Thursday, September 8, 2011

Recovery, Training, Opening Ceremonies

Today is the day after the race. I'm kind of sore, but not any worse than I was yesterday, so I'm pretty good. There was a team ride early this morning. A lot of the athletes who competed yesterday did not show up, oping instead to sleep in and rest/recover. I figured it would be a good flush out ride. I was already awake, considering my brother jumped on me at 3 and again at 6. He woke me up my playing with my Garmin. The beeps of the buttons and bezel woke me up.

The ride started off poorly. We had our accreditation and passports to get through security at the race site. They let the first 20 athletes through, the shut the gates our faces (including me) almost causing several riders to crash. We tried explaining out situation to them, saying we were a team, and that we were just going to ride the course in order to get a feel for what it was like. The didn't speak English, but I think they tried to say there were too many riders already out there. Luckily, Joyce - our Team Manager - was there. She speaks Mandarin, and was able to talk them into letting us in. By that time, the first group of athletes was already gone, but we weren't sure where they went. I led the riders around the course, which was even more picturesque than normal. The rain had cleared much of the particulate out of the air, allowing us to see much further than ever before. While yesterday, you couldn't see the mountain across the reservoir  due to the smog, today you could see mountains behind mountains, behind the mountain across the reservoir. It was beautiful.

Unfortunately, on the other side of the course, there was yet another barricade. After several minutes of pretesting, the soldiers decided to let three paratriathletes through (two used hand cycles, the other had only one leg). No amount of arguing from Joyce would change their minds. Nearly 100 of us (from many different countries) had to turn around and go back. A car, a but, and an ITU Official all got turned around, two. Yesterday, the team went for a ride while I was racing. The same thing happened to them .When they went back to the start, they got rejected there too, and had to find a side road that took them through a Chinese market, downtown, and around the city to get back to their hotel. We decided to take the same road today, instead of getting turned around at the barricade again. Unfortunately, the riders forget how to get back (apparently, it's two simple left turns). We got terrible lost, switched back twice, got about 20km (12.5 miles) off target, and finally made it back, more than an hours after we expected to be back.

We also went for an easy run, scouting out the course and figuring out the flow of transition from swimming to biking, and biking to running. This time, we got through security and they let us on the course. Earlier, they said they were protecting it for the athletes. We are the athletes. They also said it was blocked off because the elite (pro) competitors were using the course. The segment we were on was not even part of the elite course. Other than those slight mishaps, it was all good. To complete the training for the day, we had a team swim in the reservoir. I really focused on my technique during the swim, trying to emulate the better swimmers around me. I really felt an improvement, although my left arm was hurting after. The last 200m of the swim was kind of unclear. The course was not laid out properly. To make things worse, it was full of weeds (in that section only) and was extremely murky. It was so dark, that if you stood on the top step to climb out of the reservoir, with your foot just barely under the surface of the water, you could not see it at all. The muddy water was so thick, you could not see your hand right in front of your face. If any water gets in your mouth, don't swallow.

After the swim, I happened to see Paula Findlay (and I got a picture!) and someone who looked an awful lot like Alistair Brownlee. Paula is Canada's top female triathlete, currently number 1 in the world (although she's #3 in ITU Series points this year). Alistair and his younger brother Jonathan, from Great Britain, are currently ranked numbers 1 and 2 in the world. They have been crushing the series this year, and are the favourites for the race this weekend. Both Paula and the Brownlee (if it even was one of them) were running, as I was walking back to the hotel.

After lunch, we had a meet'n'greet with the entire age group team. I had though there were a lot of riders out there today, but Team Canada filled an entire banquet hall. There are hundreds of us, and this team is apparently much smaller than previous years. The food sucked, we took a good team picture (after all, I was in it), and boarded the bus for the Opening Ceremonies. After a long bus ride (it was only 4 miles, but it took forever due to traffic) we got there. All the other teams were there with their cheerers (eg my parents and brother). We were all given small Canadian flags, and a few pins were passed out. I was given a massive 6-foot flag to carry (yeah!). We marched through the streets of Beijing (specifically the suburb of Chamgping) waving at all the people lining the streets. Cars on the road were locked bumper to bumper. Some seemed thrilled to be locked in a traffic jam next to a parade (they waved, smiles, and took pictures). Others looked like they just wanted to get home, but most smiled at us waving at them. It was a blast representing Team Canada, but that was just the beginning.

