When A-Race comes together. British Sprint Championships
I’d made no bones about it, this was a priority for the year, along with Dambuster in 3 weeks time, this was a basket with a fair number of eggs in it. I find it a real help to have a clear focus and goal, in terms of trying to manage training most effectively, but what doesn’t sit quite so well is the pressure you feel when an A-Race looms. Being my one chance at qualification for this years Sprint World Championships I needed to be fresh, while keeping training at a level sufficient to prevent any loss of fitness before Dambuster in 3 weeks time. I’d taken 3 days to recover after St Neots, then trained hard for a week and had 3 easy days leading up to Nottingham, which had left me feeling pretty good all in all.
I travelled down to Nottingham the day before with Tony Robinson, also hoping to qualify for London, although his race was more part of his build up to the European Championships at the end of the month. Tony was camping (something he made slightly more difficult by leaving his tent in my car!) and I was visiting family back in Nottingham.
Race morning was fairly leisurely for a change. I was staying only 30mins away, had pre-registered the day before and rack positions and times were pre-ordained so there was no rush for prime spots. I got there in time to watch Andy Tarry win the first wave in 57mins and see that some pretty fast times were on the cards as conditions were close to perfect. Transition had been split in 2 separate areas for T1 and T2, a bit of a novelty, but it seemed to work well.
I knew the swim was going to be manic, 250 uber-competitive blokes all thinking it was their god given right to reach the first buoy first, but I hadn’t really expected the carnage that ensued. Before we’d even begun someone had snapped part of the timing chip off my ankle and when the starter gun went off the fireworks started. I suppose the big difference between this race and any that I’ve don’t before was that the punching, kicking and being physically swum over didn’t abate at the first turn, it just carried on for about 600m of the 750m we swam. Getting any sort of rhythm was impossible so I just swam as hard as I could and tried to keep my head above water. 2 swimmers had gotten well clear early on and I exited in the midst of the first big pack coming out of the water. I had a frustratingly pedestrian T1 and was relieved to get onto my bike in one piece. I immediately lost another couple of places getting my feet into my shoes, so I think it’s probably about time I braved some transition practice again.
Out onto the bike and it was a four lap course around the rowing lake. Pan flat, a mild crosswind and only 2 corners that really necessitated much in the way of braking it was as fast a course as I’ve ridden. Riding hard I gained a few places and although overtaken a couple of times out of transition I didn’t lose much ground over the 12miles. Two and a half laps in, I hit a pot hole with a hefty whack and my Garmin flew off the handlebars! Not holding out much hope for retrieving it in one piece I pushed on to make what looked like an expensive day out worth its while. My calves were starting to cramp, something new for me on the bike, so I did my best to ignore it, until I touched down in T2. This time I only lost one shoe on the dismount, but that was quickly put to the back of my mind as my calves locked up tight. I hobbled to my spot in transition and tried to work out a new game plan for the next 5km. The pain was excruciating and I couldn’t straighten my legs, but I’d come this far and was in a pretty strong position judging by the lack of bikes in transition. I jogged through transition and opted to stop at the turn around point to try and stretch my calves, not only did it seem about as much help as a chocolate teapot, but I watched 2 guys run straight past and could see another 3 looming through transition. Bugger it, I thought, I’ll have a crack at running it off. Initially this was both physically painful and psychologically painful as I lost ground on those ahead, but after about 1km I was up and running. I pushed harder than I have through a triathlon run and from that first km to the last conceded only one place and picked up another 2. The last one in the final 400m as I pushed through the finish telling myself I couldn’t face missing qualification by a single place (as it happens he wasn’t even in my age group!). I crossed the line in 58.55 and in agony, but ecstatic as I heard I’d placed 4th in the age group.
It’s taken me a full week to recover and I havn’t been able to run at all in that time, but looking back I’d run a pb for the 5km (17.50) despite the cramp and if I’d got out of T1 in a time comparable to any of the top 200 athletes I’d have finished 8th overall rather than 13th. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders knowing that qualification for the World Championships is secured and with fellow TriHarder athlete Becky Schofield also qualifying later in the day it was a successful British Championships for Team Triharder. Oh, and a mate found my Garmin at the side of the road still reading 25.5mph average speed, must’ve been my lucky day!