December 25, 2020

Close to perfection: Paula Findlay’s emphatic march to the top

“Close to perfection” was how Canadian Paula Findlay described her victory at the PTO 2020 Championship at CHALLENGEDAYTONA® .

Findlay produced a scintillating display – particularly on the bike – to triumph over Anne Haug and Laura Philipp by over two minutes at the event.

Her 1:51:13 split on the bike – the fastest of anyone in the field – coupled with the second fastest run and sixth fastest swim splits saw her dominate the field.

“In terms of a perfect race, I came as close I think as I have ever gotten to it, especially in a long course race,” explained Findlay of her accomplishment.

“I do think my swim can be a little better, I came out well, I wasn’t necessarily expecting to be within that main pack coming out of the water – a lot of people haven’t had access to pool this year, me included.

“I was unsure of how my swimming would do over 2km, so I was pleasantly surprised, although I think to achieve an even more perfect race, I’d have my swimming a little bit quicker next time.”

In a race of her own

Due to the unique circumstances of CHALLENGEDAYTONA® because of the coronavirus pandemic, Findlay said it was very difficult to gauge what was going on behind her during the race.

At times during the bike and the run, Findlay was leading by over four minutes from her nearest competitor, but she insisted she wasn’t aware of how dominant a performance she was putting in.

She said: “I didn’t really have that much awareness on the bike of where other people were, and even on the run, I wasn’t getting much feedback, so I was just staying in my range of what was comfortable and doable for a 100km race.

“The only time I could see people was running through the transition/finish area and even then, it was just so loud, and I didn’t have a coach there. I didn’t have one single person I trusted to give me splits or feedback or any information on the course.

“I didn’t let myself believe I was going to win; I was sort of trying to do math in my head of how slow I’d have to go for Anne [Haug] to catch me or how quick she’d have to go, so I sort of knew in the last 3km that it was likely I was going to win.”Close to perfection: Paula Findlay’s emphatic march to the top

‘Best race in a decade’

The emotions hit Findlay all at once as she crossed the finish line in Daytona – from utter disbelief to pure elation, she was unable to fully grasp the enormity of what she had just achieved.

“I was shocked at the finish line,” explained Findlay, “then I just kept looking back at disbelief and then felt the happiness.

“There was like four or five different emotions that all hit me at once and you kind of see that as I cross the finish line. It’s like I look like I’m going to cry, then I look shocked, so it was kind of crazy. I don’t really remember it to be honest.”

The Canadian star admitted that while she had won races over the past decade, the victory at Daytona brought her a feeling that she hadn’t felt since 2011 – the feeling that she could compete with the best in the world.

“I was pretty much on top of the world back in 2010, 2011, so that was the last time I had these sorts of races where against the best women in the world I was winning or finishing on the podium.

“I’ve had good races since then but nothing of this level and, although I have won races, they obviously weren’t of this calibre of field.

“The prize money was obviously bigger than anything I have ever won, so yes, I guess I’d say it’s not like I haven’t had any good races in the last decade, but this was definitely the best one.”Close to perfection: Paula Findlay’s emphatic march to the top

Collins Cup on Findlay’s radar

Findlay’s thoughts now turn to the 2021 Collins Cup in Šamorín, Slovakia, and working with Canadian triathlon royalty in the form of Lisa Bentley and Simon Whitfield who are captains of Team International.

“It’s really cool,” Findlay said about working with the duo. “I’ve always looked up to them since they were racing when I was kind of getting into the sport and I know them both very well, I keep in touch with both quite often.

“Simon’s a good friend of mine and I trained with him a little bit before the London Olympics and Lisa Bentley is just like a sporting hero in Canada.

“I’m looking forward to it, it’ll be a little bit of a unique race with these team formats and working together instead of being completely individual and racing for yourselves, so that is also a cool dynamic that I think will be fun to watch and to race.”Close to perfection: Paula Findlay’s emphatic march to the top

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