Turkey Day 5 – ETU European Age-Group Triathlon Championships Race Report
With Race Day upon us, Roger and I saved ourselves the walk from the hotel and instead shared a taxi into Alanya. Due to all the road closures it couldn’t get that close to the transition area but it saved us a walk with all our kit. We then walked the rest of the way and joined the queue to get body marked before setting up our transition stalls. I paced out the swim exits, mount lines, dismount lines and got to grips with exactly where my transition stall was within the transition area. I chatted to a few other competitors around me, all of whom were in my age-group so were people I would be racing against. I then got myself ready, visited the portaloo a few times and dropped my kit off with Frank who was going to look after it for me whilst I raced. After a quick warm up swim in the sea it was time to gather in the holding area before being told to run out onto the pontoon for our 7:25am start.
My wave contained all of the 40-44 year old age-group, along with the 35-39’s as well, so it was difficult to tell who I was racing but I knew that the higher race numbers were the people in my age-group. I was number 250 so anyone higher than that was in my age-group but I wasn’t sure what number it started at. With less than a minute to go we dropped into the water and waited for the off.
‘On your Marks’ and the hooter sounded… And so the mayhem began. It was quite a fast start with plenty of bodies and a little bit of physicality but soon a largish pack of us broke away. There were times on the way out where I’d get held up behind people and I swapped from group to group now and then but I was up towards the front and swimming well. I was surprised to see scuba divers under the buoys as we rounded them but didn’t have chance to wave at them as things were quite frantic at the turn with lots of pushing and shoving as we all vied for the inside position. I’d been swimming well but not flat out with a small group. I think there were one or two individuals ahead and I wasn’t sure how many people were on our toes, so on the return leg I decided to up the pace considerably to see if I cold breakaway from the little pack I was in. As I did so they all went with me and even swam a little faster just to let me know that I couldn’t get away from them. That was all I needed to know though – there was no point killing myself on the swim as I wasn’t going to gain anything from doing so as I would simply drag these guys with me. I eased off again and dropped back behind so as to save some energy by drafting and then made a final push into the beach at which point I was able to develop a bit of gap behind me.
I stumbled a bit getting out of the water, ran up the ramp into transition where I could hear Frank shouting that I was in 4th place. What he didn’t realise at the time was that there was another age-group in with us. So, I now knew there were 3 people ahead of me but I didn’t know if any of them were in my age-group.
There’s not a lot to say about T1 really. With no wetsuit to deal with and a simple entry and exit into transition it was just a case of running straight to my bike, dropping my hat and goggles into the box and making sure they stayed in there so as to avoid a penalty. I then put on my helmet, fastened it, grabbed my bike and headed out to the mount line where I jumped on my bike, headed off and got my feet into the shoes. It was easy, quick and over and done without any fuss.
The bike course was a simple, flat, straight out and back route that we had to do two laps of. It was perfectly suited to a time trial bike and with no wind at all, deep section front wheels and disk rear wheels were the best tools for the getting the job done as quickly as possible. I don’t have a time trial bike or aero wheels so I had to make do with my road bike and bog standard wheels instead. This did the job of course and I was soon speeding my way up and down the course. I was overtaking lots of people from previous waves by now and I was myself overtaken by a few people from my wave, but they all had numbers in the low 200’s so were in the younger age-group. I wasn’t therefore racing them although I did keep them in my sights and then reeled them back in during the second lap so that we all arrived in transition together.
I was averaging somewhere around the 24mph mark on the bike and feeling good. No one from my age-group had caught me, but I still didn’t know if there was anyone from my age-group in the three that were out of the swim in front of me and I don’t think I’d caught any of them on the bike. This meant that I could still be either in 1st place and on for a gold medal, or possibly down in 4th place where I would just miss out on a medal. I thought the latter was unlikely but would be just my luck.
Transition 2 went without a hitch. Straight into the transition area with a smooth dismount, straight to my stall where I racked my bike deposited my helmet into the box and donned my running visor, put on my running shoes and headed out just behind the group of 3 from the younger age-group who had overtaken me on the bike.
It wasn’t that hot yet but the sun was getting higher and it would soon be sweltering as the temperature started to rise towards the 30’s. There was a drinks station at the start of the run so I grabbed a bottle of water and poured it over my head to keep me from getting too hot. There was another just after the climb out of the harbour which also provided a much needed cool shower after the climb. I had planned to pick up the pace a little after the climb as the run weaved it’s way through town and downhill back towards the seafront. This I did and I was now running well. The small group of 35-39 year olds remained ahead of me, no one overtook me and we gradually passed people from previous waves. Mile one of the run passed, my watch beeped at me and I had covered it in 5 minute 54 seconds which was perfect race pace for me given the little hill. As I passed Frank he shouted that I was in eight place, which I knew to still be anywhere from 1st to 4th in my age-group.
