The lumps and bumps of the Cardiff sprint, ITU World championship qualifier – Race report

After the highs and lows of the last 2 weeks in particular, I went into this race feeling great. I had a good 2 days rest going into the race as although I was really mentally up for this one, physically my body just wasn’t quite on the same page. The rest really did do me some good and my body felt more prepared for what was to come on race day.

We decided to make a long weekend of it as Cardiff is around 4 hours away from home and with it being Ian’s birthday the week before we thought we would delay the celebrations for after the race and stay the extra night. We also have a good block of around 7 weeks before our next race so some much needed down time mid season was needed!!

We got to Cardiff and registered then headed to our campsite which we had booked into for the evening. It was a fantastic site about 20 minutes from race HQ, it was perfect, such a lovely and peaceful place with great facilities and best of all board games such as Jenga! In fact we just spent the rest evening sat in the sun chilling out and playing board games, a great way to unwind and switch our minds off from race mode.

As usual with triathlon we had an early 5am wake up and my race mode was fully switched on, I was focused and ready to go and give it everything I had. We got to race HQ and racked our bikes without saying anything to each other, Ian had been working so hard in the lead up to this race as he was trying to qualify as well so he was super focused and keen to just get on with it!

When we were racking our bikes there were announcements that there had been a police incident and the course had to be changed, this meant that rather than a 2 lap bike course we had to do 4 laps of a shorter route. This filled me with dread straight away as the race was draft illegal and due to the numbers of participants as it was a world championship qualifier, this would mean there would be a lot of people on the bike course at the same time and it would make it near impossible not to draft. The shear number of people who would be on the course worried me slightly but hey it was one of those things and we all just had to get on with it. I sorted my kit and started to walk down to the swim start, keeping myself away from the hustle and bustle but still able to hear the race briefing and do a warm up in plenty of space. We were called to our pen and I recognised a few of the ladies I normally compete against, it was actually really nice to chat to them before the race and hear what they had been up to and what their plans were for the rest of the season. Normally I don’t do this as I get so psyched out but it seemed to calm and relax me. We got into the water and I headed straight to the left side of the group as I normally do and before we knew it we were off. The course was a simple small straight from the start line, one right turn and then one big long straight to the pontoon. It was the big long straight where the swim became difficult as it was very choppy and I found it very difficult to sight not only just because of my goggles steaming up but I couldn’t see where the exit pontoon was. I obviously carried on regardless but had to keep on doing a stroke of breaststroke to gauge if I was going in the right direction, my swim time reflected this but it was either that or potentially swim in the wrong direction. I got out of the water and headed to T1 where I quickly stripped from my wetsuit, popped on my cycling gear and headed out onto the bike course. I managed to overtake a couple of ladies within the first hundred metres of the bike course and I felt really strong so just pushed on. Before I even got to the first turnaround point I realised that the bike route was extremely congested and in parts was very dangerous for example there was one stretch of road where there was a filter for local traffic movement which meant the course bottlenecked and cyclists were going past each other in opposite directions with no barrier or divider to separate us. This along with the fact that the course was heavily congested and people overtaking each other, I was very surprised there wasn’t more accidents especially at this point on the course. At the second bend there had already been an accident and we were asked to slow down past it. This then lead to a long straight and wide roads which meant I could really get my head down and apply the power. This lead to the turnaround point, 1 bend and then back along this long straight again, 1 lap of 4 completed or so I thought! It was at this point that I started to overtake a lady who was on my left hand side but as I started to overtake her she started to drift over to her right and into my path, unfortunately before I knew it we had collided and i was on the floor. I checked to see if the other lady was okay to which she seemed to be and got back on her bike and carried on. I had quite a nasty road rash on my shoulder and cuts to my elbow, wrist and knee but at this point I didn’t feel in to much pain and although the thought crossed my mind about stopping it wasn’t in me to quit, so I grabbed my bike, swore a lot and tried my best to get my bike back in working order but in the heat of the moment I struggled to get the chain back onto the chainring. More cuts we obtained by finally getting the chain back on, I jumped back on my bike, swore a bit more, gritted my teeth and got back on with the race. At this point I knew that I couldn’t give up and not finish the race, all I needed was to complete the race to be in with a chance of gaining the qualifying spot for next years world championships which was all my goal was for this race. Although the bumps of the road hurt my elbow on the aero bars I couldn’t feel any other pain as i’m sure the adrenaline was kicking in and so I remained focused about finishing, I had three more laps to go and I gave it everything. I got into T2 and saw some of the competitors that was in my age group so I knew I had to push on in the run, I left my bike on the racking, slammed on my run shoes and started off on the 5K run. I knew if anything this would be the painful part but luckily I didn’t experience any pain from the crash, It was more from pushing my body hard in the last part of the race. I overtook a few more ladies which kept me going and before I knew it I had reached the turnaround point, I was halfway feeling happy-ish and knew it wouldn’t be long until I reached that finish line. I continued to push on and actually felt really strong, the good thing about an out and back route is once you have reached the turnaround point you can visualise and physically see the finish line which really kept me going. Before I knew it the blue mat was there and I had crossed the finish line. For the first time I actually felt numb crossing the line, a huge mix of emotions as I had no idea how I had got on in terms of position but equally I felt immensely proud of myself for getting back on the bike and getting it finished as it would’ve been very easy for me to give up. All that said I felt very frustrated as if I had stayed on the bike I am positive the result obviously would’ve been a lot different. Other competitors reactions to me covered in blood cuts and oil made me worry slightly and Ian‘s reaction when he saw me as well made me seek some medical attention to at least get cleaned up so that’s what we did. I’m extremely grateful to the paramedic who helped clean me up and send me back on my way which meant I could go and get a well-deserved pint to help ease the pain and settle the nerves back down. Once I had managed to get my bag and check my phone for the results I realised I was very lucky to have still come 2nd in my age group and 11th female overall which is amazing considering what had happened and goes to show that being stubborn and determined does sometimes get you places. I think this race taught me that I am a lot more stronger both mentally and physically then I give myself credit for, it has also made me even more determined and hungry to prove that I can be up there with the best of them. I’m currently writing this race report two days post race and I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus! I have been suffering with whiplash and have the obvious cuts and bruises all over my body but the main thing is that it is all flesh and will heal and I was very lucky not to have done any more serious damage to either myself or anyone else which I’m very grateful for. The bike course was extremely dangerous on the day, something that the organisers need to take on board but at the same time I realise they were put in a situation with the police incident and did the best they could with the amount of notice they had to change things around. For now this has knocked my confidence a little bit on the bike but with a good 7 week lead up to my next race now I have plenty of time to regain his confidence and come back even stronger. The plan now is to rest up for a week and then start 2, 4 week blocks of solid training heading into the world Championships in Switzerland, this will include a Sprint European qualifier in Hertfordshire. I’m actually looking forward to having a little bit of a break and refocus my training again including some nice long bike rides in the sun if the British weather allows us!

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