Joanna Brown had to sacrifice the battle but she still plans to win the war.
The Bytown Storm triathlete was in the lead pack at the Triathlon Junior Pan American Championships in Edmonton, but dropped out shortly into the run portion of her Sunday, July 10 race due to injury.
“I’d never pulled out of a race before and it was really hard,” explained the 2010 world junior bronze medallist whose sights are set on gold at this September’s junior worlds in Shanghai. “I really needed the support from my coach, and if I hadn’t have had that, I probably would have just kept going on the run and tried to grind it out, but Greg told me to stop, so I had to listen.
“It was hard. Every race I go into, I go in to win. Coming out of this with a lesser result wasn’t a great feeling, but I knew that I’d done everything that I could.”
Brown hadn’t run for three weeks prior to the Pan Am event – which she won last year – because of an injury that was difficult to pinpoint. The latest theory from the national team physiotherapist is that the Carp resident has deeply-embedded muscle knots stretching from her tibia, along her hip, through her back to her spine.
Brown said she felt pain whenever she kicked during the 750-metre swim – where she emerged around 20 seconds behind the three leaders – but felt great during the 20 km bike when she bridged the gap to the lead pack riding solo. After about 10 steps running, however, the pain returned – visibly enough for her coach to pull her from the course before she’d done 100 m of the remaining 5 km course.
“It was obvious she wasn’t going to be able to really be a factor and it was just going to aggravate an injury, so it really wasn’t worthwhile,” Storm head coach Greg Kealey recounted, adding the main goal was for Brown to demonstrate her fitness in the first two segments before the run, which is typically her forte. “When Joanna couldn’t run, we worked a lot on the swimming and biking, and that showed (on Sunday). She came out of the water a lot sooner than she would have six months ago and she absolutely owned the bike ride.”
Brown was also content with her race since she went in carrying the mindset that she wouldn’t be “extremely disappointed” if she wasn’t able to complete the run.
“I went all-out in the swim and really pushed it in the bike, so I was really, really happy with my result through those two,” noted Brown, who swims with the Ravens of Carleton club and often cycles with a Kunstadt Sports group. “I was right where I needed to be, and had I been healthy, I think it would have been a really great race for me.”
The 18-year-old All Saints Catholic High School grad was also “really excited” to see two other Canadian girls (Ellen Pennock and Christine Ridenour) finish 1-2, meaning it could have been a clean maple leaf sweep of the podium if Brown had been in the mix.
Another Storm triathlete, Tristan Woodfine of Cobden, was the best Canadian in the men’s race, cracking the top five to earn himself a likely trip to the world juniors (Triathlon Canada should confirmed his berth in the coming months).
“Overall it was definitely a really good day,” smiled Kealey, who was honoured as 2010 elite coach of the year by Triathlon Canada, while Brown picked up the junior athlete of the year award. “You can’t complain when you’re sending one-third of a world junior team to an event like that.
“But now we’ve got worlds, so there’s more work to do.”
For Woodfine, it’s all about improving his swimming, while Brown needs to recover from her injury so she can work on running. But Kealey believes that Brown is still on track to reach the main goal of her season – a world junior title.
“There’s always going to be setbacks,” Kealey noted. “At this level and with the amount of work we do, you’re always planning that there will be an injury or setback where you’ll lose a couple of weeks somewhere.
“There’s plenty of time until September.”