Wednesday 15 June 2016

Leeds WTS 2016

Finally decided that it’s about time that I start writing blogs again it's been well over a year so here goes …

World Triathlon Series (WTS) Leeds.

So leading into this race I had been in Font-­Romeu (Pyrenees, France) at altitude for three weeks with Irelands Rio selected Athlete; Bryan Keane and Aileen Reid. This was my 1st ever time at altitude and was all learning for me, with no certainty on how my body would react dropping into such a hard race like Leeds WTS.

You can read an interview I did with Triathlon Ireland Pre Leeds about altitude training and my preparation for the race here 

I knew leading into the race I was confident in my form and each race this season has had many positives, but I still had not put a full race together just yet. I was aiming to string everything together and knew it would result in a decent performance at this level. The aim going into Sunday was a top 20 finish however my 11th place result in a WTS was far better than I could have hoped for.

Alistair Brownlee was ranked no.33, I was 34 and Javier Gomez was 36, so it was quite irregular for the 2012 Olympic Gold and Silver medalists to have such low ranking numbers due to their lack of racing this season. This meant that I had two of the most consistent front pack swimmers either side of me.
The race was rough and fast and at one point I received a punch to the nose, which resulted in me, not only being taken aback but forced me to stop and put my goggles back on and get swimming again.
Luckily I had been off to a good start and was on the outside and was able to quickly get back into a rhythm but it did result in me losing my ticket right to the front of the swim.

The rest of the swim was uneventful albeit, extremely fast (sub 17mins) and I managed to exit in a respectable 11 position. 
Credit ; Trimes

Quickly through T1 and it was onto the notoriously hard bike course, nothing about this course was designed to be easy. For starters we had a steep hill straight out of transition, which took us on a 13-­14 km stretch through the suburbs to bring us into Leeds City center for 7 fast technical inner city laps.

A small group including the Brownlee’s got away from the swim and with many of the other British athletes in the chase pack intentionally sitting back and refusing to push the pace the gap to the front to extend. Once in the city the course was well designed for being fast, technical and spectator friendly, which was great fun to race on but not so kind on the legs. It was the type of course that required good bike handling skills and an ability to
hold a wheel and be able to sprint out of corners. I played it safe and tried to stay as close to the front as possible as it was safer, easier to negotiate turns and reduced the elastic band effect when others sprinted. I must say it was one of the most interesting and fun bike courses I have ever raced on.

Credit; Ed Byrne
On the last lap of the bike I started to feel my legs tire and was not sure what state I would be in come for the run leg, but I willed myself on for one last push to make sure I stayed up near the front of the pack entering T2 to give myself the best possible position to start the run. My bike rack and shoes were position on the left hand side therefore I decided to be on the left entering transition, luckily that was the case as to my right there was a slight collision and a small pile up slowing a lot of people up. With my clear route to my rack I managed to exit T2 1st out of the pack and 5th in the race.

Onto the run I was thankful that I had a good transition giving me the best possible chance on the run, as this is the point of the race that I normally start to go backwards. To my shock I made the first corner … still no one had passed me, onto the aid station … still no one passed me, around the corner and up the hill … still no one, and then … who else other than 5 time world champion; Gomez. I stayed on his shoulder down the hill around the dead turn and partly back up the climb, slowly I started to believe that the run legs had decided to turn up for the race, I was running well. I knew staying too long at Gomez pace (fastest run of the day) was going to be a step too far so I eased off and waited ran my own pace until I had someone else to run with. LeCorre, Connix, Justus, all known for the run pedigree and all on their way to Rio, I stuck in and felt comfortable. I decided to see how long I could last, it felt too good to be true, LeCorre surged away once we got back to transition but I stayed with the other two for another full lap. Lap three was when the hurt began to kick in and things started to get ugly, now it was time to dig deep and not throw away the good race I had set up for myself.
7.5km still in tenth, I now knew I was really on for the race of my life.
The last lap was brutal, thankfully I was only caught by Ryan Bailie, and finished the day in 11th the equal highest WTS result by an Irish Male triathlete.

My form was obviously good leading into this race but I still think the crowds had a major impact on my performance, the atmosphere was electric; you couldn’t help but try and show off and give them something to cheer about. The support that I received on the course was phenomenal – Thank you.

Credit; Trimes
I have always had great support behind me, so many people have believed in me and told me I was capable of a big performance, I have always sort of believed them but never fully, until now. Sometimes it takes the chips to be down and a turning point in order to really get the most out of yourself, the training had been done … the body was ready, it was just a case of getting the head to believe.

Three weeks at altitude was great for training but when your 1850m up a mountain with nothing to do between sessions in can be a lonely place and a mixing pot of emotions. Up that mountain I had a lot of time to think, I was the only Irish triathlete there not to be getting ready to go to Rio – had I wasted the last 6years?… was there ever a chance … would I even be good enough in 4 years time?
I had Stirling Council emailing and phoning me looking me to decide whether I was taking a 1year guaranteed teaching position in August – and the hardest question I had to answer was; can I really justify turning down the security of a full time job to be a triathlete?
How was I going to be a triathlete with no money coming in, no real results to my name, only potential that people told me I had; you can’t pay the bills with potential!!! I took the leap of faith and turned down the job !

So I stood on that start line, I had faith in the people who believed in me, faith in the numbers training had been telling me, and for once I can honestly say I had faith in myself … it worked.
I had equaled the highest result of any Irish triathlete in a WTS race. I have jumped 90 positions in the world ranking, 40 positions in the World Series rankings and made it into the prize money for the 1st time ever for me in an international race.
I have tasted success and I am determined for these results to continue … The best is yet to come!

I think I couldn’t write a blog like this without thanking a lot of people that made a result like this possible, because I did not achieve this by myself.
My family who have supported me 100%, through the good times and the bad; for everything they do… the 4.30am swim starts from the age of 11 are starting to pay off.
Triathlon Ireland for supporting me constantly since I started triathlon in 2010. Tommy Evans, who over that past couple of years has believed and invested so much in me and trusted I had a performance like this weekend in me.
Blair Cartmell, my coach, who has put so much work in and I’m sure has been very frustrated at times that I have not raced how my training reflects.
Everyone at Triathlon Scotland and the University of Stirling, who have helped me along the way since starting Uni.
All the guys training in Stirling; for the training and the good times.
Lisburn City Swimming Club and everyone involved for whom I would definitely not be a triathlete without.
Banbridge CC, what can I say? The amount of help and support I have received is unbelievable.
Bryan Keane, Aileen Reid, Gavin Noble and Conor Murphy who inspired me and showed me its possible to be a triathlete from a tiny Island.
Marty Loughran, who keeps me in one piece and who would definitely let me know about it if I left him out ;)

And to all my sponsors whom it wouldn’t be possible without;
Lakeland Bikes Enniskillin (Peter Jones)
On Running (Ladi Demko)
Vodaphone Ireland
Champion System
Verve Cycling – InfoCrank

There have been so many others who have helped and supported me I could be here all day, but it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Thank you so much, it’s all very much appreciated!

I hope I didn’t bore you and you made it this far.