European Age Group Champs – Lisbon

I can’t believe I’m finally here, my first competition representing my country! This has in no way felt real, ever since I turned up at the qualifier in Southport in 2015 with my first road bike “Barry” – a fairly hefty Evans’ own brand aluminium frame. I’d only entered that race because it was near to my parents house!¬†After learning it was a qualifier, I thought it best to get a couple of practice races under my belt (!), so in the month before, I did Hart pool-based sprint triathlon in Fleet (400m/20km/5km) where I came 3rd in AG with a finishing time of 1:10:30, and Windsor Sprint Triathlon (750m/30km/5km) where I came 2nd in AG in 1:37:29. Southport itself seeemed to go quite well despite the full body exfoliation effect from the wind and sand combination of a coastal race! Despite only coming 9th in AG in 1:26:08, I managed to get a 5k PB (23:32) and a roll-down place for the Europeans – I was in!!

Preparation had gone well, doing some fairly consistent training in the run-up. My “A” race in 2016 wasn’t actually Lisbon. I figured that I didn’t really stand any chance of coming top 10, so my focus was on Majorca 70.3 which took place 3 weeks before. So whilst I had done all the hard graft, I have to admit my body was still recovering from that by the time I arrived in Portugal.

I had reserved a room at the team hotel, sharing with a fellow competitor Charlie. Any worry I had about sharing with a total stranger 8 years my junior was quickly quelled when we met in Luton airport. We were yabbering and giggling so much we ended up having to sprint for the gate! Once we arrived in Lisbon, we settled in and built the bikes, before taking a wonder around the town. It seemed largely concrete based, with quite a lot of graffiti, and I can’t say I was particularly enamored. This disappointment was compounded by the lacklustre expo – barely half a dozen stands, and our much anticipated race memento ¬†consisted of a crappy drawstring bag and an over-sized, uninspiring cotton T-shirt. Not quite what we’d expected! Nevertheless, we did some course recce and leg looseners (including a failed sea swim due to adverse weather) and in the midst of it all, Paul arrived for support. I was glad he was there as a seasoned GB-er, telling us what we should and shouldn’t be worrying about. He joined the swim recce, which turned out to be really useful in the long run as for the first time he could see just how badly I was zigzagging in the open water. Perhaps not the most helpful time to learn that I have the sighting skills of a partially sighted, head-injured, drunk spinning top though! My family also came out ahead of race day, and despite the anticlimax of the venue and pre-race build-up, it felt amazing to have their support and try to do them proud.

Race day came around quickly, and the nerves set in. However, the weather was behaving and thankfully so was my stomach. The swim was alright considering, exiting alongside Charlie in 14:03. Managing a “pro” bike mount despite the cobbled, speed-bump ridden route out to the main road, it was a very fast out-bound leg averaging 42kph. That all changed after the dead-turn, with fierce head- and cross-winds meaning my average speed dropped to a much less impressive sub 30kph. Rubbish. I did manage to pick off a few competitors, as I normally do on the bike, but it still felt like a slow race. Bottling the “pro” dismount, I racked headed out on the run. Rookie error #1 came about 100m in when I accidentally dropped a gel. Petrified that I’d be done for “littering”, I turned around and started to faff like a good’un before kind crowd members urged me to forget about it and just race! The run was a 2 lap course which weaved in and around the stadium, and it felt OK to be honest. However, in true Robinson style, rookie error #2 came about at the half way point when I misunderstood the signage and accidentally tried to run down the finish chute a lap too early. What a numpty!! Correcting myself, the rest of the run was fairly straightforward and I finished 17/23 in AG in 1:19:56, with a 5k PB of 23:11.

Travelling back with Charlie and her family, I had time to reflect on the experience. Reasonably happy with the swim, but clearly I have work to do to translate my ever-improving pool times with my trailing OWS times, and this seems to be mainly sighting related. Not too happy with the bike, but I think it was the same for everyone so I shouldn’t beat myself up about it. Pretty stoked with the run, although I’m a long way off being competitive with the girls in the top 10. Need to be getting sub 21 minute 5k times to have any chance of being properly competitive. Finally, I need to learn how to read signs, and follow the route!