Blenheim Palace Triathlon was an amazing race and my first outing with the Elite under 20s in the British Triathlon Super Series, the marshals and support crew were helpful and lovely as always and the atmosphere was extremely relaxed.
I woke up at 5:30 and arrived at Blenheim at 7 o’clock feeling surprisingly awake. I had my pre race food of jam sandwiches and then made my way to registration with a good friend and Banbury Harriers team member. We were handed our tattoos and timing chips and wished a good race, at this point it started to rain but luckily it turned to drizzle and then stopped.
I headed towards the transition area and set up my bike and running shoes. I familiarized myself with the location of my bike, which was thankfully placed adjacent to a large archway, which I could use as a landmark to find my bike within the sea of bikes, helmets and shoes.
I then had an hour before the start of my race, I hastily stuck on my race tattoos, feeling rather proud that both numbers were not upside down. I carried out my usual warm up of strides, stretches, drills and a nice easy run before myself and the family, along with my coach Brian Butler and his wife Annie made our way down to the start.
Standing on the steep hill over looking the lake, I carried out the routine of squeezing myself into my Huub Xena wetsuit (which I would highly recommend to any female triathletes as it is a lovely fit). Midway through this routine I realized the Blenheim filming crew was filming me, so I swiftly smiled and gave a big wave to the camera. I oiled up the suit, collected my hat and said goodbye to my support crew.
We were allowed a few minutes to acclimatize in the water and then were called back out for the race briefing, before heading back into the water to position ourselves between the kayaks. Within a few minutes the starting horn was sounded and we were off.
I was pleasantly surprised that during the swim I was hardly touched by any other competitor, there was no pulling on the feet or dunking on the head. The swim went by like a blur and before I knew it, I was hauling myself out, by the boathouse to then climb the long enduring hill up to the palace. I pushed the run up the hill hard and managed to overtake a few girls, joining a pack ahead of me and then entered into transition.
I felt that I had had a strong swim and my confidence and spirits were very high leading into transition. Although I am a fairly strong swimmer I know I need to work on race tactics and find more speed to get me out of the water with the lead pack, the tactics are such a big part in draft legal racing and I know I have only just started to learn.
Transition went smoothly and my mount onto my bike went with no troubles, this is an area I have been working hard on and trying to perfect my bike mounts and dismounts, as a result I gained a number of places through transition…(very pleasing). I strapped up my shoes and was off on the bike course. This was a draft legal race so over the past few weeks I have been practicing my bike handling skills, and my training program has been designed to provide me with the challenges that a drafting race can bring, short sharp bursts, and riding with only centimeters between wheels. On the first lap, of the three-lap bike course, I was dropped by a pack of senior competitors, so I made a conscious and tactical decision to slow slightly to join the group close behind me, rather than ruining my legs trying to catch the group ahead. I joined with my new group and we worked as a pack of four on the whole of the bike course. Throughout the ride there were bursts of speed, fast cornering and some very close wheel to wheel action…(very scary!!). The group picked up the speed slightly before reaching transition. I dismounted safely and headed into transition to rack my bike. I swiftly found my place, racked my bike and threw on my shoes and was first from the group out of transition...the transition training is certainly paying off.
I ran cautiously over the steep steel bridge (100m from transition), aware that at the bottom of the ramp was gravel and a sharp corner. Over the bridge I headed out onto the 5.6km run route, I felt strong off the bike and managed to overtake a few people by the first half of the first lap. Towards the end of the first lap I could hear someone approaching me from behind, I turned slightly to see Natalie Thomas a senior triathlete who I had previously ran alongside with at Corby, I knew from previous races that I would have to work hard but our run pace is very similar, we worked as a team giving each other the drive and determination to keep going and keep the pace. We managed to overtake a few more people on the second lap. By the second lap, after throwing a cup of water over my head at the water station, I knew that there was only half a lap to go. My legs still felt strong and I still had Natalie by my side pushing me on. The Palace came into view and we both pushed it hard up the final hill. The finish line was in sight and Natalie pushed harder and harder and managed to beat me over the finish line.…. ‘Thank you for the encouragement’ Natalie J
At the end we both congratulated one another before I made my way to go and speak to my family.
I was happy to hear that both my family and Brian thought I had done an excellent job, and I was feeling proud of the race. My parents rewarded me with a ‘well deserved ice-cream’ and after watching a few other races and browsing the stalls we went home.
Later that day, the results came in and I found out that I had come 5th, which I was really pleased with. This was my first big test in the elite field and I know there is work to be done to achieve my dreams, BUT I now know the areas where I need to work harder and believe me I have already started!! A massive thanks to Brian for the support and helping me develop race tactics, which allowed me to have a great race.
My next big race is at Liverpool in July which is the next round of the Elite Super Series….now time for a run J