Gaby Villa - 70.3 Los Cabos 2019 

Gaby Villa - 70.3 Los Cabos 2019 

The idea
More than a year ago Aaron suggested that since we were going to Mexico, maybe it was a good idea to time it with my 30th and perhaps even a triathlon along the way and I immediately fell in love with the idea. And so, as soon as the registrations opened in November 2018, I registered to the 70.3 in Los Cabos and convinced my friends to come and join me. We started doing triathlons together back in 2009 and with most of us spread all around the world, the idea of racing together again made the idea even more enticing. 

With one year to go and no other big race coming I focused my training on getting ready for Los Cabos… “I’m doing a very hilly race in November” I kept saying. If I had added “hot” into the mix probably the preparation would have been much more accurate!

The training 
I can’t say I spent a whole year specifically training for Los Cabos, but it definitely kept me motivated most of the time. Kate Baldwin from Endurance Movement gave me specific weight exercises to get my legs ready for hills and Grant made sure to add hills into my training program. I had a hamstring injury after racing in Karri Valley in March so recovery from it and ensuring it was not coming back was also integrated into the training program. 

Fast forward to October and I was definitely feeling strong and confident on the hills (going up them, not finding my way through them hehe). It also seemed like injury was gone for good. 

The trip 
Our flight was scheduled to leave Perth on the 31st of October at 11 pm stopping at Sydney and Los Angeles   before landing in Los Cabos on Friday the 1st of November at 2 pm. The race was happening on Sunday 3rd at 6 am, so I had a couple of days to prepare. 
We normally try to synchronize our sleeping time on the plane to roughly the same time it would be at our destination. We find that it helps to get our bodies used to the time zone change as soon as possible. This strategy has been working quite well but I think that since I was so conscious on the importance of getting enough rest, I felt like this time I didn’t get to sleep as well. 

The only hiccup we had during the trip was our flight from L.A. to Los Cabos. The flight was nearly cancelled due to a shortage of staff for the plane. Thankfully they found a flight attendant but this meant the flight got significantly delayed and instead of landing at 2 pm we ended up arriving at nearly 5 pm. We were luckier than the flight leaving the gate before us – it was completely cancelled. The delay to our flight wasn’t too bad except that I had ambitious plans for that day once we arrived at the Air BnB. We needed to assemble the bike, buy groceries, pick up the race pack and go out for dinner with my friends with some relaxing time in between… HA! 

We arrived to the Air BnB, left the bags and rushed to collect the race number. Some of my friends were already at the checking and they came over to where we were staying and helped me putting my bike together -  I’m very thankful for the help! We ended up buying some take away burritos and had dinner at home. 

We went to bed at 9ish and I managed to sleep all the way to 2 am…yay? I guess 5 hours was not too bad. The rest of Saturday went smoothly, swimming in the morning, the race brief in the afternoon, dropped the bike off at T1 and my running shoes at T2. 
Went to bed at 9 and this time managed to sleep all the way till 4 am… I’ll take it! 


The race day
Our accommodation was 5km away from start line and transition, so Aaron dropped my friend Juliana and I at T1 at 5 am (thank you, Aaron!). 

The race was starting at 6:30 so I had plenty of time to leave my things on the bike and make it to the toilet, so glad I did since the queue was massive! 


The swim began with a rolling start and I located myself in corral #2. It was my first attempt at a rolling start and I certainly liked not having to fight my way into the water. The swim was just one lap and I gained lots of confidence when I started passing people along the way. 

Got out of the water and on to T2 feeling strong and onto the 2-lap bike course I did feel the hilly parts of it but at no point did I feel like I was struggling. When I was completing the first lap, one of my friends who was spectating, started yelling that I was going in second place. I felt that probably she was getting that wrong from the tracker and I was only second out of the water, but I was feeling great so I decided to believe her. I was hoping to average 30km/h and I was hitting that target. 

By the second lap I was still feeling great, but thirstier than usual. I stopped for water twice throughout the course. My friend continued mentioning I was still in second place and I kept hoping that was true. In the last few races I’ve done, I’ve been recovering a few places on the run, so I even started to think I was going to catch first place once I was running. 
The way to transition was a bit tricky and slippery so I had to go slowly. Mum, Aaron and my sister were standing right there so it was nice to hear their encouraging words but also awkward given I was moving so slow. 

I started running with my legs feeling good but my head feeling warm. The first water station was within 500 m and I grabbed some ice and put it in my trisuit to try and refresh me. My target pace was 4:50 to get a PB, 4:55 to match my current PB and 5:00 in case I was struggling. 

I managed to get the first 2 kms just under 5min/km but by the third km I realised I was not going to go any faster than that. It was so hot and I was definitely struggling. Water stations were located every km and I felt it was taking so long to get from one to the other. There was no shade along the road at all and the sun was very intense. I found out afterwards that the temperature reached 33 degrees during the run! At every aid station I was making sure to drink some water, throw some more on myself, and get ice in my trisuit. It helped but only briefly. 

Some locals came out to support and a group of them had sponges with super cool water… bless them! They helped me feel back to life. The run was two laps and the idea of passing by the sponge angels again kept me motivated through the second one. 

At 6 kms I was still able to hold 5:20s and at 13kms just under 5:40s. 17, 18, 19 and 20 were over 6:00 and one of them above 6:30!! It was getting harder and harder, but I was not going to give up! I could tell most people were struggling so it gave me some relief to know I was not the only one. 

During the last km the idea of finishing and having my family and Aaron waiting at the finish line gave me extra motivation and I managed to get my pace back to 5:30. I couldn’t helped it and I started crying as soon as I crossed the finish line… hardest race ever!

I probably was looking so bad that the volunteers decided to carry me all the way to a pool filled with cold water in the recovery zone, which definitely helped. 

Once I managed to recover, I went out of the recovery zone with a beer in my hand… Viva Mexico! 

Later I found out I was right and the second place was just for my swim, I was 8th on the bike and somehow managed to hold my place on the run… finishing 8th out 26 in my new age group.

The lessons

  • Do your research! I was well aware of the course being hilly but I should have checked what the weather was going to be like… and trained for it. 
  • Arrive a day earlier. I think arriving on the Thursday instead of the Friday would have been better for me to adjust to the time zone. I believe I didn’t do it because the flights were more expensive on that day. 

The highlights

  • Despite suffering for a good part of it, I’m proud of me for not giving up. I wanted to walk so badly but didn’t do it. 
  • Racing again with my friends definitely made everything worth it. It was great to see them all again and celebrating together post-race. 
  • Having mum and my sister cheering on me gave me the extra strength I needed. I was used to have my family on the sidelines every time and I was missing that.