ITU World Champs

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I’ve been involved in sport all my life and competitively since I was 7 years old when I started BMX racing.  I had always dreamed of competing for Team GB and on 17th September, that dream finally came true.

Each year, the ITU (International Triathlon Union) host a number of triathlon events around the globe for Elites with the final event of the season also hosting the ITU Age Group World Championships.  This is an opportunity for non-elite athletes to represent their country racing on a world class circuit against people of their own age (categories start at 16-19 years and are in five year increments with the oldest category being 85-89 years!)

My campaign started in October 2015 after a triathlon season with a few podium finishes at local events, when I decided I could attempt qualification for an Age Group major championships if I formed some sort of structure to my training.  The World Championships for 2016 were being held in Cozumel, Mexico which logistically wasn’t going to work for me…but in 2017, it was to be held in Rotterdam.  Perfect.  The qualifying events were to be in May, June & July 2017 so I had approximately 20 months and a huge amount of training to do.

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My first attempt at qualification was at Dorney Lake, Eton in May 2017 and I felt my fittest ever, both physically & mentally.  In order to automatically qualify, I had to finish in the top 4 in my age group….but finished 5th by 10 secs. Gutted.  Fast forward to July where I had another attempt and this time, success!  I managed 3rd.  It was confirmed…I was to race for Team GB in Rotterdam!

I travelled to Rotterdam on Thursday 14th September and arrived just in time for the Opening Party.  Sadly the Walk of Nations had been cancelled due to the torrential rain. I watched the best athletes in the world racing on the Friday & Saturday and managed to slot in a bike & run recce in between the downpours.

Finally the day I had thought about for my entire sporting life, had arrived.  My race start time (known as a ‘wave’) was 1505 but prior to this I needed to drop off my kit into the transition areas.  This was the first event I had competed in with a split transition, so T1 (the transition from swim to  bike) was in a different location to T2 (the transition from bike to run).  By 1430, my transition areas were setup, GB tri suit & wetsuit were on and I found myself in the waiting pen for my wave…and the sun had finally made an appearance!

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I had a disappointing swim but made up time on the technical bike course (those BMX racing days came in handy) and I managed a PB on the run, ending up as 14th out of 72.  My target had been to finish in the top 20 so I was thrilled and it left me determined to get on that podium.  The Closing Party was huge fun and all I can say is the Mexican Team really know how to party!

I enjoyed every second of the experience and now motivated to qualify again.  An ongoing challenge with this is trying to juggle a training program with family life, school runs & work. Although training sessions for Sprint distance triathlons are more manageable in terms of time, I still find it a continuous struggle to fit everything in.  Some weeks, well most weeks, something has to give and that is normally my training. It’s the old cliché of there not being enough hours in the day…it’s taken me over 2 weeks to write this blog in between planning a birthday party for a 5 year old and half term!

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I try to sit down on a Sunday evening and have at least a rough plan of where I can slot my training sessions in for the week.  These are of course subject to change! There will always be obstacles like train delays or children being ill that forces plans to be changed.  If I have a week where training sessions have just not happened by no fault of my own, I try not to get too worked up or worried about it.

Generally, my training is during the evenings & weekends.  Although I’ve recently started a new job in Canterbury so I’m trying to incorporate some training as part of the commute.  Granted it’s not exactly structured or quality training, but it’s training nonetheless.

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Due to my background in cycling – completing an Etape de Tour, raced BMX, 10 mile TTs, cyclocross, track, dabbled with a few crits and 10 years competing in Triathlons (although I’ve had 2 children in that time so there were a couple of seasons where I didn’t do many races) – I feel pretty confident on a bike.  As such, I probably don’t give my bike training as much time & effort as it deserves.  That is definitely something I want to address this winter and realign the balance.  I do however feel I have a lot more to gain in my swimming & running both with technique & fitness so tend to concentrate more on those disciplines during my limited slots in the week.

I try to get to the structured running sessions with either Canterbury Harriers or in the last few months, with Invicta as these really boost my motivation and push me harder than if I was to carry out the same session on my own.  Likewise, I’ve tried to attend the coached swim sessions with Active Life as mostly I’ve found these hugely beneficial.

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Without a doubt I get more out of a workout when it’s a coached session rather than just training on my own…but the benefits of training on my own mean I can train exactly when I find a slot.

In addition to swim, bike & run training, I really should spend more time on practicing transitions (more towards the start of the season) and strength & conditioning.  Currently I don’t have any S&C allocated sessions but it’s something I hope to include this winter.  I have very little strength in my upper body so to start simply adding in a few press ups & planks whilst watching TV would be beneficial…take every opportunity! I went through a phase of doing lots of squats and my 4 year old daughter got pretty good at them too (my son preferred his Lego).

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At the end of a season, I tend to have a few weeks off from any structured training and not really worry about what I’m eating, and think about my goals for the following year.  I like to choose my target races (& enter them early) and then slot in any other events around them.  By the beginning of November, I am itching to start eating better again and work on my endurance & technique in all disciplines.

In January, for the last couple of years, I have followed a 20 week training program compiled by a coaching company.  This takes me to the start of the Triathlon season in May.

Everyone has busy lives so I think it’s just about maximising your time and structuring each session so it’s as beneficial as it can be in that time slot.  There are a number of factors I’d like to change with my training going forward as I feel I still have a long way to go to reach my full potential in this sport.  I’m improving each season and adapting my training to hopefully keep improving. 

I am hugely passionate about Triathlon and find it hard to explain the ‘buzz’ I get when I end a race knowing that I gave it everything I could.  I don’t want to be driving home afterwards regretting things I did or didn’t do in the race. I want a World Championships top 10 finish and my dream goal is a podium place so I will be continuing to embrace the challenge going into 2018!

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