I took Friday off to fly/drive down to the pleasant town of Chateauroux in mid France (Indre) for the European aquathlon championships on Saturday. The travelling took 12 hours which is not the best prep the day before a race. Anyway on the day I was up with the lark as usual and then had to pace myself through the day as the race did not start till 17.50. The weather was warm and sunny at a very pleasant 24 degrees which co-incidentally was the lake water in which we swam, due to really hot weather in the preceding week. That temperature meant the swim would be non-wetsuit which I hoped would be a good thing.
I had anticipated that I could make the podium in bronze position if I had a good race given the competition. There were two very good Frenchmen, whose swim times are minutes better than mine and a Brit and a German (who got the Silver medal in this event in Germany last year) and we three were all comparable on paper. They split the male swim wave in two because of the numbers which was a good thing as even then there seemed to be a huge number of people in a small width of start. The swim was 1000m, the first third or so to a yellow buoy across the lake, sharp right turn to a beach exit 200m away, run 10 m on a beach then back in the water (I don’t know why as it was a long way from any spectators) 200m to another yellow buoy, sharp left and to the boat ramp exit. We were in the water for the start and I felt OK so I hoped for a strong swim. At the gun the melee sped off and I struggled a bit to settle into a rhythm and could not blame the wetsuit this time. After a couple of minutes of mental and physical anguish I got into my stroke. I caught up and left a small number of people behind and expected to catch up some of the others in front. Although I felt I got into quite a strong rhythm I did not make up any water on people in front but I reckoned I was not losing much more time, although missing out on the advantage of drafting. I also decided that rather than waste effort in the swim I could exit fresher than the competition for the run.
When I got out of the water I was a bit disappointed to see very few people still swimming but on the tannoy I heard the name Hans Heinz Schumacher is just approaching transition. That was the German so I was not that far behind. ‘Got him’! I thought. The route to transition was about 300 yards across grass and then out onto two laps in a figure T of 5K All of it fairly flat. I got my running shoes on quickly and as there was no wetsuit to struggle out of got onto the run route in sharp order. About 400 yards in front was Herr Schumacher. I resisted the temptation to blast off in pursuit as a 24 degree air temperature in the hot June sun can still be quite deceptively taxing, ( I noticed a few heat exhaustion casualties at the end of the race). I steadily got into my stride (I could feel last week’s half marathon in my thighs still) and when I next saw my rival I was 350 yards behind after 1K of running. Not going to catch up at that rate of gain so I dug a bit deeper to see if I could find another gear in there somewhere. The swim may have been a bit feeble but the running legs were in fine fettle and I soon found myself up on my toes feeling quite strong. As I closed the gap on the German I overtook the fellow Brit in the category which was a bonus. At 2K I went past Hans and he tucked in behind but I could sense the adrenaline shock (which is now rare but still exiting) in me and I pulled away easily. I finished the run at what felt like a great pace in a time of 20.07 for the 5k (short?). No sign in the race of the French guys because they had both exited the water literally minutes ahead of me ( my run time was comparable) but I had made the podium in Bronze. The one I expected to win had finished second by a couple of seconds even though he was on paper a slightly better athlete. It turned out the ‘winner’ was disqualified for not wearing his National kit. Seems a bit harsh but it was a European Championship and the rules are clear and, although it did not affect me, the other Frenchman, Monsieur Maubras, said he had not kicked hard at the finish as he had not recognised the kit of the person in front as the competition which I believe. Consequently I got the Silver! Photo grace a Madame Maubras. The lady is a Brit who won gold as they did the male and female age group medals together.