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European Middle distance Triathlon Championships

What a social weekend that was, with a bit of racing thrown in! Somehow, I managed to qualify for the European Middle distance Triathlon Championships, which were held in Coimbra (Portugal). This event was part of a 10 day multi-sport festival showcasing virtually every combination of swim/bike/run possible. It was the first time I would compete with Elizabeth Stewart internationally, which was a long time dream of mine.The few weeks leading up to the weekend had been busy with both Chris and Andrew being in hospital and it was hard trying to keep on track with the training as life kept getting in the way. Still, I did what I could do.After a very early start on Thursday, we arrived at the team hotel and the receptionist recommended a local restaurant for lunch. The food and ambiance was excellent. So much so, we missed the swim familiarisation. Oops! Still, we managed to register and get the admin completed.On Friday, we started to bump into athletes we had met at previous events. After a lengthy breakfast, we finally managed to get out for a bike recce. It looked an interesting, and varied, course without being too technical.

Although there weren’t the usual rumours of illness by those who had already swam in the river, stories started to be related, so I decided to give the final swim familiarisation a miss.For the first time, during the preparations for my “A” race, I decided to recruit the services of a Nutritionist. Elizabeth had used James of NutritionforEnergy before so I gave him the tough task to get me into shape within 4 weeks. I wanted to lose weight and have a fuelling plan for the race. Although I only lost a couple of pounds, I felt stronger and I could see improvements on my training sessions. For the race, I had a 3 day plan focussing heavily on carb loading. I think the plan worked well as on the day, I didn’t feel fatigued like I would normally do towards the end.

Finally, it was race day. I needed to get through the 1900 metre swim; 56 mile bike and half marathon. My target was 7.5 hours, the time it takes some Pro’s to do double the distance! Oh well, I get better value for money. Having racked our bikes the night before, we couldn’t get into transition to sort the rest of our kit out on time due to the Para triathlon taking longer than anticipated. This led to the crowd getting a bit stressed as we needed to still get across to the other side of the river and there was no mention of the start being delayed. The stress was increased because I had a flat tyre. Luckily, it wasn’t a puncture and I found a bike mechanic who helped fix the valve. A quick dash across the bridge and the race started.We set off in groups of four at a time. No mass start at this event, thank goodness. The river was murky, with very little current and it reminded me of my local open water location, as it was a similar temperature at 19 degrees. So that was calming. Although I had seen some improvement during training, I had been worried about my swim pacing. However, my swim time was 53.21, which was slightly faster than the 55 minutes that I had predicted.The bike was a flat-ish, fast 4 lap course. The hills were mainly the slip-roads when we needed to change direction, particularly as the course utilised the closed dual carriageway, which is always a treat to cycle on. However, the closed roads caused havoc around town. I did feel a bit guilty for those sitting in their cars, unable to move. The Police and Marshals did a fantastic job allowing us to enjoy the ride.I saw evidence of a couple of crashes on my way round and, although I had seen Elizabeth on the course, it is hard not to worry about who the injured person is and hope they aren’t too hurt. Again, the Paramedics acted quickly and efficiently.Finally, I was back in T2.

The bike element took 3:38:33, slightly slower than I wanted. I couldn’t get 100% comfortable on my TT bike, I couldn’t work out why, and I was disappointed with my average speed. I could see most of the bikes were back and heard the commentator announcing some incredible finish times. I still had my run to do. However, I was not last, and my strategy was simply run/walk (known as Jeffing nowadays). I had a pace of 12 minute/mile in my head, still following the nutrition plan as set by James. This meant a target time of around 2 hours 35 minutes. This would be faster than my time at the Ironman World Championship Half in Lahti where I struggled with a hamstring injury.The route was varied and the views of the town were gorgeous. I was thankful that part of the run was through the nearby forest as it was a very hot day.

However, trails make for a slower run. By my 2nd lap, of two, there were very few people around. I was desperate not to have the unenviable honour of being last, so I kept pushing. My pace slipped slightly but the Officials and Marshals seemed happy enough as I proceeded. The run took 2 hours 40 minutes.

Finally, the finish line was in sight, with Andrew and Elizabeth patiently waiting for me. I crossed the line in 7 hours 20 minutes and 21 seconds, which meant I came a well placed Fourth in my category and I wasn’t last! The final person crossed the finish line over 2 hours later!

The evening was spent socialising and we attended the Medal Ceremony as Elizabeth had picked up a Silver medal. So proud of her! There was much discussion about the day and talk of future events. On reflection, I’m glad I participated this weekend but I’m not sure I want to do another middle distance event. However, never say never!


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