Annah Watkinson Race Report July – August 2017 Races

Challenge Prague     

Quote: “If you are going through hell…keep going”

 

I have never thought of changing my dual life of both a professional career woman in investment banking and a pro tri-athlete. Sometimes, it does get tough balancing two very demanding parts of my life, but trips to race  both in the Czech Republic and Estonia over the last 10 days makes it all worthwhile.

I absolutely love doing what I am doing in triathlons, in fact if that is all I could do – I would. I however, I can’t just press pause on my corporate career and press fast forward on my athlete career, as I entered the sport later in life but I am fortunate to be able to do both at a  competitive level…let me tell you investment banking is competitive !

I have recently moved to Cape Town and it’s incredibly beautiful, I am starting to adjust having come down from Johannesburg. People have been very welcoming particularly those in this great sport of ours. I’m getting the balance between managing my work, training and racing commitments

Not only am I tackling dual roles here, but have also added bike mechanic to my resume! On two separate international flights using a soft bike bag my bike got broken in the same place, and I couldn’t believe that it happened again after having had to wait for weeks for the replacement part. The second breakage was not that visible and I had completed a 4 hour road session when I felt something wrong with the bike – had a little celebration that the fork hadn’t snapped right off during the ride! I received my bike after major panic on the same day that I flew to Prague, literally on the way to the airport. As I am too nervous to fly using a soft bag anymore I have purchased a hard box, which means I have to break down the entire bike – which the bike shop did for me on my way out.

I am not mechanically minded and arriving in Prague and having called 3-4 shops to assist me building my bike – I ended up having to do it myself, otherwise I would have completely missed the race! I feel quite empowered to have self-taught myself how to build up and break down my bike.  I immediately went out for my quick 1 hour taper ride and ended up skidding along the tram tracks and causing some major road rash the day before Challenge Prague.

At the same time, I was trying to deliver some work and had a conference call scheduled the same time as pro race briefing. With one ear on the phone – and one eye on the slides, I “tried” to multi-task both my jobs in one go. To say I had reached a limit was an understatement. I went to my room thereafter and had an emotional moment.

I keep wondering HOW am I going to manage this – HOW am I going to achieve what I want in both spheres; HOW can I be a full-time pro?! My very close and wise friend(s) have told me this is my path – it’s a little different to the norms of triathlon…

Re-focusing on the race, I must note that Challenge Prague is a spectacular setting for a 70.3. Flying in two days before a race particularly off a long haul flight is not great and this was reflected in my 8th place in a strong field. A bit frustrated and a bit angry at my performance I must give credit to Lucy Charles on a great win.

The race course itself is incredible – the Challenge team lives up to their name of “family” – it was a hot day with a 4 lap run through the center of Prague. Just too unbelievable for words, bringing that big city to our little world of triathlon feels like someone sprinkled extra chocolate on your ice-cream.

My coach, Raynard Tissink, gave me some clear advice and support after the race as we focused on the next weeks Ironman 70.3 in Otepaa, Estonia.

Ironman 70.3 Estonia (Otepaa)

There are some moments in my heavy schedule of training that make me smile and realize how lucky I am to be in this sport. Waking up at 4.30am in Prague for an early morning run is just one of those – incredible!

Then the trip from Prague to Estonia, its 1600km arriving first in Tallin the capital of Estonia and then to pick up my rental car to drive the 240kms to Otepaa – exactly the other side of the country which gave me a chance to take in the country side AND get used to driving a left hand drive car.

My CO2 canisters where taken at the security check-in and I had a flat… so first thing in the morning, off to the local bike store in Otepaa – Hawaii Express – whom was amazingly helpful and had everything I required. Given that there are only 2 stores in the entire village – this is quite meaningful.

I headed out on my ride on one of the most incredible rides of my life – the Estonian countryside is mostly forests, cyclists rule the road and it’s incredibly quiet with zero traffic lights. I felt good and invigorated and being on the road was exactly what I needed – my happy place. This phrase is used often but I truly find huge joy in chasing limits, in trying to be better, pushing myself beyond, it makes me stronger and centers me.

Otepaa is a winter Olympic village and summer training centre so you see loads of people training for the cross country skiing discipline… on roller skates. That evening I found an amazing running track (half a track) which forms part of the biathlon and cross-country skiing training facilities. Doing 800 repeats surrounded by people all pursuing excellence was magical.

Estonia is also known for having incredible connectivity with c.75% internet access penetration rates – it’s something we could learn here in South Africa. It really allows for efficiencies and as I work remotely when traveling I was able to get a ton of work done … trying to keep the balance balancing between work and training… not always successfully.

Leading up to this race I had settled, recovered from the long haul flight, got my balance and had time to prepare mentally for  IM 70.3 Estonia – the challenge was on .

Bits and pieces are going to come together with the fact that I keep investing time and effort – we all have different stories to write mine is a special and unique one and requires a little extra to be rewarded.

The race course is exceptional – it’s very easy to navigate but tough with some good elevations. On the day, it was also windy, rainy, hilly and turned a  bit humid with  sunshine towards the end of the race. Interesting, with both Prague and Otepaa, the races are on a Saturday and start around mid day, when I’m used to Sunday racing and starting at 7am. 

Following a below average swim, and much needed to be worked on bike, I started the run…and it was a reminder that I could not stop in my quest to win. I pushed a great time on the run, best of the day, and I ended up finishing 3rd just under a minute behind second place.  

As always, I was thrilled to be on the podium!! Absolutely love it…

As someone wise said – “At the end of the day winning is not a right….. it’s a privilege….. and like all privileges it needs respect and humility”

My goal is to win, to dig deep and compete hard and fair. If it’s my day and it all comes together and I win, I will treat a victory with the humility and respect it deserves, with a podium, it rewards me for my efforts, but focuses me on winning. It intensifies every training session and instills in me more discipline and focus on what I want to achieve.

I enjoyed these races, the people, the experience, the travel. I really enjoy a top 10 placing and a top 3 on back to back weekends. 

As I always I say to myself enjoy it like it may never happen again……..

Time to recharge and refocus for the next trip.

Author: Tissink_Admin

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