European Duathlon Championships

Posted on Posted in Triathlon Racing
IMG_0465My experience really began the day before, when we docked in Amsterdam on Friday 15th April. It was an uneventful drive through to Kalkar but the weather was terrible. I was still hopeful things would improve for the race the next day but it didn't seem likely. We got to Kalkar, to the team 'hotel' which turned out to be a decommissioned nuclear power plant. The owners had either sold it on or had the brainchild themselves to turn into an all inclusive family fun park - kind of Alton Towers meets Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. No matter how terrible I make it sound, the reality was far worse. Anyway, once we got to our room, or cell as we affectionately termed it, we didn't have five minutes to ourselves. We had to pick up our race numbers and get racked between certain times. I have to say, this really was German efficiency at its best. We also had to take our trisuit along to be inspected, as well as a full bike and helmet inspection. The guys were extremely thorough and wouldn't let me through to transition until they were completely satisfied with everything. Oh, the luxury of transition! No matter what races I may do in the future, I'll never again know the joy of having such a spacious transition area. Once my bike was racked, that was it until the next day. We were allowed to go along at 8.00 on Saturday morning to check tyres and sort out drinks, but that was it. Then it was lunchtime. I'll spare you the horrific details, but for the entire time we were at Wunderland we never ate anything that was hotter than tepid. I'm a fairly fussy eater so mealtimes weren't too great for me. There wasn't a shop on site or anywhere you could even buy water, so we were pretty much stuck with it. There was a pretty dreadful team briefing after lunch, given by one of the German team managers. I can safely say we all felt more confused at the end of it than we did at the start. Thankfully we had our GB team briefing to fall back on at 8.30 that evening. We headed outside for some team photos and then it was off to Kalkar for the Parade of Nations before coming back to Wunderland for dinner. I think everyone who was there would agree that the dinner experience was pretty awful. Because almost every athlete racing that weekend was staying at Wunderland, the queues for dinner were horrendous. I've already mentioned that most things were warm rather than hot and a lot of things I didn't really like the look of. I've come to depend on a good meal the night before a race so to say I was unhappy is quite an understatement. I think the travelling, the nerves, the fatigue all caught up to me and I found myself in an inexplicably bad mood. All I wanted was to go to bed but I knew it was important to go to our team briefing. The GB team briefing was excellent. They cleared up any confusion we all felt following the earlier debacle and it was definitely worth attending. By the time it had finished I was absolutely shattered and went back to our cell for a good night's sleep. ***** I'd like to say the following day dawned bright and breezy, but unfortunately it dawned overcast, grey and extremely windy with a forecast for rain. I went along to pump up my tyres and then went back to the cell to try to chill out. My race started at 2.00 p.m. so I had some time to have breakfast and relax before heading to the start. I like to be early, so we got wandered along at about 12 o'clock so we could watch some of the other races. I have to say, without the GB squad I don't know if the event would have gone ahead. I think there were actually more GB athletes than Germans and certainly more than any other nation. FullSizeRenderBefore I knew it, it was 1.45 p.m. and we were moved into the starting pen. My run training hadn't been going well so I was really worried about how I'd get on. It was too late to worry about that now though, all I could do was keep my feet moving and hope it was good enough. The race started with 4 laps of the 2.5k run course. As soon as the race started we all shot off, trying to get into a good position. I'd done about a quarter of a mile and I knew the pace was too hard for me. I checked my Garmin - I was doing around 6.50 pace, something I could never maintain. I had to force myself to slow down and let everybody get away from me. I'd known going into the race that I'd be near the back - all of the female racers were in this one pack and there were some extremely strong runners, but it still hurt to see everyone stretching ahead of me. All I could do was stick to my own pace and do my best. There was quite an exposed section where the wind was so strong it was almost like a physical obstacle. I remember thinking that I'd have to go through it another three times on this run and then twice more on the 5k so I'd better get used to it. Halfway through the run, the heavens opened and the rain was absolutely lashing down. Now I don't mind running in the rain, but I'm not a confident cyclist when the roads are wet and slippery. All I could do was put it to the back of my mind and concentrate on running. When I finished the 10k it felt like there were barely any bikes left in transition. Not a great sign but at least I wasn't completely last. I got out onto the bike as fast as I could. I found out when I got home and downloaded the race info from my Garmin that I'd equalled my PB for 10k. Although I was disappointed on the day, I can't really ask for much more than that. It was still raining when I first started the bike and the road out of and back into Wunderland, which we would do four times, was really tight and quite technical. I just had to go slow and hope to make up some time on the roads. Once we got out of Wunderland, the course was great. One roundabout, one 180 degree turn and everything else was a doddle. Unfortunately the wind was absolutely horrendous. It was like trying to cycle through quick drying cement. Having said that, when the wind was behind you it was an absolute dream! IMG_0433I'm really pleased with how I did on the bike. I ride a Cervelo S5, which is a fantastic bike but it's obviously not as swift as a TT bike. That being said, I was riding so hard that I went flying past a lot of competitors on TT bikes and they didn't pass me again. Looking back, I think this was a mistake. I probably tried too hard on the bike because I knew my running wasn't as good as it should have been. At the time though I was delighted to be riding so strongly. Even if I could go back and do the event again, I probably wouldn't change how I rode. On the last loop there were three of us coming into transition together. I have to unclip my shoes and clatter into transition in my cleats, I'm too clumsy to do anything other. The woman who was just in front of me obviously felt the same way and unclipped. She then took off her shoes right in front of me so that I couldn't get past. I was just standing there trying not to yell 'get out of my way, woman'. I don't know how such a small woman managed to take up so much room, but I was stuck behind her until she found her racking position. I was so frustrated but knew I couldn't dwell on it. What's another 30 seconds, right? So, the final run. I knew as soon as I started running that I was going to suffer. My legs felt like lead. Although it was only 5k, to me it seemed like much further. Unfortunately for me, this is when the sun came out. Now don't get me wrong, I love the sun. However, when it comes to training, specifically running, I'm like a snowflake. I melt in the slightest hint of heat. Add this to my shredded legs and you have the recipe for a disastrous 5k. I was running along to the best of my ability and a German athlete - I can't remember her name - was right on my shoulder almost all the way round. I tried to get ahead of her but my legs were too trashed to move any quicker. If I'd been thinking tactically, I should've dropped back and hung on her shoulder and let her do the work. That didn't happen. What did happen is that she got her tactics right. She stayed on my shoulder until about the last 1.5 miles and the surged ahead and I couldn't match her. I was so angry with myself but what could I do? She raced smarter than I did. At this point I was going so slowly that I might as well have walked! IMG_0467Prior to the race I'd asked my hubby to try to get a flag for me so I could carry it over the line. When the time came, I was so tired that I couldn't even look up at any spectators let alone try to find Lee. I just hurled myself over the line in an extremely disappointing time of 2.32 - 4 minutes slower than my qualifying time. I can honestly say I had nothing left. I raced as hard as I could and I was absolutely done in. I ended up finishing 8th in my age group. Although I'm disappointed with my time, I had an amazing experience and it's one that I'm hoping to repeat. I never imaged when I started this sport that I would wear a GB kit one day. Next time it happens, I'm determined to produce a performance that I'm proud of. Michelle Hartley
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