My first race of the 2019 season kicked off last weekend at Challenge Salou. I’d previously competed in this event in 2017 however, the race was later in the year, at the end of May. Challenge Family cleverly moved the race to earlier in the year to save clashing with other big events and in doing so attracted some of the top talent pool both professionally & amateurs alike from around Europe. The middle-distance race (in which I competed) boasted an impressive line-up of over 60 pro-athletes all looking to lay down an early marker and see how their winter training had played out. This also gave me the chance to test myself against the best and see what personal improvements I have made over the winter months.
So what’s changed?
I’ve recently had a slight change in my triathlon coaching set up, in that I am now solely being guided by Matthew Bottrill, owner of Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching. Matt initially conducted my professional bike fitting back in January 2018 and at the time pointed out the advantage of spending some time in a wind tunnel. More recently in a review, he reiterated the positive impact it could have, so last Wednesday, a few days before I left the UK to race, I booked into the Boardman Centre wind tunnel. I wasn’t looking to make major changes so close to an event, but any free speed was going to be greatly appreciated! Under the watchful eye off Matt & Barney Wainwright I spent an interesting couple of hours tweaking & applying changes to make me more aerodynamic and ultimately faster. It was an eye-opening experience and one I can highly recommend to anyone looking to improve performance.
On to the race I arrived in Salou on Thursday giving me 3 days to get adapted to my new bike position out on the course and giving me plenty of time to prepare and focus on Sunday’s event. The weather conditions had been changeable from the moment I arrived. There was a mix of sun, rain, wind and some epic sea swells, making my warm up swim more like a surf and even leading to the official swim practice being cancelled due to the safety kayaks not being able to get over the breaking waves! Apart from this I was feeling really relaxed going into the race. I think when you’ve had a solid winter of training and two focused training camps you have the confidence that you’ve done all you can to prepare.
On the morning of the race the sea had calmed down slightly but the chop was clear to see as the pro’s made their way out, battling the break before starting the 1900m swim. Now it was the turn of the age groupers. I decided in my mind it was the same for everyone so ‘to just get out there’ find a rhythm and ‘what will be will be’. It definitely wasn’t my greatest swim, but I left the water in just under 27mins and made my way through transition to my bike. The Salou course has several out & backs, where you get to see who you’re racing against; knowing a lot of other competitors out in the field kept me going. My main focus was to hold my new aero position with the tail wind, then get the power down and keep the speed up into the headwind. The plan worked, gaining me a few positions on the 90k bike leg and leading me to a new pb at this distance of 2hrs 17mins. T2 wasn’t my finest, probably spending 1min more than I needed but I gathered my nutrition and headed out onto the 4 lap 21.1k run course. The first 2.5k was all into head wind, making finding a rhythm tough so I downed a gel (Secret Training - stealth caffeine Gel) and cracked on. Before long I knew I was leading in my age group as once again so many out & backs makes it easy to see who you’re up against. Lap by lap you go through highs & lows but again, it’s remembering everyone is going through the same pain until the red carpet is in view.
I finished in 4hrs 13mins a new middle distance best and first position in my category (35-39) and 39th overall. To say I’m pleased is an understatement, I’ve made another step in the right direction breaking the 4hr15 middle distance barrier on a fairly tough day.
Onto IM 70.3 Mallorca in 5 weeks’ time.
I’ll take this opportunity to give a big shout out to: Zone3 wetsuits, Raw Sport, Aston Knowles, Davison’s Solicitors, Swof media & Team Bottrill for your ongoing support.