So: I qualified to represent Team GB in the European Championships for middle distance triathlon (half ironman) in Rimini, Italy in 2015!!! What?!!! Not me surely – the kid who would have got 10/10 for effort at school but never quite made the netball or hockey teams, and was only ever involved in sports day because no-one else could be persuaded to run the 1500 m?
I never even knew such championships existed until a club mate told me I should check to see if my age group 2nd at Aberfeldy last year was good enough. It was, so the start of 2015 saw me ordering a GB trisuit with my name on it (beyond exciting), and trying to remember how to train. In truth I’d had a more active winter than usual, having discovered the joys (and filth) of cross country and trail running. Nonetheless, as the championships were in May I needed to be training with a vengeance from January onwards, and getting Ricky (the road bike) out of hibernation.
Not knowing if I’d ever get such a great opportunity again I decided to make every effort to train smarter this year, rather than last year’s ‘Winging It’TM training ‘plan’. I enlisted the help of clubmate and coach Rich Foxley from Positive Kinetics to structure my training and focus on the parts of my race that needed most improvement – namely my cycling. Cue The Plan. The Plan replaced my beloved spin classes with more targeted sessions at home, with my bike rigged up to a turbo trainer. Gone were the bangin’ tunes and cameraderie from fellow sufferers – I don’t own any bangin’ tunes, and my cat was less than motivational. She couldn’t have cared less about the heart rate zones I was trying to work in. I even feared she might lose a paw in the back wheel as I turboed, but thus far she’s kept a respectful distance from the scary whirly thing. Fortunately The Plan still allowed me to swim with Bloc3 and run with Lothian Running Club and Edinburgh Athletics, but Rich taught me that I needed to add some lower intensity sessions too. The Plan became the structure of my life for a few months, until it was time to taper off and travel to Italy for the race.
Rich recommended I compete in a practice race before the championships, to remind myself what racing was like. So I found a standard distance race (The Big T) in Trowbridge (Wiltshire) in early May – conveniently timed and located for two weeks after my baby niece was due in nearby Bristol. Going into the race I honestly didn’t know whether the training was doing me any good, so had no expectations. I was the only female in the final (fastest) swim wave so didn’t even have anyone to race – so I just focussed on doing my best. My swim could have been better, but my cycle felt good, and I felt strong on the run, managing a 43 minute 10K. I was pleased with my final time of 2:19:43, and even more pleased to find out I was first female! Also, as 2015 marks my first year of racing as a grand old VETERAN of triathlon – according to my age rather than experience – I was first veteran too! (though I do think 40 is a little young for such a classification). I won two trophies and two bottles of chilli sauce. Bingo.
The win did wonders for my confidence, and my faith in my training. I was then raring to go for the Italy race three weeks hence. I started tapering my training with about 2 weeks to go, to maximise my chances of being in peak condition for race day. With less to be gained in terms of training I focussed on some other essentials. Leith Cycle Co, my friendly local bike shop, serviced my bike and fixed some warping in the Shimano Dura-Ace race wheels I’d just bought (second hand). Then my bike was collected by Nirvana (a travel company for sports events, not the American rock band*)(*I wouldn’t trust the latter to look after my pride and joy as expertly as the former did) for transporting to Italy, and I felt I was on my way. Next stop Rimini…