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Posted: May 14, 2004

Triathlon: Natasha Filliol's Race Report World Championships Madeira, Portugal

May 9 2004

For those of you following my journey towards Athens, I'll give a quick synopsis of my pre-World's build-up. Coming off a great winter of training, I was set to race hard at the first 2 World Cups in Japan and Mexico to get me primed and ready for World Champs in Portugal. I was ready and I was set but some bad luck moved in and I came down with a virus on the way to Japan, which broke the night prior to the race. I didn't get sick once all winter- go figure! I guess I didn't have the antibodies to fight it. Still not 100% I decided to skip the World Cup in Mexico, which I was really disappointed to do since you all know how much I love the heat! My coach and I thought it wisest to get over the bug fully before traveling again and to set my sights on the more important race, World's. The only thing was up until now, I hadn't raced! My pre-World's prep had been altered umpteen times now and although I had trained my butt off, what I really needed was a race. So I used two races to get in gear.

The first was the Times Colonist 10km run. Signing up last minute, it gave me the opportunity to do a hard 10km in race conditions against some fast runners. I didn't have to travel far to do it, since it was right in my training base here in Victoria. I ran a strong race and went in with the goal of proper pacing, which I accomplished. I ran 35:45 and finished 5th Woman overall. As usual when I do a local road race I don’t rest at all, and often have quite a hard week leading into it and this week was no different with a really tough bike hill workout the day before. I think next time I go to a running race though I will try the warm-up on my bike and run just as fast if not faster. It never ceases to amaze me how Ii can run faster off the bike that I can fresh... It must have something to do with being warmed up… and well I guess that’s why I do triathlon instead of just running!

The second race to get me tuned for Worlds was the Dannon Sprint Triathlon in Key Biscayne Miami. On my way to Europe, I had to fly via Miami because I was stuck with the airline tickets from when I was going to do Mazatlan and this race just fit the schedule. Even though it was low key, there were some fast age-group men to push me, especially on the bike, after I swam over top of all of them! There were no pros at this race; it was all 'old school', so the women’s wave started last. I know not the most ideal race in prep for Elite World's, but it worked! I got a good race in and I won, and was 5th overall including the men!

With many countries using World's as an Olympic selector, and with 87 woman set to start, the race would be more competitive than the Games themselves. An 8th place and top Canadian would give me a birth on the team to Athens.

The course: 2 laps ocean wetsuit swim, 8 laps bike with one key climb, 4 laps run with one short steep hill.

I had raced the World Cup here the previous two years, so I knew the course well and was ready to give it a good go! Two days before race day was the briefing and pontoon draw, which is always a fiasco, but I was happy with the draw and looked forward to the swim. All week long I swam fast and I felt tapered and ready to rock and roll. I even did a new PB for my sprint 100m! I carried that energy I had all week in the pool to the race and swam a strong 1500m on race day. It was an extremely rough swim, but I knew this and rehearsed swimming amongst almost 100 woman in my head all week. With the position that I chose on the start pontoon, I got a clean start and navigated very well around the first buoy. After the first loop, we exit and re-entered on a bouncy, teetering dock, but I had already fallen on my face in practice and wasn't doing that again in the race! I swam hard and exited the water right where I needed to be. The first lap of the bike was painful, but I knew I just had to mash the gears as this is when the packs would establish themselves. After the first climb, I found myself in good company and in the main chase pack! Racing here the last two years, I knew that since the course was narrow, it made it difficult for a bike pack to get a rotation going. We just had to keep the gap as tight as possible to the front pack and not lose time. A few attacks off the front made the pace increase, and a few crashes made it slow down. I felt strongest on the climb and used my strength to try and go faster. With two laps remaining, we lost time to the leaders and dismounted 2min30 behind. The work wasn't done yet! With the challenging bike leg behind us, out of transition, my legs felt far from fresh. That’s the difference between being race sharp and not. The first lap of four was a bit of a struggle and I found myself just inside the top 20. By halfway I found some rhythm and started to clip off a few runners who had gone out too hard. I was confident in myself as I had practiced my pacing in my pre-race prep and knew I would catch more, some even from the front pack. At this point in the 10km I found myself dueling with a Japanese woman. We kept surging each other and at one point I said to myself, 'just go with her no matter what'. We were running into the top 16 with the last lap to go. I had come this far and I wasn't going to give up any spots. I ran the last 2km neck and neck with her and could see she wasn't going to let up either. I pressed hard trying to get closer to the runners I could see in front and pressed harder not wanting to get caught from anyone behind... It came down to a sprint and I got her by 2 seconds!

I kind of got the feeling she needed a top 16 for her qualification, but I needed a top 8....In the end I proved myself as a strong contender for the Olympic team, finishing as the top Canadian woman in 16th. I was happy with my race. I fought hard and did a good battle right to the end.

The next race will be in a few weeks time in Tongyong, Korea World Cup.

And then it's full steam ahead to the Edmonton World Cup on July, which will be the last and final qualifying race to Athens.

Thank- you everyone for your support. Keep watching

Natasha


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