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Saturday, 31 May 2014

Countdown to Germany - Race day

So race day arrived finally and with it's arrival, my clumsiness seemed to disappear. After nearly falling down some stairs yesterday I was relived to return to normal. 

Me and the rest of the team
After forgetting my number belt I dithered around in the morning. Couldn't settle so went to buy a number belt at 11. Thankfully I did because by the time of the race they'd sold out. In a zen like calm I prepared for my race and packed my bag for the race. After checking everything was in place. Me and the Mrs made out way to the race area. She left me to set up my transition. 

Wow setting up transition for an aquathlon is easy.

Setting up my transition zone
Trainers check
Number belt check
Sunnies check
Hat check

No faffing about with bikes. Such a breeze. 

After watching the elites set off I went for a warm up jog. To help get me in the zone I listened to my pre race playlist during my jog. It contains two songs. 

Happy by Pharell Williams and the audio from this video. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OjqYut-pyDU

These songs put me in a happy place and helped calm my nerves which by this time were really taking over my thoughts. I had such severe butterflies. But after my jog the butterflies had disappeared. Now it was game face time. 

The heat in Cologne was not great. I function better in cooler climes it's just fact for me. But it was what it was. I couldn't change anything. 

Time to do my thing. 

I made my way to the start line. I decided to put myself at the back of the swim as I didn't want kicking in the ribs. They were already hurting after #turbogate. This probably cost me about 3 seconds so no biggie. I settled into my stroke and found clear water. On the last 500 I was in a pack of 5 or 6 swimmers and we worked together. When I tried to accelerate from the pack I couldn't so I stuck with them. I exited the water in a time of 16:39 in 27th place which I was pleased with. I made my way up the 40 steps to transition and stripped off my wetsuit. Threw on my trainers and glasses. And was off on the run. I noticed that the other Brit in my AG was behind me at this point. 

For some reason there was very little representation at these championships across all nations. The Brits easily sent the most athletes. I don't really get this at all. There were only 4/5 athletes in most AGs and a total of 34 men in the field. There were four athletes in my AG so if my run went well there was a chance I would end up with a bronze medal. I'd done my research on the others in my field and noticed that the French dude was the current World Champ and the German dude was a far quicker runner than me. 

Which left me and the other Brit. Now I knew I was a quicker swimmer off the times on the internet and he was a quicker runner. I thought my swim time would be 2 minutes up on him and that his run time would be about two mins quicker than mins so it would be a really close race between us for 3rd place. 

The run consisted of two loops with two dead turns on each lap. These turns would serve as a place for me to monitor how far ahead I was on the other Brit. At the first turn 750m into the 2.5k loop, I had a lead of about 45 seconds on him. By the second turn after 2.1k that lead was reduced to 20 seconds. I went through the 3k mark still ahead but shortly after he breezed past me. I tried to kick and stay with him but I was really struggling by this point. I then tried to keep him within distance of a sprint finish but he was just running quicker than me. After the 4th dead turn he had put a minute into me. 
On the run looking tired
So now I was last in my AG. I pushed on for the line a little disappointed but then I remembered how far I have come on this journey. And this journey is nowhere near it's completion. With the support of those that believe in me such as Blizard Physio, TrainerRoad, Huub Design, JackOatBar and TFN as well as my family and friends, I will be the best I can be.

Here's a brief recap of my journey so far if you're new to this blog. 19 months ago I was still smoking 20 cigarettes a day. 29 months ago I didn't know what exercise was and lived a sedentary lifestyle. Here I was representing my country.

That's some transformation. Do I honestly think I am good enough to represent my country? In a word no.

I know there are people a lot quicker than me across all three disciplines but there was a way for me to do it and I took it with both hands. At the end of the race I was only 62 seconds away from medalling at a European Championship. 

To quote Theodore Roosevelt

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

I put myself in the arena of this race and was 62 seconds from getting a European bronze medal. When I started this journey I never imagined this would be possible. I gave my all today but the better man won. 

It transpires I was only a minute up on him on the swim so like I thought it was a close race. I will be back next year to try again providing the ETU run the event as I had a really good time and learnt a lot about myself. I can suffer when I need to. 

Thanks for reading

Michael

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