We entered an indoor stadium, where the walls were lines with ITU triathlon posters. There was a large circle of all the flags of the countries competing, hung from the roof. At the front, there was a stage, upon which sat several large screens. Mostly they just flashed trippy colours, but accasionally they displayed text (of whatever the speaker was saying, in another language) or video. There was a Chinese rock band playing music very loudly. After we all sat down (and Canada started the Wave), the Ceremonies started with an introduction from the Deputy Secretary General of Beijing. Several other keynote speakers talked, including the President of the ITU (International Triathlon Union; equivalent to the NBA, NHL, FINA, or FIFA), some other officials in Beijing (the Mayor?) and the winners of the triathlon at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games: Emma Snowsill (I met her!) and Jan Frodeno (beat Simon Whitfield in the last 100 metres). Some hosts introduced a few performances (mostly dance) and a band took the stage, playing several songs. During one of them, I saw the President of the ITU dancing. The Mayor of Beijing joined her and all the photographers stopped taking pictures of the band and started taking pictures of them. I got a few (blurry) shots, too; Thy were the only blurry ones, I swear! The band concluded with "I will Survive," the only song I recognized since coming to Beijing. The music at the venue is terrible. Just saying. Okay, it isn't that bad, but it definitely isn't "pump up" music for before the race, and it definitely isn't dubstep. (Imagine how much better the day would seem if they cranked nonstop DUBSTEP!!!)

After the Opening Ceremonies was supposed to be a Pasta Party - I was actually excited about it! It turned out to be right in the stadium. You turned your food voucher in for a bag, containing a cardboard box (labelled "Special Food") full of food. By the time I got there, they were out of pasta. I was about to start rage-ing, but several other athletes did not want theirs, so I got three helpings of pasta. It was quite good, especially compared to the "Special Food" in the box. (It consisted of milk that tasted like cream, a rock hard Chinese biscuit, a cold "chicken" leg, and some fruit. Everything was vacuum wrapped, making it nearly impossible to open without sciccors, and a sign said it all expired at 9:00, a mere hour after it was given to me.) I ate the pasta, then got some more stuff back at the hotel.

During the Ceremonies, they raised three flags: the China flag, the ITU logo on a flag, and the Dextro Energy Triathlon 2011 ITU World Championships Grand Final Beijing logo on a flag (yes, that's a mouthful). The same security guard from yesterday found me, and started talking to me again. We had a lovely conversation that seemed way too awkward. He is really a very nice person, though.All in all, it was a very full and eventful day, but was lots of fun. Tomorrow, I'm relatively free, so hopefully I'll have time to clean my bike, finish some homework, and work on my swimming some more.There, I said it. Now you have to hold me to that. Damn accountability, how I hate thee.Anyway, have a good night, world!

7th at the Beijing 2011 ITU Aquathlon World Championships

Today was the Aquathlon. It was an event that I signed up for in addition to the triathlon I'll be doing on the weekend. It consists of a 2.5km run, a 1km swim, and another 2.5km run. I was excited to be competing in my first World Championships race, but my body wasn't. I woke up feeling tired and sore. What? I thought I had a decent sleep last night, and felt great after the workouts two days ago. The training yesterday was pretty easy (almost a warm up for today), so who am I sore?

After breakfast (which didn't seem nearly as appetizing as previous days), I took the early bus up to the venue with a bunch of athletes from other countries. I met "Bullet" Bales (not Bates); nobody knows his real name. I also met an ultramarathoner (he does 100+ mile runs) and a couple of Brits, wearing uniforms for Hungary. Getting on the early bus meant that we had more than two hours to kill before the race started. Some of the older athletes had three or more hours. Unfortunately, the only other option was the late bus, which was supposed to pick us up at my hotel at the time my race was to go off. So I got there early.. It's a good thing too, because no one seemed to know where we were supposed to go or what we were supposed to do. I eventually found an official, and he got things sorted out.

