Finally… I’m back on the start line!

So it was great to be out racing in Stockholm WTS at the weekend. I am so glad to be healthy, albeit not quite fit yet. It has been such a tough few months for me. Since racing Gold Coast 4 months ago I’ve been being stuck in rehab, not able to run until around 6 weeks ago, and only coming off the Alter G 10 days before racing. I knew it was going to be a difficult race coming into Stockholm, not only because of the lack of running, but also with how technical and tough the course it. I had a plan coming into Stockholm – I wanted to race. I was so desperate after being out for so long, so my plan was to put in a hard swim bike as best as I could and just leave the run to see what happened. I had no expectations, no pressure and it was actually just great to be back on the start line injury free.

Leading into the race I felt excited to be back. I’ve found it so hard to sit and watch the last 5 races unfold. I know I don’t have to watch them but I just can’t help myself, I find myself glued to the TV, shouting at the screen for my friends to do well! It’s been such an entertaining series so far, I’m so happy to be back and part of it. I arrived on Wednesday and what a stunning location to have a race. This was my 4th time in Stockholm, and arriving back seeing all the athletes was a great feeling. The sun was shining but that didn’t last on course recce day, where the black clouds rolled in and it basically rained for most the day! But come race day the sun was back shining with not a cloud in the sky – the perfect setting for my first race back.

So, if you watched the race you’ll have realised how excited I was to race! So much so that I got a tad ahead of myself and did a flyer! Oops! As I dived in I thought ooooooo that was going to be close, but I quickly put it out my mind and got on with the race. I felt terrible in the water, but I think this was mainly to do with the very choppy conditions. It was certainly a tough swim, and was so fast from the start. Coming into the last bit of lap 1 I had no idea where I was. The chop was that hard I could barely see in front of me, let alone where I was in the pack. Out of lap 1 and diving back in I found myself in a great position, I clocked there was only a few girls in front of me and I thought, “Holy cow I’m in the lead pack!” I couldn’t allow myself to get carried away, and knew I still had another 500m to go and the pace was not letting up. I got halfway around the second lap and saw Carolina Routier next to me and I thought, “What on earth are you doing next to me…I must still be going okay”. On the exit I came out on the feet of Alice Betto, but then ran to my bike and there was a marshal stood there holding a yellow card – 15 sec penalty – s**t!!!! I looked across to my right and saw Flora, Jess, and Lucy, I was right there watching them leave T1. Those 15 seconds seemed to last a lifetime as the girls just flew past me. I had no choice but to take a breath and stay calm. The penalty was a game changer.

Off I went and I just had to think “game on”, lets go. I reminded myself what the aims of this race were – to make the swim and bike as hard as I could for myself, mainly because I knew my run wasn’t there, but also because I wanted to see what I could do. The penalty didn’t change my plan and just made me more aggressive and determined I suppose. I found myself in the 3rd chase pack, I put my head down and rode as hard as I could and I didn’t give up. I managed to bridge the gap to the first chase pack but knew who was up in front. It was almost the perfect pack of 3 strong women, Flora, Jess and Katie. A pack of 3 is perfect to get away on this course, because of how technical and fast it is – I knew they would be difficult to catch. Coming into the last 2 laps I was happy with how I rode. I literally red lined for 30km to bring myself and a few others up to the main chase pack and then 2 of the girls decided to try and launch an attack on me – I was on edge and thought “no way”. I let them carry on, focusing on not getting dropped and get to the end of the bike in one piece.

I’d heard about Katie and I knew the exact place she came down, it’s a nightmare of a corner that one and you have to be so careful. I hate to hear of anyone coming down on the bike, and I send her fast healing vibes ready for Rotterdam!

Into T2 and the gap was blown out to 2 mins, I thought “wow girls, just wow” – nothing I could do about it now, I just had to concentrate on the 10k that was ahead of me, and my God, 10km is soooooo long!!!!! Well it is when you haven’t run that distance since April! Each lap going up that hill in front of the palace killed me, and running out of T2 I knew it was going to be long and hard. I just felt like I couldn’t hurt myself, and was stuck in 3rd gear, not able to move. The lungs were okay, but the legs were screaming at me to stop. I crossed the line in 13th (unlucky for some). Of course I’m not happy with that at all, not even close, I want so much more. But on the other hand I remind myself things could be a lot worse than 13th place, like not being able to race at all!

I realise that going into the last few races of my season I’m not quite at podium material – I’ve simply ran out of time to be back in peak form for this season, however I’m glad to be back and I’m still looking to make some kind of impact on the races ahead! That is all I can do and I hope my supporters understand that. Next up was the British Mixed Relay cup in Nottingham at the weekend. Repping the Loughborough Colours was great fun. What an amazing race to be a part of and being able to race with the people you train with day in day out was a special and unique thing to be able to do. We finished the day in 2nd after fighting for the top spot with Leeds Team 1 and 2 and also Canada. Thank you to every one who came down to watch and support the race it was truly a great day thanks to the amazing support that covered the course.

What’s next…? On to Rotterdam for the Grand Final of the WTS and then the weekend after that sees the first women’s race of the Super League in Jersey! With only a few races left for this year I’m going to race hard and enjoy whatever my body allows me to do. I’m hungry for more. This season may not see me back on top form, but I’m certainly back!