Monday, 9 June 2008

The GBR experience...

I can't believe I'm sitting here typing this and already the race is done...over... finished and we fly home tomorrow evening.  Our training week over on Vancouver Island was a smart move, it's triathletes paradise out there with great lakes to swim in, wide smooth safe roads to cycle on and miles of trail to run on, what more could you ask for!?  Although a bit of good weather wouldn't have gone a miss!

We loved it on the Island, it was laid back and quiet and meant that we could concentrate on our last hard week of Ironman training before I had to slip into race mode where I had time constraints, briefings, racking and body marking to attend to (I'll give a full account of the experience in a bit.)

Every morning we got up and ran 2.5 miles to Elk Lake, did a quality 40min swim session then ran home for a hot bath and a home cooked breakfast courtesy of our amazing B & B host Gary. The second session of the day varied and I'm pleased to say that through the week I got a great tempo run session in, a 65 mile ride and a 22 mile run, and with all of the open water swimming it made a great week of quality.  Of course it also meant that I couldn't expect much from my old legs for the race in Vancouver.

We arrived in Vancouver and I can't tell you how pleased we were that we didn't come here to train for the whole trip.  It's concrete city, high rises a plenty and traffic to match London, riding here wouldn't have been fun, oh, and it rained here even more than it did on Vancouver Island, and it was a lot colder.

So, to the GBR experience.  Unfortunately due to the incessant rain the Parade of Nations and the Opening Ceremony had to be cancelled so the first official thing I attended was the GBR Team race briefing.  It was great to be in a huge room full of GBR Age Group athletes all wearing the GBR colours with pride.  The streets of Vancouver are full of every Nation all wearing their team tracksuits with pride, it really is a great feeling to be part of that.   The Sprint races were the first to go on Friday and our mates Daz, Brian (LBT) and Simon (LBT) raced their socks off in treacherous wet and cold weather, well done boys you paved the way.

Friday afternoon once my bike was made up and cleaned (courtesy of my in house mechanic Tom) we went down to the sea front to rack and for me to get body marked.  The hotel will be pleased to know that permanent ink isn't permanent on the skin and it may take a while to get the number 478 off the bed sheets and pillows!  4.30am on race morning we were up, breakfast done and I was ready to go.  There's a great buzz on race days, you just can't beat it. Spectators are milling around taking pictures and checking their loved ones have got everything they need. There's an exciting tension that sits in the air among the competitors and all of the Nations were gathered wondering what the swim really was going to be like!

Putting my GBR kit on changed race day for me.  I mean afterall it was just another olympic distance race and I've done my fair share of those but knowing you're out there for your country made the excitement all the more.  I also had the added bonus of having great support from my sponsors Southern's who have helped enormously financially with this trip and I knew they like Tom's mum & Ray would be glued to the internet watching it live on line sending their love and luck through cyber space (thank you so much.)

Time to dip my toe in the water and get warmed up.  Due to the horrendous weather the swim had to be shortened.  Usually you can't compete in water colder than 13 degrees, it was 11.8 and that is COLD!  Once the gun goes there's no turning back so into the choppy seas we went and I fought my way round one of the hardest swims I've had to do.  The cold was only a small issue as the wind had really picked up and just made the sea so rough, it was like trying to swim in a washing machine, but I survived and it was time to concentrate on the rest of the race.  My fingers and toes were numb as I got on my bike and I really struggled to get my heart rate up at all, I was just so cold.  I just held out for the run knowing that I could warm up on that.  So the ride wasn't great at all, I was just way too cold.  On the run I managed to feel a bit more human and relaxed and the crowds out there all screaming for GB was just amazing.  My feet were icy stumps for the first 3 or 4 km but after that I began to thaw out and really enjoyed the rest of it.  Tom was the official photographer for the day so I'll post this link to Picasa so you can see pix from the trip, he did a great job.  2.23 was my time and I'm pleased with that.  Fatigued from a hard week of training and I still managed to do okay, but I got more than just training from the race, there's a whole load of National pride in there too and it was great.

So, I appear to have gone on and on and Tom's waiting to write his post, so I shall say goodbye and thank you to all who have sent me love and luck messages and again to the Kendal Jones clan and Southerns for their great support.  I can't forget Tom who as always has been and is amazing.

See you back in England.

H. x


Khara Mills said...

Wow, wow and wow! Sounds like such an amazing week for you and you did brilliantly in what sounds like an extremely hard race. We're all so proud of you H! The photos are fantastic and it's great to see that you managed to enjoy a lot of it despite the conditions. This was yet another tearful read for me, just understanding what you're achieving and taking bits of inspiration from it on my little journey of my first season in triathlon. Good luck for the weekend, can't wait to hear how you get on; lets just hope the weather is more than a little kinder - it's lovely here at the moment!
See you soon
Khara x

Anonymous said...

Helen, I'm so proud of you. I agree with Khara, it's really inspiring and very emotional to see you wearing GBR kit.

Great to know you both had a great time.
Well done.
Mabeth x

H said...

Ahhhh, thanks guys. Having great support makes all of the difference. Hope all is going well for you both. Hope to see you at run club on Tuesday. xx