At last years inaugural British Championships held in Liverpool I had what can only be described as a disappointing race. For several reasons that I won’t go into here I didn’t perform at my best that day so with the chance of making amends this year I got to the start line ready to race and to see what I could achieve one year on.
The weather for a start was completely different, last year was hot, this year we had the tail end of tropical storm Bertha to contend with. Standing in the holding pen for the swim start we were reassured that the water temperature was actually warmer than the air temperature and for once the race organisers weren’t lying on this fact. Getting into the water from the starting pontoon I got over my initial shock of it being salt water, for some reason this fact had totally been erased from my memory, I quickly decided to use what I could to get a quick start. This involved getting my body into quite a tucked position to get my feet up onto the side of the pontoon to give myself a bit of a push off. From watching the previous wave start I noticed there didn’t seem to be much of a warning that the hooter was going to go so I kept a close eye on the starter on the bank so I could see him pick the air horn up. Thankfully my push off worked and I was away from the crowds and quickly into my stroke. The rest of the swim was pretty uneventful, I was able to get on some feet but also found myself to be alone at times.
For this year’s event the organisers had moved the transition into the Echo Arena, obviously with the weather being as bad as it was this was a blessing in disguise but on a personal level the transition lacked atmosphere. There was an eerie-ness to it that’s hard to describe. With transition being indoors, wetsuits had to be removed and placed in plastic bags before you were allowed to enter, there were marshalls on hand to hold the bags open which did make it easier.
Exiting out of T1 it hit me how cold it actually was and with a driving rain there was no chance of drying out on the bike course. The bike course at Liverpool is 4 laps of a 10km loop. This meant in one direction there was a strong headwind and in the other a decent tailwind. We had been warned that the roads were slippery and seeing a few people crash on the bike route it was all about putting in a good effort but staying safe. During the bike leg I had started to notice I was loosing feeling in my fingers and toes due to the cold so I did my best to try and keep them moving but coming into T2 I was worried about getting my trainers on.
Arriving at my transition spot my first thought was un-clipping my helmet, something which never normally worries me, but with my extra cold hands I really struggled. Thinking on my feet I lifted my helmet strap, still fastened, over my chin and was able to unfasten it with my teeth. Putting my trainers on compared to that was relatively easy.
Out of T2 and I found myself running with another women who seemed to be keeping a similar pace. I made the decision to sit on her shoulder until I felt ready to give a bit of a kick. Past the half way point I was still still feeling strong so decided to try and pick the pace up, coming into the furthest turnaround point I had got my self in front but then unfortunately slipped on the sharp corner and found myself on the floor. Rather than picking myself up and getting straight back up to the pace I had been running at, I tucked myself back in behind the same women and gave myself a moment to get calm. With no distance markers on the course I had to plan my final push carefully, not wanting to go too soon but also not wanting to leave it too late. By the time I came round the final turn point I had already started the push for the finish line and was able to finish strongly.
On reflection, the event was well organised even in the harshest of conditions, but in my opinion needs a couple of tweaks. Something (not sure what) is needed in transition to give it back some atmosphere also T2 needs to be looked at. Those in earlier waves had a lot further to run with bike in and run out being in the same place.
Otherwise the event was a great success, I finished 8th in my age group and a massive improvement from last year both results and performance wise. Next up and my last race of the season is Helvellyn, nothing like ending with a big one. (Sarah Jepson)