Finally, after what has seemed like a long season, it was time for the World Championships with this year’s Grand Final held in Auckland, New Zealand during October.
Jill, Luke and I joined the rest of the GB sqaud to take the long, long journey to the other side of the world with reasonably high hopes. However, with the biggest ever entry for a Paratriathlon and standards rising each year it would represent the biggest challenge yet to GB’s previous dominance. Luke and I were confident we could achieve at least a podium finish, but of course we would be racing for the win! We would have to contend with the defending champions from Brazil, regular rivals from Germany and Serbia and a whole host of new faces coming in from Ironman triathlon or other elite level sports, so it wouldn’t be easy…
After recovering from the travel (no major jet-lag thankfully) and doing a few light days training we had scheduled in the Aquathlon World Championships (Swim-Run) as a warm up before the triathlon. For us it was a race with no pressure as sadly we were the only entries in our category – very disappointing. Still, it would be good to have a hit-out and blow any cobwebs away. We had a good swim, I had a terrible transition and got somewhat stuck in my wetsuit before a reasonable, if inconsistently paced, run on what can only be described as a ‘challenging’ route for anyone wearing blackout glasses. We were crowned World Champions, but it felt a bit embarrassing to be honest given the circumstances.
Thoughts quickly turned to the triathlon five days later. Unfortunately our build up to this was less than smooth. Before travelling Luke was worried about his form, although a good block of training seemed to be helping and I was sure he would be fine. I still had a niggling muscle strain picked up at the World Duathlon Championships in September, but I had been going well in training regardless. A few days before the triathlon I began suffering with stomach problems making eating any kind of food very unappealing and leaving me feeling weak and lethargic (more than normal!). Due to the water temperature barely hitting 15 degrees the swim distance would be cut to 300m in accordance with Paratri rules, which was definitely not in our favour either. The bike course was almost flat too, exept for one small hill on each of the 3 laps, so there would be little scope to gain time before the final run leg.
To add to our woes, the ITU tried to make a last minute rule change requiring the guide to swim alongside or behind the visually impaired athlete rather than in front as we (and others) have done for the past 3 seasons – ridiculous the night before the biggest race of the season! Thankfully common sense prevailed and this was overturned after much discussion, but with the threat of disqualification should the officials feel anyone was getting pulled by their guide. That’s fair enough, but it seemed the finger was being pointed in our direction a bit after our quick swim in the aquathlon had led to the Aussie’s questioning the interpretation of the swim rules…things seemed to be stacking up against us.
About 24 hours before the race I was thankfully able to start eating properly again. I had two dinners that night and two breakfasts on race morning. I was actually feeling pretty good, but really didn’t know how I would perform. Our philosophy was just to go out hard, taking the race to everyone else to see what they had. If nothing else we would give ourselves a chance of a medal.
The hooter sounded and we were off! I didn’t get the best of starts as the swim tether somehow got tangled and ended up coming over my back and head rather than in front of me as normal. Instinctively I spun onto my back and then again onto my front without even breaking my stroke and had untangled myself – awesome!. I didn’t have an outstanding swim, but it was OK and we came out of the water in the lead, but not by much with the Israeli team only a few seconds back and Brazil just 15 seconds adrift…oh, and no one got DQ’d!
We’d done it! I think a few people were a bit suprised, including Jill and perhaps even ourselves. Our friends from Serbia came from nowhere on the run to take second place in a sprint finish with Brazil whilst Canada dropped to 4th spot after an impressive debut in Paratri. Full results here.
Initially we were both ecstatic with the win and a job well done. Afterwards it was more a sense of relief after a pretty difficult few days and a tough race, I think. Given the level of competition, the make up of the course and the poor build up this was probably one of my best ever results. It’s great to have won back the world title! Luke did a fantastic job from start to finish and I think the photo’s show how much this meant to him too.
Congratulations also to Karen Darke (Tri 1), Steve Judge (Tri 3), Faye McClellan (Tri 4) and Mathew Emmerson (Tri 5) who also won World titles in their respective categories, backed up by several other podium finishes by GB athletes to maintain our position as number one national!! Also see the ITU event report.
A great end to a great season of racing…and time for a great holiday!
P.S. Next year’s World Championships are in London which should be absolutely fantastic. Anyone coming?