It felt really strange to leave Sands Beach which has felt like home for the past few months but I set off for Calella (near Barcelona) on the Wednesday before the race. The next day I decided that driving the bike course would be a great idea as I like to have at least driven the bike course before a race if there is no opportunity to ride it. A group of us set off around the course including Brits, Joe Skipper, Holly Lawrence, Mark Threlfall and fellow team TBB team mate Ritchie Nicholls.
On the Friday before the race we went for a swim on the course. It was rough, choppy and tough conditions for swimming. I was hoping it would be a little better on race day. We also had the briefing and press conference that day. It was much better and more relaxed to do these two days before the race as pre-race day can be quite stressful. It took me by surprise to be invited to the press conference and it was strange to be sitting beside the likes of Macca and Gomez. I definitely was aiming for a spot on the podium but I wouldn’t have seen myself as a pre-race favourite.
Race day arrived and we were called to the start line, I was standing there with my green Compressport calf guards poking out a little below my wetsuit when an official said I better either remove them or pull them up before we start. So I frantically had to remove them as I wasn’t sure how they would feel rolled up and I didn’t want to waste time pulling them down after the swim. That official must have disliked green as he let another athlete also wearing Compressport calf guards (in black) wear hers! The gun went off and we sprinted from the beach in to the choppy water.
I had a fairly good start and for once found some people to swim with so we formed the second pack as the faster swimmers pulled away from us. I was in a pack which was a good thing for me but the whole pack was swimming blind. We couldn’t see a thing; I was following feet and hoping that the girl in front knew where she was going. I thought that perhaps she could see more than me. It soon became clear that she couldn’t see much either and as we progressed we found that we were well off course swimming way to the left of where we should be. I saw some officials point to where we should be going and I decided to take the lead of the pack at that point and stayed there for the rest of the swim. I had a fairly quick transition and got off on the bike putting some pressure on knowing that group would be coming after me.
On the bike we wound through some of the smaller streets of Calella before heading on to the main part of the course. I hit a speed bump about 5 minutes in a lost my front mounted water bottle. Not a big problem just a little inconvenience! As we turned off the main road and headed towards the first climb I realised that the course might not be as bad to ride as it seemed when we drove it. I worked hard and after around 40k I began to catch some of the first swim pack. I had no idea what position I was in or how many were in front but I just kept pushing on. Before the top of the steepest climb at around 45k I could see the Polish girl Maria Czesnik not too far ahead and some men were shouting at me in Spanish ‘Vamos, venga, venga, venga’ and holding 4 fingers up. I took it that I might have been in 4th so I was possibly one spot from the podium at half way on the bike. I had been told about Maria before the race and knew she was one to watch. I kept gradually gaining on her as we descended. Then we hit a short flat out and back section and I rode over something. Suddenly there was a loud hissing sound coming from the front wheel and I panicked. I didn’t know what to do, a puncture in a race I began to think, ‘No no no, I feel good and this can’t be happening’. It didn’t feel like a puncture so I though it must be going down slowly. All I had was a Pitstop to repair it so I thought I would try to use it before the tyre completely deflated. I stopped checked both tyres and no puncture checked the bike and couldn’t see anything! Unsure of what was going on I jumped back on and started pedalling again only to hear the same noise. Then I saw that there was something stuck between the forks and wheel, I quickly removed it and got back to work on making up the lost time. I caught up Maria with about 15k to go we swapped positions for a short while and she rode not far behind me all the way in to T2. I knew she was a short course girl and that she could run so I wanted to get out of transition as quickly as possible.
In my haste to get out of transition and on to the run I forgot to remove some small stones from my feet. I began running and all I could feel were the stones in my socks. I wondered how I was going to get through a half marathon and thought I might need to stop as they really hurt and that was in the first K. Soon those thoughts left my head as I could see where Camilla Pederson, the race leader and Eva Wuiit who was in second place were on the course. Camilla had a great lead off the bike but I could see that I could possibly catch up on second place with a strong run. Sometimes when I run it feels like I am flowing and running well and other times when I run it feels much more like hard work. That day was one of the hard work days, I didn’t feel good and it didn’t help that there was someone running hard to catch me. Just after completing one lap I ran in to second place and had to keep running strongly to the end to hold that position. I crossed the line in second place pretty pleased after a tough day out. It felt like a solid performance and I was happy to make the podium and to take a silver medal at a European Championship race.
I know it sometimes takes me a little while to update my blogs and race reports but this time I have a good excuse. I have been celebrating my birthday and making my way to Switzerland where I will be based for the summer. It’s been a big shock to the system as we have had snow every day since I arrived. It has been nice to have a taste of the winter I missed when in Lanzarote but I am looking forward to the weather improving. My next race will be Ironman UK 70.3 next month. The start list is looking extremely strong and I know it’s going to be a really tough race but I am looking forward to heading back to Wimbleball.