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.
To say that this weekend went well would be an understatement.
The last 3 weekends have been hectic, with the European Championships first, then Chester Triathlon last weekend, and then the Leeds Aquathlon and Triathlon the weekend just gone.
We travelled up to Leeds on Friday as it was a very long journey and I didnt want to be tired for my race on Saturday morning. The National Aquathlon Championships, a 750m swim and then a 5k run is the start of a whole weekend of racing ending in the elites on Sunday afternoon. I had my brand new wetsuit to try out for the Aquathlon, courtesy of Chalkwell Redcaps, which was taking a chance using it for such a big race but it was perfect in the endless pool at my fitting last week. The field of athletes was vast as we made our way into the lake but my wetsuit felt amazing on the swim, and although there were quite a few sections where I was dunked and kicked, I came out in a good position while reserving some of my energy as I had a busy weekend of racing. Then the run felt like Hell squashed into 5 kilometres!! I don't know whether it was from bad nutrition or if I am maybe lacking in iron again (I have had this problem before), but the whole way round I thought I was going to throw up and I forced myself not to stop and walk! Its a long time since Ive felt like this in a race. The run was over 2 laps and a hill in both sections and by the time I got to the finish line ( after a sprint finish that came out of nowhere!) I was ready for bed. But I had to wait for the presentations as I had no idea how I had done and that's one area that Leeds could improve.
When they finally started reading out the podium places, I was really surprised to hear my name in first place as National Aquathlon Champion! I really didn't think I had done that well!
After a race, (and especially after a r
ace that went well) I like to have a little 'spoil me meal' where I can eat whatever I want and not worry about how it will effect my training. However, I couldn't do that this time, because the next day I had the British Standard Triathlon Championships. But the trouble I had finding somewhere that did pasta dishes.
Sunday had much nicer weather than the previous day and perfect for a Triathlon: not too hot but not cold and rainy like the day before. It was a nightmare trying to get to the car park as all the roads we had used on Saturday were now closed off and we ended up dumping the car in a side road and walking to the venue - another 30 minutes walk. We finally arrived and I headed into transition to get set up.
As the standard distance of Triathlon is longer than a sprint race (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run), nutrition is key if you want to make it to the end in one piece. So this time I made sure that I had enough energy snacks and gels to get me to the finish line in the centre of Leeds city. My energy levels tend to take nose dives during races and I have to re-stock regularly.
The swim was a little harder compared to the previous day because a) there was more of us swimming and b) the previous 3 waves must have had quite slow swimmers in them as we ended up having to slalom through them! There was a lot of jostling for places too as this was the qualifying races for 2018 so it was everyone for themselves today.
The same was said for the bike, or at least where the 'mount' and 'dismount; lines are on the bike course The picture below will show you the mayhem, but imagine over 100 people in my wave plus about 50 form the previous wave all trying to get on their bikes at the same time in no more than a 5 metre wide road; yeah, mayhem!! Quite a few people fell off their bikes as the mount line was located on the middle of a hill, but luckily, I managed to dodge my way through and out of harms way.
The bike course was really nice: two 20k laps around the streets of Leeds, on closed roads, which made it so much easier as we don't have to worry about cars trying to get past. The road surfaces were nice and smooth and I could see why the Brownlees were so good at the bike section of a race after training here. However the course was very technical so it did get a tad confusing for some.
After finishing the 40k bike course, it was time for the 10k run into the heart of Leeds. As it was just a straight run there, I had no concept of how far I had gone until I turned a corner and there was thousands of people on the pavements cheering everyone on. I always love it when people go out of their way to make our race just a little more fun, like when I saw someone with a sign saying 'TOUCH THIS SIGN TO POWER UP!', or the young children lined up with their hand outstretched for a high five - it makes the constant 2 and a half hours of racing just that little bit easier and pushes you on if you are flagging - which I certainly was doing as my second race over 2 days. What an atmosphere though.
