This year has flown by and before I knew it I was on my taper for my first ‘A’ race of the season, The Little Beaver, in Nottingham.
It was a long drive and was nice to know that Nicola Dudley was also racing in the middle distance on the Saturday, which meant a more enjoyable weekend than a weekend in solidarity, plus I got to watch her race.
My first stop was to find the venue and check out the water. It was set in a beautiful location, situated in the heart of the English countryside with the stunning Belvoir Castle above the lake. People were already registering and happy campers were setting up. I could feel the excitement building.
I braved the shallow water, which to my surprise was a lot warmer than I had anticipated, having been swimming in the balmy waters of Edinburgh! At this point I felt comfortable with the swim set up, the water was fine and if in need then I could stand at any point, this was reassuring.
The following day I headed to watch the middle distance race. It was an opportunity for me to suss out the swim start and the 400m run up to transition. It also allowed me to see the run course and the long hill that had to be repeated twice.
I was able to watch Nicola and cheer her on over the finish line. She had an amazing race and looked so strong. Her first words to me were that she could have continued on!
Race morning came. I couldn’t wait! Off I went laiden with kit and my bike, which I have began to love again after falling off it last year! I racked my bike, with a great spot near the end of the row and near the bike in/out point, walked though the transitions and felt confident I knew where I was going.
This year I worked on warm up techniques to find drills and ways to warm up pre race. To my avail not many people seemed to warm up! Anyway I got on with my drills which are important because my shoulder can niggle and if my legs are not ready then they feel like a heavy weight on the bike, which I recently experienced in my Road Club TT and was not pleasant.
I took my Generation UCAN fuel then followed the masses down to the start. Once allowed into the water I wasted no time and made sure I did my 200m warm up with speed, while it seemed, the majority hung about freezing!
The swim started and we were off. I started at the front and the side where it was less crowded, however, I was battered around the head and legs! It was the worst swim start I had ever been involved in, and involved being brutal to get to the front.
Eventually I was clear and pleased that during this time I had remained calm, the work I had been doing with a sports psychologist had paid off and was almost smiling in the water!
I was happy with my swim and want to continue to work on it as was faster than last year although I was not at the front, probably around 15th. But I was on it despite nearly having my dodgy left arm pulled back out by the marshal helping me out the water! I ran well up the grass, over taking 2 people, to the transition and wetsuit was peeling off nicely. Off it came, cycle shoes on, my helmet, glasses and off on the bike. This is the bit I love. There is no stopping me and slowly began to pick a few of the girls off.
The bike was really windy so heading into the wind for the longest stretch of the course was brutal, but the same for everyone. I soon caught Shona Girdwood, from Glasgow Tri. A mutual friend’s voice rang in my ears…. “Shona is a strong cyclist”. Well that fuelled me! We played cat and mouse the entire bike leg and it was really nice to have this as a focus.
On return on the bike I heard someone shout to the girl somewhere behind me she was in 10th position. I was pleased knowing I was in the top 10 but there was a few of us together and running is not my strong point but I have trained and trained and focused so hard on it. I knew I had to give it my all regardless as who knows what age category the girls were in that were ahead. Little did I know the winner was in my age group too!
Once racked, I grabbed my gel and trainers and headed out of the transition. My legs seemed to be moving well, I caught Shona and continued to run hard. The hill soon approached. Normally I would have given up. I had no option to give up but to get myself up that hill as fast as possible. I kept my cadence high and was not going to be distracted by the people walking or jogging or spewing at the side! This is my race and I wanted it! I could count the number of people in front and was 6th but got over taken by an exceptionally strong runner but kept going. I could hear Graeme Stewart saying, “That’s qualifying pace,” in response to a track session we did in Callela. It stuck with me.
I continued to run as fast as I could on the final lap. The hill felt harder but my results show the time to be the same. I pushed it back down and headed for the finish, but in this time a girl in my AG over took me. It was less than 400m to go. I could see the F on her leg signaling she was in my AG. I pushed but had nothing to give. I was annoyed at myself but I knew I had raced my hardest race ever and gave it everything.
Normally I would look back with regret at that and think well I could have caught her. I know this time not to think like that as I did everything I could in every part of the race. Ironically I beat her at Velo Park Duathlon only a few months earlier but I will see her again in Chicago for the showdown! She was a very strong runner and over a minute faster on the run. It was 6.5miles so perhaps if it was 6 then I may have held my place! But I cannot think with if’s and but’s. It is what it is on race day.
Eventually I typed in my race number and saw I was 4th in my age group and 8th overall. I was ecstatic as the top 4 get the places for the Worlds in Chicago. Although I would love to have been on the British Triathlon podium that day with a 3rd which I so nearly had. But as my coach, Caroline Toshack, said, “That was not the goal today, your goal was to qualify and you did it!”
I am over the moon especially as last year was such a write off, qualifying and then dislocating my shoulder. It was one thing after another. This year I was prepared, I had goals, I had alternatives in place if things didn’t go to plan. But every training session was worth it and every session is as motivational as the last. The journey has been amazing and I am so grateful for all the support I have had by family and friends. Caroline, my coach, kept, and continues, to keep my head when I want to do random things to my programme, but also gave me the confidence and belief in myself, Graeme’s camp was also inspirational and I came home more motivated than ever having trained with really strong athletes. Adam gave me confidence in my riding ability which encouraged me this year to try time-trialling with Perth United CC which I love. Finally my girl friends make sessions fun with coffee and food, mainly cake, afterwards!
This has been my dream since 2013 when I was away in Mallorca with 2 inspirational Geordie girls, Gemma and Lindsay, who were very good Age Group Athletes and whom I am still in touch with. It was the first I knew about this, having only literally just started triathlon, and I aspired to one day wear the GB suit like them and now I can, and in Chicago of all places!