Wimbleball was to be my first 70.3 race of the season and one I'd been looking forward too for a very long time, a local-ish race for me, hills and a tough run. I came down to Devon a few days before to catch up with everyone at home and to have a look at the bike course.
Race weekend came around quite quickly, I'd been feeling really quite tired in the lead up to the race and slept quite a lot in the days before. It was quite surreal really, I was just ticking off the last few race prep training sessions, getting kit ready and then suddenly it was Saturday and I was there getting registered and racking up the bike ready to go. I tried to be quite canny and get all my pre race meals ready in a cool box but the sweltering day on Saturday meant all this went off and I decided it would be a good idea to source something edible. After a couple of laps of Tiverton passing weird looking takeaway places I came across a quirky little cafe. I ended up having a rather posh solo meal of parma ham and watermelon salad with roast chicken.
On race morning I did my usual pre race warm up, a 10-15min run with mobility work, getting some weird looks from the other competitors as I ran around. We then assembled in transition and headed down to the swim start. This was to be the biggest mass start race I'd ever done. Having 800 swimmers around was quite claustrophobic but I got my head in the right place and pressed on. The field soon spread out and I came out of the water with a swim time that needs some work, but one I was pleased with on the day.
Swim Start. Photo curtsey of "Stephen Pond/ Getty Images"
The rain started to come down really heavily and the wind was picking up, not ideal for what faced us all on the bike, but I got stuck in and worked my way up through the field making use of the steep climbs. The course was reasonably challenging requiring constant concentration. I came over the brow of one climb into a fast decent, to find someone had misjudged the bend at the bottom coming off quite badly, one of those moments your heart jumps into your mouth. I really enjoyed the bike leg, it was great to have something I could get into with no let up for the duration I was out there.
On the Run: Photo curtsey of "Stephen Pond/ Getty Images"
Coming off the bike into T2 someone shouted "You're in 8th place!" which was encouraging but I was optimistic of my chances of bridging to the lead. T2 went very smoothly, opting for the no sock option, figuring every second would count now. I went off quickly, picking off a couple of guys in the first km…6 to catch. I set in my mind to run as fast as I could and to see what happened. Each turn bought the front runners closer, I passed a couple more at half way. A slight wrong turn set me back 30-40 seconds which I wasn't too happy with but back on track I managed to settle back into my rhythm again. The support from everyone throughout the race was phenomenal, every athlete I lapped shouted encouraging words, and coming though the crowds the noise was amazing, giving me goose bumps and a rush of adrenaline. On the last lap I finally caught a glimpse of the leader, marked by a mountain bike rider. Only now did I believe I could catch him, as a spectator shouted " The gap is 2 minutes". I put everything into bridging the gap and made it 2 thirds of the way through lap 3. I then pushed on again to put as much time between us as I could, racing against the lead mountain bike marker to the finish. Coming down that finishing tunnel was one of the most thrilling things I've every experienced. It was such a buzz of atmosphere and realisation of what had just happened.
Finish. Photo curtsey of "Stephen Pond/ Getty Images"
I was incredibly happy with the result but couldn't have got there with out the fantastic amount of help from my coach Luke Watson and the set up at Loughborough, also the help and support from Aske Bikes, Pedal Potential, Le Col, HUUB, Jeremy Willson CT.
In two weeks I'll be racing the AG Europeans in Geneva, and then the Gauntlet at Castle Howard at the end of July. As I qualified for the IM 70.3 Worlds I'll be heading off to Austria to race there at the end of August too.
I'm incredibly motivated to make the step up to Pro 70.3 racing in the near future and really hope that what happened at Wimbleball will prove to be a stepping stone to the next level.