Wednesday, 26 June 2013

ITU Long Course Worlds Race Day

Ok so better late than never here goes my report from the race in France. 

5 a.m almost seemed like a leisurely start for race morning, after a fairly good nights sleep I did usual race morning routine of porridge and a banana and a coffee. Waking the kids and getting them dressed is always fun early in the morning but we got them sorted and I made sure all my transition bags were ready. There was about a 20 minute drive from the hotel to the race site and a mini bus shuttle was being put on to take us down. With bike already racked there wasn't masses to do apart from hang my bags up and do the final few checks. I left the hotel around 6.15 with some other GB Team members hoping to meet Lisa and the kids down there before I had to start my race. 

Walking to my bike and seeing the calm lake I was feeling increasingly disappointed not to be swimming. Through the security checks and into transition it was nice I see that they had carpeted it all up but it was still very wet and muddy. Bike uncovered and checked, bottles put on and the only thing I realised was that I had forgotten my little spares pack with tools and spare tube, slightly concerned but seriously hoping I wasn't going to get a flat or have any mechanical issues. 

Bags racked, race kit on, sod queuing for the porta loos, quick pee in a bush and I jogged down to the drop off point to warm up a little and see if Lisa and the rest of the support crew were here yet. Seeing them walking up was nice and I had 5 minutes for a quick catch up before I had to head off to the start for my wave to go. The elite men set off at 8 with the women a few minutes after. Standing in the the start pen with the rest of my wave I chatted with some fellow athletes and was feeling pretty relaxed, I unfortunately needed a wee again but figured I would have to hold it now and had also forgotten my pre race gel but otherwise was alright. We were called to line up and I was thinking this is a pretty good way to make my duathlon debut at the triathlon world championships. 30 second warning then the horn went. The pace was fast from everyone and with 3 age groups going at once it was impossible to keep track of who was infront or behind. A few minutes in and the pace was still rapid, quick check of my garmin informs me we are running sub 6 minute miles, certainly not a sustainable pace at the beginning of what could be a long day. Thankfully it spread out a bit and I slowed to my pace a little but it was still quick. First half of the course went up a little then flattened off again. Round the back of the loop was fairly flat then up a steep hill before going along a bit more and coming down again. The bottom went around the lake on a off road trail and brought you back into the bottom of transition and the finish area. First run complete in just over 38mins, a bit quick really but through transition, coat on and out onto the bike. 

Having never ridden after a run before I wasn't sure what to expect. Straight out of transition I felt a bit rubbish and flat but was keeping pace with the other around me. I took a gel and kept on going trying to stay within my self and not lay it out just yet. We went on and I started to notice my seat moving a little. A quick look down confirms that my post is loose and moving within the seat tube. Thankfully not down but forward and back when I move on the bike. Having forgot my spares bag there was nothing I could do about this apart from sit still! A few corners later I was on the brakes when I felt a pop from my rear brake lever and lost all rear brake power. Again not good with no tools and a hilly course where brakes would certainly come in handy. I tried not to worry about it too much and just had to brake early for corners. The bike went on alright and I started to feel batter. Just after an hour in I actually started to feel good and made some good progress catching people infront of me, coming into the bottom of the main climb on the course the Ballon d'Alsace I was feeling good and caught a fellow GBR athlete. We chatted briefly and he said he thought we were well up the climb already, the scenery was beautiful and I felt like a climber in the Tour de France. The gradient was manageable but I was in my easiest gears putting in some solid work. The next corner came followed by another and another and then we broke the cloud line. More corners and after 25 minutes of climbing the summit wasn't in sight yet, 40 minutes after hitting the bottom we peaked and passed the aid station, I pulled over quickly to see if there was anything I could do with my rear brake but it didn't look good. I decided to just wing it and I hope that I didn't go off the edge of the mountain. The first couple of corners were alright but I was struggling to slow and on the wet hairpins grip wasn't good. A couple of close shaves later and after having lost a serious amount of time and places and utilising some dirt escape paths I was off the mountain having definitely preferred the climb to the descent. The trip back into transition was relatively uneventful. I was seriously frustrated with my mechanical issues and the time it had cost me but I was glad not to have crashed. As it started to rain I was suddenly aware that I hadn't peed yet. I quick check and with no one close by it was time for another first, Peeing on the bike! Hanging to the side a bit and with some hesitation I let go, it felt like it went on forever but it did eventually stop and I pedalled on casually. 

