After coming second in my Age Group in 2018 at the European Age Group Championships in Tartu, Estonia I got a pre-qualification for the Europeans this year in Weert in the Netherlands. I went into the winter training period with only one focus in mind, to get back on the podium, with the hope of improving on the last result.
All was going well until October, when out on my last training run for The Great South Run, I tripped and broke my ankle. Despite this being a set back for several weeks, once I got the green light to get back into training, it was full gas for the European Championships.
The race was on the 2nd June, and having arrived a few days earlier, I had plenty of time to recce the bike and running route and quite quickly it showed that this was going to be a fast race, time to get excited. Having dropped my running shoes off at T2, it was time to cycle down to T1 (split transition, this was new for me!) to sort out my bike and get ready for the race. Being in the 20-24 age category we were first off with the 18-20 category (a wave of about 30 guys).
We were all called up and taken into the waiting pen, and that’s when the adrenaline really started to pump around the body.
The start itself was a running beach start, so we all lined up and waited for the gun. The next 5ish minutes was chaos, with 30 guys all trying to swim in the same bit of water aiming at the same buoy, but I kept my ground and stayed within the lead group. About 750m into the swim it was time to try and break away from the main group and have a bit of clear water, something I have been focusing on in my training. After a push for about 200m, I found myself on my own chasing down the lead group of 3 guys. I came out of the water in 4th place and kept this position through T1 which I was happy with.
Then onto the bike, a fast flat course of 2 and a half loops on some very straight roads. I knew that I was at a slight disadvantage to the guys on the TT bikes but I didn’t let that bother me, and I held my own pushing it hard on the bike (even though I was almost taken out by a Frenchman on a roundabout!) Despite losing two places on the bike I was happy to come into T2 in 6th place, with the guy in 5th just in front, I was able to get my shoes on and get out on the run quicker, sending me into 5th place.
Now onto the run, my favourite part of the race. 4 laps around the town, time to go hunting! After the initial excitement of starting the run, I soon settled into my pace and could see that I was already catching the guy in front. I had to tell myself not to get too excited and just to let it happen as I could see I had a faster pace than him. After the first lap I was now in 4th place and coming alongside the guy in 3rd, another British guy. I said to him as I passed to stay on me and we will catch the guys together. I continued at my pace and caught the guys in front, with 1 and ½ laps to go I knew I was in first position and still putting some time onto the other guys.
As I came round the last lap onto the final part of the loop I heard over the speaker them announce my name. Then it was time to take it all in and enjoy every second of running down that blue carpet. I didn’t actually realise my lead until the next guy came in 1 minute and 40 seconds later.
Overall it was an absolutely cracking weekend and I came away extremely happy with my result. A joint family decision was made to stay around for the medal ceremony despite us missing our Eurotunnel crossing (luckily we got one only an hour or so later).
Now it's time to enjoy the remainder of the race season and begin preparations for next year, as I am out to Edmonton in Canada for the International Age Group Championships and back to Tartu, Estonia for the Europeans. Cannot wait!
About the author: Will Grace is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.