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2016 started with a bang! From the end of February through to April I was racing every other weekend. I was juggling training to maintain fitness with tapering for a race and getting a little stressed about it if I'm honest. The racing block finished with the European Championships in Kalkar, Germany. I came away with the age group 30 - 34 silver medal in the Sprint race and was 2nd lady home overall! Somehow my juggling act had worked and I had managed to hold on for the championships!
Following the European Championships I had a few weeks to recover before the World Championships in Spain, a week to rest and just enough time to get a full training block in, but not really long enough to affect my performance in Spain. Yet again I was in maintenance mode.
Spain came around a lot quicker than I had expected and I was soon back on a plane with my bike and team mates on our way to the next championship.
After arriving in Spain, I had a few days to acclimatise a little bit and have a look around before the big day. We had been told that the event was going to be well organised and this turned out to be true. Easy registration and even a police escort to check out the bike course. The courses looked good, 2 laps of a flat run course along the river followed by a simple but lumpy bike course, then back onto the run course for 1 lap. The weather leading up to race was perfect, patches of sun but the air was fresh.
The morning of the race I woke up excited but anxious. This was my first outing for GB at the standard distance race, double the distance I have reached previously. Obviously I have raced in England at this distance, but not against this sort of competition, not in a major championship.
The race was due to start just before 11:30 and as the day went on, the temperature went up and up and up! As we stood at the start line, giving each other those nervous half smiles, I could feel the midday sun beating down onto my back and I knew it was going to be a hot race.
Suddenly we were off and my brain switched focus from the sun to the race. The first leg of the race was 2 5km laps. We started quickly but after the first 3 or 4 km the race settled and we spread out a bit. Towards the end of the first lap I knew I was in trouble. My heart was racing, my head pounding and I felt very very sick. Towards the end of the second lap I stopped to be sick, it took everything I had to get going again, to force myself to start running. I just wanted to curl up in a ball right there. But I didn't, I kept going and came into T1 relieved but exhausted and not as far up in the field as I had wanted to be. Out onto the bike leg I knew I had a huge task ahead of me but the bike had quickly become my strength and it was also an opportunity to refuel and get some water on board. I immediately felt better and was soon closing the gap on the ladies ahead of me.
My new found energy and confidence lasted for most of the 40km bike course, but I was feeling some fatigue and severe dehydration in the last few kilometres. I came off the bike and intoT2 in a strong position; it was now just a case of holding on. The second run was 5km of pure agony, dehydration, confusion and fatigue. It felt like I had left everything on the bike. I crossed the finish line, covered in vomit, sweat and unfortunately a little bit of something else and just burst into tears. I was so tired and everything hurt so much, but I'd done it, gold again!!
This season I made the decision to move up to the standard distance and also moved up an age group (not my decision, but what can you do, the big 30 catches all of us!). It was a new test and a step into the unknown. I am so pleased with how well this season has gone and have my coaches, sponsors, friends and family to thank for their continued support, belief and patience. I say it a lot, but I would not be able to do this without any of them!
Now to spend the summer resting, recharging my batteries and deciding what challenge to take on next!