The Rotterdam ITU World Triathlon Championships were the highlight of many athlete's seasons, both amateur and elite, and for me (Beau) it was definitely my 'A race' - my main focus for the season. It would be my second Age Group world championships, but my first where I could definitely say I'd prepared fully and aimed specifically for the event. This involved qualifying earlier in the year at Ripon Triathlon as an initial goal to tick off, but then peaking both physically and mentally for the championships on Sunday September 17th.
Peaking for the race obviously involved being physically ready; for this I fully trusted the coaching decisions made by Rodger which allowed me to arrive on race day in good fitness, well rested and with some great specific training sessions under my belt. Areas other than fitness are often overlooked in an athlete's preparations, but getting your best performance out on race day comes down to a lot more than purely fitness. I had a massage in the days leading up to the event which I felt also helped me get over a cold I needed to shift, so thanks Jane Cookson for a great service as always. I had some relatively new race flats which I'd not competed in before and all week they'd had me excited to be running in them. I was very lucky to have Pete Jepson making sure my bike was in great working order to race on, and come race day it felt great, so thanks again Pete! Finally, we'd done a lot of work (before travelling over there) using Google Street View to check out the bike course and be as familiar as possible with all the twists and turns, which I topped off by riding a recce lap on Friday with Rodge and Sarah. All this led to me feeling very ready, and pretty excited to race.
Race morning started with a 4:30am alarm in order to fuel up with some porridge and a banana, but with my bike already racked on Saturday afternoon and bags packed I was able to get another half hour of rest. I left at just before half past five to walk to T2 and drop my trainers off, making sure to take a good note of which one of the 40 rows my bike would be racked on, and where the entrance and exit were located. Every event is unique in some way, and in this case there was a shuttle ferry to negotiate in order to get to T1 where the thousands of bikes were racked. There was an excited buzz of hundreds of athletes on the shuttle ferry and I chatted to a couple but remained focussed on what I needed to get done before my 7:30 race start time. Once on the other side of the river I pumped up my tyres and set everything up ready to race and then headed to the swim start area. My wave was the 2nd of the day and after an extra 15min wait due to a delay, the horn sounded at around 7.45am; the 20-24 AG world champs were underway.
I got away well with some strong, fast strokes for about 20m to get myself some space, and then I followed my plan which involved working out who was around me and finding some feet to follow; the aim was to come out of the water as high up the field as possible, whilst conserving as much energy as possible. I swam within myself and after a couple of hundred metres got onto some feet which lead me straight to the first bout feeling controlled. I then spotted a swimmer coming over from the right who looked strong so put in a small burst of effort to get on his feet. I completed the rest of the swim with a mix of time drafting on the feet or leading while he drafted me so I came out of the swim in second with a bit of a gap over the rest of the field and feeling great.
T2 was a few hundred metres away so I ran controlled and paced myself so as not to get on the bike in the red, but I was slick getting my wetsuit off and into the bag provided so with my helmet on I headed for the mount line having taken the lead. Smoothly away and I was passing a few of the 17-19AG athletes from the wave before. With so many corners to slow down for and accelerate out of, I knew I really had to focus on riding as smoothly as possible and avoid throwing big power spikes in after each corner. I enjoyed the technical course and particularly on the 2nd lap of two I was really flying through the corners using my handling skills to corner faster and extend my lead. I focussed on riding at a constant strong intensity that felt maintainable for the duration, as I've practised in training so many times in the last year. I took my two gels at my pre-planned points and passing a steady stream of athletes from the earlier wave made the 40km bike fly by. Before long I was at the dismount line and running into T2 nice and relaxed, at which point I realised I was the first athlete of the day to hit the run course.
A slick transition and I was into my first kilometer of running which would be my slowest as I took a little while to get into a good flowing rhythm. The course had lots of twists and turns over a variety of terrains in a beautiful park but no time to enjoy the views, there were some good athletes behind and they were running fast to try and catch me. I focussed on holding my pace right on an intensity which I felt I could hold just long enough to reach the finish line, and the kilometers ticked by. As the first athlete round the course I had an official as a 'lead bike' showing me round the course which was a first for me but I didn't let it distract me. There was a lot of support on some sections of the course so I had to make sure I didn't let it affect my intensity. As I neared the end of my first 5km lap it was great to hear the familiar voices of support from my friends and I tried to absorb their enthusiasm. On some sections of the course it was possible to see the chasing runners and I spotted James Scott-Farrington who I used to train with in Leeds was in 2nd position and had slightly closed the gap on me. The 2nd lap passed quickly as victory got more and more likely with every step. I knew that with my controlled start and well paced effort my last couple of kilometers would be my quickest and before long I was sprinting down the blue carpet to win the world championships in my age group by a little over two minutes, and my time was not beaten for the rest of the day meaning I was the quickest amateur overall.
