Thinking back to how I felt at Blenheim last year, I couldn’t have been further away from that nervous, doubting, self-conscious wreck of a triathlete this year at the first round of the British Elite Super Series. Last year I was certain there had been a mistake on the start list, that I had slipped through the net; surely they didn’t want me joining the elites, getting in the way of their racing? I had felt like a whale next to the other lean athletes on the start line and was so intimidated racking my bike that I would have sat down and had a little cry had the TV crews not been hovering around nearby. This year, however, I stood (well, sculled) on the start line feeling confident and excited to see what I could do.
For the last three months I have been lucky enough to call Portugal my home, where I have been training full-time alongside Tri Training Harder. During this time I’ve seen my times in training drop massively, watched my hill TT time improve almost as fast as my tan and made very close friends with the XC run course (and even closer friends with the café next door). I was really looking forwards to seeing how this would translate in my racing.
Ready and raring to go!
Jumping into the lake at Blenheim was a bit of a shock to the system: I am used to the warm sea of the Algarve, not a cold UK lake. Ahhh, panic! I managed to get a quick warm-up in the lake before they called us out again for a briefing. The only problem was getting back out onto the platform we had jumped in from. If you ever want to see a bunch of 50 elite athletes looking anything but elite then you should watch us slipping and sliding around trying to get out of the water at Blenheim. Before I’d had time to recover from the effort of getting out the water, we were instructed to get back in! I found my place on the start line – the same as last year – all the way to the left and saw a few other fast swimmers had chosen the same place. Winning!
The swim was fun, I managed to find some feet to sit on, and although I was getting bashed around a little, it was nothing compared to how the boys treated me in Portugal in our open water practise sessions! Throughout the swim I was dreading the notorious uphill run to T2 where the majority of the field overtook me last year, but this year I arrived into T2 in the same group that I left the water with.
If looks could kill...
Quite soon into the bike a group of three of us formed. We were chasing a group of three who were chasing the two leading girls in front. The pace was tough, but I put my head down and worked hard as I could see we were gaining on the group ahead and I need as big a headstart as possible going into the run. After one lap, our group of three caught the three ladies in front and we worked as a six. I was disappointed that after all those miles in Portugal I didn’t feel strong on the bike today and unfortunately dropped off the back of this group as the pace increased. It was a lonely lap and a bit before I was joined by another girl for the last part of the bike.
Chasing hard on the bike
I had no idea how my legs were going to feel on the run after I’d worked so hard on the bike. I was preparing myself for some mega jelly legs, but they actually felt ok. The jelly must have gone to my brain instead as I somehow managed to get lost exiting transition. Doh! My mum, who was there supporting me, shouted at me that I was 9th placed female starting the run. Wow, my mum giving me useful information during the race? Normally she just squeals at me as I run past! She must be getting good at being a supporter! 9th was so much better than where I thought I was. It’s funny how you can get a warped view of the race when you’re racing – I honestly thought I was right at the back. With that confidence boost, I ran as well as I could and hoped not too many people would overtake. About halfway around the first lap, I head footsteps behind me as a couple of people overtook, but unlike all of my previous races, they didn’t fly by, and once they had overtaken, I kept them in sight for the rest of the race. Coming down the finish straight, I was hurting BIG TIME (I always forget how painful sprint races are, especially the lumpy Blenheim course!), checked behind me that no-one was in sight to out-sprint me and was planning to keep the same pace up to the finish line. That was until I saw Will running alongside me from the other side of the spectator barriers. There was no way I was going to let him beat me when I was on my finishing sprint and he was wearing a backpack and jeans! So I upped the pace and came across the line the 9th senior.
I'm not in pain. Honest.
I was so happy to make it into the top 10. Last year when I was planning my season, I mentioned to my coach that I would love a top 10 place at the Super Series, but when I checked out the start list in the week prior to the race, I had a complete re-evaluation… And a bit of a breakdown too: there were lots of big names on the list! I was sure most of them could beat me at the end of last year. But that’s what is exciting about the first super series race – nobody knows who is in good form, who’s had a good winter and who is flying at the moment. I was really pleased to improve from 20th senior last year to 9th this year and with a good chunk of time before the next round, I hope to keep working hard in training and feel even stronger for the next race. See you all in Liverpool!