It’s been a week since I got back from the European Age-Group Champs in Alanya, Turkey. I’m now back in the UK after an amazing trip.
I booked my travel independently through Thomas Cook and boy am I glad that I did. Those that booked through the BTF’s preferred travel partner Nirvana had loads of problems with bike transfers and most had to have them shipped overland a week before the race. That didn’t all go to plan though as they managed to lose a bike that belonged to one of the people in our tri club meaning that she had to borrow a bike from someone else for the race. There were also problems with rooms and even now many people haven’t had their bikes back. I assume they are still on their way back from Alanya, but lots of people are unhappy with the service they’ve been given.
We used Nirvana when we travelled to New Zealand for the World Championships last year. They were a only a little more expensive than arranging things independently for that trip so we thought it was worthwhile, especially as it was my first time competing internationally and it meant that we could stay in the Team Hotel. This time, for my trip to Turkey, Nirvana were charging almost three times the price of booking through Thomas Cook, I wasn’t too worried about staying in the Team Hotel and it just wasn’t worth paying that much more.
I’m glad I made that decision as I didn’t have any of the problems that Nirvana customers had with getting my bike on the flights. However, when I landed in Turkey I did have to pay again for the bike on the transfer which I am in the process of claiming back from Thomas Cook. Once in Alanya the hotel I stayed in was cheap and basic but suited my needs. It was a little noisy at night thanks to the main road, but it was literally 100 yards from the plush team hotel which was equally as noisy.
The few days before the race were hectic and involved lots of walking back and forth from one side of Alanya to the other for things such as race briefings, registration, equipment checks, swim recce’s, bike recce’s, bike racking, supporting friends in the Olympic distance race, team photos and many other things so there was little time for relaxing. I did manage to make the most of both the breakfast buffet and the dinner buffet in the hotel though so all of that pre-race weight loss before heading out was negated.
The race itself was good. I didn’t have my usual support team to help out but knew that they were at home supporting me from there. The race started with a lovely open water swim in the warm waters of the Med, so no wetsuits. It was fairly frantic up at the front end of the swim pack and quite competitive but I exited the water in first place in my Age-Group some 17 seconds up. T1 went well and I was soon on the 20km flat and straight bike course, half of which was cobbled. All went well with that and I extended my lead over 2nd place before heading through T2 and out onto the run under the now blazing Turkish sun with temperatures soaring into the 30’s. I used the water stations to douse myself in water to keep cool and managed to negative split the run, getting faster for each mile. The first mile was ticked off in 5:54, the second in 5:49 and the third in 5:44 before the final sprint to the finish where I crossed the line in a time of 1:00:17 to claim the Gold Medal for Team-GB having increased my lead still further. A Russian came in 2nd, some 80 seconds down, followed by a fellow Brit in 3rd place some 2:34 behind me… Wooohooo, I’m a European Triathlon Champion!!!
Who’d have thought that a couple of years ago when I first started swimming, biking and running – I distinctly remember telling everyone that I wasn’t doing this for the competition aspect but just to have fun and get a little fitter!
You can read the full race report here: 2013 European Age Group Triathlon Championships, Alanya, Turkey – Race Report
The next couple of days in Alanya were spent relaxing and eating. So much so that I went from 62 kg before the race to 70kg when I got home. I don’t know why I do it to myself, but I just love to eat and when there are buffets on offer I feel as though I have to eat it all. It didn’t stop once I got home either, partly because I started baking cakes and partly because Anna’s Mum is here also baking and cooking. There’s just too much good food to resist.
I also stopped training a bit which didn’t help. More calories in, fewer calories out and I now feel fat and unfit. I’m gradually getting back into it though with some easy sessions to get me back into full-on training. It’s good to give your body a bit of a break now and then and I’m sure some rest will have done me some good, but I really do need to curb my eating during these times.
The holiday after a race is actually a good idea, this triathlon malarky is supposed to be fun after all and most of the time it is, but the build up to a race is fairly stressful so some rest and recuperation is needed. It’s also proving a good excuse for some travel. I’d never expected to be going to New Zealand or Turkey but have done now, and I’ve also qualified for the World Champs in London this year (somewhere I haven’t been for 20 years!) and have also qualified for the 2014 European Championships in Kitzbuhel, Austria – If I can afford to make it there. I shall have to make another plea for sponsorship.
