Today I heard the original Band Aid “Do they know it’s Christmas?” song for the first time in 2014, and while it was a great excuse to wind down the windows and share my vocal talents with other A38 users, it also reminded me of a blog I read and shared about this time last year. The blog was called, “23 things to do instead of getting engaged before you’re 23”, written by a girl who “moves 3000 miles at a time” and “struggles to find excitement in a 9-5 job”...
As many of you probably know, I am now back in the UK having returned from Lanzarote six weeks into the proposed ten week block. There are multiple reasons for the early return but the bottom line is that due to these various reasons, the quality of my training was deteriorating. I had a lot of time on my hands which made me miss a lot of friends and family back in the UK, and realised that ten weeks was probably just a little ambitious. Absolutely no regrets for going out, everything happens for a reason. I did have a great time, had some fantastic opportunities and learnt a lot both about training and the bigger picture (triathlon and life!), and I certainly made the most of the sunshine. However, with the help of others, I came to the realisation that it didn't matter how perfect the training conditions and facilities were (in any context of life really), if I wasn't happy - then it wasn't going to work, and the purpose of being there wasn't going to be achieved.
A few hours after landing in Bournemouth, Gregg and I embarked on a 24 hour road trip to Cornwall for a self-navigated trail race the next day. It was a great weekend topped off with taking two wins, and exchanging our gift vouchers for cash so we could buy a roast dinner. A couple more days down South spent adjusting to the Artic conditions, I headed home to Bristol for 24hrs to unpack and pack before heading North (colder still) to Loughborough, to get back into some squad training and catch up on the gossip. Having not sorted a new rent contract for my return, I am lodging in a squad-mates room for a bit while he's away training. That's kinda going to be the way it is until the New Year, back and forth, and calling favours until there's a plan in place for 2015. I'm no stranger to moving about (see blog 10 houses and 7 schools...!) and feeling like I can never quite get settled for the fear of having to get up and move again, but I do find these phases of the unknown a bit daunting - but right now there's not a whole lot I can do about it. The best I can do is see it as a bit of an adventure...I've never been one for sitting still anyway :)
"A bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office"
Dad, as a keen sailor, once had a tshirt with the above quote, which has stuck with me since a young age, reminding me how great it is to do what you love as a job - and even on a bad day - it beats working in an office 9-5 hands down.
Setting the scene....
The trip to Geneva was er, full of surprises. After saying farewell to Sophs mum Pauline who had kindly driven us to Luton along with Molly the collie and the family chicken, soph and I flew to Switzerland. In the train station lifts, Soph struggled with the concept that we had to go up and over to reach this platform, and when my patience wore out in the lift screaming 'lifts don't go sideways - press up' we bailed and avoided eye contact with horrified on looking Swiss civilians, as these two young ladies from Britain - launched their suitcases, bike boxes and rucksacks down two flights of stairs. We made the train and even ride bagged a ride in first class. Nothing but success. Our hotel seemed to be located in the capital of all red light districts - we refrained from asking for a group selfie, but the view from our hotel room over the neighbouring streets - did provide some entertainment. Soph and I went to seek out the bike course on Friday, and after rather unsuccessfully trying to sync google maps with a black and white hand drawn map, we cycled into the early hours of Saturday.... No I joke, but we did achieve a seasons best of 35minutes for 5km (safe to say we've both erased that ride from the Garmin memories) ..we were oozing confidence. Later, the Brits gathered to attend the 'scheduled' swim course rece in the afternoon. 300m in and next thing we knew, 4 police boats had descended upon groups of athletes, wailing blue sirens and telling us to get out. Clearly the Swiss mafia and ETU organisers weren't on same page.
