Double Commonwealth Gold Medallist - Is This A Dream?!
What an amazing past few days I've had and I'm still riding high in the clouds. I've got a feeling it's going to take a while before I return back to Be honest. I'll talk you through the past few days and hopefully you'll get an insight and be able to feel the amazing vibes I'm feeling right now . . .
After the rapid race in Hamburg I was rushed back to Morzine in France to get another week of consistent work before flying to Glasgow on the Monday. So before I left, myself, Aileen and Connor (who had both qualified for the Northern Ireland team) met coach for run drills and the last final words before heading off. All the work had been done, there was nothing more I could do, just to go into the race and do exactly what I would do for any other race.
I arrived in sunny Scotland on Monday afternoon, but I soon got the feeling this race would have to be a little different. We got took to the athletes village to pick up our accreditations as we needed them to get ANYWHERE, including the course reccies which were the following day. So by the time all this was done we got back to the hotel and it was close on 7.30pm, I was starving, so a quick bite to eat, built my bike and was off to bed.
Tuesday came and off I went to the pool as I would do normally, and then back for a little break and then it was athletes briefing at 9am which was like any other normal briefing, except there were only about half the women there! Then it was the pontoon draw, this was something new for us as we had to pre pick where we wanted to stand as a starting position on the pontoon. As I was number 1 I had to pick first, and was then followed by the next top 9 athletes. The funny thing was that nobody knew what slot anyone else had chosen, the numbers were just blanked out, so you knew athletes had chosen certain slots, but you didn't know which athlete had chosen what spot. When we found out where everyone had picked, it was pretty spread out, with my side of the pontoon having a lot of the top ranked athletes, but then on the other side having some mega fast swimmers with the likes of Lucy Hall, Aileen Reid and Vicky Holland. After the draw I went round and did the course reccies which were quite chilled and was nice to have clear road with only 25 women on the start line. Then it was back to the hotel, I had a little bit of media stuff to do but thanks to JT and Laura in Team England it was quick, and I was quickly in the shade out of the scorching Scotland sun. That's one thing that came as a total surprise, I never thought I'd be saying Scotland, sun and 30 degrees in the same sentence, but those were the conditions set up for the next few days.
Wednesday, pre race day, I did my normal routine and tried to keep things how I would do normally, nothing different, no changes, stick to the routine. Wednesday was all about relaxing, resting up, meeting Mom and Dad for a bit of lunch. Like I always say, bit of a boring day for me.
Race Day - The Glasgow heat continued, and water temp was announced as 20.9, with the air temp mid 20s. Race started at 11.00am. All checked in, bikes racked. Red and white England suit was on with the Lion on my chest, proud and fired ready to go. We were called onto the pontoon and the cheer from the crowd gave me goosebumps, the Commonwealth Games had started.
Me and Coach Daz have a check list which includes what I want to achieve in the race, and standing on the pontoon that's what I'm thinking about - just what do I need to do?
The drums started - dum dum, dum dum, dum dum - it matched my heartbeat, and we were off. I started well, and found myself getting round the first buoy ok. I clocked Kirsten on my left which was good to know as we both know not to get in each others way getting around the first buoy. We both went round nice and clean then I started to focus, "ok where am I?", "where do I need to be?". Of course by this point Lucy was leading and I saw that I needed to move around people i order to bridge up a little bit, so I did and managed to power by way up into a great position on Vicky Hollands feet, who in turn, was on Lucy's feet. As I was swimming I saw Aileen, now I know I'm in a good position. Half way point came and it was an England 1, 2, 3 out and back into the water, all I was thinking at this point was "I am not moving from here". I felt ok on the second half of the swim and was chuffed to bits coming out of the water in 3rd place, with the other 2 England girls just in front. Running into T1, all went fine, and I tried to get the group going, I knew Emma Jackson wasn't with us initially and knew she was a threat, but I don't think everyones legs turned up straight away, and we soon became a group of 10, with everyone there. Oh dear, all the athletes I who I thought would be close were there, and looking around at Andrea, Emma, Aileen, Vicky and Kirsten I didn't know how the bike and run would pan out. I expected Lucy to give it her all on the bike, and I knew with how strong she is I would struggle to react to her if she broke, which is exactly what happened. The bike course for me was pretty tough, not particularly because of the pace, more so because of the course. I loved it, I enjoy racing an honest course where nobody can hide and you have to be good at all three to get the best out of the race. There were a couple of breaks from different girls, but I decided not to go with them, whether that was the right or wrong thing to do, only time would tell. Going onto the last lap Lucy broke, I tried to react but couldn't, she was gone, the gap went to about 25 seconds but we had clawed her back in by T2, and I held my position going into T2 which was a clean in and out.
The run, ok so everyone is there, I wanted to run strong, but not blow, "don't be stupid, think about what you're doing". I was going through my check list, "what can I do to make this easier?". My form, I was running well, and felt good, but with Emma Jackson and Kirsten Sweetland keeping the pace up with me at the front it wasn't easy running. It's so difficult to assess yourself against how other girls are running. I could see there was a group of around 5/6, and knowing Kirsten and Emma had both had good races just 10 days ago in Hamburg was a bit of a worry. Again I needed to focus on myself and what I needed to do.
