I never thought I would be saying that again, especially so close to Hawaii…but here I am with another World Championship crown, and a super-sized smile to match.
People think that pro triathletes are as free as birds – able to travel the world, race where we want and plan our own future. I wish. I would get more freedom in an army uniform (but I don’t look good in a khaki boiler suit). My life is about following orders. So when the boss told me to do the ITU World Long Course Championships in Almere so soon after Alpe Masochism and Timberman I thought he had finally lost all his marbles. But as I have said before: you don’t argue. You obey.
The Boss believes racing makes me stronger. Last year I did IM Korea and Singapore 70.3 all within 5-6 weeks of Kona. And it didn’t work out too badly. So I went to Holland. And he hadn’t. Lost his marbles that is.
Given that the Netherlands isn’t known for its hills, I finally switched from road to TT bars. Or to give credit where credit is totally due – given my lack of zen and the art of any bike maintenance – I actually persuaded Juzzie G to do the dirty work. Amazing what a bloke will do for a free beer. Juzzie – thanks so much again. The bike rode like a dream. And i am sure the whole TT set up will please all those that are overly concerned with my aero (or lack thereof) position….:)
Anyway, all was looking good in the lead up to Almere when I hit a slight snag. I had a blonde moment and failed to unclip whilst mounting the pavement in a BMX bandit style approach to the supermarket in Leysin. A*se met tarmac = bruise the size of China on my right leg, sore hip and a bright red embarrassed facial flush. Sub optimal preparation for the race.
Anyway, I made it to Almere without anymore comedy mounts/dismounts. I was staying in the non central, but park like – Centre Parcs. I ploughed ahead with my training in the days before, slightly cutting down on volume, and eating twice as much. Luckily my mate Georgie was in the Non-Central Parc Villa (villa sounds a bit more exotic than it actually was. 1960’s rabbit hutch would be more accurate) next door, and kindly volunteered to cook every night – clearly unwilling to risk food poisoning from my culinary exploits. She shared with a GBR bloke called Simon, who I had never met, but who impressed me straight away with his smooth-talking chat up line. ‘Haven’t I seen you in a magazine?’ Slightly less impressive than the Timberman ‘Chrissie. You’re a babe’. Simon has now been educated about how to woo a woman.
Race day dawned clear, hot and sunny. Lovely jubbly. People on the ‘talking and twitching’ tri sites were apparently getting their heart rates up about a pre-Kona head to head between myself and YVK. I must admit I was looking forward to going up against the current world record holder, but wasn’t ready to discount all the other girls that easily either. Anyway, the race went a little something like this:
Swim: Kick off was at 8.30ish. The pro blokes went 5minutes before the pro women, and the age group men were supposed to go about 20mins later. Would have worked perfectly had the officials not decided to start the age group men just before we came round for our second lap. It meant that the women got caught up in a heaving mass of testosterone. The boys in their orange swim caps were also, rather unhelpfully, exactly the same colour as the buoys – which made for an interesting navigational challenge. Like a tadpole, I swam under a few people and over a few more. I didnt find my rubber clad frog prince. After about an hour I did begin to wonder if I had taken a wrong turn and ended up in the North Sea. But no – there had been a slight measurement c*ck up. I exited the water in 1hr10 (bearing a striking resemblance to the incredible hulk, with reeds and weeds for a beard) and in 4th place – about 3-4mins down from the lead girl. Oh, and for those concerned with length I have heard mutterings about Garmin readings of anything between 4.5km and 5.1km.
Anyway, I like the idea of letting the pro men off first, then the women 5mins later and then leaving a, say, 20min gap between us and the rest of the field. It makes the race more honest as the women are forced to swim and bike pretty much on their own. And we don’t get caught up in packs and accused of drafting.
Holland has some wonderful qualities. Waffles with caramel in the centre; cycle lanes; an amazing ability to speak English better than any English person; nice tulips; orange things – clogs though, I can give or take. However, what they don’t have in abundance is anything hillier than a bridge. I think the highest climb I did was into bed at night. But as a lover of Mr Big (nothing to do with being in bed – this is purely to do with gearing on the bike) I was hoping for a headwind that would make up for lack of hillage. And the Almere course didn’t disappoint. The wind buffeted us from every angle – head, side, and up your backside. I felt really good from the word go, and plugged away, conscious of Yvonne behind me, and the girls upfront. I went into the lead at the 60km turnaround, and never looked back, coming into T2 3hr04 after leaving.
Flat. Hot. Two laps. I felt really good, and was happy that the comedy dismount injury wasn’t causing me any problems. The support was truly superb, from the crowds and other athletes, and I was really happy that I could enjoy the last few km coming back into Almere, chasing down the media motorbike with its lovely exhaust fumes.
Crossing the finish line always blows me away, and this was no exception. Flags were flying, music was playing and the spectators were screaming. Who wouldn’t smile if faced with that!! I loved every minute of it, and was incredibly proud to be able to race and win in a GBR vest – following in Bella and Leanda’s footsteps from 2006 and 7. Standing on the podium, as the Union jack was raised, listening to the national anthem is something I wont easily forget. Although the champagne that I downed makes the memory that wee bit more hazy!
As usual, a HUGE thanks goes out to the organisers, who (aside from the slight swim timing cock up) put on the most superb race, especially since they successfully hosted an ironman distance event the day before too. To Chris Kitchen, the Nirvana team, my massage man Rich and Simon and Dan the mechanics for being my beck and call boys – and to Sigma (Geoff!) for providing me with all the bike bits. Congratulations go out to everyone who took part, but especially the GBR team, who did our country proud…with a special mention for Dion, who won his age group and came in an outstanding 2nd overall (Bring on Kona Big D!), to chef extraordinaire Georgie, who came 4th in her AG and to Shane, Caroline and Simon (‘haven’t I seen you in a magazine?’) who are all complete stars!
There are some great photos of the event at: http://www.triathlonfoto.nl/gallery/search.php
I am now in the training paradise-cum sauna-pickled cabbage heaven that is Jeju, Korea, getting ready for the Big One on the Big Island. Bring it on!