
I was really confused as to why my asthma started acting up during this race when it hasn’t bothered me for months before. After the race I started analyzing what had happened with regards to the asthma. I became aware that the air quality was very poor. Furthermore, the vehicles here don’t filter there exhaust like they do in Canada. There was a motorcycle leading us during the bike who’s exhaust was spewing into our faces the whole time. I also found out the the weather forecast for the day of the race had been “smokey.” All of these things are very bad triggers for asthmatics.
So, what can I take away from this race?
1. My swim was very strong. This gives me confidence in my training and and my ability to make the front pack every race.
2. I can only control certain aspects of training and racing. Air quality is not something that I can control. To finish the race in 4th was what I was able to achieve given the uncontrollable aspects of the day.
Now I’m off to Sedona, Arizona for my first ever altitude training camp. I’m looking forward to 3 weeks of intense training. After the camp I go to Dallas, Texas for an Elite Development race where I’m planning on having a great race and putting down the super fast run split that I was unable to do this weekend.