It was really exciting to be on the course where Simon Whitfield won the Silver medal in 2008. I was so excited, I felt like I was going to wet myself! It didn't help that Chinese people don't use (or stock their bathrooms with) toilet paper, so I stayed away from those.

Aquathlons are tricky, because you don't really know what to do with your equipment. You could leave it all at the transition zone, but would end up wasting precious seconds putting it on. In a race this short, those few seconds can make all the difference. Some athletes ever had two pairs of shoes: one for the first run - which they could quickly kick off, without worrying about the tongue position - and another already laid out, neatly arranged, ready to be slipped on in a hurry. I only had one pair of shoes, so that option was out, but I elected to carry my goggles and swim cap with me for the first run. I learned this trick from a fellow teammate, who had won the Aquathlon at the World Championships in the past. This would be his 11th World Championships, and 24th World Championship race, so I figured he knew what he was doing.

After the gun went off, the entire field surged ahead. I am a good runner, but not the best sprinter, so this was to be expected. The course flew by, and before I knew it, we were heading back into the grandstands, and I was in the lead pack, right behind Jason (the guy who carries his goggles). Everyone seemed to be slowing down, and I felt good, so I kept pushing the pace. I put my goggles and swim cap on rolling through transition, and entered the water fourth overall! My run was third fastest in my age group (16-19), only a few seconds off of the leader, and I made up a lot of that by not having to stop in transition. I rand down the ramp, dove into the water, and began the swim.

I knew swimming was my weakness, so I tried to keep my lead for as long as possible, perhaps drafting off of someones feet. A lot of people wanted to go easier in the run, so it did not shock the body as much at the start of the swim (where the heart rate is generally much lower). Unfortunately, this got me, too. My arms immediately started aching, and Jason passed me just after rounding the first buoy. Not used to swimming after running, it definitely took a toll on my body. My legs felt weird after running, so I didn't know how hard to kick (would it tire them out too much?), I swam steadily for the first half of the swim, and picked it up a bit on the second half, when I knew I wouldn't die. Unfortunately, my goggles fogged up enough that I could no longer see the buoy, so I had to pause to clean them. I thought I was on course, but the rest of the swimmers appeared to be 20 metres (yards) to my right. I finished the swim, exiting the water in about the 30th position.

Coming through transition, I felt terrible, knowing my swim was bad. I had a lot of ground to make up. There was one Brazilian athlete just ahead of me coming out of transition. I took one look at him, thinking "Oh, my gosh, you're so dead," and flew by him. Although I felt like I was flying, my pace was slightly slower than my first run. Everybody slowed down for the second run; some by less than a minute, others by several minutes. My time was about 30 seconds slower.I passed several athletes on the run, pickling them off one by one. I noticed that I was not too far behind Jason (not nearly as far as I thought) and that encouraged my to go even faster. Coming back into the stadium, I felt like I wanted to puke. The finish line was in sight, but you had to run about 5 or 600 metres (1/3 mile) down the straight in front of the grandstand, before turning 180 degrees and running another 200m towards the finish line. That was the longest half mile of my life. I passed a few people, and almost caught another group of them. One Australian man was further ahead. I got so close to catching him, but he sped up and I was spent. I finished with a time just over 35 minutes. What sucks was that the guy who won my age group swam more than 3 minutes faster than me, but beat my time by a little over 2 minutes. This raelly motivated me to work on my swimming as much as possible before the triathlon on Sunday.

After the race, I had no idea what place I came in. I cheered on the other Canadian athletes as the crossed the line, and congratulated my opponents.I later learned that my second run split - the fastest in my age group - was one of the fastest times overall. Only one of the elite (professional) men beat it, by only 5 seconds!

