Wow, what a weekend!
It all started on Wednesday when we flew out to Germany (after one of my A-level exams on Tuesday). We were in Dusseldorf a lot earlier than we should have been as the race wasn't until Sunday, but it was nice to get to know the place that I would be racing in.
After finding THE NICEST frozen yogurt shop (which subsequently became our lunch everyday that we were out there - not exactly race food but delicious!) we made our way to where we thought the race would be held. Turns out that trying to find our way around Dusseldorf is a lot harder than we thought!
Finally, after 3 hours of wondering around Dusseldorf town centre, we found the competition site. Obviously, 4 days before the actual race, there wasn't much there to see, but looking at a map of the course and actually seeing it are two totally different things! On the map, transition was behind the buildings that line the rivers edge. However, it forgot to show just how long the run from the swim exit to transition was; it was actually an extra 1000m!! (I have a video of the transition that took me 5 minutes to walk through, I will be posting a sped up version soon on my social media accounts!)
As Friday rolled around, it became clear that there was a big competition coming up. You couldn't walk down one street without seeing someone with a GB jacket either running or cycling. Barriers were being put out all along the roads, and signs started to go up all over the city. What a difference to two days before! That's when the nerves start kicking in. Seeing how big these events are never fails to scare me a little, because I find it hard to understand that I have actually made it to something this big!
Saturday was the day of the elite's races, so obviously everyone came out to watch that. The surrounding roads were packed and nearly every road was shut to traffic. But you could tell that everyone still had their minds firmly routed on their own race and where the routes were going to be going. It seemed that the route was quite technical with several loops where we left one road entered the slip road onto the bridge. All the roads were tarmac though so very smooth. It was going to make for a very fast race.
We had to put our bikes in transition the night before our race, so that is when you could finally see the 'competition' in your age group. Unlike most people, I don't like looking at the people in my age groups and seeing how they have raced previously, so I was totally oblivious to the fact that we actually had an elite Belgium girl in our age group who has been World Youth Olympic Champion as well as 18 other competitors across the 16-19 age group until someone mentioned it. .
So Sunday finally arrived, and saying I was nervous was an understatement! This was my first sprint distance triathlon in nearly a year as I had moved up to standard distance, so I didn't know how I was going to do in this race and I am not good at speed more endurance.
The swim actually ended up being further than it should have been: a sprint is usually 750m, but this time it was 810m. As it was in a river, we had a little current against us too, but that was the least of my worries. To take up less time, the organisers like to put multiple different age groups in one start time, so overall I had over 100 people in my wave, which made for a pretty messy start.
As we got into the water before the start horn, it became apparent quite quickly that nobody was your friend in the water. I literally couldn't move as I got in as everyone was jostling and pushing to get into the best spot.
I always say that triathlons actually has 4 sports: swimming, cycling, running, and a boxing match at the beginning of the swim. Arms fly everywhere, you get kicked in the face and body, people try to pull off your wetsuit or timing chip around your ankle, or they just try to drown you basically. This one was no different and I had 2 swimmers constantly swimming on top of me and dunking me for the whole race.... I know who you are... and I know I eventually beat you!!
Once the brutality of the swim was done, we had to climb up 70 steps from the water to the top of the bridge up metal grid steps which hurt your feet (HORRIBLE!) and then run 1000m to my transition spot, bare-foot. Its fair to say the bruises on the bottom of my feet show just how horrible that run was and I'm still limping a couple of days later!
The bike course is possibly my favourite course I have ever ridden. As it is a big event, all the roads were closed, so we were free to cycle without worrying about some idiot knocking us off our bikes. Instead, we had to be careful no to fall off around the corners due to the rain the previous night. Several athletes (a lot of GB team) were taken to hospital due to crashes, so it was quite a lethal course, but I liked that. It had quite a few turns, but the majority of it was on flat, open roads where I could get into a comfortable, fast rhythm and just fly (well, that's what it felt like!).
As I got off the bike and had to run yet another 800m to my transition (by this time my feet had gone numb from the pain!), I had no idea where I was in my age group, and neither, apparently did my parents.
The next 5k of the race was brutal, as the sun had made an appearance at a very high temperature, and my legs felt like jelly from cycling so hard. But again, I felt like I was flying. I don't now if that was the adrenaline from being at the European Championships, or if I was actually going fast, but whatever it was, it worked.
I crossed the line feeling both knackered and happy because I felt that the race went really well. At this point, I didn't mind where I came as I felt that I had tried my hardest and whatever I got was a bonus.
When I found out that I had come 3rd, I thought someone was pulling my leg!!
But they weren't, I was the EUROPEAN TRIATHLON BRONZE MEDALLIST!!!!!
It still hasn't sunk in yet, probably because I haven't had time to relax!
We didn't account for the fact that I would get a medal when we booked the afternoon flight on Sunday, so my dad had to go the airport early to check our bags & bike box in, whilst my mum and I stayed for the medal ceremony.
After getting my medal (thankfully being the youngest age group we went first onto the podium) We then ran to the train station and got to the airport to find that our plane was delayed anyway! We got home at 23.30 and I was up at 7 the next morning to sit my last and final Biology A level!
Now that I have finally finished all of my A-levels, I can sit and relax (a little) and let the fact that I am the European Bronze Medallist 2017 sink in!! .........Then its back to training for the World Championships in September.
All of this would not have been possible had it not been for the generosity and support of my wonderful sponsors. as the travelling, entry fees and constant changes of equipment and kit can dictate what races you can do even if you qualify.
THANKYOU for your continued support and loyalty and I do appreciate your help.
Pedal Potential Sovereign Play Equipment Rippleside Metalworks
Being given my bronze medal by the President of German Triathlon. He asked me if I was staying for the start of the Tour de France but I'm here telling him I have to rush back for my last A level. He was surprised as he thought I was older he said.
Very happy to be wearing my bronze medal and competing for GB.