In the five weeks since the European Championships I have tried to maximize the opportunity to bank a hard block of training. We decided to make some changes to my training programme after the Europeans as well as working on some technical points that materialized during the race in Geneva on the bike and run, which do not seem to appear in my training sessions.
My third place finish at Europeans was not good enough for selection to the Paralympic Test Event in Rio at the beginning of August and I was not granted a wildcard to race. I was given the opportunity to travel to Rio with the team to experience the venue before next year and maybe get an 11th hour race start (which I probably would have secured due to late withdrawals), but I elected to stay at home and focus on the main event next year.
I believe staying at home to train will prove to be the right decision in the long term but it wasn’t an easy two weeks. Training in Loughborough with a much smaller group, whilst photos, of friends and teammates enjoying Brazil, plastered all over social media and then racing so well was tough. Really tough! But Sugar Loaf Mountain and the Christ Redeemer are not going anywhere and it is important to remember that Rio this year held no real importance in my quest to be there next year at the Paralympic Games. Unlike for other countries, it was not a selection race for GB.
As an alternative to the Rio Paralympic test event, I decided to travel to Detroit last weekend for the next round of the ITU World Paratriathlon Events (WPEs). This event fitted in nicely between training blocks, gave me an opportunity to secure some early Paralympic qualification points and to test myself against the best athletes in the World outside of Europe and before the World Championships in September. Whilst my British team-mates, Lauren and Faye, did not race, there was some very strong athletes from the USA, Australia and Canada on the start list and so I knew I needed a good race if I was to place well.
A small group of five British athletes made the journey to Detroit with coach Steve Casson. We are all based in Loughborough, know each other pretty well and so the banter was flowing throughout the trip, which made the whole weekend very relaxing and enjoyable. Yes, that’s right – just the weekend! We flew out to Detroit Friday morning, raced Sunday morning and flew back Sunday night, arriving at Heathrow 6.30am on Monday morning. We were there to do a job and then return home asap to resume training. An athlete’s life is not glamourous 😉
The race was held on Belle Isle, an island in the Detroit River, which separates mainland USA and Canada. A morning race meant we had no issues with jetlag as we were all waking early and so wide-awake to race at 10am Sunday morning. A good breakfast, which fitnaurally has helped me to perfect for me and I was ready to race.
Despite water temperature of 24C, it was a swim in my fantastic Zone3 Vanquish wetsuit. I got a strong start and realized Grace Norman from the USA was just ahead of me so I pushed to draft off her feet to the turnaround buoys. We swam together on the return leg before I made a second push at the final buoy to make a small gap into T1.
The bike leg was three laps of the island with no out-and-back sections, which meant that at no point could I see any of my rivals. This suited me just fine. I was able to simply focus on the technical points I’ve been working on and working as hard as I could on my Dassi bike with adaptations by Pace Rehabilitation. As I entered T2, Kate Doughty from Australia just caught me and started the run just ahead of me.
I pulled on my Skechers GoMeb 3 race shoes and focused on the processes I have been working on in training; stayed relaxed to find my run rhythm and took the lead within the first 200m of the run. I didn’t look back until I reached the turnaround point of the two-lap out-and-back run course. I was pleasantly surprised to see a sizeable gap between myself and the new second-placed athlete, Grace Norman. Grace is a fantastic runner and finished second in the Rio test event and so I knew I needed to remain focused and push as hard as I could to keep my lead. It wasn’t until I reached the end of the second lap and had the final 300m to the finish line that I was confident I had done enough to take the win. I was thrilled! Finally I felt that I had produced a race, which reflected the hard work I put into my training.
This was my second WPE win of the season and the first in the Rio qualification window, meaning I have secured maximum points early, taking the pressure off having to travel and race a lot early next year. As a team we all had fantastic races picking up two golds and two silvers between just five of us! A good job done by all.
I’m now back in the UK, ready to start my final block of training of the 2015 season. As the third ranked British athlete in my category, I do not automatically qualify for the World Championships despite currently being ranked third in the World. Once again I need to wait to see if I am granted a wildcard to race. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed but in the meantime continuing to train hard. Thank you everyone for your continued support!