At the end of October 2016 I returned to Loughborough after my end of season break which was spent on various Devon beaches and at our new family home on Dartmoor. On our altitude camp in July 2016, I made the decision to turn my focus away from ITU draft legal triathlon, and to duathlon/non-drafting racing. After three years of playing catch up in the pool and making up lost ground from a non-existent swim background, it was hard to surrender the work that had gone into my swim, which over time saw my original 5.35 400m (yeah I bet you read that twice), come down to 4.45 (what a day that was). My 4.45 standard (it might sound fast, but ITU girls are more in the 4.20 ballpark…give or take!) swim was taking up the majority of my available training hours, and subsequently compromised my bike and run training.
Leaving the swimming and ITU wasn’t a decision taken lightly, and involved extensive talks and pondering time (…and then the Liverpool National Sprint Champs which pretty much sealed the sack-off-swimming deal). It was a decision I didn’t want to announce, as a small part of me felt I had ‘given up’. Given up on persistence perhaps, and let myself down. A bigger part of me however, sees it as being realistic. “I am not a good enough swimmer” – and that’s okay. It’s okay because I have other strengths to play with. I was never, ever going to swim a 4.20, and probably not a 4.30 either. That’s not me being negative and undetermined, that’s basically a scientific fact, and it was time to face the music. I can be content looking back at what I did achieve in the pool, not what I didn't.
The lifestyle of an athlete has, like anything, its pros and cons. For me personally, the biggest con is the financial insecurity. The winter months without racing are bleak to say the least, but the financial benefits it cannot offer like a salary to then secure a mortgage, pension etc…is an element of the profession which I have found overly stressful to cope with. This rather major aspect of life played into my decision quite heavily. Going to a European Cup may cost an athlete anything upwards of £400. My 7th place finish in Estonia won me back 300Euros. A result which gave me ITU points and best international result to date, but ultimately a financial loss. I needed to construct a season race plan that worked to my strengths and races I went to meant I would not walk away at a loss. At the end of the day, this is a career not a glorified hobby.
For the remainder of the 2016 season upon our return from Italy some may have noticed but I only raced non-drafting. I had reasonable success which gave me confidence in my decision and also some far healthier pay cheques. This year I have joined a Division 1 French Grand Prix team (Metz!) which served as my season opener in late March. I finished 5th with a 5km run PB of 17.02 and some cobwebs shaken out before my 2017 A race – the Elite Duathlon Champs.
BRB whilst I point my positive pants on...
So, on Sunday I raced the British Duathlon Champs – and as some may have seen via social media, executed possibly the worst race I’ve ever had. The last 3 5km times I have posted over the past 8 weeks have dropped down as 17.32, 17.14 and 17.02. The first run at the Duathlon this weekend I was on 18.45 pace… I wish I could tell you what happened, but I have no idea. It was not a reflection of my ability or current form, and I am absolutely devastated at the overall result. I don’t even know where I finished, but I know it wasn’t the podium I had aimed for in order to qualify me for the European Championships. I had something I don’t normally have lining the start line of that race, confidence. Confidence in my ability to finish in the top 3 and a recent track record to prove I was in the shape to do so.
After 48hrs of roller coasting reflection, I now need to sit down and come up with a plan of attack and move forwards quickly and positively for the 2017 season. I may change tact completely at the end of this summer with regards to a life in performance sport, but for now I will stick to my guns, have a serious little heart to heart with my running legs and see this s@*# out!