ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships, Lorient, France. 15th July 2007 (Swim 3km, Bike 80km, Run 20km)
How could I resist? Racing for Team GB on my birthday!
This was the 6th time I’d headed to Worlds to race for Team GB but the first time without my brother Iain and in fact I travelled on my own. It’s not the same going to any race without friends or family but the shorter long distance (!) (twice Olympic – 3km swim, 80km bike and 20km run) was such that I knew I could complete the run without walking or getting sick…something I’m not able to do in the usual Worlds distance (4km/120km/30km) and the fact that I could do that on my 46th Birthday seemed like fun! I knew a few of my friends from England were racing (Dave, Verity and Fraser) and it would be good to see them again.
Organising travel wasn’t easy as the local airport had very infrequent flights…so I hatched a plan to fly to Paris (CDG) and then get the TGV (which I hadn’t been on before). It would be a longish train journey (4.5 hours) but I could board the train in the airport terminal and speed, stress free through the French countryside in peace and quiet, alighting in Lorient. I splashed the cash and went Class Premier. It turned out to be a piece of cake (once I’d worked out which platform…as one platform was actually many platforms) once I’d run with all my luggage to the correct end of the train. It turned out that quite a few Americans were travelling the same way.
I met Geoff Gearing in the hotel and realised we must have said hello previously, maybe in the torrid heat of Canberra last year. He is a top bloke. Friendly, fit and with a fabulous outlook on life. He explained he had always been sporty and had continued so in his retirement. I was thinking that, yeah, it must be nice to retire early and continue triathleteing around the World. I’m reckoning he’s in his early 60’s and I’m using him as an example to myself of how I would like to be when I reach that age. I’m completely dumbfounded to later discover that Geoff is in fact 73 years old! It would be a distant dream to be in the shape he is at 63 let alone 73. Point noted. Motivation stored. If Geoff can do it….
Lorient was a nice quiet town. The gallic attention to detail and timeliness apparent at the pasta party and the award banquet (sans alcohol), bad news if yer were starving. I stayed in the Team GB hotel so bumped elbows with Leanda Cave (who was to become World Champion later that day) in the cornflake queue 😉 The price of a room in the hotel for the race was le rip off but I did have a sport massage from Richard before the race which definitely ameliorated all number of my aches and pains
The swim at the Worlds is a major reality check for me…I get posted missing as everyone appears to be at least a competent swimmer, so when I exit the water after 2 laps in 1:05 I’m 3rd last in my Age Group.
At least on the bike I can hold my own. I’ve not had time to recce the course so although flat, I nearly wipe out on a mini roundabout that is about 220 degrees round it to the exit road…I try and stay aero and the hill isn’t much of a problem. I’ve hardly ever competed in longer distance triathlons where the bike course is flat and I’m disappointed to be passed by a large pack…I stay off the back so’s I’m not cheating like everyone else in the pack (apart from the leader) but I have to sit up as they aren’t moving that fast…I exchange some words with an American girl as we both voice our concerns about the ‘cheaters’ and then she ‘joins’ the back of the pack. I have to say that it is a regular occurrence to come up to triathletes who are sucking the wheel of the guy in front…I tend to point out the gap between them as I pass as they know they’re cheating… the birthday boy has a pretty decent bike split, clocking 2:16 for 48 miles giving me an average speed of over 21 mph and puts me about 41st out of the 70 in my age group.
The run is mainly flat with some small rises from the dual carriageway up to the roundabouts and a hill at the start/finish. A 2 lap deal. It’s quite warm (for me) at 25 deg C and thankfully there is a little breeze. I’m telling myself I’m having a good race and that I’m not walking. I’m trying to keep my heart rate at a constant level of hard work but the road is either gradually climbing or falling which makes it difficult to get into a running rhythm…only at the last 5km turn round do I start to feel nauseous but I ease back and continue. I’m running strong and run down some Brits in the last mile or so which pleases me enormously. How fabulous to actually be able to run into the Finish in the Worlds for once in my life…I feel proud of my effort and very pleased with my run time of 1:40. I finished 8th out of 17 Brits in my age group – my best ever result in Worlds. Verity suggested that as it was my birthday, rather than racing, I should be “getting trolleyed”…ahhhhh youngsters lol!
The hardest part of the whole adventure was trying to find somewhere to get some tasty (aka unhealthy) food that [Sunday] evening. Most places were closed. Subway was too healthy so we all ended up in McDonalds – someone missed a photo opportunity of some of the top pro triathletes in the world, queueing for their happy burgers and fries. Highlight was the Kronenburg on the drinks list Oui Super Size mon bier! Most of us migrated to the pub next to the hotel for some more beers (well I HAD to celebrate my birthday!!) and post race analytics – unfortunately I couldn’t have tooo much of a session as I had to get back on the TGV at 7am the next morning.