In October 2014 Cheryl Hirschberg travelled to Weihai China for the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Champs. This is her race report:
The whole event for me was somewhat of a surreal experience. I had never imagined competing in such an event when I first began enjoying events with the triathlon club some eight years ago, and never had I considered representing my country in a sporting event. It just goes to show anyone at any age if they enjoy the sport of triathlon, and have the determination to train hard can achieve.
Arriving in China was an experience in itself, and where the event was held was actually a lot more westernized than myself or the team had anticipated. The temperature was what we all had to adapt to over the week leading up as we had all trained through the New Zealand winter so it was a real change to be running in up to 30 degrees.
The four km swim in the Yellow Sea was made up of two, two km loops where we exited to the beach and then reentered. The bay was quite sheltered, but tidal and the course was well marked with smaller buoys in between the big ones. Easier to sight when we breathed to the right. I had a great swim got onto some feet and the first lap flew by. Exited the first lap with quite a few men that had started 10 minutes before us so knew I was on track. We only knew 30 minutes before that it was a wetsuit swim as the water temperature was close to the 24 degree cut off for non wetsuit on that day. I was relieved to be in my wetsuit as this was only my third ever swim event in the sea.
Came out of the swim and had a long run to transition where I took my time to get a gel into me, and more sunblock on my shoulders. Then onto the bike straight up a long steepish hill, hardly any flat to get clipped into your pedals. The bike course was 120kms three 40 km loops. Lots of hills which really suited me, and the training I had done at home in the Pohangina valley. The streets were lined with school children all out chanting for us to ride hard. I won’t forget all the sideline support we had. Even an American supporter ran beside us up the last part of the largest hill encouraging us all the way. We had a tunnel to ride through which was about 400 metres long, and gave a welcome respite from the heat for a moment.
Then the run which consisted of four 20 km laps. The first lap was the hardest coming off the bike, and then I managed to gather my form to get my running technique together, and got through the next two laps.I had to dig deep for the last run home in the oppressive heat. Having only water offered on the course, and no electrolytes was a difficult change for all our athletes, but I managed to carry everything I needed, and crossed the finish line carrying the New Zealand flag.
At that time I didn’t know where I had placed, but knew I had been passed in the run by the Australian athlete in my age group. When they called my name to go to the podium for the medal ceremony in my age group, as I had placed third it was quite an emotional moment. All the training and support from my family, and coach Aimée Perret had been worth it. A bronze medal for NZ, a very proud moment.