Haileybury PE teacher, Annie Thomas, writes about her experiences as part of Team GB at the Triathlon World Championships in Australia recently.
Awesome is really the only word I can use to describe being part of Team GB. I have attended several major events behind the scenes but this was my first time as a competitor and, at times, I thought I would be happier working as a volunteer as usual.
The ‘buzz’ started as my sister-in-law, Ali and I, walked into Heathrow Airport in GB tracksuits. I instantly felt taller (if only!) and the tracksuit granted us a speedy check in, a cursory glance at the scales – I have could have packed a few more clothes after all – and an extra seat on the plane: most welcome with two long flights and 30 hours of travel ahead.
We spent the first week staying at Burleigh Heads, acclimatising to the Gold Coast spring: blue skies, sunshine and temperatures around 24C. We explored the locality by bike and on foot and also hired a car to go inland to the mountains and rainforest, all the time fitting in some gentle training sessions: the local swimming centre comprised two 50m open air pools! Running on the beach was a must at around 6.30 am, along with local residents of all ages, followed by some ‘boogie boarding’ in the sea later in the day.
Once we moved up to Surfers Paradise and into the official Team GB hotel, the excitement and nerves really kicked in. Every day we were surrounded by triathletes from all nations: elites and age-groupers alike with bikes worth considerably more than my car, but all seemingly with time to chat and share experiences of previous World Championships.
The first event of the five-day World Championships was the Aquathlon, an entirely new experience for me involving a 2.5k run followed by a 1k swim (not my strength at all) and then another 2.5k run. As it was taking place well before my main event, it provided me with a good opportunity to get the feel of international competition and run and swim some of the course. You would have thought that swimming in a salt water lagoon with the ever-present threat of sharks would have improved my times but, sadly, waves and the tide combined to thwart my efforts. However, I was pleased just to survive my longest ever open water swim and I did pretty well with both of the runs
Over the next few days, we watched the Elite and junior races as well as the Age Group Olympic distance event with Team GB faring extremely well overall. Finally it was Sunday morning and time for our very own sprint distance World Championship. ‘Sprint’ – not as in Usain Bolt, over in under 10 seconds – but sprint, as in half Olympic distance: 750m swim, 20k bike ride and 5k run, and taking 1 hour and 38 seconds in my case!
Up at 4.30 am for porridge, then a bus ride to the event site to get ready for a 7 am start. Survival was the main aim in the swim as the youngest age group men started just a few minutes behind us and came swarming over us (literally) after about 400m. With the swim behind me, it was out onto the fast, pretty well flat, bike course with crowds cheering us all the way and men overtaking all the time. Back into transition and then on to the run and at last I felt a bit more at home. I just kept focusing on the runner ahead and gradually managed to gain a few places. Turning in to the finishing straight and being handed a tiny Union flag to wave as I crossed the line was great and I was delighted to record my personal best time – nothing special in the overall results but a great achievement for me in only my second year as a triathlete!
I finished 18th in my 55-59 age group and Ali was 14th in the one above. We both thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I found it truly inspirational being amongst so many super-fit Aussies and Kiwis who seemed to be virtually full-time athletes, fitting in 10 or more training sessions a week! A memorable experience all round and one I shall do my best to repeat if I can fit in more training time somehow.
Many, many thanks for all the support I have received from friends and well-wishers. My fundraising websites remain open and it would be great to reach my £2,000 target.