Into t2 and out onto the run my legs felt good and the pace was high. Up the first climb on the first of two laps and I was aware that I was working and had a fair way to go still but sat with another GBR athlete for a bit which helped me a lot. I kept up my fuelling and was feeling strong, I moved on from my team mate who slowed a little and got to the second hill of the lap, up there and round the lake. Water at aid stations was nice and I was relatively comfortable, towards the back of the first lap and my legs almost felt strong, I resisted the urge to push on hoping that it way pay later in the race. Past my support team which always makes me smile and on to complete my first lap. The course was getting busier the second time round and I was passing people nicely. Round the top of the course and about 8 miles in and my legs were starting to feel it. I took some coke at the aid station and kept up with my gels and water. My legs were starting to really feel it now, over 15 miles of hard running for the day and with three still to go I was taking it step by step. Using my garmin i was telling my self just to hold on to the next mile. My pace wasn't slowing but the effort to hold it was rapidly increasing. I got to the bottom of the lake and the last aid station knowing that I was under 2 miles from home and that from now on I would be seeing supporters all the way home. The amazing thing about this race and racing in you countries kit is that every Brit out on course regardless whether they have met you before or not cheers you on. Into the last mile and I was just focussing on catching the next person. The last 500 metres and I caught a GBR athlete who got off the bike just in front of me. Running past transition and heading towards the finish line I emptied the tank, rounding the corner heading up the finishing chute I got my Union Jack flag off of our team manager and did the last little bit. 

Crossing the line and I was done! Struggling to move I headed towards the after race area and got my finishers medal and a bottle of water. I quickly popped out to see Lisa and the team before going to get changed into some warm dry clothes. Still feeling a little sick from pushing hard I didn't eat for a while but drank a couple of milkshakes from the athletes tent. We watched some more finishers and the pro podium and I found out I could get my medal engraved. I paid my 10 euro and went to see the man and in doing so found out I also managed to get 3rd in my age group. Trying not to get too excited I grabbed some food and went out to share the news. 

Warm and dry and trying to stay calm incase something changed. 

When we could we headed back to the hotel and got a shower. With the awards ceremony later in the evening I was feeling hungry again and got myself some chips and a beer! Having to borrow a team jacket for the awards as the new ones hadn't arrived in time we made our way up to the hall where it was being held. I checked the final results and was relieved to see myself still in third but frustrated to know that I was only 14 seconds away from silver especially with the mechanical troubles! We gathered to the side of the stage and were announced up in age groups onto the podium. Getting up and recieving my Medal was amazing. I could see Lisa at the front cheering and it was a very proud moment. 

After the ceremony and a couple more beers we wandered back in search of food and sleep. A quick stop at a pizza take away and back to the hotel. Feet up on the bed, medal round my neck and pizza on my lap, what more could I really ask for?!

The medal that earned the pizza!  

Overall from a disappointing start to an incredible finish. My first time in national colours, my first duathlon and a medal. Just a magical moment and one that I will be eternally grateful to Lisa and Melvyn and the kids as well as everyone else who supported and helped me on the way to achieving it. Next stop is Outlaw where I wonder if my run of good form will continue or will it all come crashing down. We will find out come the 7th of July. 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

ITU Long Course Worlds Pt1 The Build Up.

It was about 3 and a half months ago that I got the email saying that I had qualified to race the ITU Long course triathlon world championships 2013 as part of the Great Britain team. I was already pretty excited to race and was definitely looking forward to see what I could do. 

Fast forward to race week three and a half months later and although losing what was supposed to be a big week training to illness and with a slightly revised taper I had just raced for the first time in my GBR tri suit and taken my first race win at the 1610 Dorchester tri. Having never really had a good taper plan before this week I had one and it was going well. Although having raced I wasn't too tired or sore so i did a couple of easy sessions with some short efforts thrown in to keep things ticking over. Having swam a 10 second PB at the Dorchester race I was confident in my swimming and hoping to get a good swim in France. Over a 4km swim even the slightest pace difference can stretch into quite a gap by the end and give me a bit of an advantage over the bike and run. My bike was also feeling good, feeling strong in the short efforts I was doing but being mindful to save it for when it really counts. 

