As some of you may be aware Glasgow is going to be the proud host of the inaugural European Games in 2018, part of these games include the European Triathlon Championships to be held in Strathclyde Park. This weekend saw the first chance to grab a qualifying slot in the British age group team to race the sprint event. The next chance will be this weekend coming in Strathclyde Park and I know there’s a few of our members itching to get on that start line, we can’t wait to hear how you all get on. For now, here how some of our members got on in Southport this weekend….
There’s a saying in coaching – don’t ask an athlete to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. So every now and again I toe the line and take part in a race. As a reminder of the emotions, skills and physical requirements needed. It’s been over 18 months since the last one I did and this one I was equally unprepared for!!! My passion is helping others rather than chasing my own performance goals so whilst never exactly grossly unfit I rarely do any structured training myself. So a GB qualifier with 1 run in the last 10 weeks, carrying a heel injury and only ~9 swims this year what could go wrong???!!!
The reality was nothing went wrong and lots went OK. I swam fine – straight with no issues to be third out the water in my wave. Held strong with only a couple of folk riding past and then ran as best I could for a sub 20 min 5k off the bike. Good enough for 7th in a competitive field. Not good enough for a place in a GB age group team.
I’m happy overall – I wasn’t nervous before the race, made no mistakes and pushed as hard as I could. I’m broken today as a result so know that I got a good race out. Maybe next time I’ll practice what I preach a bit more???!!!
Some of you may have noticed I’ve been missing in action from training for while, well since September to be exact. I appear to have a complete lack of understanding of the concept of pain and mistook what I was feeling while training on the bike (and the following day) as just training pain – turns out it absolutely wasn’t, and I definitely shouldn’t have been blocking it out and pushing on through, seems there’s a time for a princess to toughen up and this wasn’t it!! Since September there’s been 3 months off work with a back injury, many a tear of frustration shed, countless hours at physio, even more hours spent in the gym rehabbing and a gentle return to some activity that resembles training but doesn’t quite cut it compared to where I was when it all went a tad wrong. I took the tough decision in February to withdraw from this years ETU sprint triathlon in Dusseldorf as there was no way I was going to be fit enough to contemplate this race and felt it only fair to give someone else a shot. While I had become comfortable with the prospect of this years racing being cancelled for me and my focus now having to be on rehab and getting my fitness back, I was deeply uncomfortable with the thought of not getting my chance at qualifying for a home European Championships in Glasgow next year. This was not sitting well with me and I knew I had to do my best to get on a start line for a qualification race, that thought brought me to Southport sprint. So, I did all I could in the run up: followed physio instructions to the letter, completed all rehab sessions diligently, swam as much as possible, tried to spend some time on the bike (that didn’t go so well!), and I had done a few runs – all of which built to no more than 4 x 1km reps, the last one on Thursday being 2 x 2km reps. I toed that start line the least prepared physically but probably the most prepared mentally I’ve ever been. I knew I didn’t have the fitness I needed but I also knew I had the pig-headedness and stubbornness that got me into this hole and I was prepared to call on that again for one race that mattered.
Southport sprint will always hold a happy place in my memory, it is where I qualified for the 2016 ETU sprint and it’s a race I loved, despite the horrendous conditions that had the swim buoys blown all the way across the boating pond and the bikes blown off the racks! It’s a race I know and a course that suits me being flat and fast – I’m not built for hills!
The swim is in a boating pond that is mainly inhabited by swans, the surface underfoot is somewhat squidgy, soft and warm with a very brown tinge to it – I’m sure we all know what the majority of it’s contents is and we will leave it at that – best not to think too much sometimes, just don’t take too much down the hatch! Being south of the border there’s always the advantage that the water is generally warmer and this did not disappoint, with a very comfortable 15 degree. I swam pretty well for me, I’ve never been the biggest fan of the argy-bargy of open water but I’ve become more comfortable with giving as good as I get, I actually really enjoyed the swim this time round. Transition is massive and results in a long barefoot run on quite rough carpark tarmac hence the long transition times for everyone.
The bike is fast and flat along the promenade and is usually hit with a strong northerly wind but this time it felt like a bit of a cross wind from inland out to sea so it was slightly headwindy in both directions, wasn’t going to be a fast day but at least it also wasn’t going to be block headwind in one direction like last time! An amateur error on the bike saw me lose my drinks bottle, I wouldn’t normally bother with one in a sprint but I had done this time mainly to get the taste of the pond out my mouth so thankfully I’d managed a sip before I sloppily missed the bottle cage and bounced my bottle off onto the pavement – I liked that bottle too! The out and back nature of the course gave me a chance to give team mate Claire Coey a wee shout on and info that she was sitting in 3rd female overall as well so that was nice. I had no idea how to pace myself on the bike so I went with the plan of keeping overtaking people and trying not to be overtaken by any of my fellow moderately old burds in my newly crowned vet category (eek!). This plan seemed to work as I passed many and only got passed by a bullet on a bike in the age group above me – all good, I wasn’t chasing her!
The run was a complete unknown, I had felt ok on the bike but I’d no idea what running 5km was going to feel like, I wasn’t even sure I could run 5km! Seeing there was only one bike in transition when I got back confirmed to me I had to go for it, I set off running with what felt like a cactus plant in each shoe and concrete for legs. I employed the same plan as on the bike and gradually started catching those ahead of me and got caught by no one. Thankfully I managed to get round without stopping and even got a wee bit carried away picking up my pace for the last 2km.
Unsure of where I finished in my age group, but fairly certain I was sitting 13th female – I had to be pleased with myself. To find out I had finished 2nd in age group was mind blowing and just shows what can be done if you follow rehab and coaching instructions. I couldn’t have managed this without the treatment and attention to detail received from Alan Scott (physio, Hampden Clinic), and the support, care and coaching guidance from John Dargie – for that I am hugely grateful, it’s going to take a long time to get this stupid smile off my face, even though I now feel like I’ve been hit by a train. Just don’t expect to see me on another start line anytime soon!