ITU World Championships – Race Report (Hungary)

A wet wet wet wet day! I saw a woman called Kim the evening before, she went through mental preparation techniques with me. I tried in a short 1 hour session to learn as much as I can about correct mental preparation. I couldn’t even tell you what she did to be honest, but I woke up on race day feeling ok, calm, and ready to race. The plan was to focus on my own race, although I wasn’t sure how well I could do this, because I normally spend most of my time worrying about where everyone else is!

Breakfast at 4.30am (aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!) and the coach to the venue at 5.30am, meant I was there in PLENTY of time to set up. The rain was coming down in stair rods. Transition was under water now, and it was still pitch dark, transition was partially lit with two floodlights. Nice.  I figured what on earth was the point keeping stuff dry, so I just set up as normal, and put the trainers and baseball cap under a plastic covering to try and minimise puddles in the shoes! I was in the wetsuit by 6.30am, because it was easier than trying to keep it (and myself) dry! Have you ever tried to get into a wet suit in the rain? It’s not easy! Poor hubby was already drenched through to the skin, and when I handed my bags in to the bag drop, almost all the dry post race clothes were wet too. Great! Still, I had plenty of time, and mark went off to take pictures and let me do my thing. I watched the waves before me setting off, getting colder and colder, listened to some Aussies complaining about the temperature and how this was nothing like last year’s world championships on the Gold Coast!

We had 3 pre race holding areas to go through. First my chip was scanned, to make sure it belonged to me, and that it worked! Second, we had to wait behind a barrier near the pontoon. It was odd seeing all these people nearby that were soon to become the enemy! There were still crowds, despite the constant rain torrent, which was nice. It always makes me smile and fills me with pride when the screen flashes up with my name… and GBR. How great is it to be all the way out here, with the best of the best amateurs in the sport all across the world?

I lined up on the pontoon at the very outside end. I like to stay wide and out of trouble. It’s funny, you do so many races that you just assume all your fellow competitors speak English. The girl next to me didn’t! Quick wave to hubby, then focus. Deep water start, holding onto the pontoon. Not long to wait, and no warm up in the water either, so not much time to think about anything else! The horn went and we were off. I focussed on me, my race, and my stroke. I couldn’t help seeing other competitors around, and when I breathed to the right to line of women seemed to stretch away for miles!! I kept focussed, working, eying up the buoys, and didn’t look back. I just focussed on me. Normally I look about to see how I’m doing!! After the 2nd turn, I started to catch the orange hats of the male 35-39 tail enders from the wave that started 5 minutes in front of me. That made me feel good, and gave me a spurring on! Final turn and I’m out. I still didn’t look back, and was half out of the wet suit before I even crossed the timing mat on the beach, well impressed with myself!

The transition was quite possibly the longest narrowest transition in the world! It seemed to take forever to run down and up it!! Bit of a glitch with the wet suit legs, I have no idea at all why I didn’t do the kick flick that I usually do, and consequently the leg with the timing chip got caught a bit at the ankle. No matter, focus, number belt, hat and glasses on and off we go. Nope, glasses back off, – so wet I can’t see a blooming thing through them! So down the front of the suit they went, till later! The bike mount line was right on a right turn at the gated exit onto the road. What a stupid spot I thought, as the marshal shrieked at me to MOUNT HERE MOUNT HERE NOW! No I thought, my race, I’m doing it my way… short jog round the corner, on and away! I Saw Kim right at this point, cheering and smiling from the road side. How nice of her I remember thinking, trawling away from that treatment room to cheer us on in the rain!

