Lead up to race day
Over the summer of 2017 I decided to do something different, something challenging but fun, new and interesting. I thought it was time to find something else to the usual routine of uni training for BUCS Triathlon in May and then a summer off. So with that in mind I set out looking for a new challenge.
My friend Bronagh from Eutri was competing at the European Age Group Championships in Dusseldorf earlier on in the summer so I thought I could do something like that. I found out that the Worlds were taking place in September, and in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, not that far considering they were in Mexico the year before and are in Australia next year. To get there you need to qualify, so I set off with my dad to Wales to compete in my first drafting race. It was a sea swim in some really choppy waters which was great fun then a two lap cycle round the headland of Llandudno, an extremely scenic piece of rock jutting out into the sea. After going nice and hard on that I had a run to look forward to along the beach promenade, it could not have been flatter. I had pushed a little too hard in the first two disciplines so paid for it on the run and missed out from the podium by only 7 seconds! But I qualified. I had come second in the age group to Jack Bond (Exeter Uni) who I found myself with in the bike pack at worlds.
Then I contacted Linda to get me in shape for the big race. Two huge training blocks later (not that bad really) and two trips to the mountains (family holiday for one, pure training the other) I felt ready. Three weeks prior to the race, the time when you should be doing your biggest loads and intensities I found myself at the tri club summer trip in the Pyrenees with 4 others from Eutri. The week was spent doing basically a triathlon a day and hours climbing mountains on the bike. Paul pushed me and I am grateful for it now. Best way to spend a holiday I say.
Then a few weeks on the bike was packed again, this time for the real deal. Rotterdam ITU world grand final. The pros were racing the Saturday, Age groupers the Sunday. The city was alive with Triathlon. Every traffic light, bike path and café terrace were lined with eye wateringly beautiful bikes, worth more than any normal persons first car. All the hotels were fully booked and the event venue was buzzing from the Thursday. I registered, met some friends and had a look round the course, though not all of it as I forgot to look for the dismount line which I paid for on race day… Amateur. I also swam at the pool which was taken over by triathletes and met Richard VARGA, only the fastest swimmer in tri. I just missed Duffy which was a shame.
The pro race the next day was incredible. My dad almost walked into Johnny Brownlee as he made his way to the start line. The speed involved, the proximity with the competitors and the margins around each corner, it was all so incredible to see these guys in the flesh. In the end Luis the French man won, with Blummenfelt 2nd and Mola 3rd.
Sunday. Race day. Start time: 16.10. Water temperature 16C. Weather Overcast with occasional sun. Wind 4kmh. Ideal conditions. Shoes were racked first on the North side of the river. Then the bike on the south side. The swim was 600m from the bike meaning the longest transition I’ve ever done. Running flat out after a hard swim is never the most pleasant feeling but I knew this was where I would make or break my race as I needed to find a descent pack on the bike leg.
After a warm up of running drills and some bands to get the shoulders going, I made my way to the start pen. I quickly jumped into the water for a quick paddle then waited. It felt like a long time. Finally the announcement came for us to lign up on the pontoon. Then get in. The start was in the water with a hand on the pontoon. Next to me was Marc Auchie, a fellow triathlete from Scotland who I had raced before. As the hooter blared we lashed off into a mad frenzy to avoid getting bashed around, and to get ahead before the first buoy. It was still busy coming into the first buoy so to avoid going too wide I ended up swimming over a few people to cut back in. Then I found myself a good draft to the next buoy. By then the pack was thinning, only two near my flanks, and a small group ahead but too far to worry about. I came out of the swim 10th which considering my background (not swimming), I was happy with but I was not thinking about that at the time.
I shot up the platform to terra firma and tried to get the blood to the legs again as I ran towards the bike. Once there the wetsuit flew off and I got off in good time. I dashed on and focused on catching the nearest group. 2k in after a few mad twists and turns over the river and under the bridge I found a pack of 8 who I would do the rest of the cycle with, including two brits Bond and George. We worked well together and ended up doing the same time as the front pack. The corners were my favourite, and I cruised round them watching the others have to sprint hard out of the other side. After our scenic cycle round the city we neared the dismount line, I had no idea where it was, and took my feet out way too late to attempt the usual flying dismount. After the struggle I ran hard with the bike to rack it. Shoes on, I caught up with our group.
Then the run was a struggle but no more than it was for the other competitors. From there I stayed with bond and kept him in sight as we trundled round the park. The others dropped off one by one. Then the finish line loomed, and I upped the pace, only to find myself neck and neck with another brit for a final 100m sprint. All the training and hard work I had put in over the summer flashed back and I knew I would give it everything. We were equal till only 20m left before he pulled away. I did not give up though. With 5m to go he slowed thinking I would have given up only to be shocked to see me cross the line fractions of a second ahead. Always finish on some sort a victory.
I had come through 7th in the age group, second brit in. Content.
After only 2 years doing the sport only slightly seriously I am happy with the race and can’t wait for more!
Nick over and out.
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