As they say “no news is good news” and in this case it rings true… While I’ve been busy transitioning those winter miles into summer smiles I’ve had little time to sit down with a chai and reflect on my blog… So here’s a quick recap.
I started the 2015 season in the same way as last year with the Cambridge Half Marathon organised by One Step Beyond Events. I chose this opener for two reasons – firstly I had a great race experience here last year (great course, support and flawless organisation) and secondly it gave me an opportunity to chart my progress. Triathlon is always a balancing act for me. I can keep two of the three plates spinning pretty well and one always seems to be crashing down. With a glaring weakness in my armour (swimming) and a developing strength (biking), running often bears the brunt. With a solid grounding in running I’ve rested on my laurels a little bit with it the past few seasons and I found I ticked along OK-ish with minimal focus. While I was not putting out the run splits I wanted or know I’m ultimately capable of, I kept things solid while the swimming and biking played catch-up. You’ve got to work on your weaknesses but you also absolutely have to play to your strengths. I found out “OK-ish” run legs are not going to win races. So over the winter I decided it was time to rediscover some running form and Cambridge Half marathon was the first progress report. While I’d incorporated key workouts into my schedule (mile reps and a progressive treadmill tempo) to test myself, I was mindful of what a running coach once told me “When you plant a bulb you can’t keep digging it up to see how it’s growing, you’ve got to water and nurture it and believe in the process…” So I went into the half-marathon excited to see the fruits of a winter’s work. Having run 1:22:55 here in 2014 and having run an all-time best of 1:13:59 (back in 2004 when I considered myself to be a “proper” runner), I went in with an achievable and realistic target time of 1:18-1:20. 13 x 6:03/mile and 2 x Powerbar hydrogels later I crossed the line in 1:19:04 and 2nd female. First 2015 goal achieved.
The British Elite Duathlon Championships was a last minute addition to my race schedule. It is one of the few opportunities (if not the only chance) to race draft legal duathlon in the UK and being sprint distance (5k run – 20k bike- 2.5k run) it is proper full-on head-to-head style racing. Draft legal sprint duathlon is everything that long distance triathlon is not – fast, on-the-limit, on a road bike and in a whole sea of lactic. While it’s not very specific to big season goals it did serve a purpose – dealing with pre-race nerves, race day routine and practicing transitions under pressure to name a few. A short race is the best HIIT session I can do, that race day magic and my competitive personality (usually so well hidden, I know….) means I can push that little bit harder than I do in training. And I love racing, it’s fun. However, all best laid plans are still at the mercy of the British weather and unfortunately gale-force conditions screwed this one up royally. With winds gusting over 40mph organisers were forced to make a last minute decision to change the race to a 10k run only. Disappointing but unavoidable in the circumstances. The race was pretty dull and unremarkable. After a sedentary first 2.5k, the pace picked up, I didn’t get blown over and I crossed the line in 5th place. A little underwhelming overall but a lesson in dealing with the “uncontrollables” and adapting your mind set and race strategy accordingly.
The British Elite champs also served as a warm-up race for the European Long Distance Duathlon Championships (10k run – 60k non-drafting bike – 10k run) at Powerman Holland 2 weeks later. This event is hosted annually by the very dutch town of Horst – flat, windy and culinary quirky (brussels sprout omelette anyone?) I’ve competed here the past 2 years with polarised experiences. In 2013 I raced as an age grouper, winning the AG race by 5mins and recording a time that would have placed me 9th in the elite race. The following year I naturally stepped up to the elite ranks but an unfortunately timed course of IV antibiotics during race week put a stop to any race day heroics. Even though I went into the race this year with mixed memories, I was confident in my health and preparation and really felt like I belonged on that elite start line, a real growth area for me. My pre-race goal was to be “in the mix” on the first run as I know being “involved” in the race keeps me motivated. I ran the first 10k in a pack of three (5th-8th place) with 3rd and 4th place in view. I felt really cruisey and my confidence was sky high as I mounted my bike. Out on the windy bike course I was thankful for the time I’d spent in the drag2zero wind tunnel honing my position. A strong bike leg (4th fastest) brought me into transition in about 5th place. I hit the run with good legs, picking off 2 places to move up into the bronze medal position with 2k to go… which is where I’d have quite liked the finish line to be… But as they say “it’s not over until it’s over” and I got over taken, didn’t respond aggressively enough and wound up in 4th place. It was a close fought race (see results below) and instead of dwelling on missing out on a bronze medal (by 9 seconds!) I chose to celebrate my 4th place finish. To be in with a shout of a medal and only 2mins 30sec away from gold firmly planted the seed in my mind that I’m capable of winning this race if things pan out. Pre-season goal was “a top 5 and pushing for the podium” – which is exactly how it played out…
A little unexpected “Brucey Bonus” of placing well at the British Elite Duathlon Champs was gaining selection for the GB elite team for the ETU standard distance Duathlon championships in Alcobendas, Spain (10k run – 40k draft legal bike – 5k run). The last time I competed in anything like this was when I won the age group race at the World Duathlon Championships in Edinburgh back in 2010. Racing in the Elite race theoretically meant a second opportunity at draft-legal racing. I approached the race with my “long distance” athlete head on, focusing on even pacing and economy of effort, totally the wrong strategy in hindsight. You need to well placed after the first run to make that main pack on the bike (or chase VERY hard to bridge the gap in the early few kilometres) neither of which I did particularly well. I ran a steady first 10k, coming to T1 with a small group, took my time getting into the bike, by which time the race had GONE. I rode a frustratingly consistent 40k 1min off the back of the main pack, matching pace but unable to bridge up. My final 5k run was solid yet unremarkable resulting in a 12th place finish. For a race that was not on my pre-season radar I got a positive vibe about the whole experience. I learnt a lot about short course racing, made the most of the opportunity to represent GB and spent the weekend with an amazingly talented group of athletes. Former running buddy and team mate India Lee judged the race to perfection and came away with the bronze medal after a breakaway on the bike – that’s how it’s done!
Race reporting to be continued…. (with the unfortunate addition of a little bit of swimming…)