It had been an amazing year for me so far, I'd already won the British Standard Duathlon Champs at the Bedford Autodrome and the European Middle Distance Championships in Vejle, Denmark. This had by far surpassed the goals I'd set for myself and the big one was still to come, the World Championships!
The World Championships were being held this year in Odense, Denmark and I 'd qualified for this by winning my age group at the Anglian Water Duathlon back in February, (this was in fact my goal). After the Europeans I'd had a couple of weeks off and then had six weeks to build for Denmark. Jimmy at VO2 Maximum was setting me a progressive schedule and also utilising the Chelmer CC weekly TT's as my maximum effort sessions on the race bike. Due to the success I'd experienced at the previous races Jimmy had decided to mirror the build up of these for the Worlds. This meant a key session would be a two hour multi brick with three bike rides and three runs. These were best done on the Wattbike for the bike element so I could control the power as each set got progressively harder/faster. The key point of these sessions were to improve my run strength and speed off the bike and had helped me to overhaul my competitors in the last two races with the fastest second run split.
After six weeks of progressive work, mostly training six days a week I was ready to go! We arrived on the Wednesday morning in Copenhagen and then had a 2 hour drive to the race venue in the city of Odense which included a drive over the longest bridge I'd ever been across at around 20km and also the most expensive with a toll charge of £25! Once we'd arrived in Odense we went straight to the race HQ to register and pick up my number and then set about finding the studio we had booked just outside of town and build the bike. The race was scheduled for the Friday morning and the only session I had planned before this was my usual pre race brick on the Thursday morning of an easy 10 minute run, a 30 minute bike with 3 x 1 minute efforts and another 10 minute run. After this it was off to transition to rack the bike. Transition was located in an underground car park and after the usual bike and helmet checks by the officials at the entrance I made my way to my numbered position in the racks. With the bike racked and the bike shoes attached to the bike it was time to walk the rather complicated transition and get my bearings. Although marking the position of your bike is prohibited it’s always good to have a marker such as a post or a sign to look for when you come in after the first run to locate your bike, mine was the second concrete post after the entrance!
Apart from the pride you feel in racing for Team GBR one of the best parts of these trips is meeting the other athletes. Picking out the other team members dressed in team kit as you’re walking around and giving a friendly nod or wave of recognition all adds to that sense of belonging to a team. Some are here for their first event, others are veterans of multiple international races but all are here racing under the same flag. We all meet up in the afternoon for the race brief delivered by the Team Manager, Joan Lennon. After this it was off to the Town Square to begin the “Parade of Nations”. Forty eight countries were represented from as far away as New Zealand, Australia and North and South America and although it was nearly 20 degrees it was funny to see the Mexican athletes dressed in hats and gloves against the “cold”!
The morning of the race was bright and sunny with quite a stiff breeze, I thought briefly about my decision to go with the 80mm deep section front wheel but dismissed it quickly as it was too late to worry about. Transition was only open from 07:45 to 09:15 and the place was already buzzing when we arrived around 08:00. For some reason the event had banned you from taking your own track pump into transition but would have some available on the day and although I’d pumped my tyres up the night before I wanted to check them again so set about trying to find one. I was running latex inner tubes although lighter and with a lower rolling resistance than butyl they do leak and can drop as much as 20lbs of pressure overnight. With the bike sorted I walked the route for T1 & T2 again to get it set in my mind and left for the start.
The start was in waves and I was due to be off at 09:50 in an all-male start with athletes ranging from 45 up to 59. As the first wave was meant to start at 09:15 it soon became apparent that we were going to be delayed. It was a closed course and getting it clear of the Friday morning rush hour traffic was proving problematic! I hadn’t started my warm up so I just sat quietly in the shade and kept sipping my drink. It was finally announced that my wave would be going off at 10:30 so I started my warm up with around 30 minutes to go. This usually lasted around 15 minutes and consisted of a short easy jog, a few drills and then some strides. This was finished off with a few dynamic stretches like walking lunges. I also always like to warm up in my trainers and then change into my racing flats. The difference in weight is minimal but I think it’s a psychological thing which just says “right, I’m ready to race”!
