The setting for the European Championships in Austria couldn't have been more perfect; with mountainous landscapes, a crystal clear lake and lots of fresh air. This was a race that ticked a lot of firsts for me; First time I have been to Austria, first time racing abroad, first time racing for Great Britain. It's needless to say this had an impact on my pre race nerves, which would usually kick in on race morning, started about three days before it!
Victoria (my lovely wife, roady, chef and cheerleader) and I arrived in the small Austrian town Walchsee on the Friday evening and stayed in a small wooden Chalet. Saturday was a full day of triathlon faff starting with a swim recce in the beautiful lake followed by a race briefing. This is where I first noticed quite how tall the Austrians are and a sense that the competitors in a European Championship race are a level up compared to mass participation races. Everyone has qualified to earn their position to race there, this is not a challenge to complete a triathlon this is a race, and it showed in the attitude of the other athletes preparation.
After race briefing we had team GB photos lakeside, bike racking and then the worst of all, leg waxing! Dinner was my usual rice, white fish and vegetables, followed by the usual bad night sleep.
Race morning was exciting, in my head I wanted to soak up the enormity of the challenge ahead but not get so caught up about it that the nerves use up energy or cause panic. I had to approach it like any other race and just go through the motions of preparation, warm up and get to the start line cool and collected.
There was nothing cool about the race. I put together a decent swim 29mins, and swam most of it in the draft of other swimmers, which saved me energy, but the water temperature was hot and so was the competition.
The bike course took in some stunning scenery, and usually I wouldn't have time to look around but I made a point to soak up the views a few times. It was a special experience trading places with other European teamed athletes and made me up my game on the bike taking descents and bends in the road as fast as I could stomach. It was a quick course averaging over 21mph and going to plan, except the sense that the heat of the sun was getting increasingly stronger.
Through transition 2 smoothly and onto the run, straight into my stride and target pace, 13.1 miles ahead of me. Within the first 3 miles I knew something wasn't rite, I was hot and only getting hotter, the run had no shade and there was no wind. I tried pouring water over me from aid stations but my effort level just went up and up and my pace slowed to survival mode. This was not in my plan and the heat kicked my ass, I knew I was quicker than what I was able to run but there was nothing I could do, and watched Austrians and Germans fly pass me. Victoria and the GB team manager were great support each time I lapped the 4 times around the lake along with other GB fans cheering for every GB athletes who all seemed to be struggling with the heat, so at least I wasn't the only one.
I would normally finish top 10-20 in age group. With the competition good as it was and considering the conditions I came in 42nd. On the up side from 15 Brits in my age group I was placed 6th. Ill take that for my first one. Amazing experience to compete with this high standard of triathletes, and left me wanting to do it all again. I managed to cool down in an ice bath and enjoyed a well deserved pizza and a few Austrian beers in the evening.