Just a little insight into the ETU Finals!!
My first Champs began with Mark York picking me up in the early hours before heading off to Stansted Airport! All the travel arrangements went like clockwork from start to finish thanks to Mark York’s extreme professional attitude!! I don’t think Mark left a stone unturned with his race prep! He had everything ordered, sorted and ready, right up until the start gun fired!!! . I soon realised this was the not the Scunny Park Run!
The Holiday Inn Express was a couple of miles from the GB Team hotel and seemed a little quiet but actually turned out to be perfect especially having a Carrefour and a Decathlon store opposite! Plus, the GB Elite were staying in the next hotel, we were at the fast end!
The hotel soon filled up with fit looking people and we quickly made friends and chilled with chat about the race. We were introduced to a guy called Brett who let slip he’d only been cycling since October.
I thought to myself, you are going to get eaten alive mate and enquired about his Park Run times? …………” 14:20″ he replied, gulp! The next person I spoke with was Debbie, I quizzed her to what standard she was at Duathlon ? ” World Champion”! Gulp!……..’Sheehan’ keep quiet.
For some reason our room became the centre of activity for team GBR! Myself being the nutritionist and Mark the team Mechanic (I ate while he set peoples bikes up). Even late on Saturday evening Mark decided to change his Tubular on his rear Disc!! I settled down to watch for an hour, but it only took him 5 minutes, awesome!
Race day came ‘ Sprint and Standard were only allowed to rack on the morning of the race from 06:00. Queuing in the rain wasn’t the best of starts. The Sprint race started at 08:30 and the first wave set off to a chorus of cheers. After 2 laps Brett was in first place but it wasn’t long before all the age groups were mixed together so we went to watch some of the cycling! On the first roundabout four people had crashed within 20 minutes! There was Carbon and blood all over the circuit. People arriving back in ambulances with some running back to transition with broken TT bars etc!
I went into the main building to gather my thoughts. I sat down next to a ripped young athlete with a +4 Handicap of Body Fat! He turned to me and said ‘Are you doing the Standard?… the run is Brutal’, Gulp, Gulp.
My race plan of saving some energy on the run for the bike was going out the window, fast! As the Bike leg was so slippery and dangerous this was turning into a foot race! I was banking on some very fast downhill cornering and good climbing to get me somewhere. The 84 roundabouts, slippery Zebra Crossings and the white road markings resembled sheets of ice………. Plus 2000ft of climbing! I needed to put a race together.
We had to stand by our bikes in transition and run to the Start Line when our wave was called. I ran up and down transition trying to keep warm. I had a chat to myself and said suck in the air, relax, rise to the challenge, and just go flat out from the start, that was my new, revised game plan?!
The guy with the minus Body fat had told me that all the Spanish competitors had barged passed him to get to the front of the start. I didn’t fancy that so stood by a bike near to the start so I could get to the front first, which I did.
The gun sounded and the heavens opened but I ran like the wind and gave it everything I had. It was basically like doing hill reps, absolutely brutal.
I had a great transition passing 3 in my Age Cat and left the mount line at pace. It had now become evident that the weather conditions had got a whole lot worse. There were crashes all along the course but I remained focused and gave it everything up and down the hills. I tried to pick a racing line through the carnage but not easy with raised manhole covers and road barriers across parts of the route.
By the third lap I’d almost cracked! The first run had drained me and the cold had made my fingers a patchy purple and white. My whole body was shaking. I stopped pedaling whilst searching for inspiration from somewhere. Fortunately it came, ….I just thought of a special person who would have never given up and I soon found myself back in Transition for the second run. This felt a whole lot easier after that bike.
Results showed me as 11th in my Age Cat and 7th GBR with times of 37:24 (run1) 1:15:20 (Bike) , 20:01 (Run 2) . = 02:15:11
As a special mention….Mark York is in the best form of his life and I’m certain he would have been in with a shout for a medal but was unfortunately forced to pull out with hypothermia, he wasn’t on own!