ITU Age-Group World Championship Qualification
YEEESSSS!!! – Q1, Big Cow. Get in there, Auckland here I come!!!
That may not mean much to some of you, but it’s a big deal to me. As you’ll know, I’ve been training pretty hard for triathlons over the last year and really ramped up the swim, biking and running in 2012. It wasn’t pure madness, there was a reason behind it. I’ve been trying to qualify to compete for Team GB in the International Triathlon Union (ITU) Age-Group World Championships that take place in Auckland later this year.
OK, maybe it was madness to think that ‘little old me’ could achieve this, especially considering the fact that ‘little’ and ‘old’ are both pretty accurate, but it’s been good fun trying.
Why Did I sign Up?
I didn’t really know much about age-group qualification and competition until earlier this year. I was doing a few small races and wanted to do a race near Bristol. I grew up in Bristol and my family still live there. I wanted to race there along with friends and family so I signed up to the Bristol Harbourside Triathlon. As I did so I noticed that it was a bigger event than I was used to and that it was a qualifier for the age-group World Championships.
I looked into this to see what it meant, found out a little more about it and thought to myself that if I did the event without registering to qualify and then put in a time that would qualify I’d be pretty annoyed. So, I signed up to qualify.
The seed was sown, there was now a goal of not only participating in the Bristol Harbourside Triathlon, but racing, competing and maybe even trying to qualify.
How Does it Work?
The qualification process is simple. This is Age-Group competition and ages go in 5 year brackets – I’m in the 40-44 year old category. There are three qualifying races in the UK, for 2012 these were:
- Eton Triathlon on May 20th,
- Big Cow Triathlon on May 27th
- Bristol Harbourside Triathlon on July 15th
In order to qualify for the World Championships you have to register your intent to qualify with the British Triathlon Federation (BTF), sign up to at least one of the qualifying races and then compete in it. At each race there are 4 qualification places up for grabs in each age-group and the top 4 people registered to qualify get them. There is also a 115% rule that states that you have to be within 115% of the time of the first placed athlete in your age-group in order to qualify.
I was already signed up to the Bristol Harbourside Triathlon so thought I may as well get some practise in at this level and give myself a second chance, so I signed up to the Big Cow Triathlon as well.
How Fast do I have to be?
The next question I had was just how fast did I have to be and would I stand a chance? So, early in 2012 I looked at results from previous years and the qualifying times needed get to the Worlds. I wasn’t fast enough, I was being delusional! Never mind, it was only £10 to register and you just never know. There was a chance that I could be fast enough by the time I got to Bristol in July, I doubted it but I might be close so it was worth a try.
Putting in the work
And so began the training. I enjoy the training – swimming, biking and running are of course ‘leisure’ activities so they should be fun, but at times it can be hard work. Blood, sweat and tears spring to mind, along with freezing cold mornings, pouring rain, ice-cream headaches, blisters, cuts and bruises. Not to mention the mountains and mountains of laundry.
As well as the training, I started making other changes too. I improved my diet, tried to work on recovery, made sacrifices with other things in life – I haven’t had time to go windsurfing for ages now, and much of my life revolved around ‘my training’. Weekly schedules were manipulated to fit in with my training plan, at times, it was all I thought and talked about and my family came along for the ride.
Anna and Morgan were always really supportive, fitting things in around my schedule and putting up with my obsessions. I wasn’t completely over the top, I do still have to work full time, I’m still doing the housework, looking after the garden, doing my chores and being a husband and Dad, but I’m sure there have been times when my priorities were jumbled. Anna and Morgan have been great, rarely have they complained. In fact they’ve not only been supportive but have actually been encouraging and motivating me to keep putting in the work.
With a goal in mind and competition looming, thoughts started to turn to the other competitors rather than the race as a personal challenge. Who was I up against? How fast were they? Did I stand a chance? I have to admit a fair bit of Internet results stalking was done. The names of the other competitors in my age-group were published on the BTF website so I was able to look up their results from past races. At first this was easy to do and I was beginning to think that I might have a chance.
