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European Champion!

European Champion!

I did it!!! I won! I can’t believe it! I have never had an Age Group medal of any colour before so to finally win Gold is a fantastic feeling (God loves a trier!)  I can’t say I enjoyed the race, in fact it was probably the most stressful race I have ever done.  Winning the British Champs two weeks ago seemed to make people think I was going to win (I am most definitely not used to this sort of pressure), racing under the radar is definitely the way forward! But what my friends didn’t know was my race included lots of Brits who hadn’t raced at the British champs including the very talented Natalie Batey (who had beaten me by 1min and 31seconds in last years Europeans in Israel) and a French girl called Emilie who I had raced against once in the Europeans in 2011 and lost to by 1min and 39 seconds.  So I knew if I was to medal it would be pretty tough going but in my heart of hearts Gold was the colour I wanted and I would race my socks off to get it.

Setting up in transition

When race day finally came I couldn’t breathe! I was so nervous! We waited on the pontoon for what felt like an age with some awful music of a heart going da dum, da dum.  Girls were pushing already in the queue to try and get in single file so that they could get the spot they wanted on the pontoon edge.  At this moment I tried to block everything out (unsuccessfully).  Here are my thoughts throughout the race:

Called to the pontoon’s edge. Pick a box. Any box. Please be a lucky box. Find myself next to Natalie’s sister Jenn Batey. I hope she is a good swimmer so I can draft off her. Someone else appears in my box. No get out of my box. There is not enough room for two. I realise it is the lovely Liz Bullivant. This is OK. She is a good swimmer. She is more than welcome to share the box.  I will jump on her feet. We chat about some friends in Sheffield. 30 seconds to go. This is it. Jump into the water. Feel sick. Dunk head under. Grab onto rope. Hooter goes. We are off. Realise I have nothing to push off so bit a of a belly flop start. On Liz’s feet. Another 100m go by, still on Liz’s feet. 300m in, still on her feet. A swimmer to my left is literally on top of me. So is the swimmer on my right. They squeeze me out. Nowhere to go. I check back round them. I have lost Liz’s feet. I feel sad that they are gone (like Tom Hanks when he loses Wilson in Cast Away). I try really hard to catch them back up but they are gone. Whack. Kick. Splutter. Not a good swim. Round the first buoys. Still in some sort of pack. It’s brutal! Was that a scuber diver I just saw under the buoys? Round the next buoys. As I breathe to the right I can see the names of the athletes on the trisuits next to me. How exciting! Momentarily distracted trying to see who they are. Must concentrate. Feeling so tired. Why am I so tired? The beach seems miles away, my pack is breaking up, seem to be on my own. Just keep going. Finally out of the swim in 28th overall. Dire. I know it has not been a good swim. I am 50 seconds off the leader in my Age Group, at this sort of level that is hard to make up. Have I left myself too much to do?

Those buoys felt a long way away

Massive cheers for me as I exit. Seem to be like a bull in a china shop and have a storming T1 overtaking anyone in my path, take no prisoners, coming through. Jump on the bike. Really out of breath. That no  wetsuit swim really took it out of me. Oh well. The bike is what I do best so must attack and close them down. Pedal, pedal, pedal. The bike course is rather rough going over cobbles. Relax upper body. Relax hands. Concentrate. I had overtaken a fair few but not really taken any notice. Then I get overtaken. On the bike?! What!? No! This never happens (unless it’s Anna Turvey!). Feeling so tired. Am I going slow on the bike? Where is Emilie and Natalie? Why have I not seen them yet? At the halfway point of the first lap and still no sign of them. My ears in my aero helmet are on fire. Hot! Hot! Hot! Convince myself that I am third and that third is still really good and a bronze medal will be lovely. Out of nowhere I hear Caroline’s voice yelling for me. Then Chris “they are just ahead”. Is he just saying that to make me feel better? 5 seconds later and I hear mum saying I’m closing on them. I get refocussed. 30 seconds into lap 2 and I overtake Emilie, then Natalie, then my team mate Sophie, then some men. This gives me the confidence I need that I am cycling well and I push on. Last turn around point. I see the girls I have just overtaken – they are still there! I have not really pulled away from them at all. Start to panic about dismount (after epic fail at British Champs). So busy thinking about this that I have slowed down. Concentrating is so hard! Pick it up again. Feet out of bike shoes. Feet on bike shoes. Leg over bike. Perfect dismount. Voila. I have returned to transition 1st in my age group and 5th overall.

Just keep running!

Huge cheers into T2. OMG it’s hot! Great support. Just the run to do. Aiming for a sub 20 run, I know I’ve got it in me. Trainers on, off I go. Please don’t get a stomach ache. Please don’t get a stomach ache. Damn, I’ve got a stomach ache! Belly is completely swollen. I want to slow down but know I can’t. Natalie is 20 seconds behind. Legs feel fine. Breathing feels fine. Stomach is killing. The fast run that I am capable of wasn’t to be today. I tried to think about something else. Concentrate on that left arm. Catch the next person ahead. European Gold could be yours. Lap 1 is over. Everyone is cheering. One lap to go. This time the cheering isn’t so much cheering but anxious yelling. Natalie has closed the gap to 6 seconds. I know if she comes next to me I can pick it up but I really don’t want to. Please. Slow. Down. I think! It’s so hot. Less than 5 minutes to go now. I want to take a peek over my shoulder to see where she is but I don’t want to give away that I’m tired!! Keep going. I see Mum at 400m. She is yelling “Go now! Go now!” I pick it up a notch. Natalie must be just there, I can tell by the concern in Mum’s voice! Surely now I have dropped her? At 200m to go I hear Mark absolutely screaming “You’ve got to go hard!” I pick it up once more and stride into the finish. I keep pushing and pushing. It’s not so much the finish I’m running to but a tiny bit of shade just past the finish to collapse into! I cross the line and 2 marshalls help me to stagger into the shade and poured water over me. My stomach was killing. I watched Natalie come over the line 14 seconds behind and over a minute ahead of third place. Her medal is one colour better than last year and I am really pleased for her. We congratulate each other and got our finishing medals and then it finally sunk it……I had won $100 euros! Haha! Not really, well I had, but it had finally sunk in that I had achieved what I had set out to do. It wasn’t the most convincing win but it was one hell of a race! I was European Champion! What an incredible feeling!

On the podium!

The trip all seems a bit of a whirlwind now. I haven’t done one shred of training since the race but instead actually stopped to enjoy what I have achieved and have a much needed rest! There just remains one last thing to be said. Thank You. Mainly to Chris and Mum who have been brilliant at keeping my confidence up, to all my training partners along the way and to all my normal friends for putting up with my forever busy schedules.  It’s been an incredible journey for me.

 

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