After a hugely successful year last year and something that I didn’t think I would be able to top again…. So as you are aware I am competing again for Great Britain at the European and World Aquathlon Championships at age group level. I am very honoured and proud of my achievements and I am very much excited and looking forward to it again this year (well, what’s left of the season). Anyway, so where am I competing this year and what are my targets?
First stop was the European Championships in Bratislava on the 27th May. I had changed my target of pushing for a podium place to just getting round the course and enjoying the experience. Training went so well over the winter but a month ago I picked up a minor calf strain that did not seem to want to go away – this was my first injury in years where I have had to rest. (You can read dealing with the setbacks in my last blog.)
I flew to Vienna on Thursday 24th of May for the European Aquathlon Championships. The race was on Saturday in Bratislava so I drove across from Vienna to Bratislava, it took around 40 minutes, so not far at all.
The week before I had raced in the Ocean Tri Aquathlon where I came 3rd overall, however the last bit of the race my calf played up and had to rest up again as the Europeans was only 9 days away. I didn’t really have any targets for the race due to my injury problems and lack of run time. I was going to enjoy the experience and my target was no longer a podium place but to try for a top 10 placing in my Age Group. I was pleasantly surprised about Bratislava – lots of history and beautiful buildings in the old town.
I popped down to the lake where the event was on the Thursday to check the course out and register. When I arrived I thought I had turned up to the wrong place as nothing was set up. I decided to get in the lake for a swim just to check it out and then walk the run part of the course. The race was a 1k swim which was 2x 500m laps and a 5k run but 5x 1k loops. The run course sounded pretty boring but had a small incline which would make it interesting. I went back the following day to meet up with friends and fellow athletes and there was a lot more set-up. This time it looked more like an event was going on.
Saturday came round fast and it was race day, It was very hot and humid. I had to arrive in transition by 8.30am but my race was not until 11.30am so it was going to be hot. I watched the other Age Groups go off and I soon realised I was over heating and needed to get out of the sun. I decided to get my body temperature cool and use a wet towel and put it over me to a point I made myself freezing.
We were then called over to the athletes tent and one by one our names were shouted out by the commentator and we had to jog to the start line. I had to wait for everyone to come to the start line and it took a bit of time. The next thing I heard the race starter say steady and then he blew the horn and I was off.
I was a bit overwhelmed to start off and had a slow get away in the lake. The first 500m of the swim I realised I had not pushed myself and on the second lap I was trying to make up time. I came into transition fresh so I realised I did not push the swim but it was still a personal best for me in just over 16 minutes. While in transition I put my trainers on and snapped my shoe lace lock and therefore had to run with a very loose trainer, oh well.
I started the run and started over taking people in my wave/race. I was running well and it was only the last 1k where my calf started to play up. I pushed on and managed an 18:34 5k – I was happy with the way it went and managed 9th place, so achieved my target.
I had time after the race to reflect on my race and I was happy with the way it went. However fully fit I am sure I could of placed higher, but on race day it was my swim that let me down a bit. I didn’t push myself as much as I should of in the swimming but you learn these things and it comes down to experience and lack of race practice this year. My running time was good considering the lack of running time I have had. I was very pleased with the outcome and it has given me more experience. I even got to spend a few days in Vienna with my wife after the race and I was amazed how nice Vienna was. Anyway it was a privilege to be selected and picked for GB again in my Age Group and I am very happy and proud of the performance I gave and hopefully I will be back next year.
I then had two weeks left until the Nationals and I was hoping if my injury held off I could do well. However the week before the event my Achilles flared up and was getting rather painful walking around. The following day I ran my long run but it got worse and I started worrying about it.
On the Monday I was in a lot of pain and considered dropping out of the race and other races due to the pain I was in, my mind was not in a right place. I have been dealing with my Achilles problem since September but this time it was getting more painful. I saw Laura from Team Buckley on Tuesday as Andrew Buckley was away who is my normal physio and she said carry on as normal and you should get through. Its amazing how much confidence you can get from that and the pain eased off. I turned up to the National Championships In Leeds on the 10th of June where again I had to change my targets and just enjoy it. I was in a bit of pain with my Achilles even with resting it a few days, however made the most of using my Wellbrix blocks during my rest period to try and speed up recovery.
It was a gloomy day in Leeds and it was wet and not very warm, the course was the same as last year and the run was super hilly. Got to the start of the race and decided to attack the swim and see how I felt on the run. The lake wasn’t warm – 16.1 degrees but it felt colder; the race started and I started off fast. I kept pushing and when the turnaround point came I started to struggle as I am not used to pushing hard on the swim. I tucked in behind some athletes in the swim and managed to get pushed along. I came out of the lake and heard the commentator say these athletes are coming out just shy of 11 minutes, so I knew this was quick for me. Transition was long and I made the most of being a strong runner taking the long transition and trying to run fast up the slope leading into it.
I got into transition and realised I was with athletes that are normally quite a bit in front after the swim. I started the run which is super tough and hilly but I like hills. I started off fast and felt very tired; I was catching big groups of athletes and kept targeting each athlete and then pushing past them. I started to struggle towards the end as I was really tired and I knew this would happen because of my swim. When I finished I was 12th overall some 10 places better than last year. I was also a minute and 11 seconds faster than last year. I then found out I was second in my age group and was over the moon as I did not expect a podium place and to go one better. The first thing I did when I got home from Leeds was jump into a bath full of Doms Ease oil, my body needed it.
I learnt a lot from this race and the week leading up to it, even if your not fully fit and get setbacks – NEVER GIVE UP. This makes me stronger and I am now targeting my next big race the Heaver Castle Aquathlon Challenge followed by the World Championships. Thank you everyone and my sponsors for their support so far this season and a big thank you to Andrew Buckley and his team for getting me to both start lines.