Welcome to London.
Where do I start? Let’s just hit the race….
A fresh September morning in Hyde Park, London, but it was dry and looking at sunrise it was going to be a stunning day. The misty fog was just sitting above the ground in the park. The fresh temperatures however unfortunately meant that the air temperature was too cold and the swim was shortened to 750m. Not entirely sure whether I thought this was good or bad. I think I thought, ‘shorter, quicker, and therefore the sooner this race is over!’ That was my thought on the start line. In the water, 30sec to go, one hand clinging to the pontoon…”Let’s just get this race done
We were off! With the shorter swim it meant that everyone set off even quicker. At one point I actually nearly started to panic. With slightly restricted breathing anyway (read later), I took longer than expected to settle and the other girls had flown off from the pontoon. Ridiculous! The original plan was like Vegas to have a steady swim, but I knew being now a shorter swim, I had to go quicker than planned, yet at about 100m in, I found myself in no mans land. Not a place I’m that unfamiliar with in a swim as I often find I’m on my own, but there was a pack of girls stretching away from me in front…then me. Knowing that once we turned around the first three buoys, the sun would be smack in our eyes, I’d located some other landmarks I was going to use to navigate…pointless…couldn’t see a thing, so had to resort to just following the splash in front (sorry Coach) and generally lining up with the edge of the Serpentine Lido swimming pool. Funny though, I suddenly found that by the 600/650m mark, I’d caught back up with the pack at the front and in the last part of the swim past them all to exit the water in a much better position than I’d first thought. Another long run into T1, seems pretty standard these days.
The bike course was amazing, not that I really noticed or appreciated just how incredible it was to start with. It was two laps. We cycled through Wellington Arch at Hyde Park corner, right past Buckingham Palace, past Westminster Abby and Big Ben (although somehow I missed this!), along Whitehall, past Downing street, along the Embankment by the river to Tower Bridge and London Bridge, back and around Trafalgar Square, down the Mall back to Buckingham Palace (I think my favourite part), back to Hyde Park, back to Transition! STOP! No! That’s only lap 1…you are not meant to be heading back to Transition yet! You have another lap to go. Sh*t! (slightly politer version for this report) Suddenly people were taking their feet out of their shoes and I just knew I was in the wrong place! Stupid idiot! Some more dithering later and trying to work out my bearings of where I was and where was I meant to be, and ‘if I turn round now, will I be DQ’d for cutting the course if the turnaround is actually further up’, or ‘have I already gone wrong, and shouldn’t be on this road’? I took the risk. Stopped. U-turned. Jumped back on. And went again. How much time had I just lost. Had any of the girls gone past?
Lap 2 – took another few big looks at the sites to remember the moment and where I was in this amazing city. End of the second lap and I got it right, taking the right turn, thankful for the practice I had on the first lap! Not! Again a long transition and with feet were like ice blocks, running on the slipy mud/grass, I was sure I was going to go flying on my butt. I did pretty much slide right past my trainers as I couldn’t stop on the mud!
So the run, 3 laps around the Serpentine Lake. The immediate cheers and support from the crowd was brilliant. There was a real buzz. From transition we joined the runners already on their second or third lap. I ended up next to another Team GBR athlete, Paul Burton. He took me slightly aback when the first thing he said was to congratulate me on my Vegas win and asked if I was going for the win today as well. We started running together at a similar pace. He said he was happy to pace me to another World Championships. It was all quite odd having someone I’d never met before say such lovely things….in the middle of a race! I think we ran together for about 1km only in the end before I stretched away. It was fantastic to have support all the way round the run. Friends from Sydney, friends from the UK, my family of course were in the stand and then there were just loads of other people cheering along the paths. The surprise was they weren’t just calling ‘GBR’ or ‘Siddall’. I could understand that, it was on my kit, but they knew my name. They were shouting ‘Laura’ or even a few ‘Sid’s’ (although I think that was the Bondifit lot!) Unless of course the athletes behind me were also called Laura and my dreams are shattered! Ha ha! The aim was to just maintain and focus on hitting each 1km split. Often I get to the run and just run not looking at my watch till the end. Today I wanted to make sure I was focusing, and wanting to hit between 3:45/3:50s.
Final lap and I was on the blue carpet for the last time. For the last 1km whilst trying to keep focused and even pick up the pace, I have to admit my mind started to jump forward. What would I do? Would I collapse as in Auckland? Would I collapse just out of sheer relief that it was over? Was this my celebration for Vegas? Enjoy this. Take it all in. Could I see my family? Should I grab a flag? Had I won? I wasn’t actually sure but was pretty confident, although until you cross the line and I hear or see the results, then I’m never convinced I’ve done it.
Sadly, nothing quite so glamorous at all. As I turned for the final 50m, both my hamstrings started to cramp, so I think I was utter class crossing the line, my legs wouldn’t bend and I think were pretty much straight! I could hear the commentary this year too. John Levison from Tri247.com and he was being incredible complimentary, mentioning Vegas too…and there I was almost hobbling! Ha ha! Not quite my majestic moment!