The race, some perspective and looking ahead
Geneva was my first DNF in triathlon - and maybe in any competition I've done. It was a horrible decision, but I feel my body made it for me and the choice was taken out of my hands. I had a good swim, another non wetsuit - and exited as 2nd Brit with the chase pack. On the second of six bike laps I got spat out the pack which after proving some dominant rides in races this year - shouldn't have happened and was the first little flag my body raised. I rode alone for a couple more laps before being joined by a pack further behind. I couldn't contribute anything. I pulled out soon after T2
At the start of this season the ultimate aim was to get a start at a European Cup, alongside racing with my French Grand Prix team and the British Superseries. Being offered four starts at Euro Cups exceeded my own expectations for the season. This slightly unexpected race schedule obviously meant a lot of travelling, my first year of adding international travel to triathlon - has been slightly more draining than predicted (9 flights and counting...my air miles are booming).This extensive travel has however given me a huge amount of experience, the races themselves but more so having to race with different preparation situations, where your idea of ideal preparation leading into a race is taking out of your hands, and you just have to make the best decisions based on what you've got. I can now take everything I've learnt into 2015, with a slightly more selective race calendar and hit the big races hard.
This time last year I made the decision to give triathlon a go fully - and make the decision near the end of the 2014 season if I'll give it another year, or, call it a day. Today was a kinda 'whose stupid idea was this', 'f*** this' and, 'never again' kinda day - but put it into the bigger picture and all it is is a hiccup. My swimming has improved far more than I ever imagined in ten months, I've got stronger on the bike and demonstrated it, and my run - hasn't come through this year at all in a race scenario.
We flew straight from Geneva to Barcelona - where we are having a two week training camp in Banyoles, I'm taking a few days before getting into training again, before I finish the last part of my race season in the UK. Stressing the importance and gratitude once again for 'the team', who, quickly scooped me up and pieced me back together after the race, parents and coach and - namely Soph (Coldwell) who came to find me in the athletes lounge and deal with my first tears of the year. So really, not too badder year at all eh?
"I've learnt so much from my mistakes, I'm thinking of making a few more" - one life quote not to be applied to triathlon.
Huge thanks to the following, making everything possible. Click on the links to be redirected.
SKECHERS PERFORMANCE DIVISION
TOTAL FITNESS NOTTINGHAM
Where to begin.
Friday, teammates Luke Watson, Sarah Hodgson and I left loughborough to begin the 1000 mile road trip to Metz, France. At the time, driving seemed like a first class idea - after our previous trip to France (which racked up 5hrs on a plane, 18hrs in a car and 4hrs in trains). All was going well - until we reached French soil - when the engine light appeared on the and one of the cylinders decided enough was enough.
The car (now named Mohammed) was now capped at 60mph for 222 miles. You do the math. We made it to Metz on Saturday afternoon, just enough daylight left to rece the swim and bike course before heading out for dinner with the team and managers. We had felt really smug leaving England in the first rain it had seen for weeks - but now we were sat looking out onto thunder and fork lightening. God clearly had it in for us.
Race day. 750m technical non-wetsuit in a lake with dead fish lapping at the shore line, dogs bathing in it and god only knows what else - it really was a case of swim for your life. It was an aggressive swim, with 70 girls pounding out to reach the first buoy. Out the water in second - proving to myself that my new swim form can back up my three previous swims (France, Blenheim and Windsor) even without a wetsuit which was, admittedly a concern. Onto the bike in no mans land with Jess Learmonth about 30secs up the road and a pack of 5 behind. I wanted the pack behind to work to get to me, but not shred my legs in the process. At the start of lap 3 (out of 5 - over 20km...very technical course!!) we came together which is when I realised I should have gone with option A and put my head down the minute I exited T1 to get to Jess. Tactical error #1. But wait! There's more...
The pack wasn't strong, especially faced with the technical elements of the course and there was absolutely no structure in the group. I sat in for two more laps, pulling turns but making it clear I wasn't going to string it along. At the start of last lap I made a solo break - knowing that with my run legs still absent, maybe even dead (see last three race blogs) I needed to buy some time and quite frankly, I was fed up with the bike pack. I sustained my lead over the pack and with Jess still up the road holding her lead of the field I entered t2 second. I finished fourth which I was disappointed with, having run badly once again and from a tactical point of view - executed the race badly. Another lesson learnt to go and work on. My run is now receiving attention, and as far as I'm concerned it's not a question of if it will return - it's just when. My background is running and it's how I entered modern pentathlon so I and others know it's in there, it's just been battered down by high swim volume.