Back onto the seafront and onto lap two of the run and I was feeling good. The hill and mile two were soon ticked off and the supporters along the roadside were cheering me ever onwards. Mile two was completed in 5:49. I had managed to pick up the pace a little, running this mile 5 seconds faster than the first. As I ran through town for the second time there wasn’t far to go so I increased the pace ever further and started reeling in those ahead of me from the 35-39’s ever so slowly. I overtook Karen at this point as well who had started in the wave before me. My 3rd mile was another 5 seconds faster than the 2nd in 5:44 so I was still picking up the pace and now just had the final straight to go. I picked up the speed for a sprint finish grabbed a flag from Dawn the team caption who was standing alongside the finish chute with other supporters and raised my arms as I crossed the line. I tried to look as happy as I could for any cameras as I usually look boring and grumpy as I cross the line, but I’ve yet to see if my attempts were successful. Just after I crossed the line I heard the commentator announce that ‘Alan Cole was 1st in the 40-44 age-group’….. YES!!! I was the European Champion, who’d have believed it? I’m sure I looked happy now! I grabbed my finishers medal, grabbed a drink, returned my timing chip and chatted to a few people as I made my way through the various tents behind the finishing area. There were drinks, fruit and cold baths available and people wanted to talk to me. I should have made the most if it and I should have waited to see who was next across the line in my age-group, but I just want to find the others and send Anna a text message!
I’m a Champion
I knew that Anna and Morgan had been at home watching as best they could on the Internet feeds. When I found the others they were all pleased for me. Pete who writes my training plans had already sent them a text message relaying the fact that I had got the gold. I sent Anna a text simply saying ‘Yes, I’m a Champion!’ and soon got one back. I could tell they were excited and had been able to see it so I was pleased about that. I wish they could have been there with me, but knowing they had been able to watch from home was good.
The texts from home with notes of congratulations then started to pour in, along with a few finishing times and other details. I got myself an ice-cream because Karen had set up a challenge to see who could get an ice-cream in their hand the quickest after finishing their race. I couldn’t resist such a challenge so had to do it and won that particular victory by miles. It turns out that I was way ahead in the actual race as well.
The Splits and the competition
My watch had read 1:00:58 but I had started it as we got in the water, not when the start horn sounded. It was going to be close to the hour but not quite under it. My official finish time was 1:00:17 and in second place some 80 seconds behind was a Russian in a time of 1:01:37. In third place and the next Brit was Andrew Pownall 2 minutes and 24 seconds behind me in a time of 1:02:51. I’d class that as a fairly good victory. Karen had finished not long after me but Alison, John and Roger were still out racing so we cheered them on as they completed their run.
I also ate the breakfast supplied by the hotel and had some coffee. It felt like lunch time but was still only 9 in the morning. Once everyone had finished we were able to collect our bikes from the transition area. Everyone I spoke to seem pleased for me even those who I had beaten in my age-group. As usual most triathletes are a friendly lot. I then wandered back through the town and all the way back to the hotel with Roger. There was lots to carry with all my kit, my pump and my bike and we were even stopped by tourists who wanted a photo of us. The Turkish shop-keepers were asking how we had got on and Roger took every opportunity to tell them that I was a gold medallist. They seemed impressed and I must admit that I quite enjoyed the feeling. Back at the hotel with wi-fi access and the messages of congratulations started to flood in. Facebook messages and posts, email, chat messages there were loads… Thanks everyone.
Elite racing and medal ceremonies.
I didn’t have much time to catch up with them all though and still hadn’t seen the results myself, but after a quick shower and a huge pizza lunch it was back along the road to Alanya harbour to watch the elite races and attend the medal ceremony. It was pretty hot out there by now so the elites earned their money even if the racing itself wasn’t the most exciting as few of the big names on the circuit were there. The medal ceremonies soon got underway and before long I was on the podium in my Team-GB Polo shirt being presented with a medal, a bouquet of flowers, a certificate and 100 euros in prize money. Amazing, I still couldn’t quite believe that I was a European Champion.
Although I’d eaten quite a bit since coming to Turkey (it was a holiday as well as a race after all), I had been holding myself back, but now that the race was over there was no stopping me. Needless to say I had a ‘good feed’ from the dinner buffet at the hotel and then finally found half an hour to check out the results and best of all have a video call with Anna and Morgan. Morgan had been on a cub funday all day and looked exhausted but he still seemed pretty proud of his Dad. Anna was obviously pleased for me too. The messages of congratulations were still pouring in as well and I was having trouble keeping up with them all. After a quick change into a shirt and some smarter shorts I headed out and met the others for a few drinks.
It wasn’t quite a party though as everyone seemed fairly tired after what had been a mad few days in the run up to the races. We did manage to keep going until midnight but none of us were particularly lively. Mind you, true to form, despite being tired I didn’t manage to get to sleep so got up at 2am and packed my bike up then wrote some blog posts whilst waiting for breakfast to come around at 8am where I could once again make the most of the buffet.