A very almost numb feeling afterwards. The cramps didn’t help. Trying to savour the moment, the last two weeks, the lead up to this race. I was a World Champion. I’d retained my title. Not really sure what to think or do.
Coming out of the recovery zone though to see all my family all waiting, smiling and waving, the first time I’d seen most of them for 13months was pretty magic. I wish I’d had the camera to picture them.
So now let me take you back to the race week….
From the moment I left Vegas, things just didn’t seem to quite fit. Now to most this won’t seem like anything, and in reality I knew it wasn’t an issue but I also know for me when things are on track. From Sydney to Vegas, I had some incredible luck and everything just clicked. This was different. The flight was particularly average (I won’t bore you with the details, but BA will be receiving my complaint letter), arrived in London to a hotel room the size of a match box. Not the big match boxes…the small ones! It was pretty cold and rainy (this was a good thing though, as every world champs I’ve done so far where I’ve won, it’s been raining, that includes Vegas). Then comes the sore throat and cold. I spent the next few days throwing any kind of legal medicine I could down me and convincing myself that “I don’t get ill” and “this is not happening to me”. It was a pretty weird week to be honest. It’s hard to describe the feelings and why. Probably a whole mix of being a bit tired (mentally and physically) after Vegas and then flying across time zones. However these are all things I need to learn to cope with and manage. Trusting in the training plan though, I did my double swim on Thursday and got out on the bike on Friday, with a run off it and swim in the afternoon. I felt loads better begin back on the bike and training again and was starting to get my head back in the right place. Saturday…didn’t feel quite as sharp but was still convincing myself and trying to get myself back up to how I’d felt going into Vegas. Few other minor things, that all just put little speed humps in the plans, which are normally smooth sailing when I know I’m going well. But all was good. I have to be able to learn and adapt and still get myself into the right race state mentally and physically.
The day before the race, on the way to rack my bike, I noticed a bulge in my front tyre. I dropped by the team mechanics conveniently for me located in the Expo area on the way to Transition. 2hours later….two new tyres…front (due to the bulge) and rear (due to a significant number of tares/cracks in it), and a complete new front brake cable (most of the time spent fiddling with this trying to get the brakes and wheel to align) and I could finally rack my bike. Funny though, I didn’t get stressed about this at all. I was very calm. This meant I got back to my hotel (after a final quick swim in the Serpentine) about 2hours later than planned. Still all calm even though my timings had been changed. Grabbed my dinner, (most of the week I’d been eating sandwiches and salads in my matchbox) and sorted my kit for the next day, double and triple checking I had everything all good to go and then sleep. I didn’t really sleep and spent most of the hour from 0130-0230hrs wide-awake. Yet when the alarm finally went at 0400hrs and it’s just race day auto pilot and I slotted into my routine. Let’s get this show on the road! The sooner we get on with it….the sooner it’s over.
None of the above really affected me hugely. It was just little things that didn’t quite click and it’s these things that can play on your mind and affect your focus.
As said though, this is all part of the process and I need to be able to adapt and change to still be able to control my head and race. It’s about turning everything into a positive and having the confidence in yourself and your training and the plans. A huge huge thank you to Spot Anderson for this. I know I have possibly been a high maintenance athlete these past few weeks, feeling a need to just chat to you, about anything, on most days, but thank you. Thank you for the training and plan and for knowing how I tick and operate. I think the last two weeks (and the months leading up) prove that “we did ok”. A thank you also to Patrick Jonker who’s stories and words from the Vogels.TS Noosa camp, stayed in my head and were key keeping the positive focus. Thank you.
There are a great many other people I need to say thank you to. Family and friends form Sydney and the UK, who were with me in various forms over the past few weeks, encouraging, supporting, keeping me laughing and de-stressed (to some extent) Thank you! Specifically to my parents for coming down to London to meet me from my Vegas flight on my birthday. To all my sisters, brothers in law, niece, nephew, parents and my uncle for getting up at the crack of dawn to make the trip to London to support me at the race. It was brilliant having everyone there.
People and companies who have supported me and I hope will continue to do so. Turbo Studio, The Body Mechanic, Spring Wellness, Shotz Nutrition, Huub, Kask Helmets and ISM Saddles. I am forever grateful for the support and I love the products and equipment I am able to use because of this. I’m excited and looking forward to building these relationships going forward. More details on these to come in the next blog.
Next up is the biggest event of the trip, my sister’s wedding. (Thank you Charlotte for arranging it conveniently around my race!) I’m so excited to be a bridesmaid and see her so happy. For the last few weeks I’ve lived week by week, not even thinking or looking about the week after then next race. Now I’m very excited about the wedding and can look forward to it properly and relax. I have two weeks in the UK with family before returning to Australia.
Once back it’s all systems go again, as Noosa is just round the corner and the before we know it the Tri season will be in full swing. Where did the winter go? But I’m excited about the next few months. I’m excited about planning the next few years. There is a lot to look forward to and I’m chomping at the bit to get back, sit down and plan it all out! This is just the beginning….this is just the start…. #betterneverstops!