Exactly one year ago today, I made my GB Age Group debut in Edmonton at the ITU World Championship. In three weeks time, I get another opportunity to race for GB in the 2015 World Championship in Chicago.
I targeted qualification for the World Champs at the start of the season and registered myself for all three qualifiers. With Outlaw Half at the end of May sandwiched between the qualifiers it was a busy couple of months but under the guidance of my coach Adam at GreenlightPT managed to perform well at all three qualifiers and Outlaw and managed to win my age group at the first qualifier at Belvoir Castle and therefore booked my place for Chicago!
I was really pleased with how this first half of the season went. I was swimming, cycling and running faster than I have ever done and for the first time ever actually pass people on the bike leg! With Chicago in the bag, it meant the pressure was off for all my other races. Outlaw Half was a great experience again. The weather was awful – it poured from the start of the swim, all through the bike and then dried out for the run but I loved every minute of it. Despite the weather, I knocked nearly 5 minutes off my bike time – which was pretty good considering most of the bike leg was under water and it was my first ride on my new TT in the wet! I’d set myself a target of 5:30 – 11 minutes quicker than last year and on the day came in at 5:31 – partly due to the weather on the bike course and blowing up towards the end of the run. But, it was still a 10 minute PB and I know in decent weather there’s plenty more to come there.
The other two qualifiers Deva and Dambuster were also really good for me. Having spent three years in Chester at university I was excited to race here and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a fantastically well organised race with a great course. Even got myself on Breakfast TV and the Channel 4 highlights by virtue of the fact I came out of the swim with TV host Louise Minchin! The bike course was fast – my fastest ever ride and the run, on paper sounded dull – three laps of the Meadows and along the Groves – but in reality it was great, really pretty and varied terrain. It was also the National Champs so I was super pleased to finish 7th in my age group. I really recommend this event and hope to go back next year.
Dambuster was another favourite of mine. I qualified for Edmonton here last year and the course suits me – the bike is interesting with the first third very hilly (the Rutland Ripples), the second third mostly downhill and the final third lots of ups, lots of downs and not a lot inbetween. It’s challenging to say the least but you are rewarded with a nice flat out and back run to finish.
With things looking up I settled into some training ready for the European Champs in Geneva when the old calf problem raised it’s head again. With three weeks until Geneva it was a race against time to get fit. Unfortunately it didn’t go to plan – with a panic attack in the swim (don’t ask!), an ok bike leg, the run was a painful 10km. My first experience of the European Championships is one I’d quite like to forget! It was a great event in a beautiful location but for me, not my best experience.
Post Geneva, I settled back into training and trying to get my leg sorted. All seemed well by the start of August and GreenlightPT took part in a fun relay event, well sort of fun, it was the East Midlands relay champs and for me, I felt I was back on form – running still had a little way to go but after three weeks out it wasn’t too bad! My team – the ‘Green Goddessess’ came third in the women’s race so bit more bling for the collection and a good day out was had by all.
Before Chicago I had one more event to do – the Vitruvian. It’s basically Dambuster, twice over and was an event I’ve been keen to do for a few years. Roughly three weeks before Chicago it’s a good gauge of my fitness and form and I was hoping to get a decent 70.3 time (bike is a bit short so was hoping for sub 3 hours on that leg). But, as has been the case this year, for every high, another low and a week before I tweaked my calf again…With physio and staying off it and praying it was just a bit tight I went ahead with the race on the understanding if I got to the run and it hurt – to stop. It was a real pain as I was swimming well, biking quite well (a lack of proper run training means more time on the bike) and I can normally wing the run despite no training. I felt good race morning – after my disastrous swim at Geneva I was keen to put that right and adopted a different more relaxed approach – i.e. forget about everyone else and do my own thing. It worked and I really enjoyed the swim. It was a two lap route with a short run between loops and I came out first in my age group. Straight onto the bike, knowing there weren’t too many girls in front and I got my head down – bit too quick for the first lap – I did it quicker than I’d done Dambuster – that’ll hurt later! A girl from my age group passed me on the first loop but I managed to maintain second and hit the run in 10th place overall – not bad for me…the run started well. I was under strict instructions to keep it slow which was hard as my legs wanted to go much quicker but eventually I settled into the agreed pace, but by 5km my calf was starting to twinge a bit. Not badly but enough to know it could put Chicago in jepoardy if I continued so at the 5km turn I decided I’d walk/jog back to the start and then drop out.
Except I got to the halfway point back near transition and the commentator announced I was still in second in my age group (despite my walk/jogging effort!) and the competitor in me took the turn around and carried on. However, 400m further along my sensible voice came through and I took the decision to stop. It was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make – to be in contention and then walk away was really difficult but I know it was the right one. I swam really well, I biked well (2:41 split) – so it wasn’t a wasted day and I still got my hoodie!
And here were are today. A year since my GB AG debut and now looking forward to Chicago with a few more weeks training to get done. Not sure how much running I’ll get done but hey it’s only a 10km and I’ve nothing else in the diary after September – I’ll blinking well hop round that Buckingham Fountain if I have to – bring it on!