I cannot explain how happy I was when I saw that finish line, and my legs felt the exact same! They went to jelly as soon as I crossed the line, as if they were saying "please, no more!".
Well, they definitely deserve a rest, because I managed to become the British Standard Triathlon Champion 2017!
In the process I also qualified for the World Triathlon Championships 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia! I think its time to start saving some money as that is not going to come cheap!!
Overall, this weekend has been a real success, something that I didn't think would happen!
I am now the National Aquathlon Champion 2017, and the British Standard Triathlon Champion 2017!
(Sorry, for repeating myself, I'm just really happy!!)
Now its time to prepare for the European Triathlon Championships in Dusseldorf in a couple of weeks time - but first on the cards - a rest and a massage!
I just want to take this opportunity to thank my sponsors who without their help I wouldn't be able to continue or achieve so much: Pedal Potential. Sovereign. Rippleside Metalworks. Chalkwell Redcaps.
Thankyou all so much for seeing the potential in me and supporting me in the sport I love.
As my parents are only emergency service workers, finding the money to buy new equipment is extremely hard, especially as we are financing three sports instead of one! Many people do not realise that at the age-group level, I am not funded in any way by British Triathlon, so my parents have to find it all themselves. That is the reason I am so grateful to my parents, as well as my sponsors, because without them, I probably wouldn't be able to do the sport I love.
For example, I have had my wetsuit for nearly 4 years now, so you could probably imagine the state it is in! There are chips in the suit from my nails, stones and rocks, and it just about fits where I have grown over the years!
When I completed my beach lifeguard qualification with the Chalkwell Redcaps recently, I had the privilege of meeting a bunch of caring, thoughtful people, and that is where I met my recent sponsor, Glynn from Rippleside Metalworks.
A few weekends ago, whilst training with the group from Chalkwell Redcaps, we got onto the subject of costs of funding the three sports in Triathlon. They were shocked at how much we had to spend not just on equipment, but on entrance fees (European Championships entry fees can be over £200) and particularly the Great Britain trisuit which is £135 without printing! I then received an email later that day from Iain, saying that he and the committee had discussed how they could help me and had decided they would sponsor me with a BRAND NEW WETSUIT!!!!!!!!!!!
Today, I went to trial said wetsuit at Tri and Swim Well with Dawn and Gill, and I have fallen in love with it!! I didn't realise just how bad my old wetsuit was until I tried this one on, but the difference is huge! My 'Chalkwell Redcaps HUUB wetsuit' allows me so much more movement and flexibility in the shoulders and arms that I didn't even know was possible in a wetsuit, and with my rotator cuff problems at the moment, it won't impede me as much as my old suit. It is also a lot lighter than my previous one, so travelling abroad with it will be a lot easier.
I would just like to give a HUGE THANKYOU to everyone at Chalkwell Redcaps - I cannot put into words how grateful I am to you for supporting me like this; I hope I can make it up by giving my full support to this amazing club, either in races or lifeguarding for you.
After a very long 6 hour drive to Chester, it was time for me to do my first standard distance triathlon of this year. I hadn't done any before this time because the European Aquathlon Champs were sprint distance, and also the European Sprint Triathlon is very near, so my training had been slightly changed to accommodate them.
Chester is a beautiful place, with its rolling hills (that are very similar to the Welsh hills I trekked across in March for my DofE) and lovely flowing rivers. If I wasn't racing, I would have loved the whole area and its surrounding towns. However, I was racing and unfortunately that meant the course used every beautiful thing in the area to its advantage: the swim course in the cold river was against the flowing current, making it ten times harder than usual; the bike course featured many of the hills that I said about, turning my legs to jelly; and the run course was a constant 10k in the boiling summer sun, draining me of energy and cramping both of my hamstrings and both of my quadriceps up (really need to sort out my nutrition before the World champs ).
But other than that, it went really well!!! :')
I finished in 1st place in my age group and therefore have qualified for the World Triathlon Championships in Rotterdam this September!!
Now the real training begins :)