I had the final push of my season two weeks ago and it was a big push at that; the world duathlon championships. Last year my 4th place left me a tiny bit disappointed but mostly happy.
This year was going to be different I had decided. Disappointment was the last emotion anyone wants to feel at the conclusion of the season, especially when 3 weeks of rest followed by a winter of solid training was to come. So like every athlete I had planned to have perfect preparation in the lead up to one of the biggest races of my year. However I really don’t think an important race isn’t an important race if the preparation doesn’t have it’s share of ups and downs.
In hindsight, I really should have crossed both my toes and my fingers that everything would go to plan.
Having said that, largely everything did work out and nothing went wrong to the extent that my race performance was jeopardised. I just didn’t feel as fit as I have previously in the build up to races. Why I let myself think this I have no idea because it nothing but play havoc with my pre race nerves!
Anyway a massive positive this year, was that I had some company! I couldn’t have asked for a better team mate than Georgia Taylor-Brown. Having a team mate has the ability to change the whole dynamics of the race. It meant that tactics could actually work; communication was an option for once! Shouting ‘allez’ to everyone in the pack on the bike isn’t always as effective as one would hope at getting people to the front to do some work.
I had suggested to Georgia a few days out from race day, that getting a break was definitely a realistic option. In junior races nobody is ever that keen to take risks which is strange because that’s exactly what junior races should be about. Learning and making mistakes when results don’t really matter seems like a much better idea than trying out new tactics in senior elite racing.
After a few swim sessions, some course familiarisation and some focused resting, race day arrived. The feeling of unknown was overwhelming. I couldn’t work out how I was going to race. I had absolutely no idea. My legs felt okay but I wasn’t sure whether that was an accurate indicator. I certainly hadn’t let myself believe that it wouldn’t be the end of world.
All sense of perspective had been lost 20 minutes before the start. My dad tentatively tried to remind me that I only started riding my bike and running because I enjoyed it so much. Unfortunately this was fairly lost on my pre race state of mind which seems a shame because it really does put everything in to perspective; every athlete should be there just to have a good time.
As we were called forward to the line, I desperately searched for anything to think about that would take my mind of the hour of pain I was about to endure. In the end, I thought about how many would kill for an opportunity like this, so why should I waste it by messing it up by being so ridiculously nervous? It definitely helped. I had to do the opportunity justice, even if that just meant finishing towards the back with a smile on my face.
The first run was pretty quick, Georgia kicked about 5 minutes in as the initial pace was a bit too comfortable. This proved a good move, the weaker runners dropped off. Going out on to the bike, Georgia still had a lead of about 15 seconds. I managed to close the deficit within 2 minutes unfortunately in the process I pulled the rest of the field with me.
After a few technical sections of the course, the pack vanished. Georgia and I were left working together. We continued to work well together to get a lead of about 50 seconds.
So the last run was all about fighting off the quick runners chasing. I have never ran so scared and tired! But to my relief after 58 minutes and 40 seconds, I crossed the line in 2nd. The immediate feeling was ‘how on earth did I do that?’, it was a bit of an out of body experience. So the team got a gold and a sliver. Georgia had such an amazing race and really I owe my sliver to her! That team work on the bike counted for a lot. I really appreciated having someone there who was keen to break away.
Overall this season has been mixed but I’m not sure I would have wanted it any different. Not everything has worked out, but in working towards the impossible (the perfect race) I have come away with so much more that a few results next to my name.
This season would have been very different had it not been for the support I have had along the way. My Family, friends, coach, training buddies and the funding from sports aid has made the impossible seem a lot closer. I can’t thank everyone enough!