While we were waiting for the Award Ceremony, one of the security officers came over and had a conversation with me. He, like all of the locals, was really interested in my younger brother. They were all swooning him, giving him lots of attention. I guess the cop must have been really bored to have been hanging out with me. We talked a bit, I finally got some food, watched the awards, and went home. Two Canadians came third in their age groups (one of them was borrowing my *lucky* goggles), and another came in second. Congratulations to all of them! Apparently, we were supposed to get a Certificate after completing the race, but I didn't find out about it until later. Oh, well.

On the way back from the race, I met a few athletes from Great Britain who had won medals today. The girl came third in her age group, while the guy won the Elite race.The team made them walk back to their hotel! Richard Stannard, the Elite winner, is a veteran in the sport of triathlon, having competed for a very long time. Recently, he had taken time off due to some pretty serious injuries, and is now making his comeback to the sport. He was talking about his goal of qualifying to get a spot on the British team for the 2012 Olympics in London. It is such a difficult task, because the British team is very strong. It contains athletes like the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonathan, who are ripping up the ITU Series races and are currently ranked numbers 1 and 2 in the world. They lead a pack of other great athletes, including the likes of Tim Don, and others who Stannard has to beat if he wants to ensure himself a spot on the team. How great would it be to compete in the Olympics at home? I admire Stannard's courage, and wish him the best of luck in his endeavors.

We tried to go to Pizza Hut for dinner (I heard you can get a massive pizza for $8), and asked the volunteers how to get there. They took us there personally, only it wasn't Pizza Hut. It was a small restaurant called Origu's. It was raining pretty hard, so we decided not to walk around looking for another restaurant, and went inside. It was a buffet (they had pizza!) and was surprisingly good, especially considering it was only $8 per person. They had a mix of Chinese and American cuisine, including duck! The ice cream was absolutely freezing. Like -40 freezing. Like one-bite-and-you-get-brain-freeze freezing. But it was ice cream. And it was good. And I am tired. And sore. Good night! I'm 7th in the World!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Team Canada!!! Check out the Aquathlon

Today, my brother didn't wake me up early. Maybe he did, but I fell back asleep and forgot about it. I was really tired, but so was everybody else, apparently. Must be something we ate.

We went on a team ride after breakfast. I expected 10 people to show up, maybe a dozen, based on the amount of people at breakfast (significantly more than yesterday). There were 60 (ish). The diversity of the team is amazing. I met people who were on the same flight as me from Toronto, as well as people from all over the country. East coast, west coast, way up north, and even farther south. They were young and old (actually, I was the youngest), fat and thin (okay, maybe not so fat) and of all different skill levels. There are also a number of paratriathletes. I met one man with one leg. It's inspiring to see them overcoming their disadvantages and working hared to achieve what they have done. The reigning Paratriathlon World Champion is my teammate. And it's official: the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will include Paratriathlon as an official sport.
For many of the athletes, this is their first World Championship as well. I met one guy (kind of a team leader) who has been to eleven World Championships. His birthday just happens to be on the same day as mine (Happy Belated Birthday, Jason!).

We rode the course as a group, then came back after for a group swim. The Swim Course Familiarization went well, although the waster is very murky and has a funny taste (don't swallow). The motorboat fumes were actually a relief. Apparently, it's better than the World Championships last year, in Budapest, where the water was so bad, you couldn't see your hand in front of your face.On the positive side, it is very warm (not wetsuits allowed) and very flat. Unlike all of the races I did this year, there is not a wave in sight. It will be a very fast swim this year.

When we got there, there was a ton of security. We had to have our passes, saying we are athletes, and had to go through metal detectors. There are tons of people from the army; you can even see groups of them up in the hills.Preparations are well underway. There is blue everywhere with Beijing posters, ads, ITU logos and World Championships banners everywhere. It felt really cool to be a part of it. Standing there, where all the magic happened in 2008, it really hit home what was happening: it's on. Some guy asked me to sign an enormous flag/banner (eventually all the other athletes did, too) and I got interviewed with a teammate for the Beijing Newspaper. I don't know if I'll actually appear in an article (the intern didn't take any notes or pictures) or if I'll even be able to read it, but it felt great being treated like a celebrity. It's almost surreal: I just turned 18, and I'm already doing interviews and giving out autographs.

