European Championships, Alanya Turkey
So a week on from Nottingham Tri, I was packing to go to Turkey. Training was quite difficult in that time as I needed to do some harder sessions to maintain my form having had a week off sick before but also not do too much to avoid getting ill again and be rested enough to peak in Turkey. The few days before I left were less than ideal, my life is time management nightmare at the best of times but when you add in extra packing etc not only for me but to organise stuff for the kids and work whilst I was away. The day before I left I was in melt down and was wondering if it was really worth the hassle going. Despite this in the couple of weeks prior to the race I was mentally very strong knowing at this point any training wasn't going to make me any faster but positive thoughts can make or break the race. Every opportunity I had I was thinking through the race, practising controlled breathing and trying to feel the strength I needed.
The journey was long, the only hitch being Eve's bag being not transferred to the connecting flight and was left in Istanbul. Flying in my new 2XU compression tights were the biz, I get really swollen legs when travelling and these helped loads, thanks Tri Harder. The weather was lovely, I am not normally a person who likes the heat but after our long winter I didn't complain at all. Before I left I was looking forward to 2 more relaxed days before the race but it was far from it. Swim recce, run recce, construct bike, bike recce, bike mechanical problems, team briefing, registration, team photos, watching Olympic race, elites..... Gavin reckons we were walking up to 10k a day between the hotel and race site. I was tired from the week before and travelling and was desperate to sleep at any opportunity.
Friday was the Olympic distance race, I will let Eve, Andrew and Roland et al tell you about their race but they were amazing to watch. Eve and Andrew looked so strong on the run.
Friday night I started to get my normal stress out because for the last 2 days my legs were heavy, i was tired and feeling like every injury I had ever had was hurting, I think my brain was probably the problem. At 10pm after I had turned out my light I decided I need to get up again and stick acupuncture needles everywhere and a use a bit of kinesio tape. Of course a bit of tape was going to make everything better!
Race morning I didn't manage to eat much, my stomach was unsettled so I decided to have peppermint tea in my drink system (that's a first for me). Our bikes were racked and kit inspected the previous night so we went down to transition in the morning for the final check. The organisers had placed 4 toilets nearby for the couple of hundred athletes ready to start racing within an hour wasn't good. As you can imagine, big ques and by my last toilet visit there was s@!t everywhere- on the toilet seat, the floor, the sink. If anyone wasn't feeling sick before they certainly were now.
The 20 minutes before the race were one of life's special moments. I had a few minutes sitting in the sun quietly watching the waves executing the race through my head, calm positive strong thoughts. Then into a pen with about 70 women, quiet but you could feel the atmosphere and adrenaline. The men went off first then we were walked single file down a long platform onto the pontoon. We stood on the pontoon, the view was stunning and my heart beat racing in time to the music. They didn't hold us long before the horn blew. I had a good 100m then I started to loose touch with the main group as my body filled with lactate. I needed a deep breath and to settle into a rhythm, by the first turn I had found some people to swim with. Sitting in the draft felt too easy but taking it up seemed too hard so I dropped back again conserving my energy. I got out of the water pleased with my swim, however looking back at the results if I had known I was 48th out of 70 I would have probably freaked out. I knew from previous races I would be about a minute down from the main pack and 2 minutes from the fastest swimmers. After a Smooth transition i was out on to the bike. The bike course was 2 laps of a flat course but very uneven like the cobbles from Paris-Roubaix bike race. I must have passed more than I remember on the bike because i only counted about a dozen. I had an emergency stop after 1 lap when a group of cyclists in the men's race were almost at the transition turn off and decided to overtake me a the last minute and precede to almost stop to take their shoes off right in front of me blocking my path. After a few choice words I was going again on the final lap. Another uneventful transition and I was out on the run. I had been worrying about the run because of the pain I got in my chest/ abdomen at Nottingham tri. What I thought when racing at Nottingham was a stitch transpired later to be a rib injury which had been troubling me on every run for the last couple of weeks. I could see the French girl ahead of me but I needed to be steady and sensible so not to set of my rib pain. Once it starts it gets worse until I have to stop running. I was almost in a trance when running so focused on my breathing control which stops the onset of the pain. It was a lovely run course first on the promenade, up a fairly short, steep hill by the castle then run through the main town. Once I had my breathing controlled I started picking off the runners, aim for the next one, then the next. A couple of girls tried to stay with me as I caught them but I couldn't afford to drag them along so I picked up the pace a little everytime. Along the last straight I heard people shouting for one of the girls just behind me, I had no choice but to push those heavy legs at this point, the pain in my ribs building quickly. The finish line couldn't have come quick enough. Through the line I was bent in half over the railings, the heat hit me and I felt sick and dizzy. The next minute I had cold water being poured all over me which brought me round. I wasn't sure where I had come as a couple of people finished ahead of me and I didn't know which age group they were in. The atmosphere around the finish line was amazing so many tired but smiling faces. Many of us went straight into a huge kids paddling pool full of ice water in the tent just beyond finish line. Waiting to see the results was tense but exciting time. I had tears in my eyes when I saw the results, I had done it, what I had been dreaming for months.
As we all do, the next few hours I spent dissecting the splits and confirming to myself although overjoyed that I had won, that I needed to raise my game much, much more for the Worlds in London. So back to a couple of months hard training, bring it on!