A couple of years ago I decided to give myself a new challenge – qualify for Team GB. At first it was just a pipe dream and frankly a ridiculous idea, having never been particularly sporty in my former years and being one of the slowest runners on the planet. But there was a tiny part of me that thought maybe I could do it…just maybe, if I trained hard enough. I was initially shy about admitting to others what I was about to embark on. What would they think? But I believe that in order to achieve any goals in life you need to have self belief and not worry about other people’s thought and opinions (or what you perceive these to be).
I knew I would need some help and asked Coach Kev to write a training plan for me. This would mean I could leave all the ‘thinking’ to him and just get on with the training. To give myself the best chance of success I made a pact with myself never to miss a training session and mostly managed to stick to it. The training was tough but after a couple of months I started noticing a difference in my fitness, and decided to enter some qualifying races. After not managing to qualify in the first two, my last chance was a triathlon in Bala in September. Delia very kindly offered to come with me and help with the driving which was a godsend. So at a wet, windy and cold race in Wales in September 2017 I qualified for Team GB! I was going to Estonia to race in the ETU Age Group Standard Distance Triathlon Champs. Forbes and Johnny Jackson and Gavin Munn also qualified and their families would be joining us in Estonia. I was really pleased that I’d have some club members to share the experience with.
In July this year we arrived in Tartu after spending a few days in the capital city Tallin. We did a lot of sightseeing and walking which maybe wasn’t the ideal race prep! The weather was unusually warm and we were grateful for the air conditioning in our apartment (having had a few ‘sticky’ nights in Tallin). The apartment was really close to the event ‘hub’ which made it easy to get to various meetings we needed to attend in the run up to the race and also watch the elite and para events that were going on.
On the Wednesday we met with the rest of the Age Group team and had a race briefing with our team manager, who ran us through the course and the various rules and regulations we had to adhere to. He also gave us the news every triathlete dreads – the water temperature was 23.5 degrees so wetsuits not allowed. On the Thursday we did a recce of the swim course and it was indeed warm! It was a river swim and all downstream so made for a very fast swim time thanks to the strong current. On Thursday evening we took part in the ‘parade of nations’ followed by a pasta party which was an opportunity to get to know some of the other GB athletes and try and suss out who you would be racing against!
Friday morning involved a quick recce of the bike course and a lot of R&R in preparation for the race. We had to rack the bikes and set up transition the day before so once that was done it was time for bed! Andy, Shirley, Hugh and Karen decided on a night out on the town while the athletes got their beauty sleep.
On the morning of the race I was a bit overwhelmed with nerves. By the time I got to the swim start I was having to do some deep breathing to calm myself down. But as soon as the horn went off and I started swimming all the nerves vanished and I really started to enjoy myself. On exiting the swim I was cheered on by my parents and Andy and the kids, giving me a boost before going out on the bike. The bike leg was a really flat 2-loop course, which involved a short technical section back in Tartu and an opportunity for spectators to see you at the halfway point. The roads were in great condition so it was a fast and exciting race. Back into T2 I was relieved that the cycle was done and all I had to do now was complete the 10K. What could go wrong? The first 2K felt great and I was running with a few other GB athletes who seemed a similar pace to me. But after 3K I started to struggle and was aware my pace was dropping and I was getting passed by a lot by other runners. It was a flat run but very exposed so it was tough in 30 degrees heat! It felt so hard I decided to have a gel at 5K, something I don’t usually do in a standard race. Don’t try anything new on race day! I ignored this advice to my peril. At 7K I got a crippling stitch (probably from dehydration) but managed to keep going to the end. Running on the blue carpet towards the finish line was a brilliant experience and I forgot the pain in my legs as friends and family cheered me on. I came 20th in my age group out of 31. I’m pleased with the result but there’s always room for improvement!
Johnny and Forbes had a great race and came 1st and 2nd in their age group. Gav was 13th in his age group. Performances we should all be proud of.
That night we celebrated with a meal out followed by the medal ceremony and some erotic dancing Estonia style (that was the show, not us!).
It was an unforgettable experience and worth all the hard training, nerves and sacrifices I’ve made to get there. I’m very grateful to my family and also Shirley, Hugh and Karen for supporting us and looking after the kids while Gav and I and the Twins swanned off to all the pre-race events. It was great fun having a holiday with the Munns and Jacksons!
I’m also grateful to Kev who has supported my training over the last 2 years. He undoubtedly had me training harder (and smarter) than I would have left to my own devices and this undoubtedly made a difference on race day.
I would highly recommend giving age-group triathlon a go. If I can do it anyone can. It just takes a lot of hard work, dedication and a bit of self-belief.