Well what can I say? After a few months of solid training, promising results and a glimpse of confidence, I felt really prepared and excited for Challenge Geraardsbergen and the bonus round of Challenge Heilbronn the following week.
In the week prior to a big race, I tend to feel sick with nerves and fear, but I was genuinely excited. There was a stacked field in both races and I was just excited to see how I would compare.
Race morning in Belgium, I was my usual giggly and annoyingly perky self. I was extra excited knowing it was a non-wetsuit swim as it would be a fair swim, I was looking forward to attempting “the Muur” on the bike, and I have been running pretty well off the bike so was actually looking forward to all three elements.
I had never done a beach start, where the gun goes and you run into the water and begin your swim. I also have never been announced to the crowd before and run down a tunnel high fiving people! That was cool! All these things kept me smiling.
Out of the water first professional female was pretty cool! I had a good battle with a Polish girl, then pulled ahead in the last quarter.
Onto the bike, Canadian superstar Heather Wurtele overtook me in a technical section, but when it straightened out I tried to keep my eye on her in the distance. It was a nice cycle with 3 or 4 real hills where you had to go in the granny gear, and after the 3rd one we were led through a town. Cones narrowed a certain section of the road to maybe two bikes’ width (reason unknown) and didn’t I go right bang into an unmarked pothole?!
(Heather and I…the only race pic I found! Courtesy of Tri247)
Tyre exploded. Didn’t bring any repair kit. Side of the road for 25mins until I got help. I was in such a rush to get going again I didn’t pump up my tyre anywhere NEAR enough, and I slowly watched my Garmin average speed go from 23+ mph to 21, where then my Garmin gave up on life and turned off for no reason (it now won’t work at all). The Muur was the least of my worries at this point, and in the 2nd lap I knew I was far too far behind to overtake any of the pros.
When I got to T2 I just thought “run a steady effort, don’t kill yourself for next weekend and have a solid training day out there”. 1h29 later, I crossed the line 7th female. Money goes to top 6 and I am sure that if I hadn’t punctured, I would have made that podium.
The days in between were so much fun. Luckily, I am not a professional who is reliant on the prize purse, and I am just fortunate enough that this is my hobby. We travelled, saw some beautiful places, and I supported Kyle in his 105km World Tour race where he placed 4th!
ON THAT NOTE, HE IS NOW RANKED 16TH IN THE WORLD TOUR RANKINGS FOR ULTRA RUNNING!!!! HE IS AMAZING AND I AM SO SO PROUD OF HIM!
Unfortunately, I had a bad crash while riding in Frankfurt. It started to pour with rain and as I was travelling straight on my way out of town, let’s say 16mph, my front wheel latched onto a tram line that was weaving off left. With the rain, I slipped and flew over to the right, bruising and scarring a lot of my right leg, elbow and hand (Mum, I haven’t told you this as I didn’t want you to worry…sorry!). Of course, a tram was coming and had to stop because I was holding him up, and a few cars stopped to see if I was ok. I tried to be brave, and managed to slowly pedal back to our Air BnB.
Since then, my bike wasn’t right. The bearings had gone, it was making a weird noise, and after going to three or four bike service shops, we had zero success (these bike shops catered for standard commuting bikes. A lot didn’t know what a TT bike was). This was really stressful and I ended up getting pretty upset.
Travelling to Germany while Kyle was racing was fine, and as a pro I got picked up from the station (by new friend Robin!) who took my bike box and let me relax and get registered. On top of that, when I gave them the heads up that my bike wasn’t working, they even sorted out an appointment with their bike servicing tent so they could look at it straight away.
Bearings completely gone. They didn’t want me riding.
They were amazing, calling up other local shops (my bike is pretty specialised so no one had them) and after about 3 hours of me sitting in their tent, hoping this disaster and stress would end, we all gave up. They did up the bike best they could, but I knew as soon as I rode it from my Air BnB to the supermarket that evening, I was screwed.
A few other things that day didn’t help (the train from Heilbronn to the next town where I was staying was cancelled, my Air BnB hosts were out for dinner by the time I was ready, so I had to wait for them to get into my accommodation, I hadn’t had real food since breakfast because I thought I’d be eating after I registered at 1pmish…all things that just screwed up my prep), but after pretty much crying down the phone to both my mum and Kyle’s mum (anyone who would answer the phone, really!), they calmed me down and I got my positive head back on!
Noodles called me too as I was alone in my Air BnB eating gnocci and milka (I panicked at the supermarket). It was his 40th birthday and he has just moved from Houston to Pittsburgh so I was hearing all about it, which totally calmed me down, and then he gave me tips for race day (he is handy sometimes).
I then tried to sleep, but was worried about Kyle after hearing he’d been rushed to A&E in an ambulance after his 105km race. I didn’t want to worry him more by telling him about my day, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I dozed on and off until he called me at 3am to tell me he was outside…he made it! I was so happy to see him!
He was a trooper in the morning too. My alarm went off at 6am and he got up and helped me as I cried (again) about being so tired. Usually if I get no sleep before a race, I have had enough sleep the previous night and the adrenaline keeps me going. On the contrary, if I have too much sleep I feel really sluggish and heavy. But today I had nothing. Porridge was a struggle, but I put on the playlist Kenny made me for me (we have the same psych up taste!) and I aimed to “fake it to make it”.
Over at the start, I met a couple of triathlon superstars but could barely string a sentence together. Then, as the gun went off, I fought and fought only to exit the water in 4th.
On the bike, I overtook a girl and thought this slump might end soon, but then my bike made some funny noises, my back was in excruciating pain, and I could feel my power slowly deteriorate.
With about an hour to go, I had nothing but a sore back, and got off the bike barely able to bend down to put my shoes on. The run would have totally suited me had I been well, but today was not my day.
I finished in 7th and had to be taken away in a medical tent from dehydration and back pain.
It is really frustrating that I KNOW I have the performance in me; former national squad swimmer, 2nd at the national cycling champs, and I’m not too shabby a runner, but I just had really bad luck and didn’t know how to fix them.
The following few days, I stayed positive (I couldn’t be sad in such a beautiful place!!) but since we have come home my mojo has gone a little. But watching Kyle on Austrian TV, and how phenomenal he did has brought me back to life again! I just need to link the three together and I’ll have a great performance sometime!
Watch this space 🙂
(Thanks Bike Box Online for the support…and attention everywhere we went!)
(Our Air BnB host took us on a tour around Frankfurt)
(Swimming in one of the most beautiful places in the world at Mondsee)
(At the dinner for the Mozart race favourites in Salzburg…delicious food and even better beer!)
(Trying to get a bike session in, in our Munich hotel)
(Stuttgart was a gem! Made better by being 33C!)
(I cycled from Salzburg to Mondsee as part of my DIY Sound of Music tour…Kyle came on the bus and met me!)
(Frankfurt Opera House)
(post race bandages from the IV drips)
(Sunset in Salzburg)
(My favourite place!)