I was obviously buzzing to win the race and see a year's hard work pay off in such a great way and really enjoyed being able to share it with the Racepace gang who support me along the way. I felt the event for me me was a perfect example of a meticulously planned race plan playing out smoothly to give the result I'm capable of. I'm now looking forward to another winter's hard work to develop and continue my progression to be in a position to overcome bigger challenges that are thrown at me when racing. Its a great feeling to know this is only the beginning and that I've got a lot more to come over the next few years.
I am also really looking forward to working with Giant Blackburn who are going to be supporting me over the coming years. Its great to have a good relationship with a local business and Giant Blackburn are excited to be part of my journey and I'm very excited to be riding their bikes.
After leaving Canada from the Age Group Multisport World Champs there wasn’t long (2 weeks) before myself (Sarah) and number one support crew (my husband Pete) were heading back out for the last race of the season, the Age Group Triathlon World Championships in Rotterdam.
Canada had always been my ‘A’ race for the season but that’s not to say I wouldn’t race my absolute best in Rotterdam. Prior to the race there had been a lot of chatter on Facebook with regards to the bike course being overly technical and dangerous, from what I had seen I couldn’t wait to get over there and get riding.
Arriving a couple of days before the race gave myself, Rodge and Beau the chance to ride the bike course and assess transition and the swim/run courses. We were all in agreement that it looked a great course for both the Age Group sprint and standard distance athletes.
Race day arrived and unlike many other events my start time was 3.00pm in the afternoon. The event was set up in split transitions so T1 and T2 were quite some distance apart, getting to both seemed to take up most of the morning so before I knew it I was in the holding pens 30 mins before my race start. I positioned myself right at the front of each of the three pens to ensure I would be the first on the pontoon and able to have choice over my starting place. For me the swim was relatively calm, apart from the odd clip round the head and people swimming over legs I was able to find a good set of feet and was able to stick with them until the end. The run into T1 was the longest I have ever done but thankfully I was soon onto the bike course.
As I was competing in the Sprint distance race the bike leg is now draft legal, you have to be able to put out peak power to get on the wheel in front, assess what is required to get to the next wheel or make a quick decision whether to wait for a possible strong cyclist from behind. As I was leaving transition I was aware of another GB athlete ahead so my aim was to get to her and make it work. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on which way you look at it, she appeared just as strong as myself, but that didn’t stop my trying for that wheel and just over halfway round I’d made it. By this time we had also been joined by another GB girl so we formed a 3-up team back to T2. Working together in a group was great, each having our time on the front, and then on the wheel having a chance to get some recovery. I found the other two girls were strong on the straights where as I was better in the more technical corners so personally it worked out well forming this group.
Out onto the run and it was a case of toughing it out, my legs knew they had been working hard on the bike but I kept myself focused, kept my body strong and pushed to the line crossing it in 11th place and a fantastic way to finish the season. 2018 will be a year of new challenges, I’m making the move away from the ‘fast and furious’ short course racing into the ‘smooth & steady’ long course, so here’s to the winter miles.
Post race, I (Rodge) am satisfied with my performance in Rotterdam. With no swimming background before the age of 28, the first discipline of any triathlon - including a draft legal one is always going to be a challenge, especially if it includes the likes of Richard Stannard. I had worked out it would be possible for him and potentially others to put up to 3mins into me over the 750m swim - that turned out to be the case and ultimately it would prove too much for me to claw back.
With the previous wave setting off only five minutes in front, it would also give the faster swimmers from our wave more opportunity to join or form a group to work with. I ended up riding aggressively throughout - either on my own in TT mode or big surges to jump from one wheel to the next. I stayed intensely focused and optimistic I would catch a good group working well together but unfortunately never managed to. The majority of the riders I passed looked quite happy to be drafting and not working that hard at all. This I sort of expected from the outset so I continued to focus on getting to T2 as fast as possible and not falling into the same trap.
As I dismounted at transition I understandably had quite a lot of fatigue in my body and my normally rapid T2 felt somewhat like slow motion. I gingerly made my way to my trainers at the opposite end of transition. I hit the run focused on just running my absolute fastest split, given how much effort I had put into the bike it took me around 1km to find my run legs - but pleasingly I did find them!
I had exited what was for me a 'highly competitive' swim in 38th of 105 - and by the end of the run I had clawed my way back to 8th overall. Richard Stannard took the gold, with his pedigree it wasn't too big a surprise - well done to him. I was proud I hung in there throughout and took some slight satisfaction that my bike and run splits were marginally faster than his but unfortunately the reality is that counts for very little.
It was a great event to be part of and the whole of our group which included some of the absolute best supporters out there made it a fantastic few days in Rotterdam. Both Sarah & Beau's performances made me very proud and I look forward to putting even more energy into their development over the coming years.
Many thanks to those who sent good luck wishes prior to the race and a special thanks to those few who travelled out to support us throughout the event - especially on race day with a massive nine hours between Beau & Rodge competing! #Tiring
Time to rest up and start planning next season..