I held my position for most of lap one, then allowed Emma and Kirsten to go ahead during the latter stages of lap 1 and onto lap 2 which is when we were joined by Andrea (who is a former bronze Commonwealth Games medallist). I sat in for lap 2 and the group stayed the same, nobody was giving anything away, towards the end of lap 2 Kirsten put in a little surge which I responded to.
I picked it up a little going onto the last lap to test the water ,and this is where people started to drop off, 6 became 4 and by the time we'd gone up the hill and started the first steep run down 4 then became 3, myself, Kirsten and Vicky, all three in red & white. I went again, just a little more, so side by side me and Kirsten with Vicky tooled in. The last decent I knew I had to keep the pressure on, trying to get a little more with every step. I was hurting, but keeping things in control, "what would Darren be telling me what to do!?"
I go, and that's it. I chose my time and committed. I couldn't look back, I wasn't sure who was behind me and who had dropped off, all I could do was look forward. In to the last right turn and I hear Glenn shout "you have a gap, you got to keep going", onto the blue carpet the crowd erupted, and to be honest I thought "bugger me it's a sprint finish", I gave it my absolute all and I crossed the line. Oh my days I am Commonwealth Champion! I look back at the crowd and see my family and I explode with an emotion overload. Kirsten and Vicky come across and wow what great girls to share the podium with. Me and Vicky would be fighting for the happiest person in Glasgow over the 3 days that's for sure!
What an amazing moment to be able to share with my family and friends who had travelled up to watch me compete, and to everyone back home I can imagine you were screaming at the TV, believe me, I could feel you. To my training group in Morzine who I knew would be watching and of course the guy I have got so much to thank for, who has put up with the challenge that is me, my coach Darren Smith, I wished he could have been there with me but in spirit, and in my head! He was there guiding me through
On to the podium and medal presentation saw another load of emotion. Receiving that medal was amazing, I cannot explain how it felt and do it justice! Following the race it was all media, media, media, which i was totally NOT prepared for! Meeting Gary Lineker, staying awake after 9pm, chatting to ITV, BBC was a bit surreal for me.
Friday was recovery day, with a little bit of swimming, cycling, running, which was challenging in itself, ensuring that I didn't drown in the pool. I remember say to my sister "my legs are broken" and that's exactly how they felt, to bike and run that day was murder!!
I woke up on Saturday for the relay and my body was still in pieces, but went for a swim which helped then headed down for the relay. so Vicky first then Johnny, Me and Ali, i have been favourite in the dream team before as learnt its not always the favourite that wins.
We all got called down and introduced and later told by mum that we all took terrible and shattered as I'm sure we did but its team really day so we may have looked terrible but by the time it was our time to go it was race on. Vicky and Johnny did a fantastic job and tagged me with a 15 sec gap ahead of the other Commonwealth nations, talk about pressure!!! My running jump/dive went with well, and by that I mean I didn't fall on my face which was my first concern, and then on the bike the gap now back to NZ Nicky Samuels was only 11 seconds and before I knew it we were in T2 together. My T2 was horrendous, so on to the run and it was a 1600m sprint, and yes, I was spinning all the way and pushed so hard to get as bigger gap as I can. I passed over to Ali with a 20 second gap, and threw up! Nice! But that's what the super sprint distance does to you. After I'd sorted myself out all I was waiting for was for Ali's feet to touch the blue carpet in T2 and then I knew we were ok. He crossed the line well clear. Another gold. Another Commonwealth Champion, this time as part of the England Team. Amazing. The best thing following that was watching the fight for silver and bronze, it was epic watching Richard Murray being chased down by Ryan Bailie WOW what an effort. Sharing the podium with SA and Aus was special.
Back Home . . .
So the last 3 days the media roller coaster has continued. I was greeted back home on the Sunday to a decorated house (thanks to Auntie Kay) and most of my family and friends stood on the driveway to welcome me home. I have such an amazing support group and none of my achievements would have been possible without them. Thank the Lord for social media! Facebook, Twitter and Skype and invaluable.
I set my goal last year to qualify for the Commonwealth Games and represent England and my home town in the Black Country. Goal achieved. This year my goal was to race to the best of my ability at the Games. Goal achieved. I could not have achieved any of these goals without the help, guidance, support and hard work from Coach Darren Smith and the background crew of Rick, D Squad and of course my sponsors TYR, POWERBAR, OAKLEY, just to name a few. I would like to say thank you so much to all of you.
My phone hasn't stopped ringing, the Facebook messages keep coming and the twitter favourites are constant. I'm overwhelmed and hearing the local community talk about paining post boxes, bus shelters and civil ceremonies based on my achievements is fantastic and I'm blushing at the thought.
I'm back for a week and Sunday sees me competing in a bit of fun at the Jodie Stimpson Aquathlon at Swan Pool in Sandwell Valley, West Bromwich. Pop down and "give it a tri", but beware, you may catch the bug ;-)
2 more races left for me in the World Series Circuit.
Enjoy the summer everyone, speak soon, and remember dreams really do come true
All of my blogs can be found on the all new dedicated site for sporting blogs. . .