After a bit of a wait, Liverpool was finally chosen to be venue for the British Championships and the third and final world championships qualifier for the Olympic distance event. Due to the world championships being on home soil, many of the early qualification events filled up in record time. Therefore, an event was needed that was large enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to compete for remaining qualification places and national titles. Also included was the British Elite Sprint championships and British Paratriathlon Championships. It promised to be a great event with all the action set to take place within and around the docks of Liverpool, taking in some iconic sights, including Albert Dock, on a closed road course.
The day before the race was taken up with registration and familiarisation of the course. The swim was in Queens’s dock so was well sheltered and the salt water would add to the buoyancy but without the choppiness of a sea swim – I had not expected to see jelly fish in the water though! Given the sheer size of transition, this was going to be one long transition with quite a long run to the bike, something I quite like being a runner! The four lap bike course looked quick, despite the two dead turns per lap, but there was not much chance of a recce at 5pm on Friday evening and a lot of traffic about. The run course looked great, not that I would be taking in the sights at this stage of the race, but it was nice to have a run course on a flat course and smooth surface.
Although initially I was not looking forward to being in the second wave off at 7.05, I was quite pleased as the temperature later in the day was due to be close to 30 degrees. We were fortunate enough to have a hotel that overlooked the swim course and at 5am, it looked stunning: no wind, a perfect temperature and not a ripple on the water. I was looking forward to getting going and, with improved swimming form this year, was actually looking forward to getting into the water rather than out of it. Staying so close to the transition left plenty of time to get set up and catch up with a few competitors I had not seen for a while. By the time my start time came round, it was surprisingly warm and the water temperature was showing as 21.9, just under the 22 degree cut off. I put off putting my wetsuit on for as long as possible so not to get too hot!
At last I was off! Most age groups were over two waves, so it was not going to be very easy to tell what was going on in the race. I was in the second half of my wave, five minutes behind the first one. The start was spread over such a long pontoon that it was very uneventful towards the first buoy. I didn’t manage to get on any feet for the entire swim, which at least gave me clear still water and I could sight well. I came out of the water feeling really good and ran relatively hard round transition. Onto the bike, and the roads were pretty clear, no drafting to worry about as this proved to be a real problem for some of the later waves, who could not avoid it. Back through transition and on to the run, I was looking out for others who had started in my wave, fortunately I was passing a steady stream of people from the first wave but there was no way of knowing how it was going. I took the first lap relatively hard and was feeling it at half way. When I finished it was not immediately clear how I had got on but judging by the time I knew I must be up there.
The results were out and I had narrowly missed winning my age group. I knew I couldn’t have pushed any harder though and the post-race photos definitely confirmed this! This had been my main aim for the first half of the season and I was delighted with the way the race had gone. Now, time for a bit of a rest before getting back into it all over again and training for London in September.
As it was only 9am by the time I finished my race, I had the whole day to enjoy the rest of the racing. Whilst the age group races were still going on, the youth races got under way. These were super super sprint races and the youngsters were flying round – no doubt they are future Brownlees in the making.
Next up were the paratriathletes and Iain Dawson was competing in the TR6 category. After winning the world title, it would be interesting to see what form he was in. Accompanied by his guide Carl Shaw, Iain had a good swim and was neck and neck with Dave Ellis after T1. Iain and Carl managed to gain a minute on the bike so were looking good. Ellis was a very strong runner so would this be enough? A tough run in the heat of the day saw Ellis catch and pass Iain on the run. Second place was an excellent performance and with still plenty of time to improve on the run before the Worlds, Iain has a good chance of successfully defending his title in London.
Next up were the elite races, senior and junior. This was a sprint race distance and was also the national championships. Although there were no superstars in the field, there were a few Australians from the ITU circuit and it gave some of the up-and-coming GB youngsters the opportunity to show their ability. It is vital to be able to keep with pack in the swim and it was interesting to see that some of the quicker swimmers in age group racing had opted for the elite race. Some even beat Harry Wiltshire, famous for trying to drown Gomez in an ITU race a few years ago! David Bartlett even did the elite race after finishing 3rd overall in the AG race earlier in the day.