We thought it was only a slim chance, but if all went well I could be close to the final qualifying spots. As the number of people registered to qualify increased it became more difficult to keep track of them and some of them were looking mighty fast too. I was getting faster though and my training was going well. My first race of the season in Pwllheli was a success and I was feeling fairly optimistic.
The First Qualifier
Just before the first qualifier in Eton (which I wasn’t doing), there was also a European Qualifier in Grendon. Some of the people in my age-group were competing and it gave me a chance to see what they were capable of. My optimism was short-lived, these guys were quick! My optimism was further deflated as more and more names were added to the list of those with an intent to qualify.
Then came the first World Championship qualifying event in Eton. Sharon and Graham, friends from our local Tri Club, were competing. The competition was tough and they both missed out on qualification. They’d been putting in just as much effort as I had and I was probably on a par with them, my dreams of qualification were slipping away.
My First Qualifier
With one week to go before my first qualifying race I’d pretty much given up on the idea of qualification. Not only was the Big Cow Triathlon an ITU Age-Group World Championship Qualifier, but it was also the British National Sprint Championships so all the fastest guys were supposed to be there. I was going to be outclassed. I’d never raced at this level before, in fact I’d only done a few races in total.
Despite all the training and preparation I didn’t really have a clue about how fast I could be over the distance. I had very little race experience and had yet to test myself. I had decided that qualification wasn’t on the cards so I would use this race to test the waters, gain some experience and see what I could do. Hopefully it would give me something to work on and maybe, just maybe, by the time Bristol rolled around I might be able to get close to those final few qualification spots.
The starting gun went off, and so did I. Now was the time to give it all I had. My training had been going pretty much as well as it could have. I was well rested after a nice taper week, Anna and Morgan had been looking after me and I was raring to go… And go I did. You can read the full race report from the Big Cow Triathlon here, but in summary it went really well, it was a perfect race, well paced and well executed and I was faster than I thought I’d be, finishing in a very respectable time of 1:03:27 – about a minute and half faster than I thought I’d be capable of.
The Results and the Wait
The results from Big Cow were available immediately. I’d managed 6th place in the British Championships and had a really good time. Now I had to wait for the official ruling from the BTF regarding qualification.
Immediately after the event, whist still milling around the finish line we thought that 6th place wasn’t going to be enough. We knew that one of the guys who had beaten me had already pre-qualified as he had won the European Championships in 2011, so he wasn’t after a qualification spot here. That put me fifth in line, was I really going to miss out by one place?
I only needed one of the people who had beaten me on the day to not be on the qualification list for me to have got a place. The optimism had returned, this was going to be close. A little bit of luck was involved though and knowing me I would have missed out by one place, especially seeing as the person one place above me in the results had a time of 1:03:26 so had beaten me by one second. That was it, had I really come 5th and missed out on World-Championship Qualification by 1 measly second?
As soon as we had Internet connection we were cross-referencing the results list and the qualifiers list. I was driving, Anna was on the iPad checking . It looked as though none of the others above me on the day were down to qualify. Anna was telling me I had got the first qualification spot, I wasn’t prepared to believe it. We double and triple checked, and checked again. It certainly looked as though I had Q1 but until it was on the official BTF website I didn’t want to get too excited.
Refresh Refresh Refresh
Before the event we were refreshing the BTF website to see the number of people wanting to qualify growing, now we were at it again looking for a little ‘Q’ next to my name. Never before have I waited with quite so much anticipation for a ‘Q’. But then this morning, there it was:
I’ve done it, little old me has qualified for the the ITU Age-Group World Championship… Auckland here we come.
It has taken lots of hard work and sacrifice, from me and those around me, but I’ve done it and I’m pretty stoked about it! Better still, Anna and Morgan seem just as excited as me as are plenty of other people who have helped along the way. Cheer guys and gals.
The Hard Work Begins
So, now the hard work begins, time to start training for Auckland and harder still, time to start trying to raise some funds to pay to get there and compete for Team GB.
I’ll try not to go on about it too much, but expect to be hearing more about it here, and expect to see me with a grin on my face for a little while longer yet.