Just as we were all starting to loose hope on pinning a number on, it seems as if races are back on the menu.
My training over the winter has been great, in fact it often is in my case : no distractions, no travelling, no training in the heat, and no building up cortisol levels leading into races. If there’s one thing I want to nail this year it’s exactly that, reproduce what I do in the winter right through the season, and simply be consistent. Often my fitness levels have been like a yo-yo, however this year I feel great and am simply loving putting the consecutive weeks and months of training together.
I naturally want to hit every race in peak form but have come to realise that this isn’t always possible, and certainly not viable financially as an up and coming athlete. There is nothing I hate more than being on a start line when I know I could be fitter, unfortunately it’s part of the job right now. Maybe one day when money is out of the equation and I’ve enough sponsors to pick 3 stand out races I can do just that, but for now I need to race.
So exactly 3 weeks prior to Challenge Gran Canaria I got accepted into the race. Another week of training went by before I learnt that Jan was also racing : a dream come true. I’d been hoping that this opportunity would come before he retires (for a long time now), wondering if I had any chance of keeping up with the guy I’ve watched obliterate the long course scene for so long.
Although I have trained and raced with lots of the best triathletes in the world, I was missing one guy, one of the athletes who I truly wondered if I could ever beat in Kona.
This sounds cocky at my level, as there are many athletes who would smoke me tomorrow in Kona, but with all except Jan I genuinely felt they were all beatable.
I had no clue where I was against Jan, and all I wanted was an answer.
Fast forward a few days and I’m there, on the beach right behind him. I had the number 37 and we were told we would be placed one by one. This rule quickly got thrown out of the equation when Jan casually walked up to his favourite spot right at the left hand side of the line. I genuinely always make sure I’m on the first row to get out fast. This time however I had no choice, so I tucked in behind Jan and hoped he would have a great start. I’d said to my friends and family that I would just follow him until I end up in a wheelchair.
Truth is I’m not that patient, or simply stupid.
After one lap on his feet I felt I had to take my turn and also work so that the Langes/Boecherer’s and company would be out of the race. I just swam at a comfortable pace for the rest of the 1900m and came out with two of the best swimmers in the game (Salvisberg and Frodeno). Writing this now I realise how good that sounds, especially if people knew where I’d come from with my swimming. All the credit has to go to my dad for this, not only did I not grow up a swimmer, but I’m also probably the pro who lives the furthest away from a pool. Maybe Richard Laidlow is a water wizard now I think about it.
Onto the bike and immediately Jan took to the front, like he always does. Surely my role is to shut up and follow for as long as possible? Nah..
The course did not have a meter of flat and was constantly rolling up or down. I could see Jan was clearly sticking to a wattage strategy, keeping the power as constant as possible over the undulating terrain. This felt terrible to me and quite ineffective, surely a 22 year old with no results knows better then the best triathlete of all time. Jokes aside, it doesn’t take a genius to know that riding fast from A – B is the most important factor. On a course like Gran Canaria (for example) it’s important to carry the speed from the descent over the short climbs and recover on the descents where it’s impossible to put the power down any way. So Basically my plan was to ride “fast” and effectively for 90km, which didn’t necessarily seem to be on everyone else’s agenda.
I opened up a short gap on the leading pack, and went into the lead. I’d committed and Jan had let me go. It’s what dreams are made of…
On the last descent before the turnaround point I hit a slippery patch on the road, luckily the crash happened at some speed and so I just slid until there was no skin left to let me glide anymore. I was still on the tri bars when I fell, that’s to say how pathetic the corner I fell on was. Once myself and two other pro’s from the lead group also came off we went a bit further up the road to warn the other riders to slow down coming into the turn.
In my head I got up immediately after the crash, but after seeing some of the footage I realised I only got up once the others had also taken a tumble. Sure enough a few headaches came about for a good week after the crash.
Anyway, it was all over for me.
Mixed emotions, I felt stupid, I felt frustrated, I felt pain, I felt hunger…
Hunger to get up again and again and just keep believing that maybe I can beat the best.
Infact, take out the maybe : I can beat the best.
Following the crash I will not be heading to IM Tulsa as was originally planned, I will race when the body is ready, and my TT bike is repaired but believe me…there is a fire burning inside.