After the usual hectic family summer, it was amazing just how quickly October came around, and race day was looming large.
Not having raced at all since the end of May, in early October, I competed in the Oulton Park Autumn duathlon, which was also the English National Championships. This proved to be a good decision, as I picked up a bronze medal in my age group, a good confidence boost before setting off for the World Championships one week later!
We arrived in Adelaide on the Monday, which gave me 6 days to acclimatise and familiarise myself with the race venue and the bike and run routes before the race on Sunday.
The GB team was based at the Intercontinental hotel, which was also the official event hotel, as well as being just a few 100m’s from Elder Park, race HQ. I had a great view of transition from my hotel bedroom window.
Over the next few days, I enjoyed spending some relaxing time with my husband Paul, and my two daughters Rosie & Evie, and had a good look around the lovely laid back city of Adelaide, and even found time to visit the beach and a wildlife park, where we fed Wallaby’s, saw Dingo’s and Tasmanian Devils and even stroked a Koala bear called Lucy – the essential Aussie experiences!
In amongst the relaxing, I also ran the run course a couple of times, which was mostly along the river on cycling paths, footpaths and footbridges, with a little section easy trail. It was quite narrow and undulating in places, but generally straightforward.
The GB team had a group bike route reccie every morning, which was carried out at an easy sociable pace. This was great, and as it meant you could familiarise yourself with the course, and also get to know some of the other GB age-groupers.
The format for the weekend was Junior and Elite Women & Men’s races on Saturday, with Age Group and paraduathletes on Sunday.
The GB team briefing and team photo was held on Saturday morning, which unfortunately meant that I missed seeing Emma Pallant win the gold medal for GB in the Elite Women’s race, but I did catch a little of Ben Dijkstra’s win in the Junior’s race.
All bikes had to be racked on Saturday afternoon, so once I’d done this, remembering to let some air out of my tyres (as it was over 30 degrees), I watched the Men’s Elite race, which was well supported and very entertaining, with two GB athletes to cheer on, one of whom (Mark Buckingham) picked up the bronze medal.
The night before a big race is always a bit strange, especially when you are away from home, in a hotel room, but it was the usual affair of checking and re-checking kit, filling bottles, applying race tattoos, etc. until bedtime.
The hotel had laid on an early breakfast from 5.30am on race morning. The Standard Distance race, which I was doing, started from 8am, which gave me plenty of time to do some last minute checking of details that hadn’t been available at the race briefing.
The organisers had decided to change the route for bike out at the last minute in order to avoid the potential for people joining the race from transition to clash with those already on the course completing their laps. This meant that the mount line was now on an incline, rather than slightly downhill as was originally indicated, with an extra dead turn after about 50 meters.
I was a little apprehensive about an uphill start, but I decided that it wasn’t too steep, so I would stick to my original plan, and leave my bike shoes on my bike. I decided to have my bike in an easier gear, and that I would leave putting my feet properly into my shoes until after the dead turn, when the course went slightly downhill, which would make it easier. Having resolved this, checked out the finish line, pumped up my tyres, and practised the routes in and out of transition, I went to warm up, with about 25 minutes to go.
The first run was two laps of the course, totaling 10km. Having warmed up well, I got into my stride fairly quickly. My plan was to make sure I ran at my own pace, and not to get “carried away” with the excitement and go off to fast. I think I achieved this reasonably well, and felt strong as I entered T1 to pick up my bike. Transition went exactly according to plan, which I was pleased with, and I mounted my bike and got out onto the course smoothly.
The bike course was 4 laps of a 10km loop. Although it was a smooth surface and potentially fast in places, I found it a difficult course to get a steady rhythm going. There were three dead turns, a climb, and a rectangular shaped “roundabout” to negotiate on each lap.
The bike leg of a duathlon is where I usually perform best, and try to make time up on the other competitors. After a couple of laps, it became apparent that, although I was riding as hard and as smartly as I could, I wasn’t gaining as much time on the other women as I am used to. However, I resolved to keep pressing on, and give it my best shot.
Into T2, and then out on to the final 5km run, I started to feel heavy legged. I had stuck to my nutrition plan, and had drunk all my drink on the bike, but I was feeling tired. I grabbed some extra water from the aid station, and focused on getting my head down and giving it everything I had all the way to the line. It felt like a long way, and I was very relieved to finally turn up the small hill that led to the finish. It was lovely to see my family waving their union jack and cheering me on at the finish, and it inspired me to give it that extra effort to sprint along the blue carpet and over the finish line.
The support throughout the race from all the GB supporters, as well as other athletes on the course was fantastic. It was a great event, very well organized and well supported.
I can honestly say that it was an amazing experience. This was my first attempt of racing at this level, and I finished 21st in my age group, out of 28 finishers. However, I know I gave 100% to the race, and could not have done any more on the day. The standard of competition was awesome, which just makes me more determined to keep going and keep improving. (Wendy Drake)