Saturday 13th July saw a record number of paratriathletes attend the British Champioships including some overseas competitors. For the past few years Paratriathlon titles have been decided at Holme Pierre Point in Nottingham. For 2013 all title races (able-bodied and Para) have been brought together at one vene in Liverpool which is great. I was particularily pleased that we wern’t going back to Nottingham after last year’s bike crash Luke Watson and I had involving a child…
Luke would be guiding Dave Ellis again following their victory at the European Championships in Turkey a month earlier whilst Carl Shaw (Leicester Tri Club/TFN) would also partner me once more. I was under no illusions that we would have our work cut out to overhaul them, especially as we would be using the new side-by-side swim technique (which I beleive is slower – or at least less efficent – than drafting behind the guide). With Sean Grundy, Chris Goodwin and Haseeb Ahmad also racing (the latter two are now in a separate category but still…) it would be a good contest.
And so it proved. The 750m swim in the Albert dock, complete with jellyfish and allegedly a squid, can only be described as rough. We had a decent enough start but so did others meaning space was at a prememium. With Carl on my left side someone tried to swim between us and then attempted passing me on the other side where Dave and Luke were close by. It had calmed down by the time we reached the first 2 of 5 turn bhouys (not ideal for tethered swimming but bloody good practise!). After this things took a turn for the worse again as someone decided they wanted to get very friendly!
In fact they seemed intent on swimming over the top of me. Ordinarily I would try to move over to avoid conflict, but it’s not that easy when you are swimming with a guide. With Carl on the opposite side I had nowhere to go. I tried to encourage them to move away by giving them a gentle push with a wide sweep of the arm, but they came straight back across and started battering me again. I tried giving them a shout but still no joy. They were so close I couldn’t even get my right hand in the water. As a result my hand ended up on the top of their head and I (guenienly) accidently dunked them under as I rotated through the water. They didn’t seem overly happy about that and choose to grab and hold my leg (twice) so I kicked hard to try and get loose and put some distance between us. I had no option but to stand my ground resulting in both of us wasting energy – in my opion unecessary so as we wern’t even in the same category! It’s sometimes part of triathlon I guess, but not how I would choose to race. What a contrast to the friendly swim at the Norwich a week earlier!
Regardless of the all that, we still managed to come out of the water alongside Dave and Luke – pleasing giving Dave is a Paralympic swimmer. It was also pleasing to match them through the long first transition as we had wetsuits to remove whilst they didn’t having chosen not to wear them due to high water tempratures just like in Turkey.
Out on the relatively fast 2 lap 20km bike course and we were in the lead. It was time to put the hammer down. With a motorbike camera crew following us early on we were making headway, but not that much perhaps. Our main rivals were doing a good ride. We stretched our lead a bit further with what felt like a faster second lap – we were romping along in a few places – and gained about 1 minute in total. Would it be enough?
At the Europeans we had lost 2:40 minutes on the run, so I knew it would be almost impossible to hold onto our lead unless they had a real stinker.. We just didn’t have enough time in hand if they ran to their potential. I felt better on the run than in Turkey (and Norwich also), and tried to settle quickly into a decent pace. Without thinking about it too much I found myself putting into place one or two things my new coach (Tim Williams at Perfect Condition) is trying to encourage me to do. It’s early days in terms of these technical changes, however it felt fairly good considering the effort already put in during the swim and bike (and the long, long transitions too!).
We were caught at the halfway mark and our rivals gradually disapeared off into the distance (They didn’t really have to get all that far ahead before I couldn’t see them though!). My aim was then just to keep the pace going and try and limit our loses. I wanted to narrow the gap from Turkey. In the end they won by 1 minute, so we clawed back 30 seconds over-all. A step in the right diection no doubt, but we will need to be much better come London if we want a chance of being World Champions on September 13th. We need to achieve a faster bike split and I need to find my run legs!!