The road is long and hilly....

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The road is long and hilly….. Especially when you are in North Yorkshire. What a fantastic course Castle Howard was. It certainly inspired me to a race winning performance on a day that I decided to be brave and race with more heart and less head. Success can be equally hilly. This race feels like the top of one of those hills for me, not just because of the win, but because of the performance. I have been at the bottom of the hill on a number of occasions this year, not just at races such as Mallorca, and at times,  Staffordshire, but also with frustration in my form. This happens to all athletes, but just as on the course at Castle Howard you just have to remember that for every downhill, there is an up and for every low there is a high. Sunday was certainly a high and a confidence boost in my ability to perform on race day.

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Leading up to the race training had been going well. I recently did a 10k in a time that I had not run since 2012 and I knew that I was finally seeing the form that reflected all the hard work I had put in. This run form showed on race day and although I ran the first lap like it was a 10k, it was fantastic to feel the speed and spring that I have been lacking in other races this season. I put most of this down to working part time because it has allowed more time to recover, eat well, and focus on my training. This is making a difference to my day to day ability to perform well, but also in my confidence and belief in the work I am doing. After Staffordshire I really wanted to do some more work on the bike and Andy has made some good changes to my program. In addition, I have been able to team up with Digme fitness and start to do some key sessions on the fantastic Keiser bikes they use. Training with power has enabled me to see my potential and I am excited for (and slightly dreading) the sessions that Andy has given me for the coming weeks. In the race and on the bike I have already started to see the benefits of this work and I know there is a great deal more to come!

So what about race day….

By now, I imagine that my perspective on racing has become somewhat predictable on the blog. I try to share my experiences, but would also like to keep the blog a little more varied. As a result here is my race in short:

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I got swum over at the start, but swam well for the back end of the swim. A terrible T1 gave me motivation for a great bike to catch the lead woman at about 12kms. We cycled the whole bike course neck and neck, with very little to choose between us and came into T2 together. I then had a good transition and got out onto the run first, running as hard and as fast as I could. I had to dig deep and paid for the early pace in the last few kilometres, but was delighted to cross the line in first and break the course record!! Some important learning about nutrition, racing, and transitions, but physically I am right where I want to be.

Now for a different perspective….

Whilst competitors are out smashing themselves around the swim, bike and run there are a whole host of hardy spectators who give up their time and energy to support. The atmosphere at triathlon events is always special and for me it is largely down to the fantastic support. I feel lucky to have some of the best spectators, not that I am biased, and thought it was about time to get a different race report and perspective:

 Mum – Aka ‘nannamazza’!

 "Castle Howard was rain almost free (Mallorca and Staffordshire were very wet affairs), with stunning views, supportive spectators and real delicious coffee" (very important for mum who is more caffeine fuelled than me!)

"I love being a spectator to this completely ‘mad’ support. The competitors are amazingly fit and very supportive of each other. However, I am always very relieved when Nat is safely in transition after the bike."

"Being a spectator is difficult to describe when most of the action is completed ‘out of sight’ of the spectators !! We get a few glimpses of the athletes as they bob up and down in the water, whizz past on super fast bikes and then disappear on a long run only occasionally passing spectators !!"

"However, I am visiting places for the first time – Zell am See in Austria, Alcudia in Mallorca, Stafford, Devon, Dublin, Weymouth, Wales and Yorkshire !!!"

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"I am a very proud parent and Castle Howard was a great result for Nat. I would like to mention all Nat’s support team especially Pete her boyfriend who manages to know everything about a tri bike and always has lots of advice based on his own experience of Ironman events. Pete is also very good at guiding me to all the best vantage points for a spectator!"

"Great family support from Lou, Ali, Chrissie, Paul and Lizzie - who get regular updates on what's app!"(phone signal permitting)!

Fellow athletes....

Regardless of the result, the wider triathlon community are some of the most supportive and excited people I know. Everyone seems to love following races, refreshing trackers and having updates as and when the race is going on. The feedback following Castle Howard was very special. It is amazing how much respect people have for each other and a willingness to congratulate, support and celebrate a win with you makes it even more special. Those who see me regularly know what I have been doing to try and achieve my goals and I feel hugely grateful for having them around. Special mention to Tom Higgins, who not only smashed his personal race for 4th, but has been helping me swim and run faster with our regular Sunday morning sessions. Also thanks to Ruth Purbock (who recently won Hever Castle) and Rich Newey (recently qualified for Kona for the third time) for company on the bike and words of encouragement and support during my race prep. Two uber bikers who have pushed me on in recent months. Lynzey Ryan is running a marathon (again) and is an excitable, genuine and fun Yorkshire girl who celebrates success and hard work better than anyone. Please help her support an awesome cause on her just giving page here:

http://m.virginmoneygiving.com/mt/uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=LinzeyRyan&un_jtt_redirect

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There are so many other people to mention who congratulated me on Facebook and Twitter and I am just so excited that people can get involved in helping me chase my mad dreams and goals. I hope it inspires you to get out there and give things a go, but more importantly it really inspires me to continue to work hard, to keep improving and hopefully achieve more in the future. THANK YOU!

What's next?

Every race this season has been an improvement on the previous one and I hope to continue this as I head to Dublin and Weymouth 70.3s. After that I will assess where I am at and set goals moving into 2017. I have big ambitions for next year and as I continue to learn I am grateful for the continued support of my family, coach and sponsors:

Andy Bullock - for listening, adapting and pushing me to be better

DigmeFitness - for their energy, awesome studio and opportunity to develop my bike sessions

I-ride UK - The Argon18 bike and Fulcrum disc flew to the fastest female bike split

EttixxUK - keeping me fuelled on the bike and healthy in the build up to races

Orca - as the first two females out the water were in their wetsuits!

Skechers - who helped me gain the fastest run split of the day in the Speed3 trainer