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ITU Long Distance World Championship 2018 Race Report

After some wild young Danes partied into the earlier hours of Friday morning – I can’t say I slept exceptionally well the night before the race. Though there’s not much new there.

The 4:30 alarm buzzed – but I was already wide awake. It was time to play, I didn’t need any warning.

5:15 we left the house to walk to transition and I was one of the first there. People that have seen me prepare for big races know I get incredible nervous. I’m often sick on the start line, hard to talk to, very twitchy.

But this time I felt different. I was very calm, very relaxed. I think the biggest difference was I was confident.

I trusted my legs, the work I’d put in this season and the form I had. Joel and me had left no stone unturned to get me to the start line, we’d looked at every aspect of form and although I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be – I knew I had a big performance in the body and mind.

Having crashed out of a big race 3 weeks before – I knew what that felt like. And I was ready for it to happen again. The comfort in my resilience in these situations kept my mind at ease. Don’t over think it – what will be will be. If it’s over in that way, there’s always a next time.

DSC_8949As I approached my bike I could see instantly something was wrong. I had a flat front tyre.

No worries, I had 2 spare tubes with me and time. I quickly fixed it up and got underway.

Into the bag for nutrition and I’d only brought sparkling water. Fantastic. Don’t complain – pour it in, no excuses.

It was clear that this time round, this race – I was going to have to make my own luck. But I was ready for that.

A quick portaloo stop, a pretend stretch and we were into the starting pen. A few handshakes later – and it was time.

DSC_9058The water was nice. Fresh, clear, though slightly salty. The start line was compact so I knew it was going to be a punchy one.

As the horn went I was straight into the washing machine. I didn’t let myself panic or get cycled backwards. Instead I picked my line, and held it.

I picked a good line and good feet to follow on the way out. Although it’s hard to know how well you’re swimming, I was pleased with my efficiency. I didn’t let the jellyfish phase me – I just had to get to my bike in one piece. And hope it was in one piece waiting for me.

Out of the water at the turn around and up the steps, across the timing mat – there weren’t many people around, never a good sign. Had I been dropped already? Again…

Into the water and I tried to find some feet to follow. There was a small group just ahead but I couldn’t shut the gap. It was a long, lonely way back to transition from here. I was going to have to do it solo. The wave behind swam through me very late on – this gave me confidence – I can’t be that far back.

Out of the water and into transition. Safe to say it was an absolute shambles. I couldn’t find my bag as it was hanging on the wrong hook. After over a minute of faff with a marshal, I got my kit and got underway.

Out of the snake pit – into the fire.

DSC_9169When I started the bike I had little confidence. My position hasn’t been fully dialled in yet, I’d had a few mechanical issues in my warm up rides and I wasn’t sure how it would handle. It was a windy day and I knew that would suit me, so I just got my head down – looked for that 282 Watts on the screen, and ticked over.

3 words repeated over and over in my head. Calm. Collected. Composed. There was no point smashing everyone in the first 30km, it was going to be a long morning in the chair.

Joel had said to me the day before “if you hold that power, you’ll destroy people.”

I’d laughed at him. Brushed him off as a joker. Not a chance. Until the first 10km of the bike. When I realised he wasn’t messing.

I didn’t want to come out hard, burn any matches. I’d decided I was going to stick to the average and see what happened.

And people started coming towards me like they were going backwards.

I was riding through big powerful guys, on £10k bikes like they had glue on their tyres, and I was loving it. I couldn’t get enough. Not a single person came past me.

DSC_9198One by one I ticked people off. Sometimes moving through packs of 4 or 5. Straight on the back, round the side, and away.

My confidence was building km by km, athlete by athlete, but i knew I had a long day ahead and the big boys wouldn’t be waiting for me at the front.

In Penticton I passed British athlete Matt White at 95km on the bike – and he’d told me his form was good this year. I’d never caught my idol Tony weeks on a bike leg in my life, and he also flew out with good bike legs, but by 60km I’d ridden through them both. They can’t both be having a bad day, surely?

Letting myself believe – I just kept ticking. I had no concept of speed or time. Just distance and power.

Josh was still up the road, as were at least 4/5 guys in the age group. And 30km is a long run yet!

After accidentally throwing a bottle at tony – hitting him travelling at 45kph (sorry mate), I got stuck into the second lap.

I felt great. I was on top of hydration, nutrition and the numbers. This was where I was going to make a move – back into the head wind I needed to make ground on the front of the race. And if you’re going to make a move – make a proper one.

Working hard for the next 20km, I was still flying through people. And eventually, I finally caught Josh. 83km. Right at the point where this became a super tight race.

It was decision time. Do I gamble and smash the last 20km – knowing I might not have the running legs – but I’d make contact with the front. Or sit up & cruise – to attack the run and empty the tank.

With a German in our age group right on my wheel I wanted to do the first, but I know a smart race looked like the latter. So I bid my time, I’d gamble when I get to the run, I didn’t need to yet.

Into t2 and it was mission accomplished. I had to make a quick toilet stop as I hadn’t managed on the bike. And back out.

DSC_9426 DSC_9557 DSC_9264I knew I was around the top 5 and the lack of bikes implied i was on a good day, but it was a long way home. And josh was right on my heels.

I attacked the first part of the run. Not flat out – but a pace I’d have been able to hold earlier in the season.

At 10km it was getting tough and the splits my parents were giving me meant i knew I might hold some of these athletes – I was making ground. Coming into the middle 10 and I had to put the brakes on slightly. Dropping a few seconds per Km, it was a real battle.

I was fighting hard – deep into the uncomfy zone of racing, I was determined not to quit. Not to slow down.

My legs were burning, my stomach felt sick, I was getting dizzy and light headed. I’d pulled out bigger numbers in states worse than this – so I battled on.

DSC_9593Just past the half way mark and I knew I was going to get shut down by Josh. I couldn’t hold the pace and I couldn’t shut the gap to the front, but I didn’t want to lose too many places. I’d battle on as there was still a lot to play for!

Then it hit me. KM 22 – a 1:25 half marathon in the bag, on the money where I need to be. But the wheels fell off.

I thought I was going to stop, I was ready to. I could have thrown in the towel. But that isn’t me. I’d worked to hard to throw away 30 minutes and walk the last lap.

I fought on – step by step, corner by corner – to the finish line.

Pipped by the South African on the line. I’d lost 4 minutes on the last 8km. A battle to win another day – and a result I was extremely proud of. 6th in the world, my first top 20 overall and 3rd Brit in a field full of international medalists.

DSC_9656The running legs are in there, I’ve shown that in my early season races. Transitions were a shambles but that can be learned – and I even had more on the bike.

Which leaves just one area to work on – my swim.

Though I’d taken 6 minutes off my swim from Canada – on a swim where most people added on 4. So a success in itself. I hadn’t quite had the legs to challenge the podium.

Plenty of areas to work on before the tail end of the season, and lots of positives in this heavily competitive age group – before I even turn 25. It’s a bit surreal being up with some of the top athletes on the age group scene, especially when I know I have so much more to offer.

Although I have plenty to focus on this year – half an eye will be turned to world champs 2019. My entry is in, my mind is hungry, and if I come – it’ll be all to play for.

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