For the last two weeks I have been in Portugal with the Loughborough squad, where we have been training and racing in the ETU European Cup (Quarteira) . I missed the squads winter camp to the Canary Islands due to only having just returned from Lanza, so I was really looking forward to heading out with my squad mates. 10 of us + coach were staying in self-catered mini villas near Quarteira, where we had a pool nearby. The first week or so was a chance for some solid training, making the most of the great weather we headed out on the bike most days, enjoyed some open water sea practice and were even lucky enough to be able to run on the 2000 World Champs XC course down the road!
Race day came, with a 14.45 race the temperature was fairly toasty - & the wind had picked up meaning the sea swim was pretty choppy. The heat doesn't bother me, but the mini tsunami raging on the shore line did. For me, the swim phase felt more like a case of survival as I attempted to maintain some form of technique through the 1.5km swim. It was a world away from the days of pentathlon - 200m in my own lane with no swell, punching or wildlife. Thanking the heavens as I exited that it was over & bonus, I was still alive, I knew my bad swim meant I had just missed the chase pack. Dow! The bike was 6 laps - mostly flat but with a sharp climb of about 200m each lap, & with some dead turns it offered technical elements. A few of us came together during the first couple of laps to form the second chase pack. However a lack of formation & work amongst the group mean our 1.30min deficit from the leaders increased to 4mins by the end of the bike. Very frustrating. Fellow Brit Seonaid & I worked at the front, with little input from the other 8 in our group despite some vocal effort. Into t2 at the front of the pack, & second to leave, I was determined not to have a repeat of the issues faced at national duathlon last month...all good!
Overall - I learnt A LOT. A far different race and experience to anything I've done before, quite overwhelming and a lot to take in. I finished 21st out of 45 starters which I was delighted with for my first ITU international, and the first triathlon of 2014. Landing ass first in transition practice three days prior and cutting my foot on the chain ring (I'm not sure how either...), meant racing with a taped foot and as a consequence, coach now has transition practice firmly implemented daily in my training plan. Ooops.
Congrats to all the Loughborough boys in their races, and also to the GBR girls in my race - Holly Lawrence took top British spot with 7th - and get well soon wishes to Hannah Drewett who had an awesome swim but came a cropper on the bike and sadly didn't finish. A huge thank you to Skechers Performance Division and Chia Charge for their continued support, and Zone 3 wetsuits who have provided me with a Vanquish wetsuit for the 2014 season. It sure had a baptism of fire in Portugal and I'm pretty sure it saved my life.
Now back in the UK for a few days - before heading to Lyon, France this weekend for a relay with my French Grand Prix team.
Happy training! X