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Liverpool Elite

So after achieving my Age Group goals this season it seemed the natural progression would be to have a go at an elite race on the British Super Series Circuit.  I was really pleased to get a start at Liverpool Elite which also counted as the Elite British Champs but must admit did start to think I’d got a bit carried away with it all!  But I decided to race for 2 reasons: 1) Nothing ventured, nothing gained!! I got an elite start last year at London and wimped out and then spent the whole winter not knowing whether I would want to do any of them this year or not and 2) It was in my home town! I moved from Merseyside to Coventry when I was 16 but always remember Liverpool fondly and had many a drunken night out on the Albert Docks with promises of diving into the docks but never actually saw it through so to actually get to race there (and swim in the docks!!) was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

My transition space – how excited was I to see this!?!

So with my mind made up Mum and I ventured over to Liverpool on the Friday and had a mooch round town. It’s changed quite a lot since we left, mostly with the building of Liverpool One which is a great new part to the City. We instantly started slipping back into our scouse accents and feeling at home again! Mum showed me where she used to run off to in her lunch break to see the Quarrymen perform (before they became The Beatles) and it was nice to actually see the city at it’s best in glorious sunshine as opposed to bitterly Northern Winds that I always remember!

Chilling before the race

On race day we watched my friends compete in the morning as best we could but the Elite Racing Scene has quite a few differences with briefings in the athlete lounge and bikes and kits being checked etc etc and so I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss anything so unfortunately we didn’t get to watch the Age Groupers as much as I would have liked to.  From what we saw though it looked like a fantastic race!  Luckily for me, all the girls racing on the Super Series Circuit are really friendly and I knew a few of them from Age Group racing (and have been really impressed by the jump and transition they have made to Elite racing).  They spent the day trying to convince me that I would not be last out of the swim!.  Suzie and I checked out transition and joked that we would be out the swim last together and could hook up in T1 to talk tactics before picking some of the others off on the bike…..little did we know that was actually what was going to happen!

With a late 2:10pm start it was HOT HOT HOT but I was gutted that it was announced as a non-wetsuit swim (my wetsuit seems to hide a lot of my swim flaws!) For Age Group racing it has to be above 22 degrees to be a non-wetsuit swim but for elites that limit is moved to 20 degrees.  This seems quite a strange rule to me but maybe I am now considered hot stuff? So eventually we trundled off to the swim start (without our wetsuits), had a quick warm up swim and then were asked to line up in order and called one by one onto the pontoon.  As I stood there looking at the swim I started fiddling with my goggles and with about a minute to go to the start….they snapped! Oh my god! My hands were shaking so much from the adrenalin that I was trying to tie them in a knot when one of the lovely girls next to me said they weren’t broken and managed to fix them for me. Phew! Panic over! Remain Calm! The whole of the Docks were lined with spectators, it went deathly quiet, the TV cameras were zooming in on us and I suddenly thought “what the hell am I doing!?” Hahaha!

The pontoon for the swim start

The hooter went and we were off! The start was brutal! I got whacked over the head a few times and found myself swimming on top of someone else. I slowed a little to let the girl I was swimming on actually get ahead so I could draft off her and thought I was doing brilliantly to be able to keep up with them.  I must point out this all happened in the first 50m! I did a few strokes and noticed the canoe was right next to me. Maybe the canoeist had taken a shine to me? Round the first buoy and it dawned on me….the canoe was bringing up the rear….I was last already! I hadn’t even stayed with the pack to the first buoy! These girls must have fins and gills! They are fantastic! Luckily there was another swimmer that had also missed the groups so I just tried to keep her in sight. I actually thought I had a good swim (for me) as I swam in a straight line and didn’t panic and (dare I say it) enjoyed it! It was an interesting course, especially with the jelly fish to look at, although I was concerned by just how far behind I was!

As the swimmer ahead of me hauled herself out I realised it was Suzie! I don’t believe it, we are actually last out the swim! Into T1 and thankfully most of the spectators had gone to watch the leaders although the support I received from my own family and friends was immense…thank you! T1 was pretty quick. Someone shouted a “go on Sam, reel them in on the bike” and those words seemed to strike a chord with me and give me a bit of confidence, this was the part of the race that was my thing! First to catch was Suzie, although I think she was more waiting for me than anything else so I gave her a shout to let her know I was there and off we worked together.

A brilliant 4 lap cycle on closed roads

We quickly caught someone, then someone else, then another 2.  With it being an out and back course we could see the lead packs which was quite exciting (although deceptive as you think you’re closer than you actually are!).  Each time we cycled through transition we were coming in that little bit higher up and it was a great feeling to have someone like Suzie to share the work with.  We did form a pack of 4 at one point with 2 other girls but they seemed reluctant to take their turn on the front so, making sure my partner in crime was in tact, I put an effort in on the front and we rode away from them.  The support from everybody was phenomenal and I absolutely loved it!

Suzie & I working together on the bike

Back into T2 and no longer last (hurrah!) we made our exit onto the run.  Suzie flew out and I knew that was the last time I would be that close to her but was thankful for her efforts with me on the bike.  I had worried so much about the swim and missing all the packs (or bringing all the packs down!!) on the bike that I had completely not given any thought to the run and I had most definitely left my running legs at home! I felt shocking! That was a shame as it would have been nice to finish with a good run but tons amounts of racing and minimal amounts of training is starting to show with fitness levels so I did the best I could on the day.  The three laps up and back to Albert Docks was brilliant and lined with supporters the whole way.  I lost 2 places on the run but caught someone with 400m to go so all was not lost.  I did get lapped by the first 4 girls though which on the down side is pretty disheartening, but on the plus I might get on TV when they show them going past!!!

Running out of T2

Running through the finish was a relief! I was so happy I’d given it a go.  The results show I finished 27th (19th senior) out of 36 (although I think I might have actually been the last senior to finish!) but someones got to come last and you’ve got to start somewhere.  I think if I could improve my swim by 2 minutes that could have a huge improvement overall as it would mean I would make the cut for a bigger and stronger group on the bike and then not have to work quite so hard and have a stronger run……but that’s easier said than done!  There was a good bunch of girls that came in 3 minutes ahead of me so if you take off the 2 minutes I lost on my swim that’s not too bad.  Most people say they learn something from every race….I learned that I love racing and that I’d love to get quicker but that I’m much better in non-drafting races!

A rather roasty toasty 5k

Thank you so much to everyone who stayed to cheer me on, if I didn’t manage to acknowledge you in the race it wasn’t because you weren’t appreciated!  Well done to everyone who raced in the Standard Distance Events in the morning and to everyone else who raced in the afternoon races.  Thank you especially to the girls I raced against for being so friendly and well done to you all.  I’m looking forward to getting back to training now and having a break from racing…..what a season 2013 is turning out to be!

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