Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Well things are very different since my last update..........now both my legs work!

Where do I start? How about location? For the last ten weeks I have been based in Aix les Bains, France with the Australian Institute of Sport Triathlon Squad. Each year we base ourselves here for training and our assault on the European races. I have been coming here since 2004 and every time I come back, I fall more in love with the place, especially the riding. Coming from Brisbane, I am used to having to head out early in the morning to beat the commuters, never being far from a set of traffic lights, and unfortunately my tongue is always at the ready to respond to ignorant and crazy motorists. In Aix les Bains, however, I have not encountered one set of traffic lights, can ride anytime of the day and am always amazed at the consideration of the French drivers. As well, it is almost impossible to find words to describe the majesty of the countryside and variety of terrain that is available for riding.

Annecy with my cousin, Jessica
Aix les Bains is a small town in the Haute Savoie region of the French Alps. It is situated on Lac du Bourget, the largest lake in France, and is about 40km from the picturesque town of Annecy. We have plenty of flattish loops to choose from and no shortage of climbs. Col du Grand Colombier is one of the climbs in the area where we punish ourselves. I have a love-hate relationship with this mountain. I would have to say though, that the scales generally tip to love because I know how strong it makes me, and the view from the top is simply amazing. Looking out in one direction, you can see Mont Blanc, another Geneva, and in yet another, Lac du Bourget stretching out towards Alpe du Huez. My favourite ride, however, would have to be 'The Lap of the Lake'. This ride is about 60 km long and as the name suggests, the road follows the shores of Lac du Bourget. One section is a climb of Col du Chat, a ten kilometre climb with an average gradient of ten degrees. This is the only time where we are no more than twenty metres from the water’s edge. Col du Chat rises directly up from the lake and there is no road along the water. The road hugs the cliff face as it climbs and I count myself lucky, that I haven't crashed, as the view is completely distracting! 

AIS Triathlon Group Above Lac du Bouget
Our apartments in Aix les Bains are situated about hundred metres from a great 50 metre outdoor pool. We have managed to secure bookings with the pool and are thus saved from sharing the pool with public swimmers avoiding the awkward moments of conflict when a slow swimmer hops in the fast lane and wants to swim breastroke. Running in Aix is probably not ideal for me, as I prefer soft trails, but managing to find a location to train that is perfect for all three disciplines is perhaps the Holy Grail.

Riding near Aix with Josie
So now that you know where I am and where I train, I should probably get to the purpose of my stay in France. Whilst I tend to think of my life as a holiday and it is compared to the office in a law firm I shall one day occupy when I finish my studies, I am in fact here to race. In my last update, I was injured. I had a complicated shin injury that kept me from running for ten weeks and sidelined me from racing the first half of the season. Not having raced since Noosa in November of 2009, the Hamburg World Championship Series race was my big comeback. Naturally I was apprehensive about this race, but I was also very excited. Put simply, I love racing. I knew that my swimming and riding form was as good as they had ever been, but I was very unsure about my run form. I finished 16th and was more than happy with this result. I led out of the swim with fellow Aussie and World Number One, Emma Moffatt, before hitting the technical bike leg through the centre of Hamburg. As I knew my running was not strong, after only having run for about a month, my plan was to push the bike pace to ensure when we got to the run, the race was down to as few people as possible out of the 65 starters. I would have ideally liked a small breakaway but none of the other girls seemed to want to do much work on the bike and were content to sit and wait for a running race. It didn't help that the biggest run threat, Emma Snowsill, had had a poor swim and was trailing by about three minutes so the urgency to keep the pace up wasn't there. When we hit the run, there was a lead pack of about twenty-five girls including all with the major players. I surprised myself with my run form and was pleased I could hold on for 16th place.

Hamburg WCS Triathlon with Moffy
The London leg of the Series was only six days after Hamburg. The race followed a very similar pattern to Hamburg. I finished 21st and didn't feel quite as comfortable on the run as I had the previous weekend. A six day turn around between races, without much of a base behind me, let alone race fitness, was always going to be a tough ask. Again, I was just happy to be back there lining up with the world's best. It is not all that often you get to swim, ride and run around Hyde Park, especially in a crazy pink leopard print race suit.......maybe that part I wasn't super happy about!

London WCS Triathlon
After London, we had three weeks of training until the Kitzbuhel leg of the Series. Kitzbuhel, Austria is one of the most picturesque towns I have ever visited. Renowned as one of the top locations for downhill skiing in the world, it is just as beautiful in summer. The hills really are 'Alive with the Sound of Music'. Unfortunately, I came down with a sinus infection a few days before this race. Even though I was on antibiotics, I just couldn't get healthy in time for the race. I was actually undecided about whether I would race as I didn't want to set myself back for The Grand Final in Budapest; however, I decided to race as it is a fun course, a chance to get out of Aix les Bains for the weekend, and I knew that if I put in a strong bike leg I could help my teammate and close friend, Emma Moffatt, maintain the lead in the Series rankings. Whilst the race hurt from start to finish and it was one of those days you wish you weren't out there, I again managed to ride well and help Moffy maintain her World Number One ranking. On downloading my data from the SRM, I surprised myself with my power output. I had averaged 230 watts for a bit over an hour. Considering this work effort and my poor health, at least I knew why the run wasn't too pretty. Looking back on these races, I am content but not satisfied. I am hungry for better results and excited that even after my layoff with injury I am still finishing in the top third of the field. What could I do if I put together a good year of consistent training?

It is now two weeks away from the World Championship Series Final in Budapest. Training is going well and I can feel some momentum building. My time in a France has been great and I'm certainly going to miss the riding. In my opinion, there really is nowhere better to ride in the world. Each year when my time in Aix les Bains comes to an end, I'm sad to be going but at the same time ready to move on. After all, there is a limit to the amount of garlic snails, French TV, visits to Le Pannier and the 'no shoes on pool deck' rule, that I can take!

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