I’ve been aiming for a place on the GB age-group team for a few years now and decided that aquathlon was my best shot, with my swim and run being decent while my cycling peaked at average a few years ago and has since fallen by the wayside completely. I qualified last year by winning my age group at an aquathlon over at Parc Bryn Bach in Wales and last week I headed over to Belgium on the Eurostar with my wife and 3 kids for my first GB race in the European Multisport Championships in Menen. The aquathlon race took place on the Friday, with Thursday being dedicated to a GB Team briefing and photo, registration and an opening ceremony – not as exciting as it sounded with a disappointing lack of flag waving opportunities (apparently the Worlds have a bit more pomp and ceremony to them).
My preparation for the race hadn’t been ideal – an ankle injury sustained in March meant I hadn’t ran until mid June, so it was a relief just to be able to compete pain free and I knew I wasn’t in pb-condition. But focusing more on my swimming at least meant I was in good shape for that element. Despite this i was incredibly nervous before the race – no specific reason just the whole event seemed like a big deal! Once I got to race hq I settled down and started to enjoy it! Then I bumped into fellow-TTGer Lizzie Clegg who is super experienced at GB races and a few words with her and a team photo made me feel ready to race!
The race started at 2pm, with the elites off first then age groupers set off at 5 minute intervals from youngest to oldest. It was a 1k river swim followed by a flat 5k run, and the news came through about an hour before the race that the river was just cool enough for a wetsuit swim – the torrential rain on Thursday evening obviously made the difference much to the relief of most people I spoke to. About 80% of the athletes in my wave were from GB and the atmosphere on the start line was good, with lots of families watching on and plenty of gallows humour as the heavens opened and soaked us as we waited to enter the water.
My swim went really well, though the water was the murkiest I have ever experienced with visibility being under a foot… I literally couldn’t see my watch in front of my face, never mind find some feet to draft off (and quite a number of racers have since fallen ill- I seem to have been lucky to avoid it!). I exited the water after 15 mins in 10th place of 26 in my age group with my watch splits showing I maintained 1.29/100m for the whole swim. My run wasn’t quite so good (Just over 21 mins = 21st in AG) and I came home 20th. Competing with a lot of vocal support, wearing the GB Tri-suit and – most importantly – being cheered on by my family, were fantastic elements of the experience. My 5 year old daughter was convinced I won because I got a medal, so that was good enough for me!
Would I do another GB race? Although it was quite expensive, if I got the opportunity to enter another one, ideally a world championships in an exciting destination, I think I would (Spain 2025 maybe). But even if I don’t, I’m really glad to have had the experience of doing it once, making my kids proud (while they’re still young enough to be impressed by me) and getting some good pics in the GB kit!