If someone had said to me be back in January that this year was going to be my best season ever, I would have thought they were mad! After being told that I was scheduled to undergo a major shoulder operation at the beginning of February, I honestly thought that my 2018 season was over before it had even started. I had prepared myself for a long and frustrating recovery year and then get back to the Triathlon-scene in 2019.
But I guess miracles do happen!
Rewind to the 9th February 2018. I had just come out of the shoulder operation I had been putting off for almost 2 years. My arm was numb, I was still wobbly from the anaesthetic and I had the surgeon telling me not to push myself too soon otherwise I could make everything worse. I think its fair to say that I wasn't feeling good about 2018!
Fast forward to 2 weeks later and I had decided to start walking on the treadmill to get a bit of my fitness back. Obviously it was nowhere near the level of exercise I was used to, but it felt good to be doing something!
Another 4 weeks go by and I am finally running again, with the help of a sling to keep my arm from moving too much. I was definitely the slowest I had ever been, and running with only one useful arm was hard! But having that time off from training and racing made me realise just how much I loved this sport, and ultimately gave me the confidence I needed for the rest of the year.
Now we skip to about June time, when I had my first race. At this point, I was still unsure if I was going to be competing in the Europeans in July, but I decided to concentrate on the present rather than the future. I had only been able to get back on my bike about 2 weeks before this race so I had no idea what to expect! It also didn't help that the first race back was the British Triathlon Championships! It obviously wasn't my best race, but it was a start!
After that, my coach, Kris, decided it was time to start prepping for the Europeans, just in case I was able to do it. I have no idea how he put up with my moaning and impatient urge to cycle faster or run further, but somehow he managed to stay calm and get me ready for the race.
I had decided that the Europeans would be a good practice run for the World Champs in September, even if I didn't perform too well in this race. With the lack of swimming, I was able to train more on the bike and run than I ever had, so I felt confident that if I could get through the swim I would be able to complete the rest!
The 21st July had finally arrived, and it was race day. Weirdly enough, I didn't feel nervous on the day. I didn't know if that was a good or bad thing, but I didn't have time to concentrate on that.
The swim was as hard as I was expecting it to be, both with my fitness and my shoulder. I managed to get to the end and that is when the real race started for me. If you have read my blog for the Europeans, you could probably tell how much I loved this bike course! I won't go into loads of detail, but let's just say that Estonia is the best bike course I have ever cycled on! Coming away with a PB on the course after the start of the year I had was a real shock.
But not as much of a shock as becoming the European Triathlon Champion! From seeing the race as a 'practice' for the Worlds to then becoming the Champion was crazy to me, and it is still crazy to think about now!
Realising how well I had done in that race spurred me on to train harder for the World Champs. I had 2 month before leaving for Australia, so it was 2 months of intense training. I could feel myself getting fitter and faster, faster than I had been for a couple of years, and that alone gave me to urge to get better. I stopped moaning about everything (well, I think I did at least!) and just got on with it. It quickly became apparent that the cycling was going to be my strongest discipline that year, so we decided to push that as much as we could in order to give myself the best chance at the Worlds.
Flying to Australia was a weird experience for me. I had never been to the country before so I had no idea what to expect from the journey - I admire anyone who does that horribly long 23 hour flight multiple times a year!
It didn't really become real for me until I saw the competition site that I was actually about to compete in the World Championships in the beautiful country of Australia. Every athlete can relate to the overwhelming feeling of seeing the area you are about to race in and realising just how crazy your life is!
I never go into a race expecting anything, so even though only a couple of months before I had become the European Champion, I didn't take that as a likelihood of doing well in this race. As any triathlete will know, every race is different and you cannot predict what is going to happen during your race, you can only prepare yourself to the best of your ability.
Therefore, I made sure I enjoyed the whole race as what an experience it was! The course, the spectators, the weather, everything was absolutely perfect! I'm sure most of you already know that Australia has stolen my heart!
Coming away as 6th in the World was a complete shock to me! I have always doubted my own ability, probably to my detriment sometimes, but after finishing that race I felt for the first time that I could do anything I set my mind to! My mum has always told me that nothing is impossible if we set our mind to it, and I finally see what she means!
Going from a pretty crappy beginning of the year to finishing the season as the European Champion and 6th in the World is beyond my comprehension and something I never want to forget.
And just to round off the whole year, we have just found out that our team, Whitty's Sport Therapy, has joined the Team Zoot 2019! Next year is going to be amazing!
I wouldn't be writing this blog if it wasn't for my coach, Kris Whitmarsh. Like I said above, I have never really believed in my own ability but to have a coach that can see exactly what I could be and pushes me to that level is beyond anything I could have asked for. I definitely wouldn't have achieved everything I have without him, so thank you so much Kris for believing in me, even when I didn't! And I can't believe I am saying this, but thank you for giving me all of those horrible sessions, as I think we can easily say that they worked! Bring on the next season!
I also wouldn't have gotten where I am today without Richardsons Cycles. At the end of last year, they gave me a bike that I never believed that I could have! I kept on having to ask myself why they trusted my ability so much that they would give me the beauty that is the Rocket (that's what I call it, as it has a rocket-logo underneath the frame!) but vowed that I would try as hard as I could to make them proud. I definitely wouldn't have gone as fast I have this year without it! And don't worry, it is now safely on the turbo and out of this horrible English weather for the winter!
And of course, the continued support of Glynn and his company, Rippleside Metalworks. I met Glynn a few years ago at our local open water swimming club, Chalkwell Redcaps. I don't even remember telling him about what I do and what I had achieved (and at that point, it wasn't much as I was only just going into the adult triathlon series). But for some reason that I still do not know today, he believed that I was going to go far in the Triathlon world and decided to help me in that pursuit. Glynn, I cannot put into words how grateful I am of your continued support, and I can only hope that I am reaching the level that you believed that I could be!
And last, but most certainly not least, my parents. This is the first time I have stopped typing on this blog as I want to make sure this message is the best that I can make it.
Nearly 20 years ago now, you brought me into this world without a clue as to how much I was going to control your lives (sorry!). Since I started this journey of Triathlon at the age of 8, you have been there every step of the way, through the hard times and the good. From standing on the side of the course in the pouring rain cheering me on, to picking me up and believing in me when I felt that I couldn't do it anymore. You have been the quiet confidence I have needed all my life, and I know I don't say it enough but I am eternally grateful for your love and support on this crazy journey of life I have chosen. I can only wish to be half the person that you both are when I am older!
Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey so far, and I hope you follow me into the next year as I go into the next age category.
Merry Christmas everyone, and have a fantastic New Year! See you in 2019!