Great performances often involve overcoming adversity. Angry Bird’s victory at Challenge Dubai today proves no exception.

Before we go into the mechanical difficulties that nearly derailed Stella’s $1 million campaign before it even began, some background on how we’ve approached this race and off-season training.

Challenge Dubai was always seen as good opportunity for an early season training hit-out. There was no pressure for the Bird “to win” or “perform” coming into Dubai. Only for a consolidation of the two aspects of her training that we have been working on in the off-season – an improved swim and run. The latter being to make sure she is not gunned down on the final leg at Kona this year.

Because we’ve been focusing on these two disciplines over the past couple of months, the bike has been relegated to a maintenance role, while making slight adjustments to style position and new shoeing on the pedals.

So how did she perform?

The Swim

What has been largely overlooked is Daniela’s swim. Today was her first time out of the water with the top swimmers. Training partner Nicola (Spirig) and Dani have both worked tirelessly to drop from a six beat kick to a two beat kick. This is terribly hard to do, but since starting the transition at winter camp this time last year both have mastered it to a level that is now having a major impact on their races.

The Run

The second goal was a stronger run performance against the run specialists.

Daniela is a very strong runner and we believe that with 12 more months of work she will be able to convert her short course run power into Ironman run power. This has been a goal and while Coach hasn’t been convinced this is going in the right direction, her partner in crime, Nicola, has insisted that she is indeed making progress.

As we all saw the Angry Bird got off the bike and flew the coup today with the fastest run split, so Nicola is vindicated.

Daniela Ballet shoesThe Angry Bird dancing on the pedals with her ballet shoes.

The bike innovations with Dani are a work in progress as we look to develop her bike leg. Not to be able to cycle faster [most would agree she’s already pretty solid in this area] but to be able to run faster off the bike. So the new ‘ballet’ shoes, which were noticed by many, are part of the process of helping a great deal in this area. They also look pretty cool.

Now for the stuff that really makes me happy as a coach and the reason I know Daniela is progressing in her mental strength as well. This morning before the race she had a gear cable problem. The ability to not only to shift gears but use most gears is of great importance in a race like this and a frantic bike mechanic was not able to fix the problem. Rather than pull out the Angry Bird decided to ride the entire race in the big ring while using the three gears the mechanic was able fix.

I point this out as I know many people are linking Daniela’s big gear pushing to my position on bike cadence, however even for me pushing 56 up the hill into the head wind is overdoing it. What happened is that at the 60km mark she lost the other two smaller gears and had to ride in the one gear for the rest of the race.

So it would seem big gear training has its merits when this situation abruptly turns up in the biggest money race of the year thus far. As impressive as pulling off the fastest bike split facing a technical difficulty is, what makes me proud is how the Bird took it all in her stride, didn’t panic and executed race instructions with discipline and precision.

So great job Stella, you have completely outshone my expectations for this time of the year. We should have known as soon as the silver head band came out that the Bird was in ‘Watch me fly’ mode. Well done.

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