World Long Distance Triathlon Championships, Slovakia 21 August 2022
First things first, the promised 4am after race party is real. Very real. It’s the reason I am writing this race report at 2am with the party in full flow in the hotel downstairs. Only 2 hours to go! Hats off to those still partying, I’m guessing the 20-25 age groupers!I qualified for my place to race with team GB by winning my age group at Weymouth 70.3, September 2021.
For a long time it was unclear as to when and where the championships would be. In the Spring – after war had broken out in Ukraine – BTF announced the race would become part of the Collins Cup taking part in neighbouring Slovakia in August 2022. The course would be the same as the Collins Cup – a total of 100km across the three disciplines. The proximity to Ukraine threw me. The fact that race day was my son’s 9th birthday also threw me. I watched the Romanian Duathlon race with interest in June and when that went ahead I was reassured. Negotiated with my little boy and decided this year he’d have not one but three birthdays (…and counting).With covid plans postponing my other GB races, this was to be my first team GB race.
The kit I’d bought two years ago was finally going to get used (thankfully, as next year it gets replaced with new kit and new sponsors). It was also my first time of flying my bike to race abroad. I opted for the simple route and used Nirvana to sort all my flight and logistics and the extra cost was definitely worth the value add and peace of mind first time around.I flew on Friday from Luton to Bratislava. A few other obvious triathletes were on the flight with their bike boxes but little eye contact was made. I wondered what I was entering into.
By flying Friday and racing Sunday I missed the race briefing and swim acclimatisation in the River Danube (both Friday morning) but I knew I’d find it hard to be away from the family for too long so this was the compromise I made. Looking back I’d do the same again, the race village and training facilities on site have been brilliant but come Sunday I was ready just to get on with the race. Too long in the build up doesn’t work for me.
Nirvana were there to meet me at Bratislava Airport. Dave took my bike box off me at arrival at the hotel and promptly got his team of bike mechanics rebuilding my bike. I was just in time to register on the Friday evening which took the pressure off Saturday morning. After checking into the suite which Nirvana surprised me with, I took my bike for a spin along the banks of the Danube. A couple of tweaks later and it was race ready.
Dinner that night was a buffet of soup, rice, falafel, veggies and lovely fresh fruit. After three trips to refill my plate with watermelon I finally plucked up the courage to ask Lucy Charles Barclay for her autograph on the neighbouring table. She was racing the elite race on Sunday.
Saturday dawned and I took the bike for another spin before breakfast. After breakfast I racked the bike and placed all my kit in bags in transition. The forecast for Sunday was wall to wall torrential rain and thunderstorms – thankfully breaking the recent very hot spell of weather – but giving me concerns about my kit getting wet in transition overnight. Everyone was in the same boat, it was out of our hands.
After a team GB photo on Saturday lunch I went for a short dip in the 50m outside pool. Determined to use all the facilities the hotel offered, next up was my three free hours in the wellness suite. This turned out to be three free seconds in the wellness suite when I discovered swimming costumes had to be removed and nudity wasn’t optional! I opted for my pre race sports massage instead delivered by therapists flown out by Nirvana from the UK and included as part of the Nirvana package.
It rained all night the night before the race. I woke frequently and thought of my kit getting soaked but I was also hopeful that it might be the rain passing through early. Winds were high and it was rumoured that disc wheels would be forbidden, a factor that didn’t concern me but gave many on the team a sleepless night. Winds remained high on race morning but the 90% chance of rain didn’t arrive.
At 9:40am my wave was off. The Danube had looked like a millpond on previous days but a combination of strong winds and speed boats zooming everywhere turned it into a sea swim this morning. The waves were so high in parts that it was impossible to see the large inflatable buoys to sight. It was one of the tougher 2km swims I’d done and I was delighted to be 2nd in age out of the swim.
After a long transition from the Danube to the race village I was onto the bike. This was a long flat out and back course with the wind working in our favour on the way out and against us on the way back. I literally flew along for the first 40km. At the turnaround point the full force of the wind was apparent, buffeting the bike and making progress much slower for the return 40km. The out and back meant I’d been able to see the field in front of me and I managed to overtake a few men and women battling against the wind. I felt strong but the wind was relentless just whisking across the flat farmland. Finished the 80km in a time of 2:24:30.
Delighted to return to transition and swap the bike for my trainers. The run course was 4 laps around the race village and out along the banks of the Danube. I tried to calculate who I had in front of me but it was hard to be certain of my position. Decided to give it all I had left although realistic that I still had Outlaw full distance in my legs from the month before. Began overtaking and gaining ground on those in front. A fellow athlete shouted something about 3rd to me and the thought of a possible podium position was enough to spur me on. On the third of four laps a German lady also with an age F40 tattoo attempted to overtake me but I wasn’t having that. I dug deep, upped the pace and held her off to the end. I overtook a few more women in the final lap and finished with a sprint finish to take bronze medal. I later learnt the silver medalist was only two minutes in front and had the course been longer I might have caught her but I was content to have fought off the German lady and retained my third place.
So last night I found myself on the podium receiving a bronze medal in the World Champs. Beyond my wildest dreams! The party has stopped, I shall post this and attempt a few more hours sleep before flying home tomorrow. Ps Lucy Charles-Barclay beat me by exactly an hour!