Turkish Delight? An Experience at the European Championships
Sunday, 16 June 2013 | Admin
Steve shares his experiences at the European Triathlon Championships in Alanya Turkey on Saturday 15 June
So it's the day after the big event and I'm sitting by the pool at the hotel writing this blog. It was a day of mixed emotions on Saturday, happy that I gave it my all and nailed the transitions and bike & run but disappointed with my swim and being only 2 mins 18 secs off a medal in my age group.
I am not going to lie; I went out to Turkey for a big performance not for a holiday and dreamt about a medal many a night before the championships. I think anytime an athlete goes to a County, Munster, National , European, World Championship etc. you have allow yourself dream about a medal and if it is in any way realistic that you may be close to one, you must believe you can do it!!! I believed I could get a medal but only if I nailed all 3 disciplines but unfortunately my swim just didn't cut it with the best age groupers in Europe. It will come in time; I've only been swimming 2 years and properly since December.
We headed out to Turkey from Dublin on Monday arriving at Alanya at 1am. I met Kevin Thornton and Shane Broughal for the first time at the airport and we all got on very well. Kevin is a real down to earth guy, cool and calm and goes about his training & racing in the right way. Shane is a real character, gave me plenty of laughs and that is needed in the run up to a big race like that. Shane took a lot of pleasure in haggling with the Turks and winding them up.. ha ha.
So after a good sleep we met for a swim Tuesday morning at the sea and an easy bike Tuesday evening. We had a few laughs and it was good to relax and switch off from the race. Wednesday saw us attend the race briefing and meeting our Irish team manager Ditch Moore. I did my final light brick that morning and it went very well. Thursday saw us register for the race and go to the pontoon and practice from the swim start. I was nervous when I stood on it for the 1st time; it really dawned on me that you are going to be competing at a European Championships in two days!!!!! After the swim practice we headed off to the hotel for lunch and a nap. I did an easy 20 mins jog in evening and some stretching and foam rolling. A good sleep was needed Thursday night and then I headed down to catch the lads on the run part of their Olympic distance race on Friday morning. Kevin absolutely demolished everyone with his bike split and had a big lead heading out on the run and held this for a superb win. This gave me a lot of inspiration and man would I have loved to cross the line like he did for a medal. Deirdre Casey had a superb race for a silver medal also and Shane battled every step of the way for a good performance. So I left the course on Friday in good spirits and looking forward to the race on Saturday. We had to rack bikes etc. the night before so that was good to get done. Now it was time to try getting some sleep and giving it a big shot in the morning.
Saturday morning came and I was up at 4.30am, having breakfast and heading to transition for 5.30am. I brought my own food with me as the hotel stuff was awful. I was feeling surprisingly relaxed, small amount of nerves, but under control. Set up transition, got my race numbers stamped on me, and headed off for a little warm up. Listened to some music and visualized my race including transitions. We were called to the athlete holding area at 6.40am and then they led us out on the pontoon one by one. Right this is it my friend I thought, all the hard work, all the hours put in, all the sweat and tears this is what it's all for. Just give it 110% and leave nothing out there and have no regrets!!! Into the water and I hear "on your marks" then the hooter goes and it's mayhem. Bodies trying to get out fast, people kicking feet and arms flying everywhere, welcome to open water swimming!!! I didn't get a good start and the main group started to get away. What would Joe (Lynch) say, "Control what you can control; only you can control you". I just tried to relax and sight as best I could. I ended up swimming the whole thing not getting on anyone's feet (drafting which helps you go faster if you’re in their slipstream) and was in open water on my own the whole time. I was gaining on them close to the shore before we exited but no idea where I was in terms of position. At the time I was happy enough with the swim and ran strong into transition and out on the bike.
