After a few more days recovery from Mallorca than I had originally planned (and would have liked) I got quickly back into the training and build up to Staffordshire. The key sessions had been put in place, after debriefing Mallorca with Andy, and I was motivated to work hard. Over the training block I hit some really good run form and also identified some changes that I needed to make to my open water swimming. Most notably, May was my first month working part time, which was good for consistency and hitting my biggest training week volume to date. This all gave me confidence going into the race. I am pleased that things are heading in a good direction and whilst this is a small change, I hope to utilise it to continue to make improvements.
My nerves were a lot higher than I had expected. After feeling so awful in Mallorca I was pretty concerned about how the day would pan out. I also knew that I had been feeling fit in training and had the classic thoughts of wanting to show what I could do on race day. After a good talking to by my mum and Pete I pulled myself together a bit. My warm-up also helps me settle down a bit and before I knew it I was walking out to the swim start with a small field of girls I knew well. It was great to race alongside Nikki and Kim and inspirational to see the fantastic run of results they have put together. It was also nice meet the other girls and the relaxed atmosphere made the waiting around much less stressful!
As we entered the water I felt focused and ready to go. I knew where I wanted to be on the start line and before I knew it we were off. I worked really hard from the start in the swim and wanted to keep my effort level as high as I could. This allowed me to get on some good feet heading towards the first buoy and whilst I knew the pace was building the whole time I tried to stay in the bubbles as long as I could. As we turned the first buoy, there was then a long long long long way to the next big turnaround buoy. By this time I was on my own and just got my head down and tried to keep swimming hard. Whilst there were some smaller sighting buoys, there was also lots of other things in the water. This made it hard to know if I was heading in the right direction and I did wonder if I had missed a buoy at one point. The buoy finally arrived and I sat up, checking where I was. Luckily I quickly sighted I was on track and got back into my swimming. I felt strong for the last few 100m and came out 4th. Whilst I was disappointed I had doubted myself in the middle of the course, costing some valuable time, I was pleased with my position and the effort I had maintained throughout.
After an uneventful T1 I was quickly onto the bike and tried to get into my rhythm. Early on the bike was tough and I just couldn’t get myself going or get any energy in. I kept my head down and tried to keep working. As time went on, I had some better form and I tried to make the most of this. As I got into the final 15km I was really struggling and having spent the whole bike course on my own it was actually quite nice to see an age-group man come past me, even if it was unfortunately very briefly. The rain began to fall and I just kept focused on getting to the end of the bike. There were some tricky descents in the wet and the sharp corner back into shugborough hall left my wheels skidding all over the place. I was so pleased to be in and ready to hit the run as hard as I could. I knew I had not made any time up, in fact I had lost a lot of time, but I wanted to finish strongly and make sure I put in a good performance to the end.
As I got onto the run, my legs felt good and I maintained my form most of the way round. I had discussed my cadence and arm position with Andy coming into the race and it was great to have these things to focus on. I kept looking up and along the path I was on, one to keep my head high and run tall, but also to watch for the worst puddles and the thick mud in the forest. Having not taken in much nutrition on the bike due to feeling fairly sick most of the way round I decided to carry a gel, but did not end up using it. Instead I used a combination of coke and water, taking sips of each at every aid station. This seemed to work well for most of the run. I struggled a bit during the final lap and decided to bypass the last few of the aid stations. Having run consistent time splits up until this point I dropped off a bit, but approaching the final two miles, being willed on by so many supporters and volunteers, I did manage to pick it up again into the finish line. This gave me the third fastest run split and confidence that I can finish strongly.
Important shout outs!!
Volunteers, marshalls and race organisers for standing in the rain, shouting support and making a complicated set-up run smoothly.
Hampton pool for the best swim venue in the UK.
Andy for all his wise words, time and support to help me develop.
Last, but not least – Pete for the support he offers everyday and with all the race day logistics and my mum for standing in the rain AGAIN…. The boost I get from you both is worth so much!