Wednesday before the race and the bike was packed, all my kit was in and cases were done with Lisa and the kids stuff as well. With an early leave for the airport on Thursday for our 8am flight from Gatwick to Basel it was an early night to try and get some sleep. 3 a.m and my alarm is going off, although for a few minutes I couldn't care less about this stupid race and triathlon in general I slowly came round and dragged my lazy ass out of bed. Quick coffee and try to get some not impressed children up and we were out the house and on the open road. Thankfully the kids went back to sleep and although a little jealous that I had to drive and couldn't sleep as well we did the drive to Gatwick. After finding the car park and parking up it was time for the fun to begin. A bike in a bag, 2 cases, hand luggages and 2 children in prams to get on the shuttle and through the airport! After getting to the terminal and taking up a whole lift to ourselves to get to check in we got to the easy jet queue. We knew we weren't exactly flush for time but just as we joined the queue someone at the front calls last chance for Basel. After getting there quickly we find out that we have to get down to the gate quickly as there starting to board! Probably alright if it was just me but with 6 of us things got a whole lot harder and slower! Cases checked in, bike dropped off (nervous times), through passport control and into the security queue. Prams collapsed, pockets emptied, through the scanner and I beeped! Quick pat down fm security and it's prams back up, bags on and pockets refilled! Through duty free but no time to look, the departure board says gate 112. Brilliant what should be a 15 minute leisurely stroll now becomes more important than the 100 metre final at the Olympics just to make the plane. A brisk walk turns into a slow jog which progresses into a steady run and ends in a sprint! Thankfully we got to the gate to see the last couple of people just boarding and we managed to jump on the end! Onto the plane and time to relax, we'll kind of as well as entertaining children and being careful to not spend all our spending money for the trip on a sandwich and a coffee from the on board "bistro". 

An hours flight and we touched down. Through customs and bags collected including bike(small sigh of relief). We were met by the guys from nirvana Europe who organised the trip for us and were providing transfers as well. A short wait for another flight to land and we set off on the hour drive to the hotel. The Best Western Belfort was our home from home for the weekend and also the GBR Team Hotel. Checked in and off to our room to unload it was down to the hotels garage to see the team bike mechanic to get my bike booked in for building. A nice touch and a potentially time consuming and stressful job removed we went for a small walk around the town to see what was about and to try and find registration. After asking some rather baffled locals and eventually getting directions from a SoAfrican we found registration and got my race pack. 

                                                    Race Number. 

Back to the hotel and with my bike ready I also got a massage from the team masseuse who was convienently in the room next door although during this the news was starting to break that the swim for Saturdays race was going to be cancelled due to cold water and air temperatures. This was not a good start considering the swim is my strength. In then started to come through that the bike was going to be shortened as well, a second kick in the teeth as I'm also stronger on the bike than my own 2 feet. Details were going to be confirmed in Fridays team briefing but for now I wasn't particularly happy and the prospect of a duathlon. 

Friday morning and we woke to rain and temperatures colder than back in the UK. After a short run and trying to avoid the massive temptation gorging myself on a buffet breakfast with far too many nice things to eat it got slowly busier as the rest of the team turned up for the briefing. It was confirmed that the swim was cancelled and the bike shortened and the race would now become a 10km 87km 20km duathlon. Not exactly how I imagined making my duathlon debut at the triathlon world championships but nothing I could do now and just took in everything I could from the briefing. We then went over the road and took over the local train station to get a team photo of the whole GBR team. 

                               The team headed by manager Tim Whitmarsh

I took my bike for a short spin trying not to be killed by French drivers on the wrong side of the road and going the wrong way round roundabouts whilst trying not to get completely lost it was a quick stop at the shop for lunch supplies. The afternoon was my first chance to get down to the race sight to rack bikes and try and get familiar with transition. With my bike racked and covered in black bags for some protection against the weather I took a wander round the expo. Unsure about he weather for Saturdays race I bought a set of skinfit tri three quarters to wear under my tri suit, with temperatures reported at 2 degrees at the top of the climb and a fast decent I didn't fancy getting too cold. The evening was back to the hotel and with none of us fancying eating out another stop at the shop for my pre race dinner. Cous cous, coleslaw some olive and ham bread and a banana was the obvious choice and was actually quite nice. I got to bed quite early and managed to drop off quite quickly. With the sm off and bike shortened I took all the pressure off myself to perform and was relatively relaxed about things just rolling with what happened and going out there for experience now more than anything. No matter how things went I was expecting a tough day in the office and was still looking forward to the climb on the bike course. 

The pre race dinner of champions! Cous cous coleslaw and bread eaten in our hotel room. 

Friday, 7 June 2013

A Couple Of Local Paper Articles

After the last couple of races there were a couple of articles in the local paper.

