Runner's Web

June 20, 2002

Runner's Web Special Report

Natasha Filliol, who was profiled on the Runner's Web in February of this year, made the Canadian Commonwealth Games team this past weekend with her 2nd place finish at the Nike Victoria International Triathlon.

This is her report on the race.


Natasha Filliol (L) on the podium at the 2002 Nike Victoria International Triathlon
Natasha (Left) on the podium at the 2002 Nike Victoria International Triathlon

Race Report for the Nike Victoria ITU, Canadian Elite Championships and Commonwealth Games Qualifier on June 16 2002

June 16th was a big day for Triathlon in Canada. Not only was it the Canadian Elite Triathlon Championships, an ITU international Event, a qualifier for the World University Games and U23 World Championships for Cancun, but also a qualifier for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester England on Aug 4.

A race of this magnitude was unprecedented in Canadian Triathlon. Sure, Canada has hosted World Cup events, and World Championship events before, but never before has so much been on the line in one race for Canadian athletes.

We didnít have an Olympic trials race in 2000. We couldnít, as the COA criteria were so tough that only a few athletes were eligible for Sydney. For the Commonwealth Games however, this was a true trials race. Anyone could qualify for the team; all that was required was to be in the top 2 in Victoria. In addition I knew about a month out form the race that my husband and National Training Centre coach, Joel had been selected as an assistant manager for the Commonwealth Team. I didnít want him to be going to Manchester without me! Talk about pressure to perform on race day!!

This race was my major objective for the 2002 season. I knew that the opportunity to qualify for the Games could be a career defining moment. With that in mind I set about preparing for this race unlike any previous race. The first step was moving from my home in Paris Ontario across Canada to train with the National Triathlon Training Centre, and on the race course in Victoria BC. Filling up the UHaul and driving across Canada was a big change. I had to move away from my family, from my familiar training venues, and from my home. I knew however that in order to achieve my goals I had to make some major sacrifices. In hindsight itís easy to see that this was the right decision. I had the opportunity to train with some of the best coaches in the country, a great group of highly energized and motivating athletes and in without a doubt the best city for triathlon training in Canada. However along the way there was some difficult times, being away from my family for the holidays, adjusting to new routines in a new city, and moving to a new house.

In the build up to the race I was in the best shape of my life. I had a great winter of training: I had made improvements in each discipline and focused on the key factors for success on the Victoria racecourse. My early season races had gone well, with a 4th in ITU Guatemala, and an 18th in a strong field at the St Anthonys World Cup. This year I decided to limit my spring racing in order to arrive at the race fresh and ready to have my best race. This was also a change for me, as in the past I have raced more often in the spring.

In the last few weeks before the race I was so excited and ready to race I could hardly wait. I felt ready and confident that I would race to the best of my ability, and that I had a legitimate shot at making the team. I knew that I didnít need a miracle race to make it, but I would have to at least equal my previous best performance.

Race Day
On race day I executed that same pre-race routine that I have many times in the past. I felt nervous, but not more so than Iíve felt before at other important races. In fact I think I was more nervous two weeks out than I was on race day.

I had a start position on the left side of the beach. I wasnít entirely pleased with this position. Being one of the highest ranked athletes at the race I had to choose my position first, and although I had wanted to choose the right side of the beach since I felt it to be a better line, I felt pressure to stay near the fastest swimmers on the left. In retrospect this was one area of the race I could have done better. Next time Iíll go with my instincts and choose the best line for me.

The race start was intense. The women were sent off four minutes behind the men. There was a lot of energy in the air, and the adrenaline was pumping. When the horn blasted it was a mad dash into the lake. Three quick steps, a dive and I was into the melee. It was one of the roughest swim starts Iíve been in. I got clobbered not more than 20 secs into the swim, and someone swam overtop of me. I was pushed under water, but I resurfaced quickly and maintained focus. Once past the first buoy the pack began to separate and I moved up in my group. The rest of the swim was tough as I was in a tight group of girls all with similar ability. In the last hundred meters coming into the beach I was in the front of my group, but swimming next to another girl. Then before I knew it I was dunked under water again and drifted to the back of the pack. I stayed calm, and coming onto the beach I knew I had to really get moving on the 200m run to transition in order not to lose my pack.

