Race season...it's well and truely underway
It’s June already! Race season well and truly underway! It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog so I’ll back track a little, this could take a while!
After the British Duathlon Champs at the end of March I had a good month or so to crack on with some quality training. I spent a week in Portugal with Tri Training Harder over the Easter weekend which was absolutely brilliant. We had a couple of days where the weather wasn’t so good but we racked up some big miles on the bike including the 100 mile Monchique ‘Sunday ride’ which was a little wet to say the very least! It was great to train in the pool, in the sea, on the track and on the IAAF cross country course. Thanks to Fiona for taking Richard and I out for a ride with the local cycling club, one of the hardest and at the time furthest rides of my life! You couldn’t ask for a better location! The roads are perfect for cycling, not many cars, hardly any pot holes and beautiful sunshine. Thanks to all the team there for doing a great job – I’d love to go back next year and would definitely recommend it!
April and May continued as usual with training and work and with a few parkruns, cycling time trials and the start of open water swimming thrown in. My first race of the season was an aquathlon run by openwaterswim.co.uk in the beautiful lake at Little Marlow where I finished first lady and followed up the next day with the Hatch End Triathlon organised by Jetstream Tri Club where I was first overall!
Triathlon started for me when I was age 10 at the Hatch End Tri and I have done the race most years since, only missing three (I think!). It involves a roughly 400m pool swim followed by a 19k bike and a 3k run. It is impossible to know where you are position wise as everyone starts at different times and with one of the faster swim times I was pretty much last to start. I really enjoyed the race and was thrilled to see I had managed to beat all the men!
The second openwaterswim.co.uk aquathlon was two weeks later, I took this as a warm up for my triathlon the next day. I headed up to Shropshire on the Saturday afternoon with a wet wetsuit, trisuit and race flats for a long wet drive. We registered and drove round the bike course (impressively managing to get lost!). It was a bit of a luxury to be starting at 10.40am on the Sunday which even meant a ‘bit’ of a lie in! I’ve done Shropshire once before in 2012 where I struggled with the distance but really enjoyed the race. I was under coach’s instructions to ‘ease back’ on the run ONLY if I had a win in the bag (trying to save energy for the following weeks races!), he then clarified that he meant first lady overall, not just my age group as I had understood!
The lake we were swimming in in Ellesmere was full of green algae – lovely! I enjoyed the swim and came out first lady over 30 seconds ahead of the speedy Charlotte Hanson. Through transition and out on the bike; my lenses fell out of my glasses so they got left behind in transition. The first 20 miles of the bike were great fun (minus the whole weather side of things), the last 5 miles less so as they were directly into the wind! I was expecting to be caught on the bike and as each 15 minutes went by and no one had come past I kept pushing on determined to get into T2 still in the lead. It was a fairly hilly bike course so I kept pushing on the up hills and working the flat sections enjoying being back on the TT again. Out of T2 it was impossible to feel my feet as they were so cold, I was aware that I was not landing very well which resulted in a blister on the top of my toe! The run, also fairly hilly, was a good course as you could see your competitors at two turn around points. I had a lead of roughly a minute over Kim Morrison, who was looking very strong. I continued to push on and felt in control, not wanting to ease back too much as I thought I could easily lose a minute’s lead. I enjoyed the run, picking off the men and finished in 2 hours 4 minutes, and 14th overall. I was delighted with how the race had gone and it was a massive confidence boost knowing I was getting stronger and my swim, bike and run were all improving.
I was going to write a blog after Shropshire but I was so exhausted for two days after the race I didn’t feel up to it at all! It took me a couple of days to recover; we tried to push on with training as Shropshire was the first of 4 weekends of back to back racing. I had forgotten how emotionally, mentally and physically draining racing can be, as well as combining long driving and overnight stays. By Wednesday I felt fine and was able to start to focus on the Aquathlon – the European Championships.
I flew out to Cologne, Germany with my parents and Richard, who was also racing, on Friday morning. This was my first senior elite race for GBR and I was really looking forward to it. Our hotel was great, really convenient for the race and the city was lovely. We registered, went for a run around the course and had a briefing before dinner and bed. It was great to see so many of the age group athletes out ready to race too, once again GBR dominating the age groups!
With the aquathlon not kicking off until 2pm on the Saturday, we started the day with an early morning run and another check out of the run course, then breakfast followed by a swim warm up at a local pool just down the road. An early light lunch and some time to chill before heading down to the race area around 1pm. Transition sorted, another swim warm up in the river – a luxury to be racing in sunshine and water of 18 degrees! The men went first and then it was into the water for the women – senior, U23 and junior. You spend months and months and kilometre and after kilometre of the winter going up and down the black line in the pool but open water starts can so easily go all wrong. I was disappointed with my swim as I got pummelled and bashed about as I attempted to ‘swim’, one breath and an arm in your face, another and a gulp full of water. Technique was all over the place, I told myself to calm down and just try and get some clear water. After about 400m I settled into a rhythm and just tried to concentrate on my own stroke and swimming and not worry about what else was going on. I started to pick people off and was at the back end of a pack before we reached the swim exit. I was out of the water in 7th place and after a run up the stairs and a quick transition was out on the run in 4th. I quickly caught the two girls in front and then spent the next 3km closing down the Czech girl in the lead. With about 1.5km to go I finally caught her up and ended up running side by side for the remainder of the run. It came down to a sprint finish, I tried to kick first but didn’t have much else to give and when she kicked I couldn’t go with her. I came in in second place (or first loser!) 5 seconds down. I was gutted to have been so close to a gold but failing at the last moment but I gave it everything I could and am really really happy to have come away with a medal at a European Elite Championships. There’s lots to take away from the race, lots of positives and a few areas to work on for next time. We had a great trip with a quick visit to the chocolate museum (well just the shop to buy chocolate!) and a lovely dinner afterwards. The next day we headed back to the pool to fit in a swim session before flying back in the afternoon. A successful weekend!
Next up is the first race of the British Super Series this weekend – the Blenheim Triathlon, followed the week after by the Windsor Triathlon so a busy couple of weeks still but at least I seem to have recovered from the weekend much better this time. I’m really excited to race my first drafting triathlon and try and mix it up with the best of the British girls. I hope to race in my new wetsuit this weekend – a big thank you to Snugg – it’s great to wear a wetsuit that fits so comfortably, is super flexible around the shoulders and is made to measure, you couldn’t ask for more than that!
British Triathlon - Medals galore for great Britain Teams
Tri247 - ETU Aquathlon Champs GB Medals
European Triathlon Union - Zimovjanova (CZE) and Syutkin (UKR) surge to ETU Aquathlon titles in Cologne