So my story starts a year ago…
At the beginning of September 2014 I complete my first serious triathlon, I’d done a couple of local events during the summer but decided to race at the prestigious Liverpool triathlon and see how I faired when up against some of the best triathletes in England. I wasn’t expecting miracles as at this point I still considered myself as a “runner” and had done very little training in the pool and on the bike. So it was a huge surprised when I managed to bag myself first in my age group and finish top 5 overall. It also got me thinking, and over my end of season break I decided that I wanted to give triathlon a proper go the following year and see what I was capable of!
It also happened that at the end of September I was starting to study for my MSc at Sheffield Hallam University, this allowed me to join the uni triathlon team and get some proper triathlon training under my belt. Id managed to pick up an achillies injury whilst on holiday, at the time this seemed like a complete nightmare but it gave me the opportunity to concentrate on my swim and bike, which was needed!! So until mid-October I swam and rode my bike, I was enjoying being a triathlete and for the time being the pressure was off running fast times and hitting new PB’s, I was settling into the new team and positive about what winter training would bring. It was just before Christmas that I decided I wanted to try and qualify for the 2015 age group world championships, I was back running and felt like I needed a goal to aim towards as my winter season had been a write off. Having only ever come up against good competition once I didn't know if my dream was realistic or not but I was determined to give it my best and see how far I got, being one of the youngest in my age group I told myself that if I didn't make it this year I wanted to make it before I stepped up age group.
Previous to triathlon I had been a runner and I’d taken it for granted that training was as simple as putting on my trainers and heading out for a run session. Triathlon training was SO much more time consuming and I was finding it hard to travel to Sheffield to train with the uni team, sometimes twice a day. This lead me to make the hard decision to find clubs nearer to home, that would allow me to fit in work, studying and training without so much stress. As there was no triathlon club in my home town at this point, I decided to join the local swimming club and train with the competitive masters squad, I moved running clubs and got a new coach who was more than happy to help me with my triathlon aims and I have links with a tri coach who guides me with my bike sessions. For anyone looking to start triathlon but who can’t find a club, I would highly recommend joining separate clubs, that way you’re swimming with “swimmers”, running with “runners” and riding with “cyclists”, they are good at what they do, so you have to raise your game and become proficient at all three disciplines in order to train with them, and coaches are often more than understanding if you explain you aims and happy to help tailor sessions to suit you!
In a typical week I try and fit in about 14 sessions. I still run more than most triathletes as it is what I love doing, I also race competitively over the winter and still want to be able to place and finish well in road races and cross country. I aim to run between 40 and 50 miles each week, which includes 2 hard sessions with my group, a tempo run and some easy miles. I swim 3 times a week and try and get out on my bike or on the turbo 4 times a week. This winter I’m hoping to add a couple of strength and conditioning sessions in to help make me more robust and less likely to get injured. It sounds a lot but I have built it up over the year and come from a background of double day runs, so my body is used to it and I am used to finding the time to fit it in whilst still having a good social life!
Before I knew it spring had sprung and it was time to start thinking about making the GB team, the trail race was mid-May, which is early in the season and doesn’t leave much time to get many practice races in! As part of the local inter universities competition I raced at Southwell triathlon, it was a good warm up, but being early it was a pool swim. I had a decent race but would have preferred to have gone a bit quicker in the swim and my bike (as always) was my weak link! But it was good to dust off the winter cobwebs and get racing again! Next up was my trail race at Eton Dorney, not only was this going to be the biggest race of my life, it was the first time I’d been in open water all year, something I found a bit daunting. It was an early start, which was good as it gave me less time to get nervous, we arrived with plenty of time and set up in transition…I think I was one of the only girls there in club kit and not wearing a GB trisuit!! I was very aware that the other girls looked the part and very pro, but I just told myself to race hard and give it my all, that’s all I could do, and at this year was more about finding out how much work I had to do to make the team next year! The gun went and we were off, the water was fresh but not too bad, I had a bad start to the swim and panicked a bit when it got rough, I managed to get out of any trouble and settle into a rhythm soon enough though and was back on dry land before I’d had time to think too much about it! Out on to the bike, I always knew this would be the part where the girls over took me and I just needed to get round without falling off…which I did and I actually out in a decent ride for me! Now onto the run, my favourite discipline and where I felt most confident! The run route at Eton Dorney is two loops of an out and back course, so you can track girls down and see how far in front the next one is! This helps when it hurts and ensures you always have someone to aim for! Luckily for me, I managed to make up all the places I lost on the bike and more and made my way up to the front of the field. To qualify I needed a top 4 finish, as all the age groups are mixed during the race it’s hard to tell where you have placed but I had a good feeling id done it, it was just weather or not id gone fast enough to get a place on the team!! A few nervous days wait and I got the all-important email saying I had made the team and qualified to race at the world champs!!! I couldn't believe it, I still had so much work to do on my cycling skills and had a poor swim, but somehow id made the team!
This gave me 3 and a half months to get myself into the best shape possible before the worlds, I planned out some races to get enough transition practice in and fine-tuned my training plans so I was as fit and as fresh as possible going into the race. I upgraded my bike and went about going some sponsorship to help fund my way to worlds! This is when I came across Sundried! I was looking for a company to provide me with some kit, that I could wear to races and training and they seemed experts in that area! I couldn't be happier wearing their kit and it really does make a difference turning up to races and training feeling the part, it gives you the boost you need to ensure your perform to your best ability! It was all going so well….
