Report from Howard Jeffrey: On Friday 27th May I competed in the European age group sprint triathlon championships in Lisbon. I actually tapered for this one rather than training through and was confident of a reasonable showing. The swim was in a closed sea harbour and the water a calm and balmy 19 degrees. I set off well and was having a good solid swim when I got banged and bashed a few times in close order. The open water races can be like being in a washing machine! I did not panic as such but my chest seized up ( remember Geneva?) and I thought with dismay it was a repeat of that. Thankfully I was able to stop and let the melee pull away a bit and after a few breast strokes and convincing myself I no longer had a chest problem I was able to get back into crawl and got motoring again. In fact I came out of the water much faster than people I normally exit with. The 20 K on the bike went well although there were a couple of spells of gusting and in your face winds which you had to tough out. Off the bike and managed to put in a sprightly 5K run in 20 minutes or so. I finished 14th in the age group and the floundering cost me about a minute which in turn cost a top ten finish and auto qualification for next year. I think I still have a residual chest issue and rather more easy to solve, my wetsuit may just be a bit tight, having developed some previously non-existent swimming muscles!
There is always another race, as they say and on Sunday 5th June, after a week holiday in the Spanish mountains, I was lined up at the start of the age group world championship standard duathlon in Aviles. I had confidence again of a good showing since, apart from the minor hiccough in the previous swim which was not an issue for the duathlon, the training was in the bag. I had a week of tick over exercise and acclimatisation which came in handy as after a couple of days of overcast and coolish weather the sun came up for the race. I have usually been able to perform quite well in the heat, whilst many around me suffer with exhaustion. I did feel leaden in the warm up (I often do and sometimes it all comes good in the race) and the heat was great. Off went the gun and most people seemed to shoot off enthusiastically. I don’t often break rule number one which is don’t set off too fast, and I spent fifteen to twenty minutes slowly building up to a reasonable pace for the conditions. The route was a pleasant path by the riverside although not much shade and hardly any breeze. The spectators were out in force and the atmosphere was great as the Spanish are a knowledgeable and enthusiastic triathlon nation and were generous with their support. There were plenty of water stations and I took some at every opportunity. I settled into a solid pace and began to overhaul, people from France, Germany, Australia, Canada, Spain, UK and the USA. I caught Graham who you will remember from previous encounters at first transition and he was flagging.
I had a smooth transition onto the bike and the roads were traffic free and undulating and I felt really strong on the bike and was able to pass people I would not have previously expected to. I took every water bottle handed to me and was not aware of the heat on the bike which was two and a half laps round the town and race centre so support was phenomenal. It must have been hot as I have the outline of my tri-suit emblazoned in red scorch marks on my back! After the last turn a head wind had sprung up from nowhere and for a thigh aching five minutes to the end of the ride it was hard work. A couple of the GB team were within sight behind me coming into transition so it was going to be a duel over the final 5K. I felt nowhere near as ghastly as I have done in the second run of previous duathlons but it I was digging deep on the first lap. I managed to keep up the pace for the second lap despite my right thigh temporarily having a slight seizure (!!??) but I was aware another GB rival was slowly gaining on me. My thoughts were if I don’t slow he has to go even faster to catch me and coming into the stadium for the last 400 meters I was bracing myself for a ‘sprint’ finish which I think I could have just about managed if needed. Not today as I crossed the line 4 seconds ahead which as I found at later put me as third GB finisher in the age group in 10th position. So what I had just missed at Lisbon I achieved at Alviles. Prequalified for next year which is in Canada on the west coast, so might have to think about that one!
Next one is closer to home in Leeds this weekend. Saturday is the English age group aquathlon championships (750m swim in Roundhay park lake followed by a 5K run). Sunday I am doing the sprint distance triathlon