Report from Howard Jeffrey:
Having narrowly missed qualification for next year’s European sprint tri championships in Dusseldorf by failing to breathe properly in Lisbon I had the last chance to qualify at Chatsworth yesterday. I had entered in anticipation of needing to do it and I knew it was not going to be a walk in the park. More and more people are tri-ing (sic) to qualify so there were 18 hopefuls contesting the four places on offer yesterday. That included those coming up next year from the younger group but there were also those not registered for the euro’s competing. After an early (3.30a.m.) start I got to Chatsworth which is as beautiful a venue as any, as the sun came up and created a mist on the river Derwent. There had been heavy rain the day before so the river had plenty of cool fresh water in it and the fields and tracks were still a bit waterlogged and muddy. Start was delayed about half an hour but that allowed the sun to warm up the general venue, if not the water. When we got into the river the water was 12 degrees (they said) and I got the usual brain freeze that you have to work through till your senses come back. It was so cold and took so long I thought I would not become acclimatised before the gun went; some people did not. I had been one of the first to get into the water so luckily my head cleared just as the gun went. Far too many people for such a narrow river, of which we only had half width as you had to come back for the return leg on the other side, against the current. I decided to take a wide line away from the melee and with the current the swim to the turn was Ok. My new wetsuit is good. Trouble free at the turn and had warmed up enough to increase the stroke rate against the current. I felt like I was having an OK swim and was out of the water in 5th position in the age group. Not bad. A long jog across the sheep fields to transition which went well and away across the field with the bike.
A lovely flat stretch of carriage drive to warm up on the bike and then a turn at the bottom of one of the challenging peak district hills and then up. Up and up and up. Watching the tour de France has helped as I sat in the saddle and turned steadily in the lowest gear and ground my way up a la Chris Froome. I passed many stronger riders trying to go quickly up the hill and 9 Kilometres (yes 9K) later got to the top. It was unrelenting! Then there was no levelling off just a straight descent back to the transition at a dangerously fast speed. The oncoming traffic had been diverted so it wasn’t too bad till you got to the bit they were re-surfacing. The road had been scarified ready for topping so for half a tooth loosening mile we bounced and jarred across like some ‘Tom and Jerry’ sketch. Another slick transition and off on the 5K run. That consisted of a 2.5K trail up through a wooded hill on a wet, slippery and muddy path and back down again. My slick shoes were not the best choice ( I had expected metalled paths) and I failed to make ground on rivals. As luck would have it no-one made up enough ground on me to change the finish order either. Results out immediately and I was third in my age group at which I was amazed as it was not my kind of route at all, with only one younger contender in front of us all. 4th place in the qualifier equals auto selection so Dusseldorf hier komme ich!