Delivering on a big stage – European Triathlon Championships 2014 Kitzbuhel

The following blog was written the morning after the European Triathlon Championships so I hope you find some of the sport psychology and racing insights interesting!

10498604_10152514264694604_5372619727244199722_o

Getting onto the pontoon was a huge relief after the holding areas – now just trying to settle everything down inside.

So, the big day had finally arrived. I had learnt to swim, trained for triathlon, struggled at triathlon, raced triathlons, qualified for the British team and made it out to Kitzbuhel for the European championships. I was now in the pre-start area with the other competitors in my age group, penned in, ready to get onto the start pontoon. In a few moments we’d be in the water as the seconds passed by so very slowly. I’ve always believed this to be the toughest moment for any athlete. Finally, we were ushered onto the blue carpet to the roar from the crowd. Into the water, hand holding the side of the pontoon, inside it was all very calm and quiet with just a few simple words running around inside. This is it, this is the moment, smile, enjoy every second, make every second count… 

IMG_3136

The ‘rugby scrum in water’ that is the start of an open water race.

A frenetic start, arms and legs everywhere, I try to just relax, find some space and PACE it. No sooner do I get some space than I start hitting traffic again. Triathletes aren’t famous for their ability to pace so after letting them blast off, I was then able to pick off some of my competitors all the way to the swim exit. Out the water and up the exit ramp to more roars from the spectators. My wife, Maggie, just about getting her voice over the top of them all!

Good transition, onto the bike. Only two things you need to know about the bike. 1) It’s very hilly with three big climbs and technical descents. 2) The rain was coming down and had been for a while. Tactical decisions were to run the tyres a bit soft and to take it easy on the descents rather than risking a major crash. I lost quite a lot of time as a result but arrived back into transition in one piece, ready for the run, if a little damp!

 

The race was at altitude, and while not exactly Himalayan, it was enough to make you gasp a little. I had work to do and set off in pursuit of the strong bikers, hoping that they weren’t also strong runners! First one overtaken within 400metres and the next just slightly further ahead, sadly clutching his calf. Despite not looking hilly on the course map, it was definitely reminiscent of cross country courses and I was very glad of those winter cross country races. I think only one of my age category passed me as I continued to pick off athletes who were clearly suffering for their efforts on the bike.

IMG_3158

Pretty damp conditions for such a hard race.

 All the way round the support was incredible. It was very surreal to have people shouting “go Great Britain, go team GB”! As I rounded the final turn and realised I only had 1km to go, I ignited the burners and went for home. I could see a small group of athletes from my age group a few hundred metres ahead that I was trying desperately to catch. I realised I was going to run out of road but after over an hour of hard racing, I had got the pacing just right. I tried to enjoy the moment and smiled (as best I could!) at the crowds as I sprinted hard for the line. It was over.

10467133_10152514326464604_2672151345125070305_o

Burners ignited heading for the finish line, giving it all I had.

 

It hurt. All the pain suddenly hit me like a wave crashing over my head, leaving me unaware of sights and sounds and even my balance. I was ushered through to the athlete recovery area where equally out-of-it athletes were looking a lot like I felt. I knew that all this would pass as I once again tried to soak up and enjoy every moment…

IMG_3159

Exhausted but elated!

Lessons learnt? Performing on a big stage is almost as much mental as it is physical. Being able to relax and control your thoughts and emotions to avoid wasting energy is massive. Then maintaining focus throughout the race especially when you feel physically spent is critical. How do you get better at these things, like everything, practice. It’s really easy to practice these mental skills during training and early season or fun races. I’ve still got some work to do mentally and physically, but looking forward to whatever the next challenge may be…

IMG_3162

Gotta love a good post-race selfie! With my biggest fan, supporter and inspiration.

Leave a Reply