Chicago ITU Olympic Distance Age-Group World Championship

This race was the last in my pretty packed 2015 triathlon season. Coming second at the Deva triathlon qualified me to compete for GB in the Olympic distance age group World Championships.

I arrived slightly closer to race day than most people, mainly to reduce the amount of pre-race hype I was exposed to which I often underestimate but you don’t want to get too caught up in it – it is hard to ignore the temptation of going on long runs and cycles in a new city. So three days gave me plenty of time to register, check out the course and get over the jet lag, as well as watch the pro-women race. With all the top triathletes in the world at their peak, it can only be described as inspiring.

Elite women racing around Buckingham fountain - Gwen Jorgensen won wit a 10km run split of 32.43 #goals
Elite women racing around Buckingham fountain – Gwen Jorgensen won wit a 10km run split of 32.43 #goals

Our race was on a Saturday, and due to a sequence of thunderstorms on Friday, our transition check in was postponed to race morning. Once I’d checked in, I had a couple of hours to the start, as one of the youngest, and therefore earliest, age groups to go. I tried to avoid any crowds in this time and quietly watched the open race take place, before starting a warm up. Then it was finally time to head to the start pontoon on Lake Michigan (more of a sea) where we were swimming in Chicago’s harbour. Finally it was my wave, and we jumped in to line up between two buoys. Unlike my imperial and GB team mate Laura-ann who snapped her goggles, I managed to avoid any major conundrums here.

Me + Gwen (the World Champion)
Me + Gwen (the World Champion)

As I’m not the strongest swimmer, I stayed on the edge and managed to get a descent start, and gradually got into a groove, sticking next to one girl the entire way down to swim exit. 100m’s from the end, we were met by a strong current as the swirl in the harbour hit us, making the exit all the more welcome. As I got out, I was informed by the trusted Ben Cummings that I was in 11th place, not bad for me on the swim, but it was time to make up some ground! A smoothish transition onto the bike, and my quest began. We hadn’t been allowed to cycle the course beforehand as it involved major roads, including the sub-terranean platform tunnels where Batman was filmed (a Batman sightseeing tour was also on the cards post-race). I felt strong, and started picking off the girls in front of me. Despite being a flat course, and not best suited to me, I loved the bike. Thank you dear housemates for putting up with the turbo, it definitely payed off! Sadly, I didn’t manage to avoid all the pot holes, and got a slow flat in my front tyre towards the end of the bike, luckily it was slow enough to go pretty much unnoticed.

So it was out onto the run. At this point I was in 2nd place and could see the leader leaving transition as I came in. I started off feeling good, Great even. But I didn’t want to overcook myself too early on so restrained. 3km in I decided to take a gel, as I usually do. Sadly, it didn’t go down as smoothly as I hoped, and 500m later my stomach cramped up and it was all I could do to keep going. Before I knew it my pace had slowed right down, and 1st place was slipping from view. Even more painfully, the girls behind me started coming past. It was only thanks to the incredible support and cheering of my mum and fellow team GB-ers that I kept my legs turning. As if things weren’t going badly, it then turned out that the run course was 750m long, to make up for the short bike course (but I did finally have a sub 1 hour bike split!).

So it was to be. I crossed the line extremely disappointed, assuming I had lost at least 10 places. After taking on some water, my body went into shock and it took getting into bed to eventually warm up. At this point I decided to check results and saw that it had not been as atrocious as that, and I was still a respectable 5th, in the World Champs. Could be worse. But could also be better. Seeing the places slip away from me was painful, especially when physically, I was giving it everything I could.

As they say, you learn from experience. So no, a race not going according to plan does not mean there will be no more races. Quite the opposite: I’m looking forward to proving what I’m capable of.

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Enjoying watching the Men’s Elite race

But to finish up the triathlon-ing, we watched the men’s final, where a battle on the run between the two Spaniards Mario Mola and Javier Gomez took place. And then it was to the event after party – where we worked out that the bar can’t have made much of a profit, despite everyone getting pretty out of control!

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The shiniest, and biggest, vegetable in Chicago (photo credit: Ben Cummings)

Thank you to mum for coming and putting up with the triathlon extravaganza, to my coach Eddie Sutton for as ever getting me into prime shape and always believing in me, and to all the fantastic support from friends, family and team GB.

Thank you for reading! Imo Simmonds x

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Post-race sightseeing with mum, sadly not the Batman tour though.

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