Talk in our Ibis budget hotel has now turned to how long it takes to be sick from stagnant lake water and more to the point - whose going to be first out of the three of us. We've worked out the closest thing we getting to a Sunday roast is chicken mcnuggets and we've just washed our tri suits in two coats of 'Original Source lemon gel' - where '22 zesty lemons' haven't masked the smell of well, shit. As far as Luke's concerned the weekend, and perhaps life couldn't get any worse at this point in time, and after moving house this week just gone - his current thoughts are that is his calling in life may be building flat pack furniture from IKEA. Sarah's biggest problem is getting back to Leeds in order to get first dibs in her new student digs. And mine - is the minor detail of getting back to the UK - which is pending 'urgent' as I fly to the Netherlands on Thursday morning for a European Cup. Worst comes to worse we've worked out we can cycle to the channel and swim back. All is not lost.
So, if you think you've had a bad weekend. The three of ours and Mohammed combined trump yours tenfold.
This weekend we headed to Windsor triathlon, second race of the Superseries. The journey down was far from a joyous one, taking two of my teammates who between us owned bike set ups worth more than my car, a rather wobbly bike rack involved a few stops, locating my hazard lights and using the hard shoulder on the M25 in order to make some rather crucial adjustments. Good team atmosphere with a group of us heading out for dinner the night before the race, getting royally (ha, touché) mugged off by parking fees and locating the mountain summit within the run course.
The swim went well - and i was pleased to come out 5 seconds down on Squad mate Kim Bell who led the swim, and about 25 seconds up from the main bunch. Out of T1 with Hannah Kitchen where we stayed away until the chase pack of 6 caught us about 5km in. Despite the majority of the girls pulling weight, we lacked any cohesion or general sense of urgency to stay away. At the turn point, the chase pack were evidently (and, unsurprisingly) closing us down. I attacked twice, but with a headwind and no one keen to join in the fun it was short lived...hashtag YOLO.
In and out of t2 onto the 10km run around the town with three sharp climbs. Due to some various changes recently in and out of training and mainly, the amount of attention my swim has received over the last few months, My running has, in recent weeks been in a dip, or to be more accurate a gaping black hole, and once again like Blenheim I was unable to execute the run that is in there. 6th overall, thoroughly disappointed but hopefully upon 'reflection' I'll be more open to seeing the positives and improvements that have been made. I know there are some, but immediately post race is never the easiest time to admit them.
Loughborough once again had a great day all round, best performance to Jen who came 2nd and is the new British Chump! Awesome work. Next for me is my second French GP race in two weeks time which will involve a road trip to France. Then it's back and a quick turnaround before heading to the Netherlands for Holten European Cup.
When there is no struggle there is no strength, and no one ever said this would be an easy ride.
Blenheim - First open water triathlon in the UK of the year and first race of the British Superseries! Also, the first elite race I did two years ago, and I'm happy to say there's been some improvements since! Squad mate Rich Horton and I headed down to Blenheim at the crack of dawn for my 9am race start.
750m swim followed by a 400m run up hill to reach T1, was happy to exit the water fifth, and leave t1 first. Needless to say (anyone who knows my swim background - Starting just before 17, Ive been a late comer into this swim business and it's taken/will continue to take a lot of work to get better!) this took me slightly by surprise, and for a brief moment was sure I must have missed a swim lap...or two. Followed the motorbike ensuring a cheeky bit of TV time before a pack of 5 caught me about 1/2km in. Our pack of six failed to establish a solid work system, but it was just about enough to keep the chase pack of 10+ girls away. Out onto the run with Kate Roberts of South Africa and fellow Loughborough chum Sophie Coldwell for a couple of km before they pulled away. Eventual winner Pallant ran through the three of us too. Held onto fourth for dear life until pro-ironman/70.3 Lucy Gossage passed me with a km to go. So it was 5th for me and my first prize money collection from the Superseries!
All in all - happy with performance with still an endless list of things to work on. Solid turnout and performances from the loughborough gang with pretty much the whole squad racing and awesome results across the board. Great day out too with mum, dad and little sis Lucy who were, as always, the best support team you could wish for. Day rounded off with evening birthday celebrations for housemate Sophie with drinks, BBQ, friends 'n sunshine!
Live life, no one gets out alive anyway!
Next stop - Windsor!
Thank you to
SKECHERS PERFORMANCE DIVISION
HUUB (AURA 3:3)
for their support in the preparation and during this race.