This year has been a very busy one, from every point of view: work, racing, travelling! It has been a really great year though and I have some good takeaways to build on next season.
Having completed Alpe D’Huez Long Course as my first longer-than-Olympic distance, I started thinking about whether the longer distance suited me more, with cycling being my main strength. Winning Chateau du Chantilly Gauntlet, and coming 2nd at the Hever Castle Gauntlet confirmed this, so I am looking forwards to concentrating on the 70.3 distance next year.
I signed up with Will Clarke for coaching over the summer, and already it has made a huge difference to the structure of my sessions, and the consistency. Having been able to plan my season next year with him, I am looking forwards to working with him over the summer to work mainly on my swim and run!
As a (relatively!) brief recap here are some thoughts on my favourite races this year:
Chicago – Age Group World Championships
Whilst this race was not my favourite in terms of going as well as I wanted, it was a great experience and very cool to be racing around the city. Arriving a few days before with some of the girls from Ful-On-Tri club, we had time to wander around, see some of the sites and mentally prepare for the race (or just work ourselves up into a panic!). The actual race itself – the swim was my least favourite swim of the year – cold, choppy, very busy and long! The run up to transition was also much longer than usual, and the transition area pretty muddy and slippy. It all got better from the swim though – with a really fun bike course – technical, flat and with some parts underground. The run was tough because of the heat, and was also slightly long – but the support along the route (for GB in particular) was unbelieavable, and kept me pushing through until the end. Having not had my best race, it was great to see one of the girls I raced with at Deva – Emma Deary – have an absolute stormer of a race and finish 4th!
Chateau du Chantilly – Gauntlet
I am a huge fan of the whole Castle Series, and have done all the races bar the Lough Cutra one (clashes with Tour of Wessex). They are well organised, in beautiful locations and always have great bike courses. The Gauntlet in France was the first ‘official’ half ironman distance I have done (Alpe D’Huez long course being much longer!), and I was quite nervous beforehand. However the weather was stunning – arrived early at the Castle with the mist just rising above the lake, and a clear blue sky. The Chantilly lake is one of the clearer ones on the Castle series, and it was a lovely swim once past the initial hustle. The bike course here is so much fun – relatively flat with some rolling sections, amazing French road surfaces, and gorgeous countryside to look at. Coming in off the bike I knew that I was on for my target of under 5 hours as long as I didn’t implode on the run. It was starting to get very hot and I had been pushing quite hard on the bike. Onto the run course, and it didnt disappoint. Through the castle grounds – lots of great support from people. At this point I had no idea what sort of position I was in – but just kept trying to run. I had to have a couple of water stops just to cool down, but with some encouragement from other competitors I managed to keep running (slowly) until the end. As I crossed the line one of the photographers came up to congratulate me for winning, which i couldn’t believe! I wouldn’t hesitate to do this race again.
Alpe D’Huez Long Course
This was on my wish list having heard people at the club raving about it last year. I knew it would be tough, but was keen to give it a go, and also experience the famous Alpe D’Huez climb. We arrived the day before and went to register and collect our numbers, enjoying the atmosphere in the village with the kids race going on. Race day arrived – it was a very early start as per usual, and pretty cold at the top of the mountain. We set off dropping our running stuff at the second transition at the top, and then started to ride down to get to the lake. Being a bit of a wimp going downhill, Barney shot off and disappeared out of site. I noticed there was a small signpost for a turnoff, which Barney wasn’t waiting at – and so I knew he had likely gone wrong at this point – but I didn’t want to risk going all the way down the wrong way in case he was just being impatient! The ride down to the lake was beautiful – sun rising as we descended down in the cold. Despite being freezing by the time I arrived at transition, you could feel the nervous energy.
Having set everything up we were ready (and Barney just about arrived in time having taken a big detour!), and they started to get us into the lake. I had heard horror stories of how cold it was, but actually it wasn’t too bad (compared to Welsh lakes!). We were set off, and I was actually able to enjoy the amazingly clear water, and have some space to myself, until coming into the last 200m of the swim I threw up (whilst still swimming). Hoping that this was nothing serious I carried on, eager to get onto the bike! Transition was a much more relaxed affair than normal, putting on arm warmers, socks etc. I then set off on the bike, mainly trying to warm up a bit. The start of the bike is slightly downhill, so this bit was a lot of fun. The first climb is pretty tough, some steep sections. I had been feeling ok for the beginning of the bike, but coming into the second climb (which is quite gentle and not too tough), I began having real trouble with a cramping stomach. I had to have a toilet stop, and try and stomach something other than gels. Recovering slightly I kept going, and was feeling better again as we approached Alpe D’Huez. Having driven up it I was slightly nervous about the climb! However the support all the way up was brilliant, and i enjoyed the challenge. Coming into transition 2, my tummy was having all sorts of problems, and I knew I still had a tough half marathon to go! I suffered the whole way through the run – thankfully there was a toilet that I was able to visit on each of the 3 laps, but it was generally a bit of a struggle. The crowd and other competitors kept me going and I was relieved to cross the finish line, and collapse into one of the ice baths with Barney. This was a fantastic race though – and I definitely feel like there is unfinished business and I need to go back and do it again.
This is a race I read about in 220 magazine, and loved the sound of it – especially with it being the first year they were officially getting people to sign up to do both the sprint and standard race – calling it ‘the savage’. Swimming in a freezing cold lake, cycling up mountain passes, and running up a quarry – twice – what’s not to love?! Arriving for the sprint race on the Saturday – it was slightly grey and everyone was talking about how cold the lake was – 11 degrees! Fortunately peer pressure helped with getting in, and being a sprint the swim was over pretty quickly. Out onto the bike, and it was an out and back, up the pass route. It was great getting straight out into a climb, and I was happy I had brought my road bike rather than the relatively new tri bike. The way back down the pass was a lot of fun, and out onto the run I was really enjoying the race. Coming across the line there was some confusion as to where I had come, as people just doing the standard race had been set off 10 minutes before us – but after some looking at times they confirmed I had won!
This bouyed up my confidence for the race the next day – even though I knew I would be coming into it with slightly tired legs. Knowing I had to get back into the freezing cold water the next day, I was not overjoyed when the alarm went off, but I was looking forwards to the rest of the bike course. Fortunately the swim was cut short, and we were off again! With no feeling in hands or toes transition was interesting, but managed to get the arm warmers on and set off on the bike. It was windier for this race, and having descended from the first pass we seemed to be straight into a headwind for the rest of the bike course. The route was great though, stunning scenery around us and amazing roads. Heading out onto the run and you can see the quarry for a while before having to run up it. Going up the zigzags the legs were really burning but I was determined not to walk. There is then a really fun descent through the woods, and finally onto the finish line. Having given it everything I was over the moon to come third behind 2 impressive triathletes, Suzie and Natalie, and win the Savage title. I will be hoping to defend it next year!
Anyway – that’s enough for now – will post some more race reviews as I reflect on them over the long winter. . . !