After, we went back, and I had lunch (very spicy noodles), a nap (finally), and went to the Aquathlon meeting. An aquathlon is like a triathlon, but the format is slightly different. It consists of a 2,5km run, 1km swim, then another 2.5km run, back-to-back-to-back. During registration for the Worlds, I signed up for the Aquathlon, since it was only $12, and would serve as a good warm-up for the race on the 11th. Tomorrow mornnig (tonight at 11:00 PM for you people at home), I will be participating in the 2011 World Championships for Aquathlon!

I'm not sure if there is live coverage of the race, but there might be something (maybe a finish line feed) at either or That's at 11:00 tonight, folks.

After the meeting, we went back to the Auspicious for dinner again (it's just that good). We mixed it up a bit, getting some new dishes (noodles to carboload before the race) and some old one (the amazing duck). In my opinion, it was even better than last night, and for even less (less than $12). These days, you can't even get a decent meal at McDonald's for that price!

The air quality was significantly lower today. My mom and brother both had to take their puffers. IT was so hazy and smoggy that you could look directly at the sun. Yesterday, the moon looked brown from all the particulate in the air. Today, you couldn't even see it. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow. Why can't they fire the missiles at the clouds (it's called cloud seeding) like they did for the Olympics?

Anyway, big race tomorrow (tonight, whatever) so I'm off to bed. If the Internet is working (yes, it appears we have broken the Internet), I'll update this as soon as I'm done. Results should be live at somewhere. Don't ask me; figure it out.

Training, Eating, and Emma Snowsill

It's been three days, and my brother woke me up before 5 again. This time, I was okay with it; I was going for an early ride with the team. Besides, the race will be going off in the early morning, so I might as well get used to waking up early.

Today was a hard training day. I went out for an early ride with a few people from the team, just scouting out the bike course. It is beautiful; very picturesque. I wish I brought my camera. It is also quite technical, full of hills and turns.

After an amazing breakfast, we went to the training venue, almost 4 miles (5 bus stops) away from our hotel. This was the practice area at the 2008 Olympic Games. There are 2 50-metre swimming pools, a 400 and 200m track, soccer field, weight room, and a bunch of other things. During my swim, I happened to see Lukas Verzbicas. For those of you who don't follow running, he is a phenom at both running and triathlon. He recently won USA Nationals for triathlon and won the World Junior Duathlon Championships last year. He also won USA Foot Locker Cross Country Championship in 2009 and 2010, and the Nike Cross Nationals invitational in 2010, as well as holds a number of National high school records. He will be attending the University of Oregon this year. Unfortunately, this is going to be his last triathlon for a while, as he wants to focus on running exclusively.

I noticed that there were many more athletes arriving today; a number of them being from Canada. The hotel is much more busy with hundreds of people in it (as opposed to four of us, like yesterday) but the internet is far slower. I'm typing this from the business centre, due to the lack of speed.

In the afternoon, I went back to the training centre, this time to run. The track was completely locked up, but there were quite a few people on the track. I eventually snuck my way in somehow. Most of the people were locals, but a saw a man and a woman jogging around the outside of the track. They stopped, and the woman asked me (in a very Australian accent) where the bathroom was. So I told her. Even though I didn't know the way. Because that's the kind of guy that I am.

As she wandered off, I started talking to the guy, asking him of they were competing (yes), what distance (Olympic) and where they were from (he from Germany, she from Australia, obviously). He said to me, "That's Emma Snowsill." (Oh, SNAP!!!) For those of you non-triathletes, Emma is a 3-time ITU World Champion (2003, 2005,and 2006; Silver in 2007), 2006 Commonwealth Games Champion, and 2008 Olympic Champion (right here in Beijing, on the very same course!).

We did our workouts (I, 200's, she, 400's) and it prided me to know that I had done the same workout as her, doing twice as many, 10 seconds faster. Then again, she is tapering (as if that's any excuse). I then ran back to the hotel after my workout (about 4 miles).

