Lucy Mapp: Triathlete and Monk Nutrition ambassador, delivers a step by step account of her race at the Southport English Championships. An incredible performance that secured her a spot in the European Championships with the GB AG Team!
The days seem to be flying past and the weekend of 18/19th May and the Triathlon England Championships came around a little faster than I anticipated. This still seemed weeks away to me and I had ages before these races, but somehow those weeks disappeared, and the races were upon me.
After a less-than-ideal race and weather conditions at my first race of the season just two weeks before at Grafham Water (think 4 °C air temp, 11 °C water temperature, the swim cut short for safety and then being held in the chilly water for 10 mins prior to the start whilst they rescued several men from the wave before…) it was safe to say that I wasn’t full of confidence for this race and somewhat anxious and nervous about what might happen and the conditions that I might face (again).
A bit of a pack up on the Saturday morning – 2 bikes, multiple bags, 2 people and a small car but it all went in and we were on the road ready for the 200-mile trip. The traffic was good, and we arrived not long after the start of registration (along with many others so there was a bit of a queue). Race pack collected the offer of an acclimatisation for the swim tomorrow was available, and having had such a cold swim in the previous race, and frozen afterwards I thought it would be a good idea to at least know what I would be facing the next day…
Wet-suited up and ready for the water, it was a pleasant surprise wading in as it as a reasonable temperature although quite a bit of moss and weed making the concrete quite slippery and an ‘interesting’ smell. A quick splash around three buoys to test the water and check out the swim exit then it was out and back to the Airbnb to get the wet suits clean and dry before the next morning, and give the legs a quick spin and run out while the sun was shining.
That evening I was still nervous and anxious, despite testing the water I knew it would be much colder at 7 am than it was at 3.30 pm and any breeze would make that feel even worse. I had several people telling me just to enjoy it and to smile, as it makes it easier I knew it was good advice as it’s shown in the past that I perform my best when I’m happy and enjoying things, not getting too serious or with too much pressure on my head. But hat didn’t stop me worrying about the next day and how it would all turn out….
Well, turns out that the smiling part actually wasn’t difficult - I absolutely loved it and was smiling pretty much throughout (except for the frustrating parts of transition where things wouldn’t do what I wanted them to). And the run at the end – I was loving every single minute of it!
Back to the start of the day though…4 am and my alarm went off to signal the start of race day. Up, dressed and fuelled for the day it was time to make sure everything was in my bag, get the car packed up and head on over to the race site (fortunately just 10 mins down the road from where we were staying).
Bikes re-assembled, transition located, and the race number tattoos made sense of and attached it was also time to set up and get going. 6 am and transition opened. A long walk through to find my numbered rack (pretty much the entire length of transition and back the way I’d come from) I set up, checked and double checked everything then headed back to the main area and swim start to get ready. I pitched up on a patch of grass near the 'portaloos' to do a bit of a warm-up and get geared up for the race. Being so early my brain obviously wasn’t engaged and it took me two attempts to get my wetsuit on properly (yes, I did put it on back to front the first time and someone had to point that fact out to me!).
Race start time approaching and it was time to congregate around the lake for the briefing. A sea of green hats for the women’s standard race, with faces underneath looking a mixture of nervous, anxious, worried and excited.
Briefing over it was race time! Time to get into the water and see what the next couple of hours had in store…
1 min to go…
30 secs to go…
10 secs to go…
And then we were off!
The swim start is always an uncertain affair with a high possibility of getting kicked / whacked / swum over and all sorts which can make for a less than idea start to a race, and also a massive knock to your confidence and stroke (especially if that results in you going under and taking in a lot of water in the process). After an unpleasant swim in my last race (not only cold, but I felt I couldn’t breathe in my wetsuit and started to feel seasick almost from the swell and mass of people) I was determined to do better. Positioned on the edge of the pack I had a clear getaway and avoided the mass and trouble of the centre of the pack. I quickly got into my rhythm and started to enjoy myself. Not the most direct of routes, slightly away from the pack and best line, however I kept out of harms way and had space to myself to enjoy the swim and just get on with it. 2 laps of the island and it was time to head for the swim out, clamber up the concrete bank and make our way up the steps and over the ‘carpet’ (more like upturned toothbrushes and quite harsh on cold feet) to transition.
