Diving into the deep end!
My first race back after 7 months consisted of:
1) The first race of the WTS circuit
2) a sprint finish
3) 2nd place
Talk about diving into the deep end!
So 7 months away from racing is the longest time I’ve been away. Needless to say, as you’re all aware, it’s been tough. Having been given the all clear from my injury late December I knew I had to sort my stuff out sharpish to be ready for the 2017 season. Although my winter training started a little later than normal, it’s been quite consistent. It was a completely different build up to what I am used to as recovering from injury it felt a lot slower, but I had to be sensible and think about the bigger picture. You’re all aware of my recent changes, which again was another spanner in the works for me, a new (colder) training location, a new training programme, new routine, new coach, I felt like a rookie again. Mentally I would say that it was more demanding, physically my body just seemed to react to the training, it’s work in progress for sure.
The first race of the year is always challenging, I normally like to get a little race done beforehand just to see where things are, but there was no time this year, so WTS Abu Dhabi it was. As always WTS Abu Dhabi was set to be an exciting one, with the main focus being the new course with the technical bike section! I have to say, I was really excited; short inclines, fast twisty descents, sweeping bends it was a playground for the bike on a F1 circuit, which is pretty cool. I really miss the likes of the Auckland and Kitzbuhel, bike courses, so was looking forward to something a bit different. Firstly though, the swim – I’m always conscious of the USA girls, they brought a big team here so I knew along with Carolina (ESP) that the swim was going to be fast. As I expected, packs formed, I felt like a had a better swim during this race, but was still 40 sec down leaving T1 in the 3rd pack (work in progress still).
Onto the bike and for me it was head down and push. I knew the gap, I knew what I had to do, so I just went for it. I got help from Andrea (Hewitt) and between the 2 of us we managed to bridge the gap across, with most of the pack happy to stay behind for the ride. To be honest, I know how hard me and Andrea were pushing, so I don’t know whether the girls just couldn’t take their turn or not, but either way, we caught the lead group. I knew I’d had a solid winter on my bike, and I haven’t been able to race the way I wanted to on 2 wheels so this race was a bit of a test to see how much I could do, and I was happy. I raced aggressively on my new Specialized S-Works Amira, I was happy to push the pace throughout the 40km, it was nice to put the pressure on a bit and feel good on a smooth bike course! The pressure came off on the last lap which is where the gap decreased a lot to the chasing pack, but I got into a good position coming into T2, with me and Gillian Backhouse on the front line. A clean T2 and I had no idea how I would run after such a hard bike.
The run started and I found myself at the front which is not where I wanted to be, after having no confidence in my run, from a combination of a delayed winter build block and new training routine, the plan was to just feel my way though the first 5k, but this didn’t work out, with the pace being just too slow. So after the first few km I went to the front. My mentality changed then, and I just thought; well lets just go for it then! I wasn’t silly for the first 5km, as the conditions also came in to play, especially with the heat!! My first winter in the UK (as you can tell from my ghost tan), means I was conscious of the heat. After 5km I was pushing the hill slightly as I could feel this was Andrea and Saras weak points on the course, but I couldn’t shake them. Then coming back into the finishing area there a long flat which Andrea was the most dominant. Still running together into the last lap, again up the hill I put the pressure on, but still the doubt of running in the back of my head came into play. Coming onto the flat with around 350m to go until the finish my Coach on the sideline shouted at me to go for it. So I did and managed a small gap as I looked behind. My legs were going as fast as I could make them, I had no idea where Andrea was. I was using every part of my body to get to that finish and then out of the corner of my eye I spot a tiny black tri-suit and there was nothing I could do. I was at full stretch and we crossed the line within 1 second of each other with Andrea getting the Gold. 2nd place in my first WTS race, back from injury – I’m happy. And more so that Andrea got the win – I know how much this race means to her, and she thoroughly deserves it, she is one tough cookie both physically and mentally. As for Sara, wowza, such a young talent and 1st time on the WTS podium! Bravo!
Looking back now, I’m still over the moon with my performance on the day. Don’t get me wrong – there’s still a lot of work to be done, and another 7 months of racing to be had. But my worry has now turned into a bit of relief that things are going in the right direction. The first race is my starting point for the 2017 season and I’m looking forward to building and seeing what’s to come. I’ve been inundated with messages – there are too many to reply to, although I have read them all, so will say thank you to you all now. Your support is incredible, and knowing you guys are all behind me makes me want to push on more and more. I cannot thank you enough! Good luck to start of the season for you all. See you on the Gold Coast!