My experience of racing at the World Standard Distance Duathlon Championships a couple of weeks ago in Fyn, Denmark can be summarised as the following: it was my first time representing Team GB, my first international championships, my second time racing duathlon over standard distance, my first international medal (silver) and quite possibly the worst race I have ever had!
Race day started well. I had 9 hours of sleep and I was feeling alert, excited, and full of energy. My tried and tested race day breakfast went down a treat and after a quick trip to transition to check over the bike, I was race ready.
9:18am was the advertised start time, however this was pushed back by 15 minutes, 3 times! This was not good for the nerves or my carefully planned nutrition and hydration strategy. Additionally, Denmark was experiencing the best summer it had had in years and the temperature was rising with not a cloud in the sky (great weather to sunbathe in, not to race!)
We were finally called to the starting pen, 45 minutes later than planned and with some pretty epic music and a loud air horn. All female age groups up to 40 years were off!
I had the girls in my age group in sight and knew I had to attack on this first 10km run to feel confident on to the bike. I had done some pre-race homework and knew that one of the girls, a German called Madlen, was an extremely good runner and I would have to be on my absolute best form to stand a chance on the run legs. However, she shot off in to the distance very early on and I knew that there was no way I would catch her without writing off the rest of my race. Instead, I focused on the other girls around me and quickly picked them off one by one. I was feeling good, in a nice rhythm and enjoying experiencing spectators cheering me on. However, 2 miles before transition I could start to feel a stitch looming- drat. I dropped the pace a little and tried to focus on my exhaling to keep it at bay, it managed to remain as only a dull ache leading in to T1 but it was not a pleasant last 2 miles of the run that’s for sure!
Run 1 time (10k): 34:56
(Madlen finished first in 32:44)
I navigated the underground car park maze that was transition and grabbed my bike pretty swiftly. I looked at the rack and knew I was in second place, just 40km to smash out on the bike next.
I had a good run to the mount line, however it was much closer than I had anticipated and half way up the ramp out of the car park - not ideal for a flying mount! I panicked a little, mis-coordinated my mount and ended up losing my shoe off my bike. I quickly scrambled off my bike to pick up my shoe and swore under my breath as I could see third place right behind me.
I quickly hopped back on to my bike but heard an air horn go off and someone shout “she swore!” I wasn’t really sure what was going on but as I continued on my bike I suddenly thought, had I just been given a penalty for swearing?
In the race briefing they had explained the protocol for penalties and I remembered something being said about swearing and a noise being made if an official gave you a penalty, however I didn’t see a blue or yellow card.
I decided I was safest to ensure I stopped at the next penalty box rather than get a DNF for not serving a penalty. However, when I got to the first penalty box I was horrified to find that the official could not do the penalty time as she didn’t have any paper to write my race number on- what a waste of time! I remained calm and rode as hard as I could to the next one, penalty served. Amongst all this penalty faff, the girl in third behind me overtook and I was not happy. I managed to hunt her down and maintained a bit of a lead in to T2.
Bike time (40km): 1:02:59
I had an excellent dismount and a very swift T2 and before I knew it, I was on to the final 5km run. My legs felt surprisingly good and “un-jelly like” and I knew that as long as I kept this up, the silver medal would be mine.
The final run was hot! It was approaching midday and there was zero shade on the town centre run course. My hydration on the bike had been pretty minimal as I was so distracted by the penalty situation and I was worried that if I drank on the final run I would get a stitch again (I have always struggled with race GI problems). However, in the final mile I knew I had to drink something- big mistake! I soon experienced one of the worst side stitches I have ever had and started to panic, what if third place would overtake me whilst I was struggling to run on!
I found a position that alleviated the pain a little and managed to keep my legs turning over. The finish line was in sight and I kept looking behind me to ensure third place was not close! As I approached the final finishing straight, a huge sense of relief hit me- I stood up straight, grabbed a GB flag from our team manager and did the best finish I could manage.
Run 2 time (5k): 21:44
Total race time: 2:03:15
Second in my first world championships, pretty chuffed with that!
The whole race was a battle from start to finish and it was not the performance I had wished to deliver. However, I raced to the conditions, rectified my penalty mistake and still managed to come away with a medal ceremony to attend! This was a huge learning experience for me and I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how to improve for the European Championships in Ibiza in October. I am excited to start my next block of training and with the support of Sundried, hope to go one better and come away from Ibiza with a gold medal.
N.B. After discussion with technical officials at the end of the race, it was established that I was not actually given a penalty…. Oops. Better to be safe than sorry!