Bit of a double header here with a combined report from two ‘ITU World Paratriathlon Events’ in Yokoham (17th May) and London (31st May) I attended recently (with Matt Ellis guiding on both occasions).
Both races are part of the International Triathlon Union’s (ITU) new season-long series where Paratriathletes can score points towards qualifying for major championships. In fact there was a third event in France in-between so the rounds are coming thick and fast. The trouble with the France and London races was that neither would help in qualifying for June’s European Championships in Austria. This is because places at the Euro’s (and later in the year the World’s) are now allocated initially on ranking points, and those points must be on the board 33 days beforehand. Only the Japan event would therefore be relevant in this scenario – it seemed like there was little choice but to head to Yokohama. Racing in London seemed like a good idea too given it didn’t involve much travel/hassle, so France got ditched (Sorry France!) as I didn’t fancy 3 races in 3 countries on 3 consecutive weekends.
Here’s how it went: –
Japan (May 17th)
Japan was a funny trip – very relaxed in some ways and quite stressful in others. The GB team had a sort of chilled feel about it without too much structure or regimentation somewhat in contrast to certain occasions last year. I prefer it this way as I am happy to get on and do what’s needed (other’s perhaps might feel differently I guess). On the flip side we had come with a clear mission: get in the top 6 and score some points to guarantee Euro qualification. We couldn’t mess it up otherwise it would be a wasted trip and might jeopardise the rest of the season!
Things took a turn for the worse at the race briefing the night before when it was announced that the ITU would be introducing factoring (like a handicap with the blind athlete’s getting a 3:43 headstart over the visually impaired). This was obviously questioned strongly as apart from the fact that the ITU are supposed to give 30 days notice for a rule change and don’t appear to have done so, the poor official could only tell us that ‘scientists looked at it’ and came up with this number. They could not tell us any more! This of course just made things worse. Very, very poor by the ITU but perhaps not surprising given other events in recent seasons. The upshot (apart from lots of unhappy people) was there would be a staggered swim start with the blind men and women first, the VI men next and then the VI women last (they had a 4:16 penalty to overcome!).
It was pretty frustrating for many reasons, and may well have big implications later in the year and moving towards Rio 2016, but we had to try and put that out of our minds and focus on the immediate task. The race started and we sat on the pontoon for what seemed like an age before we were finally allowed to get underway. The harbour swim was pretty choppy but I didn’t mind that. I was more concerned about the large Jellyfish I had put my hand on during the practise swim the night before and the earthquake/tsunami warnings we were given at race briefing! We seemed to go OK but not maybe not spectacularly, coming out of the water well down (2:15) on our GB team-mates Dave Ellis guided by Jack Peasgood, but alongside the Spanish and ahead of the French who are both good teams. We didn’t know how the B1 (Blind) athlete’s were doing though.
We lost another 10 seconds in T1 but out on the bike we set about trying to distance Spain and France and claw back time on Dave and Jack as well as the B1’s including another GB pairing (Chris Goodwin guided by Ben Mathews). The course was flat but quite technical with a lot of tight corners and short straights. The roads were well surfaced without any pot-holes so you could go pretty hard. By the time we’d completed the 20km’s we’d distanced most other teams taking just over a minute back on Dave and Jack. We’d overtaken most of the B1’s too except Chris and Ben to put us 3rd.
I was goingOK up that point but once on two feet I felt rubbish…a bit sickly. It’s fair to say I really struggled around the 3 lap 5k run. Perhaps it was the 12 hour flight, the 8 hour time difference or the fact I didn’t sleep the night beforehand?. Perhaps it was a combination of all three? Either way it felt torturous and we were being reeled in by Spain. We started with 45 seconds advantage over them and ended with just 15. It was enough for a podium finish and we’d lost less time to fast runners than expected. In the end we were promoted to 2nd behind Dave and Jack as Chris and Ben had been first across the line but later DQ’d for missing part of the run course out on their first lap.
Over-all it was a good trip. We didn’t have a lot of time flying out Wednesday and returning Sunday. We did however get to meet a lot of nice people and even took part in an internet TV interview which was fun! What struck me was the lack of litter – it was immaculate! The Japanese did a great job of putting on this event and it’s certainly somewhere i’d like to go back to one day to see a bit more of the country.
Verdict: Mission acomplished.
Full results can be seen here.
My initial thoughts for London were that we could race without fear of failure after securing the points in Japan. we could push on and see what happened. It didn’t quite turn out that way though. Walking back from open water swimming just over a week earlier I had stumbled on an uneven section of path, almost twisted my ankle but saved myself. Lucky escape I reckoned and didn’t give it a second thought. Two days later I went for a steady run but my knee was a bit sore afterwards. When I woke the following morning it was quite painful and my hip/groin was starting to hurt too. I had damaged an adductor muscle in my thigh and it had just taken a few days to reveal itself. It wasn’t that serious but enough to cause me some grief and warrant rest, ice, anti-inflamtories and taping for support. Right up to race day I didn’t really know how it would work out, especially when running. I’d had some great input from local Physio Marc Holl at IPRS in Norwich and also Penny the GB team Physio who did a lot of work on me the day before racing though.
This time out Matt and I tried a different swim technique we’d been working on recently. It’s still early days but it felt faster and we were fairly synchronised which was nice. Dave (this time guided by Luke Watson) had a blistering sub 10 minute 750m swim, but we lost less time than in Japan (1:49). Our transitions were better too but still could be improved further maybe. This might shock you, but we hit the fastest bike split again with some strong riding. Mind you The Slovenian pairing put in a good ride too and were just 36 seconds slower followed by the three other British pairs (Hasseeb Ahmad guided by Jack Peasgood, Dave & Luke and Chris and Ben).
I had been feeling my injury a bit on the bike, but was hopeful I could get round OK. We were in 5th place with Chris out front, Dave chasing hard, Slovenia putting in a blinder (no pun intended!) and Haseeb not far in front in 4th spot. Once we got running I felt OK. I was maybe a bit conservative on the first of the 3 flat laps with tight turns around a cone at each end of the course – I didn’t want to make my injury worse with the European’s 3 weeks later. On the 2nd lap I tried to up the pace as we weren’t far behind Hasseeb and Matt was telling me that two French teams weren’t too far behind us. Unfortunately when I tried to push on, my hip was uncomfortable and I couldn’t seem to generate much power on the injured side making me feel like I was moving in a very peculiar, uneven way.
I could only really manage a brisk pace rather than the flat-out do-or-die effort required. My Coach Tim Williams (www.perfectcondition.ltd.uk) would later comment ‘you looked like you were out for a Sunday jog’ which is kinda how it felt (well, a bit faster maybe!). I just tried to keep my stride short and protect 5th place a few more ITU points. I couldn’t really think of chasing anyone down, but like Japan, we didn’t lose quite as much time as we could have. It was strange finishing a triathlon and not being totally smashed, but that’s all I could manage on the day.
Finishing 5th with 3 Brits ahead (Chris 1st, Dave 2nd and Hasseeb 4th) maybe puts us under pressure in terms of World Championships selection where there will be 2 places per country plus wildcards. We’ll have to see what happens but there’s a lot of room for improvement, especially once I am injury free…let’s see what Austria brings on the 21st June.
Full results are here with some photo’s below: –