My mum, dad and I all travelled down to Liverpool the day before the event, seeing as the race briefing was being held the day before and it was crucial that I didn’t miss any key information.
When we arrived at the venue, it was beautiful. The sun was shining and the area around the dock, where transition was positioned, was heaving with triathletes and spectators. The race briefing wasn’t until 7pm so I wondered around the stalls, made myself familiar with transition and walked the course with my dad.
Before race briefing, we had time for a pasta dinner in Pizza Express restaurant alongside the dock, which was packed with other triathletes carb-loading. The briefing was held in the ‘elite athletes lounge’, this was the first time I had really experienced that 'elite athlete' feeling which made me feel very privileged as I entered with my access pass around my neck. I found my friends and sat down to listen to the briefing. At this point I began to hear rumours of the bike leg being cancelled due to the weather and heard many worried voices complaining about the rain and the technical bike course. I decided to tune out these thoughts and focus on the race rather than worrying, in the past I had worried before every race and the more nervous I was, the poorer my race would be, Brian calls it 'controlling the chimp'.
I woke up early on the Sunday morning and prepared myself for the race by sticking on my tattoo decals and preparing my bike. When we left for Liverpool centre, the weather was sunny, I didn’t let this give me false hope as the weather forecast predicted heavy rain just before my race.
I proceeded to go about my pre-race rituals such as warming up and eating my jam sandwiches. During my warm up the weather started to worsen and the rain became heavier, but I tried to ignore it and the possible implications.
In the athletes lounge, I had my bike and tri-suit checked, to make sure it conformed to their regulations. I then proceeded to set up my transition. I was very excited to have such a high profile transition, with the famous blue carpet, a sign with my name on and the ‘stand-upright’ bike holders, which had been used in the 2012 Olympics and the Commonwealth Games. At this point the weather was horrendous, the blue carpet squelched every time you stood on it.
I made my way inside the BT convention centre, where my family had been taking shelter, and worked my way into my Huub wetsuit. I made my way down to the start, put on my coloured swim hat and said goodbye to my parents before heading off to listen to the final race checks.
I placed the palm of my hand against my goggles to tighten them forgetting the oil that had transferred from my wetsuit to my hand. My goggles went immediately blurry and I had to ask a marshal to help wipe away the oil so that I could see clearer. This was an important learning point that I now need to remember for future races – don’t touch your oiled wetsuit then your goggles, it’s just a bad idea!
The race official then signalled us into the water and we all ran slowly down to the pontoon and slipped ourselves into the water. As my head sunk under the water I was shocked to find out that it was salty water (it hadn’t occurred to me that the dock water would be sea water… blonde moment!). The 50+ females in our wave made their way to the starting buoys, to find it was a very tight start, with swimmers lining up in rows of 3, myself unfortunately stuck in row 2.
Without any countdown or warning, the starting gun was sounded and we were off. The swim was hard. I had girls every side of me and even breathing, let alone swimming effectively, was hard. My legs couldn’t move due to the arms on top of them and my arms couldn’t push their way through the sea of swimmers legs in front of me. I was well and truly stuck in the washing machine as they call it. I tried to ignore the battering I was receiving, but it was hard when it felt as though you had someone swimming on your back. After the race, every girl I spoke to said that they felt the swim was awful and that they had also been clobbered. During the swim I was unpleasantly surprised by how many jellyfish were in the dock. I had been told about the jellyfish before the race, but I didn’t expect that many. I looked down and it was like a sheet of white, there must have been thousands. As I pulled my hand through the water my fingers would come into contact with the jellyfish and they would break apart in my hand. The pieces of dead broken apart jellyfish then floated to the surface of the water and as I turned my head to breathe, I sucked a piece of jellyfish into my mouth. Needless to say, I promptly spat the chunk straight out. That was by far the weirdest thing I have ever experienced within a race. After fighting a few more jellyfish and swimmers I turned around the final buoy and the exit was in sight. I tried to push my swim harder towards the end but I was still boxed in, so this proved rather difficult. I climbed out of the water and managed to slip over right in front of the cameraman, which was somewhat embarrassing. I ran up the steps and into transition whilst taking off my wetsuit and ran out with my bike onto the bike course.
The bike course was challenging. I was pleased to finish the bike course without falling off or giving up. It started with a sharp 90-degree corner on the first turn and then proceeded to the next turn, over wet and slippery cobbles. Then it was through town, including two sharp 180-degree dead turns. This technical course wasn’t helped by the heavy rain and strong winds. It was mentally challenging to keep a positive frame of mind within the conditions but I knew that if I started to doubt myself, I would end up worse off. I managed to get into a pack on the bike, however the packs never really lasted long, they would break up and precipitate again with an all new set of riders. I was constantly chasing down a new set of riders, which was rather motivating and trying to climb back up the ranks after my poor swim. Fourteen females did not finish the race due to injury or mechanicals. I saw at least four girls fall off their bikes, one flipped over the handle bars in front of me, one girl fainted off her bike, one girl was on gas and air and one girl was on a stretcher. No one’s brakes were working very well due water between the brake pad and the wheel, making cornering difficult, especially in a pack. I was extremely glad to finish the bike course in one piece unlike some of the others.
I dismounted my bike and ran into transition. I was running along with the bike saddle in my right hand and, due to the rain, the bike just slipped out of my hand and for a split second I was running alongside my bike rolling beside me before I hastily grabbed the saddle again. The girl behind me had the same problem however she did not grab her saddle in time and tripped straight over the falling bike.
I threw my bike into its holder and ran off for the run course. My run was feeling strong for the first two laps and I was gaining on some of my competitors. The spectators were often walking freely among the course, which was rather hazardous for both the spectators and the triathletes. I turned around the corner for the last lap and was hit with an asthma attack. My breathing was suddenly restricted and I felt a tight pain around my lungs. I slowed down the pace to a jog and felt competitors pull away from me, which was frustrating. I allowed myself to regain my breath and when I started to feel more normal I started to pick up the pace. A fellow competitor, who seemed to be struggling also, was just ahead of me and I chased her down however did not quite manage to catch her. I crossed over the finish frustrated with how the race had panned out.
Liverpool was certainly a learning race for me. It taught me that it doesn’t always matter what your position is, as long as you tried your hardest. I was, and still am slightly annoyed with my result as I know I could have placed higher, however given the conditions I feel that I gave it my best shot and refused to give up, even when I was faced with a challenge. This race has given me a lot of confidence in my own ability and I am proud of my achievement in overcoming a difficult race. I have also learnt that jellyfish do not taste particularly nice, I would not recommend...unless you like sushi of course!!
You have some good races and you have some bad races but no matter what, never, ever give up and 'Never be satisfied'.
I would like to say a massive thank you to my amazing coach Brian Butler, who always gives me masses of support and advice.