A much better go of T1 as I could (pretty much) feel my hands and feet to get my helmet and glasses on, race number belt up and decided against any further clothes (hoping it would be warm enough). Grab the bike and heading for the bike out, it was a long transition and hard concrete on cold feet. A sharp u-bend on exiting and then a flying mount onto the bike (getting better each time). Then the part I was worried about – getting my feet into my shoes. After suffering from the cold and not feeling my hands in the previous race this was a massive sticking point in my bike, and now a worry for me. However, I tried to stay calm and miraculously I managed it fairly well and pretty quickly after mounting to allow me to settle onto the bike and get on with the ride.
Feeling more confident having tackled the mount and shoes I settled down and tried to concentrate on an even ride and pushing hard but not too hard. To my surprise I managed to pass a few girls (which never happens), which gave me a boost. Two laps up and down the marine parade with some slightly lumpy and windy bits along the way, I had worked out I was about 22nd by the end of the bike, with a few of the weaker swimmer but strong cyclists catching me in the second part and dropping down several places from my initial 18th (the benefit of a loop up and back – you can count your position from the front rider if you’re close enough).
Happy with how it was going and that I was around top 20 for the race it was time to get my feet out of my shoes and get ready for the dismount. Again, something that has gone quite wrong previously and an inability to control my bike when running with it after dismounting has been my downfall in the past, however this time it went fairly smoothly. The only slight mishap was running past my transition spot then having to reverse several places to re-rack my bike and grab my running stuff.
Then it was onto the fun bit and boy did I have fun! I know I love to run and it’s certainly my strength in racing, but this was something else. From leaving my transition spot, heading along all the other bike racks and to run out I was already feeling good. Glancing down at my watch I noticed I had a good pace, but I wasn’t sure that I would be able to keep it up for the whole 10K.
There were several people ahead and I set my sights on them, focusing on their backs and trying not to lose them. Quite to the contrary, I slowly closed in on them and cruised past. A real confidence boost and feeling strong. And so, the run progressed. I slowly closed in on those further ahead, reducing the gap until I was level then picking them off one by one. I’ve never had an experience quite like it and also knowing that I was progressing well through the field and up in the overall positions was another boost. I was feeling really strong and absolutely loving it! A few glances at my watch from time to time showed me that I was still keeping a good pace and a fairly consistent run. I couldn’t believe how much progress I was making in the field. Two laps around the lake and the finish was close. With half a mile to go I tried to pick up the pace a little and closed down on a further two ladies just before the finals two corners which lead to the finishing straight. Knowing it was close, and the two other ladies weren’t too far behind I sped up further (in case they had a secret sprint finish up their sleeves) and gave my best sprint to the line.
Once I had a chance to check the results, I was further in shock – I’d moved up to 9th female overall during the run, out of almost 200 competitors and was 3rd in my AG. That meant not only the English Champs AG bronze medal but also qualification for the European Championships with the GB AG team. And this was only my 2nd standard distance race, ever!
There’s’ still plenty to work on, more hard training hours to be put in to get stronger, faster and better and lots more experience and knowledge to be gained to get to where I want to be though, but it’s a strong start. It’s a shame that I was inexperienced and missed out on the presentations and podium opportunity (but thanks English Triathlon for sending my medal out to me 🙂 )
By Lucy Mapp
Read Lucy's biography, follow her blog and check out her training diaries here:
Monk Nutrition UK biography: Lucy Mapp - #TEAM9 Ambassador
Lucy Mapp blog & training diaries: https://lucymapptri.weebly.com/ https://lucymapptri.weebly.com/