European Triathlon Championship reflections…

YOUTube Clips on the Energised site of the start, Swim exit, T1 and Run…. click:

Wow! What a few days away ….. seems like at least 2 weeks rather than 4 days!

First observations…. the Kiwi fruit are huge (yum!), learning Spanish at school would have been helpful and hayfever in Spain returned like I had when I was about 14, restricting breathing and sight!

BIG WELL DONE to my fellow Age Group Energised Athletes including Gaelle Lebray winning GOLD, Danielle Stewart winning GOLD, Lizzy Spencer winning GOLD, Mel Ryding, Beate Voyt, Doug Wood, Ian Pettitt, Tom, Kate and so many others – you are all BRILLIANTLY inspiring, wonderful people – thank you for doing what you do so amazingly!

This was my first time representing GB at the European Triathlon Championships.  I gained a surprise place last year at Rother Valley – I put it down to a large fish and chips with my lovely friend, and EP Camp Physio Lucy Savage the night before and her worried dog as I left the swim!  For I didnt really run last summer due to a cyst in my knee.

So on reflection I decided to take the place, the last qualifying slot and take my place as an athlete, rather than my more comfortable and known position as a sports therapist for the team since 2005! Where does the time go do….

I travelled out with my partner Ross (his Birthday treat (?!) – I did opt for a wonderful hotel so don’t feel too much for him!) on Wednesday morning ending up in a hotel in Sanxeno, about a 30mins drive from the race venue, Pontevedra. Due to the GB team being so large we were split, unusually between 12 hotels, so for those who have never been to a race before it may have seemed a little disjointed which is quite different to normal.

Nirvana , the travel partner company to British Triathlon (Nigel, Ken, Andy, Chris and Co) did a great job transfering us back and forth, which was a military operation!

After settling into the hotel, we headed out for a run along the beach – 33 degrees at about 7pm – I returned looking a little hot!  Then to the restuarant for our evening meal… only to find the menu in Spanish and the waitors with very little English – and us with no Spanish! I like adventures and really am up for anything.. however, when most sea food and shell fish makes me rather unwell it is best to avoid this. However, in a coastal town with Spaniards this is interesting! I ended up with white asparagus and cheese salad….!

The following morning we headed off to Pontevedra to register, collect number and information for race day – 284 – my Mum would definately say this was a good number, she always does! No idea how or why, but my race numbers are always good ones!  I then went off with Lizzy (later to be a Gold medalist) to ride around the bike course – it was mid day by this point…. as we climbed up the hill and then whizzed back down – a few tight descending corners with cross winds, proved tricky for a few of the ‘smarter’ bikes but fine for the sturdy Trek.

Following this, Lizzy and I decided to jump into the Canal to test out the water for the swim … LOTS of fish… literally fin to fin in some places, which lulled us into the false sense of security that the water was super clean. Being salt water, I am sure it was fairly but we later discovered the feeder water was actually the local seweage – probably best to avoid…. Coca Cola sugars levels to the rescue – kills everything. There was a small current on the way out, which definately eased you nicely along on the way home.

We then jumped onto coach, and headed back the the hotel, followed with another interesting meal!  Friday was more relaxed with a gentle run and core session to wake the muscles up, before packing up bike, helmet and GB Trisuit to rack our bikes. Once done, we watched the Elite Junoirs Girls race, inspirational and so quick.

Back onto the coach and into bed! Of course, Mental Strength and visualisation done.

My aim was to do the best I could on the day…. my training has been focused on the London Marathon and Caledonian Etape, and I have done few triathlons in the last two years due to my knee (which is now finally happy!) Strength and endurance has been high in my training, but speed sessions low… so a Sprint race would be interesting for sure!

The morning of the race the alarm rang at 4.45am –  gentle stretch, mental focus and a TORQ bar – what more could you want before jumping on the coach (again, thats right!). I went to transition, set up my kit, walked the routes and focused on what lay ahead. It was a beautiful morning, sun rising over the bridge, with the temperature rising quickly with it.

