British Paratriatlon Championship By Clare Cunningham Last week, at the end of one of my run sessions with Mike Antoniades at the Running School, an athlete I regularly train with wished me luck for the British Paratriathlon Championships. Mike responded “Clare doesn‟t need luck, she‟s done the hard work” to which I replied “but a little bit of luck always helps, especially where bikes are concerned!” I think I‟ve had my fair share of mechanical bad luck over the last couple of months; my seat post slipped in my first race, my race frame snapped in a training ride (which I‟m still waiting to be replaced), and then on Friday afternoon, in my final spin before the British Championships, my gears were jumping. “Oh well, that‟s why I do a pre-race spin and at least it‟s fixed before the race” I thought at the time... Arriving at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham on Saturday, the first thing I noticed was a strong breeze coming over the lake which was whipping up the water, making it reasonably choppy. This didn‟t bother me. The conditions would be the same for everyone and with some solid training and racing in the bank I was confident that I could produce a strong performance to stake my claim on funding to go to the World Championships in Auckland in October. I did a short warm up in the water just to get a feel for how choppy the swim would be (pretty choppy) and placed myself next to the start buoy so that I had a direct line to the first turn, about 300m away. I was next to Iain Dawson, a visually impaired athlete who was tethered to his guide. Iain warned me about his tether but as I was to his side and the other side to his guide, the tether was nowhere near me. However, the sooner we got to the start, people started to crowd and I got pushed behind Iain so that when the klaxon went to start the race, my first pull resulted in his tether wrapping round my wrist. I had to stop to try to release my hand which resulted in the tether tightening round my wrist as Iain tried to swim away. Just as well it didn‟t wrap around my neck! I managed to release my hand and start swimming by which time everyone around me had already started swimming and so I had to fight my way through to clear water. After a couple of intakes of water from the waves I decided to swim relaxed to the first buoy and then try to increase my effort once we had turned across the waves. I could sense that Faye McClelland was drafting me as we made our way to the first buoy. As soon as I went round the first buoy the water became much calmer to swim and I powered through to the swim exit, swimming the second half of the lap on my own.
After a short fight with the wetsuit in T1, I grabbed my bike and ran to the mount line, clipped in, pulled the pedal up to start and my chain came off the front chainring. I tried to pedal it back on but that wasn‟t working. I got off the bike and tried to pull the chain back on with my hand. By this time I had lost the 30 second advantage I had over Faye in the swim as she jumped on and started the bike course and countless other athletes went past. After what felt like an eternity (approximately 2 minutes) I realised that the chain was not sitting in the gear in the rear cassette that I had left it in but the gear shifter was still in the same position. No wonder I couldn‟t pull the chain on! I moved the gear shifter, pulled the chain on and finally I was underway. I don‟t know how the chain moved and I won‟t speculate but at that point, barring Faye having a disaster upfront, my race for gold was over. However, I still wanted to race hard to the finish line to show British Triathlon selectors that I am in shape and have the potential to be a medallist at Worlds in October. I pushed the bike as hard as I could. Seeing the wreckage of Iain Dawson‟s crash and another athlete pushing his bike back to transition with a puncture, I quickly realised other athletes were having a worse day than me! Afterall, „it ain‟t over til it‟s over‟. Onto the run and I started with a male Tri 4 athlete. We ran together and pushed each other for most of the 5.6km, until the final km when he pulled away and I had nothing left. I crossed the line in second place in the Tri 4 women‟s race having left everything on the course but frustrated with how the race had panned out. However, I didn‟t give up (I NEVER give up) and despite losing 2 minutes to the bike mechanical I finished only a minute slower than last year in windier conditions. My goal going into the race was to swim, bike and run faster than last year. My swim was only 20 seconds slower in tougher conditions, my bike split (less the mechanical) the same and my run faster. All in all there are a lot of positives to draw from the race and learning points to take forward in the next four months as I build towards World Championships.