Talking of which, I really need to thank a few people. I don’t want to get too ‘Hollywood Actress’ on you and this isn’t the Oscars, but I had a good time in Turkey, a great race and an amazing result and I couldn’t have done it without the help of others. Anna and Morgan put up with a lot. They couldn’t be there for the race this time but support me in others by lugging bags around, shouting encouragement and generally looking after me. Anna is brilliant at it too and always seems to know what I need, when I need it and where I need it. They also put up with a lot during training with lots of juggling of family logistics in order to fit the training in, extra food shopping and preparation to satisfy my appetite and of course mountains of laundry. They even put up with me being grumpy when the training isn’t going to plan or I’m injured. I really couldn’t do it without them.
Pete, the coach from INTRtri Club writes my training plans for me. I guess I could do them myself but I wouldn’t stick to them then, having a coach write them for me makes me accountable to someone else and I tend to follow them to the letter (almost!). He was watching from the UK as well and sent me a text messages straight after the race saying:
“Fantastic result Al. Well deserved with all the hard work you’ve put in since the New Year. Enjoy the brilliant victory. You’re getting faster because you listen and put in the work”
Thanks Pete… and the rest of both the INTRtri and Cerist Triathlon clubs. I rarely train with any of them simply because the training times and activities don’t fit into my schedule but it’s good to be part of the INTRtri club and it was good to spend time with Andrea, Frank, Alison, Hazel, Karen, John and Mary from INTRtri whilst in Turkey. I also have plenty of friends in the Cerist club all of whom have been very supportive. Thanks Guys and gals!
I should thank Jon Baker for putting up with me constantly waffling on about triathlon training over coffee and cake. He loves it really but always has a few good ideas to look into when we have a chat. Also Michele from the Sports Centre at the uni for help with my strength training plan and some physio on my shins when I was having trouble with them. I also need to thank Andrea for lending me her pit-stop puncture repair foam for the race. I couldn’t get a CO2 cartridge in Turkey and was beginning to worry about punctures but she let me borrow hers. Thankfully I didn’t need it, but if I hadn’t had one I was bound to get a flat. Frank for being my caddy on race day, carrying my bag around and taking some photos, cheers Frank it’s all these little things that help make the day go smoothly. He was a good drinking buddy and big kid during the post-race the parties and days in the sun too. Also Roger and Sally for lending me their travel kettle. It sounds silly but I have a pre-race routine that includes a set breakfast. I’d taken the necessary foodstuffs with me but there wasn’t a kettle in the room for me to make it so had to borrow one. Roger and Sally let me use theirs despite the fact that they needed it themselves as well. I did have it back to them by 4:30am but having it let me perform my usual pre-race routine and they don’t realise how grateful I am for that. It was also good to meet them for the first time in Turkey and hopefully we’ll meet again sometime.
There are plenty of other people I need to thank such as Lauren and all at Swimfit, Alastair and all at circuits and all the other people I train with. I usually do most of my training alone but it’s good to have company now and then and friends help provide motivation to keep me going when the training is getting tough.
I don’t have any real sponsors to thank at the moment (I do need some though so if you can help or know a business that can please get in touch). I do however get Beet-it Beetroot juice at reduced prices as I’m one of their ‘pro-performance athletes’ so I should thank them for their Purple Power Potion even if I do have to spend a fair amount of money on it each month!
Also, all the other people who make these things possible, including of course all of the volunteers, marshalls and organisers of the races in Turkey and elsewhere. I do always try to thank them as from experience I know it can be a thankless job. It’s hard work standing around marshalling all day, but we do appreciate it. Similarly, all the people who have congratulated me since my return from Turkey, it’s good to know that people have heard of my success and want to share it with me. Thanks everyone!
So, with the race, the holiday, the recuperation and the gratitude over and done with, it’s back to the grindstone. There’s lots of work to catch up on, the garden needs some TLC, there are bees to tend to and I need to get back into shape. Circuits was a fairly slow, easy affair last night, followed by a lovely open water swim in Aberystwyth. Calm, flat seas and a lovely sunset were the backdrop for a swim from Bath Rocks, out around Pier Rocks and onto Castle Point and South Beach before turning around and heading back. Just me, the sea and the sunshine. Lovely.
I even managed to consume slightly fewer calories than I expended yesterday which is a step in the right direction. The training diary is quite sparsely populated over the next few weeks with some base level training before I’ll ramp things back up again – first with some Strength and Endurance work and then some speed work prior to the World Championships in London – which are already only 11 weeks away!