After a lumpy 5 hour coach drive and a 9 hour flight into a country with a 7 hour time difference I finally arrived at, well I’m not exactly sure when, but it was dark and I was exhausted. But in fact my journey to Edmonton felt like a much quicker process.
Ellesmere Standard Distance Tri – World Qualifier (1 of 3) May 25th
At the start of the Fit+Healthy High Performance Programme, coach Richard Danks outlined this as my ‘A’ race. After an intensive 20 week training programme I was ready for my first open water standard distance triathlon (1500m Swim – 40km Bike – 10km Run) and found myself surrounded by athletes who had travelled nationwide in an attempt to qualify. This was serious stuff! I had registered my intent like others but was somewhat overwhelmed by the competition and decided to focus on my own race. On a miserable day in Shropshire I finished in 2hrs 11mins (pb for the swim) and achieved top 10 in the arguably the most fierce age group 20-24. I was delighted and eager to start the second half of the High Performance Programme ahead of Bala Olympic in September.
Pembroke Triathlon – 28th June
A stunning race with magnificent scenery, the multi terrain run section snaked along the coastal path, where I made up the most time finishing 10th overall in a strong Welsh field. Dad was 1st V50 and it was a good day all round, then the email arrived. Game changer! My Ellesmere performance had been strong enough for qualification to represent Great Britain at the World Championships in Age Group Triathlon.
Edmonton, Canada 26th August – 2nd September
The bike box had arrived safely – phew! Alexi (a Londoner, also making his GB debut) and I went in typical zombie jet jagged fashion to search for food upon arrival and were greeted by another GB debutant more familiar to I than Alexi. James Richards (Wye Valley Runners), like myself, in his first season of triathlon had also qualified in his first standard distance triathlon by impressively finishing in the top 4 in his age group securing automatic qualification. We broke the ice over a big fat burger – sorry Richard, the nutritional plan took a hit that night!
Lying wide awake, I unpacked and built my bike up at 4am (apparently I wasn’t the only one to do this) in preparation for the bike recce in the morning. A chance to gain vital course information but also to see how spectacular Edmonton looked in the day, following a chance meeting with Jodie Stimpson (Commonwealth Gold Medallist) and a handshake with Alastair Brownlee, James and I headed out for a run along the river. It was important to keep active in the build up to the race and in the coming days James and I completed the bike course once more, twice swam in the warm clear lake and stretched our legs around the William Hawrelak Park. Following the Parade of Nations (or ‘Invasion of Americans’ according to James) nerves were building in the team hotel ahead of the Sprint Distance race on Friday, we were careful not to carried away in the hype of the race and maintained a low profile continuing to eat at The Sherlock or Craft just across the road.
Nicola Turvey’s performance in Friday’s race was simply amazing. Nicola finished 7th in her age group and it was great to catch up with Nicola, Suzanne and Lauren post-race. After watching the sprint triathlon, the sense of occasion and achievement suddenly hit home and Monday’s event became very real.
In need of day away from the buzz of central Edmonton, we dodged the Womens Elite race on Saturday in favour for a De Dutch pancake breakfast and a day out of the city limits in the famous West Edmonton Mall (10th largest mall in the world). The men’s elite race was epic. Spectating in the grandstand with a view of transition and the finishing straight the atmosphere was electric. Alastair Brownlee dominated the race and while brother Jonathan was out ran by Gomez and Mola showed incredible grit and desire. One thing that became very clear in the grandstand was how admired and respected the professionals are by the worldwide triathlon audience.
Late afternoons had become ‘downtime’ a chance to read, nap (it took 4/5 days to have a full night’s sleep), stretch and today was no exception. These were important times and the opportunity for communications back home, Dad told me how grateful he was for the texts at 2am when back in the UK and Richard’s motivational messages ensured I stayed focus and didn’t overdo anything. The messages, texts, tweets, emails and comments of the support throughout the week were wonderful to receive and hugely appreciated, I’m just sorry I couldn’t reply to them all!
The alarm sounded off at 4:30am, but I was already awake. Today was the day I would be putting on my GBR tri suit and competing in the World Championships. Team breakfast at 5am was disappointing, cold porridge, no bananas, bread but a broken toaster; this was not how I or anyone else envisaged the day starting. Remember for next time. Of course I was nervous and the issue of not having a substantial breakfast added to the anxiety but I was here for the experience and determined to enjoy the occasion. As I was competing in the youngest age group, we would be off first at 7:30 and we stood on the pontoon with the temperature at 10 degrees.
Stepping off the pontoon and diving into the lake, the start to the swim was frantic and verging on violent, there were arms and legs everywhere. For the first 200m to the first buoy ‘catch and pull’ felt more like ‘hook and jab’! Fortunately the field began to thin out from here and I regained my composure and tried to settle into my rhythm. Sighting for the small buoys towards the end of the course proved difficult and everyone found themselves swimming a wider line than preferred.
Clocking my time as I entered T1, I knew I was down on the swim time I expected and was keen to take advantage of the fast bike course. Descending down the highway at speeds around 40mph, we approached the bridge taking us over the fast flowing river that surrounds Edmonton, to the right was the traditional and now disused railway bridge and now getting ever closer the modern tower blocks that sculpt the skyline. This moment was made even more memorable by the fact I was riding a Canadian bike! I was having a strong ride and although there was many athletes overtaking me from later swim waves this was my race and it was very fitting to record a pb for 25 mile.
After a slick t2 and onto the run I began chasing down anyone and everyone. For the first 3km I was confident I had restored my race, I encouraged my fellow GB team mates and there was mutual respect as I passed other nationalities. The course had started upon road, but soon turned to trail before reverting back to the tarmac and this was the point where the mile times began to slip. At 7km I reached a point of exhaustion I’ve never experienced before and although still moving struggling to keep my eyes open. I could hear the crowds getting louder and louder and as I stepped on the blue carpet to the finish gantry the sense of pride was overwhelming, it didn’t last long as I collapsed over the line. In fact, this was the only way Dad recognised me on the live coverage!
My experience in Edmonton was just fantastic and a pleasure to have shared it with James. I would like to thank Richard Danks, the results speak for themselves and Dave at Enertech for sponsorship towards the trip and Couriers’ own Andrea Harris for supplying me with high quality CEP Sportswear.