ETU European Elite Powerman Champs - 3rd
A bit belated, but two weeks ago saw me take part in my second Powerman event; a series I'd not really heard too much about other than Zofingen World champs which is really long! But guess what; it's growing fast, and they do a middle distance series too, comprising a 10km run - 60 km bike - 10km run. This piqued my interest when I came across it in January, as whilst mentally I am ready to get off the bike after 40km, I need a bit longer for the other girls to get tired and slow the **** down! :)
90km in a Half Ironman is a big mental challenge for me, so the prospect of cutting 1 hour off the bike, whilst maintaining the run distance, really appealed. Don't ask me why I am happy to run for hours but not cycle; it's just a rhythm-thing. Running feels natural for me; cycling; strapped to a machine, does not.
Patrick, the organiser, at the finish. Photo: Darren Wheeler - That Camera Man
My first Powerman, in Alsdorf Germany, was FLAWLESSLY organised and freezing cold, but layering up well meant that whilst I sacrificed some #aerogainz, I was able to enjoy a safe race; much needed after a DNF 60km into the 100km ultra back in January. It was also the German championships and I was surprised at the speed of the first 5km, but then they started coming back to me. No panic. I did lose significant time on the flat bike course, though, despite good power of around 240 watts, but we've already tweaked my position, and this season I'll try to add some more raw power to my biking, and not wear wind-gripping layers unless absolutely necessary! From the bike, I plopped onto the run and immediately hit a good rhythm, ensuring the fastest final run which brought me up to a podium spot in 3rd. I was happy with that, as a new format is always going to be a challenge, and I didn't know if I would be first or last! So third was perfect. Lots learned, and a month to prepare for the Europeans. Not much could be done between now and then, by the time recovery has been done and taper begins, but I got a few sharper sessions in and knew in my head that the previous race was banked and I should be able to use that strength and knowledge to my benefit to step up. I also got rid of a kg or so of body weight (which goes straight back on the week after, and some!)
Photo: Darren Wheeler - That Camera Man
Into Viborg: a completely different course: a hilly run (yuck for me!), rhythm-sapping, windy and undulating on the bike. I am not a hill runner; being 5ft 10 I have a fair bit of mass to carry, so would lose time up all 8 significant hill reps, and the speed of the first 10k was ON; the next level up from Germany, which you'd expect in a championship.
I think I came in around 90 secs in arrears in 35.14: the course a little short but very testing, so I think I was actually running that kind of pace. Onto the bike and my legs were sapped. In Germany, the flat, slightly slower first run (36.30) ensured I had power straight away on the bike, but not this time! The hills, and probably the downhills in particular, had pounded the legs and they would pay for it for the first 25k. After losing places and missing an 'invisible' turn (luckily only costing me a U turn and 30 secs or so - compared to some age groupers who ended up 15km down the road), I really thought it would be a 'get round' kind of day. My head had started to give up, but coming round through the town for the second lap, we were joined by the age groupers and I heard I was only 30 seconds in arrears of some names, and only about 2 mins behind second. So despite being towards the rear of the field; it appeared we were all relatively close. With two loops and no out-and-backs, it's impossible to know until you get spectator feedback! I was also starting to feel better and it was nice to have a bit more atmosphere on the course with other racers. My first 25km was average power of 224; the rest of the race I averaged 237 watts: the opposite of what usually happens! When some other girls, who are used to shorter format, hit 40km, that's when they seemed to tire, and I passed lots of them, and was able to play to my technical ability in strong winds to hold relatively good aero form and make the most of other people getting a bit spooked by the gusts. The trick is to a) practice, and b) relax your upper body, and keep even force through every pedal stroke. If you tense up in cross winds, the bike will move even more.
It had been more sapping than Germany, and I hit T2 in 4th, feeling fine thanks to my Maurten-only race diet plus 1 gel, but unsure of the prospect of another 4 lap challenging run. Luckily, one girl came back to me within the first km, and I was able to hold a good buffer of 2 minutes on the fastest girl runners, who were now more in my long distance territory. There were a couple still running faster, but not much this time, and if I'm fresh and fuelled, my ultra-running base kicks in and I can tap it out whilst others fade more. I also have a triathlon sprint distance background so I know if it comes to it, I have a kick too. So first, they have to catch me, and then they have to outsprint me. It was my medal to lose now. 2 mins to second was too much to ask and 2 mins to 4th meant I just had to complete the 5km 'nicely'. 37.20 for the second 10k was a fair bit off the first 10k (in Alsdorf I dropped just 40 secs) but indicative of how knackered we ALL were, I think!
Photo: Ingo Kutsche
It wasn't pleasant, but I was in control. 3rd place was mine: in my career I've done 3 middle distance championships for Great Britain, and delivered 3 medals. For all my inconsistencies, and the lack of funding for the non-Olympic Games distances, when I put on the GB kit, it really gets me fired up. I do love representing my country, and what's really exciting is the prospect of a brand new World championships in 2020 over middle distance. So there're my new goals: European and World podiums 2020.
I still plan on doing one or two 50km ultras early to mid autumn, as that is my strength, but then it will be about developing bike power and run speed, ready for April and May next year. Ultra will yet again be put on hold.
Everything about Powerman ticks my boxes in the multisport world. From the people to the distance to their funny logo - I've loved being welcomed into this new family.
Photo: Ingo Kutsche