So, where’s Sid now? Well actually on route back to Girona, and by the time this gets posted, I’ll be back in Spain, for the last few weeks and training block in Europe.
I have to say I’ve loved being back in Europe. One thing that has been particularly awesome about being over here for the summer, is the contact I’ve had with my family. It’s coming up to ten years since I left the UK and moved to Australia. Shit! Ten years! It’s therefore been really, really awesome to be able to see my parents and sisters quite a few times over the summer, but also just much easier to give them a Skype call or Facetime. I’ve been able to spend time with my nieces and nephews, and feel that I’m a little bit more than just Aunty Laura in the telly now.
My European Adventures update – part II kicks off post Challenge Roth. From Roth, I spent the most fabulous week in Tuscany, Italy, enjoying life. We’d ride every morning and be back in time for the most amazing breakfast. I’d then maybe ride again, or swim or run or just well not really do much and just relaxed in the most serene setting. Bliss! From Tuscany, I boarded the train and headed to Rome for Challenge Roma753.
Queen of Rome!
I could definitely get used to that! I was really excited to race Challenge Roma753, as the bike course went right past the Colosseum. It was also going to be fun as it was a slightly unusual distance, based around the numbers 753, the year Rome was founded. So, it involved a 1.753 swim (not sure why it couldn’t be 753m!?), a 75.3km bike and a 17.53km run. I really love that Challenge Family are finding races in cool locations and doing things slightly different from the expected norm. Also I was looking forward to Rome, because my sisters were coming out for the weekend to watch and support. (Or more likely to drink wine, and eat pizza and have ice cream!)
Unfortunately, due to fires in the local area, the bike course was changed and as a result we no longer rode around the Colosseum, and due to some issues with the Italian Police and their laid back timing with road closures the race was delayed by an hour. Much to the annoyance of my sisters, as an hour delay meant I was hampering the afternoons wine drinking and sightseeing in Rome! Ha ha! Rome was certainly a race with Italian flare and feel to it and in the end, it was all good fun!
It was a hot day, Rome being in the middle of a scorching summer and heat wave. The lake I think was somewhere in the mid 20s on race day and it was a cool 36deg outside!I had a decent swim exciting the water not too far off the lead, but leading the rest of the women out. However, the first section on the bike was quite technical with a lot of turns and I was able to attack this and make up good ground on the lead, and distance myself from the rest of the field. I caught the leader at the end of the first lap, with a bit of luck I guess as unfortunately the lead motor bike lead Lina the wrong way. I came into T2 in the lead and smiling as I saw my sisters, oblivious at that point to what my legs were going to feel like on the run. I knew I probably had a couple of minutes lead over the chasers but wasn’t fully sure. The run was 4 laps around the lake, so great for spectators and there was a little out and back section, which gave me the opportunity to see where the other women were.
The legs definitely felt pretty average and it was very much head down and just keep putting one foot in front of the other as fast and as strong as possible. Fortunately, the buffer from the bike and my run was enough to keep the gap and cross the line to take the win! Queen of Rome! Ha ha! (Please note, that isn’t self-titled but from the race team!)
The best bit for sure though was having my big sisters there to watch me. Charlotte even photo bomb the finish line, having been allowed on the inside of the finish chute! Brilliant! (Look carefully down the chute in the background!)
After the typical Italian style awards (again delayed), it was fab to head into Rome and wander around some of the historic sights, and just spend time with my sisters. We found some cool bars along the river front and then an awesome very local and family run traditional pizza restaurant. It was just great quality time together. Something that I miss with being away so much. I can’t thank my sisters enough for coming over to watch, it really meant a lot.
After Rome I drove up to Lake Garda and spent a couple of nights with friends there. I met Emma and Michele when my sister, Charlotte and I, climbed Kilimanjaro back in 2007! Emma English, Michele Italian, they now live on Lake Garda. It was lovely to catch up and meet Vivi and Teddy. We took cruiser bikes and cycled for this ice cream! It was the best ice cream and definitely worth the cycle there and back.
From Lake Garda I was able to visit Kask HQ in Bergamo. It was awesome to meet the team I’ve been connecting with on email, and put faces to names and was grateful to them for showing me around and discussing all the exciting plans for the coming months and year.
From here I flew to Prague, for Challenge Prague.
P*#$ed off in Prague!
I don’t want to say too much about Prague, I’ve moved on from the frustrations from the race and learnt and put it behind me. So I’ll keep this short.