There was much discussion over wetsuits… with everyone in the ladies wave (aside from one Spaniard) chosing to wear one… so at 7.50am we were penned in Gate 5, behind all the male waves. We walked down the ‘gang way’ to jump into the water  – with music blaring – adrenaline pumping!  We were asked to get into the water – one hand on the pontoon (the Elites dive in – Age groupers perhaps cause too much chaos jumping in – I think I would!), the siren blared and we were off.

If you have never done an open water triathlon swim, its like a sea of fish fighting to get away from being caught (my brother Mungo would like this comparison but not appreciate the actual swimmers in his fishing lands – if you are ever looking for a good fisherman he is your man).  I fell off a horse underwater, and through using Sports NLP I now really enjoy open water swimming, yet still learning to improve my speed and skills, regularly having lessons from a great coach in Bristol, Jez Birds.

As we left the water there were some steep steps to climb up (and wetsuits off), followed by a long run to transition…. helmets on, jump on the bike and GO!

Off around the 20km route as quickly as possible, aware of others about you, but focusing on good cycling technique, strength and power…. climbing I felt strong, descending felt good too but those on time trial bikes effortlessly whizzed by!

Feet out, leaping off my bike I headed into T2 for the run, two laps of a hilly 5km around the city (which they had closed down for 3 days – amazing….). By now, although only 9am it was hotting up and everyone was grateful to the shade in the city.

The run is definately my strength, and I managed to overtake quite a few and finish strongly – ending up 6th in my age group at my first Europeans. Really, really pleased!

So as I would do with my clients…. what did I learn…

1. Swim: felt comfortable and strong – but 3mins slower than usual time despite pool times improving. Potential reason – new wetsuit too big so return to old, smaller one and compare. Take inhaler for hay fever to help with breathing/sneezing!  Practise a stronger start – get in the race from the first stroke.

2. Bike: So much endurance – so little speed Something to work on, combined with bike skills & techniques.

3. Run: Speed sessions now knee is happy, brick sessions. Inhaler when hayfever is bad!

I just really enjoyed the race – it was great to be part of the GB Age Group Team and I am really proud to have worn a GB Suit, and raced. There is a little more but Ill save you the detail 🙂

The Elites, and my fellow age groupers are inspiring. Something to follow in another blog.

Following our race we watched the Elites on Saturday afternoon and evening, with the Awesome Brownlee brothers taking 1,2 in the Men’s Elite. The Olympic Age Group Distance race took part on Sunday morning and then we left to head back to Bristol… eta 10.35pm, actual time 4.35am! Jet Lag from Spain!

It does not really matter though! Sleep has been caught up… and a wonderful long weekend was had.

A BIG THANK YOU for Ross for supporting my racing, and TORQ, Dynamint, Protein Balls (yes really!), NaKD Bars (great travel snacks), Ben Tolson for sports massaging, MOTI & Sweatshop for kit and BAD Tri for training sessions (when I manage to sneak out from sports massaging!)

I now head to China for the World Championships as a Senoir Sports Therapist, and Sports NLP Coach with my athletes and the GB Age Group Team. It is going to be so interesting visiting Bejing and a pleasure to work for British Triathlon for my 6th year.

Race wise… I am taking a group of beginners to the Women’s Only Human Race Eton Triathlon this Saturday, and taking part in the Challenge race on a journalist entry. Then the Hyde Park Sprint (followed by Games Maker Test Event on the Sunday) and then the Cotswold Sprint in September.

Team Energised are out and about at the Race for Life in Bristol, Big Cotswold Swim, Portishead, Bristol and Malmesbury Triathlons too, with the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest in Edinburgh in October so its a busy, happy time!

PS Next year the Europeans are in Israel and this photo is just brilliant – inspiring any age to get out there and go for it!