Started the bike with a gel, then I tried to focus all throughout the bike on me, my race, my legs, my pace, how I am feeling. This seemed to work nicely and the bike leg felt ok actually, easy if I could possibly venture as much as to say that! I had decided because of the incredibly wet and flooded roads that I wouldn’t hammer it anyways, better to be safe, and maybe even save something for the run legs Kim tells me!! I hadn’t looked at it that way before. My race, focus on me, remain positive. I felt good. It did seem weird to be passed on the left, and the left U turns were well weird!! Not practiced them before I suddenly realised as I came up to the first one!! As the bike progressed I caught up with and passed Melanie Nicholls, (a GBR in my age group) and Helen Cassidy (another person in my age group who now races for NZ but to date has ALWAYS started and finished in front of me all the way) I was rather impressed by this, specially Helen. The nearest I ever got to her in a race was London Hyde Park last year. I caught up with her by the end of the bike, and entered T2 at the same time as her, but then she exited in front, and ran away from me quite literally! So to get in front was most definitely a first! I noted it for later, but remained focussed on my race. Another gel was taken around half way through the bike, along with fluids. I passed an Aussie too, but she passed me back again, and rode away. I could have chased, but the plan was to focus on my race, so I left it, and continued at my pace. As I approached the bike dismount, the way was clear, so I executed perfectly my flying dismount, and cornered into T2, to see that Aussie again!

I got back past her in T2 (I think), see what focussing on your own race can do I thought, no need to chase, just reel them in slowly! Smooth T2, shoes on and away.

On to the run. As my weakest leg, this was the section that really would test my resolve and see if I really can continue to execute the new ‘focus on my own race’ mental plan. I set off focussing on all the things my run coach told me to – hips forward, foot strike, arms low, relaxed shoulders. Each time a person passed me, I told myself, its ok, I’m OK, this is my race, and I am STILL doing the best I can. Each time I thought I was losing focus, I told myself the same mantra. I’m ok, its ok, this is my race, and I am doing the best I can. I tried to maintain the effort load, and pace, I didn’t look at the watch at all. I went solely off feel. If I felt like I was slacking, then I probably was! Fiona Laffan (a GBR in my age group) came past me in mile 2, and acknowledged me and encouraged me to catch onto her tail. No, this is my race, I am going to do my think. Its ok, and I am still ok. Off she went. Helen Cassidy and Melanie Nicholls didn’t catch me again till the final mile. To be honest I was expecting it sooner, and the thought of them somewhere behind eyeing me up in the distance was the most regular thought I had to push out of my mind! But, as they passed, I thought, no, its ok, I am STILL doing the best I can, this is my race, and I am OK. The toughest part for me to maintain this focus and resolve was the mid part of that 3rd and final mile. I was determined to hold it all together all the way to the end. I told myself THIS IS MEANT TO HURT, ITS A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, IT WILL ALL BE OVER IN A FEW MINUTES!! As I cornered at the end of the bridge, I saw the GB team managers, and took a little flag, and then I saw Mark, my hubby, with the big flag. It HAD to be done. I carried the huge union flag high and proud round that final stretch, before seeing a girl in the home straight, just ahead. The torrential rain had washed the decals off, so I didn’t know how old she was. Not taking any chances, I can sprint from here; I DO have a sprint finish…so off I went. And on she came!! She wasn’t letting me have that place easily! I had to give it absolutely everything I had to keep her behind me, while still carrying the Union flag high over the line! And yes, I did win that small victory!! … before later discovering she was Hungarian (Home nation) and 2 age groups younger than me (around 10 years younger!) Excellent!!

I had to sit down after that though!! But, I finished the race VERY proud of myself. I was satisfied that I had in fact done everything that I could on the day with the conditions that were presented to me. The time didn’t matter, neither did the positions. I felt pleased, calm, and happy with my whole race for the first time ever.

When I saw the results, I was ecstatic to discover that I had improved my time by almost a minute over last year’s world champs (which were in sunny dry Australia!) and the position – even better again!! I was 38th / 44 last year and last Brit in my age group. This year – 32nd / 48 and 13th Brit in my age group (not last!!!)

What is more. Almost a week later, I downloaded the data. It turned out the race was WAY better than I had ever imagined! I had a PB paced swim, and equalled my PB race pace in both the Bike and the run. I really can’t ask for much more that that! PB pace over all disciplines!! Perhaps this is my new most perfect race yet? !

So what on earth was different? Kim. I tell you, the one thing I took away from the ‘head stuff’ session we did the night before the race? Focus on YOURSELF, and look forwards, not back!! It worked like magic for me, that’s for sure.

What next? Sure, I have things to work on. I still need to work on the run. But, now I know that I can get ahead of some key players in the swim and bike (and I maintained my category position throughout the swim and bike) and they didn’t catch me till the last mile. That means I AM improving, and I can only get even better.

I am a very very very happy bunny!

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