The first 2-3 km on the bike I just got the legs moving and rolled with a faster cadence through the cobbled section of the bike course, then we hit the better section of road and I rolled a lower cadence and starting rolling through the field. I continued to pass athlete after athlete on the bike course with not one biker going past me which gave me confidence. I knew I was down on the leaders by a good bit but you have to always be positive and keep working hard. Bike went well happy with my 28.55 split with the fastest split being 27.52. I know I could have gone quicker if I was with those top 6-7 guys on the bike but I spent my time chasing through the field on my own and nobody pushing past me to work off. So into transition nice and quick runners on and off I go.
“Right this is your part, your chance to put time into others”. Running off the bike has become a part I love but it's the part that's hurts most always. All I wanted was to hurt for that 5km as much as possible and then I could do no more. You really feel the heat when you go out on the run; it's not a problem for the swim and bike. The run lap consisted of two 2.5km loops with a long winding hill of about 100-120m or so and some twisting/turning roads. Run legs didn't feel great on first 500m-1000m but then they stared to roll. I found myself again just chasing people down and rolling past them with ease, man after man I chased down with nobody able to come with me when I passed. I needed someone to fight back and maybe take the lead and help with pace but that wasn't going to happen.
Ditch, Kevin and Shane and the rest of the Irish team were great support. I battled and chased and finally hit the blue carpet with 100m left, passed one more British athlete and just ran out of space to catch another guy on the line. Hit the floor when I crossed the line, had a time of 60.31 for the sprint triathlon my fastest ever by quite a bit. I gave it my all and can honestly be happy with my effort. Ditch was there when I crossed the line with some cold water which was badly needed. Headed for the athletes area to the ice baths to cool down and get some fluids on board, man that was hot!!! Found out I was 10th/11th soon after and thought how could 9/10 guys go faster than 60.31, but this is the European Championships Steve and this is the level guys are at.
That evening all the Irish team head to a nice restaurant and had a lovely meal. It was great to get everyone together and a good evening was had by all. It was nice to meet up with Lynne Algar and Stephen Delaney who are doing mighty work with the junior athletes. I ended up in bed by 11pm I was shattered after a long day.
Overall it has been a great week, a huge learning experience, some new friends made and an absolute honour representing Ireland. This is why I love sport so much; you get so much out of it and memories that will last a lifetime. Triathlon is a tough demanding sport but the feeling when you race well is priceless. I am still a novice at this sport and hope to keep learning & improving and eventually tackle an Ironman in a few years.
Performing well in any sport is never down to one person alone, people always have help from various sources. I have lots of people to thank for various things so here goes: Mark Doyle and the crew at swimcyclerun.com for their support, Stephen Teeling Lynch at GoTri for his words of encouragement & wisdom, Robert Heffernan for his wisdom on handling the run in to a championships like this no better guy or experienced guy than Rob for this, to my family & friends for all the well wishes, to the athletes & everyone at Douglas CS/Togher AC, to Chris Mintern & Eric Wolfe my training partners they have brought me on a lot, to Gary Ahern my sports massage therapist based in the Sirona clinic in Douglas Village in Cork he is superb at what he does and has helped keep my injury free thanks Gary and to Oakgrove Leisure Centre in Blackrock for their support also.
Finally the two most important men must get a special mention, Richard Laidlow what can I say you have given me a new lease of life in a new sport that I love, without your coaching I would not be where I am today. Joe Lynch what can I say about this man, he is such a down to earth great guy with a huge passion for triathlon. I have learned so much from him and continue to do so every week. He has instilled in me a huge belief in what I can achieve and what I could go on to achieve in the future. He is always very positive and everything so well planned. An absolute pleasure to have this guy coach me.
So just back from an easy Sunday morning spin with Con Doherty Ireland's most talented junior triathlete, we headed up into the mountains above Alanya to check out the view. It was incredible up there. Con is a great guy, very enthusiastic and hopefully he can go on to great things in the future. I won't mention the fact that he is a lunatic descending a mountain :-)!!! Head home tomorrow Monday to Dublin with work Tuesday there then back to Cork for a track session with the young lads I coach in evening. Looking forward to seeing them and hearing about how their Munster Championships went this weekend.
I hope you enjoyed this blog, until next time.