The surreal feeling of stepping onto a podium; and the awkward bit when you're on the number 2 step but still taller than the guy on the number 1 step. My aim is to make it less surreal and more normal. Instead of thinking someone must have got the results mixed up, I need to think how I deserve to be there and have worked hard for it. The biggest change I have had to make and still need to make is my mind-set. It’s a constant project and therefore needs constant attention. Self-worth is important, liking myself and being positive about myself, all the time. Focusing on the now and letting negativity pass me by is an ongoing project, and knowing that I am always learning and to question everything that I think I know. If I met myself, would I think I am a good person? This is the mind-set that I believe will make me a better athlete and also a better person.
The first run went very well for me. I ran at a pace that felt hard, but at one that I knew I could sustain for 10K and still be able to swing a leg over my bike afterwards. The course was muddy and partly off-road which added an extra challenge, but the main thing was that I ran at my own pace.
In November last year I met Oliver Saxon at Animis Racing Team who I soon asked to be my coach. Having never been coached before, it was very new and a bit scary, but it’s a change and a challenge that I embraced because I knew it could have a very positive effect on me. I told him what I thought, what I wanted to do, what kind of athlete I wanted to be and fully trust the training sessions that he sets me. It was important for me to find a coach who I liked and who I thought I could have a good coach/athlete relationship with and also one whose method of coaching would suit me; as for those that know me, I'm far from normal.
The bike course was not plain sailing. A new bike with my arms closer together than I'm used to meant I had to adapt quickly and make the most of what I had on a multi-lap, bumpy, tight and twisty, hilly, slippery course. Being laps, it meant there were slower riders to pass after the first lap on narrow roads and often with cars around. There are always some 'oh shit' moments as you are constantly risk assessing your actions whilst also in full-on race mode. 'Do I shout now and pass or wait for this car? No, there's enough room, the car has slowed and the rider ahead has heard me, I'm going for the gap.' It's a hard balance to get right sometimes and I'm always thankful to whack the bike back on the rack in transition knowing I've remained upright and not had any mechanical issues.
Everything about my training has changed, from where I train, to how I do it, to what I pay attention to and what I don’t and to the aids and tools I use. I put my trust into my coach's method, get my head down and put the work in. So far, it’s led me to probably my best race performance yet by bagging a silver medal in my age-group at the England National Standard Distance Duathlon Championships last month. But the result is just a consequence and a medal is just the icing on the cake. The real aim is to be happy when racing, to feel good and continually use endurance sport for the 'natural high' and for my mental well-being, to feel strong and enjoy the process. If all of those things fall into place, good things like shiny bling-bling and standing on numbered boxes will be more likely to happen as a secondary result. That’s what I believe anyway and I believe in myself that I have potential if I work hard.
The finish line was a lovely sight and I knew I'd had a good race. As with most second runs after a hard bike ride, you run as fast as you can but not so fast that the legs seize up with cramps. This meant I was dangerously on the fine line of having the odd warning shot twinge in a calf or a quad as my body was quick to let me know when I was pushing my luck and to not try and ramp the pace up. Anyway, I finished, nearly stumbled into a wall and ate a banana or two before realising I had a number '2' next to my name in my age group of 25-29 year olds.
So a few weeks later, and my body rested, I am carrying on the hard work leading to the second race of the year at Anglian Water Standard Distance Duathlon. I would not be at this point or even close if I didn’t have Oliver putting in the work and the thinking behind his whole approach to training me and I am thankful for having that support there that I really need. When you push your body and mind and are continually adapting to new things and in new directions, it’s tough to do it alone.