Following qualification races in 2012, Alan Woodcock, Pete Connolly & Phil Binch travelled to Alanya, Turkey last week to take on the best age group triathletes Europe had to offer.
This is Alan Woodcock’s story – his journey to the European Championship podium.
At the end of July last year I qualified for the European Standard Distance Championships at the Bedford qualifier. I then did seven months training and competing totally injury free. However as soon as the new season started I had one leg injury after another all related to a back/neck problem. This caused me to be severely restricted with my training and recently the dreaded DNF in several events. So it was with a bit of apprehension I set of with Janice my wife to Alanya, Turkey last week.
I had sent Chairman Binch and Sarah out a day earlier to reccy the venue and Punisher Pete Connelly was travelling out the same day to represent GB in the Sprint Distance. The chairman reported back that it was a good venue but hot!! Sure enough we left GB at 12 degrees to the mid 30’s in Turkey.
I met up with Binchy for a swim course reccy whilst the ladies checked the beach out. We had been warned that it could be a non-wetsuit with an outside chance of wet suit optional. I knew which way it would go when I heard other GB competitors in our hotel talking about the turtles they had seen when they had been doing their reccy, (not many of them in the Ancholme!!). Any lingering hopes of getting the wet suit on went when we got into the sea and it was like a bath. Hardly any waves or current, a check out of targets for sighting during the event and we were done.
On to the cycle reccy. This was basically a totally flat four lap TT course out along the Alanya coast. The only problem we could see was the modern cobbles on a quarter of the course. I was soon to discover one benefit of doing a reccy. As we bounced along the cobbles I wondered where Binchy had gone as I couldn’t see him! When I put my bike back together from the bike box I had not tightened the aero bars enough and they had bounced loose. I couldn’t see Binchy because the aeros were pointing downwards and I was staring at the road!!
The run route was four laps round the town centre and on the reccy the only hill on the course looked a piece of cake (more about that later!!)
The next day we met up with Punisher Pete compared notes and got on with the formalities of the day. registration, team briefing, team photo, racking of the bike, parade of nations and pasta party.
At the team briefing The Team Managers passed on all the relevant information, changes etc and re-enforced what you would get DQed for. Despite the status of the event the first anomaly was that there would be no penalty for number violation as they had forgot to put them in the competitor pack!! You also had to write your own helmet numbers out on the blank stickers provided!! Turkey has very recently become a national triathlon association and on the whole apart from these two issues and a couple of bigger problems on race day they did very well.
Now on to what is fast becoming my favourite part of the experience … the pass the mike round and ask the daft questions round. You do wonder how some people ever qualify or if they have even done a triathlon before. There were too many daft questions to list but three that had Binchy and I chuckling were, “You said if we drop litter we will get a time penalty, I haven’t got pockets on my trisuit where should I put my gel wrapper?” “Is there anywhere to run on the beach to T1 where I won’t get sand on my feet” and finally “You said there would be instant DQ if you accepted outside assistance during the event. Will you get DQ’d if you borrow someone’s track pump when you are setting your bike up in transition?”
Next day, race day an early start in transition setting out the gear, pumping up of tyres and out of transition for 7.00am. I was last wave not off until 8.30 so it was a case of trying to keep hydrated and find some shade as the thermometer had hit 32 degrees by now. I was able to see the Binchy in and out of the water before I went. It was a big boost to see him lead out at the front of the V at his end of the pontoon and being well placed out of the water.
The competitors were presented to the crowd on leaving the competitors lounge (a tent on the beach) and asked to run down the wooden promenade to the sound of “stimulating” music to the start pontoon and wait to be told to get into the water for the one minute count down. By the time it got to my age group no one was running and the bloke next to me over balanced, fell in and I had to fish him out!! I had a bit of a result when we got in and I had a scaffold pole support to push off from. It was all downhill on the swim from there (I wish) The more I analyse my stroke the slower I get! Lovely warm water, this is brill, oh look here is a diver taking underwater photos at the turn, smile. Shit where is everyone else?
When I finally got out, smooth T1 and on to the cycle course, rattling along the cobbles and finally got going on the better tarmac and I had a good cycle leg. I didn’t have a clue where I was within my age group apart from passing some fellow Brits and a Russian.it was getting very lonely on the course as the other age groups were now on the run. Poor signage for T2 had caused some DQ’s as people missed the entrance but I was in and there were still some gaps on the racking!!
Now for the worrying bit the run. The team physio had checked me over the day before and said no probs. NLP from Janice meant there were no problems!! Two feed stations were provided, they were placed at the bottom of the hill and at the top.
So now the hill which on the reccy looked nothing in the heat suddenly became a factor, hence the feed station placements. First lap no problems with great support from Janice, Sarah and now Binchy who had by now finished. Janice had been banned from ringing the cow bell on the bike leg as she was giving the locals a headache, Mrs Dobber would have been deported!!! Punisher Pete was keeping me going with his Garmin updates telling me I was consistently doing 7 minute mile laps, better than I had hoped for and I was passing others on the hill. I knew that after doing lap three whatever happened I could hobble back and at least finish.
Through the finish waving my little union jack to be told by Binchy who was checking the print outs that I was third. I was very proud to step up on the podium and get my bronze medal (and 50 Euros prize money) for GB and Lincsquad.
Chairman Binch felt that his accommodation had to match a man of his status and chose a hotel away from the Hoi Polloi. He made poor Sarah trek up the mountain to his residence under the shadow of the castle at the top of the mountain a 3K yomp at least three times a day in searing heat. However this took its toll on him on his run leg in his race, he is blaming it on dehydration due to losing his drink bottle from his bike on the cobbles. Hmmm
Punisher Pete completely flummoxed the very persistent Turkish shopkeepers who are brilliant at engaging you in conversation and getting you into their shops. “I give you good price, where are you from my friend? Bristol, Yorkshire, Manchester?” “Wrawby ,” replied the man as he scampered off clutching his drinks bottle!!!