Tue 6th June
By Iain McLaughlin
I’ve been taking part in triathlons for the last four years but in October last year I decided to give duathlon a go because the swimming part of the triathlon is the worst part for me; it seemed to make sense to take it out of the equation.
I went straight in and registered for the European Duathlon qualifier. I said to myself: “If I qualify, I qualify, if I don’t then I don’t.” I felt like it was an outside chance of qualifying and so there was no pressure on myself. I got a Giant Trinity bike and got it all set up at the day of the race at Bedford Autodrome. The tarmac course has no elevation (the highest point of the course is 10 metres) so there was standing water everywhere following the some heavy rain. It was tough conditions!
I finished 32nd and was the 21st person in my age group. But only the first 20 qualify. I had just missed out and was first on the waiting list. However, about a month later in November I was sat on the sofa at home watching TV when an email came through from British Triathlon wanting to offer me a place for the European Championships in April 2017 in Spain. To say I was chuffed is a bit of an understatement! It was quite possibly one of the best emails I have ever received!
That kick started things because I knew I had just scraped through. I was the slowest person representing Britain so I knew I had to up my game. I called on family, members of the Nuffield who put together a training plan for me. I did a lot of strength work.
I only received my GB kit the week before the championships so I decided to practice in it at the Stratford Triathlon. I also wanted to check my bike was all ok before it was shipped off to Spain.
I knew my swim would be terrible at the Stratford Triathlon but as far as I was concerned the race would start when I got out of the pool. I was surprised that I came third overall – my swim hadn’t been that bad after all due to all the strength training I had done.
I went to Spain on the Thursday and the race was on the Sunday. I spent that time making sure I knew how the transition areas worked and where I was going.
The day of the race came and we already knew it was going to be a hilly course. The run was in a park and there were a lot of switchbacks and a bit of a gradient. The bike course was two 10km laps of a short, steep climb followed by a long downhill.
The day of the race there were 30mph winds coming from the side, which is not great when you’re on a TT bike with a big side profile! The bike was so twitchy that if a gust of wind caught me then it could have caused me to come off. So I decided to take it cautiously. I wanted to get to the finish line in case I never qualified again. I would rather do this than take risks, crash and then not complete the race and my GB story be over.
On the second bike lap I got cramp which was absolute agony and affected my race. Fortunately it stopped when I started running. There were so many British people there and they were all shouting for you as you ran past. It was amazing. Crossing the finish line was great. Knowing that I was representing Great Britain in a European Championships was just so inspiring. I’m already now looking forward to qualifying to do the same thing next year.
I was 118th overall in the race out of the 350 people who qualified and I was the 9th Brit in my age group (out of 20) to cross the line. I know I dropped time on the bike due to my cramp and if I had been a bit braver I could have knocked more time off. I can already look back and see where I can improve on things.
It was an amazing experience and I would recommend anyone to have a look into it because some age groups are not as competitive.
Try a triathlon!
I did my first triathlon four years ago on a mountain bike that I put slick tyres on. This year I was representing Great Britain on a Giant Trinity. There is nothing special about me. Anyone could do a triathlon. When I did the Stratford triathlon, there were people there on carbon bikes with fast wheels but there were also people like this lady I met who had an old town bike with racks on the back and a d-lock attached to the bike. She still did it. It goes to show that if you have a bike (most people already own a swimming costume and trainers) then you can do a triathlon. You just go out there and do it at your own level…at your own pace.
Check out Iain's blog to follow his journet and get some tips on how to train for a triathlon or duathlon at http://triathleteiain.blogspot.co.uk/
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