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World Duathlon Champs - Race Report - Morgan Ball

Check out the race report from Morgan Ball from the recent Duathlon World Champs in June 2016.

On May 29th I boarded my first flight out of four to Aviles, Spain heading to the 2016 World Duathlon Championships! Having only ever flown to Australia, a total of 40 hours travelling was pretty daunting. I was so excited about the process that the first round of flights wasn’t that bad. The 14 hour flight to Dubai from Sydney was hard but fun. I finally got some down time from my studies and training to watch a fair few good movies! Although in the end I resorted to kids movies as there were a few disaster ones to watch and I wasn’t keen on that while flying mid-air!

Due to a delay we were six hours later than expected when flying from Madrid to Oviedo (Madrid airport is pretty hectic). I had five days before the race to acclimatise. I was pretty jetlagged in the sense of constantly feeling like I was rocking in the plane not so much the tired sense. I noticed I was very wobbly on my bike right up to the day of the race. Looking over my shoulder was a pretty dodgy move compared to normal.

The highlight of my trip apart from the race would have to be being mistaken for an elite woman just days before my race! It was the biggest confidence boost I could ever have asked for, the lovely girl and I still remain in contact. Before I knew it, it was race day. Warming up I was sooo excited. I envisioned myself as the intimidating one – why should I be intimidated by other competitors in my age group when they can be intimidated by me. That was the mental stance I took. I wasn’t nervous on the start line and still can’t decide if that was a good or bad feeling. I normally go by a little bit of nerves are always good but I had none, I was pumped and had the confidence of a champion.

I qualified for the Duathlon World Champs by competing in the 2015 NZ Sprint Duathlon Championships, I was injured at the time so was only able to compete in the sprint distance. I placed second in my age group thus qualifying me for Worlds. I was extremely lucky and got accepted through a special nomination form to compete in the standard distance at Worlds. At the World Championships I competed in the 20-24 age group and was the youngest by at least two years from all my other competitors having only been 19 on race day.

The standard distance duathlon consists of a 10mk run, 40km bike, 5km run. This was my very first standard distance event. The race started at 11:40am and kicked off with the 10km run. It was hot! Prior to the race the daily high had been around 20 degrees max whereas race day was 25 degrees! I never drink during a 10km run, its roughly 42 minutes and I’m done but I threw it all over myself at about every second chance I could get. The first 5km was great, I was leading a pack of about three others in my age group. They passed me at halfway so I hung on however slowly dropped. I was knackered and hit a huge wall! All I could think about was the sweet taste of the gels and electrolytes waiting for me on my bike.

I got through the run in 4th position, had a quick transition, jumped on the bike with a flying mount and almost fell off! (still wobbly from flying) and I was off. I felt so strong. Each lap got harder and harder the small rises that I cruised up in training suddenly became ‘up out of your seat climbs’ however my splits increased with speed each lap. I loved every minute of the pain. I was in awe of the other competitors, it was crazy to think we were all there representing our country and this was not some local race. I so badly wanted to stop and take it all in but I was here to race and had the fire in me to finish in the podium.

The bike was over before I knew it and I was sitting in 7th place and I was ready to crush my final run leg (known to be my strongest leg). I had a sweet dismount but got stuck behind some other athletes, I yelled out ‘move’! But thinking back I don’t think they were from an English speaking country. The transition was narrow and hard to pass anyone. I got out and flew for about 2.5km of the 5km. As soon as I saw I wasn’t hitting under four minute kilometres I stopped looking at my watch and just hung on for dear life. Again the water was all over me something I would never do with only 20 minutes left but the heat was unbearable. I truly did not believe I would catch anyone. On the last 2.5km lap with less than a kilometre to go I spotted 6th place in front of me and she was really suffering. BOOM, straight past her and just ahead of her was 5th place, I couldn’t believe it! I tried to be sneaky and hide my coloured number so she wouldn’t see I was in her age group however her team mates on the side line spotted me and were screaming at her to sprint. I knew if I wanted it I had to go now. I made my move up a short sharp hill, made it around the corner and she was not letting up, we were going for it and then my legs stopped working, that was my sprint done and dusted and she got me. Leaving my final place at 6th. There were just two seconds between us and after being upset about my final run time it turned out to be the second fastest run split by 1 second. This is one of the very few races where I have truly battled to the end and pulled out all the mental helping tools I could think of. My number one goal was to be as sore as I was if not sorer than after completing my first marathon, I can definitely say I ticked that box!

Overall, the race atmosphere was amazing and I would recommend everyone to take part in this opportunity at least once in their life if they are able to qualify. There is nothing more amazing than representing your country along with hundreds of others all around you who are all so stoked to be there. The road to a World championship event is hard and the training even harder. I fundraised for the trip and was very lucky with getting some sponsors on board to help take costs away from other areas in my life such as shoes/equipment/physio. I learnt a lot on this trip about how to travel and how to race at an elite level. I learnt to embrace it when things don’t go right e.g. having a six hour delay in Madrid, fellow teammates losing their luggage, good food being an absolute mission to find! (have learnt to be less of a picky eater now). I am hungry for more and cannot wait to go again next year if the qualifying race goes as planned. I would love to be racing in the elite category a few years from now and I hope to see some of you guys there with me next year.

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