Luckily and convieniently for me this year World Duathlon Champs were actually in Nancy, France, and slotted just perfectly into a race and travel plan for me, this would be the last race I did before packing up and leaving Europe for another year, a few days later.
So for anyone that knows me, it's no secret that swimming is not exactly my natural talent, and the format of Duathlon consisting of a Run-Bike-Run always has the potential to set up a very different and positive race for me as it works on my strengths. With this in mind I decided to target this race as one of my high priority races this year.
2012 Duathlon Worlds was just one of those races for me, where nearly everything just fell perfectly into place as planned both before and during the race. I had the luxury of going into this race with close to my ideal preparation, and to top up the confidence pre race, knowing that I was in super form, and probably the best fitness shape of my life. Although I basically didn't change any of my normal triathlon training routine, still including all my swimming in the lead up, I had done some huge amounts of work on the bike and the run in the lead up, and was now seeing the results in all my training sessions in my times, this followed up with a French GP sprint triathlon the weekend before, I was able to use this race as a hard hit out, and work this race as my preparation for the followig weekend. With results from this confirming what I secretly new, I was able to finally start to taper off and head into Duathlon Worlds confident I had put myself in the best possible shape and prepped to the best of my ability, and knew I had a real shot at a good result.
Saying this I had only ever raced one competitive Duahlon before in my life at Duathlon Worlds in 2010, wher I finished 3rd, so I was also lacking experience per say, and up in the air at the form of my competitors.
As I said an "almost" ideal prep, saw my plane significantly delayed and when I finally arrived in Nancy, it was a very friendly town mid/north east of France, and the race was staged as a multi lap wiggly run through the towns park, quite unusual but kind of a fun course really, and the bike was technical with plenty of corners and one small rise every lap.
Race day came, and I so often just await that first bit of warm up you do to know whether the body is good to go today or not. I fely ok, not fantastic, but by no means bad. So after rechecking my transition area and bike 25 times (as its all a little different in duathlon, a World championships, and a mentality of stone that I was going into this race with only one goal, and that was to win) I just made sure everything was good to go 110%.
On the start line I did not get a first pick as I had no duathlon ranking, so just slot in behind some of the names I knew would be the harder competition, Katie Hewison from GB and Sandra Levenez from France. Kinda weird starting a race with a run, and I must say although still with the usual pre race nerves, I had a much greater sense of calm, not having the stress of a swim to start, and confident I would be able to stay with the leaders.
Gun goes and we are off!
Without going gang busters or doing anything stupid, I quickly head to the front to set pace with the leaders, and within a couple of hundred meters I know my body is feeling really good today :)
Being the "fresher" to Duathlon my race plan is just to stick with the leaders,see them out at the start, then if I am feeling comfortable, to push the pace from the front to see who can hang on, and drop as many people as possible, ideally to have one or two people to ride with. One of those days as I mentioned, it worked out just like that. I cant lie, I was feeling awesome and so controlled and relaxed in the first ten km, amazing the difference is makes after not smashing youreself in the water and bike beforehand! After one or two laps it had whittle down to a lead group of 4, myself included, and so I decided to up the pace a little to see if anyone else would crack. Unfortunately and fortunately :) none of the other three girls could quite handle the increase of speed, so I decided to hang just in front to push the pace as much as I could without being stupid, to put as much hurt in the other girls legs. We entered transition all together, all in and out smoothe, and unfortunately for one of the Frenchies a flat put her out straight away.
A small break straight away with Hewison and myself we started to try and make a break straight away, but were joined by Sandra Levenez and after a couple of laps were working well together to put more time into all the chase groups.
Coming into T2, this was gonna be show time, with only three you can have a smoothe transition, and once those Brooks race flats were back on my feet, it was now I could finally have the opportunity to unleash all those hard run kms in this final 5 km, rather than playing safe in the first run leg. We already had a medal each, minus a catastrophy, but I only wanted one colour, and was prepared to leave nothing out there to try. After the first ten km run I thought I had the upper hand running over the other two girls, but it was going to be a question of did speed also top the other girls, and was I still fresh enough after the bike?
Katie was first out of transition, and quick to get on her heels I just wanted to push the pace as much as I could from get go, and hope the others wouldn't hold on. Levenez was done as soon as we hit the final leg, and with Katie holding on for about the first 800m I got a slight break going downhill, and as soon as I felt that I just put the gas down even more and made sure I ran away as hard as I could, and the lacky band snapped. Its crazy the rush you get running when you know you are running away to a World title, it's in your grasp, you are in control, its yours, you just have to keep doing what you are doing for another ten minutes. This feeling, I just wanted to smash that first lap and give myself a sizeable lead, and then if need be relax the second lap, but while you have got it, and you know you feel good, you can keep that pace up to the end, your competitors have popped and it would take a distaster to stop you, it is easy to be oblivious to fatigue, or hurt, or more so you just dont care, and just to make sure when you are in the zone, you push just a little bit harder again. After the first lap, I definately had the breathing space I wanted, so could back off, run hard, but not to the rivet and realise in the final stages of this race, that something special was about to become a reality. I was running up the finishing chute, high fiving, celebrating that all those hours on the bike, all those painful laps around the track, all those kms in the wilderness that nobody sees, all the endless climbs up the hill, all those splits where it was just me and my watch, had served their purpose. I was about to become a World Champion. :)
It was a surreal feeling, strange because in reality the hard work had been done before the race began, the race was just putting it together, but you cannever know until race day who will finish it off. I was elated and almost relieved that finally I had had a chance to actually show what I was capable of, the work I had done, and what I know I had in me from all the training, but nobody else does until you see a result. It is also the satisfaction that for all those days where you slog through when the body and the head says stop, but you get out and do it again anyhow, they were worth it for something.The sense of achievement to have achieved the goal and have my race plan work out perfectly, and to know that as you are closing in on the final stages that on the other side of the world I know my mum and dad and my coach are probably have the ecg cords on stand by, that after all you put them through too, they can now also celebrate it was worth it with you.
So I stood on the podium with Katie Hewison, last years winner, and Sandra Levenez, 2nd and third respectively, It was a collective effort to get on top from the endless support of my mum and dad, family and friends, of course my coach Grant Landers, my sponsors, physios, podiarists, support staff and training partners, and those that just keep my sanity through it all! haha Thankyou all, for making something so special a reality. :)