The reason why I tri is simply because I love the thrill of racing – full stop! The training pushes me beyond my limits and the best moments are when I really need to grit my teeth when my motivation levels are low or when I’m just having a bad day with training. It is these moments that test your patience, perseverance and determination to keep on going. This race however had a lot more at stake. As I’m trying to qualify to represent Gibraltar at the ITU World Triathlon Championships in September, this race was one where I had to perform. My overall position would determine the number of points I secure and whether I qualify or not.
I knew I had all the training behind me but leading up to the race there were a few occasions where I felt like giving up. I had skipped a few training sessions simply because I couldn’t be bothered. I felt guilty afterwards but it was a tough phase and I had to pick up my game for this race. The week leading up to the race I decided to keep my sessions short but sharp. Wanted to keep my muscle fibres fired up but not drain too much energy as I was already lacking energy to train!
My preparation for the race went fairly well. I was feeling strong when I arrived at Pleasanton. Legs felt fresh and I had caught up on most of my sleep debt :-p Since bike racking was ‘open’, meaning I could rack my bike anywhere in transition, I placed mine right in the path of the swim exit! If I were to get lost in transition, I would have to be a right plonker!
After sliding into my wetsuit, I was ready to get going. The water at Shadow Cliff Park was at the perfect temperature but the weeds were too long! They kept getting into my mouth! As the hooter went off, it was back to the usual. Try and avoid being hit and get to the front of the pack. I didn’t have a great start but I quickly found my bearings and went full steam ahead. It was a triangular course and the buoys were a bit difficult to see with all the splashing water from the swimmers in the waves ahead of me. I followed the swimmers in front of me and I laid a lot of trust in them to swim straight! The risk paid off and I got to the end of the swim course before I knew it.
Immediately on the bike which started off with a short sharp hill but then onto a nice flat road (with a headwind – duh!). I was lucky enough to be riding alongside pro triathlete, Sarah Piampiano. But that didn’t last long as she drifted into the horizon. The course was rolling with short hills and sharp turns. Not my favourite type of course as I hate having to change gears all the time. Although I was pushing hard on the pedals and going fast, I didn’t feel good. It was a weird feeling but I kept with it. On the way back to transition, the course had fewer turns and the changes in gradient were minimal. I began enjoying the race and was focused on getting to transition in order to begin a solid run.
After getting into transition and rapidly getting on to the run, I again found myself not feeling too good. My pace was quick but the legs weren’t firing comfortably. The course was also similar to the bike course where you were either going up or down. There were a number of 180 deg turns too which disrupted my rhythm. I had to control the ‘controllables’ and just get through the first lap without burning myself out. A 2 lap course is always good to pace yourself mentally. My strategy is always to go steady/hard for the first lap but then go flat out for the last lap! Especially the last 3km – it’s the point where I make or break! I followed my plan but just didn’t have the explosiveness to finish strong. I gave whatever I had no matter how I felt and crossed the finish line to find that I had finished 2nd in my age group!
Although my first ever podium finish, I was still unsatisfied by how I felt during the race. I would have savoured the moment a lot more if I felt good throughout and had the ‘runners high’ at the end. Nonetheless, I had a wide smile on my face and was ecstatic to take home a pint glass and medal 😉