Standard Distance National Champs - Dan Walsh
One cold, wet and dark January afternoon, I thought it would be a good idea to try and qualify for Great Britain’s Age Group team for the Standard Distance World Championships in Cozumel, Mexico. Fast forward 4 months and the first of those qualifiers was looming: St Neots Standard Distance Triathlon, run by Nice Tri Events.
On the drive up, the weather was a sweltering 26 Degrees. This, combined with the fact that I’d only just realised it was the National Standard Distance Championships, made me wonder if I’d made the right choice!
After finding my hotel with the ever trusty Google Maps, I decided to grab some food and head to Tesco before sorting my kit and getting an early night… or so I thought! The weather (still being 19 degrees in the hotel room) plus a broken hotel fan meant I didn’t actually sleep until 1am. Brilliant!
Race morning – 0545.
After what felt like about 3 hours sleep, I grabbed my kit and left for registration.
Registration, transition and race brief done, it was time for the warm up. Looking at the guys entering the water in front of me, I knew it was going to be a cold swim (I later found out it was the minimum temperature allowed for the full distance!) Edging my way in, I know why the various faces were being pulled. IT WAS FREEZING! After what felt like 10 minutes, I still couldn’t put my head under the water without struggling to catch my breath. Things weren’t looking good.
Swim Start – 0800
As the klaxon sounded, I knew I had to get moving in order to avoid being pummelled by the other swimmers so I did what Blair told me to do and kicked hard for 200m. Once I was in clear water and realised that I could actually breathe, I sorted my stroke rate out and got into a good rhythm – catching and passing other swimmers. Eventually I found myself on the back of the lead pack and decided to sit on someone’s hip, letting them do the hard work of sighting!
As T1 approached, I kicked hard again for the last 200m trying to get the blood back into the legs.
I pressed the lap button on my Garmin and set off to find my bike.
T1 – 0822
After a strong swim, it was time to find my transition area and get on the bike. Something I failed at doing after running past it twice. Eventually after locating it, I put my helmet on and headed for the mount line.
Bike – 0824
The bike course was a fast out-and-back loop with a couple of small hills.
Once I’d got my feet into my shoes and had a gel, it was time to settle into my rhythm and keep the cadence high. Something I’d been practicing in training.
It wasn’t long until some of the older, stronger cyclists came flying past with their 2016 models and disc wheels, but I knew I wasn’t going to let that bother me and I continued with my race plan of keeping the cadence high and my heart rate in Zone 4.
Looking down at my Garmin, I saw I was just over 1km from T2 so changed into an easier gear and started to spin the legs out for the run.
T2 – 0927
After a strong bike, it was time to get my running shoes on. T2 was pretty uneventful, racking my bike quickly and getting my trainers on without any issues.
Run – 0928
The 10km run was another out-and-back loop with two turns.
The first section was along the top of the dam wall, a flat surface so I set off fairly quickly with the aim of negative splitting the run. I realised that I had set off too quickly as by the time I hit the 3km marker, I had a horrendous stitch. Not wanting to walk and with the heat now at 28 degrees, I carried on to the next turnaround point which was at the 7km mark, and after gulping down a cup of water I felt the stitch subside.
Now it was time to kick hard for the last 3km so I sorted my breathing out, picked up my posture and set off towards the finish. I seemed to breeze past the athletes that overtook me when I had the stitch, which motivated me to kick even harder.
As I neared the final 1km I was conscious of not overcooking it. I settled into a good rhythm and tried to gradually close the gap with the athlete in front but when we went round the final bend, I realised I’d left it too late.
Crossing the finish line, I grabbed an Erdinger Alkoholfrei and headed to the timing van to check my results
Race Finish – 10:07
As I got my results, I was shocked to see that I was 3rd in my Age Group (20-24) and 66th out of 545 overall.
My times were:
Swim – 21:09
T1 - 01:52
Bike - 1:02:45
T2 – 00:40
Run – 40:31
Total Time – 2:06:51
Prize Giving – 1300
Once all the athletes were in, it was time for the prize giving.
As they called ‘Male 20-24 3rd Place’ I was shocked. As I climbed onto the podium, the Triathlon England Chairman placed the medal over my head. I still couldn’t believe that I’d actually finished 3rd. Now it was time to wait and see if I’d qualified for the World Champs!
Checking the British Triathlon website on Tuesday, I saw a Q next to my name. That was it, I was off to Mexico!
3rd in 20-24 AG at the National Champs
Now it’s time to take the training up a notch, to make sure I race well at the World Champs!
I’d like to thank my sponsor Volare Sports, and my Coach Blair Davies for helping me qualify for the Great Britain Age Group Team.