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Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Nationals

The National Sprint Triathlon Championships was my next race on the cards after Kitzbuhel a fortnight ago. I was really looking forwards to the race, especially since my coach Philip told me I'd still be on good form after peaking for the Euros recently, so I was dead excited about tearing apart a flat (ish) sprint course amongst the best of English triathletes.

However, luck wasn't on my side. Whilst building my bike on Tuesday the seat post clamp snapped in half meaning that my racing bike was off-limits for the race. I was pretty gutted, especially as I felt about as aerodynamic as a brick doing my race pace sessions the week before. There's something psychological that makes you faster on your race bike; you feel fast, you look fast, you sound fast and therefore you go fast. Friends tried to lift my spirits telling me its not about the bike, but the engine on it, however I was still feeling annoyed that I wouldn't be able to race on my usual racing bike. Watching Jens Voigt tear up the Tour de France the day before I raced provided inspiration for me to ignore the circumstances, push as hard as I could and blank out the pain. Shut up legs.

I was feeling relaxed on race morning and rearing to go on the start line. I chose a spot at the front of the field with the most direct line to the first turn buoy. Once the klaxon went it appeared that the other two fastest swimmers in the race had also chosen this as their starting point too, meaning there was a bit of bashing around at the beginning, but we soon realised we were all swimming in a row at the same speed so gave each other some space. It was great to be pushed in the swim by those two girls. After the first turn buoy, they started to ease off whilst I kept the pace up meaning I was now leading the swim. I loved the swim, the water was really clear and the lake was a steamy 20 degrees. Towards the end of the swim we hit a patch of long thin weeds so I exited the lake looking a bit like Medusa.

Fuelling is important for spectators too

The tan lines post-race weren't so cool.

Leading the swim

Exiting the swim (minus the sunglasses)

I sped through transition and was out on the bike course which wasn't quite as flat as I had hoped. I had a bit of too-ing and fro-ing with a male vet who didn't like being overtaken by a girl and came speeding back past me after I had overtaken him, only for me to get him back again at the next incline. Cheeky. I was caught by the next female about half way around the course, then a couple of others overtook me near the end so I went into transition in 5th place, 1min down on the leader.


I caught up with Christie Jones (4th place) with my no-faff T2 approach and went out on the run with her. The run was around a circular lake that felt like it was never going to end. I'd turned so many right hand corners, I could have sworn I was running the path of a spirograph. Christie stayed on my shoulder for the first lap of the run so for the second lap I made it my aim to try and break away. I played a tactical game of making surges on the run when I knew Christie was being held up by another competitor during a narrow section or after one of those many right hand corners. With around 1km to go, I picked up the pace and the sound of heaving breathing got quieter so I knew I had done my job. I couldn't relax though, as I could hear supporters shouting for someone called Johanna just after I ran past. Coming into the finishing straight, my mum was screaming "SPRINT!!" at a pitch so high I am surprised it was within the audible human range. I knew I was being chased so I put all my effort into going as fast as I could without faceplanting. And I won the sprint finish!! That has never happened before! When I saw the girl I was sprinting against, I was shocked: she had legs up to her armpits and was a good foot taller than me (see the podium photo below), but still I held my own to get 4th place overall and win the National Champion title for my age group. After waiting so long after the race for the presentation that DOMS had already begun to settle in, I was finally presented with my trophy, medal, voucher and most importantly, bottle of wine. When I got home and checked my emails, I also found I was the cover photo for the Tri Training Harder July Newsletter. Surely that's how every sporting star begins their career, right? ;)

National Champion and 4th overall, happy with that!

I wish my legs were that long!
To all the short people out there: we can do it!

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