It was an awesome race venue, right in the very centre of Prague. It was really impressive. I’d definitely recommend it as one of the cool races in Europe. A midday start too. I woke on race day not feeling great. A bit light headed, but as with these things I just dismissed it, and said I’d feel better after some food. By the time we got down to transition to rack bikes I was just in the flow and race mode and prepared to be on the start line. No excuses. Transition was on a bridge across the river just one down from the famous Charles Bridge. They had completely shut it to traffic and the trams! Amazing!
If you want to know more about the race, listen to my Sid Talks about it on Fitter Radio #174
I’ll just say that unfortunately there were some race dynamics with Age Group men and lead motos that I felt had significant impact on the race. It’s happening too much in the women’s race and not specific to Challenge at all, it’s across the board from Ironman and Challenge.
I happened to be on the wrong end of these dynamics. However, that’s racing and we need to be able to take opportunities, perhaps rightly or wrongly in races and be able to rise above the dynamics or elements outside our control. I was probably more frustrated that perhaps I let it get to me more than I let myself believe. That too with obviously the fatigue from a few races, and it wasn’t to be my day. But one race doesn’t define you. Take the learnings and move on to the next.
My travel agent (aka me) has as usual booked me on a stupid early flight the next morning but it meant I was back before breakfast in the UK and ready for two weeks at home with my family. It was awesome! Time with the family, catching up with friends and generally trying to be relatively chilled. Always a challenge for me as whenever I see lots of “free time” I have a tendency to over commit and fill it with things. However, I did my very best to not do this. However I did manage two trips to London including a great catch up with Kitbrix and also Triscape, as well as a fun evening with Knutsford Tri Club, and as some filming with BBC East Midlands.
I did my first Park Run, with my mum (71) and Maisie, my niece (8) and loved it! My mum has been inspired from watching Challenge Roth, and has started cycling and running. Ok it’s not particularly fast cycling and on a very much comfy commuter bike, but it doesn’t matter. It’s awesome! And she’s started running, but being sensible. She’s never really run before. So, whilst she started straight in at 5km(!), (no couch to 5km for my mum), she runs as far as she can and then walks. At first it was running for 50 steps then walking, but now she’s building up and has three park runs under her belt and is loving it too! My niece, Maisie, I thought after the first Park Run wouldn’t want to do it again. 5km is a long way for an 8year old and again really the first bit of running like that Maisie has done. So there was lots of encouragement to get to the finish line but she did it and has since been back every week! So impressed! The Park Runs are fantastic. I was worried my mum would find it pressured, and force her to run more than she could or want at this stage. But she loved it. It was the complete opposite. So friendly and welcoming. All kinds of people, all ages, and all abilities, walkers, joggers, runners, pushchairs and dogs! That first day, I remember my mum saying that she looked around and was happy she didn’t look the oldest. As it turned out at 71, she was the oldest! Not so happy about last week, when my mum told me that one of the volunteers thought mum and I were sisters!!
It was then time to get back to it and back to Spain as a training base. I’d literally done very very little whilst at home. I’d had plans to keep moving, not to train but to keep relatively active but ended up doing very little just due to different circumstances, so I’d be lying if the first few days back in Girona weren’t a little bit of a shock and frustrating. It’s not as if I didn’t know this would be the case or that I’ve not been in that situation before, but we have short term memories right and quickly forget and just think that the world is going to end and we’ve lost so much fitness and I’ve got a race in a few weeks and how am I going to find any speed etc. etc. blah. blah.
But a few days of settling in, and I found I didn’t feel like I was drowning quite so much in the pool, the legs were coming back on the bike, and the run was getting snappy again. And I was back in Spain, the sun was shining, it was warm and blue skies. Life wasn’t so bad!
Wet but winning in Walchsee
So just a few weeks back and I was off to Austria, taking my countries visited on this trip to 10. Challenge Walchsee is stunning. Set in the gorgeous Austrian town of Walchsee and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, we arrived in rain, cloud and cold weather which was set to stay through the weekend. Even in this weather you could see how beautiful it was and would be even more spectacular with blue skies and sunshine. It was however another impressive event by Challenge Family, with another fantastic team. Again one to add to your European list for sure!
The bike course is a lot of fun, rolling hills and some good corners through spectacular scenery. I was looking forward to giving it a crack. However, the weather was to have a big affect. It was forecast for rain, and temperatures of 8deg, which on race morning resulted in the swim being shortened to 1.5km and the bike being cut to 68km. There were some technical tight descents on the course which would have been too dangerous in the wet conditions, so whilst it was a real shame it was I think the right decision to keep everyone safe.
I came out the water in 8th, having just lost touch with the back of the front pack. However due to only deciding to put arm warmers on, I managed to pass quite a few women in the change tent to head out on the bike in forth. I started pretty well on the bike and made up ground to the women ahead. It was cold and you were soaked before you even started (and not just of course from the swim), but I didn’t feel too bad.
