Tuesday, 16 September 2014

World Championships 2014

The season is almost over and my last, and most important race, the World Champs, was around the corner. I'd never had a season without injury. Too good to be true, huh? Boom, here comes your bad luck card. Two weeks out from the race, I developed a back injury that made me a couch potato for one week (I almost had to borrow a zimmer frame from work) and away from running the following week. I tried to not let it bother me, after all, the hard work was done months ago and any panic training in those last weeks doesn't affect the race. But the longer I was sat on the sofa for, the more anxious (and fatter) I got. Physio God Gordon at The Bosworth Clinic kindly gave up his Friday evening and following Bank Holiday Monday to give my back a good talking to and I had everything crossed it would hold for the race.

I had no time to worry about my back on the journey over to Canada. Air Canada provided plenty of alternative distractions with their atrocious customer service, complete shambles of organisation and utter numptiness in general. National Express Coaches also had their fair share of Twitter grumbles from me when I stepped onto a bus with a climate similar to the Sahara. Most athletes acclimatise to their new destination on arrival... I'd started acclimatising before we'd even left Leicester! It's a shame Canada isn't 40 degrees and humid because after 3.5hours stuck on the M1, I was perfectly acclimatised to these conditions.

The first few days in Edmonton were spent mostly horizontal. I've never rested so much before a race! We were lucky enough to have free transport wristbands and access to the city's 50m pool not far from our hippy commune for the week. Laura Fids, my travel buddy, was on hand with her physio advice, more acupuncture needles (yay!?), and a camera to capture moments of me looking ridiculous in my kit with our other friends and supporters Kat and Harry also providing entertainment (and PDAs) at Hippy Towers.

At the swim recce with the chlorinated (?!) lake behind us

Inspired watching the elite men

I mean, who wouldn't be inspired by those quads?

Race morning arrived, race tats were applied (I managed to tit it up and apply them very wonky, but not quite as bad as another competitor who put the green tats meant for her wetsuit on her arms... Upside down. Chopper!) and an inhuman amount of porridge was consumed by all. I hadn't ran in two weeks and I was naturally nervous about the race - I'd be focusing on this day for the past 12 months and just wanted to do the best I could do. I'd had so much support, especially in the last few weeks, from my coach Philip, Gordon, Laura, family, friends and Ben who were messaging and following online. With their backing, I was racing for more than myself... I was doing it for them. To make them proud and say thank you for believing in me.

Unlike the triathlons I have done before with a deep water start, this race had a beach start. Think Baywatch. But much more graceful. I mean what isn't elegant about 50 wetsuit-clad triathletes running two steps into the water before simultaneously face-planting. Sorry, diving. There was definitely no belly flops around me... Ahem. Aside from the baywatch entry, the main thing that worried me about the start was when was I going to do my pre-race pee? For those non-triathlete reading this blog, you'll probably think its gross that we all pee in our wetsuits when in the water before the start of a race. It is. But it's practical, every triathlete does it and pee is definitely not the grossest thing in some of the water I've swam in.

The T-1 minute start is announced. We are all lined up on the beach. I decide to do my pre-race pee now. Theres hundreds of people watching but surely no-one will notice? 30 seconds to go and OH CRAP water is coming through the seams on my wetsuit!! Why does my wetsuit have so many seams?! I thought these things were water tight? Why didn't it just come out at the ankle like I had envisaged?! I have never been so pleased to hear the start gun!

I told you it was just like Baywatch. [Thanks Harry for the following photos that I stole from you Facebook page without asking for permission, sorry!]

After one Canadian took a flier at the start then reconsidered her ability 100m in to the race, I took an early lead and managed to extend it to 1min30 after the 750m swim. At least I think it was 750m. I didn't measure it, but my 8:56 swim time is suspiciously fast. They call it 750m, so am I, therefore new swim PB. Win.

3rd fastest swim of all females and males across all age groups. I'll take that :)

After a marathon to get to T1, I was on my bike and onto a fun course; slightly undulating but with some fast sections too. I was caught by a Canadian called Bouchez around 12km in and stuck with her (outside the draft zone, obvs) for the majority of the second lap before she slowly disappeared out of sight. I entered T2 and this is where the unknown started. Would I be able to run? Tentatively, I started running, and with only a little pain I decide to go hard or go home to get this 5km over and done. I knew I was being chased and I could imagine my mum at home screaming at the laptop as the split times appeared. I just wanted to hold on enough for a medal. At the turnaround point, I could see that I had quite a gap between me and 3rd and 4th but I didn't know how quickly they were running and I desperately didn't want to get caught. I could see the finish chute in the distance but couldn't pick up my pace. I had no more gears left and was dangerously close to emptying my stomach's contents on the nice blue carpet. After a cheeky glance behind I saw it was safe to ease up down the finish chute and enjoy the moment crossing the line knowing I was silver medallist at the world champs!! I saw Fiddy after I'd finished and we both collapsed in a bundle of tears (very unusual for her, so I am lucky!). I was so happy.

Over the next few days, my focus shifted to recovering for the olympic distance race which I had also entered as a bit of fun after the sprint (my main race). I had 3 days to get my legs back from the hellhole they were in. I was buzzing from my race on Friday and looking forwards to having a good time on the course again. I wasn't nervous, I was just happy to race again on a fab course. My lack of nerves on race morning was, in hindsight, a bit concerning. I just wasn't bothered enough about this race. Mentally, I wasn't there and when things got tough during the race, I didn't dig deep. Whereas before in the sprint, if someone overtook me I knuckled down and stuck with them, this time I had no fight left in me and let them go. By the run, which was becoming more and more painful in my back, I just wanted it to be over. I was massively disappointed with 13th place.

I could have done with bumping into this dude on race day.

But I didn't dwell for long. I've learnt a lot from the second race about how I need to be mentally prepared to race, and although my body had recovered from its beating on Friday, my mind hadn't yet... its amazing how emotionally draining a race can be, even one with one of the best possible outcomes!

So that's it, season over, and what a season it has been. I couldn't have achieved half of the things I have without the continuous support I have along the way. Here comes the Oscar's speech... Firstly, thanks to my coach Philip and the rest of Tri Training Harder for the amazing support and opportunities. Philip, I may have muttered some expletives during a few of the brutal sessions you set, but hey, they worked! Thanks to Gordon at the Bosworth Clinic and Laura for fixing me before the race even if I did wimper a little when I saw the size of the needles. And thanks to Ben for continuously encouraging me and motivating me to achieve my goals as well as following me around the country to support me in my races (or maybe he's just in it for the bacon sarnies on race morning?). Finally, thank you massively to my parents for being chief kit-washers, food-makers, taxi-drivers, cheerleaders, bag-carriers and general superstars.

Here's to 2015. Bring it on!

Off season we're coming to get ya!

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