European Sprint Duathlon Championships 2018
At medical school they ask us to reflect a lot. This was certainly a race to reflect upon and remember.
I knew things were going to be interesting the moment I fell off my bike doing transition practise the day before the race. I didn’t mount with enough momentum, fell sideways, and my bike landed on top of me. I initially laughed it off before I realised it actually rather hurt. I cried and hobbled inside, confidence knocked and legs bleeding and bruised. In sprint duathlon, transition can be the difference between getting a silver medal or losing it by 6 seconds (as I soon found out). I was a lot more relaxed about transition over the standard distance and had never had too many issues before (minus a shoe falling off or a swearing penalty at the worlds). However, this race was starting to worry me. After patching myself up I headed back outside determined to complete two good transitions before race day. Success.
The second thing which made me think that this race was going to be interesting occurred an hour before I went to bed the night before the race. The transition area was being washed away by the sea and officials were rushing around coming up with alternative solutions (why put transition on a tidal beach in the first place some may ask). There were a lot of very stressed age groupers on our social media groups and all I wanted to do was go to sleep in faith that it would all be sorted in the morning. A quick and much better solution was found and it was decided to make sure we got to the race ready to rack in good time in the morning to suss it out. Problem sorted for now.
Transition being washed away
Race morning arrived and after a surprisingly good night’s sleep and pre-race breakfast, I headed over to the race venue. I had a relaxed racking of my bike, sussed out the new transition and then the heavens began to open. I had come all the way to Ibiza to race in English weather, fantastic! I don’t mind running in the rain but cycling in it is always sketchy. Nonetheless, the organisers gathered us at the advertised starting time and with some suitably motivating Pirates of the Caribbean music, “on your marks”, beeeeeeep, we were off!
Now I said I didn’t mind running in the rain, however this run course was not designed for wet weather. The surface was made of red tiles which became extremely slippery when wet. Combine that with an extremely narrow, twisty and turny 2 x 2.5km lap with men aged 60+ starting 2 minutes ahead of us and it was an absolute disaster! I panicked a little as I found myself very much stuck and not running as fast as I wanted to. However, I tried to remain calm, made the most of a few wider and less slippery sections and propelled myself clear of all the other girls in my age group.
Run 1 (5km): 19 minutes
I came into transition first in my age group, grabbed my bike and ran to the mount line. My breathing was fast and hard from the run and I struggled to compose myself to jump onto my bike smoothly. I made it on in one piece but had managed to get neither of my feet in my shoes. I kept pedalling and fiddling but was unable to do this at great speed. I saw two of the Spanish girls in my age group cycle past me and was very frustrated.
Once my feet were finally in, I settled and sought out hunting these girls down. It didn’t take me long to catch and overtake one of them and my confidence grew. I had an awesome bike leg and found myself smiling throughout – even when going 30mph on the aerobars downhill (something I normally cry at). I didn’t see the other Spanish girl at all but was happy with my consistent overtaking of men on very nice TT bikes and lack of women overtaking me.
I came in back towards transition, had my feet out of my shoes ready to dismount and then suddenly I became overwhelmed with screaming and shouting as to where the dismount line was. I became very sensory overloaded, panicked and slammed on my brakes before I even had chance to get my leg over my bike. I jumped forwards on to my top tube and got cramp shooting up both legs. I hobbled along to the actual dismount line and into the transition very annoyed and in a lot of pain. I quickly put my bike back and headed on to the final 2.5km run.
Bike (20km): 31:21
I began the run feeling strong and excited with the prospect of a medal. My final runs are often strong and have previously gained me a higher position. However, my legs started to seriously hurt and my body just wanted to stop. I reached the turnaround point and to my dismay I saw 3rd and 4th not far behind me at all. I had to step up the pace to the line or I may not medal at all. My head wanted to push but my body was having none of it. I saw 3rd place pass me with 100m to go and just couldn’t catch her. I crossed the finish line, could barely see where I was going due to the fatigue, sat down in the recovery area and cried.
Run 2 (2.5km): 10:07
A fellow competitor came over to me and asked me why I was so upset considering I had got a medal, something many people dream of! I could only be negative and criticise my performance. I had come here wanting a gold, but instead I had watched people pass me due to silly mistakes.
It took a few hours to feel happy with my performance and realise that actually I had tried my best. Each race brings something new to learn from. Worlds taught me to sort out my nutrition, not get a penalty, and train more on the bike. I had learnt from this and accomplished all of these things in this race. Euros has now taught me transition, transition, transition in the lead up to my final duathlon of the season- The British Universities Championships on November 18th.
It has been a VERY long season and I very much enjoyed a little holiday in Ibiza post-race with lots of family and friends. Standing on the podium receiving my bronze medal was a very special moment that I will remember for a long time. I have hung up the medal on my bed next to my silver from the Worlds. Still hunting down that gold though to complete the collection, let’s see what Pontevedra and Transylvania bring next year!
About the author: Megan Powell is a Team GB duathlete and Sundried ambassador.