My next race was the Leeds WTS standard distance British Championships.
I had a lot of anxiety in the lead up to this race, I hadn’t had the best few weeks after Southport and especially in the week up until Leeds I was feeling fatigued, lack of motivation and in some ways doubting my own ability on a more competitive scale. I also felt a level of expectation from places, to do well which added to the anxiety and the nervousness.
I had two days recovery going into the race which actually made me feel a lot better and more prepared for what was to come, whether that was a good thing or not I’m not quite sure but even if it helped mentally going into the race then I did the right thing. I had decided going into this race I would use my watch to record the race which I don’t normally do as I feel it distracts me and I always like to go on feel.
The day before was quite heavy on the legs with all the walking we did up and down hill to get to the event village so I’m definitely glad I didn’t do any pre-race exercise as this was enough!
Picture of the transition area, part way up the hill!
On the day of the race we were there nice and early, as usual I didn’t sleep a great deal the night before due to nerves! Ian was starting his race an hour before mine which meant I had plenty of time to relax, go over transitions, revise the race route and take time to get myself ready and at the start line in plenty of time. Although I had this extra time I still managed to keep myself away from the hustle and bustle of the other competitors which I like to do as sometimes I get myself psyched out being around them.
I went down to the swim start and got myself ready, we had the race briefing and before I knew it we were walking out on the pontoon. The officials were telling the girls to move further down but no one seemed to want to. I always like to start on the left hand side of the swim for two reasons, one being I breathe to the right so it means I can gauge where I am in the field and secondly I use the other competitors from a sighting point of view meaning I’m not expending any extra energy and I just try and follow the other competitors rather than having to keep bringing my head out of the water to see where I’m going. With all this in mind I pushed my way to the far left of the start. It was an in water start but against the pontoon, I got in and held onto the side. I was conscious of the fact I wanted to start my watch so decided to start it slightly early which meant I could then try and bring my leg up high enough to get a foot onto the side of the pontoon to push off. Somehow it all worked out and we were off. The lake was a lovely venue and the water was really nice, not mirky or tasting of duck poo!!! The only problem I had really with the swim was sighting. I used the other competitors as usual but when I did look up to see where we were going I couldn’t see the bouys. I just kept going, luckily I got around the first few ok, using the other ladies as a guide and then we were off down the long straight of the lake, this was the more difficult part as I was on my own so no one to sight off and when I did look up I couldn’t see the bouys due to the sun and how small they seemed, so I was having to use the safety canoeists as a guide to where I was heading. This seemed to work and after a few minutes I was able to see the bouys and start my final turn to the exit pontoon. Swim done and now onto the long transition to T1! It was hard work as it was uphill and I couldn’t get my wetsuit off, especially over my watch, while trying not to lap it or stop it! I surprisingly managed to find my bike quite easily (the transition area was huge!) and I aggressively pulled my wetsuit away from my legs and feet. I strapped my shoes on, grabbed my bike and off I ran, down the next long transition exit to the mount line, shouting and pushing my way through the other competitors, sorry! The mount line eventually came and it was congested with people struggling to get their feet into shoes and tackle the incline which met us immediately after! I was lucky enough to get my feet straight into the clips and start pushing on up the climb. I loved the bike, it really is my favourite part at the moment. I loved flying past the other competitors and blokes, screaming at them to move out my way as I went hurtling through! I was brave on the downhill sections and stayed as aero as I could and then pushed hard on the uphill, the bike route definitely favoured a strong rider. Bike route done and throughly enjoyed I headed back to T2 after grabbing a gel to keep me going. I found my racking, trainers on and off I went up the hill out of the park, ouch, it really hurt especially after giving it so much on the bike. The run course was either up or downhill really, there definitely didn’t seem to be much flat that’s for sure! I was past by one lady quite early on but she was incredibly fast, the second lady passed me but I managed to stay with her all the way to the finish. I really tried to run on feel but I couldn’t help but pay attention to the watch telling me my 1km times. It was great for telling me roughly how much further we had to go so I could pace it out and when I was starting to feel it in my legs I told myself to back off slightly as we still had 4km to go. I pushed on as I hoped the crowds would help in the city centre loop, and they did just that, it was such a fantastic atmosphere, and the support was incredible! I was still suffering though but knew I was nearly there so kept going as hard as I could, I ignored my watch by this point and I couldn’t hear it giving me the 1km splits anyway as the noise from the crowd was so loud. I knew I had 2 more bends and I was at the finish shoot. It was at this point a lady in my age group sped past me, I couldn’t go with her, I had emptied the tank and I knew she was a really strong runner. I let her go and accepted that all I wanted from the race was to qualify and really all I had to do for that was finish in an ok time to get a roll down so I tried to enjoy the blue carpet and my finishing moments. I was so glad it was over! I stopped my watch and was happy with my time. I knew I had given it everything I could have. I tried my best to work the bike as hard as I could to build up any lead onto the run, my weakest section, and I really did that. I finished 3rd in my age group overall which I was super pleased about, the lady that came 2nd beat me by 25 seconds in the end. I beat this lady previously at Southport by 5 minutes and it was hard not to think that the shorter bike route at Leeds (4km short of the usual 40km Standard distance), had played a part in her beating me this time. I would like to think so but hey that was the race and she is an incredible runner and she deserves the result.
I am really pleased with the overall result and how I performed, I couldn’t have given anymore, I worked hard, I can’t expect anymore than that. I also achieved my goal of qualification for next years World championships in Canada and wearing that GB kit once again.
What I do know is I have a lot of work to do on my running, I want to go away and do some focused training on this and work hard in the run up to Lausanne and the World Championships.
As for my watch I felt it was a distraction, I struggled with my wetsuit, having to think about lapping it and starting it and then also in the run, having it tell me how quick or slow I was running each KM was a distraction and even looking at those splits and thinking I needed to back off the pace etc, I wouldn’t have done that if I wasn’t wearing the watch, so maybe I would have pushed harder on the run, who knows. What I do know is that from now on, unless it’s a full or half distance race, I will not be wearing the watch for a race again!
Next up is Cardiff sprint distance which is also a world championship qualifier. I am super excited for this one already, a short race and at a venue we have been at before and loved, I can’t wait!!!