My first ever qualifying attempt for the 2020 European Triathlon Championships came at the Woodhorn Museum Standard Distance Triathlon.
After a long day of travelling the evening before and a 5pm race start, I decided to have a later wake up at 9am to allow my body to rest. Upon waking up I already had a lot of race nerves, so the first thing I wanted to do was to walk to the race start and look at conditions of the course and the swim to bike transition. This helps my nerves as I am able to relax being more aware of where I am going and can visualise what is coming up in the race. I walked back to the car and had a drive around the bike course. (Beginners tip: this is one of the best things to do when racing as you can figure out when you can push the pace on the bike and when is best to save your energy. Also, you can appreciate the lovely views around!) I had a nice walk along the beach half way around the lap – I knew I wouldn’t be looking around when I raced so I wanted to make most if the opportunity then. As a triathlete, the locations that I race at are very often beautiful, however when racing you do not appreciate it much.
After a fairly nice warm morning, I was racking my bike when it started to rain and it became very damp under foot. This made me debate for about 10 minutes whether or not to wear a dark shade visor or my clear visor- a debate during which my girlfriend was very bored! In the end, I opted for my clear visor as I knew if the rain carried on falling I would at least be able to see – clear visors enable you to see much better when it’s darker or a bit grey outside. From then I walked down to the swim start to put on my wetsuit and begin my final preparations (a quick dynamic land based warm up).
The lake water was not too cold and it was very close to being an optional wetsuit race, enabling me to get comfortable in the water very quickly. My nerves were building up, but I knew I would give it my all. Bang the gun goes off! All the top swimmers quickly get into their stroke and fight for the best position. I got caught up in a lot of mess at the front, but luckily I was able to get away from it all within 150m. Trying to keep up with someone’s feet, I stayed behind them for one lap. However, my speed and muscular endurance for the swim was not strong enough to hold for another lap so I had to swim solo for the next 700m. After dropping off pace and thinking to myself I can’t do this, something came over me and I suddenly kicked up a gear and was gaining on the two people in front when we quickly came to the end of the swim. Getting out of the water and running up an incline for about 100m really does make you consider why you do triathlon and why you enjoy it. I had a very slow transition to the bike.
When I started to cycle down the street out of Woodhorn Museum it became very dark so a clear lens was the best choice. I started the bike very strong and pushed as hard as I could. I knew I had to make up some time. Overtaking about five people in front of me gave me a good boost and I carried on pushing the pedals. I kept my effort high for the rest of the first lap but near the end a few quick cyclists started to overtake me at a very fast pace. The second lap the course became very congested as the sprint distance race competitors just entered the bike course. (We started at different times, making it very confusing.) This caused me to try and overtake groups of cyclists all the way around. This made me push a higher power than I would’ve wanted to, however it benefited me as it gave me a boost to push past the pain and carry on. I started to feel the effort in my legs from the high power I put in on the last ten minutes of the bike when my speed slowly started to drop off. Coming up to transition two, I made a mistake and took my feet out of my pedals ready for a flying dismount however, this was about two minutes too early. After a quick dismount, I completed an extremely speedy transition.
I got straight into the run and settled into my ideal race pace. After about half a mile, I started to get stich and my legs were really aching; I realised the sustained effort that I had put into the bike was catching up with me. So I decided to hold back and drop off my pace to a more comfortable pace to allow my stich and leg pain to calm down. I would then slowly start to progressively get quicker. Unfortunately, my run was not up to where I assumed it would be and my pace started to pick up a little too late. I crossed the finish line, but straight away I was keen to find out where I had placed and if I had managed to qualify or not.
It turns out, I came 34thoverall and this allowed me to come 3rdin my age group 20-24. I had done enough to qualify! Now I just had to wait to find out if I would be accepted.
A week later I found out that I had qualified to represent the GB age-group 20 – 24 at the 2020 European standard distance Championships. I was thrilled and celebrated with a huge Chinese for dinner. I’m very proud of myself for managing to qualify with so little training and very little race experience, and I can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings whilst learning more about the triathlon trade.