Another update from the wonderful Nicky Samuels on her Rio Olympics experience. New Zealander Nicky has been using Beet It for a number of years and achieved a brilliant 13th place!
After the Hamburg world series, I headed back up to altitude at Font Romeu in France but quickly realised that I wasn’t getting any faster at altitude and I wanted to get into some speed work and nail some good times in training the weekend coming up so after a week we packed up the car and headed down the mountain into Spain. This turned out to be a great decision and I was lucky the apartments were available earlier so I could stay. Banyoles is a great place to train and is so welcoming to us training there it was absolutely amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed my short but vital stay.
I got in an extra 3 hard sessions (one in each discipline) by going down early and even better they were planned in the period I perform best down from altitude (day 1-3) so that was another added bonus. Usually I have a bit of a lull between day 4-13 and after a couple of weeks I bounce back out, but during this time I had some good sessions as well, and some solid but not “so flashy” ones but the heat was a factor too, some days getting up around 38 degrees.
The rest of the New Zealand team and support staff left on the Saturday to Rio but I had always planned to fly out the Monday – I thought getting to Rio as late as I was allowed was essential to minimising the impact of the change in environment and this also turned out to be a great choice. I got my last key sessions in alone, had an easy day pre travel then got on the road to Rio.
I flew out of Barcelona around mid morning on the Sunday and had – 1.5hr flight to Madrid then a very tight, “running” connection followed by a 10.5ht flight to Rio. It was nice to see other triathletes on this flight too, all thinking the same thing as me, do the prep before you arrive!
We were lucky enough to fly business class to Rio and this was amazing, we had full lay flat beds so I could put my feet up and even got some sleep on the way to Rio, the food was great and it was nice and quiet – I wish I could fly like that every time I’m travelling long haul to races, what a difference it makes to how you feel on arrival!
I arrived into Rio pretty much on time and amazingly all my bags (including my bike had arrived) I had to go and do my accreditation at the airport then we were loaded onto busses but sat on that for nearly an hour before finally we were off into the village. I was on the 11th floor. The rooms were… Good….but a bit rushed by the looks with windows, doors and toilet seats didn’t fit so flush but had everything I needed. I was lucky enough to get a ensuite room to myself.
Although everything you need was in the village, it took so long to go do anything. To get to the pool you bike 1km lock the bike up, then walk 1km to the training pool-great pool though! To go Copacabana beach (where we were racing) just to ride 2 laps of the bike course (which we had to stop and re-group 3 times in-so was more like a sightseeing tour) took a 7hour round trip on the village arranged bus. That day I got back to the village, walked to the apartment, got changed,
walked back to the bus stop, waited 15minutes for the next bus then got on that one for 25minutes to get to the running track! It was incredible, so let’s just say my days pre-race were well and truly filled up with just getting to venues/training and of course a few trips back and forward to the food hall. I was certainly grateful that 2 nights before the race we were allowed to move out to the beach closer to the race course. That made life so much easier and I wish I could have gone straight there instead!
So the race itself went a bit different to how I expected. Some girls who are usually 1.5-2minutes plus down out of the water were in the first group which was strange and other athletes that usually swim well didn’t or just didn’t have the bike legs on the day and were quickly spat out the back of the front group – but that’s the Olympic Games, full of surprises.
I was pretty slow getting into the water compared with everyone else but after initially getting a bit mushed I found a gap and could sneak through it into some clear water and the rest of the swim was pretty non eventful I sat pretty comfortably in the front group of swimmers and found it so nice to have a 500m straight swim to the first buoy – which made for a much more pleasant swim.
It was a strange start onto the bike with a lead to a group of 18 eventually forming. There I was thinking there would be a much smaller group, but nevertheless with Nicola Spirig in the group (after an unbelievable swim for her!) it was certainly a solid ride and the pace was on the whole way – no one was considering anything but hanging on, the hill was hard but actually got slightly easier as the race went on. The pace being on meant that we stayed away from the group behind and we ended up hitting transition with over a minute lead on the chase group.
Onto the run I knew I had to start slowly again and build into it, the bike had been harder than what I was expecting and I thought the others would be hurting too after riding like that. I started out conservatively and built into the run, I felt pretty good considering the ride and felt as though I picked up the pace with each lap and was picking off those in front of me along the way. The two girls out the front were flying and both were well in front after one lap, there was a small group of 3 behind them then a couple of groups running together.
I was a little disappointed with my run time as I really wanted to reel in more of the ones in front of me. I wanted to be in that top 8 or better but knew off a hard bike it was going to be a tough day regardless. I was happy to finish 13th though, 13th in the Olympic Games isn’t anything to wash away, it wasn’t my dream of a medal or goals of top 8 but still I have to be happy with it.
What made it all the special is my parents and longest friend Hilary watching and being so thrilled the entire race, they loved it and loved the closing ceremony and the whole experience too. Post-race I was able to buy a coconut water straight from the green coconut and then my mission at Copacabana beach was complete. I didn’t however have time to get up to see Christ the Redeemer the which was my only disappointment from the trip ;-).