European Elite Middle Distance Championship - 3rd
Ibiza. A glorious sun-kissed island, usually. But we timed this one a bit wrong. Heavy storms on the morning of the race caused a flooded bike course, burst sewers which started trickling into the sea, and a delayed start until 3pm. Lovely! As we were running out of daylight for a half iron distance race (given that the fastest athletes take 4 hours and the slowest, 8.5) the format had to be changed due to darkness closing in on the bike leg, and was finally confirmed as a 45km bike instead of the usual 90. Usually good news for me, but in this case, I could have done with an extra buffer to Sarah, as you will see! ;) After a long old wait, made easy by joining my fellow GB elites in our manager’s hotel room for some laughs (what can you do but laugh?) the storms subsided and the race was finally on. Hurrah. It was a tight affair. I was always within striking distance of the medals but the swim and bike saw me in around 5th place with a couple of minutes to make up on the run; which is the norm for me.
A grim affair. Getting it done. Photo credit - Insta: @triathlon_in_the_word
I was excited to see what I could do run-wise, but I wasn’t feeling ridiculously amazing. Time of the month can have a huge influence on how good I feel, and the last day of Phase 4, whilst being nowhere near as bad as the first day of Phase 1 (close call!) is far from ideal timing (females would be looking to race in Phase 2 or on day 12-14 for peak performance). It’s great to have knowledge of all this stuff now as female athletes can suffer hugely with hormone fluctuations that are very performance-impacting. Some obviously have more issues than others. And aside from science being able to explain things, there’s also the unknown of the human body - you can have a great day when you don’t expect it and a bad day when you do - so no matter what should happen, it’s important to race with an open mind: anything can happen and that’s what makes it interesting! Onto the run. It was the least flat course I’ve ever seen described as flat! Described by many as an obstacle course, we had arbitrary bollards, twisty, slippy, cobbly, narrow roads, and a serious kicker of a climb every lap, with a treacherous, wet, cobbled descent then some steps to follow. It was challenging for each and every one. I was happy with my half marathon of 1.22 as I’m a ‘rhythm-based’ runner: stick me in a straight line, wind me up (like a toy I mean, no shouting) and off I go.
Whilst not having the run of dreams, I was 'good', and consistently fast enough for long enough to hold second place for 19km. Unfortunately for me, it’s 21.1km, and having been chased for the duration by one of the best runners in the sport, fellow Brit and good friend Sarah Lewis swept past at 1.19 pace (given the course, that’s seriously rapid) and I was suddenly struggling to hold it together for a medal. 4th and 5th were around 1-2 minutes back so there was a little time to spare, but I was starting to see stars and rock a bit; I’d really pushed the last few kilometres to make Sarah work for it and also be in a position to take advantage should the girl in the lead falter (no chance of that today; I’ve raced Alexandra for a few years and she’s taken a big step up now). But having gambled a bit to go for gold/silver (because you have to, right?) I was paying the price. I was so close to the finish but as I’ve always said, it’s never over until that line is crossed. I’ve gone from second to fifth in the space of seconds in the closing stages before, so you absolutely cannot take anything for granted when you’re putting your body on the edge of its capability.
So, in hindsight, I think the best thing then happened. I stacked it on a turn with less than a mile to run. I got up straight away, my hip and elbow having taken quite the donk, but the adrenaline surge was exactly what I needed to hold myself together and squeeze out just another 3 minutes of effort to secure my third place.
Early stages: sniffing out gold - not today. Photo credit - Insta: @triathlon_in_the_word
It’s such a nice feeling to step on to a podium, especially at a championship with your country flag being raised, despite the FREEZINGNESS, and especially when a local gives you their pet parrot to join you on your shoulder! That really made my day; the parrot even tried to help me uncork my champagne with its beak. I’ve now added “buy parrot” to my bucket list.
Parrots and Podiums make it all worthwhile. Photo credit - Insta: @triathlon_in_the_word
I’ll be looking to upgrade on my bronze in Romania next year, but if that’s the culmination of my past few years’ work, I’m cool with that.
Shout out to Mother Hen too on winning her Age Group in the 65-69 year old Aquathlon in the same Multisport Festival. She's a bit underwhelmed by it as she was the only woman in her age group, but she placed second in the men's race, which highlights how good she is pretty well. It was lovely to have my parents there at a race we could celebrate as usually when they watch, something goes wrong! Unfortunately there was not a lot of celebration as we had a 2 mile hypoglycemic traipse back to T2 at 9pm - Dad feeding Sarah and I remnants of licorice he'd unearthed in his bag so we could make it, and then it was a late dinner and a solo bike packing party: my fave.
So, what to do now? I don't just want to 'do the circuit' again.
My coach Mark Pearce and my close support team believe there is more ‘complete racing’ to come out (and so do I), so the decision has been made to stick at 70.3 for 2019, before moving on to do what excites me the most - a (possibly feeble) attempt at the British 100 mile run record from 2020 onwards, which is 14.43 and has been held since 1990 (exactly why it’s been held so long I’m sure I’ll be in for a treat finding out!) But I also just want to see how fast I can do it, and wherever that places me on a list, who cares. If I aim for the moon and hit my head on the home ceiling instead, at least I know where I stand. I just think I could have something in ultra and I loved doing all six of mine, even if they were really grizzly in parts. That's what makes them what they are.
After completing two registered 100 mile runs in two years, I then validate the entry process for Badwater 135 miles - the ultimate goal (and it's BAKING hot so I have zero visions of any record-breaking heroics there! That one will just be to 'bag' it).
I went for a walk today in the English countryside: the world opened up and the trails were rolling and endless. I just wanted to keep exploring. Then, I approached a group of ramblers, some of whom I think had special needs. One teenage boy broke away from the group; he just took off down the hill and ran towards me and onward with the BIGGEST grin on his face. I smiled back, knowing exactly how he was feeling. A group leader quickly followed in pursuit calling his name and looking slightly less happy, but in that moment, the boy encapsulated the unbridled joy of running trails. It's a runner's high people speak of. Not cycling or swimming ;) (I know, I know, I'm biased).
Ultra has been a dream for a long time now. I stopped because I got injured as I lived a crap lifestyle and wasn't doing any back-up work (physio, mobility, conditioning), and the injury coincided with a wonderful opportunity to restart elite triathlon, but the ultra-love remains. Unfortunately this means my brain keeps 'nearly' switching back (I am potentially a dreadful flitterer), especially when my tri performance takes the inevitable dips, but I'm 36 and I’ll be a long time retired. My core team of boyz: Mark, Darren and Alex Drummond keep me on the straight and narrow. Whilst I can still improve, it’s time to embrace every second of the time I can perform highly at this sport, hop on the bike for one more year, get my head down in the pool and crack on with a solid winter’s work. Let's squeeze the last drops out!
Thanks as ever to my sponsors, Currex Insoles, Bolle, Drummond Clinic, Sundried, Evo, Gould, PedalSure, FKPro, and supporters Vintage VDB, Scott Bikes, Revolver Wheels, Zoggs, Zone3, Maurten, Forth Edge and Sporcks.