Once I got to my bike I had a smooth transition, and I heard that I was about 90 seconds down on the leaders. My strategy for the bike was to ride hard the whole way. Although it was a draft-legal race I knew that my only chance for making the team was to ride as fast as possible, even if that meant pulling at the front of the pack the whole time. I knew had to try to maintain the same time gap to the swimmers for the whole bike. If I lost too much more time on the bike I knew I would not be able to run myself into a Commonwealth Games position no matter how fast I ran.

I felt strong on the bike and I stayed at the front to ensure a fast pace. Soon my pack grew as we caught faster swimmers that were dropped from the front pack. After two of the four bike laps the time split between my pack of about 13 and the two leaders, 2000 Olympian Sharon Donnelly, and 2000 National Champion Tereza Macel, was two minutes and fifteen seconds. I didnít realize it at the time, but during the third lap we caught National Team member and 2001 World Champ sixth place finisher Jill Savege. I was so focused on my race that I didnít see right away that my opportunity for making the team was significantly increased when our pack caught Savege.

On the final lap, on the long downhill to the transition area I pushed the pace in an effort to be the first into the transition area. I was right on the edge of my skills on the last hard left turn and I sprinted up the final rise into transition. My plan to string out the pack behind was successful, and I was first out onto the run.

The run course in Victoria is very technical. There are steep uphills, downhills, a few tight corners, dirt trails, and a long straight stretch on the Trans Canada highway.

Right out of transition I attacked the first downhill, then uphill. I felt strong and I proceeded with my usual pacing strategy. At the end of the first lap I was about ten seconds clear of the chase pack, and I had already taken back about 30 seconds of the two minutes the two leaders had coming off the bike. After the second of four laps I had further extended my lead from the chase group to about 20 seconds, although now Jill Savege had moved into 4th place behind me. This was the first point that I realized that Jill Savege was in fact behind me and not up the road with the leaders. I was not less than a minute out of a place on the Commonwealth Games Team, and it was so close I could taste it! I continued to push the pace on the third loop, and by about 7km I caught and passed Tereza Macel and moved into second position. Going into the last lap I knew I couldnít let up, with Savege still just twenty seconds behind me. I maintained my rhythm and the gap between myself and Savege stayed the same on the final lap.

Coming around the final corner onto the finishing stretch I could hardly believe that I had done it. Nine months ago this was the dream, to qualify to represent Canada at a major games and now I was achieving it. It was an intense emotional experience, and certainly the highlight of my athletic career thus far.

The time following the race was a blur, with interviews, lots of hugs and kisses, and congratulations from my friends, family, training partners, and fellow competitors.

The race went pretty much how I had been visualizing it all along. Although it wasnít a perfect race, it was good enough on the day, and when the opportunity arose I seized it and am now a part of the first Canadian Commonwealth Games Triathlon Team!

And now for the thanks:

First my husband and coach Joel: without his support and love I wouldnít be where I am today. My family and friends for their tremendous and unwavering support over the years Iíve been pursuing this dream. The NTTC and Pacific Sport in Victoria including all the coaches and my great training partners. Triathlon Canada, Triathlon BC, Ontario Association of Triathletes, ITU and the Nike Victoria International organizers for providing me with the opportunity and venue to achieve my dreams. My personal sponsors: Millard Rouse, and Rosebrugh Accounting in Brantford Ontario, Marco Travel in Paris Ontario, Subaru Canada, New Balance Canada, PowerBar, GPush, Aquila Bicycles, Bolle Sunglasses, and Go Sports.

Also thanks to all my supporters in the community as a whole and specifically the triathlon community. Apologies in advance if Iíve forgotten anyone!

Thanks for all your support and look for me in Manchester!

Natasha Filliol

Canadian Elite Triathlon Team Member
2002 Commonwealth Games Team Member

Visit Natasha's web site at : www.competitionzone.com

Read the Runner's Web interview with Natasha from February of this year from the : Runner's Web

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