Elite British Duathlon Championships 2018 By Laura Smith
All photos featured in this article credited to JHM Sport Photography
It’s always nerve-wracking when the start of the season looms nearer and you start to question whether you’ve done enough training. The opening of my season was the Elite British Duathlon Championships which only amplified my nerves. Both my partner Luke and I were due to be racing and we spent the day before prepping for the event, including one last attempt at teaching me how to corner.
As always, we had some of the recruits from our personal fan club (nan, granddad and mum) in tow to offer their support. We arrived with plenty of time to register, rack, and warm up before our races. It was great to see some familiar faces from my days at Birmingham Uni.
Luke was off first and the race went off hard. After a tough 5km, Luke was 30 seconds off the leaders and had a little bit of work to do in order to catch the lead group (no sweat right?) As always, Luke decided he wanted the lead coming into T2 and managed to put in a stellar performance catching the lead group and then going solo off the front. It wasn’t surprising he started to pay the price for all his efforts on the last run but he held on and came away with a top ten position in a stacked field, epic work!
Now it was my turn...
I lined up at the start ready to go. I knew the run would set out hard and so I prepped myself for a mental first kilometre. Luke and I had gone through every scenario possible for that race except what happens if Laura takes the lead. I didn’t know whether I was running too hard and out of my capacity or I was just fitter than I realised but I found myself leading the first run... WHAT DO I DO NOW?!
I decided that I needed to get on the bike with a strong pack and save my legs so I eased off the pace a little and sat on the shoulders of two other athletes. I felt good on the run and I started to realise that maybe I could pull out a decent result, my mindset changed from ‘I just want to finish’ to ‘I want a medal’ in that instant. I ran into T1 in second place with a good gap on third but the excitement of the first run slightly got to me and I managed to lose my bike in transition (and the award for slowest transition of the day goes to...).
The bike was a true test of mental strength from start to finish and I would be lying if I said I wasn't relieved when my running trainers were back on. I was so grateful that I found myself in a decent sized chase pack and focused on simply not getting dropped. My lack of confidence around corners was making the first two laps harder than necessary but I was not going to let all my hard work go to waste and so I got my head down and focused. By the end of the last lap, we had closed the gap on the leaders which put me in a strong position going into the last run.
I was sitting in 5th at the start of the last 5km and had some work to do to close the gap on 3rd and 4th... within 1km I had caught the girls and started to pull away but they weren’t giving in very easily, hanging on to my every stride. Luke had positioned himself just before the last lap and gave me a gentle and encouraging cheer... I think the words ‘don’t you dare throw this away’ actually left his mouth. This last bit of encouragement did make something switch in my head and there no way was I letting someone take my bronze medal... so I picked up the pace and made sure the gap between myself and 4th grew on every stride. I don’t know where I found the strength to push on but I did and took home a podium finish at my first elite championships!
I couldn’t believe the result and I’ve proven to myself that I can pull out results that warrant the sacrifices and hard work my training entails. It’s been a hard winter but I owe a lot of thanks to Luke who has been there coaching and supporting me every step of the way. We changed a lot this winter, stripping back my programme and rebuilding it, which was extremely hard to accept at first. I hate to admit it but...Luke actually knows what he’s talking about when it comes to my training! This result reflects not only my hard work but his ability to mentor an extremely stubborn athlete!
What’s the plan now?
I’m desperately trying to nurse my sore legs back to full form ready for my 2018 debut at the French Grand Prix race this weekend.
A massive thanks to Sundried for their continued support, I’ll be wearing their trisuits with pride this race season!