Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Biggie

ITU Age Group Sprint World Championships, LONDON, 13.09.13

I realised - in one of my ponderous moments whilst resting this week - that the aim of every single race I have done in my triathlon career has either been:
 a) to qualify for a big event, or
            b) just to finish (for the longer events, after injury etc)!!
I’ve never done a race for enjoyment, I’ve never raced for the experience or to simply soak up the atmosphere. And that is exactly what I was going to do at the ITU Age Group Sprint World Championships this weekend. I’d closely followed the twitter updates of the course being built, had done an open water session in the Serpentine and studied the course map harder than any textbook I encountered during my degree. I was so ready for this. Watching Sophia Saller dominate in the Junior Elite race on Thursday was exactly the inspiration I needed before the race; her focus and determination motivated me to show the world what I was capable of the next day. Despite my knee STILL causing issues over the last few months and the fact that the last time I saw the track was back in April, I was going into this race feeling good, feeling confident and raring to go!

Friday the 13th. Race day.
The bus didn’t break down. I wasn’t mugged on my walk into Hyde Park. I didn’t have a flat tyre
when I arrived into transition. My wetsuit zip didn’t snap. Friday the 13th wasn’t so unlucky after all!

Having checked out the start list (to a level of stalking that even Queen Stat Stalker Laura Fidler would be proud of) I knew there were going to be some fast swimmers in our age group and was quite looking forwards to having someone to draft from during the swim. However, when the klaxon went, I swam off into clear waters and lead right from the beginning, which I’ve never done before. It’s hard to explain the awesome feeling of leading the race, coming in 1st place, in the World Championships. I’ll never forget that. I came out of the water in a PB of 9:30 with the next girl 23 seconds behind. I managed to chick all but three of the 71 men in the M20-24 category too. And… the stat of all stats: I had the fastest swim time of all female age-group triathletes in the world. Now, enough bragging, and onto that slog of a run (skid) into transition across grass (mud) that wouldn’t look out of place at Glastonbury.

The bike course was absolutely brutal. For those of you unaccustomed to the pourdown in London today: this was the most British weather to top off all British weathers. I hit the first (cobbled) speedbump and my wheels went from underneath me. Luckily, due to my epic core strength and professional bike handling skills, I was able to control the bike and not come off, but that shook me up for the rest of the bike. It’s a good job that there weren’t any more speedbumps on the course… Oh, sorry, what was that?...  There are 8 speedbumps per lap? And I do three laps? Lovely. People were coming off left right and centre; my elite-level MarioKart skills were put to the test whilst dodging the Aussies who had never encountered this whole cycling in the rain business. There you go kids: computer games have their uses. Lucy overtook me on the bike, and I returned to T2 in second position drenched wet, mentally scarred from the bad crashes I’d seen and looking like something closely resembling this:

Pass me the towel and nobody gets hurt.

After another long run through transition (the total distance covered in transitions was 1.8km, and that’s without getting lost!), I was out onto the run course. The support from spectators, even at that early hour in the morning, was incredible, and I thank them for helping me to momentarily forget the pain in my legs. I had no Garmin on so had no idea about pacing, I just ran with the wind. In my head, I pictured how Sophia looked on the run yesterday and thought that if I thought about it enough, I might actually look like something closely resembling her. As expected, I was overtaken by a few people in my age group on the run and came into the finishing shoot in 5th position. The crowd on the grandstand were going wild, like craaaaaazy wild, so I had a feeling that I was being chased down. I daren’t look over my shoulder. I gritted my teeth, dug deep and I gave it absolutely everything I had but Emily just pipped me on the line. Coming 6th at the World Champs though: I can’t really complain!

Unfortunately there are very few pictures of me at the event, as my dad decided to take pictures of the wrong person for the whole of the swim (“But the person leading was kicking their legs, and you never kick Hannah!”) and mum was too busy cowering behind her hands to take photos. Hopefully some will be uploaded by some form of social media soon.

Finally, I really must say a HUGE thank-you to everyone who has helped me to get on the start line today. My parents have always supported me, whatever direction I’ve chosen, and never questioned my motives or tried to persuade me otherwise. For all of the early mornings, lifts to training, the impressive amount of washing I create and for that hefty food bill – thanks Mum! Thanks also to Ben his support and encouragement and pick-ups when I’m feeling down: you normally get quite a hard time in my blogs (and in real life), but honestly, you’ve been amazing. Thanks to all of the physios I have worked with recently and have quite literally pulled things apart and put me back into place (who knew symmetrical felt so amazing?!). Finally, thank you to my coach Philip – we’ve only been working together since July, but he’s been a great source of triathlon wisdom and I think there are many great times to come. Every athlete wants to make their coach proud, and hearing Philip saying he was so proud of me out there today was such a great feeling.

Now for this ‘off-season’ that everyone keeps talking about… I’ve been instructed to rest, drink and eat cake. But I’m so pumped from the race that all I want to do is go running!! Let’s see how long this 2-week holiday from training lasts…

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