I kept myself a few rows back on the start line so as not to get carried away with all the “young guns” and do my best to stick to the race plan I’d discussed with Jimmy. The first mile was a little quick but steadied down after that and I was a little surprised when the surfaced changed to a light gravel track around halfway as the course had been advertised as flat and all on pavement. Not really a problem but I do find this type of surface will tire the legs a little quicker than tarmac as you’re working harder for traction. I was slowly making my way through the field overhauling those who'd been just a little too keen at the start and came into T1 just under 34 minutes for the 9.3km, (I later found out I was 3rd in my AG).
After navigating transition successfully it was out on the bike. I done a recce on part of the bike course the day before as part of my brick workout and generally the surface was fast and in good condition. It was a two lap route and there were already a number of athletes on the road from the earlier waves and I set about getting through the traffic. The race was supposed to be non-drafting but as is usual in events such as this with large numbers and multiple waves having a 10 meter gap between all the riders is a tough ask but you can’t be concerned over what others are doing and just ensure that if you enter the drafting zone of the rider in front you’re through and past within the 20 second limit. Once your front wheel is past theirs it’s up to them to fall back. The wind wasn’t too much of a problem, apparently around 17mph, and on the longest out and back straight it was a cross wind rather than a block headwind. I ended up trading positions with a Danish athlete from the 45 – 49 AG throughout the ride and this always helps to spur you on. I was approaching T2 after around 54 minutes and I’d averaged 23.5mph, my feet were out of my shoes and ready for a “flying dismount”. It was probably around 150m through transition back to my rack and I was happy to get my running shoes back on without any cramping but even happier to see that there was only one bike from my AG back in the rack! It belonged to another GBR athlete who I knew to be a very good runner. I didn’t think I’d see him again but was super pleased to be 2nd.
Out on to the second run via the exit ramp from the car park, this was a bit of a shock to the system but thankfully only around 50m long. I settled into a steady pace fairly quickly and the legs felt good, I’d had a gel not long before I got off the bike so took on water from the first aid station. After about 1km a German athlete came flying past me, I caught sight of his race number and knew straight away he was in my AG. With the speed he was going it would have been suicide to try and keep with him, I had to run my own race and stick with the plan, after all I was still in Bronze Medal position. I kept it steady and was actually picking up the pace and catching a few who were suffering in the heat. Then with around 1km to go I spotted the GBR athlete from my AG up ahead and I was steadily over hauling him. When I got within 10m I sat behind briefly and then went past in a surge quickly putting 20m between us and hopefully not giving him a chance to stay with me. This really got the adrenaline going and I found the energy to pick up the pace further. As I rounded the last corner I risked a backward glance and he was nowhere in sight.
As I hit the finishing carpet I allowed myself a celebration, taking a Union flag that was offered from the side and crossed the line with my arms aloft! Silver Medal at the World Championships!
Unfortunately because of the schedule of the event I wasn't going to be able to attend the medal ceremony. For some reason it was going to be nine hours after the finish and we were flying home later that evening and still had the two hour drive back to Copenhagen. It was quite disappointing as you can never get these moments back but no one could take my moment crossing the line. I arranged with Joan the Team Manager to pick up my medal and she kindly agreed to post it on.
After returning home there was continued success for me on the bike. When I'd first gone to see Jimmy at VO2 I'd stated that one of my major goals for the year was to break 2 hours in a 50 mile TT. I managed this on a warm and sticky Sunday morning on the E2/50c course in Cambridgeshire with a clocking of 1:55:35. The week before I'd also lowered my 10 mile pb to 21:06, it had been a good season.
Thinking back about the things I've achieved this year I believe the main reasons are -
Getting a coach - Someone with experience of your event and can bring new ideas.
Consistency - getting out there regularly and sticking to the schedule.
Specificity - not getting distracted and training for the event or goal.
Rest and recovery - having days off and ensuring you eat to recover, (protein).
Now, what's next...
Train Hard, Race Easy...