ETU Long Course Success

On the 24th July this year Poznan, Poland hosted the ETU Long course triathlon championships. ProformSportScience.co.uk had been working with Jane Senior (GB Age-group athletes) over the last few months to help her with nutritional preparation for the race. So we were stoked when Jane came away with a well deserved Silver medal. Below Jane talks us through her somewhat eventful race. Again, congratulations Jane, enjoy your success.

The Race

It’s the morning of the race, the ETU long course championship, Poznan, Poland, and I like to get there early to check everything and absorb the atmosphere. This is the day, the focus of several months of training. My third outing in GB kit and for the first time I don’t feel daunted by it. I have a few race nerves but not many. I am ready to get started.

We headed out to the swim start, the water was 20 degrees and no fish that I can see, so I was happy. I was looking forward to the swim, Illness and injury has meant that my swim training had been inconsistent and at best I was hoping for the same time as my last IM. There were not many in the wave and they were all in the championship race, so people would be good at sighting so I wanted to try and draft. I went with the front group and drafted for the first 500m of the race but then as usual I drifted into space and relax into my own rhythm. It was easy to know where we were on the swim as it was in a rowing lake that had a large sign indicating the distance every 500m.

Out of the water and into T2, quick glance at my watch, must be well short on the swim as no way can I swim that fast for 3.8k. I put my bike shoes on in transition and head to my bike.

The course was flat, fast and on closed roads. The weather had clouded over as forecast so I settled into my ride. I noticed that my average speed was increasing and I tried to hold back as I wanted to be consistent over the four laps. I tried an easier gear and settled at an average of 20 miles an hour, it felt easy and it should be sustainable for the whole course. If I still have more I can go faster on the last two laps. My race plan was to aim for 19.5 miles an hour but go with how I felt on the day.

The route had not been available to ride before the event so as I came back into town at the end of the first lap I was unsure which way to go, I noticed two marshals indicating that I should switch carriage way, it took a split second to process this information and then I turned slightly to my right to make the move. The next thing I knew I was on the tarmac, a faster bike had overtaken me and clipped my front wheel, as I went down I had landed heavily on my side and smacked my helmet on to the road. I couldn’t believe it, was this my race over? It can’t be I have only cycled 30 of the 112 miles, this is my only chance to ride closed roads this year, and I have trained hard it can’t finish now. Lots of people had witnessed my fall and the marshal were asking if I wanted an ambulance, but by this time I was trying to get back on my bike, they did a quick bike check (good idea I had not thought about checking that it was still a safe bike to ride!).

Fortunately, it was good to go and I was back on the bike. It was my first crash and I was in shock, any bike that overtook me for the next hour made me jumpy and I couldn’t relax. Also my helmet was smashed at the back and was sitting lower on my head so if I was down on my bars it restricted my view which made it difficult to avoid discarded water bottles and other race litter, so I didn’t race much on my bars. I settled into my riding and began to try and remember the symptoms of concussion as I knew I had hit my head hard and I may start to feel unwell. But I hoped that I could get a couple more bike laps in before that happened. I maintained my focus and settled back in to my rhythm. I had felt sick after the crash so missed a couple of feeds but I got back to plan and knew that I might suffer more on the run as I had missed some vital carbs, but never mind at least I was still on my bike. I made the time up and was back to my 20mph average and feeling strong again.

The weather was perfect, a light wind and cloudy warm day, this was going really well it looked like I was on for a great bike time then just as I hit 90 miles I felt the handling at the front of the bike change. Shit, a puncture. I kept calm and got on with the job of repairing it, two sets of marshals and the race car stopped to check I was ok, which I was and repaired it successfully. Although getting the tyre back on the rim with sweaty hands is really hard (when I race I don’t wear gloves) so it took a bit longer than I hoped. Then back on the bike I had lost more time and my average was down so I got my head focused and rode well, gradually overtaking many of the people who had overtaken me whilst I was mending my puncture. I felt strong and philosophical about my bike leg as I cycled the last few miles.

Off the bike and into T2, as I ran in I heard Phil shout that I was in the lead in my age group by 18 seconds, which was great despite my miss haps. I had a problem during the crash I had ripped one of my tri suit pockets and so could not fit all my run nutrition in the one pocket. I was using my own food and I hadn’t trained on the race nutrition. So I started the run with both hands full of gels and clif blocks.

As I started to run my left side hurt when I pushed off (I have since found I have bruised my bum bone – I am sure that it has a technical name). I hoped that it would wear off as I got used to is. I had planned to start the run slower than I normally do and keep a constant pace. If I had it in my legs I would try of a negative split. Normally the run is a hard slog and I suffer with stomach cramping. The run was four laps and it was an odd flat route, with pavement, a couple of sections on sandy tracks, cobbles in town, though the back of a bus station, along a river and three bridges (some of my teammates named one of the bridges suicide bridge as they felt so bad they wanted to jump off it every time they crossed it). I am hopeless with navigation and never could work out where I was on the route so didn’t even try to think about it I just kept an eye on the miles indicated on my Garmin. I think this helped me to stay motivated.

After the first two miles I settled into a slow 10 min mile pace. Early in the run I was overtaken by a couple of Danish women that looked my age, so I knew I had to keep my head and stay focused. During the first two laps I could see a couple of people in my age group were gaining on me, but I didn’t want to go faster and blow up so I just stuck with my pace. I thought at this point I could be in third position and I wanted to try and stay there. By the third lap I was beginning to gain on one of the Danes and pull away from the two women that were chasing me, I was really pleased as I hadn’t changed my pace they were tiring.

The final run into the line was up a slope and then some steps, I was on cloud nine as I ran to the finish line I wanted a time of 11:45 and I came in at 11:10. I couldn’t believe it. As I headed over to Phil he told me that I was second in my age group and that my team mate Sue who finished three minutes later was in third. We were well chuffed.

The other big factor in my success was my race nutrition, at other IM distance races I have suffered from stomach cramps and nausea on the run which has slowed me down. With advice from Howard at ProformSportScience.co.uk I made a couple of changes to my nutrition strategy that made a significant difference, I felt strong on the run and kept and even pace over the whole distance, I had no cramping and didn’t feel sick. It also meant that I nearly enjoyed the run!

So I achieved what I set out to and much more. My swim time was on my last IM pace, my bike was 30 mins faster than last time (and I lost 15 mins to the crash and puncture so it could have been 45 mins) and I maintained a constant pace. My run time was faster by 13 mins

Best of all I got on to the podium which felt fantastic. The feeling was nearly as good as finishing my first IM.

But at the end of the day I race to learn more about myself and build my confidence. I have learned so much over the last six months it’s incredible. Every time I need to dig deep I find self-limiting beliefs that get in the way. I wonder what is next? Other than another very large glass of wine.

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