…Then with 10 weeks to go I was out training on my bike and came off, I knew immediately that I had done some damage and after a trip to A and E it was confirmed, I’d broken my elbow! This wasn't ideal, and the doctors didn't seem at all confident that I’d be able to race! I was determined to show them otherwise and make it to the start line! This obviously meant I had to change all my training, and all the races I had planned in the build up to worlds had to be cancelled. I had a cast on my arm, which meant swimming and riding my bike were a massive no no, I could run (slowly!), so that’s what I did! I ran twice a day nearly every day, running with only the use of one arm is harder than I thought it would be but I got faster as I adapted to running with the cast one and was just happy to be out doing something, being sure that keeping my base fitness would give me the best possible chance of making the race! 10 days before we flew out to Chicago I went to have my elbow checked, the doctor thought it was still covered in micro fractures but said if I wanted to give the race a go I could, but had to be prepared for it to hurt and come back as soon as I was home. I was just happy to have my arm back!
The final week before we left, I tried a swim and managed to cover 700m, so I was confident I’d finish the swim, I knew I could run (shuffle) so that was never a problem….but getting back on my bike was a huge issue, first I had to overcome the nerves I now had and the worry of falling off again and to my surprise riding the bike was actually the most painful discipline. I had one quick spin out on my bike, didn’t enjoy it so called it a day and thought going into the race blind was the best option at this point, I wasn’t going to gain anything in the last week!
Once we arrived in Chicago I was certain I’d made the right decision to race, the atmosphere was amazing and the hype around the whole event was so exciting, I couldn’t wait to get out and race! I was racing the world aquathlon champs on the Wednesday and the sprint distance triathlon on the Thursday, so after not racing for 3 months I was doing back to back world championship races…it was going to be painful! Prior to the accident id hoped for a top 10 in the aquathlon and a top 12 in the triathlon and hoped to be top 3 out of the GB girls, now my aim was just to get on the start line and finish the race, it was hard to have that mind set but I had to be realistic.
I was using the aquathlon as a warm up event and an opportunity to recce the swim and run courses as they would be the same for both events. On the morning of the race I was more excited than nervous, I had my normal breakfast and was ready to go! The swim was choppy and rougher than I’m used to, and after not having any race practice or being in open water since the trails in May I took a minute or so to settle into a rhythm. It soon calmed down and I was enjoying it, the run from the lake to transition was long and uphill and I was beginning to realise how hot it was! It took me a kilometre or so to get into the run but once I was into my stride I was away and loving racing in the big city! I finished in 15th position, it wasn’t what I had originally planned for but it was a disaster! Now I had to concentrate on recovery ready for doing it all again tomorrow! After having some lunch I headed back to the hotel for an afternoon nap and got all my kit ready for the triathlon!
I woke up on Thursday morning feeling fresher that I thought I would, I was pleased I’d got an idea of the course and felt more confident about going into the swim knowing what to expect, I was a bit concerned about the bike, as it had been 10 weeks since I last rode it! Before I knew it I was in the water again waiting for the starting horn to go, and we were off!! I got into my swimming a lot quicker than before and held a good line, I left the water confident id had a better swim than yesterday and jumped onto my bike feeling positive about getting the bike done and having a good run. The bike course was mostly flat and fast, but windy. I could tell I hadn’t spent much time on the bike and was just concentrating on keeping a decent pace and getting off safely before making up as much time as I could on the run. I managed this and was looking forward to pushing the pace through the run and hunting down the girls in my age group. The heat had really picked up during the bike and by the run it was about 37degrees and in direct sunlight, athletes were really struggling to keep up a good pace. This was good for me as it meant I could focus on picking off one at a time and work my way through the field. The last 500m of the run were without a doubt the hardest of my life, the heat was taking it out of everyone and I can’t really remember finishing, but I had taken lots of girls ad was so happy id made not only the start line but finished both races.
The recovery area after the finish was like a war zone, they had provided numerous ice baths which were just full of athletes trying to cool down and the medical tent was full, it just showed what a tough race it had been. The results were out pretty quickly and I found out I’d finished 34th out of over 100 of the top girls from all over the world, I’d had a faster swim and faster run splits than I’d done in the aquathlon, which proved it was a good idea to do it and that racing back to back days isn’t always a bad thing! Initially I was disappointed with my result knowing that if I had gone into the race fully fit I could have been top 15, but after some consideration I realised it wasn’t too bad.
One thing the race has done if fuel my desire to race at the top level again, I will go back next year and I will be fully fit. I’ve got this winter to put in the miles and make sure I’m in the best condition I can be to achieve my goals and get the results I know I am more than capable off! I’ll work on all my weaknesses and with the help of my coaches go into the new season confident and ready to race hard! The winter is the time I look at running fast and this year I’m hoping to get back to racing in the pool and am considering trying to qualify for the European masters championships. Getting good results and PB’s in these disciplines give me the confidence that I’m fit and can only go faster once the summer triathlon season starts again. After a couple of easy weeks following the worlds I am ready and raring to go….here’s to a hard winter and a happy summer full of racing!!!
Write up by Jenny Reed for Sundried