Next race after IM Staffs 70.3, was the European Olympic Distance Champs in Geneva. It gave me just over 2 weeks to build some extra speed work into the plan having been predominantly been training for half ironman. The European Champs have fond memories for me as it’s where I started my international career, first of all as a youth (14-16 age group) and then as a junior (17-20) for GB. It’s exactly 20 years since making my debut in Stockholm in 1995 and will be the 7th time I have raced these championships. I had come close twice, once in 2007 in Copenhagen and again in 2009 in Holten with silver medals each time, so I was very much looking to see if I could go all the way and win the title.
As race day approached, weather forecasts were suggesting some pretty hot weather with temperatures into the mid 30s. The usual panics on social media started with wetsuit/non wetsuit swims started to materialise, but as race day approached, it fell just short and would be wetsuit (unfortunately!!)
For some reason the 35-39 age group was the very last wave of the day at 7.30am, meaning that we would spend most of the day catching the earlier waves and having to overtake. To be fair, it didn’t cause too many issues on the swim and bike, but on the narrow and winding run course this proved a bit more of a problem.
The swim in Lake Geneva went smoothly and I was out in 3rd place, with 2 other swimmers about 20 seconds ahead. The bike course was 2 laps, almost pan flat apart from one hill of approx a km which had a short steep section of maybe 10% that was about 300m long in the middle, and then a quick descent back to the lakeside. I started off hard to catch the 2 in front, the first I caught within the first few km’s and passed easily, the 2nd a french guy took about 7 or 8km to catch. He was riding strongly, so I put an effort in to try and open a gap straight away, but he was able to match it and just sat in. This is basically where he sat for the next 30km to the end of the bike. Never came through and did any work and was very close for most of it…..
On to the run and my ‘French friend’ starts to fall back straight away, and I didn’t feel like I had started that quickly so I relax into my stride for the 1st lap. By this time, it’s hot and there are lots of people on the course. There are a couple of places where you can see people behind and I have a bit of a look round to see if anybody is making any moves through the field, but it seems that the heat is stopping anyone from running that quickly, I think the tactic to swim hard, bike hard paid off and I didn’t need to do anything stupid on the run.
So 20 years on, I finally get my European Title!!!! Not much time to enjoy it though as I get ready to move back to half ironman for Dublin 70.3 and then the World 70.3 Champs 3 weeks later…..