I crossed the line, having flown in under the radar.
"And whooo are youuuu?" said the commentators.
I hadn't really appeared on the favourites list, plus my race number came off which meant I carried it for much of the run. This did not help anyone... "And there she is, old whatsherchops, coming round again, no idea who she is, must be a big deal though." Or something like that.
Anyway, the race.
It went well! I am very happy. It wasn't a key race at all but I know it was a step up in performance and that's why I'm excited about it. Regardless of who I beat or where I came, I know it was a goodun, and it was as flawless a performance as I could have given at this time.
It has been a good two years since I ran fast off the bike, due to injuries and I guess I'll call it the 'transitionary phenomenon', where it seems common for new pro's to burst onto the race scene, then stagnate, as they get used to the training load, get injured, and make the necessary mistakes to move forward long-term.
I don't want to speak too soon as it's never a smooth road, but my running is back, helped by a new consistency on the bike (learning to race to power - thanks Coach Hywel and The Bike Company for installing). My bike power is slowly but surely improving and I no longer race reactively. If someone comes past and I'm already at 260W, there is no need to chase after them. Chances are they'll come back (unless they're a certain Miss Bartlett at the Scottish Duathlon Champs, in which case she'll keep going!) As my coach says, I used to race in a way where I'd burn all my matches very quickly. You only have a few in your box. Strike out with some power spikes early on and you'll be trailing round at training pace before you know it. At this race I was within 10W for around 30 mins. That's a whole lot better. I don't know if you're allowed to give yourself a well done but I will in this case.
As for my swim, well, it's consistently 'good enough just'. Once the other two are fired up for sure, I'll work on this a bit more! Within 1-2 mins of anyone with win potential over a 70.3 is workable for now.
James Mitchell Photography
A big training week followed by a couple of easier days set the scene. I doubt anyone races the Volcano tri fresh, but it's very competitive nonetheless.
I exited the water in 5th, hanging on to a pack containing 3rd and 4th, had the fastest T1 out of all the humans, got onto the bike in 2nd, got overtaken twice sitting at a paltry 190W, found legs after a few minutes and another 50W (praise the lord) and worked my way back into second. I had 1 min 20 to make up in T2 to Michelle Vesterby (4th in Kona and most definitely a big deal - no 'who are you's' for her!)
After 3k of the run I started to sense the win. The trip (a training camp with the fabled EVO tri club, with the race tagged on to the end) had been quite expensive and 1100 euro suddenly meant the world to me. I was a bit starstruck by Michelle (can I really beat her? What if I've gone too fast? She's an Iron Warrior, she won't blow up) and I was also a bit confused. Some relay girls had started ahead of us and as I overtook Michelle, there was quite a decent runner girl in front. Just to make sure I thought I'd get after her as well.
In the end I was two minutes clear with the fastest run of the day by a fair way. The times were slow on paper but I know I can now run well again. What a wonderful feeling.
It's just the booster I needed. In Israman I was sloppy on the run. There was work to do and the top result masked a vulnerable performance. Finishing 2nd at the Scottish Duathlon, albeit due to a world-class bike annihilation by Nikki, proved I was not there yet. However, I believe this year we have timed things perfectly. I've always trained hard through winter, got very fit, and combusted around July, trailing into the off-season early with my tail between my legs.
This time, with a coach who trusts me enough to allow me to call many of the shots, but will override my tendency for bad decision-making, I feel we have some control on the situation! For the past few weeks I have been building solidly. In two weeks time we go to Annecy for 2 weeks of Team Welldone training, and then onto Luxembourg 70.3: a course I know and have done well at in the past.
I will also be racing zero full Ironmans this year as I don't currently like them. Half Ironman is a good distance: one can go really hard, be sharp and run fast and it makes sense to become good at one event rather than spread over two events that require different skills (in my opinion). Hopefully this will allow me to race more too.
Thanks to all my sponsors who are invaluable with all that they do. Thanks also to James Mitchell Photography for the excellent images.