Friday 13th sounded like a bad day to get out of bed full-stop, never mind competing at the World championships in London. Regardless, that was the task guide Matt Elllis and I faced.
For Matt this was possibly more of a challenge as up until 3 weeks out from the biggest event of the year I had been down to race with Carl Shaw. I won’t go into details here, but things just didn’t work out as planned and we have gone our separate ways. Thankfully Matt was happy to step in and having raced with him during 2010 and 2011 he more or less knew what he was doing…except for the fact that the ITU have changed the swim rules completely, I now have a super Matrix tandem for him to pilot and visually impaired athletes are no longer required to run in blackouts. Simples!
Cue 3 weeks of regular training sessions together focusing mostly on technical practise. We seemed to be getting our act together fairly quickly but every session was vital if we were to achieve success in London. With 2 weeks to go Matt asked what I would consider a decent result. I said ‘a podium finish would be good’ as I knew the competition would be fierce, but we both waned to try and win of course. Matt then asked me who the current World champion was. ‘I am’ was my response, followed by silence, followed by nervous laughter from Matt. I though he knew. I had been trying not to make a big thing of it anyway so as not to put any more pressure on him (or myself for that matter!).
I gave Matt another curve ball when I announced that the ITU had just changed the swim rule again. Poor bloke! We are both pretty adaptable though (A very useful attribute if competing in ITU events it seems) so between us we quickly got on top of this without too much fuss.
We travelled to Loughborough in the days leading up the championships for a short ‘holding camp’ before travelling to London. Here we watched course videos, did some final training sessions, did an interview for Look East News and rested. We would be part of largest GB Paratriathlon team to have competed at this event with athletes across most of the 7 categories and what seemed like nearly as many support staff (Physio, Masseur, mechanic, Coaches and Team Manager etc.).
So to race day and we were as prepared as we could be given the timescales involved. We didn’t want to use this as an excuse as we are both fairly experienced athletes but perhaps just a little more time would have been helpful.
Warm up complete and we made our way to the pontoon for the swim start in the Serpentine. We started well enough once the hooter sounded, leading one group with Dave Ellis and Luke Watson (GBR) and Aaron Scheidies and his guide (USA) apparently leading another group to our left. At the first turn after 250m or so we cut across to join our British and American counterparts. Things seemed to be going well as we thought Dave and Luke would be putting us under pressure right from the start then at about half distance…bang!…we got swamped by several other pairings that we later discovered had started 5 minutes earlier in the previous wave so wern’t even in our category. Whilst the other leaders seemed to negotiate their way around the group we go stuck right in the middle with tether ropes everywhere and people just swimming over the top of and in-between us. We ended up losing almost 2 minutes from that point – Nightmare!
We were 5th out of the water heading into T1 (First transition) seemed to go ok, running from the Serpentine, down the road and uphill across a muddy field to our allocated space in transition. With 230 athletes competing the Paratriathlon is now too big to allow us use of the nice carpeted elite transition area! We did however somehow lose a further 20 seconds on our GB counterparts.
Out on the bike and we knew we needed something special to give us a chance of success. We set about our task in what can only be described as foul conditions. It had rained on and off for several days and race day was no different, possibly worse. The course was trecherous in places with several people crashing out of the Paratriathlon and also the Age Group Sprint event earlier in the day. Matt was doing a good job, riding hard where possible and taking the corners, tight U-turns and numerous speed bumps cautiously to ensure we stayed upright. I was feeling OK too and keen to press on. We were up to 3rd place and certainly catching the other guys in front.
Fastest bike split completed and out of T2 we had the USA team in sight (well Matt did, but I wasn’t too sure). Aaron is a good runner, as is Dave who was still perhaps 30 seconds or more up the road. I kind of knew we weren’t likely to catch either of them but I wanted to run well to at least protect the bronze medal position. We had no idea how much of a gap there was back to 4th place (it turns out it was quite a lot) so I ran hard on the first of 2 fairly flat laps containing just one little hill and some slippery plastic flooring to negotiate.
I was running well even if I do say so myself. We caught Charlotte Ellis and Jenny Manners (GBR) at the start of the 2nd lap giving me something to chase, but things were starting to feel like hard work and my run form was deteriorating a bit. Matt used the old trick of lying when telling me another pair were coming up behind and we needed to keep pushing on. Fair play…we came home ‘comfortably’ in 3rd place. The run course must be a bit short though as I don’t run 18’s (yet).
Given the circumstances, the timescale we had to train together and the increased level of competition this year both in terms of numbers and quality, I don’t think we did too badly. Room for improvement: Yes, certainly. One things for sure, we had some fun over the past few weeks!
Congratulations to Dave and Luke for a convincing win and also to all of the other GB medalist who scored something like 6 Golds and numerous silver and Bronze medals.
Massive congratulation to Matt as he recovered quickly enough to become WORLD CHAMPION in his age group (35-39) with an unbelievable performance 2 days later with Iain Robertson also from Tri-Anglia finishing in the Bronze medal position!! I think Matt fully deserves this result after what has by his own admission been a funny year having ‘retired’ from triathlon at the end of 2012.
For the full results for my category click here.
You can also see a video from the London Paratri event by clicking here.
Special mention also to Owen Watkins at Matrix Cycles UK who is not only a great sponsor to have on board, but was kind enough to lend one of our Tri-Anglia club mates, Tony Robinson, a bike to race on after he had tried some ham-fisted mechanics on his bike and broke it. Thanks!