I’ve always been better at endurance rather than speed in sport, I don’t seem to be able to find a ‘fast’ setting but I can maintain a quick pace for a long time. I’ve been doing Sprint Triathlon because I don’t want to and can’t really put undue pressure on my joints due to my arthritis and felt that the training required for the longer distances would do this, so for the last year I’ve been working really hard to find my inner Usain Bolt and try to conquer speed. I have managed to take time off my 5k run time over the year and must admit that the interval sessions that used to feel so alien to me are starting to feel normal, yet although I work really hard in a Sprint Tri, I always finish feeling like I could keep going.
Having achieved a 22nd place ranking in the World Qualifiers for the Sprint, my aim of going to Chicago is in doubt unless 2 people withdraw, as a team of 20 from each age group get to compete. I therefore decided to look at the Standard Distance results out of curiosity to see how I would compare, then a quick message to coach Adam to check my thinking, a discussion with Mark and a few message exchanges with team mate Nicole I took the plunge and entered the Deva Standard Triathlon on the 14th June which was the National Championships and a World and European Championship Qualification event – yikes, what had I done!!
We travelled to Chester on Saturday to register and check out the routes and after a night of little sleep due to hotel room neighbours coming back from partying and messing about, we headed to the race early Sunday morning. Transition was big but I was really lucky to have my spot on the end of the row next to ‘swim in’ and close to ‘bike in’ so little chance of getting lost. I felt relatively relaxed about the race until about 20mins before the start when panic took over. I had only ever completed this distance twice before and both of those races were in 2013 when I’d just started doing triathlons so I had no idea how I was going to pace my race and even if I could complete the distance. So I gave myself a talking to and remembered there was no pressure to achieve anything but do my best and see how I get on.
I chose to start my swim on the right hand side of the river as I breath to the left and could then see where the other swimmers were. It was an uneventful swim start with only a few swerves to avoid others and the odd bit of contact, if I’d known that it would be like that then I would have chosen to start closer to the bouys in the middle. I felt like I was having a good swim and as it progressed was able to dig in and overtake a few people. I was a bit worried about swim to bike transition as the run was up a steep hill, up some steps and through the park but it was ok in real life and was long enough to get my wetsuit half off before I hit my transition spot. T1 was quick and I was out on the bike course in a flash.
The bike route took us through the centre of Chester on closed roads then on a circular route on mainly country lanes, into Wales (does that now make me an international triathlete?!), climbing gently to half way then a fast down back into Chester with a cheeky little climb towards the end (the same climb that I faced at mile 23 in the Chester marathon that made me giggle to myself). Again, I had no idea how to pace the 40k bike so tried to strike a balance between working hard but not flat out as I would need something in my legs for the 10k run. Another unknown to me for the increased distance was nutrition, in a sprint I just have a few sips of water on the bike, but for this distance I had to think about taking on more fluid and gels.
I had a good T2 and hit the run leg with no feeling in my feet so just concentrated on running strong and at a steady pace. The run was 3 laps of a park and the river which broke the distance down and meant there were supporters out most of the way. Our race numbers had our names on and the spectators were great at encouraging us all. I was running behind Louise Minchin, the breakfast TV presenter, at one point and had heard her being interviewed about her triathlon debut a few weeks ago so I decided to chase her down and overtook her. A bit of the dreaded stitch came to visit (well it wouldn’t be a proper race without it!) and it was feeling really tough by the third lap but I just kept going as the end was in sight.
I crossed the line feeling like I had worked really hard and this time didn’t feel like I had more to give. I was handed my race times and was absolutely delighted with my performance, I had taken 10mins off my best time at this distance and had done great splits in all 3 disciplines. Funnily enough, each split was pretty much double the time I do in a sprint, so I am right about being able to maintain that pace for longer.
Deva was a great race, really well organised, great marshals and support and a good route. I would recommend it as a race to do.
AND to top it all off – I only went and qualified for the World Championships, achieving the 4th qualification spot allocated at the race!! So, I now get to race in my GB kit, in triathlon at the World Champs this year and have achieved my aim that I’ve been working on since November. The only problem is that it’s at the Standard distance, so I guess I’ll need to relook at my training, but I’ll leave that problem for Adam to sort out!
Also, well done to GreenlightPT team mate Nicole who will be also racing at the Worlds after winning in the previous qualifier. She is an imposter in my Age Group, pretending to be 40 when she’s a young 39!! And of course thank you Mark in giving up your weekend to drive me to Chester and encourage me around the race, it makes the whole experience much more special when you get to share it with those who you love.