Heading into spring I had one goal in mind for the 2017 season: to earn a spot at either the European or World Duathlon Championships and get to represent Great Britain at an age group level. Having not been entirely prepared for the European qualifier the previous autumn I had to endure a long wait hoping for a roll down spot while trying to focus on getting ready to try and qualify for the Worlds in Canada.
It actually came as a massive surprise when I received an email late in February saying that I had picked up a spot to go and race in Spain in May, and the excitement of knowing I had already achieved my goal to wear GB kit took the pressure off racing in Bedford to qualify for worlds. I think largely because of that I raced one of my most complete duathlons, and knew within minutes of crossing the finish line that I would be able to fly across the world and race the World Duathlon Championships that summer.
European Duathlon Championships
The European Duathlon championships in Soria, Spain, were always going to be a memorable experience purely as it was my first international competition and the first time I could represent GB. From that perspective I felt less nervous about the race, which was going to be tough given the climate, altitude, and terrain, and tried as much as possible to enjoy the experience.
Arriving in Spain I knew I wasn’t going to be pushing for any medals as my winter training had been pretty lax and my only goal was not to be last. I managed to achieve that, finishing 33rd, but it wasn’t without its struggles. The altitude made the run feel far harder than any 5k I had run before and the bike became a brutal struggle through gale force winds and up never ending slopes. Combined with a frustrating drafting penalty on the bike I was surprised I was able to finish in the position I did and overall happy with the race as a learning experience.
Getting fit for summer
Soria was a real turning point for me with my multisport racing. I had always enjoyed triathlon and duathlon, but that was the race when I no longer wanted to take part and finish but compete to the best of my ability and to win. So rather than taking a break from training, I quickly started to put together a training plan which, for the first time ever, included consistent and structured swim sessions. I then set about targeting some key triathlons before heading to Canada for the World Duathlon championships.
Going from about 3-4 hours training a week to 8-10 was tough and my body took a while to adjust, but quickly I began to feel the benefits and that drive to compete kept me going through the early mornings and long sets in the pool.
To see if it was all worth it, I entered two triathlons I had completed previously: the Bedfordshire county championships and the London triathlon (coincidentally my first ever race), but this time with the aim of finishing on the podium for my age group for both.
Both times I was impressed by how much my swim had come on compared to previous seasons and I was able to take full advantage of my strong biking to continue to move up positions. In Bedford I was able to hit out on the run course in 1st place for my age group but unfortunately couldn’t hold on when I was caught from behind and had to accept second position. In complete contrast, due to the size of the event and the wave format, it was impossible to work out how I was doing in London but I had strong legs going into the run and was able to complete a personal best for the final leg of a tri. Even though I knew I had put in a strong performance I was still shocked to take home bronze in my age group, and that event was probably the biggest boost to my confidence with Worlds coming just a month later.
The World Duathlon Championships, Penticton, Canada
Unlike Soria, I wanted to compete in Penticton and really push my body as hard as possible to see what it could do. Going into the race I knew that, being draft legal, the opening run was key as getting into a good bike group would make a huge difference for before a sprint finish over the final 2.5k run.
Although I got no sleep the night before, I got up feeling pretty energetic, and despite stories of tyres exploding in transition due to the heat (we had to rack the day before), I was relieved to find everything still in tact and could get on with my usual routine. It was then that I realised the first run was going to be tough. I knew from Soria how fast the pace would be for the first kilometre and as I went through my warm-ups my legs felt heavy and tired and putting in the power was a real struggle.
Despite pushing it hard from the start and holding onto a fast group for the first kilometre or so I knew my legs didn’t have it to hold for the rest of the first run and I had to switch to thinking about saving my legs for the bike and seeing what I could do on an undulating course that would suit my riding. On the bike I was instantly able to start reeling in those in front of me as we took on some early climbs, the only downside being that they were unable to stick on my wheel and so when it came to the flat sections I was isolated until being mopped up by a large group from behind.
Overall, my bike performance was strong as I was able to drive on the group I ended up in, but once back out on the run course my legs were really suffering and I had to force my way around, losing places, and falling out of the top 10. In the end I took 13th but finished as the fastest Brit. This secured my pre-qualification for next year’s championships and despite a somewhat frustrating performance, I couldn’t have been happier with the result!
Ending the season on a high and looking to 2018
Coming back from Canada I just wanted to continue racing, and for the first time I took on not 1 but 2 Olympic distance triathlons. With no real finish time in mind I was amazed to finish top 10 in both, and wrapped up the season looking forward to a strong period of winter training and to see what I can achieve next season.
Goals for 2018:
- Compete at the Elite Duathlon championships in March
- Race the British Standard Triathlon Championships in June
- Qualify for European Sprint Triathlon Championships in September
- Finish top 10 at the World Duathlon Championships in July
- Maybe do a middle distance triathlon?