What a roller-coaster of emotions at this year's World Aquathlon Championships in Pontevedra, Spain!
An Aquathlon, for the people that don't know, is quite similar to a Triathlon in that it is a continuous race but without the bike section. So obviously, this should have made the travel over to Spain a lot easier without the bike.
Notice that I said should - of course, nothing ever goes smoothly for the Tippett family! In order to get to Pontevedra, we had to fly into Porto, Portugal and drive the 2 hours up into Spain. Taking into account the time we would land, the distance we would have to travel and the race registration deadline of Wednesday night at 6pm, we booked our flight for 9am on Wednesday morning.
Anyone who lives in the UK near the M25 will know the mayhem that happens between 6am and 10am for rush-hour. I should have remembered that this would cause a problem, as I work in London and have to commute in the rush-hour every day. Long story short, we RAN through Gatwick airport to catch our flight in time, which isn't fun if you really need to go to the toilet!
Once we were safely onboard our flight (and finally had the chance to go to the bathroom!), we had time to relax. We were even able to stay relaxed when trying to figure out what the Spanish signs were saying on the roads (I can speak a little bit of Spanish, so it wasn't too bad). It wasn't until we got to the Portuguese-Spanish border at 2pm that we realised there was an hour time difference between Porto and Pontevedra, so what was 2pm was now actually 3pm. We still had another hour and half to drive, find the destination and somewhere the park, find registration and get checked in - all before registration shuts at 6pm! To say we were stressed was an understatement!
Obviously we made it in time, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this blog! With my registration kit in one hand and a complimentary World Champs bag in the other (which was a very nice surprise, as we normally just receive a complimentary food voucher to the Pasta Party!), I made my way to the competition area. Situated beside the Lérez river - where I would be swimming the next day - was the transition area and run section. Each athlete's transition area was labelled with their name, country and race number. I had two fellow Brits next to me and a USA athlete opposite me.
I normally get to the country where I am racing a couple of days before, so arriving the day before the race was a little weird for me. But what was even weirder was the fact that my race wasn't until 4:30pm then next day.
I'm used to rising before the sun to get myself ready, and finishing my race before some people have even got out of bed! The waiting around is the worst part - once you have set your equipment up in transition (which was only my running trainers and sunglasses for this race), you are just counting down the minutes until the start.
Finally, it was time to start. I had heard that the water was extremely cold, and as I still cannot wear a full-arm wetsuit due to the restriction of movement post-shoulder operation, I wasn't looking forward to getting in! But with the amount of people in the water (I want to say about 100 people in my wave alone) and the inevitable craziness after the start horn, the cold was quickly forgotten. The swim was a one loop, 1km course with the current against us on the way out and with us on the way back.
At the end of the swim was a pontoon and flight of stairs to reach the transition area, and while everyone managed to pull themselves up and start running towards transition, I - in the true ever-graceful fashion - managed to miss the first step and fall flat on my face. I'm sure someone out there has a picture, and I would really appreciate it if they could just delete that embarrassing moment from their camera and pretend it never happened!
Once I had regained my footing (and my dignity!), I ran into transition whilst trying to undo my wetsuit zip which is very hard with numb hands! I placed my hat, goggles and wetsuit in the box provided and made sure it was ALL inside the box (you can be disqualified if the officials find your wetsuit outside of the box, even if it is just a part of it).
With one of the fastest transition times in my age group, I was then onto the 5k run. The simple two loop, out-and-back course was swarming with people from the previous waves by the time I started, but I love those races. There is nothing worse than running on a quiet course where there are too many options to over-think!
By this time the air temperature was a balmy 25 degrees Celsius, something us Brits are not used to! Many cups of water were consumed and even more thrown over my head to cool me down. My mum was near the turn around point, and both times I went past her, she would shout out messages she had received from my coach, who was watching my split times back in the UK.
At this point, I had no idea where I was in relation to the rest of my age group so I just had to do the best I could. The heat was quite draining, but I felt good coming up to the last turn around point. With less than 1000m to the finish, I knew I had to pick up my speed.
My mum and fellow teammate, Charlotte (she was racing in the Aquabike two days later) were waiting for me outside the recovery area. We found a nice shaded area and I was able to look at my results for the first time.
As I was the youngest in my new age group most of the girls I was racing were nearly 4yrs older than me so I had no idea what to expect.
When I saw that I had come 5th in the World, I was so happy!
Even though I hadn't had the best swim, I was happy with the rest of the race and kind of shocked that I had managed to get 5th place in the next age group even without my favourite bike discipline. And I was even happier to see that I was just 58 seconds off 2nd place.
Obviously I was very happy and after about 45 minutes of cooling down in the shaded area and chatting, I made my way to transition to collect my equipment from my transition box.
As all of the boxes looked the same, I thought I had walked past my own numbered box as there was no wetsuit in it. However, when I went back I knew it was my box as my hat and goggles were In the bottom.
All of the Brit's equipment was still in their boxes, meaning they had yet to collect their things, however the USA athlete's equipment was gone along with both mine and her name place cards which were attached to one anothers on the bar above our boxes. I did wonder why she had taken my name place as well and whether it was anything to do with my missing wetsuit.
It really dampened down the joy of coming 5th and as I walked around I found myself quietly checking everyone accusingly and looking into any open bags along the way.
It was another 5 hours before I heard anything about my wetsuit. when I received a call from a mobile number saying they were sorry they had picked up my wetsuit 'accidentally' and had left it in the reception of the Team GB hotel. It was the USA athlete who was opposite me in transition and whom I had chatted to before the race.
I am not sure quite how or why my wetsuit was picked up from a completely separate box, however I am Thankful to have my wetsuit back as with the European champs in less than a month, it would have been one more thing to worry about if I had to find and buy a new wetsuit (those things are not cheap!)
There you have it, the roller-coaster of emotions that was the World Aquathlon Championships.
I am so happy to have come away with a 5th place in my first race in this age group, and looking forward to acting on the game-plan Kris and I have in the run up to the Europeans and the rest of this season!