As the race went on though with the rain, cold and wind, the function of my hands deteriorated meaning I couldn’t actually access any of my nutrition. I think I may have only drank about 100ml of hydration too if that. When I came to dismount, I loosened my shoes and tried to take my feet out but they just didn’t move. I tried a few times, but to no avail, and so in the end it was a very amateur stop and unclip at the dismount line and then totter through transition hoping I wasn’t going to stack it in the wet. I got to the change tent and had to try and explain to the volunteers (who spoke German) that they needed to take my shoes off for me, and then put my trainers on! Talk about being waited on hand and foot, as my sisters kindly pointed out! Whilst not being able to access my nutrition on the bike, the plan was to chuck a Shotz gel down as soon as I hit the run and hope all would be good.
Unfortunately, my Shotz gels got whisked away in my bag before I got chance to grab them and it was too hard to explain and I was losing too many seconds with the whole shoe-gate scenario, so I just ran out and would deal with it if I needed. I actually felt pretty good running straight away. I think I was just happy to be moving and able to get warm again, and the legs found some rhythm (probably cause my feet were so numb) so I went with it.
One of the plans for the day that Matt, Paul and I had discussed (or rather they told me) was also to race without data, so no looking at the watts or HR just race. Someone obviously took this literally for me, as when I’d jumped onto my bike, and looked down to start my Garmin, it wasn’t there. Not sure whether someone took a fancy to it, or if it fell off somehow but it meant I really did have to race without any data. So, onto the run and it was, just run and don’t over think or try to second guess your pace, just get going and keep pushing. The run was four laps around the lake and a good mix of terrain and surface.
I caught Margie Santimaria (ITA) at about 4km and was able to pull ahead, now focusing on Daniella Sammler in the lead. It wasn’t until about 6km that there was an opportunity to see a bit further up the course and suddenly saw she was coming back to me as well. I was still feeling strong and trying not to think too much about it but just run. I moved into the lead at about 8km and knew I had to keep pushing, not knowing who was chasing and still with half the run to go.
It’s always great to win, it’s an awesome feeling. Yes, there were elements of my race that I wasn’t particularly happy with but that feeling of running into the chute and lifting the tape is pretty awesome! I was happy to take the win, to show I can win more than just once. To show to myself more than anything probably. To finish feeling so strong as well on the run, was a huge bonus and positive moving forward.
I even managed this time to perfect the beer pour! I big gulp and then over the head it went! Much better than my effort in Roth, so much better that even after two showers I could still smell beer! Apparently, it’s good for the hair though!
Another great thing about Challenge Walchsee is the post-race food and the Kaiserschmarren and Apfelstrudel! Amazing! Almost worth the trip in itself!
Anyone who started the race at Challenge Walchsee deserved a medal whether you finished or not. To just contemplate racing in those conditions and getting on with it was impressive. Then it’s one thing to race, but to volunteer and stand all day in the rain and cold, yet be smiling and cheering and encouraging us all, is more impressive so a huge THANK YOU to the volunteers.
So now I’m back in Girona, Spain and looking forward to a good few weeks of training and prep for my next race. I’m currently sitting at the top of the Challenge European Series points table, but I know over this weekend and the coming weeks that will likely change with the women racing and where we are all positioned and I could very well drop to 5th or even lower. So it looks like I’ll be heading back to Europe post Kona, for a last grab at points and to battle it out with the other women in the heads to head final race. TBC… but if it happens it’s going to be pretty awesome!
As always can’t thank enough the companies that have shown belief and faith in me this year.
Scody – It’s pretty hard to keep up with the amazing performances of the other Scody women…Sarah Crowley, Annabel Luxford, Felicity Sheedy Ryan, and then Mel Haulchildt. It’s not a bad roster and very proud to be part of it, and trying to keep up with them!
Ceepo – It’s been a lot of fun riding my Ceepo this year. Looking forward to lots more fun to come!
Shotz – When my hands are functioning from not being frozen cold, I can actually access my awesome Shotz gels. It’s been great to work with Darryl and Steph over the past few years and again looking forward to more fab years ahead.
Kask – I’m a huge advocate of wearing your helmet ALL the time when riding. However far, fast, or what your skill level is. Proud to work with a company that have the same values and feelings and very excited for the launch in Australia…watch this space!
Profile Design – Ran my usual race set up of 58/78 Twentyfour series for the race. I just love this combination and grateful for the support.
PowerTap – Very lucky to be able to train and race with PowerTap support. Be it to monitor efforts or even to control you power on those easy recovery days.
Skins – Don’t forget to use Laura30 for your discount from www.skins.net (USA, UK or AUS)