I love racing in the UK. Perhaps this is because England is where it started for me, lining up nervously in the cold with a couple of thousand other age groupers. UK races are tough and generally fair. You can rely on crappy weather and rough road surfaces. And as a pro, nowadays I can rely on incredible support and smiling faces. Sunday was an exceptional day for me. In fact, it was a day that became even more special as the race went on. I realized as I was running that there were people out on the course, both competing and supporting, that I’ve known ever since I started triathlon. It was almost as though I was running through the years, right back from the days when I first joined TFN and used training as an excuse to go to the pub, through to Sunday, when I turned up at my home Ironman 70.3 believing I could win.
This race wasn’t an A race for me. But, in the run up to it, I knew I’d suddenly found a bit of form, particularly on the bike, so I wanted to use this form and put together a solid race. After finishing Barcelona feeling as though I hadn’t quite emptied the tank I decided to try a different tactic and push the pace on the bike. Potentially high risk but an experiment I wanted to try.
So, after an average swim, I got on the bike, put my head down, ignored the numbers on my garmin and went for it. I knew I was working hard but I also knew I was riding well. I was pedaling well, cornering well and handling the bike well. I rode myself to the front of the women’s race far too quickly, and, other than picking up a couple of passengers for parts of the race, rode the whole race solo. By far my best triathlon ride in a long time and one I’m very proud of.
So the bike was the hard part of the race for me. By the time it got to the run I knew I had a comfortable lead (the gap to Susie had increased from 7 to 12 minutes when she punctured at 86km; big kudos to her for mending it, keeping her head and running herself into 2nd) so could run within myself and soak up the atmosphere and support. I think the hardest part of the run was keeping my concentration. My mind kept wandering, with memories of times gone by, and I had to keep reminding myself the race wasn’t over until I finished the half marathon.
Looking back I’m really proud of this performance, particularly the bike. I took the race to the other girls rather than waiting for them to bring it to me. Days like this don’t come around very often! There are so many highlights from this weekend and I expect it will be one I remember for a long time. Winning on home soil; The immense support out on the run course; Stopping to give mum a hug in the finish chute; A kiss from Gordon Ramsay and standing on the podium with Javier Gomez; Doing a dance warm up to cheesy tunes with the other pro women while we were waiting for the swim (yes, pros have even more fun than age groupers and there is amazing comraderie between us). Racing in the UK may not be as glamorous as racing elsewhere. But to me it’s what triathlon is all about and I love it.
Big congratulations to every single person who finished the race and thank you so much to everyone who shouted at me while I was racing. Next up for me is Ironman UK, though I’ve got a few fun events before then including Cholmondeley castle triathlon and the Long Course weekend in stunning Tenby.
Thanks to Stephen Pond for the photographs, credit gettyimages