September 19, 2002
Runner's Web Special Report
Natasha Filliol, who was profiled on the Runner's Web in February of this year, provided this report of her race at the recent ITU Pan-American Regional Champs.
Race Report: ITU Pan-American Regional Champs
This was my first race since the Commonwealth Games, and I was ready to get going again. Since August I had gone though a solid block of training and I felt ready to get some of those ITU World Ranking points that were up for grabs. I have had some good luck in past regional championship races. In 2000, the race was held in conjunction with the Cancun World Cup, which was after the Olympics. I had a good race in the light field and managed a 6th place in the World Cup, and was the 2nd for the Americas behind Siri Lindley. The next year the race was in Clermont Florida, and with the field being stronger, I was satisfied with my 9th place finish under the hot Florida sun.
With the race in Rio de Janeiro this year, spaced in the middle of the European World Cups, I knew that the field wasnít going to be as strong as Clermont, but with Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Carol Montgomery, hometown favourite and perennial top finisher Sandra Soldan as well as a number of not as well known, but still solid athletes toeing the line, it was not going to be easy to get a top finish.
To prepare for the race I spent a week acclimatizing in the south Florida heat. I thought that the race was going to be quite hot, and coming from cool Victoria BC I wanted to be prepared. I was surprised to find on arrival in Brazil that not only was the weather more Victoria like than Florida, but it was also going to be a wetsuit swim. I like the heat Ė so I hoped that it would warm up by race day!
I arrived in Rio on Friday morning after taking the overnight flight from Miami, which happened to be one of the worst flights Iíve been on as I was sitting beside a couple with two babies that cried the entire 9 hours that it took to get to Brazil. Needless to say I didnít get much sleep! The race organizers picked us up at the airport and we began the trip to Copacabana beach Ė right in the middle of rush hour Ė ouch! Iím glad I didnít have to drive Ė the traffic was incredible! We finally arrived at our hotel and all I could think about was getting some sleep, so once we checked in I crashed until 2pm.
The next two days I did a bit of exploring and found Rio to be quite cheap. The food was good and the beach was beautiful. It is the off season now in Brazil, so it wasnít too crowded either.
Race day came, and with a 10.45 start I got to sleep in a bit more (finally getting caught up to my daily quota of 10hrs I think). I was feeling good and confident that I would race well.
The women started 15 mins after the men so we got the advantage of seeing them start, which was a good thing since the direction of the swim course was changed about 30 seconds before the start of the menís race. The start was a beach run in with a medium size break. Out a bit further there was a bit of a swell, but it wasnít too bad.
I toed the line beside Carol and Sandra, whom I hoped to swim with. On the horn all 26 women bolted down the beach into the surf. I hit the first wave and Ė BAM Ė I got knocked backwards! Not a great way to start! I recovered from that and got swimming again, but I had given the rest of the field a nice head start! The rest of the swim I worked past swimmers and by the end of the two laps I finished in a reasonable position, but certainly not the swim I wanted.
Out onto the bike I had a smooth mount and hammered the first of the 7 flat out and back loops. I worked with a couple other girls and soon we formed a good size pack of about 10. There were four athletes up the road including Carol and Sandra, so we got our group working and with some strong riders in our pack, we pulled three of the four leaders by about lap 5. There was still one athlete ahead, but I wasnít terribly worried since I knew she wasnít likely to be able to hold the lead she had once out onto the run. I was pretty excited that the packs had come together as I knew that this was my chance to run head to head with Carol and some other pretty great runners. The rest of the bike was more or less uneventful, except for when the menís packs caught us. The organiserís did a pretty good job keeping the packs apart, but I still much prefer a completely separate menís and womenís race for safety and fairness.
Coming into T2 I wanted to be in the front of the pack, but somehow I got boxed in and the result was that I didnít have the transition I has going for. I started the run in about 10th place, again giving some other girls a little head start. I worked my way through the field following Carol and by the first turn around of four laps I was leading the main pack. At that point the lead group was Carol, Sandra, and Kelly Handel from the USA. About halfway through lap two Kelly made a move and only Sandra tried to go with her. I dropped off slightly and Carol dropped off the pace behind me. I dug in a held the gap to Sandra at about 10 seconds, with Kelly a further 10 seconds up the road from Sandra. The gaps stayed more or less the same throughout the third lap, but on the beginning of the forth lap I decided to make my move. I slowly pulled back Sandra and at the right time I blew past her. I was feeling good and managed to hold my pace. I knew I had about 1 mile left at that point and I felt I might have a shot at the win. I pressed on and pulled Kelly back to about 12 seconds with 400m to go, but at that point she sensed that I was gaining and made a final push to the end, keeping the gap the same though the finish.
I finished feeling good about my race, but knowing that there were a couple of things I could have done a lot better, and that although second place was great, I wanted that win! Sandra ended up finishing third at 13 seconds, rounding out the podium.
Overall, my first trip to Rio was a success and was just what I needed to fuel the fire over the next 8 weeks as I prepare for the Cancun World Championships in November.
Thanks for your support,
Visit Natasha's web site at : www.natashafilliol.com
Read the Runner's Web interview with Natasha from February of this year from the : Runner's Web