Gold Coast ITU Age Group World Champs 2018, Gaby Villa

Gold Coast ITU Age Group World Champs 2018 Race Report, Gaby Villa

Starting from the beginning

Triathlon changed my life. Not only because it gives me a reason to exercise daily and keep my body healthy, it has been involved in many other aspects of my life: I chose my career thanks to my passion for it and my will to give something back to the sport, I’ve met my best friends through triathlon, it had a bit to do in my decision to come to study to Australia, and it simply makes me so happy, I’m sure we can all relate to that sense of accomplishment after finishing a hard training session or getting a PB.

Ever since one of my friends qualified and competed in the World Triathlon Championships in Beijing back in 2011 the idea of representing my country was stuck in my head. I was used to getting podiums at local races but qualifying for a world championship wasn’t that easy. I kept training and trying but still was not good enough for it… until last year. I set my mind to it and was 100% committed to achieving this goal. I knew I was going to need support, so I asked Grant for his help. I must confess I was nervous, a small part of me kept thinking it was something too big for me to try and I was afraid Grant was going to tell me that my goal was too ambitious. Nothing like that happened and I think that initial meeting with Grant was a key milestone. He certainly thought I could achieve it and that helped me believe it myself.

For me to qualify without being in Mexico, I needed to apply for a “wild card”. The way to do it was sending my results from ITU approved races in Australia to the Mexican Federation to assess if I was suitable to represent my country in the World Champs. That meant I had to compete in the age group selection races from here and get the best result I could possibly achieve. I sent my application at the beginning of April and by mid-April I had an email “Dear Gaby, Congratulations! You’ve made it to the team”… So bloody happy!... It was real, it was happening!

The days leading to the race

All the training was done and I had noticed improvements, particularly in my running, which helped me feel very confident for the race. Most of my nerves were related to the travel, the bike arriving safely, me not forgetting anything, not missing the plane, etc. The only issue I had was trying to get the pedals off my bike before packing it, they were so tight! There were even tears involved. Thankfully Aaron managed to get them off eventually with a bit of swearing. The travel went well, and we arrived safely to Brisbane on Thursday night, drove to Gold Coast the next morning and made it perfectly on time to the kit collection at 9:30 am. After that, Friday was spent assembling the bike, doing some shopping for the carbo-loading and wandering around.

On Saturday morning the team manager organised a meeting with all the Mexican team before dropping the bike in transition. I rode my bike there just to check it and everything seemed to be running smoothly (one less thing to worry about… phew!). Meeting the rest of the team was very exciting. Some of them already knew each other from events in Mexico but it was going to be the first time for me. The meeting was good, it was easy to tell how everybody was looking forward to racing. I felt very proud hearing how even people within the 74-79 category came all the way to race (he’s the guy in the middle of the group hugging his wife… 50 years married, btw :O)

I was the first person lined up to the bike drop so my bike was the very first bike racked in transition (I had to be first at something!). With bike-drop sorted all I had to worry about was eating and resting well. Race was starting at 6:39 am and it was going to take us 20 min to walk to transition and other 15-20 min to walk to the swim start so we had to wake up at 4:20 am (2:20 am Perth time). Just before getting into bed, I received a message from the event app saying that due to strong winds being expected, disc-wheels were not going to be allowed. Cycling in the wind didn’t sound exciting but I didn’t get too worried, there was no way it was going to be worse than Busselton.

The big day

Waking up was not a struggle at all, I was very excited and also wanted everything to run according to schedule (yes, I literally had a schedule 4:20 wake up, 4:50 leave accommodation… ) We arrived at transition in time and after going through my list 20 times I was finally sure I had everything nice and ready and could keep moving on.

The swim was from point to point, so we had to walk the 1500m to the start line, by the time we got there I was a few minutes behind schedule, putting the wetsuit on didn’t take very long but I had to put numbered tattoos on it and for some reason they were not sticking on. I finally got it… 6:35 am! I made my way through the people waiting for their wave start only to find out mine was already in the water (waaahhh!) I quickly got in and nervously waited for the start, mostly because I was panicking about me not stepping properly on the mat that activates the chip.

6:39… off we go! The swim was pretty straight-forward and I felt great noticing I had a fair few people behind me and I was still passing some others. I came out of the water on to transition feeling good, once I took my wetsuit off I noticed the Velcro for the chip was coming loose so I tightened it before it could cause any chaffing, I’m sure it only took a few seconds but it felt like minutes, especially since I could see people passing behind me getting their bikes.


The ride consisted of two 20km laps, with several corners and U-turns and it was “windy”, Busselton certainly set the bar high, so I didn’t feel that it was windy at all. We all know bike skills are not my thing (mostly because I avoid them) but listening to Grant and making it to the skills sessions more than I normally do certainly paid off – I went well with the 38 corners and 3 U-turns. I was not happy about my first 5km averaging less than 30km/h and I noticed girls in my age group were passing me on the bike. I started picking up the pace and for a while managed to stay closer to 35km/h so that kept me motivated. I finished my 2 laps and didn’t have any issues at transition.

Everything was going great but ah… the run, I was expecting my legs to feel nice and fresh and I certainly got the opposite. I could feel the fatigue in my legs and even though I got the first km at 4:30 (my target pace), I knew I was not going to hold it for very long. During training I got very good at using mindfulness while running, being aware of myself and just feeling myself flowing without having to pay much attention to the watch but the pain on my legs made it harder for me to get into “the zone”. Seeing Aaron along the way and the Mexican people on the sidelines cheering “Vamos Mexico” kept me going and helped me remember the reason I was doing this and gave me that extra push I needed. It was feeling harder than normal, but I was not going to let myself slow down. On to the second and final lap I was still not flowing but I was feeling happy getting closer to crossing that finish line. That moment I had visualised in my head so many times.

The last 200m felt so easy, I was not flowing, I was floating! All the fatigued I felt disappeared as soon as I stepped on the blue zone. Someone from the sidelines gave me a small Mexican flag that I proudly carried on my way to that finish line. I crossed the line with my arms raised, a huge smile on my face and tears in my eyes. 2hrs 26 mins and 23 seconds… 5 minutes faster than the PB I had from a draft legal race in Mexico.


The part I enjoyed the most about this race was the process leading up to it! I think the key elements to my happy story can be summarised into the following.

Training. I understand the importance of following the expert’s advice, so I followed Grant’s training program without second guessing. It took me 3 years to reduce my 10km by 2 min and I reduced it by 3 min in a year training with Grant. I also introduced a weights training program from Kate and I noticed the benefits immediately.

Mindfulness. Even though I couldn’t be quite there during the race, practicing mindfulness during training has been fantastic. Running went from being the thing I enjoyed the least to be the one I like the most.

Nutrition. I need to mention this one, accompanying my training plan with a good nutrition strategy made the process more beneficial. I didn’t feel like I ran out of fuel at any stage either.

Support. Training in the winter was challenging, some days it was hard to get out of bed but lucky me I had Aaron to kick me out of it. I’m also lucky to always be surrounded by friends and family encouraging me to give my best.

Memories. Remembering how everything started, the steps that brought me here, and the people who were with me along the way kept me motivated.

Thank you for reading my story =)