Shortly after 0700, myself and 76 other Europeans between the age of 16 and 24 entered the cold waters of Strathclyde lock, on the outskirts of Glasgow. This race, the European sprint distance triathlon championships, had been my main focus for the entirety of the 2018 season. All my training had been specifically targeted towards the requirements of the race, and I was looking forward to competing again in a competitive international field and doing my utmost to finish on the podium. I started from the centre of the pontoon, directly opposite the first swim buoy, around 180m away. This opening distance should provide adequate distance for the athletes to spread out going into the first turn so that excessive buoy massacring could be avoided. With the sound of the starters horn I sprinted off the start line, aiming to get away from the ensuing tangle of arms and legs and into some clearer water, hopefully on the feet of some faster swimmers. After an initially chaotic first minute I thought I had achieved this – the amount of contact had certainly decreased. No sooner had this thought crossed my mind that I received a blow to the underside of my chin, either from a rogue elbow or more likely I’d swim over another competitors heel whilst moving up through the field. Reeling from this blow I suddenly realised that part of my tooth was missing. All this occurred within 2 minutes of the race starting. As you might think, my broken tooth preoccupied my mind for the majority of the swim, and I certainly lost some time due to the carnage of the start. In hindsight I would have chosen a starting position further along the pontoon which would have allowed me to avoid some of the melee.
I emerged from the water well off my usual pace. This was disappointing to say the least as I have spent a lot of time over the last few months working hard on my swim and I was not able to show this. T1 went off without a hitch and I was quickly out on the 3 lap, 20k bike course. I was soon powering along the course, swapping stories of swim-leg-related misfortune with fellow GB athletes. I was told by my mum after the race that I looked really aero, and as any triathlete knows, looking aero is way more important than any race result. The course was undulating to see the least. Each lap consisted of very little flat terrain, rather a combination of short sharp hills and descents. This meant the course suited TT setups less than other championship races I have done in the past such as in Kalkar and Dusseldorf in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Due to the rolling nature of the course, a concertina effect repeatedly occurred between athletes, meaning that drafting was rife, though the presence of draft marshals hopefully limited this. Certainly, I had a draft buster following me for the majority of the race, like a moth to a flame. Throughout the bike, I was able to reel in quite a few of my compatriots and athletes from other nations alike.
Coming into T2 I was in around 13th or 14th position and looking to chase down a few more places on the 5k run loop. The run passed by quickly and I was glad that the temperature was still quite cool at this time in the morning, as poor heat tolerance has been a limiter for me in the past. I ran with a German athlete and another brit for the vast majority of the run leg, frequently swapping the task of leading our little trio. We caught another brit around 1500m from the finish and the rest of the run passed without incident, bar a near miss with an angry goose. Despite feeling strong through the middle portion of the run, I was unable to hold onto my little group over the top of a steep hill and ended up crossing the line a few seconds after them, in 12th place.
Post-race analysis has revealed that throughout the bike and run I was reeling in many of the competitors ahead of me. If the race had been a little longer I’m confident I would have been able to overcome my deficit from the swim and finish comfortably inside the top 10. Comparing my splits to the eventual medal winners revealed that I was a little off the pace across all three disciplines. I come away from the race hungry for a better result next year. It’s frustrating to know that at my best I could have been featuring at the pointy end of the field. An impromptu break from run training less than a month ago due to injury certainly didn’t aid my preparations. I feel that all I’m lacking from my training is a run of consistency which will see me knocking on the door of a medal come my next championship race in Lausanne in 2019.
It’s now time for me to reset before diving into my winter training programme with new drive and determination to be a real contender at next years world championships.