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Joanna Brown: Recovery, racing in Florida and Rio

Credit: Jérôme Bergeron. Photo courtesy of Joanna Brown.

We haven’t seen you racing much recently, but you raced at both CAMTRI sprint triathlons in Clermont and Sarasota. Tell us about your Clermont race, where you placed fourth.
I was so happy to finish fourth in Clermont. It was just a small step off the podium but a big step forward for me. Over the past year I experienced some big setbacks and a couple months of illness with time off. I still completed some races but just felt like I was doing my best to get through them. People don’t usually talk about the hard weeks, months, or years, but I had to seriously evaluate my career and decide on which path was right for me. I never stopped loving triathlon and in the end the answer was easy. I wanted to fight my way back and give triathlon my best shot. A consistent fall training block helped solidify my decision and I continued to improve over the winter. I was excited about training again, I was motivated to challenge myself and I could actually recover after hard workouts instead of feeling like I had hit a wall. After spending February in Clermont, I felt my old self returning slowly each week.

I was very nervous on race morning as I hadn’t raced for over six months. The best thing about the first race of the season is that you come out knowing exactly where you need to improve. I came out of the water in the race slightly back from some super fast swimmers and had some work to do on the bike to catch up. I ended up in a great chase pack with three other Canadians (Legault, Boutin, Jammicky) and we worked really hard together so that the lead pack didn’t gain any extra time on us. We shut down the gap on the last lap of the bike and came into transition right with the lead pack. While dismounting my bike another girl cut me off and I slipped and scuffed my foot. It was so frustrating! It took me a moment to get my mind back in the race instead of thinking about how mad I was but I got through T2 and refocused. I felt very slow when I started running. I was just sucking down air and screaming at my legs in my head to move faster! I felt like I was running through sand for about two kilometres…and then somehow just as I turned around to complete my second and final lap of the run I started to feel some life in my legs. I looked straight forward at the girls ahead of me and gradually started to pass them. It had been so long since I had felt this good or this hungry to compete. I burst into tears at the finish. I think that may be one of the first times anyone has cried for coming 4th! But I was so happy because I had RACED. It’s a feeling beyond words.

In Sarasota you placed 15th. How do you feel after that race?
It was not my best day on Saturday. I was feeling awesome in the week leading up to the race but I think that I pushed too hard in between Clermont and Sarasota and it left me feeling empty on race day. I had a bad start and I sloshed through the swim. It was a very physical swim around the first buoy. I came out about 20 seconds back from the pack I had aimed for and then had a hard ride to try and minimize the gap. I felt strong on the run but was too far back to be in contention for the front spots.

It was really hard for me to have a mediocre performance on Saturday and it almost erased all of my good feelings from the week before. But I came back hard for the relay and having one of the fastest legs on Sunday helped me to gain a bit of confidence back.

How have you approached your racing season given that it’s an Olympic year?
My plan for this race season is conservative and will require a lot of patience but my coach and I made a promise that we wouldn’t race before we were ready. I have raced in the past because I have felt obligated, or because I needed to for funding, or simply because I had planned to. The past few years have taught me that if I am standing on the start line and I’m not 100% in the race then I will be disappointed with the result. After my Florida races I am excited to return to Guelph and take a few weeks to soak in the past few months. The Olympics is always in the back of my mind but its not the determining factor for my season this year. I’m learning to love racing again and that is paramount to anything else that I will achieve in 2016.

Do you think you can make the Olympic team this year?
Where there is belief there is always a chance. That said, the Canadian women are so strong. I’m not in top shape yet and the bar for Rio is set high. I am excited to see how it all unfolds and I know firsthand how much the three women that will stand on the start line have given to be there.

Are you in school right now?
I am not in school this semester but I thoroughly enjoyed my 2015 fall semester. I become a lot more efficient and less tired when I am training and in school. I’m looking forward to being in school again this fall and finishing off my degree, finally!
Joanna would like to thank her coach Craig Taylor and his family as well as her sponsors PwC, Asics Canada, Felt, Nineteen, Infinit, and Energy Lab.