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For a long time it has been a goal of mine to win an ETU/ITU age group medal and at the end of last season I decided that the European Sprint Duathlon Championships in Horst, Holland would be the first goal of 2014.
Stephen and I discussed how best to approach my training for the Europeans. The plan was very different to that for my last big race which was Lanzarote half ironman – this time I needed to go hard for the whole event which entailed a 5k run, 20k bike followed by a further 2.5k run.
I have always struggled to cycle to my potential after giving it everything in the first run and I was really appreciative that Stephen listened to my concerns and incorporated some specific sessions into my training plan to deal with this.
Everything was going really well and after the Christmas break I got in 8 weeks of consistent quality training. Stephen set some tough but very race specific sessions which ultimately made all the difference; one included a tempo 20 min run followed by 45 min bike with threshold efforts and then straight into a 10min hard run.
We also looked at the bike course which was extremely technical with a number of sharp corners and a switchback so Stephen incorporated some skills work into my training plan. After my long run on a Saturday I would head down to Belfast Harbour estate and practice my cornering skills – which made it even more amusing for my husband when I fell off my bike trying to do a switchback on a Sunday group ride.
Stephen also wanted to ensure that I was conditioned to pushing the effort above threshold after each corner; he set my least favourite session which involved short high intensity efforts. My run pace was progressively improving and I could see from my powermeter data that I was getting stronger on the bike – then 5 weeks before the big race disaster struck and I picked up a virus.
“Stephen moderated my training to make sure that I was getting the right quality of training in while making sure that I was fully recovered”Initially I wasn’t too worried and thought I had a bit of a head cold. I took a couple of days off from training and decided to still race Downpatrick 10k. Still feeling a bit ropey I ran the first 5k of this race and then the wheels came off – I walked/jogged the rest of the course with my confidence at an all-time low. From experience this is the time when having a coach is invaluable; when all is well I am content to work through the plan without too much grumbling but when things take a downward spiral I can be pretty needy. Stephen and Davy definitely had their work cut out having to manage my training and my attitude during this time. Gradually things started to improved and my energy was slowly returning – Stephen moderated my training to make sure that I was getting the right quality of training in while making sure that I was fully recovered.
A week before the big race I did a local sprint duathlon in which I was pretty happy with my running but felt very under power on the bike – thankfully 2 days later in a 20k TT my biking came together with my average power higher than it had ever been over that distance.
On race day after Stephen and Davy had given me their last words of advice I felt confident and ready. I have given up racing with expectations of position or times but I was determined to feel like I had given it everything. I paced the first 5k run coming in 3rd female in a time of 17:14 - after a quick transition and not so graceful bike mount I actually felt like I had energy to do a solid bike effort clocking a 34;53 bike split. As I had replicated it countless times in training I held my run pace in the second run and was delighted to find out that I had finished 3rd female overall and 1st in my age group.
At the risk of sounding completely sycophantic I will always be grateful to Stephen for helping me reach this goal. Stephen seems to have an endless wealth of knowledge and patience when it comes to coaching and I feel 100% confident that any advice he gives me is always the right thing for me to do.
Of course I can’t neglect thanking Davy for being my run coach, (bike mechanic etc.) for always letting me use the best wheels and for forgiving me for sleeping through his race so that I could get some extra rest before mine.
As a glutton for punishment, I have no time to rest and am already training for the World Duathlon Championships in Spain on the 1st June and after that I have some national series races to focus on.