Euro Champs Eilat Race Report


Swim: 23min 13sec (7/54)
T1:  2min 21sec Bike: 58min 50sec (1/54)
T2:  1 min 15sec Run: 34min 43sec (1/54)
Overall: 2hr 00min 22sec (2/54)


Very early in the season for a Euro Champs race and climatically not the most helpful of locations following winter training in the UK.  After December and January’s back injury, rapid progress was made with a return to race fitness.  There was always the worry this was not quite enough time but split times in training during April showed an improvement on last year’s peak fitness.

Travelled out with the family 10 days before the race to help acclimatise due to the expected 30degreesC race air temperature.  Tapering of training was combined with sightseeing around Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Dead Sea and Petra.  Great fun for the family and hopefully a bit of a payback for the hours of Dad’s and husband’s training.  5 days before race day both boys succumbed to sickness bugs, and the girls were not great either.  Fortunately I managed to somehow avoid without checking into a different hotel…carefully guarded water bottle and toothbrush though, together with loads of hand washing!  More placebo effect than anything, but was a moderate surprise to find that Jerusalem was at 1600m asl.  Altitude training…not quite but interesting to see if any effect at sealevel.

Some say swimming in the Dead Sea is impossible, all I know is it seemed to be improve my toe dragging feet position.  After a good float in the Dead Sea, arrived in Eilat.  This was hot, a dry desert heat and very little humidity, and three days before it was 38degreesC…yikes.  Two days before, organisers became very worried as the sun disappeared under a Saudi sand storm.  The first evening the advice was not to go out in it.  Later found out there had been some fatal car crashes in it…..Fortunately race day brought a bright clear blue sky.

First two races of the year had major errors in transition so lots of practice has taken place over the last couple of weeks, but there is still a transition tale to tell.  The bike racking bar was unusually low and my usual `hang bike by the sandal’ would not work with the bike slipping off.  Turning the bike around the front wheel and handle bar position meant that this way round was very unstable too.  Carefully balanced and drink, elastic bands all in place one hour before, I was finally happy.  Quick final reccie of the entrances and exits to transition and returning to my bike I found a sheepish athlete looking at my bike.  Arriving he told me someone had knocked over my bike and my aero bottle had emptied!  My other bottle on the bike was intact but the spare bottle was nearly empty due to hydrating with the start approaching.  Raced back to the hotel, luckily 300m away, and remixed my usual drink.  Imagine starting the bike leg and realising no drink was in the front bottle?  Further remedial action was now needed.  Found a transition referee and got him to agree to using a towel to cushion the racking bar and also to use tape to tie the bike on…wonder if it will come off now…?!

The call to the beach was announced, some 450m away from transition, the great news was a wetsuit swim was declared – brilliant!  Third wave off, the start was brilliant, running from a numbered platform on the beach and into the flat calm sea.  Did not spot the `puffer’ fish and friends from the practice swims…but something much bigger…in only 12ft of water and right under me….minor flap and then noticed it was a diver with camera!  A straightforward anticlockwise rectangle proved annoyingly wayward on the way out, a few metres lost as the deeper water meant sighting with the seabed disappeared.   Sighting on a hotel on the way back was much more successful.  For the middle half of the race, followed a pair of feet and with 500m or so to go moved passed him and wanted to hit the beach knackered.  Practice had shown that an extra stroke after touching the bottom worked propelling into ankle deep water.  Up and out and the massive run to transition.  23min something,  great, better than I feared after the slight zigzag on the way out, a swim PB.  Had practiced taking wetsuit off in first 50m of run and then carrying for the rest but at the last minute, a briefing advised against this due to strict interpretation of the `impedance to other competitors’ rule.  Running proved fine in the wetsuit down to the waist and concentrated hard approaching the bike.  All went well, the bike was still vertical and drink looked intact.

Swiftly out onto bike, second elastic band broke too early but no significant time lost. An `out and back’ route along the desert highway towards the Dead Sea with a significant headwind on the way out and a monster tailwind for the return.  Difficult to judge pace as normally look to unscientifically cycle knackered all the way but ensuring circa 25-27mph.  Barely got above 20mph on the way out and reached the turn in 35min something.  Overtook a few of my wave but not many, had I gone hard enough?  Tried to spot Matt Malloy in the colours of Ireland on the approach to the turn as his strong swim would put him significantly in front.  No joy, but understand he had spotted the carefully disguised `Bubblegum’, now white and rebranded by the children as `Chewing gum’…  Around the turn and into the top gear and spent the next 15mins without changing, averaging 35 to 36mph.

Never spent that long in the big chain-ring and smallest sprocket.  Think this was relatively suiting a few other competitors a bit more than me so concentrated on being as aero as possible and pushing hard on the occasional inclines.  Perhaps the best fun bit of any bike leg ever and looking down at the time approaching T2, 58mins….great knew this was a good time after all, even with it 500m short of 40km.  Later it turned out to be the second fastest of the day by only 10 seconds.  Approaching T2 and just took another GB in my age group, rats, did not expect that, did not recognise him either!  No sign of Malloy but knew I would be aware of him soon as the run was 4 laps with one part a 400m dogleg halfway around the lap.

Long circuit pushing bike into T2, legs initially a little wobbly but by the time of racking was fine.  Spent an extra second or two jamming one brake lever over racking to ensure bike stayed up.  Shoes on and out onto run, had perhaps 5 metres over the other GB guy.  Quickly into running and the other GBer quickly receded.  Where was Malloy?  Later found out he was 3mins ahead after the swim, this was cut to 2 mins after the bike and at the first lap dogleg, spotted him circa 400m ahead.  Could he be caught?  Family were brilliant and were able to see me 8 times on the run and was amazing with the three children running beside me for some of the unbarriered sections.  Second lap, had not made the inroads hoped for, 350m ahead.  Went for it on the 3rd lap, pretended it would be a 3 lap race and wanted to be completely spent by the end.  3rd lap 250m ahead, onto the last lap and on the straights I could see him.  Gave it everything, took no water on the last lap just run run….Crossing the line in 34min 43sec for my 3rd PB of the day, if it were not for the longest transitions ever, then would have been an overall PB too.

Was very happy with the result, 35secs behind the winner (ironically the exact same margin I came second by last year, though last year’s winner only made 7th this year), and someone who beat me by 7mins at Windsor last year.  So a massive improvement and am confident of revenge later in the year!  Perhaps due to the location, the heat, the time of the year, this was not as well attended by all nations apart from my age group!  My time was 3rd fastest overall and as a result would have won all the other age groups bar one!  The final twist in this tale was at the prize giving.  Excitingly a proper podium was built on the finish line with a smart backdrop lit by spotlights with the sun going down.  My age group was called out and my name was omitted.  I watched as medals were presented and realised the administration had not caught up with the fact that my chip had fallen off on the run and they had given out the medals according to chip timing!  I later received an apology and my medal and an offer of my own podium presentation (not taken!), guess they did not take the bronze medal back from the Israeli?!
Now onto a new job, based near home and a new training regime…will miss you lot!