Gemma Freeman, Horder physiotherapist was selected to represent Great Britain in the ITU World Triathlon championship on September 17th, earlier this month. Through rigorous training schedules and careful eating plans, Gemma has shared with us what it was like to compete for your country in such a prestigious event.
So the race day was finally here. The start time was 8.35am but anyone that has done triathlon knows you have to get to the race really early to set up your transitions, so my alarm went off at 4.45am and then the nerves kicked in. It was just about getting light as I forced down some breakfast and headed over to transition. I firstly had to go to transition 2 so I could leave my trainers then try to memorise where I had left them out of 1000’s of other pairs. I then headed over to transition 1 where I had racked my bike the day before. I was keeping my fingers crossed that everything had been ok with my bike overnight and that my tyres had remained inflated. Luckily everything was fine and I carefully positioned my shoes, helmet, drinks bottle and race belt so it would be easy to put on once I was out of the water.
Beginning of the journey
We headed over to the race start and the sun was just coming up, although it was only about 12 degrees so getting into a wetsuit was less fun. As I waited for my start I nervously watched a few of the younger age groups start; Swimming is the first part of a triathlon and with it being my weaker aspect and having never done a race of this size before, I was feeling really nervous. It was a fantastic atmosphere and they introduced each athlete as you walked onto the pontoon to get into the water. We started very quickly after this and with there being 85 athletes from all around the world competing in my age group.
The nerves quickly went away- I was too focused on navigating my way through the waves of the other swimmers. The swim took place in a harbour and we had to swim out around a few buoys and then head back in towards the opposite side. Everyone started to spread out fairly quickly and I started to get into a rhythm whilst trying to remember everything from my swimming training. Open water swimming can be really tricky, looking where you are going and looking up whilst still managing to maintain a good swimming position in the water is an art which I am yet to master. It normally involves me peeking my head up and then getting a mouth full of water from the swimmer in front. Plus the cold water can make it quite difficult to get a good breathing pattern going. I had worked hard at remaining calm in open water in my training and I was really pleased with my swim time of 29 minutes for 1700m (slightly longer than the normal 1500m for an Olympic distance triathlon).
As swimming is the part I find hardest I was really relieved when I was out of the water, I ran up the ramp and started to get my wetsuit partially off which is a big challenge in itself whilst running! I headed towards transition and my transition practice had paid off as I was quickly out on my bike. We then had to cycle 40km 2 laps of a fairly technical course around the streets of Rotterdam, this involved negotiating ramps, bridges and mainly narrow cycle paths but again the atmosphere was brilliant with many supporters lining the streets.
Cycling to the finish line
As the bike is my strongest aspect of a triathlon I found as I was able to make up some time on the fellow athletes. I managed to get a quick transition off of my bike (taking my feet out of my shoes whilst leaving them clipped to the bike as I continued to cycle to the dismount line and then jumping off and going straight into a run). If anyone has done a triathlon before, you know that transitioning from cycling to running to one of the hardest parts as your legs seem to forget how to run and will often feel very heavy and slightly uncoordinated when you first get off of the bike! This usually improves after the first 1/2mile. The run was a windy 10km 2 lap course through a pretty park in Rotterdam. The support again was fantastic including lots of support from my Husband which was very much needed as I was starting to tire. It was the support from the crowd and the other GB athletes definitely got me through the last 2 miles of the race and as I headed down the blue carpet towards the finish line.
I was absolutely buzzing after the race, I had finished in 2 hours 31mins and finished 47th in my age group out of 85 other athletes. I was really pleased as I was taking part in only my 2nd ever Olympic distance triathlon. The support from all my family, friends and Horder Healthcare had been amazing and I have been overwhelmed by all of the messages of support. It was a truly amazing experience that I will never forget. I wanted to say a big thank you to Horder Healthcare for their support and I would recommend to anyone of all ages to give triathlon a go.
Horder Healthcare offers physiotherapy services from several centres located in the South East. We provide expert service and treatment affordably priced at just £40 for the initial consultation and £30 for follow up appointments.