We went out for dinner at the Auspicious Business Hotel, one-and-a-half bus stops away. This was the hotel all of the Team Canada athletes were supposed to be in, but were kicked out. A bunch of dignitaries are staying there now (whatever that means). Eleven of us met at the restaurant there, after hearing some good reviews for it. For about $14 each (85 RMB) we got a good twelve dishes. All of it was very good, but the duck was AMAZING!!! Everyone says that if you go to China, you have to try the see the Great Wall, and try the Peking Duck. I haven't seen the Wall yet, but I can absolutely say you have to try this duck. My brother hadn't really been eating a lot, as the cuisine was foreign to him, but even he devoured it. Needless to say, we went back there for dinner the next day.

It was quite a day today. I did a triple (I swam, biked, and ran), met famous people (LV and ES), and had great food (buffet breakfast and roast duck). I felt amazing. So I slept like crap.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Arriving in Beijing; My 18th Birthday!!!

Sorry this blog post is so late. You cannot access a number of websites in China, including Blogspot. I had to connect to our computer at home (through a sketchy Internet connection) and log in from there.

Anyway, our flight was delayed by about 4 hours, so we didn't leave until late. A 12 hour plane ride and 12 time zones later (we went over the North Pole!!!) and we end up in China late on the 2nd. Where did that day go?

On the third, I went for an easy run, just to shake out the legs. I ended up passing the other Team Canada hotel, and found my way to the race site. It was breathtaking, seeing it in person, bringing memories of cheering Simon Whitfield on the way to his silver medal at the 2008 Olympics at the very same place. It really dawned on me that it was on. This is for real.

We also went a bit around town. We just traveled half way around the world and where do they send us for food? Walmart.

The exchange rate is quite good: 6 RMB (Chinese yuan) is about $1. We ended up taking the bus about 40 miles downtown for about 16 cents a person. Most other things are pretty cheap as well.

The staff at the hotel have been great, doing their best to cater to our needs. They have been really trying to help us feel comfortable. Although their English isn't the best, it's still far better than my Mandarin. The food at the hotel is great, too. They watch us eat, and keep track of what we do and do not like. The portions are small, so I have been eating every bit of what they serve us, whether I like it or not. Dinner was a
5-course meal, for about $20. I'm excited about trying new things and dishes, like traditional Chinese food over the next few days.

My brother woke me up before 5 o'clock this morning, again. He's not quite on Beijing time, yet. After waking up a bit, I realized today was my birthday (although it was still the 3rd in Canada). We hooked up with a couple of other triathlete competing and went on quite an adventure, involving 2 buses, 3 cabs, and a whole lot of fun. We went to the Olympic Stadium and saw the Bird's Nest ans Water Cube. They are renting Segways for $25 to ride them around the track for 20 minutes. My brother had a go at it, fell, and broke one! The Water Cube is quite different than three years ago. On one side, there is a massive indoor water park, complete with water slides, pouring buckets, and a wave pool. On the other side, there was an 3D convention. They had 3D TV's all over the place from a variety of different companies, and were playing a 3D movie on a giant screen. It was in such high-definition that it put our theaters to shame. We also wandered around the Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square, before getting lost and eventually making it back to the hotel. It is amazing the history of the places we went to. The Forbidden City was built in the 1400's and the detail and intricacy that remains in the architecture is simply astounding. It definitely made the long trip worth it. What better way to spend my birthday!

We also had a fun time playing ping pong (table tennis). I'm not bad, and my Dad is pretty good, too, but you should see the locals! They have such fluidity and grace as they casually put spins in the ball making it unpredictable and hard to return. I was awed with their skill.

A number of other triathletes arrived today, but the majority of then will be here over the next few days. I'm sorry there are no pictures yet (I took hundreds; they will get on Facebook when I return) but will add a few if I can. I'm off to bed because I have an early training ride tomorrow with a few members of the team, looking to check out the course.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Blogging from the Airport

Experimenting with my first blog post. I'm sitting in the waiting area, about to get on the plane, so I decided to see what this whole blogging thing is about. This is my brother. I'm new at this, so it probably won't show up.