ETU European Triathlon Championships, Pontevedra, Spain.


Mel and clubmate paul Jennings, who went on to win a silver medal
Where do I start? It was a whirlwind journey to the start line of this race. For the two weeks leading up to it, I was nursing a medial ligament strain in my knee, so had not really been focussing on the race as such, and more on getting it as recovered as possible.

My original target was top ten, but with two weeks laid off the running leading up to the race, I realised this target maybe too much of a challenge. I decided to not worry about anything, and simply do the race to the best of my ability. I didn’t even look at the start list, and only looked at the course maps on Thursday. I think I got the NLP balance wrong in the opposite direction this time, but more of that later.

SWIM

Having watched the juniors the previous day, it was obvious that the river was very shallow on the opposite bank. So I positioned myself as near as possible to the right hand edge of the pack, giving me a clear swim up the centre of the river to the turn point. There didn’t seem to be much of a flow on the river, and the salt / fresh water mix was not too bad to deal with. The women’s wave was however, the biggest of all, with all the ladies going off at once. It seemed like madness, but after a good strong start, I settled into a rhythm and was mostly on feet or in clear water. I caught the men at the back of the previous wave before exiting the river, which was a surprise, but a pleasant one! The swim time did include a long run to and through transition, however I think there may still have been a flow, as the swim times across the board were slower than you might expect.

When I climbed the steps and ran to transition, my hubby Mark missed me completely, as he was still looking in the water at the position within the pack that he expected me to be in!

BIKE

approaching T2

After a short stretch across the bridge and along the river, the bike course went up 9.5km all the way to a turn point. The hill was undulating in gradient with some stretches steeper than others, the steepest stretch being the last climb to the turn point. A 9.5km hill was not something I had factored into my planning though, and I found it tough to keep the heart rate where it should have been. It was hard to judge effort without going too hard on the way up; I didn’t want to burn myself out for later, regardless of the fast decent back to transition. I felt like I lost some, gained some on the way up the hill, I had no idea on placing implications at this stage, but as my power to weight ratio is not as good as some, I completely expected to not do as well as I usually do (compared to my peers) on this bike course. On my descent down the hill I unexpectedly passed Kim Ingleby and Alison Hollett (the latter of which is a GB athlete in my age group), so felt a little more positive as I arrived back at transition – my flying dismount held up by a 70+ athlete carefully climbing off his bike at the dismount line!

RUN

just starting the run

I did not know at all how my knee would hold up. There was also a nasty steep long hill on the lap too, which I had to complete twice. All the numerous briefings on the ever changing run course were still not accurate and as I completed my first lap of the run course, I discovered that the pre race team manager’s briefing from this morning as to the correct route was wrong, and the Spanish had in fact changed it yet again. I tried to focus on the run only and stay in the zone, however the hill was tough, and I was very appreciative of the paratriathletes at the top of it, who on lap 1 called my surname in encouragement, and on lap 2 called my first name! I also would like to thank the GB guy at the top of the other small hill on the route for his encouragement too. It does help, and I do hear all the crowds shouting and encouraging you! The fact that I did not read the start list was to be my downfall though, because as I ran up the incredibly step ramp into the stadium for the last time, a GB ‘Harrison’ was just in front. There must have been literally 200-300m to go, and had I known that she, 7 seconds in front, was in my age group, I would have chased her down for a sprint finish to get 11th place.

finish, complete with compulsory big flag!

As it is, can I say I did the best I could given the conditions presented to me? I think I can say I did. It was hot, more hilly than I expected and with such a recent injury it was never going to be a PB. I constantly expected Alison Hollett to come back past me at some point on the run, but she didn’t. Ok, I was hoping for top 10. Could I have managed it? No, I doubt it. I perhaps could have managed 11th but 10th was 4 minutes further down the road. Could I have managed 10th without the injury? Who knows, we will never know. But I did the best that I could, the knee behaved and I was 12th, a placing improvement of 13 places from last year at Athlone, which I ran (injured!) and was last in my age group!

I am impressed I managed to rehab the knee from unable to walk 10 days ago, to a reasonable result at the European championships that I can still be proud of, despite injury. Yes, there is still plenty more to come!

Positives
  • Swim position put me ahead of many people I did not expect to be ahead of!
  • At the end of the bike I was still ahead of plenty of key people I did not expect to be ahead of!
  • I enjoyed the race, and can say I did my best, and am not disappointed despite the recent knee injury
  • I was able to confidently say pre-race for the first time that I would not be last and would not be last GB athlete in the age group, and I wasn’t!

Areas to improve on
  • Lean weight could be better
  • Run: need to now work on focussing on tolerating high pain for longer. I think I perhaps wimp out and back off too much, judging by watching how much others including the elites push themselves.
  • Never assume anything!! Chase everyone, regardless of how old I think they are, they COULD be in my age group!

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