This one about the local sprint race

And this one about Long Course Worlds

Will wright up my race report soon as well! 

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A Crazy Few Weeks Pt 2

So after the TT I was pretty tired so took a couple of days easy hoping to do a long endurance session on the Saturday and another pool sprint on the Sunday. 4 hours on the bike straight into a 1hour 15 min run not the best preparation for a race the next day but a key session in the build to Long Course Worlds in France only 3 weeks on. A decent session and later the evening we travelled down to Tiverton for the race the next day, a big family affair with my brother and his wife racing and my sister and her husband doing there first triathlons. With my dad coming to watch/baby sit the grand kids as well is was going to be a big turn out for team walker! 

Waking up on the Sunday morning and things weren't good, feeling awful I slowly got myself sorted and made my breakfast before heading down to the pool to meet the others. After it taking me nearly an hour to eat a pot of porridge and with a few bathroom trips I was unsure whether to race or not. After watching the others go out and taking my bike for a small spin I decided to give it a shot anyway and see what happened. Starting in the last swim wave gave me plenty of time so I got sorted and headed poolside for the start. A couple of warm up lengths and I thought maybe things will be alright. Starting the swim I felt strong but after only 100m things weren't right and I felt awful. Pushing on I finished in a respectable time and headed out for T1. It was pretty cold and wet but I jumped onto my bike and started pedalling. Straight away the power wasn't there, I felt nothing like I had time trailing just a few days ago and was struggling. Heading towards the turn I wasn't able to hold speed and was being overtaken easily. At the turn I made the decision to call it a day and I pedalled gently back to the pool. It took me a while and was pretty cold but I put my bike back took my chip off and went and got changed. Pretty disappointing in a race where I would have liked to go well and my first DNF in two years of racing. I think it was the right decision and looking back I probably shouldn't have even tried starting but my stubbornness took over. 

On the way home Lisa drove and I just slept! Unfortunately with about half an hour left of the journey poppy was sick all in the car as well. Not a good sign and not a fun job to clear up feeling bad myself. Home and off to bed. Unfortunately this was the start of a pretty rough bug of some sort that hit poppy and myself hard writing off a whole week which was supposed to have some important work in the lead up to France. By about Friday I was starting to feel slightly human again and by Saturday morning I was able to head out for a run, nothing quick at all but good to be going again. Sunday being two weeks out from the years first A race was a good day. In the morning I raced the local running clubs Round the Rock the Hard Way, probably one of the toughest 11 mile races you could do taking in some serious hills, some beautiful cliff paths and even a section along chesil beach. Having raced it last year in my training for challenge Copenhagen I had a time to beat and despite wet and slippery conditions and running in road shoes I went alright. Going rough a rough patch just before Portland bill with 6 miles still to run I was desperate to stop but went on and took a gel and managed to pick it up and go for the finish strongly taking a couple of places on the way. A solid run and some good mental training for dealing with tough times and keeping on top of fuelling as well. After a decent lunch I set out on a long ride. Not having the time to do the 100 miles I wanted but still able to get a 4 hour ride in taking in every hill I could in prep for the French climb of 1147 metres up the ballon d'alsace. 

Pushing my training on to Wednesday and trying a 10 day taper for long course worlds I decided to race another pool sprint that Sunday. A new event at the new 1610 leisure centre in Dorchester. Knowing the bike course and having done some good swimming in the days before it seemed a good chance to make sure everything was good, try out my GBR tri suit and hopefully not being too long or hard to blow myself up and feel the effects going into France. Sunday brought a beautiful day and after racking my bike and watching the first few go off I went for my swim. A solid 400m and feeling relatively comfortable throughout I went into T1 and out onto the bike. Feeling good I pushed on and although having a slight issue with my gears I was passing people the whole time. Up the main climb I felt good and into the decent and back into transition things were still going well. Run shoes on and out onto the run course. After a few seconds I realised there was something in my shoe. Big lesson always check your shoes when setting up transition!  Not wanting to stop to sort it I wriggled it into a semi comfortable place and pushed on. Up the climb on the run and down again heading for the finish. Pushing up the last mile or so I crossed the line happy with how I went. As it turned out I won my age group and the overall by near 5 minutes. My first ever win and a pretty decent one at that with 2nd fastest  swim and a 10 second PB over 400m and the fastest bike. A brilliant day and massive confidence boost going into the final week before I race the rest of the world. 

Receiving my trophy rocking the Team GBR Kit.